5 Best Movies Set in Las Vegas

It’s variously known as Sin City, the Entertainment Capital of the World and the City That Never Sleeps, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the camera loves Las Vegas. Over the years, umpteen filmmakers have headed to Nevada to capture the thrills and spills of placing bets and striking it lucky – as well as the despair and depression of a prolonged losing streak.

With that in mind, there is already a lengthy list of the best gambling movies set in Las Vegas that are sure to whet the appetite of experienced veterans and wannabee punters alike. But what about films which are merely set in Vegas, without concentrating on its most famous vice? We delve into alternative takes on the city and its inhabitants below.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

This madcap adventure starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro is based on the real-life capers of eccentric journalist Hunter S Thomson. Together, the intrepid reporter and his unhinged attorney embark on a drug-addled odyssey through the city’s neon signs and clinking cash registers, with more than one swirling floor pattern, inquisitive policeman and naïve hitchhiker impeding their progress along the way.

Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage puts in a collector’s item of a subdued performance in this unhappy tale of an alcoholic screenwriter who has lost everything due to his struggles with the bottle. Disillusioned with life, he decamps to Vegas with the sole objective of drinking himself to death – until he encounters the similarly down-on-her-luck sex worker Sera and an unlikely but important friendship blossoms amidst the heartache.

Pay It Forward

From a heart-wrencher to a heart-warmer, this 2000 gem features child acting prodigy Haley Joe Osmond as a pint-sized philanthropist and Kevin Spacey as the schoolteacher who inspires him to start a revolution. The crux of his project? To do good deeds not in return of others, but in anticipation of them. By encouraging those whom he helps to do three more good turns, the youngster is instrumental in being the change he wants to see in the world. Lovely stuff.

Rain Man

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman may play brothers in this 1988 classic, but their characters couldn’t be less alike. Charlie is an egotistical LA yuppie, while his autistic brother Raymond (of whose existence Charlie only becomes aware at the passing of their father) is shy and retiring. Together, the pair embark on a cross-country road trip and find common ground in a Vegas casino when Charlie exploits Raymond’s card-counting skills – only to learn something about himself in the process.

Swingers

Loosely based on the real-life experiences of writer and star John Favreau, this comic drama tells the story of a budding actor who is finding it impossible to get over a recent break-up with his long-term girlfriend. In an attempt to cheer him up, his buddies take him on a trip to Vegas, with hapless and hilarious results. All three of the main characters are played by the actors who inspired the story.

Which are your favourite movies set in Las Vegas? Let us know which ones we’ve looked over in the comments.