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Jun 19, 2007

Fletch's Favored Five: Sin City Flicks

And by that I mean movies that are set in or feature scenes in Las Vegas, not overrated adaptations of Frank Miller's work that star Mickey Rourke.

After all, who doesn't love Vegas? Much like movies with bowling scenes (covered here), films that showcase Vegas in one way or another just add a certain zest and flavor that Sacramento just can't offer, much less Atlantic City (sorry, Rounders). With so many to choose from, it's damn near impossible to pick my favorites. So first, some honorable mentions:

The Godfather
The fact is, I haven't seen this in a long time and barely (if at all) recall any scenes that were filmed in Vegas. However, when doing research for this post, I saw The Godfather as one of the films associated with Las Vegas - as such, I knew omitting it from this list altogether would get me on some hated lists that I don't want to be on. So, here it is.

Another mob movie that can't be omitted, especially considering that the movie is about how Bugsy started Las Vegas. It would seem disrespectful to leave it off. Kudos, Mr. Siegel.

Rain Man
"They're gonna give daddy the Rainman suite, you dig that?"

Vegas Vacation
Four words: Wayne Newton. Nick Papagiorgio.

The Cooler
A great portrayal of old school versus new school Vegas, with Alec Baldwin in the classic role of Shelley Kaplow. However, many points are taken away as the audience must endure numerous shots of William H. Macy ass. Boo!!

And the winners...

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I originally had this slotted at number two, but had to keep moving it down, as the films listed below just plain deserved it more. That said, Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Hunter Thompson's brilliant novel definitely belongs in the conversation - hell, it even has Vegas in the title! Bonus points for featuring old school Vegas (as it's set in the mid-70s, that couldn't really be avoided) and for Ellen Barkin's out-of-nowhere near cameo as a frazzled waitress in a run-down diner.

4. Swingers
The city fathers should probably pay out royalties to Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Doug Liman and anyone else associated with Swingers, as the movie is probably one of the big reasons for Vegas' boom in the mid-90s. With every hipster (and non-hipster alike) shouting out "Vegas, baby, Vegas!," the city got millions of dollars worth of p.r. for nothing. Hell, as legend has it, the filmmakers didn't even have authority to film their scenes while in town - they had to shoot it guerrilla-style the whole time. And don't forget - always double-down on 11. Always.

3. Go
A proud member of my all-time underrated movies, Go also makes me want to run to Vegas just watching it. The Taye Diggs-led storyline is the most fun of the three in Go as it's got it all- sex, drugs, strippers, gambling and even an MSG-laden buffet. Let's go!

2. Ocean's Eleven (2001)
We're all very familiar with this one. Star-studded cast remakes Rat Pack "hit" from days gone by, with George Clooney in the Sinatra role. Three stars of the new Strip are featured prominently (Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand), with the Bellagio practically given a co-starring role, as much of the film takes place in it and other casinos. Heck, even Siegfried and Roy get a cameo.

1. Casino
Even if this wasn't a great movie (which it is), it would have probably earned the top spot by virtue of the first 45 minutes alone. As Sam "Ace" Rothstein walks you through the inner workings of his casino, you get what was at the time probably the best insiders' point of view of how a casino is run. Throw in James Woods, Sharon Stone (still in her prime), Joe Pesci and a kickass soundtrack and you have one of the best films of the 90s (and I still say it's better than GoodFellas).

Finally, the hall of shame:

The Great White Hype - for its lost potential. This should have been a much better movie.

Con Air - do I need to explain?

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Famous - haven't even seen this, but it's associated with Vegas. For more evidence, read that title again.

Very Bad Things - another lost potential case. A great cast, including a pre-Entourage Jeremy Piven, a still-thin, post-Swingers Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, etc., etc. - and the movie stunk. A grand disappointment.

10 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Sin City Flicks"

Morriconei said...

Fear and Loathing is one of those movies that I'll hate one day, and love the next.

Nice list.

bd79 said...

Godfather II definitely has more of a Vegas association than the first, but both certainly have some.

I think I already knew this, but nice to see I'm not the only one who really likes 'Go'.

Fletch said...

Godfather II definitely has more of a Vegas association than the first, but both certainly have some.

Done and done. Consider my entry a package deal for the both of them.

As for Fear and Loathing, I've always thought that people who read and liked the book ought to love the movie, and people who never read the book would probably wonder what the hell is what about and what was going on, because it certainly doesn't take too much time to explain the goings on.

Gaylord said...

Strong list Fletch, Vegas is the greatest town ever. Maybe some day I'll make a movie of my adventures from my time living in Vegas...

gabe said...

gret list ..but I never thought cameron diaz and great cast would be mentioned in the same sentence .

NFL Adam said...

I’m going to cut you some slack for putting Go ahead of Swingers (and Swingers deserves a guest column about how much it sucked), but a couple of things here. First, Bugsy gives a fake history of Las Vegas as it omits the casinos downtown that were already up and running, along with the fact that the Flamingo was the third casino on the strip behind El Rancho and (I could be wrong) the Thunderbird (or maybe the Frontier). But you are missing the original Ocean’s 11, and though many pan that movie, it had a much bigger impact on Vegas than probably any of these movies.

Steve Wynn said...

Yes, it was some freaking movie that led to the Vegas boom in the 1990s. It had nothing to do my God Damn casino I built there in 1990.

Fletch said...

Never underestimate the power of pop culture, Steve. One hotel does not a city make.

Adam, how can you cut me slack for putting Go above Swingers, yet then say Swingers sucked? Those statements contradict each other.

I've never seen it, but as far as I can tell, the original Ocean's was/is seen as mostly a crappy movie that no one ever took seriously. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Though you will always have me beat when it comes to Vegas knowledge.

NFL Adam said...

No, if you would have put Swingers in front of GO, I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

Frank the Tank said...

How can a Vegas movie list leave out Leaving Las Vegas with Nic Cage and Elizabeth Shue? While it isn't really an upper of a movie, I think it's easily worthy of the top five.