Sin City was a popular filming destination long before Old Vegas was considered old. The casinos and showgirls have graced the silver screen since the days of western cinema, and continue to serve as an unmistakable backdrop for drama, tragedy and mischief alike. While many popular Las Vegas filming locations have quite literally bit the dust (RIP Riviera Casino), a number of casinos, restaurants and outdoor locales continue to pop up in movies.
The next time you’re in Las Vegas, documenting your debauchery on your Instagram story, check out some of the places where cinematic tales were spun into neon magic. Here are seven movies that were shot in Las Vegas and the locations they used, from Caesars Palace to Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère:
Is it even possible to look up at the Caesars Palace marquee without picturing Zach Galifianakis perched precariously between the E and the S? That scene, from the third film in the franchise, was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles, but plenty of other scenes from the 2009 original are places you can see in Las Vegas. Caesars Palace is obviously the most popular location, but for an off-the-beaten-path filming location, head 25 miles off-Strip to the Jean Dry Lake Bed, which was where the pivotal standoff scene with Mr. Chow was shot.
Martin Scorsese’s 1995 classic was shot at some fittingly iconic Las Vegas locations. Most notably, the mobster movie used The Peppermill, a 1970s era diner on the north end of the Strip that still stands – and serves oversized platters of eggs – today. The film also uses the distinctive La Concha Motel, which was eventually relocated and turned into the lobby of the Neon Museum.
This 1995 cinematic-disaster-turned-cult-classic chronicles the trials and tribulations of a wannabe showgirl portrayed by Elizabeth Berkley – aka Jessie Spano. The cringe-worthy movie was shot at Cheetahs, an actual Las Vegas strip club.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This acid-tinged trip through Las Vegas may have inspired legions of fans to trek to Circus Circus, but the 1998 film never actually shot there. The movie was mostly filmed at the Riviera and the Stardust, both of which are long gone. However, you can still experience one timeless filming location by driving SR-159 through Red Rock Canyon, as this is where the movie’s road trip scenes took place.
3,000 Miles to Graceland
This strange movie about Elvis impersonators and betrayal is responsible for the mysterious plane wreckage that you’ll see if you drive to the ghost town of Nelson, Nevada. The crew of the 2001 movie left the oversized prop out there to rust, and now it serves as an odd roadside curiosity with an unexpected backstory.
On a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Seth Rogen recalled location scouting in Las Vegas for the 2007 film Knocked Up. “We thought the only appropriate way to really know which one would be the best would be to do shrooms for two days straight and see every single Cirque du Soleil show that was on the strip at the time,” he said. Rogen eventually chose Mystere, which is shown in one of the movie’s funniest scenes. You can catch the long-running production yourself at Treasure Island – though you may want to consider seeing it sober, to avoid being freaked out by giant babies.
Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas is the tragic story of a man who goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death, and ends up falling in love with a sex worker along the way. Shot in Super 16 mm, few movies depict the city’s neon with such beauty and sadness. The 1995 film, which is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by John O’Brien, who committed suicide after selling the rights, used exterior shots of the Flamingo, Circus Circus, the Excalibur and the Mirage in ways that will change the way you look at the city the next time you’re walking down the Strip.