Lights, Camera, Action— Casinos Featured in Famous Films

 Some feature films create their own characters, backdrops, and storylines to craft a mesmerizing story for viewers. Others rely on real-life elements, such as location, to tell their tales.

Casinos Featured in Famous Films

Is This Real Life?

Unfortunately, some of the most famous casinos in some of the most famous films aren’t actually real. You aren’t able to stroll through Casino Royale à la James Bond or see the casino pit of The Bank, where Danny Ocean et al carried out their heist in Ocean’s Thirteen. Even the Al Pacino movie Casino is set in a fictional casino called the Tangiers. And Jackie Chan, master of his own stunts, used a stand-in for Rush Hour 2, filming in the Desert Inn of Vegas and labeling it as an Asian-owned casino called The Red Dragon.

So, which films actually contain real casinos in them? Let’s find out.

Casinos as Characters in Feature Films

The list you are about to read is true. Although no people or animals were harmed in the making of this list, some casinos were blown up.

The Bellagio

This Las Vegas casino is one of the most famous. It features beautiful outdoor fountains and architecture inspired by European designs. It’s a AAA Five Diamond resort, and it’s also been included in a number of movies.

  • 2001 - Ocean’s 11
  • 2007 - Ocean’s Thirteen
  • 2015 - Focus
  • 2017 - Cirque du Soleil: O
  • 2019 - Chokehold

The Bellagio is also used for reality TV shows and documentaries, such as The Bachelorette, The Girls Next Door, Dante’s Inferno: Abandon All Hope and Passages.

Caesars Palace

Another prominent hotel and casino in Vegas, Caesars Palace boasts over 3,000 rooms and a Roman theme. Numerous tapings have happened here, from awards shows to movies.

  • 1982 - Rocky III
  • 1998 - Rain Man
  • 1995 - Showgirls
  • 1997 - Fools Rush In
  • 2003 - Intolerable Cruelty
  • 2008 - 21
  • 2008 - Iron Man
  • 2009 - The Hangover
  • 2012 - The Guild Trip
  • 2013- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  • 2013 - The Hangover Part III
  • 2014 - Godzilla
  • 2015 - Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Circus Circus Hotel and Casino

This casino originally opened as a family-friendly casino with a permanent circus onsite. However, it didn’t have any hotel rooms, so guests had to find other lodgings during their visit. Eventually, Circus Circus added about 400 rooms, which has since grown to over 3,000. As for its presence in pop culture, this hotel and casino has been featured in the following:

  • 1970 - The Grasshopper
  • 1971 - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 1971 - Diamonds are Forever
  • 1975 - Las Vegas Lady
  • 1977 - Damnation Alley
  • 1978 - Corvette Summer
  • 1995 - Leaving Las Vegas
  • 1999 - Baby Geniuses

The casino is also used in the video games Grand Theft Auto and The Crew.

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

This resort doesn’t have a lot of titles to its credit, but it has hosted many awards shows World Series of Fighting events.

  • 2007 - Bright It On: In It to Win It 
  • 2008 - 21
  • 2011 - Fright Night

The Landmark Hotel

Not to be confused with the hotel of the same name in London, this Landmark Hotel was built to resemble the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. It’s one of the hotels purchased by Howard Hughes, a billionaire businessman who wanted to remake the Vegas strip. Before the Landmark was demolished, it was used for filming the following:

  • 1964 - Viva Las vegas
  • 1971 - Diamonds are Forever
  • 1995 - Casino (as the Tangiers)
  • 1996 - Mars Attacks! (as the Galaxy Hotel implosion)
  • 2003 - The Cooler (the demolition footage from the 90s)

The MGM Grand Casino

Documentaries, TV shows, and movies have made use of the MGM Grand Casino for filming. It’s the largest hotel in the US, with over 6,000 rooms. When a renovated MGM Grand opened in the 1990s, it featured a Wizard of Oz theme. Just a decade later, the hotel underwent multi-million dollar remodeling yet again and presented a more modern, art deco theme. Here are some movies that took advantage of this huge resort for filming:

  • 1981 - All the Marbles
  • 1995 - Casino
  • 1996 - The Great White Hype
  • 1996 - Swingers
  • 1997 - Vegas Vacation
  • 2001 - Ocean’s Eleven

The Mirage

The beautiful, Polynesian-themed Mirage is operated by MGM and has been used to film a number of movies and TV shows, and has inspired backdrops for video games.

  • 1992 - Pure Country
  • 1996 - Sgt. Bilko
  • 1996 - Mars Attacks!
  • 1997 - Volcano
  • 1997 - Vegas Vacation
  • 1998 - Rounders
  • 2001 - Ocean’s Eleven
  • 2009 - 2012
  • 2013 - The Wolf of Wall Street

Planet Hollywood Las Vegas

What started as the Aladdin casino is now known as Planet Hollywood in Vegas. It was home for Britney Spears’ show Piece of Me from 2013 - 2017, and is also seen in these films:

  • 2007 - Knocked Up
  • 2008 - 21
  • 2008 - What Happens in Vegas
  • 2009 - Race to Witch Mountain
  • 2009 - The Hangover
  • 2010 - Get Him to the Greek
  • 2013 - The Hangover Part III
  • 2019 - The Laundromat

The Riviera

This hotel and casino was demolished in 2015, but it lives on as a filming location for popular films such as:

  • 1960 - Ocean’s 11 (the original)
  • 1969 - Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
  • 1971 - Diamonds are Forever
  • 1982 - Butterfly
  • 1995 - Casino
  • 1995 - Showgirls
  • 1997 - Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  • 1997 - Con Air
  • 1999 - Go
  • 2001 - 3000 Miles to Graceland
  • 2008 - Crazy Girls Undercover
  • 2008 - 21
  • 2009 - the Hangover
  • 2015 - Sky
  • 2016 - Jason Bourne

The Stardust

Although the Stardust version of this resort was closed in 2006, it has since been redeveloped as the Echelon project. Prior to the demolition of the 32-story Stardust tower, filmmakers used it as a location for movies, talk shows, and TV series.

  • 1994 - Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas (two-hour TV movie)
  • 1995 - Showgirls
  • 1995 - Casino (as the Tangiers Hotel)
  • 1996 - Swingers
  • 1998 - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 1999 - The Debtors
  • 2000 - Pasty Faces

The Venetian

Formerly known as the Sands Hotel, the Venetian Las Vegas is the world’s second-largest hotel. It also has a sister casino, The Venetian Macao. The Italian-themed resort has not featured prominently in films, but you’ll probably recognize these titles.

  • 1960 - Ocean’s 11
  • 2001 - Rat Race
  • 2005 - Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

Filming in Las Vegas

Casinos are notorious for financial woes, causing ownership to change hands multiple times over the years. It makes sense that the city of Las Vegas would welcome filmmakers to use their resorts as locations because they can generate income by doing so. 

The process of acquiring a film permit in Las Vegas is fairly simple, as outlined on their website. The Nevada Film Office has hundreds of locations in their database so filmmakers can scout the perfect spot for their production.

Everyone from the small businesses to the casinos featured in films can benefit. They’re not only compensated for the initial filming but via the exposure once the film premiers. Revenue for a location used in filming varies based on specifics (size of cast/crew/security detail, length of time spent filming, areas of casino/hotel needed), but it’s potentially lucrative for the casino. Based on the films you’ve seen on this list, which location would you most like to visit?

If you have a property, such as a mansion, a trendy bar, or even a coffee shop that you think would make a great filming location, look into being added to a directory that connects filmmakers with potential filming locations.

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