All of the Las Vegas Strip looks like a giant movie set—mostly because its casinos have been such prominent players in so many movies, and its frequent starring roles and featured icons make us feel like we know Las Vegas inside and out (even when much of the action took place on a Hollywood sound stage). For instance, the iconic merry-go-round bar from Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas was actually a stand-in, since the property didn’t give its permission to film inside for the adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, but people flock to Circus Circus anyway to see the place that inspired key scenes. And everyone is interested in the house in which Casino, Martin Scorsese’s depiction of mob-run Vegas starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone was filmed in 1995. However, it’s a privately occupied home on the edge of the Las Vegas National Golf Course, which has only had two owners since 1965, so ringing the doorbell and asking for a tour probably isn’t welcome. Still, there are plenty of movie backdrops you’ll recognize (look for Paul Blart, Mall Cop 2, which wrapped filming all over Wynn earlier this year, coming out in 2015).
Circus Circus is a must-see stop for film buffs in Vegas, since it’s one of the most recognizable locations in Vegas. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “The Circus Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war…The place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space.” And though the fictional “Bazooko Circus” was a stand-in for the resort in the 1998 film, it’s the flavor of the place that film lovers want to experience. You’ll recognize the midway from Diamonds are Forever, and its exterior from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
When M gives James Bond the mission of intercepting a diamond heist in Diamonds are Forever (1971), the spy protests that he’s too big for a simple smuggling matter. Little does he know that the interception will involve super villain clones, the threat of mass destruction and a giant diamond-powered laser—all against the backdrop of the Nevada desert. Of course, Bond stays at the Tropicana, home of the bare-breasted Folies Bergere revue. Several of the iconic hotels feature in the movie have long since closed, including the Sands, the Dunes, the Landmark, and the Mint, but the International (the “Whyte House” in the movie) lives on as the Westgate—a rebranded in 2014. The building itself has gone through a number of changes, as the Las Vegas Hilton, then the LVH, but the building—and its recognizable sign—have been backdrops in Elvis Presley’s concert documentary, Elvis – That’s The Way It Is; Indecent Proposal; and Over the Top.
Tropicana Las Vegas
The Trop has been background scenery in Diamonds Are Forever, plus the 1970s TV series Vegas was filmed here, but it is best known to those who love The Godfather movies. The Las Vegas sequence of The Godfather was filmed here, as the site of Michael Corleone’s Vegas casino business; and it is referred to briefly in The Godfather Part II—but its name changed to “Tropigala” during filming to avoid copyright issues.
The Neon Museum
When it was simply the Neon Boneyard – a collection of 150 Las Vegas neon signs from the 1930s put out to pasture, it was the background of a number of films; most memorably, Mars Attacks. Then, it was available by appointment only. Now open to the public, the rehabbed La Concha Motel lobby stands as its visitors’ center. Enter to see iconic signs like the Moulin Rouge, Desert Inn and the Stardust.
Opened in 1955, the Riviera was the first high-rise on the Strip and because of its literally star-studded appearance—and its retro-fabulous appearance in a sea of themed hotels—it has made many appearances over the years – particularly its exterior. Riveria has had cameos in Austin Powers, Diamonds are Forever, Casino, the 1960 Ocean’s 11 and Showgirls.