Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Las Vegas and get you in the mood for travel
Movies and TV Shows
The Hollywood version of history makes it look like mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel single-handedly built the Strip. Other aspects of the film, however, are more authentic, such as the recreation of the original Flamingo casino hotel, which is stunning.
Martin Scorsese’s epic film traces the city’s transformation from a mafia haven to a family vacationland, as seen through the eyes of corrupt casino chief Robert De Niro.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–present)
Emmy Award–winning TV series shoots real-life locations around Las Vegas, including nighttime flyovers of the Strip. Besides, in which other city could an exotic dancer believably become a crime-fighting detective?
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Nicolas Cage plays a broken-down, alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who comes to town to drink himself to death, but not before forging a relationship with a hard-as-nails prostitute (Elizabeth Shue).
Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
The original casino caper film features Rat Pack hijinks and crooning by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Filmed at the now-imploded Sands casino hotel; remade with an all-star Hollywood cast in 2001.
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
In this colorful romp, Elvis Presley and redhead Ann-Margret sing, strum guitars, and dance their way through casino showrooms and into a little white wedding chapel.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, by Hunter S. Thompson (1972)
Originally published in Rolling Stone magazine, this fictionalized memoir narrates the hallucinogenic, drug-addled adventures of “gonzo” journalist Thompson (and his lawyer) during the Mint 400 motorcycle race.
Inside Las Vegas, by Mario Puzo (1977)
A pictorial homage to vintage Vegas by Mario Puzo, gambler and author of The Godfather, with tawdry black-and-white photographs of showgirls, pit bosses, sports bookies, and the neon lights of the Strip.
The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, by Tom Wolfe (1965)
Collection of essays about the swinging’ ‘60s, some of which first appeared in Esquire magazine, includes the fantastically titled “Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can't hear you! Too noisy.) Las Vegas!!!!”
Literary Las Vegas: The Best Writing about America’s Most Fabulous City, edited by Mike Tronnes (1995)
Modern anthology of essays and short stories runs the gamut from mobsters, millionaires, lounge lizards, showgirls, and Hollywood starlets to more serious topics like atomic bomb testing.
Live From Las Vegas, Louis Prima and Keely Smith (2005)
Remastered 1950s recordings of vocalist Keely Smith performing with then-husband Louis Prima at the Sahara casino showroom.
Las Vegas Grind
Issued by Crypt Records, hard-to-find album series collects rare burlesque grooves from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton (2005)
As seen on the reality TV series The Entertainer, Wayne Newton is the city’s consummate showman, having performed more than 30,000 gigs during four decades spent in Las Vegas.
The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. (2001)
Hear Frank Sinatra and the rest of the merry gang of pranksters at the top of their musical game at the now-imploded Sands casino hotel.
Sam’s Town, The Killers (2006)
After the success of their first album Hot Fuss, Las Vegas alternative rock breakout band The Killers titled their ace sophomore effort after a local cowboys’ casino.
From old-school lounge sounds to modern-day rock and roll, here are ten tunes to get you in the mood for Sin City:
1. “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley
3. “Luck Be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra
4. “Ace in the Hole” by Bobby Darin
5. “Ain't That a Kick in the Head” by Dean Martin
6. “The Lady is a Tramp” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
7. “I've Got You Under My Skin” by Louis Prima and Keely Smith
8. “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton
9. “Leaving Las Vegas” by Sheryl Crow
10. “Read My Mind” by The Killers
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