Nevada long has served as a backdrop for Hollywood productions. From the glitzy Las Vegas Strip to the quiet desert and rustic ghost towns, the Silver State has provided the setting for hundreds of movies. Here’s a sampling of some of the best-known movies filmed in Nevada. Click the document listed below for a more comprehensive list, and check out "The Nevada Filmography" by Gary Du Val for a complete, in-depth look at Nevada's presence in the movies from 1897 through 2000.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green
Summary: (Comedy) A cryogenically frozen super-spy is thawed out and teamed with a sexy young woman to capture his old nemesis, who is scheming to destroy the world.
Nevada Locations: The Stardust and Riviera hotels in Las Vegas; Red Rock Canyon
Starring: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, Kevin Pollak
Summary: (Drama) A successful mob-run casino falls under FBI investigation when a ruthless mobster gets out of control. This movie was based on the true story of the mob’s presence in Las Vegas. Real-life mob lawyer and former mayor of Las Vegas Oscar Goodman made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie, representing his clients in court.
Nevada Locations: The Riviera, Landmark and Main Street Station hotels in Las Vegas; Goodsprings near Las Vegas; dry lake in Jean near Las Vegas; Fashion Show Mall and other various locations in Las Vegas
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, Ann Archer
Summary: (Drama) A CIA covert operation against the Colombian drug cartels is compromised and protagonist Jack Ryan is set up to take the fall unless he can rescue the assault team and expose the president’s illegal involvement.
Nevada Location: Naval Air Station Fallon on U.S. 50
Con Air (1997)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi
Summary: (Action) A convict up for parole is caught in the middle when prisoners hijack a transport plane and federal agents are determined to shoot them down.
Nevada Locations: Las Vegas; West Wendover. Since the Sands Casino was already slated for demolition, the film crew was allowed to crash an aircraft mockup into the Sands building.
The Godfather (I and II) (1972; 1974)
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro
Summary: (Drama) War breaks out between the New York Mafia families and Michael Corleone abandons his plans for a life outside the mob to avenge his family’s honor.
Nevada Locations: Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe
Independence Day (1996)
Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum
Summary: (Science Fiction) Aliens with superior technology invade Earth and it is up to a small group of Americans to devise a plan to thwart the invasion.
Nevada Locations: Wendover. The movie premiere washeld in Rachel on U.S. 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway because of its proximity to the top-secret Area 51 and the reports of UFOs in the area. A time capsule from the movie is buried at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel.
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Vanessa Angel, Bill Murray, Chris Elliott
Summary: (Comedy) A one-handed ex-bowler discovers a pin wizard in a young Amish man and convinces the naïve farmer to enter the Reno Bowling Championship, but fate and an old rival have other plans for the duo.
Nevada Locations: Silver Legacy Hotel-Casino and the National Bowling Stadium in Reno
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates
Summary: (Horror-Suspense) A novelist is rescued from a snowy car wreck by a psychotic fan who imprisons him in her home until he resurrects the heroine he killed in his last novel.
Nevada Locations: Genoa. The entire town became the setting for the movie, but the town was too small so temporary buildings had to be erected, including a gas station, a sporting goods store and a liquor and video store.
The Misfits (1961)
Starring: Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe – this was the last film for both actors
Summary: (Drama) A lonely divorcee and a rugged cowboy fall in love, but their happiness is jeopardized when he decides to round up wild horses to be sold for dog food.
Nevada Locations: Pyramid Lake; Harrah’s Casino, Washoe County Courthouse in Reno; Odeon Saloon, Dayton
Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte
Summary: (Action) Eleven Army buddies use their commando training to rob five Las Vegas casinos, but one ex-mobster could wreck their getaway plans.
Nevada Locations: The Desert Inn, Sands, Riviera, Sahara and Flamingo hotels in Las Vegas. The “Rat Pack” had a two-week appearance at the Sands’ Copa Room and production was filmed around their schedule and completed during their two-week engagement. The hotels cooperated entirely with the filming, but for security reasons insisted that all the guards, cashiers and dealers be the “real thing.”
The Hangover (2009)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham
Summary: (Comedy) Four friends drive to Las Vegas for a bachelor party that none of them can remember the following morning. The groom-to-be is missing and the group has somehow acquired a tiger, a baby and too many mishaps to count. They must retrace their drunken steps and find the missing groom, while righting other wrongs along the way, before his wedding day.
Nevada Locations: Las Vegas, primarily Caesars and many locations throughout the city.
The Shootist (1976)
Starring: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart
Summary: (Western) Diagnosed with terminal cancer, an infamous gunslinger arrives in Carson City to die a peaceful death, but his reputation as a killer brings him unwanted attention. This was John Wayne’s final film. After Director Don Siegel commented that this would be Wayne’s last film, he responded, “Bull!... It won’t be my last film unless I stop breathing.” But Wayne passed away of cancer three years later without making another film.
Nevada Locations: Washoe Lake State Park between Reno and Carson City; Jack’s Valley; Carson City. This was by far the most famous motion picture filmed in Nevada’s capital city.
Top Gun (1986)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards
Summary: (Action) A hotshot pilot attending the Top Gun fighter school falls in love with a woman instructor, but his aggressiveness in the cockpit nearly destroys his career and his romance.
Nevada Locations: Naval Air Station Fallon; The Top Gun school is actually at NAS Fallon.
Total Recall (1990)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone
Summary: (Science Fiction) A 21st-century construction worker discovers his memories have been artificially altered and returns to Mars to uncover his real identity, only to be caught up in a rebellion against the corrupt government there.
Nevada Locations: Red Rock Canyon