By Stephanie Ornelas (Pictured: Frank and Lola)
Las Vegas is a vibrant city full of secrets and glamor. It’s glitz and grit makes for a unique destination for storytellers. As we head into the ultimate Vegas season, we’ve compiled a list of films that show both the famous and infamous sides of Las Vegas, as well as the people who make it the chaotic place we all recognize.
From documentaries about some of the city’s greatest performers, to stories about love, obsession, betrayal, and revenge, here are six films centered around Sin City that were featured at past Sundance Film Festivals. Experience the Vegas lifestyle vicariously through these artists and their projects. Afterall, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
Frank & Lola (2016)
When a brooding, staunch Las Vegas chef meets a young and beautiful enigma, the two start to build an intense relationship. But when he finds that she suddenly cheated on him, it leads to his evolving mistrust of her and a growing obsession with an imposing man from her past. (Available to rent on Apple TV)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)
A Las Vegas dive bar becomes a stage where its employees and barflies commiserate one last time on its final night before closing — the eve of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Available to stream on Roku)
Go is a gritty comedy that spins an urban tale while its characters spin out of control. The film traces four interconnected stories — a drug sting, holiday rave, road trip to Las Vegas, and one very bizarre dinner party — told over two days and one wild night. (Available to rent on Apple TV)
A uniquely deranged magician-comedian who built a career out of shock and deception in Las Vegas, Johnathan Szeles is forced to retire after he’s diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given one year to live. But after learning he has more time than he thought, he embarks on an epic comeback tour. (Available to stream on Hulu)
Five unique women who work as strippers gather at a convention in Las Vegas, where the best in their profession compete for the first annual Golden G-String Award. Director Jerome Gary saw the doc as an opportunity to shatter the attitudes and stereotypes of stripping by presenting strong, almost heroic, women who treat what they do as an art. (Available to rent on Apple TV)
Legends in Concert (1991)
Legends in Concert is the longest-running and most successful stage act in Las Vegas. Each night, the likenesses of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley perform their greatest hits to packed audiences at the Imperial Palace (the show now takes place at Tropicana Las Vegas). Legends in Concert gives a backstage look at three celebrity impersonators who, for the better part of the past six years, have engaged in illusion. Through its humor, poignancy and sensitivity, the film focuses on their struggle to bring their heroes to life and make thousands of dreams come true, while at the same time attempting to become legends in their own right. (Available to stream on Roku and Tubi)