While it is the largest city in the state, encompassing 135 square miles, Nevada isn’t just all Las Vegas. Aside from the history and many other areas to visit like Reno or Hoover Dam, the Silver State has quite a bit to explore amongst its 2000 miles of streams, over 40,000 reservoirs, and 23 wilderness areas.
The 36th state to the enter Union is not only the gambling and entertainment capital of the US, but it also ranks number one in gold production, as it is home to seven of the top ten mines in the United States and three of the top ten in the entire world. It is one of the state’s key economic resources.
As far as weather is concerned, the Silver State is a hot one (average temps in July are over 100 degrees) and also a dry one (less than ten inches of rain per year). This contradicts the state’s translation of its name, which stems from Spanish for “snow-capped” (in reference to the Carson Range of the Sierra Mountains).
It also has two National Parks: Death Valley (the hottest in the US) and Great Basin (a “cold” desert). And Lake Tahoe is right behind Oregon’s Crater Lake, making it the third deepest in the US. And don’t forget Area 51, Valley Fire State Park, and Red Rock Canyon. All of this contributes to tourism also being the state’s top income producer.
With so much to work with and such unique natural scenery (not to mention The Strip), Nevada has become one of the most popular places to film movie scenes. See below for some of the best that have visited the seventh-largest state:
Table of Contents
- Movies filmed in Nevada
- Nomadland (2020)
- Con Air (1997)
- Sister Act (1992)
- Army of the Dead (2021)
- Misery (1990)
- Memento (200)
- Vegas Vacation (1997)
- The Wizard (1989)
- The Cannonball Run (1981)
- Into the Wild (2007)
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
- Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)
- The Hangover (2009)
- Indecent Proposal (1993)
- Top Gun (1986)
- Lethal Weapon (1998)
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Movies filmed in Nevada
This drama was based on a 2017 book by Jessica Bruder. Francis McDormand plays Fern, a recently-widowed woman who embarks on a soul-searching journey through the United States in her van. It won three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director. Among the many filming locations used in the US were Fernley and Empire.
Con Air (1997)
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s 21st movie, this thriller starred Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack, and an assortment of supporting actors. The main action takes place in the air aboard the “Jailbird” prisoner transport plane, of course, but some filming locations included Carson City, Las Vegas, West Wendover, and Overton.
Sister Act (1992)
This comedy about a singer-turned-nun in the witness protection program had Whoopi Goldberg in the lead role, with Maggie Smith and Kathy Najimy supporting. The wildly successful movie spawned not only a sequel but also a stage production, and a third movie is in the works. It was partly set in Nevada with locations done in Reno.
Army of the Dead (2021)
Director Zack Snyder’s tenth movie, this film takes the standard elements of a Las Vegas heist movie and flips them upside down by having it occur during a zombie invasion. It starred Dave Bautista and Ella Purnell, among many others. Filming locations included Las Vegas, although many scenes were done in Atlantic City, NJ.
Not only was this a non-supernatural Stephen King adaptation, but it also wasn’t filmed in Maine, and it won an Oscar (Best Actress for Kathy Bates). This psychological horror film had Bates as Annie Wilkes, a fan so crazed with author Paul Sheldon (James Caan), that she kidnaps him. The story was set in Colorado with shots done in Genoa and Reno.
Guy Pearce starred in this thriller about a man who suffers from short-term memory loss so severe that he cannot make new memories that last longer than 15 minutes. As he tries to put his own clues together in the search for his wife’s killer, the audience also tries to piece the narrative together. Some filming was done in Las Vegas.
Vegas Vacation (1997)
Even without the National Lampoon’s moniker behind it, it’s easy to see that this movie was a part of the franchise. In this fourth film, the Griswolds head to Vegas for vacation (and wedding vow renewal). As usual, nothing goes according to Clark’s well-intentioned plans. Locations were done all around Las Vegas, even Wayne Newton’s Ranch.
The Wizard (1989)
Fred Savage led this movie about a boy who journeys with his gifted yet withdrawn younger brother to Hollywood to compete in a video game tournament. While the movie has been criticized as a very long Nintendo advertisement (specifically Super Mario Bros. 3), it maintains a cult following. Filming locations included Hazen, Reno, and Fallon.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
Among the top actors in this comedy included Burt Reynolds, Jackie Chan, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. It is based upon the actual 1970s outlaw road race that took place from Connecticut to California. The film even used some of the same vehicles from the five races. Locations were done all over the United States, including Las Vegas.
Into the Wild (2007)
This adventure film was written and directed by actor Sean Penn. It is based upon a 1996 book about a man who treks into Alaska, first by car, and then on foot. Emile Hirsch took on the lead role with John Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Vince Vaughan, and an assortment of other actors also appearing. It won an Oscar for Best Original Song (Eddie Vedder’s “Guaranteed”). Filming locations included Reno and Boulder City.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Oh behave! The first of three (with a fourth constantly teased) in the Bond-parodying franchise, this movie introduced us to Mike Myers’s Austin Powers. And also his Dr. Evil. Other actors included Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, and Seth Green. The film was set in Las Vegas with some scenes done there as well as Overton.
Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)
A sequel to the very successful 1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film, this one brought back Rick Moranis and the rest of the Szalinski family for another round of experiments and laughs. But this time it’s on a larger scale when the youngest dramatically increases in size. The movie was set in Nevada with shots done in Las Vegas.
The Hangover (2009)
It would be a great surprise if a movie about a bachelor party in Las Vegas gone terribly wrong did not have at least one scene in Las Vegas. For this comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, and many others, it certainly did use Vegas as well as Jean Dry Lake. It was the first of three movies.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
What would you do for a million dollars? Would you give up your wife to Robert Redford for the night? This drama based on a 1988 book by Jack Engelhard answers just that when the proposition is given to Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore’s David and Diana. The film was partly set in Las Vegas with locations done there as well as California.
Top Gun (1986)
The film that introduced us to Maverick and Goose, and also gave us the “need for speed” starred Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer. Although the school is set in San Diego, some scenes were filmed at Naval Air Station Fallon. It won an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Take My Breath Away.” A sequel arrives at the end of 2021.
Lethal Weapon (1998)
The fourth movie in this buddy cop franchise brought Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, and Rene Russo together again. With two new babies on the way (Riggs to be a father and Murtagh a grandfather), the last thing they need is another dangerous case. Which of course, they get. The story was set LA with some locations done in Las Vegas.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Based upon Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 book, this film had Johnny Depp in the lead as journalist Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as Dr. Gonzo. The two are headed to Las Vegas to report on a motorcycle race. And they also take a lot of drugs. Filming locations included Red Rock Canyon, some Vegas Strip locations, and Jean Dry Lake.
Although the state is much larger than the majority of the rest, it is only home to three million people (ranking 32nd in population). This is due to the fact that a large percentage of Nevada is desert land. And there is also a healthy portion owned by the federal government that is used for nuclear testing.
With so much land and not so many people, Nevada is a great place to film wide-open nature scenes. With so much entertainment and so much to do in Vegas, it’s also a great place to film more crowded, over-the-top, and of course, gambling scenes. This stark contrast is what makes the state so special, and also appealing to filmmakers.