The 5 Best Hotel Movies About Hotels

Flicks that have something to say about the crazy, wonderful world of hospitality.
Jan 09 2013

Hollywood has always had a soft spot for hotels. (We’ve even starred in a few flicks ourselves!) So in honor of the Golden Globes this weekend, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites. These are the films that aren’t just set in hotels, but actually have something to say about them …

Movie: Casino (1995) Directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert de Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci
Synop: Jewish Mobster makes good in Vegas. Has a few issues with his wife.
Hotel Points: “If you don’t do it yourself, it never gets done,” Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) laments as the unofficial general manager of a large hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Sam is what we’d call a born operations guy. And even though he’s there just to rob the place, he couldn’t help but become a devoted manager. He just cared too much. No detail was too small, including the even distribution of blueberries. “I want the same amount of blueberries in every single muffin,” he tells the chef. We swoon.

Movie: Vertigo (1958) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak
Synop: Vertigo is about a man who becomes obsessed with a woman who’s pretending to be another woman … who dies. But then he becomes obsessed with another woman who looks like the woman who died, but it’s actually the same woman from before. Then she dies.
Hotel Points: This film encapsulates the idea that you can be anyone you want to be at a hotel – illusion becomes reality. In the famous Empire Hotel scene, Jimmy Stewart fashions his new lady into the look of the dead lady with whom he’s obsessed (but it’s actually the same lady! What?!?) Hitchcock didn’t set this scene of willful re-identification in a hotel by accident. Mistaken (or purposely mistaken) identity occurs with ease at a hotel where everyone is slightly out-of-context and divorced from their normal lives. In the movies, this can lead to insanity, but in real life it can be quite a thrill. For more “mistaken identities in hotels” see Maid in Manhattan & Big Business
Random fact: They renamed the Empire Hotel in San Francisco “Hotel Vertigo”


Movie: Lost in Translation (2003) Written and directed by Sofia Coppola starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson
Synop: Bob (Bill Murray), a famous actor having a midlife cri-cri, is in Tokyo getting $2 million bucks to do a liquor endorsement. Scar Jo is semi-abandoned by her new photog hubby, who may or may not be based on Spike Jonze. They’re trapped in the same tall hotel and forge a bond.
Hotel Points: Here we learn how lonely the hotel experience can be. If you’ve ever traveled for business and had room service alone in your room, you know the feeling. But that loneliness inspires the traveler to venture towards the bar where adventure——in the form of Bill Murray——awaits.
Extra Credit: Someone once wrote that “God is in the details.” If not God, then the art of hospitality for sure, and Sofia illustrates here——perhaps as no other film before or since——the little sensorial details of hotel life. The way the linens wrinkle, the ping of the elevator, the whir of the AC, one truly feels in residence … and of course she takes this to a whole other level with Somewhere.

Movie: Pretty Woman (1990) Directed by Gary Marshal starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts
Synop: The staff of the Regent Beverly Wilshire helps a hooker-in-residence adapt to her John’s elegant corporate-raiding world.
Hotel Points: Here we learn two things: First, don’t judge a book by its cover, no matter how slutty their dress. It could be Julia Roberts under that wig. Second – and more importantly – good service has a way of bringing out the best in people. It’s Bernard Thompson, General Manager, who shows Vivian the ropes, sending her down the Pygmalion path. Service done right can change lives.

Movie: The Shining (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall
Synop: A writer (Jack Nicholson) takes his wife and kids to be offseason caretakers at the Overlook Hotel, which turns out to be haunted. The son has ESP and “shines” (speaks with his mind) to his imaginary friend Tony, sees ghosts, writes murder backwards on a mirror. Jack goes mad and attempts to butcher his family.
Hotels Points: The Shining is the ultimate hotel movie and film critic Jonathan Romney explains it best: “The film sets up a complex dynamic between simple domesticity and magnificent grandeur, between the supernatural and the mundane in which the viewer is disoriented by the combination of spaciousness and confinement…” In real life hoteling, we don’t like to use the terms “confinement,” and “disorientated.” We prefer, “snuggling up in your cozy room,” and “exhilarated by a spectacular rooftop,” but this is the essential dynamic, the push and pull between the public and private, between intimacy and theater. This is what Standard hoteling is all about.
Extra Credit: Best public corridor carpets in history. Thank you David Hicks.