Nicolas Cage is many things: a Hollywood legend, a Coppola, a meme, a guy who named his oldest son after Superman’s alien character Kal-El. He is an actor known for never turning down a role and for delivering some of the most over-the-top performances cinema has ever seen (described by critics as “Cage Rage”). Although Cage has a reputation for starring in some really bad movies, he’s actually a pretty brilliant actor whose skills really shine through in dark dramatic movies, and ones that don’t take themselves too seriously.
The actor plays a fictionalized version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which finds him on the verge of retirement before taking one last job that involves spending time with a Cage-obsessed billionaire (Pedro Pascal), which ends up being much plus. dangerous than he could have imagined.
Cage has made nearly three movies each year since 1982. That’s about 119 movies over a span of 40 years. Needless to say, it was tough narrowing our favorites down to just ten, but we did our best. Scroll through our list of the best Nicholas Cage movies, ranked!
10. Kick (2010)
(Image credit: Lionsgate)
Kick-Ass, based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., stars Cage as a former NYPD officer turned Batman-inspired vigilante named Big Daddy. The film follows an ordinary teenager (Aaron Johnson) who sets out to become a real-life superhero and ends up teaming up with Big Daddy and his daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz).
Cage channeled Adam West’s cheesy, slapstick Batman in the 1960s (although West himself was apparently not a fan of Cage’s impression). While this isn’t Cage’s first superhero movie (we don’t need to talk about Ghost Rider), it is by far his best. The film initially received mixed reviews, mainly due to the violence and vulgarity played by Moretz, then twelve years old, but has since gained a large cult following.
9. Leaving Vegas (1995)
(Image credit: United Pictures)
While Cage is arguably best known for his over-the-top acting in equally over-the-top movies (see also: “Not the Bees!”), his strongest performances tend to come in gritty, romantic dramas. In Leaving Las Vegas, based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by the late John O’Brien, Cage plays a suicidal alcoholic named Ben Sanderson who decides to move to Las Vegas and get drunk to death.
Cage was a bit methodological on this one, spending two whole weeks drinking in Dublin and having a friend record him so he could study his elocution. It was clearly worth it, as the role earned him his first and only Best Actor Oscar.
8. The Rock (1996)
(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)
The Rock, directed by Michael Bay, is a very funny and subversive take on the prison break subgenre. Cage plays an FBI chemical weapons specialist who teams up with Sean Connery and Ed Harris to lead a team of Navy SEALS who storm Alcatraz to stop a group of rogue Marines holding the island hostage. It’s an action movie on steroids: Necks are snapped, cars explode in the air, blood splatters in slow motion, and the bad guys are armed with literal rockets filled with enough deadly toxins to destroy all of San Francisco.
The explosive film culminates with Cage, at home, sitting naked in a chair while playing the guitar. The actor also improvised and rewrote many of his lines on the spot, including one that references “Zeus’ asshole.”
7. Raising Arizona (1987)
(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)
Raising Arizona, the Coen brothers’ second film, stars 22-year-old Cage as an ex-convict who ends up marrying the police officer who took the photos of him upon entry. Together, HI and Edwina (Holly Hunter) set out to kidnap a millionaire’s newborn son because they can’t adopt due to HI’s criminal record and they can’t have children.
The hilarious crime comedy is also a favorite of filmmakers Spike Lee and Edgar Wright, as well as actor Matthew McConaughey. Interestingly, the light-hearted film has a similar visual and editing style to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead horror film, which Joel Coen, in fact, co-edited. The only terrifying element in the film is Woody Woodpecker’s ever-changing hair, which he says would grow as his character became more stressed.
6. Air Conditioning (1997)
(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)
Con Air is definitely one of the craziest movies in Cage’s repertoire, being one of those “so bad it’s good” type gems. The actor plays Cameron Poe, a recently paroled ex-con who just wants to go home to his family. Unfortunately for Poe, the prisoner transport plane he boards ends up being invaded by a series of dangerous criminals who decide to use the flight as an opportunity to escape.
Some of the more ridiculous elements of the film include Cage’s attempt at a Southern accent, having a decorated US Air Marshall (John Malkovich) wear socks and sandals with a business suit throughout the film, and a scene where that John Malkovich puts a loaded gun to the head of a stuffed rabbit. It’s also worth mentioning that this movie starred Steve Buscemi in the pre-Boardwalk Empire era, so the role of him as a serial killer who “would wear a girl’s head like a hat” is less convincing. Still, the overall absurdity of the film is what makes it truly special. A photo of Cage smiling as the sun hits his face and the wind blows his hair back (shown above) has even circulated the internet as a popular meme.
5. Pig (2021)
(Image credit: neon)
Pig is a bit like John Wick if John Wick was about a pig. The film stars Cage as a former Portland-based chef named Rob who lives alone in a cabin deep in the Oregon desert and hunts for truffles with his prized forage pig. One night, a group of unknown thieves beat up Rob and stole the pig. He is then forced to leave the comfort of his solitary life and return to Portland to win her back, which involves kicking her ass.
Blood and guns aside, the film is a poignant meditation on pain and loss, and how sometimes the only way to move on is to return to the place that broke us in the first place.
4. Face to face (1997)
(Image credit: Paramount Plus)
Face/Off is a ridiculously meta-action epic in which John Travolta and Nicolas Cage literally swap faces and play as they play with each other. Yes, you read it right. Travolta plays FBI agent Sean Archer, who undergoes a transplant to have the face of a murderous maniac named Castor Troy (Cage) grafted onto his own face in order to go incognito. It seems like a totally logical idea until Troy wakes up without a face, panics and forces the same doctor to give him Archer’s face. Essentially, the two spend the entire movie fighting while putting on each other’s faces, and it’s an honest masterpiece.
Cage considers Face/Off to be one of his best films and would be dead set on doing a sequel, something that has been making headlines for the past few years.) Travolta himself hasn’t said much, but we’re sure he likes him anyway.
3. Moon Spell (1987)
(Image credit: MGM)
Moonstruck might just be one of the best romantic comedies ever made, something even the late Roger Ebert can attest to. The film stars Cher as Loretta, a superstitious Italian-American (with an amazing Brooklyn accent) who falls in love with her fiancé’s younger brother, Ronny. Cage plays Ronny as something of a tragic hero: after losing his hand (and his fiancée) in an accident cutting bread at his family’s bakery, he becomes sullen and cynical, but still believes in love and is obsessed with love. with romance and opera.
Moonstruck earned six Academy Award nominations, including three for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. Cage also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
(Image credit: SpectreVision)
Mandy is an incredibly fast-paced action-horror film that follows a man’s quest for revenge after his lover is kidnapped and murdered by a roving cult obsessed with psychedelics. Cage plays Red, a man who embarks on a bloody mission to avenge the death of his girlfriend Mandy. The movie has a little bit of true crime, a little bit of American Assassin, and a lot of neon-colored fantasy madness. It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival before heading to VOD, with critics praising Cage’s performance.
There’s also a rather strange ad for a fictional brand of macaroni and cheese that features a little beast named Cheddar Goblin who eats until he vomits, which Cage’s character watches in a paralyzed post-mortem state. traumatic.
1. Wild at Heart (1990)
(Image credit: Samuel Goldwyn)
It’s kind of crazy that Nic Cage only appeared in a David Lynch project, considering the fact that Cage himself is inherently Lynchian. Wild at Heart, based on the novel of the same name by Barry Gifford, stars Cage and Laura Dern as two star-crossed, sex-obsessed lovers on the run after a group of thugs are sent to kill them. The film is a dark and gory romantic musical that borrows from the Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley discography.
Cage credits the film with Wild at Heart for helping him move away from method action and toward his improvisational style, thanks in part to Lynch’s spontaneous rewrites of the script during production. Although 300 people walked out of an early test screening, the film won the Palme d’Or at the 1990s Cannes Film Festival.
For more on the best movies, check out our list of the best Quentin Tarantino movies, ranked!