The Top 10 Nicolas Cage Movies

The Top 10 Nicolas Cage Movies

Nicolas Cage is the greatest actor in Hollywood. Nicolas Cage, formerly Nicolas Kim Coppola, is both a well-known screen actor and a complete mystery. He’s beloved for his unpredictable choices and Cage-rage-fueled freakouts. He’s also an incredibly versatile actor who can bring a lot of batshit energy and subtle performances to smaller independent movies.

Cage plays the role of a self-referential meta-comedy version of himself in The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent. This brings new levels of strangeness to his work. Empire’s Cage Scholars present a ranking of his top 10 films – one that covers different aspects of his performances as well as his personas. There will be gory gothic delights, depressing tales, heartbreaking stories, and action epics. This is the wild collection of films that can only be unified by Nicolas freakin’ Cage.


10. Moonstruck

Rarely does Cage’s unpredictable energy translate into sex appeal. Despite his brother’s engagement, Cher’s widow Loretta finds her husband irresistible as Ronny, the wounded, one-handed baker in Moonstruck. His table-flipping spontaneity is also irresistible. This film is largely due to the electric performances of the two stars. Loretta kicks an empty Coke can down quiet Brooklyn streets after a night out with this stoic stud. Criminally, Cage was not nominated as an Oscar nominee. Cher and Olympia Dukakis scored big, while Vincent Gardenia was nominated to win Best Supporting Actor. But, Cage shines in one of his most romantic roles.

Leaving Las Vegas

9) Las Vegas Leaving

1995’s Leaving Las Vegas is a remarkable entry in the Cage canon, especially when viewed from the other side. Cage, who played an alcoholic screenwriter who was determined to die in Sin City despite falling in love with Elisabeth Shue, won an Oscar. He had no idea that he would soon be a blockbuster action hero. This is Mike Figgis’s raw, naked performance, full of red eyes, dishevelment, and painfully raw emotions. Cage did not tamper with his trademark flourishes, but he cleverly incorporated them into Ben Sanderson’s downward spiral. Ben’s existential neglect gives him a convincing sense of social abandon, which makes his rapid decline entertaining in a deeply uncomfortable way.


8) Mandy

Cage’s career boom in recent years has been dominated by roles that make him uber-Cage (see his Lovecraftian llama farm in Color Out Of Space), and/or deliver something surprising melancholic (see Pig, further down). He gave both in Panos Cosmatos’ mesmeric heavy-metal odyssey Mandy. The film shows Cage fighting demon bikers in hellish dimensions with a chainsaw and using a special shiny ax for the hunt for “crazy evil”. The film’s WTF insanity blends with deep, heartfelt sadness when Cage’s Red Miller takes revenge on Andrea Riseborough’s Mandy Bloom, the woman with which he had been living a peaceful, woodsy life until he was kidnapped and taken by cultists. Cage’s two sides are best captured in this scene. He is seen drinking Vodka straight out of the bottle and standing in his pants in a bathroom with flower patterns, grunting and growling abnormally. This is a hilarious, outlandish scene, but it also shows a man pushing himself beyond the edge. Mandy’s greatest quality is its deep sense of feeling.

Con Air

7. Con Air

Con Air is a film that you can’t help but love. Con Air is a film that is aware of how absurd it is, how crazy it is, and how awesome it is. Every gloriously stupid sequence is one-upped by the next. Nicolas Cage is the one who keeps it all together. He holds it all together with sincerity, and heart, and is fully self-aware. Cameron Poe is a soon-to-be ex-con, desperately trying to return to his wife and child after years of being ill. He’s now on a plane with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. He makes you care. He had the most beautiful hair ever. It’s amazing.


6) Pig

Cage’s long and distinguished career has many roles. But it is when he turns down the drama for a more serious, introverted role that things can really get special. His mournful turn as porcine-loving chef-turned-hermit-truffle-hunter Robin Feld in Pig stands out as the very best of his understated roles, searching for justice after a brutal pig-napping, an exile reluctantly making his return from to the cut-throat world of Portland haute-cuisine. It sounds absurd, but Michael Sarnoski has created a sensuous, raw, and authentic fable that allows the Great Showman to dial it down and tap into his inner self. This is a book you should dig up and enjoy from beginning to end, like a rare truffle hidden beneath the roots of a venerable Oak.

Red Rock West

5) Red Rock West

Hidden in a corner of Cage’s prolific filmography lies this hidden gem, Red Rock West. It stands as strong and as important as any of his films. It’s a noirish neo-western, as dusty and dry as the Wyoming desert where it was set, with modest ambitions, but great rewards. Cage gives a remarkable, understated, and passive performance as Michael Williams. He is a drifter who lives out of his car and takes on an impulsive identity to fool him into thinking he’s a hitman. The film is a riveting thriller that’s full of intrigue, thoughtful grace notes and clever characterizations. It’s also the rare film in which Cage plays the straight guy to another actor’s madman (that honor goes to Dennis Hopper as ‘Lyle From Dallas’, the true hitman). Although it was initially released in the early 1990s, it was not recognized as a top-drawer entry by Cage in his long career.


4) Adaptation

Charlie Kaufman turned screenwriting upside down with his script for Spike Jonze’s meta-comic-drama John Malkovich. But Adaptation, the follow-up to that film, took that meta madness into its own hands and went with it. Then he didn’t stop. Kaufman created a twin brother by himself, writing it into the film. Cage was the perfect choice to play the twins, one neurotic and pretentious, and the other bright and carefree. Cage proved that he could do everything (and everything) as well. Cage is the perfect balance of yin-yang, and it’s a joy to play both. His greatest accomplishment was the fact that even though they looked identical – there were no distinguishing hairstyles or beards – they were totally different due to Cage’s two amazing, nuanced performances. He is his own unique effect. This is Nicolas Cage‘s magic.

Face Off

3) Face/Off

Cage’s Castor Tyr laments, “I can eat peaches for hours,” in Face/Off. It is the greatest film to ever have a forward-slash in its title. His performance is so magical that we would happily watch it (at least for two hours, as anything beyond that would be crazy). The Troy story is split into two parts. The first act features a high-spirited Cage who grabs a girl in the choir’s back, runs around an airfield and wields a pair of gold-plated pistols. (The box also contains a pack of Chiclets and a money clip as well as three rolled joints and four pieces of Bazooka Joe bubblegum). On a dime, the character swaps skins with the FBI agent that’s been following him. We get a completely different Cage: haunted and sensitive, but still vulnerable. Cage as Castor, Cage as Sean, or both, it doesn’t matter. He’s good, and peachy in every step of John Woo’s action masterpiece.

Raising Arizona

2) Raising Arizona

Sometimes it takes a while for all the details to become clear, just like in many great films. Raising Arizona was not an easy task. Nicolas Cage’s Nouveau-Shamanic ways required that he be able to improvise freely. This met the immovable objects of the Coen brothers, who meticulously planned everything. Cage later called the brother’s director “autocratic”. The reviews were mixed upon its release. It has become a cult favorite, thanks to the passing of time. H.I. is an ex-con who became a wannabe father. McDunnough is a goofy, gregarious Southern charmer. He somehow makes child abduction seem normal. His winning performance is equal parts humor and pathos. It’s a sign of H.I. when filmmakers such as Edgar Wright declare it their favorite film. It’s finally time to grow up.

The Rock

1) The Rock

Let’s not waste time on the chatter: The Rock is simply the best. This film marks Nicolas Cage’s official rebirth in action heroism (it was an unlikely follow-up of his Leaving Las Vegas Oscar win months prior), and it is a hard-granite slab action movie gold. Not to mention, the rare Michael Bay movie to receive a Criterion Collection release. Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed as an FBI agent who is forced to join the field by some cranky ex-Marines. Cage’s double-act with Sean Connery, an odd couple, is a joy, his obsession for chemistry a delight, and his status as an action movie icon by the end of his slow-motion arms-aloft finale with flares-in­the-air, is confirmed.