Nicolas Cage is one of the most popular and unique actors making the rounds in Hollywood. His work includes Oscar-winning performances, direct-to-video disasters, and everything in between.
A recent online discussion wanted to determine Cage's best performances. Here are some of the top answers.
1. Leaving Las Vegas
The film for which Cage won his (as of now) only Oscar: Leaving Las Vegas. Based on the novel of the same name by John O’Brien, the movie follows a screenwriter (Cage) who has lost his family and his job and decides to drink himself to death. He moves from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where he sparks a romantic relationship with an unlikely person (Elisabeth Shue). It’s a devastating movie that’s undeniably one of the most powerful in Cage’s filmography.
2. Vampire's Kiss
Regarded as one of Cage's odder films, Vampire's Kiss details the story of Peter (Cage), who begins acting strangely after taking a woman home from a bar. During their time together, the woman bites him on the neck, and Peter wakes in the morning to find himself transformed into a vampire. The bizarre premise of the movie lends itself to comedy, and the tone combined with Cage's over-the-top performance turned the film into a dark, intense experience.
Many agree that Adaptation is Cage’s best film, which makes perfect sense given his dual performance in the movie. The meta-movie about the adaptation of The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean follows Cage as real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who is struggling to adapt the novel. Cage also plays Charlie’s twin brother Donald. Cage does a fantastic job differentiating the brothers, and the film built around the performances is as mind-bending as any other Kaufman film.
4. The Rock
The Rock, the Michael Bay-directed action thriller which places Cage alongside Sean Connery, landed high on the list. The movie, following FBI chemist (Cage) and SAS captain (Connery) as they attempt to end a high-stakes hostage situation, resulting in a great performance from Cage!
The instant cult classic Mandy landed high on the list for Cage’s performance and the incredible style of the film. Mandy tells a wild, drug-fueled story of revenge in the Pacific Northwest of 1983 that’s truly like nothing else. The movie also offers a Cage performance that makes the most of what one respondent called his “Caggerisms.”
Pig is another recent film that many agreed could be considered Cage’s best movie. From his subtle and heartbreaking performance to the story about following what you love, the film offers a lot to love. The story centers on a hermit (Cage) who was once the most famous chef in Portland, Oregon who returns to the city’s high-end culinary world in search of his beloved truffle pig that’s been stolen. It’s a premise that could deliver a ridiculous action movie but instead is beautifully touching.
Ridiculous action movies didn’t go ignored on the list. John Woo’s Hollywood story about an FBI agent (John Travolta) and the criminal he’s after (Cage) who switch faces remains one of the most beloved films in Cage’s filmography. One fan adapted the question of best and highlighted that it’s “the most entertaining” Cage movie.
8. National Treasure
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning National Treasure, widely regarded as Cage's best film yet. Treasure hunters Ben (Cage) and Ian (Sean Bean) uncover a clue disclosing a priceless artifact dating back to colonial America. When faced with betrayal, traps, and countless obstacles, Ben has to race to find and secure the treasure before anyone else can. National Treasure is beloved among fans of the action and adventure genre.
9. Wild at Heart
It makes sense that a film by one of the modern era’s most beloved filmmakers would land high on the list of the best Cage films. Wild at Heart, written and directed by David Lynch from the novel of the same name by Barry Gifford, tells the story of a young couple (Cage and Laura Dern) on the run from gangsters. It’s a wonderfully strange movie that draws more from The Wizard of Oz than Bonnie and Clyde and is all the better for it.
10. Con Air
Con Air landed rather high up on the list despite the agreement among many that “it’s not objectively his best movie.” But there’s just something about this movie about prisoners hijacking a convict transport plane that makes it a winner.
11. Bringing Out The Dead
Cage has worked with several of the greatest directors to ever make movies, including Martin Scorsese, but their collaboration Bringing Out the Dead often goes ignored or forgotten. Luckily the Cage connoisseurs in this discussion didn’t forget and rightfully highlighted it as one of Cage’s best films, and the one that Cage himself has said he thinks the movie “might be the best movie I ever made.”
12. The Family Man
The 2000 holiday-themed movie stars Cage, Téa Leoni, and Don Cheadle. The film gives Jack Campbell (Cage), a successful Wall Street executive, a glimpse at the family life he missed out on.
While not often considered a Christmas classic, many fans incorporate it into their holiday viewing.
13. Raising Arizona
Not all the answers were for movies where Cage’s acting could be traditionally considered “good.” The Coen brothers' Raising Arizona ranked highly for its zany tone. The movie follows an ex-convict (Cage) and his ex-police officer wife (Holly Hunter) as they attempt to raise a child they stole from a couple with quintuplets. It’s a ridiculous movie in all the best ways.
14. Lord of War
Real-life arms dealer Viktor Bout inspired the 2005 film, starring Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynaham, Ian Holm, and Ethan Hawke.
Fans praised Cage's performance, with one saying he was the only working actor who could play the lead. Another commenter lauded the even, measured tone Cage's character spoke with and added it seemed the character had time to come up with a lie before speaking at all.
15. Peggy Sue Got Married
At her 25-year high school reunion, Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) is dealing with the divorce from her high school sweetheart Charlie (Nicolas Cage) after he cheated on her. But when she faints at the party, she wakes up in 1960, back in high school, and able to redo her senior year.
Film and TV Critic, Pop Culture Writer
- Expertise: Horror, Animation, Queer Film
- Education: Master's Degree in Philosophy from Boston College, Dual Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston College
- Organizer of Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd
- Over 200 reviews, essays, articles, and lists across various sites
Experience: Kyle Logan has been writing about film since studying film and philosophy as an undergraduate at Boston College. Kyle began writing about film professionally in 2020 and has written for many sites including Screen Anarchy, Film Stories, and Fangoria. Kyle has also organized the Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd since 2020, highlighting the queer history of film and bringing attention to rising queer filmmakers. Kyle now works full time with Wealth of Geeks, contributing lists, reviews, and podcast appearances on topics as varied as film, travel, and Halloween candy.