One of the most popular, beloved, and unique actors today is Nicolas Cage. His work includes Oscar-winning performances, direct-to-video disasters, and everything in between.
A recent online discussion looks to answer the question about Cage's best performances. Here are some of the top answers, ranked in order of popularity.
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, but while there he meets and begins a romantic relationship with a sex worker (Elisabeth Shue). It’s a devastating movie that’s undeniably one of the most powerful in Cage’s filmography.
Many agreed that Adaptation is Cage’s best movie, something that makes perfect sense given his amazing 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, and as 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.
3. 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 and, as one filmgoer called it, “legendary Cage performance.” 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.
4. The Rock
The Rock, the Michael Bay-directed action thriller which places Cage alongside Sean Connery, landed high up on the list as well. One respondent said the movie, which follows FBI chemist (Cage) and SAS captain (Connery) as they attempt to end a high-stakes hostage situation, is “not only the best Cage's movie but also one of the best from the 90s.”
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 film. 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 though. 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. 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.
9. 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 highjacking a convict transport plane that makes it a winner. One respondent called it their “personal favorite” and another said “I just love everything about that movie,” while one made the case “it’s so awful that it’s brilliant.”
10. 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 it and rightfully highlighted it as one of Cage’s best films, and the one that Cage himself has said he thinks it “might be the best movie I ever made.”
11. 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.
12. Lord of War
Real-life arms dealer Viktor Bout inspires the 2005 film, starring Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynaham, Ian Holm, and Ethan Hawke.
One person says, “I think he might have been the only actor I could imagine playing the lead in Lord of War. The role called for someone duplicitous which is always what I think when he speaks. It's just that his tone is so measured that you feel like he has time to come up with a lie before he says anything at all.”
A thread inspired this post.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.