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Nicolas Cage is often maligned by movie fans for some of the more… interesting choices he has made in roles, as well as his incredibly meme-able facial expressions when he’s getting really nuts. Nevertheless, he has had a remarkable career.
Nicolas Cage’s career has now spanned almost four decades and the diversity of his roles is amazing. He has been in classic cult films, huge box office blockbusters, deeply personal indie films and everything else in between. He can play the hero or the villain, and his talents have won him multiple awards and earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
On the flip side, he’s also been nominated for multiple Golden Raspberries and has been the butt of endless jokes on the internet for his less-than-stellar performances. It makes everyone wonder what his decision-making process is, sometimes. Nicolas Cage has come a long way from his bit part in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. With all this in mind, let's over over the eight best Nicolas Cage movies and four of his worst.
The 8 Best Nicolas Cage Movies
Raising Arizona (1987)
Raising Arizona, the hilarious and quirky second film from the Coen Brothers, brings together a whole lot of talent at the very beginnings of their careers: Holly Hunter, Frances McDomand, John Goodman and, of course, Nicolas Cage. In a way, it set the template for all the Coen Brothers comedies, as it’s filled with wacky characters and a loose plot that is almost irrelevant.
Nicolas Cage’s deadpan performance as the petty criminal turned kidnapper turned “father,” “Hi” is perfect. Hi’s tired and life-weary demeanor is the perfect foil for his intense and upbeat wife, Ed, played by Holly Hunter. Raising Arizona has become a classic and was a big reason Nicolas Cage’s career took off.
Released the same year as Raising Arizona, Moonstruck was another breakout performance for Nicolas Cage and it immediately showed his rage as an actor. Nicolas Cage’s performance as the down on his luck baker in Brooklyn is a completely different kind of character than Hi in Raising Arizona.
Moonstruck was also a huge critical and commercial success, and while Nicolas Cage’s excellent performance wasn’t recognized with any award nominations, two of his co-stars won Oscars, Cher and Olympia Dukakis.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Leaving Las Vegas is by far the biggest critical success of Nicolas Cage’s career. His Oscar-winning performance as a down-and-out alcoholic who moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death is unbelievably sad and difficult to watch because Cage’s performance is so believable and well done.
His co-star, Elizabeth Shue, also puts in an incredible performance as a prostitute who forms a relationship with the sad drunk. Together they make the perfect, tragic couple with a devastating ending that in a way is kind of beautiful that they found in each other even under the unspeakably horrible situations both were in.
Honeymoon In Vegas (1992)
Honeymoon In Vegas somehow slips under the radar a lot when people talk about Nicolas Cage movies, and that is too bad, but it’s a great movie and Cage’s performance is hilarious. Cage plays a detective with commitment issues who reluctantly decides to marry his girlfriend, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, in a quickie Vegas marriage.
Cage’s character gets in debt to a wise guy/professional gambler, played brilliantly by James Caan, and promises Caan's character he can spend the weekend with his fiancée before they get married. The rest of the movie is filled with hilarious hijinks, as Cage chases Caan and Parker from Vegas to Hawaii and back to Vegas before culminating in a sky dive above The Strip with a bunch of Elvis impersonators. Brilliant!
The last decade hasn’t been the strongest of Nicolas Cage’s career but it started strong with Kick-Ass, the really well done spoof of superhero movies feature Cage as “Big Daddy” the "real-life" Batman-like superhero raising his daughter and seeking revenge on his rival, a mob boss that set him up to take the fall as a drug dealer and serve a nickel in prison.
Kick-Ass is an incredibly fun movie where the good guys win in the end and the violence is completely over the top. It’s like a perfect combination of a Marvel movie, Kingsman and a John Wick movie.
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Gone in 60 Seconds is another one of those awesome Nicolas Cage action movies filled with amazing car chases and a first-rate cast. The dialogue, like the others, is trite and frankly meaningless, but that doesn’t matter. Because if you like awesome cars and awesome car chases, it really doesn’t get any better.
Cage plays a retired car thief pulled out of retirement for one last, huge heist: an attempt to steal 50 cars in just 24 hours with his crew. The crew includes Robert Duvall, Vinnie Jones, Giovanni Ribisi and Angelina Jolie, but the biggest star of the film is “Eleanor,” a pristine 1967 Ford Shelby GT500, maybe the coolest car ever built. Seriously, Gone In Sixty Seconds is worth watching for the car alone.
Con Air (1997)
Who doesn’t love Con Air? The plot is asinine and the script is trite and silly, but the action sequences are amazing and the acting performances, including Nicolas Cage’s, are awesome! It’s big budget, summer blockbuster Hollywood at its very best.
There is no way to come across it on a rainy Saturday afternoon on TV and NOT watch the whole thing. The all-star cast, led by Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Bescemi and Danny Trejo, all put in amazing performance. That alone make it the best kind of watchable movie.
The Rock (1996)
The first movie starring Nicolas Cage after his Oscar-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas was something, uh, completely different. The Rock is cheesy, awesome Nic Cage at his best. The lines are so silly – “Cut the chitchat, A-HOLE!” – but he delivers them with such pizazz that it makes them eminently quotable. By the way, that is the actual quote from the movie, not the censored TV version.
Like Con Air, this movie takes the art of the summer blockbuster to its highest level. It has a ridiculous plot, a great car chase, big explosions, a script full of “did he really say that” quotes and huge stars, like Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris and a supporting cast of legendary characters. It is so wonderfully whacky and awesome.
The 4 Worst Nicolas Cage Movies
Ghost Rider (2007)
With enough plot holes to drive a motorcycle through, Ghost Rider is the kind of movie you really want to like, even in a cynical, campy way, but just can’t. Nicolas Cage’s performance isn’t terrible; it’s actually good, but the movie is just so… stupid and disappointing. For a guy like Nic Cage, who always wants to play superheroes, it must smart that the film doesn't work.
Maybe expectations were too high for the big screen adaptation of a very cool comic, because the story shouldn’t be this bad, it has very solid source material, yet, it sadly is.
Amos & Andrew (1993)
A stupid premise and a trite attempt to be relevant with a critical commentary on race in America, the Nicolas Cage/Samuel L. Jackson flick is a disaster. It’s easy to see where the minds behind the movie were trying to go with it, but it fails in most ways. The action is lacking and the attempted comedy just isn’t funny, despite decent performances by the lead actors.
In the long list of forgettable Nicolas Cage movies, this might be the most forgettable. There is just nothing about this movie that should make anyone want to watch it. It was a bomb with the critics and it tanked at the box office. It’s not hilariously bad, like some other Nic Cage performances, and that makes Amos & Andrew worse than some those to watch.
Left Behind (2014)
Left Behind is just bad in every way. It’s not that’s it’s a Christian movie that wouldn’t appeal to more secular audience – though it is – it’s because it’s just plain bad. There is no other way around it. It’s one of the movies in this decade that Nicolas Cage has starred in that really makes you scratch your head and wonder why.
The plot is loosely based on the gazillion-selling Christian novel about the people left behind to face God’s judgement after His believers disappear and join him in heaven. Right up until the completely ridiculous and simple-minded ending, it’s bad. In fact, it’s hard to find anything positive to say about it, even Cage’s performance feels phoned in.
Wicker Man (2006)
Wicker Man should have been great. A remake of a great low budget horro movie of the same name, with a lot of talent involved, including the great playwright Neil LaBute, who wrote and directed it and starring Academy Award winners like Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn, the movie just fails.
It’s not suspenseful and worst of all, the torture scene at the end, which should be terrifying, is actually hilarious. Like a bad B-movie in the worst kind of way. On the plus side, it is responsible for some of the best memes of all time and that is really the best thing that can be said about it.