Nicolas Cage has always been one of the busiest actors in Hollywood. This is probably why he has just as many misses as he does hits. With the upcoming release of Drive Angry 3D (which looks like a fun movie), let’s take a look back at the best films Mr. Cage has given us over the past 25 or so years. Cage is a really good actor who can wow you with amazing performances, or make you feel like he could be you in some of his everyday roles. He has a wide range, and best of all – he knows how to have run in the characters he portrays. He appears to be having a lot of fun in Drive Angry 3D, and this is when he is at his best. Here are Nic Cage’s top 10 films.
(Tie) 10. The Rock – I had a difficult time debating on what would make the tenth spot on the list. So, I decided to call it a draw. The Rock is pure popcorn fun. The premise is somewhat silly, but takes a serious down once the film begins. Sean Connery, who delivers another cool performance, combined with the good performance by Cage, makes for an entertaining thrill ride of a film. This is also Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay at their best. Cage as the chemical weapon supergeek Stanley Goodspeed is fun to watch, and the supporting cast (and it is a good one) is top notch…particularly Ed Harris.
(Tie) 10. City of Angels - Inspired by the modern classic, Wings of Desire, City involves an angel, Seth (Cage) who is spotted by a doctor (Meg Ryan) in an operating room. Dennis Franz (in a very underrated performance) plays Cage’s buddy who somehow knows a lot about angels. Billed as a chick flick when it came out, City of Angels was much more than that. It is about the desire to become human…or appreciating life in general. Cage is perfectly cast as the main angel in the film, and gives an understated performance that suits the character. The relationships in the film and Cage’s portrayal helped propel the film to nearly $80 million in the U.S….back in 1998.
9. World Trade Center – There were 2 films that came out near each other relating to the events of September 11, 2001. United 93, which I thoroughly enjoyed, focused on that tragic flight, while WTC focused on the heroes who risked and lost their lives trying to rescue people from the Twin Towers. Cage portrays Port Authority police officer, John McLoughlin, who becomes trapped under the rubble. What I like about this film, was the ‘reality’ that it gives the audiences as to how it must have felt having to go into the heart of the disaster to try to save lives. Cage, in another understated performance, gives John just the right touch. Michael Pena, who plays Will Jimeno, also gives his best performance thus far. Being a true story added to the emotional impact of the film. Director Oliver Stone retracted from his normal over the top direction to film a heartfelt movie that was among one of his best.
8. Lord of War – Cage has a lot of fun in his role as arms dealer, Yuri Orlov, who confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent. Cage is in fine form here and does a masterful job portraying the different emotions that Yuri goes through during the coarse of the film. The highlight is the relationship between Yuri and his younger brother, Vitali (portayed nicely by Jared Leto). This seems to be a role written for Cage, as his charisma, intellect, wit, and nervousness are all applied wonderfully to the character. This film is not for everyone, as some won’t find it very interesting. I really enjoyed it though, and found it to be one of Nic’s hidden gems.
7. Matchstick Men - Nicolas Cage plays as an obsessive-compulsive con artist, Roy Waller, with his partner Frank Mercer, played by Sam Rockwell. Both men give great performances and the film really gets good when Roy’s teenage daughter Alison, played by Alison Lohman, shows up and begins to show interest in her fathers career. Seeing Cage bring forth Roy’s paternal instincts while being submerged in a world of cons is fun to watch. Cage makes you believe in the character, and the relationship forged by him and his daughter is heartwarming and unique.
6. Adaptation – Playing two characters is never an easy task, but Cage does it to perfection in this film about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s attempt to adapt Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, which is the story of John Laroche, a plant dealer who clones rare orchids then sells them to collectors. He also portrays Charlie’s brother, Donald Kaufman. Charlie is the brother that has the more difficult time writing a screenplay, while his brother writes scripts with ease. This is a film that requires more than one viewing. The first time I watched it, I didn’t quite get it. After watching it again, I finally understood the purpose behind the whole film – it was a parody of a big Hollywood blockbuster. This may actually be one of Nic’s most difficult roles.
5. National Treasure – Disney has a nice track record of establishing high profile adventure films. This one may have been one of its biggest surprises. Nic Cage embodies the treasure hunter Ben Gates perfectly, and he gave birth to an exciting character. The sequel is comparable to the first one, and with the third one on the way, this could be up there with some of the best trilogies out there. This film is well paced, and the best thing about it is that you actually look forward to what will happen next. Cage has just the right wit and charm about him to pull this off. It is near perfect casting. Jon Voight is quite good too. Not really digging the haircut though…bothers me a bit.
4. The Family Man - Nic Cage portrays a fast-lane investment broker who is offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives when he wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife. A movie that has a great message and deserves repeated viewings. If you are ever questioning whether or not your life is good enough, or you begin to doubt the choices you have made, I highly recommend watching this great, underrated flick. With a little bit of It’s A Wonderful Life mixed with some modern day fantasy, you leave the film rethinking what’s important in life. Cage is great here, and Tea Leoni gives, what I think, is her best performance to date.
3. Raising Arizona – One of the best comedies ever. Yes, I said it…ever. Cage and a really funny Holly Hunter portray the childless couple, H.I. and Ed McDunnough perfectly. This little film also brought attention to the Coen brothers, who went on to make several quality films. Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb and John Goodman are also in top form here, and the film is just one funny bit after another. Cage is so laid back in this film, it completely suits his carefree character. Raising Arizona is one of those rare films that keeps your complete attention from beginning to end. It’s wonderfully written and perfectly cast.
2. Leaving Las Vegas - The one that got him the Oscar. Deservedly so. Cage plays Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who has lost everything because of his drinking. He goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death, when he meets and falls in love with a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue). Nobody does the drunk better than Cage. It almost seems too right for him, it’s scary. This was a film that wasn’t for everybody. Some scenes are difficult to watch, and it truly is sad to watch this guy drink his life away. Ben is a tragic figure, and Cage is marvelous at making us care for him.
1. Face/Off – Why is this the best? Three reasons – Cage, Travolta, and John Woo. The perfect action combination mixed with a clever script and you have, in my opinion, one of the best and coolest action films ever made. Both actors are at the top of their game, and even though Travolta appears to have more fun in the film (once he switches), Cage is amazing as he goes from the crazy, insane Caster Troy to the worried, emotional Sean Archer. Cage is ultra cool here, and the direction of John Woo only adds to one of the slickest action films around. (Let’s try to forget about the bad stunt doubles…really bad in high definition) Face/Off was, and still is, one of the best action films from beginning to end that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. It is a true testament to all involved, especially the actors – Travolta and Cage.
I would have probably put Honeymoon in Vegas and Moonstruck at the next two spots. Both are good performances by Nic, however, the films just don’t fall into top 10 categories for me. Fast Times at Ridgemont High would have been in the top 5 if it was more a Nicolas Cage film. He is in it, but doesn’t really do much of anything, so I didn’t include it. I enjoy watching Nic Cage in most of his films. He has had some memorable roles and created some memorable characters. Hopefully, he can continue to give rise to more memorable ones in the future…like Balthazar from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He also has Season of the Witch, The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, Ghost Rider 2, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Drive Crazy 3D, Trespass, and National Treasure 3 in the works. One thing that must be said about Nicolas Cage…the man stays busy. That’s probably why he has just as many duds as he does successess. He makes a lot of movies…and he has starred in a lot of nice productions during his career. Keep on truckin’ Nic!