When it comes to Nicolas Cage, you never know what to expect from his work, except complete and utter investment. It can be a big film, a small film, really anything. The man commits. That level of dedication to his craft, even when the movie arguably doesn’t deserve it, has made Cage a singular talent. With his latest work, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, soon to be released, as well as last year’s Pig still providing acclaim for the actor, it’s clear he’s having a bit of a renaissance. So, what better time than now to look back on his career and champion some of his work?
Below, you can see how I’d rank Cage’s ten best performances, to date. Of course, we’ll want know what you all think as well, so be sure to chime in at the end. When it comes to Cage, it’s all a matter of taste. What you’re about to witness is just where I fall on his work…
Here is my ranking of the best Nic Cage turns so far:
Nicolas Cage saw his first glimpses of critical acclaim in the modern era with this David Gordon Green indie. Joe is flawed, but Cage is not. Watching him just own this small role is hint for what was still to come. In a way, this walked so that Pig could run. It won’t show up on many lists, but it certainly does on mine.
9. It Could Happen to You
This completely lovely romantic comedy has Cage playing it the most straight in his career, but in doing so, it’s truly a performance. Knowing his various actorly inclinations, the fact that none really appeal there, you realize just the amount of dedication cage has to making this nice guy cop a different character than who he’d normally gravitate towards. Few watch It Could Happen to You for his performance, but if they don’t, they’re missing out.
Everyone discovers Cage somewhere. For many, it was opposite Cher in Moonstruck. As an exciting young actor, he’s as charming as you’ll ever see him. It’s showy, though never over the top. However, many of the things we’d see from him in the future were already brewing just a bit below the surface here.
Peak “Nicolas Cage” is reached in this gonzo work. Unlike something like Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, the movie is up to Cage’s work. It’s wacky, but would you want it to be anything else? Much has been written about this one, but just recognize that it’s actually a good performance being given here in Face/Off.
6. The Weather Man
One of his most understated roles, Cage is about as compelling as an ineffectual sad-sack can be. In pondering the nature of personal success vs professional success, he raises The Weather Man from a total down to something that you can’t easily shake. You may not know if you liked it, but Cage will linger in your mind.
5. Matchstick Men
Perhaps the most underrated turn of his career, Cage makes this more than just a series of tics. Another actor might have gotten lost in all of that, but not Nic Cage. Instead, he finds all of the pain and yearning for normalcy that makes Matchstick Men more than just a quirky little caper. Cage has a ton to do with that.
From my rave review of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent earlier in the week:
Watching Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal have a bromance will warm your heart. As much as Cage is the showcase here, Pascal is truly a scene-stealer. The two go toe to toe in some incredibly hilarious sequences, almost daring the other to raise their game. Watching them duke it out is a riot. Cage of course is playing an exaggerated version of himself, to great effect, while Pascal finds the most lovable version of his character possible. The result is great.
Nominated by the Academy for this dual role, Cage makes Adaptation even more compelling than it already is. In making Charlie and Donald so different, he really gets to showcase everything that he’s capable of. Not only is it a funny performance, it reaches to the core of being a creative person, something Cage deeply must relate to.
This is some of what I had to say about Cage’s work in Pig last year, via my rave review:
Nicolas Cage has arguably not been this good since Adaptation. His work here stands alongside that and his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas (one of my all-time favorite performances by any actor) as career high points. Cage is brilliant here, crossing John Wick‘s title character with his Ben from Leaving Las Vegas. You’ve never seen him quite like this before, and that’s saying something.
1. Leaving Las Vegas
Nicolas Cage’s best work to date won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Leaving Las Vegas sees him in heartbreaking form, channeling all of the pain of this character into a performance that leaves you stunned. The Oscar not just deserved, but one of the category’s very best wins. Plain and simple, this is a crowning achievement in every single sense of the word. For my money, it’s 100% an all-timer for Cage.
Honorable Mention: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Bringing Out the Dead, City of Angels, Kick-Ass, Raising Arizona, and World Trade Center
What are your favorite Nicolas Cage performances? Let us know!