Since becoming a major movie star in the 1980s, Nicolas Cage’s career has continued to shift and evolve. For a time, he was widely regarded as one of the most exciting and talented young actors in Hollywood. Then, his career fell off a cliff, and it suddenly felt like you couldn’t turn a corner without someone making fun of him for his latest terrible performance in a direct-to-video release. While it’s true that the actor has racked up more than 100 acting credits over the course of his career, lately he’s managed to choose some more interesting roles that have the public reevaluating him yet again.
Being the nephew of the great Francis Ford Coppola, Cage had aspirations for greatness, hoping to create his own legacy after having changed his last name to Cage. Cage eventually broke into acting with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and his career only blossomed further from there. He’s one of the most divisive performers of our modern age, and that’s what makes him such a legend.
Nicolas Cage takes the spotlight even amidst co-stars Sean Connery and Ed Harris in the action-adventure thriller The Rock. Cage leads the story as Stanley Goodspeed (an all-time great name), an FBI biochemist who must help disarm stolen warheads. To do so, he must sneak onto Alcatraz Island, which has been taken hostage by Ed Harris. In a word: cool. The Rock is a superb action movie that is deeply entertaining. No offense Connery and Harris, but Cage carries this from beginning to end.
On a more serious note, Nicolas Cage took the role of insecure L.A. screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for the 2002 drama-comedy Adaptation — a movie as hard to describe as it can be to watch. Cage actually plays dual roles in the film, taking on the role of Kaufman’s twin brother brother. This is Cage in his element. It may also help that the film was directed by Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich, Her, and bizarrely, Jackass: The Movie), and co-starred Meryl Streep. It was nominated for every award under the sun and Cage really does make it impossible to tear your eyes away, despite how awkward and sweaty his character is.
Bangkok. Freakin. Dangerous. Imagine John Wick but with Nicolas Cage and he’s in Thailand. That’s the movie — an assassin ‘tinman’ who gains a heart. Unlike other award-winning Nicolas Cage films, this gem earned itself a whopping 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, it’s a must-watch.
In one of his more underrated roles, Cage plays Big Daddy, an un-super superhero with an unconventional definition of justice. Kick-Ass is the story of modern-day heroes, whether inspired by injustice, revenge, or deceit, tight spandex and over-the-top violence are both prevalent. Cage’s “Big Daddy” is by far the deepest and darkest of the characters, and he joins the story armed with grenades, knives, shotguns, machine guns, a wall of handguns, and the occasional bazooka to fight the locally organized crime syndicate. With some amazing moments of dark humor and an impressive breakout performance from Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), this anti-hero story is full of action, violence, and some realism that really ties the story together.
Probably the best performance of Cage’s career, Pig is not the John Wick with a pig movie it was sold as. Instead, it’s a tender exploration of one man’s grief. The film follows Cage as a truffle hunter who lives in the wilderness of the pacific northwest. After his pig is stolen, he tries to track it down, and ultimately finds his connection to the things he once loved again. It’s a heartbreaking, quiet, subtle Cage performance, and it’s all the more powerful for those qualities.
Nicolas Cage gets to take on the role of Dracula, one of the most famous monsters in all of cinema. His chemistry with star Nicholas Hoult, who plays an underling of Dracula ready to take on more responsibility in life, is a huge factor in the movie’s fun tone. This being the most recent entry on the list, Cage is clearly still at the top of his game.
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