Skip to main content

The 15 Best Nicolas Cage Movies

nicolas cage leaving las vegas

A name that seems to be met largely with blissfully ignorant disdain (similar to Canadian pop-rock band Nickelback), Nicolas Cage has been filling the silver screen with his various characters for almost 40 years now, with a whopping 106 IMDB acting credits to his name. Though it is true, he is generally most known for his worst roles, Cage has some golden moments in film history that will blow away anyone willing to give him another chance. Growing up with his talents, it always seemed easier for some to overlook his many sub-par films (some speculate he agreed to just to pay off his castle debts), and focus on the roles where Cage really gave his all at every turn. If you know Cage at his best, you can easily forgive him at his worst, especially with how easy it is to skip over the features you know might not impress. 

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 in the Cage-like fashion we all know and love. Having been so surrounded by film and theatre, Cage could not quench the thirst for acting and featured in his very first (and very minor) role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982, which opened the door to his eventual stardom. We love Nicolas Cage and can’t get quite enough of him, so today we hope to convert you into Cage fans with our list of the best of his movies ever.

Related Guides

Valley Girl (1983)
Valley Girl
66 %
r 99m
Genre Comedy, Romance
Stars Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily
Directed by Martha Coolidge
In this endearing Hollywoodized Romeo and Juliet story, Randy (Cage) is a hard-skinned boy from the city who meets Julie (Deborah Foreman), a girl from–you guessed it–the valley and they find love despite their differing backgrounds. With the early, new-wave bands featured in the film, the culture clash between Hollywood and upscale Beverly hills-like behavior is met with an ambitious soundtrack that wonderfully captures the setting. Ultimately, this film is an off-shoot of the typical Cage style movie choice but steals our hearts with his surprisingly charming demeanor. 

Raising Arizona (1987)
Raising Arizona
69 %
pg-13 94m
Genre Comedy, Crime
Stars Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Directed by Joel Coen
Oh, you want to talk range? Nicolas Cage may be known for his action prowess but the dude competes with comedy greats, as is evident in the 80s screwball classic Raising Arizona. An early film directed by the Cohen Brothers (famous for The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and O Brother Where Art Thou), Raising Arizona is about an ex-con and ex-cop who kidnap a baby so they can raise it as their own. The movie became a cult classic thanks to knockout performances and chemistry between Cage and Holly Hunter, the hilarious script, Cage’s spikey hair, and most of all the message at its heart. The film is almost as weird as Cage himself, which makes for a damn good time.

Moonstruck (1987)
83 %
pg 102m
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia
Directed by Norman Jewison
A young 23-year-old Nicolas Cage became an overnight heartthrob after playing the love interest in Cher’s 1987 romantic comedy Moonstruck. Anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Cage after watching him as the brooding, working-class, wife-beater-shirt-wearing Ronny can GTFO right now. His dopey smile and intense energy are hypnotic, giving us a classic Cage role replicated in other classics like Raising Arizona — released earlier the same year. Formerly seen as a Brat Pack bad boy thanks to roles in Rumble Fish and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Moonstruck made Cage into a sex symbol. So yeah, it’s sort of important.

Wild at Heart (1990)
Wild at Heart
52 %
r 124m
Genre Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Stars Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Directed by David Lynch
Wild at Heart never got as much street cred as David Lynch’s other cult classics like Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, but come on; it’s Nick Cage in a David Lynch movie! One might argue this role paved the way for our No. 1 pick and the best Cage film of all time (can you guess it yet!). In Wild at Heart, Cage plays Sailor, a guy who gets out of prison after killing a man in self-defense. He reunites with his honey, or should we say ‘peanut,’  then gets into more shit that lands him again in jail — ipso facto, away from his peanut once more. In a similar vein as True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Cage is a perfect actor for Lynch’s nightmarish carnival.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Leaving Las Vegas
82 %
r 111m
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands
Directed by Mike Figgis
Without a doubt the most intense role Nicolas Cage has played, Leaving Las Vegas is a gut-wrenching film about addiction, humanity, and love. The plot: Ben Sanderson (Cage) is a Hollywood screenwriter who loses everything and moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. I was told by a number of people to buckle TF up before watching this movie and it’s no joke. Despite being deeply dark, Leaving Las Vegas is essential to watch since it sealed the recognition of Nicolas Cage as a real actor, proving he could let go of the playful neuroticism of former roles and perform the hell out of a serious character with serious issues. What’s even cooler, the 1995 movie was a low-budget book adaptation that turned Cage into an Oscar-winning actor with real street cred.

The Rock (1996)
The Rock
58 %
r 137m
Genre Action, Adventure, Thriller
Stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris
Directed by Michael Bay
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 (what a Cage 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: t’s cool. A superb action movie that is entertaining as heck. No offense Connery and Harris, but Cage CARRIES YOU.

Con Air (1997)
Con Air
52 %
r 116m
Genre Action, Thriller, Crime
Stars Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Directed by Simon West
Put … the bunny … back … in the box. A flowing hair and chiseled Nicolas Cage stars in the 1997 action thriller Con Air playing the role of Cameron Poe, a former Army Ranger released from prison on parole who can reunite with his wife and daughter. To get to them, he must hitch a ride on a plane filled with Supermax prisoners who plan a coup against the guards and attempt to escape to Mexico. Cage is joined by a stellar cast that includes John Malkovich, Dave Chappelle, and Steve Buscemi, who only elevate Cage’s performance without overshadowing. Both the film and our beloved Nickie are ridiculous but the performance is unforgettable— a classic ‘popcorn’ action movie that catches Nicolas Cage in the perfect balance of badass and hero.

Face/Off (1997)
82 %
r 138m
Genre Action, Crime, Science Fiction, Thriller
Stars John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen
Directed by John Woo
If you’re confused watching Face/Off, join the club. Nicolas Cage stars alongside John Travolta in an action-meets-plastic surgery thriller where a terrorist (Travolta) and FBI agent (Cage) have surgery to make each of their faces look like the others’. That’s the simplest way to put it, but the movie is a knotted plot that, quite strangely, is captivating and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%. Face/Off has also given us some of the greatest Cage Rage faces of all time. Google it, you won’t be sorry.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins
43 %
pg-13 121m
Genre Action, Adventure
Stars Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Haruka Abe
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Do you live for Nicolas Cage in his pure, high-energy, uncontrollable, babble-shouting glory? Snake Eyes is the perfect film for you. Cage plays the slick and shady detective Rick Santoro, who finds himself in the middle of an assassination plot and is determined to get to the bottom of it. Cage gives an otherwise corny film plenty of tension and an iconoclastic take. Without him, this movie would flounder.

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Gone in 60 Seconds
56 %
pg 105m
Genre Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars H.B. Halicki, Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda
Directed by H.B. Halicki
Nicolas Cage + gorgeous cars = a car movie we’ll watch until the end of time. Cage kills it as retired car thief Randall “Memphis” Raines, who must take on a massive car heist within days to save his little brother from being killed by a crime lord. It’s one of those – ‘get the gang back together’ action comedies that checks all the boxes for a perfect Cage film. There are funny one-liners, moody monologues, and at least one ranting freak-out (a must for any Cage classic). Cage is the epitome of cool and the script allows him to deliver 95% of his lines in a deep-whisper. Gone in 60 Seconds captures Cage’s prime – he would continue on as an action star but, in most cases, the films don’t match his magic.

The Family Man (2000)
The Family Man
42 %
pg-13 125m
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Stars Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle
Directed by Brett Ratner
We don’t watch The Family Man to analyze the plot. We watch it for two hours of Nicolas Cage freaking out – time well spent if you ask us. A lot of people don’t know about this movie or dismiss it as being cheesy. Check yourself because we love Nicolas Cage in this family-oriented romantic dramedy. Cheesy and predictable? Ok, maybe. But watching Cage play a high-powered Wall Street broker who magically wakes up an average Joe married to his college sweetheart with a family and minivan is plain ol’ fun. Cage is great at playing a confused, uncomfortable character. We recommend washing down this film with a solid hour of Nicolas Cage Freak Out Montages on YouTube. Mmm, delicious.

Adaptation. (2002)
83 %
r 115m
Genre Comedy, Crime, Drama
Stars Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Directed by Spike Jonze
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 people either love or hate. A neurotic, uncertain middle-aged man with plenty of quirky ticks? This is Cage’s dojo. 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 the character is.

National Treasure (2004)
National Treasure
39 %
pg 131m
Genre Adventure, Action, Thriller, Mystery
Stars Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
It’s hard to say it better than this reviewer who watched National Treasure six months ago: “This is the best movie of all time … God couldn’t even top this masterpiece, the perfect blend of action and adventure. Nicolas Cage truly adds the factor that no other actor could to carry this movie from good to instant classic … this movie that has been blessed to us from the heavens.” We agree. Cage plays historian and Indiana Jones-type treasure hunter, Ben Gates, as he protects priceless historic artifacts from being stolen, and his talent makes the series distinct from any other treasure-hunting franchise. With this Disney blockbuster, Cage checked off the last box of movie stardom.

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
Bangkok Dangerous
24 %
r 99m
Genre Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung
Directed by Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun
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.

Kick-Ass (2010)
66 %
r 117m
Genre Action, Crime
Stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

In one of his more underrated roles, Cage plays Big Daddy, an un-super superhero with unconventional methods of justice. Kick-Ass is the story of modern-day heroes, whether inspired by injustice, revenge, or deceit, the tight spandex, and over-the-top violence is prevalent. Cage’s “Big Daddy” is by far the deepest and darkest of the characters, who 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. 

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Main Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Grace Moretz
Runtime: 117 minutes

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from: