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From Raising Arizona to Renfield: These are the best Nicolas Cage movies (some of these are seriously underrated)

If you're a fan of Nic Cage, check out this list his best films

Nicolas Cage (right) and Pedro Pascal (left) in 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Lionsgate Films

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. Here’s a list of the best Nicolas Cage movies.

Valley Girl (1983)

Valley Girl
66%
6.4/10
r
99m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily
Directed by
Martha Coolidge
Watch on Amazon
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. Thanks to a new wave soundtrack filled with classics, Valley Girl has lived on as a totemic Romeo and Juliet adaptation. Ultimately, the film was a proving ground for Cage, and it’s charming on its own terms as well.

Raising Arizona (1987)

Raising Arizona
69%
7.3/10
pg-13
94m
Genre
Comedy, Crime
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Directed by
Joel Coen
Watch on Amazon
Oh, you want to talk range? Nicolas Cage may be known today for his action prowess but the dude can also be a comedy legendy, as is evident in the 80s screwball classic Raising Arizona. An early film directed by the Coen 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 from Cage and Holly Hunter, a hilarious script, Cage’s spikey hair, and most of all, the message at its heart. The film is almost as weird as Cage himself, and it makes for a damn good time.

Moonstruck (1987)

Moonstruck
83%
7.1/10
102m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars
Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia
Directed by
Norman Jewison
Watch on Amazon
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-wearing Ronny can head for the exits 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.

Wild at Heart (1990)

Wild at Heart
52%
7.2/10
r
124m
Genre
Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Directed by
David Lynch
Watch on vudu
Wild at Heart never got as much acclaim 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! 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 and away from his peanut once more. This movie is a similar vein as contemporaries like  True Romance and Natural Born Killers, and Cage is a perfect actor for Lynch’s nightmarish carnival.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas
82%
7.5/10
r
111m
Genre
Drama, Romance
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands
Directed by
Mike Figgis
Watch on Amazon
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. As dark as it is, Leaving Las Vegas is an essential chapter in Cage’s filmography, 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.

The Rock (1996)

The Rock
58%
7.4/10
137m
Genre
Action, Adventure, Thriller
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris
Directed by
Michael Bay
Watch on Amazon
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.

Con Air (1997)

Con Air
52%
6.9/10
r
116m
Genre
Action, Thriller, Crime
Stars
Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Directed by
Simon West
Watch on Amazon
Put … the bunny … back … in the box. With flowing hair and a chiseled physique, 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 wants nothing more than to 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, all of whom only elevate Cage’s performance without overshadowing him. Both the film and our beloved Cage are ridiculous but the performance is unforgettable — a classic popcorn action movie that catches Nicolas Cage at the intersection of badass and hero.

Face/Off (1997)

Face/Off
82%
7.3/10
138m
Genre
Action, Crime, Science Fiction
Stars
John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen
Directed by
John Woo
Watch on Amazon
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 (Cage) and FBI agent (Travolta) have surgery to make each of their faces look like the others’. That’s the simplest way to put it, but the movie has a knotted plot that is nonetheless compelling from the second the action starts. 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 (1998)

Snake Eyes
98m
Genre
Thriller, Crime, Mystery
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino
Directed by
Brian De Palma
Watch on Amazon
Do you live for Nicolas Cage in his pure, high-energy, uncontrollable, babble-shouting glory? If you do, 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 seems utterly committed from beginning to end. Without him, this movie would flounder.
Snake Eyes Movie Trailer 1998 - Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise

Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)

Gone in Sixty Seconds
118m
Genre
Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi
Directed by
Dominic Sena
Watch on Amazon
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 in just 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 this may have been the pinnacle of that part of his career.

The Family Man (2000)

The Family Man
42%
6.8/10
pg-13
125m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle
Directed by
Brett Ratner
Watch on Amazon
You don’t watch The Family Man to analyze the plot. You watch it for two hours of Nicolas Cage freaking out – time well spent if you ask me. A lot of people don’t know about this movie or dismiss it as cheesy. Is it a tad predictable and maudlin? Okay, 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)

Adaptation.
83%
7.7/10
115m
Genre
Comedy, Crime, Drama
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Directed by
Spike Jonze
Watch on Amazon
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.

National Treasure (2004)

National Treasure
39%
6.9/10
pg
131m
Genre
Adventure, Action, Thriller, Mystery
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha
Directed by
Jon Turteltaub
Watch on Disney+
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 slightly kooky but utterly committed performance makes this 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%
5.3/10
99m
Genre
Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung
Directed by
Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun
Watch on Amazon
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.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (2009)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
122m
Genre
Drama, Crime
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer
Directed by
Werner Herzog
Watch on Hulu
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Terence McDonagh, played by Nicolas Cage, a drug-addicted and corrupt New Orleans police detective, investigates the murder of several African immigrants. As he delves deeper into the case, his own demons begin to take over, leading him down a path of self-destruction. This film isn’t a remake of the 1992 film Bad Lieutenant, but rather, a loose inspiration. performance as Terence McDonagh was widely praised by critics, and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass
66%
7.6/10
117m
Genre
Action, Crime
Stars
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage
Directed by
Matthew Vaughn
Watch on Amazon
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.

Mandy (2018)

Mandy
122m
Genre
Horror, Action, Thriller, Fantasy
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache
Directed by
Panos Cosmatos
Watch on Amazon
Perhaps the start of Cage’s most recent resurgence, Mandy is a bug-nuts story about a timber worker whose wife is murdered in a ritual sacrifice. Because that timber worker is Nicolas Cage, he decides to seek revenge, and winds up having a chainsaw fight against an unbelievable backdrop. The film is zany and over the top, but it’s also beautiful and highly stylized, and Cage plays his character’s grief with the kind of raw emotion few actors are capable of.
Mandy Trailer #1 (2018) | Movieclips Indie

Pig (2021)

Pig
92m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
Directed by
Michael Sarnoski
Watch on Hulu
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.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
107m
Genre
Action, Comedy, Crime
Stars
Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish
Directed by
Tom Gormican
Watch on Amazon
The movie where Cage plays himself could have been a disaster. Instead, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is genuinely fun and, while it may get a tad plotty for its own good, an important reminder that Cage has always been in on the joke. Thanks to a delightful performance from Pedro Pascal, Massive Talent is fairly light on its feet, and surprisingly sweet in its concluding moments. Cage truly is one of our greats, and we should appreciate him for every moment we’ve got him.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022 Movie) Official Red Band Trailer – Nicolas Cage

Renfield (2023)

Renfield
93m
Genre
Comedy, Horror, Fantasy
Stars
Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Awkwafina
Directed by
Chris McKay
Watch on Amazon
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.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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