Nicholas Cage Has Been in Over 100 Movies: Here are his best and worst

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Under the crushing weight of years of internet memes and mockery—ironic or unironic is anyone’s guess—there’s the actor Nicolas Cage. Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage is a talented actor known for his exceptional performance in Leaving Las Vegas. Despite his success, Cage has also been involved in numerous direct-to-video films. However, Cage has worked with many of the major auteurs of the last five decades, with projects ranging from the work of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, and David Lynch, just to name a few. As an actor with over 100 credits to his name, it can be easy to miss all of his best work in favor of the low-hanging fruit. 

Today, we will look at a handful of his best and a handful of his worst films. In a career filled with such peaks and valleys, it can be useful to take a holistic look to see the diversity and range of Cage’s talent. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Best: Moonstruck (1987)

Photo Credit: MGM.

Norman Jewison’s classic comedy follows Cher as a widow who falls in love with her deceased husband’s hot-headed brother, played by Nicolas Cage. Cage’s work here is electric. His charisma and chemistry with Cher are enough to garner him a Best Actor nomination at the 1988 Golden Globes. 

2. Worst: Amos and Andrew (1993)

Photo Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment.

Written and directed by Something Wild screenwriter E. Max Frye, this dark comedy follows playwright Andrew Sterling (Samuel L. Jackson) as he buys a summer house in an all-white neighborhood where he is mistaken for a criminal. Nicolas Cage plays Amos, a convicted criminal who breaks into Andrew’s home and holds him hostage. An extremely misguided comedy, the film tries to mine its humor from subjects like police brutality and systemic racism. This is one Nicolas Cage joint you can skip. 

3. Best: Red Rock West (1993)

Photo Credit: Propaganda Films.

John Dahl’s neo-noir Western follows Nicolas Cage as Michael Williams, a drifter who winds up searching for a job in Red Rock, Wyoming. A case of mistaken identity leads to him impersonating a hitman, with calamity ensuing therein. Lying somewhere between a taught crime thriller and a nasty dark comedy, Cage’s pleasurably aloof performance is the glue that holds the entire film together.

4. Worst: Ghost Rider (2007)

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.

Headlining this lackluster adaptation of the eponymous Marvel Comics character, Nicolas Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a stunt driver whose deal with the devil leads him on a path of supernatural revenge. The film’s murky style never quite meshes with the smart-alecky tone of the rest of the film, making it a chore to sit through.

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5. Best: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

What the first film lacked in entertainment, the second film more than makes up for with its go-for-broke energy, courtesy of Crank auteurs Neveldine/Taylor. It feels like Ghost Rider refracted through a potent haze of Monster Energy and caffeine pills. If this sounds appealing to you, give it a spin.

6. Worst: It Could Happen To You (1994)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

A tepid romantic comedy where neither Nicolas Cage nor Bridget Fonda look like they want to be anywhere near one another. It is best left ignored.

7. Best: Wild at Heart (1990)

Photo Credit: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.

David Lynch’s Palme d’Or winning fantasia follows Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern as a series of star-crossed lovers on the run from a pair of vicious gangsters hired to kill Cage’s “Sailor.” Transcendently beautiful and shocking in equal measure, Lynch’s oft-overlooked film is ripe for rediscovery for those Cage fans with adventurous taste.

8. Worst: Guarding Tess (1994)

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Derivative of contemporary films like Driving Miss Daisy and The Bodyguard, Guarding Tess is a two-hander starring Nicolas Cage and veteran actress Shirley MacClaine. The former stars as the Secret Service agent hired to protect the latter. It’s an unfunny slog of a comedy.

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9. Best: The Rock (1996)

Photo Credit: Hollywood Pictures.

Michael Bay’s follow-up to his massively successful Bad Boys, this film follows Nicolas Cage as an FBI investigator tasked with infiltrating Alcatraz in order to stop a group of rogue Navy SEALS who’ve taken the island hostage. Bay’s knack for frenetic action makes this a shoo-in for some of the best popcorn entertainment money can buy. Seek this one out, folks. 

10. Worst: City of Angels (1998)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A loose remake of Wim Wender’s 1987 opus, Wings of Desire, the film takes Wender’s original. It refracts it through the lens of a sub-standard American drama, with the sentimental romance between Cage and Meg Ryan annoying rather than sentimental. It’s a terrible film and an even worse remake.

11. Best: Snake Eyes (1998)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Brian De Palma’s psychotic thriller stars Nicolas Cage as a homicide detective investigating a boxing match in Atlantic City in order to find a political assassin. With a stacked supporting cast including Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino, and Luis Guzman and extremely energetic direction from De Palma, this thriller was panned at its release but has since been reevaluated as a cult classic.

12. Worst: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

Dominic Sena’s remake of the 1974 H. B. Halicki action film of the same name stars Cage as Memphis Raines, a car thief who comes out of retirement for one last heist when a rival gangster threatens his brother’s life. Lacking the grit of the original, the 2000s sheen reeks heavily on this one. Avoid at all costs.

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13. Best: Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

This is Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader’s first collaboration since The Last Temptation of Christ. It is a psychological thriller starring Nicolas Cage as a paranoid paramedic on the verge of a mental breakdown during a routine night in his ambulance. Featuring incredible performances from the likes of John Goodman, Patricia Arquette, and Ving Rhames, it is a deeply felt look into a man’s humanity, both lost and found.

14. Worst: Prisoners of the Ghostland (2018)

Photo Credit: Patriot Pictures.

Badman Sion Sono’s junky sci-fi film stars Cage as a criminal named Hero, who must descend into a mysterious realm called Ghostland to retrieve the governor’s daughter, lest his body parts be disfigured by an exploding device attached to his body. A complete and utter mess, this film’s ‘shock for the sake of it’ ethos grows tiring after a while, leading to one of the dreariest climaxes of recent memory. Ignore.

15. Best: Dog Eat Dog (2017)

Photo Credit: ADME Studios.

Paul Schrader’s second collaboration with Nicolas Cage after Bringing Out the Dead, the film follows the exploits of two hardened criminals as they descend further into the realm of depravity. Willem Dafoe co-stars as Cage’s friend and accomplice, with Schrader’s deft hand carrying the audience through to the last deranged second.

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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