Skip to content

The 15 Best Nicolas Cage Movie Performances

18 December 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by John Mabey

best nicholas cage movies

Crazy, wild eyed, off the wall are just a few terms people would use to describe Nicolas Cage. His style of performance is like no other actor on this planet. He says lines that are just plain normal yet they make you question why he’s said them in that way.

An actor that has divided critics and general movie goers’ opinions for the past 30 years, Nic Cage has been a main stay of Hollywood, being in some of the greatest pieces of cinema ever produced.

You ask anyone on the street or any film lover about Nicolas Cage and they’ll say “What? The guy from Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous and The Wicker Man?” “He Sucks” Well, people may just remember the recent bad decisions made by Cage but back in the early 1980’s to the mid 2000’s he was hot property and here’s 15 reasons why.


15. Moonstruck


A perfect love triangle unfolds in this amazing 80’s romp. Loretta Castorini, a simple bookkeeper, agrees to marry wealthy businessman Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). Everything appears to be going swimmingly until Loretta meets Ronny (played by Nicolas cage), the estranged brother to Johnny. Loretta wants to know why he is never mentioned, so she goes out of her way to find him purely because she thinks it will be a nice surprise for Johnny. How wrong she was.

Without giving too much away there really is enough comedy and drama in this film to take away from the rom-com world which makes it a really powerful gem of 80’s cinema.

Cage gives a heart-warming performance of a brother being scorned and makes you truly believe everything he says because we’ve all been hurt in the past and we all grudge and that’s what makes his performance so relatable.


14. Bringing out the Dead


This underrated film directed by Martin Scorsese shows what life is like to be working in an industry which is continually thankless and everything you do is taken for granted. The industry in question is ambulance driving and being a paramedic.

Cage gives a stunning performance as Frank Pierce, an overworked ambulance driver constantly reliving the same old routine night after night whilst being haunted by the ghosts of the people who couldn’t be saved. The contrasting characters are very well played out, such as Larry (played by John Goodman) who is the complete opposite to Frank. He takes a very unhealthy look at “life in the old meat wagon”, constantly telling Frank that he needs to relax.

This film has a really good supporting cast including Tom Sizemore, Ving Rhames and Patricia Arquette. Cage again makes us relate to a character, we’ve all had to work long hours and even when we finish those long hours, we dream we’re still there. You can see the emotional anguish in his eyes from shot to shot and that’s why this is truly a must watch piece of Cage cinema.

It tears in to the very soul of what working in an industry you once loved but now despise can do to you. It’s all about getting stuck in a rut and realising life isn’t perfect and you can’t help everyone.


13. Bad Lieutenant

Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant

Where to begin with this ridiculously messed up amazing piece of cinema? Cage plays Terrence Donnaghue, a corrupt New York detective with a drug and gambling addiction. Whilst trying to find the murderer of five immigrants, Donnaghue has his own demons to face.

Cage looks as though he’s in his element with this character and that easily comes across. Again with a very two sided performance, Cage really pushes the boundaries of his weirdness. This is Cage at his best when it comes to the overacting stakes. This move is bizarre at best and is often difficult to follow. It’s almost so off the wall and different to most of Cage’s other outings around that time that it sticks out from the crowd. Although this film is a remake to the 1992 Harvey Keitel movie of the same name, it really does stand up well.


12. Red Rock West

red rock west (1993)

This underrated little gem of early 90’s cinema is a classic example of mistaken identity. Cage gives a solid performance here with no overacting in sight. He plays it straight down the line and frame by frame you are constantly rooting for his character to succeed.

Nicolas Cage plays Michael, an out of work Texan who has been offered a job which never materialises. Instead he is then mistaken for a hit man hired by J.T Walsh to kill his wife. Michael doesn’t argue, he takes the money and runs. The real hit man (played by the always intense Dennis Hopper) shows up and then the real chase begins.

The woman who Cage is supposed to kill (played by Lara Flynn Boyle) realises what’s happened and then makes the mad dash across country with Cage to get away from Hopper and Walsh, which leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout.

This movie often gets forgotten and only really gained public attention in recent year. Cage once again is superb from start to finish and he really shows us what a truly great actor he can be when stretched.


11. Matchstick Men


One of the greatest con artist movies of the past 20 years, Matchstick Men will have you laughing until the point of tears. It’s not really meant to be a comedy, there are some seriously dark tones in this movie, yet Sam Rockwell and Nicolas Cage seem to be having the time of their lives in this movie and you’ll certainly have the time of yours watching it.

Cage once again is in his element here, playing someone with schizophrenia. Even though he is the bad guy you end up rooting for, Roy Waller and Frank Mercer (Cage and Rockwell) play two con-men who are about to pull off one of the biggest heists of their careers until one day there is a knock at the door and who is it? Well, it’s Roy’s teenage daughter Angela (played by Alison Lohman) who he has never met. She wants to be with her daddy and this then puts a halt on their whole operation. Waller is also suffering from stress and a nervous twitch that he cannot contain.

Cage has a way about him when playing certain characters especially bad guys in good situations. The movie had very good critical acclaim and once again was a light amongst the darkness of some of Cage’s other choices at that time.


10. Kick Ass


Kick Ass has been considered one of the greatest superhero movies in years. The cinema screens have been saturated by Iron Man, Thor and all the other guys, but Kick Ass has a very different twist on a very old format. What would it be like to go out and become a superhero just by ordering a cool costume on Amazon and learning a few “Kick ass” moves?

The story revolves around a teenager Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Taylor Johnson) who dreams of what life would be like to actually be a superhero just like the ones in the comic books he and his nerdy friends have spent their lives reading. Lizewski goes out, looking to solve crime and put the world to rights but fails miserably after being stabbed and then being beaten nearly half to death.

After someone had videoed Lizewski’s beating, he then becomes a YouTube sensation, this is then brought to the attention of Big Daddy, a superhero already working in these mean streets (played by Nicolas Cage).

Cage gives a top notch performance right in the middle of a low point of his career, it’s almost like you have to wade through piles of rubbish to reach the gold and Kick Ass is the gold. This performance is like no other Cage has done, he jumped at the chance to be a whole new superhero. His death scene towards the end of the movie is slightly hilarious but also heart-warming at the same time. Cage plays an ex-cop whose life was completely turned upside down after the death of his wife. He and his teenage daughter are left to defend the city in what appears to be one the most unhealthy daddy-daughter relationships ever.


9. Birdy


Birdy is possibly one of the most beautifully told pieces of war based cinema ever to grace the screens. The story centres around two friends, Birdy and Al Columbato (played by Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage). Both grew up together and enlisted in the army together.

Columbato is badly injured and sent to hospital and Birdy suffers from a massive case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Birdy had always been obsessed about birds and always wondered what it would be like to be one, this really comes to fruition after Birdy was injured on duty.

Birdy wakes up in the hospital and then starts to really believe he is a bird. His best friend Columbato comes to visit him on a regular basis, begging him to speak to him and be the friend he once had. There were two alternatives, you either start to speak or you are sectioned in to a mental institute for the rest of your life.

Cage’s performance is second to none in this movie, he cares so much about Modine’s character and you can really see childhood friendship coming across. This will bring you to the point of tears and Cage gives every acting level possible to this role. This isn’t really a war film as such but it does touch on the dramatic after-effects of war. This film really shows what having a best friend is all about.

This is one of Cage’s earliest performances and it really showed us that this guy is going to make it big someday. Cage was 19 years old when he played this role and he acted his heart out. Why it wasn’t an Oscar nominee still puzzles people to this day.



Pages: 1 2


Other Brilliant Movie Posts On The Web

Like Our Facebook Page and Get Daily Updates
  • I would put Joe on that list as it’s a reminder into why he can be good when he is working with great directors.

  • Javier Cornejo Subiabre

    I couldn’t be more agree with the number one. That film is a great story of real and pure love.

  • Andy Hall

    No Vampire’s Kiss?

  • oyunbozan


  • Le Balladeer

    Good to see the better films list of an actor who either has developed taste of doing absolute trash or is forced to do so, of late.