55. Bangkok Dangerous (Pang Brothers, 2008)
A remake of their debut Thai film, the Pang Brothers returned to bring their movie to American theaters. In the process, they had to change some aspects of the film, for instance, in the Thai version, Cage’s hitman character is deaf.
This change, while understandable to make the film more marketable, removed much of the nuance around the character, and without it the film falls into a familiar rhythm of bad action films. There are occasionally moments that explore the moral dilemma of his career, but too often it is just a grim, violent film, with wasted potential.
54. Dying of the Light (Paul Schrader, 2014)
Role: Evan Lake
Dying of the Light had the promise to be a great movie but instead became a lesson in the dangers of studio interference. It features a good plot, following Cage as an aging CIA agent who must stop a terrorist as his memory is fading from dementia.
Not only is the script written by Paul Schrader, but it had a good amount of hype, with Nicolas Winding Refn in talks to direct at one point. But after filming, the studio shut out the filmmakers and edited the picture into an unfamiliar bore. They even dulled the color in the cinematography to make it look more average.
53. The Runner (Austin Stark, 2015)
Role: Colin Pryce
This is a shallow and idealistic movie, that may be well intentioned but fails to live up to its goals. While it is good to see Cage in something other than a cheap thriller, The Runner is essentially a character study of Cage’s politician, who gets caught up in a scandal, amid the BP oil spill disaster.
The trouble is, the character is not very fleshed out and it tries to much to be a deep political film. The end result is a drama in which we don’t care about the characters, and interesting ideas are not developed in depth.
52. Trapped in Paradise (George Gallo, 1994)
Role: Bill Firpo
This Christmas themed comedy stars Cage as a man who has to take care of his two idiotic con brothers, played by Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey, who were just released from prison. Soon, he gets swept back in the life of crime, robbing a bank, then going down a wild game of cat and mouse with the FBI and angry cons from their past.
The result is a misconceived holiday tale packed with unfunny situations that painfully bring any momentum in a scene to a halt, the plot is a convoluted mess and the characters are annoying. Not for the fault of the actors, however, as they were never given a chance with such a poor script.
51. Season of the Witch (Dominic Sena, 2011)
Role: Behmen von Bleibruck
Set during the Crusades, Cage stars alongside Ron Perlman as knight-errants who are assigned to bring a young witch to monks in order to be cured. They are accompanied by a party including a priest. On the journey, they discover that the young girl is not a witch but is possessed by a demon. This is a very unexciting film, both in plot and visually. Cage and all the actors seem to be just phoning it in. If it had taken itself less seriously it might have been salvageable.
50. The Boy in Blue (Charles Jarrott, 1986)
Role: Ned Hanlan
In this tame Candian twist on the sports underdog story, Cage plays Ned Hanlan, a sculler. Already we have a problem, as sculling is not the most exciting of sports to watch, and this film does not succeed in portraying it as such.
There is more intrigue in this true sports story, as Cage is managed by a crooked businessman who uses him for his own gain. Overall, this is a very bland film, that never attempts to escape the cliches of the genre, with forgettable performances all around.
49. Time to Kill (Giuliano Montaldo, 1989)
Role: Enrico Silvestri
The most obscure movie on this list by far, this Italian war film is also the only fully foreign movie that Cage has starred in. Cage plays a nasty Italian Lieutenant who is invading Ethiopia in the 1930s. When his car crashes, he goes on foot to the nearest hospital.
Along the way he finds a young girl, rapes her, then accidentally shoots her. He continues on, but soon finds his crime hard to put in the past, as he discovers she may have given him leprosy. Cage’s performance is complex and the story is compelling, but not enough is done to make the film captivating. It is not worth the trouble of seeking out unless you are a Cage completionist.
48. The Ant Bully (John A. Davis, 2006)
Yet another animated family film about ants, The Ant Bully at least tries to take things ina new direction. A young boy is bored on vacation and torments an ant colony. Cage plays Zoc, a wizard ant, who uses a potion to shrink the boy down to ant to teach him a lesson.
Soon, things take a bad turn as an exterminator tries to wipe out the colony and the boy must work with them to survive. While it is a pleasant enough film, towards the end the fun hijinks lean towards a preachy fable, ruining the carefree atmosphere that it should have just left alone.
47. Amos and Andrew (E. Max Frye, 1993)
Role: Amos Odell
Starring Cage and Samuel L. Jackson, this movie was full of promise. Even the concept wasn’t bad. Jackson plays a writer who moves into a nice neighborhood and is mistaken for a burglar by his neighbors.
When the police arrive and realize their mistake, in order to cover themselves from the press, they offer a deal to Cage, a criminal in prison. If he breaks in, pretending to be the robber, then they will let him escape. Of course, he gets double crossed and action ensues. The performances are admirable but the script is very heavy handed and predictable.
46. Snowden (Oliver Stone, 2016)
Role: Hank Forrester
Oliver Stone has been on a cold streak for a while and this politically charged biopic was no answer. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an admiral job in the lead role, the weak script and overt bias, which is never good in a historical film, undermine the effort of the strong cast.
Cage has a brief role as the fictional Hank Forrester, a CIA agent who takes Snowden under his wing early into his government career. While the film itself may be a bit better than some of the ones it is ranked behind here, Cage’s limited role and its insignificance grant it a lower placing.
45. Astro Boy (David Bowers, 2009)
Role: Dr. Bill Tenma
Based on the iconic anime series, this feature film flop came and went without audiences anywhere remembering. Cage voices a famous roboticist whose son is killed during an experiment and in order to cope he rebuilds a robotic copy of his son, Astro Boy.
The film mostly follows the boy’s adventure and Cage’s role is somewhat minimal, but the character is fairly complex. The animation is quite beautiful, especially for its time, but it does not engage enough to be remembered as anything other than a bad reboot of a beloved franchise.
44. Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson, 2007)
Role: Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider is not as bad as people made it out to be. It’s darker, Faustian origins naturally are going to make the experience different from the other Marvel films, and the filmmakers should get some credit for trying something new. No, it is not perfect.
The film is an odd blend of cheesy comedy and demonic horror-violence which doesn’t always blend well, but the spectacle is adequate and the overacted performance by Cage is much more interesting than most superheroes. Another nice touch is Peter Fonda as one of the coolest devils depicted on screen.
43. Next (Lee Tamahori, 2007)
Role: Cris Johnson
Nicolas Cage plays a Vegas magician who is actually gifted with foresight., but only two minutes into the future. His skill draws the attention of the FBI as well as the terrorists who they are hunting. What starts out as an intriguing premise is never brought to its full potential and the result is an entertaining but ultimately wasted science fiction flick. Co-starring are Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel who can’t do enough if their poor roles and Cage is just plain flat.
42. The Trust (Alex & Ben Brewer, 2016)
Role: Lieutenant Jim Stone
Here is an interesting little crime gem starring Cage and Elijah Wood as two bored policemen working in the evidence department. When they find out about a lowlife gangster with a large safe full of riches they decide to pull off a robbery, but once things veer from teh plan, suddenly they become at odds with each other.
While it is nothing extraordinary, it is a well made film with a smart enough script and solid performances. If anything it will pass the time and try and stir up some interesting ideas proposed by the grim conclusion.
41. The Frozen Ground (Scott Walker, 2013)
Role: Jack Halcombe
Based on the real Canadian serial killer Robert Hansen, this dark true crime film stars John Cusack as Hansen and Cage as the investigating policeman. There’s a lot to like about this movie, being well acted with a decent script and was generally thought to be a return to serious acting for Cage.
It stays strictly within the guidelines of the genre and never tries to stray, and the subject matter is troubling, but the film approaches competency and, for Cage’s career, was a step in the right direction.
40. City of Angels (Brad Silberling, 1998)
A remake of Wim Wenders’s masterpiece Wings of Desire is just another in a long line of pointless remakes of foreign films. It’s issue, like most of the others, is that it blindly remakes the film’s plot, with disregard for the other qualities that made the film great in the first place.
Here the intentions are well meaning, the lead performances by Cage and Meg Ryan are solid, but it lacks the vision and atmosphere of Wenders’s dreamy picture. Despite being well constructed, the film is overly melodramatic and while it can be beautiful, it misses the deeper resonance and staying power of the original.
39. Knowing (Alex Proyas, 2009)
Role: Professor John Koestler
Another intriguing science fiction film that explores interesting places and was actually a surprise box office hit. Cage stars as an astrophysics professor who discovers a hidden code in an old document outlining all major disasters in history, along with their death toll.
The last entry on the list is dated in the future, setting Cage on a quest to uncover the truth and save his family, which includes run-ins with secret societies and even aliens. Although it gets a little far fetched near the end, director Alex Proyas makes a gripping, unique thriller with Cage playing a strong lead.
38. Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983)
This cult classic features Cage in his first starring role as a punk who gets involved with a rich “Valley Girl” and a Romeo and Juliet style plot follows. While the premise may not be the most original, the plot takes some unexpected twists, trying to elevate itself above the standard teen movie fare.
The film’s real staying power, of course, lies in the energy that Cage brings to Randy, and his likeable wacky antics. A refreshing take on an exhausted genre, Valley Girl won’t change your life, but it is an enjoyable movie and worth seeing for every Cage fan.
37. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jon Turteltaub, 2010)
Role: Balthazar Blake
This forgotten Disney film came about because Cage wanted to play a wizard, so a story was invented for this purpose around the classic segment from Fantasia.
The film stars Cage as one of Merlin’s apprentices who is still alive in present day and is discovered by a young boy who becomes an apprentice of his own. The conflict then involves past wizards coming back, through a weakly developed mythology. As filled with spectacle as it is hackneyed plot devices, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is an empty but passable family movie.
36. Mom and Dad (Brian Taylor, 2017)
Role: Brent Ryan
Is this a great movie? Of course not, but what it seeks out to do, it accomplishes, thanks to mostly the performances of Cage and Selma Blair who play the titular parents. The plot of the film is ridiculous: suddenly all parents go into a crazed frenzy, trying to kill their own kids.
Packed with fun, campy violence it is an unexpectedly entertaining comedy, with a pitch black soul. There are a few uneven moments, and out of place thematic explorations, but when it comes to comedy horror, this is one of the better flicks.
35. Vampire’s Kiss (Robert Bierman, 1989)
Role: Peter Loew
Vampire’s Kiss is a criminally misunderstood black comedy, with Cage’s most genius, deranged performance of his career. In the film Cage plays Peter Loew, a publishing agent who believes that he has been bitten by a vampire. Soon he begins to take on vampiristic tendencies, acting out in monstrous ways.
The only thing is, nobody takes him seriously and neither should the audience. The key to enjoying this outrageous film is realizing that everyone is in on the joke, especially Cage whose performance alone is electrifying enough to warrant a viewing, even for those who aren’t fans of the genre.
34. Snake Eyes (Brian de Palma, 1988)
Role: Detective Rick Santoro
It’s no secret that Brian de Palma is an uneven filmmaker, and Snake Eyes is one of his most uneven, but no one can deny that he has style. It starts strong, like so many of his clunkers do, with his signature dual camera view and the intrigue builds tremendously.
The film takes place at a boxing match turned crime scene with Cage as a wild crooked cop in the middle of a large conspiracy. Unfortunately, as high as the tension builds, it crashes down clumsily and much too early, leaving a long denouement that stretches past when the audience stopped caring.
33. It Could Happen to You (Andrew Bergman, 1994)
Role: Charlie Lang
This nice little romantic comedy is a heartwarming flick if not too simple and predictable. Cage plays a cop with a heart of gold and Bridget Fonda plays a nice, struggling waitress and they both are in bad marriages.
When Cage goes to diner, he doesn’t have enough money for her tip so he offers to split any winnings on his lottery ticket. He ends up winning millions, which they split, and start many philanthropic projects, but their greedy spouses try and take as much as they can. In the end they end up together happily as heroes to the city. It should be a lot more sickeningly sweet, but the characters are just likeable enough to pull it off.
32. Windtalkers (John Woo, 2002)
Role: Sergeant Joe Enders
Perhaps having a stylish action director was not the right call to helm a politically, racially charged war drama. The result is a sloppy miscalculated mess that focuses on all the wrong things. Set in World War II, the film focuses on the Navajo code talkers and the Marines assigned to guard them, with Cage taking the center stage instead of the Navajo men.
The script is cheesy with heavy handed and shallow explorations of racism and war. Most upsetting is the way the way Woo seems to glorify the violence, which works well in action films like Hard Boiled but is distasteful here. Despite all these shortcomings, the film still holds together surprisingly well and is a gripping tale of a frequently forgotten part of the war.
31. Drive Angry (Patrick Lussier, 2011)
Role: John Milton
It’s crazy to think that Cage would want to make another film about an undead killer from hell after the poor reception of Ghost Rider, but then again, Cage has made stranger choices.
More violent and more fun than either of the Ghost Rider films, Cage plays a dead man who breaks out of Hell in order to kill a cult leader who murdered his daughter and plans to unleash chaos on the world. He drives cool cars, has Satan’s gun called the Godkiller and is accompanied by a bombshell, played by Amber Heard. It’s not as good as it could have been, but is still packs some good campy fun.