30. Gone in Sixty Seconds (Dominic Sena, 2000)
Role: Memphis Raines
Before The Fast and Furious took hold of the genre a year later, Cage tried his shot at it, along with Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Duvall. The plot is pretty cliched, starring Cage as a reformed car thief who has to get back in the game to save his brother from a dangerous crime lord. He and his team must pull off 50 car heists in 12 hours, but as the deadline gets closer, the cops investigating the heists close in. The plot is a little ridiculous but the film’s real downfall is that the car chases are not very exciting.
29. The Croods (Kirk Demicco and Chris Sanders, 2013)
Role: Grug Crood
This dreamworks animated family film is better than it looks. Taking place in the “Crood-aceous” period, the film follows a clan of cavemen led by Grug Crood (Cage). He is an old fashioned man trying to raise his family but conflict arises when his daughter meets a homo sapien who warns the family of an incoming apocalypse.
They then embark on a journey from their old home to a new land, on the way opening their minds. A lot of this ground has been covered with the Ice Age series but The Croods has its moments that make it an above average family movie.
28. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Jon Turteltaub, 2007)
Role: Benjamin Gates
This entry marks a turning point on the list, where this movie and the ones going forward I would recommend watching. Sequel to the break-out adventure film, the second National Treasure ups the ante, throwing in more U.S. history and a higher stakes premise.
This time around the treasure hunt takes Gates and the gang from London to the White House to Mount Rushmore. Ed Harris joins as the antagonist as does Helen Mirren as Gates’s mother. Don’t be scared away by the poor critical reception because this is one of few engaging and inventive adventure films of the 21st century.
27. Guarding Tess (Hugh Wilson, 1994)
Role: Doug Chesnic
Here Cage plays a secret service agent with the boring job of looking after the former first lady Tess, played by Shirley MacLaine, but Tess does not take him or the other agents seriously, making them do little chores for her.
As the film goes on, the two grow to understand each other more and Cage is finally put to the test when a conspiracy to kidnap Tess unfolds. The chemistry between the two leads make the movie work, despite the tonal imbalance that shifts from comedy to sappiness.
26. Racing with the Moon (Richard Benjamin, 1984)
Cage was emerging as an actor under the shadow of several other very talented actors his age, not the least of whom was Sean Penn. Here he plays a supporting role as the best friend of Penn’s lead. Both are young men who are drafted to fight in World War II, and the movie tracks their last weeks in town. Mainly it follows Penn wooing a pretty girl in town, but the friendship of the two is also featured heavily.
One of the most engaging side-plots of the film revolves around Cage making his girlfriend get an abortion, and the strain that this puts on the relationships in the movie. While he was still developing here, it was apparent that Cage could hold his own with the big stars.
25. The Family Man (Brett Ratner, 2000)
Role: Jack Campbell
A feel good, if predictable, Christmas tale that has fallen off the radar takes a lot from classic holiday films like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Cage stars as a big shot on Wall Street who is shown by his guardian angel, played by Don Cheadle, an alternate reality where he has a family with his old girlfriend, played by Tea Leoni, only now he is not rich. He finds that he enjoys this life much more than his actual one and when he returns to reality, works to change himself for the better. It is been told before but the solid core performances keep it enjoyable and fresh.
24. Kiss of Death (Barbet Schroeder, 1995)
Role: Little Junior Brown
Loosely based on an old noir film of the same name, this dark crime thriller is an uneven film by Barbet Schroeder. While the plot is intriguing enough, with plenty of exciting twists, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Schroeder is better suited for smarter thrillers that burn slower, and seems out of his element with the action in this film. Ultimately, the story is wasted and what could have been a great film is simply a mediocre one. The only reason it is memorable at all is Cage’s psycho asthmatic gangster who steals every scene he’s in.
23. World Trade Center (Oliver Stone, 2006)
Role: John McLoughlin
Often Oliver Stone places his political agenda ahead of the quality of the film he’s making. Luckily, with this picture, he chose to avoid politics altogether and just focuses on the heroics of the responders.
Cage co-stars with Michael Pena as two of a group of first responders to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. They become trapped in the rubble and to hold it together while they wait or rescue, they share details of their lives. It is a simple but effective movie based on the true stories that day. Both Cage and Pena deliver moving, genuine performances that anchor the movie.
22. The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984)
Role: Nicolas Dwyer
After the first two parts of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, most film fans seem to stop caring about Francis Ford Coppola, but his filmography is filled with gems, like the three on this list. This period piece was a troubled production about the famous Cotton Club, following a rising star, played by Richard Gere, who gets involved with the gangsters who frequent the venue. Cage plays his little brother, in a supporting role, who becomes a gangster himself.
Although he only matters as a side plot, he shows early signs of his talent that he would soon be famous for. The film itself is entertaining and moving, if a little sloppy.
21. Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott, 2003)
Role: Roy Waller
One of the most curious entries in Ridley Scott’s filmography stars Nicolas Cage as a con man with Tourette’s syndrome. He and his partner Frank, played by Sam Rockwell, are planning a large con on a rich businessman but things get complicated when he learns that he has a teenage daughter that he never knew about. As he grows closer to her, he starts to realize the error of his ways.
Overall it is a solid film, with terrific performances and a smart script. The overall story feels a bit cheap at the end and the characters are not very likeable, but there is a reason it has gained a cult following since its release.
20. Honeymoon in Vegas (Andrew Bergman, 1992)
Role: Jack Singer
This fun little comedy is a forgotten gem in Cage’s early career. With a ridiculous premise, a brief running time and goofy performances all around, it entertains and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Cage and his girlfriend played by Sarah Jessica Parker go to Vegas to get married spontaneously. She is spotted by a gambling big shot played by James Caan who thinks she is the spitting image of his dead wife. He tricks Cage into a gambling game to get him in debt, and instead of the payment, requests that he spends the weekend with Parker. Wacky antics ensue, taking the trio to Hawaii concluding with skydiving Elvis impersonators.
19. Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
Role: Big Daddy
Although only a supporting role, Cage’s turn as the eccentric father turned crime fighter stole the show. Based on a comic of the same name, the movie follows a high school kid who becomes the vigilante Kick-Ass to fight crime in his neighborhood, and ends up taking on a crime syndicate.
Cage, under the alter ego Big Daddy, equipped with military grade weapons and armor, dresses up as Batman and helps Kick-Ass along with his daughter Hit-Girl. His character and the relationship with his daughter add an interesting angle to the film, as well as give Cage his most interesting role in recent years.
18. Con-Air (Simon West, 1997)
Role: Cameron Poe
Is it over the top? Yes. Is Cage’s southern accent ridiculous? Yes. Is it fun as hell? Absolutely. In this star studded action extravaganza Cage plays a con who, on the day of his release, is caught up in a high profile prison break on Con Air, a prison transport plane.
John Malkovich plays Cyrus The Virus, the criminal mastermind behind the break joined by other criminals including Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi, while John Cusack plays a Marshal on the ground trying to stop the criminals. There are plenty of explosions and shootouts, making a thrill ride with never a dull moment. As far as action blockbusters go, you can’t ask for much more.
17. Rumblefish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
One of Coppola’s most underrated films, Rumblefish is based on a novel by S.E. Hinton and was filmed right after Coppola’s other adaptation of a Hinton work, The Outsiders. While The Outsiders was a more popular film, Rumblefish is a far more compelling, inventive film.
The characters are explored in a much more interesting way than just teen angst, with terrific performances from Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke. Given a much less meaty role, Cage still manages to steal scenes as Dillon’s backstabbing friend.
16. Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)
Role: Ronny Cammareri
To be completely honest, I think this movie is pretty overrated, being nominated for many accolades including Best Picture, especially now that its originality has become pretty commonplace in the genre.
Considered by many one of the best romantic comedies of all time, the film follows Cher who begins an affair with her fiance’s brother played by Cage. While their characters are complex, they are not as interesting as the supporting cast. Instead, Cher’s parents, played by Vincent Gardenia and Olympia Dukakis, steal the show. John Mahoney also is a bright spot, guest starring in a few scenes.