Top 10 Films of Nicolas Cage

Neal Damiano takes a look at the best Nicolas Cage films including Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas, the Coen’s Raising Arizona & Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead…

10. It Could Happen To You (Bergman, 1994)

it-could-happen-to-you_nic-cage_top10filmsBased on a true story, Nic Cage stars as a New York City cop who doesn’t have the money to leave desperate and luckless waitress Bridget Fonda a tip. He comes up with a zany idea, to share a lottery ticket with her. The unbelievable happens – the ticket is a winner for a multi-million jackpot. Cage makes good on his promise, even when he has to face his selfish wife played by Rosie Perez. It is a funny little romantic comedy, Cage and Fonda’s chemistry is pretty funny to watch unfold. I’m not big on romance films but this one keeps you entertained all the way.

9. The Weather Man (Verbinski, 2005)

weather-man_nicolas-cage-films-top10filmsNicholas Cage stars as popular Chicago TV weatherman David Spritz who has a shot at stardom when “Hello America,” a national morning show calls him for an audition. At the top of the world professionally, David is approaching disaster in his personal life as fast as the weather changes. His painful divorce, his dad’s illness, and trouble with his kids have David dancing on the knife’s edge between stability and insanity. Trying to gain control of his life, David soon realizes that life is very much like the weather, completely unpredictable. Cage usually plays frantic characters that are really dark and in trouble, what makes The Weather Man so entertaining is that he plays it with a comical approach.

8. Face/Off (Woo, 1997)

face_off_castor_troy_best-dressed, nicolas cage filmsFace/Off is one of the greatest action films made in the last fifteen years and one of the best Nicolas Cage films. A nonstop action-adventure film that allows Cage and Travolta to be completely off the wall with each other. The plot is quite silly and kind of not believable, however it’s so entertaining because of Cage and Travolta’s unfiltered antics.

7. Matchstick Men (Scott, 2003)

Matchstick Men, Ridley Scott, Film, nicolas cage films,I absolutely love films about confidence men and Matchstick Men delivers 100 percent. With the risk of being typecast Cage delivers all the quirks and ticks times two. He plays an obsessive compulsive, chain smoking neurotic con artist named Roy. Pulling off petty heists and schemes to survive he is in a world of chaos. But nothing could compare to the news of finding out he has a 14-year-old daughter, he’s now responsible for. But the beauty of Matchstick Men is that after awhile you forget it’s a gimmicky con movie and care only about the growing relationship between Roy and his daughter. Cage plays the balance of trying to be a good father and continuing the life he only knows so well you forget he is sort of a bad guy.

6. Raising Arizona (Coen/Coen, 1987)

RaisingArizona_nicolas-cage, nicolas cage filmsThe Coen Brothers deliver yet another eccentric and entertaining film. Nic Cage plays HI McDonnough, a petty thief, who tries to go legit after he marries prison officer Edwina (Holly Hunter) and they move to a trailer in Arizona. Edwina is unable to have children and they can’t adopt because of HI’s criminal past. They desperately want to start a family. Upon reading a furniture entrepreneur recently had quintuplets, Cage comes up with a dimwitted plan to kidnap one of the babies for themselves. Raising Arizona is filled with some really memorable and outrageous scenes and plenty of quirky characters including an insane bounty hunter played by Randall Tex Cobb. Cage is so engaging in this one he makes you hate him then love him by the end of the film.

5. Leaving Las Vegas (Figgis, 1995)

leaving_las_vegas_top10films, nicolas cage filmsThis was particularly a hard one to watch, Cage usually plays off-centered characters but in someway they still love life. In Leaving Las Vegas he plays a man that has completely given up on life, abandoning his work and family he sets out on a morbid journey to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. Cage’s performance here is quite phenomenal because he makes it believable. His character does not see any light at the end of the tunnel and he takes you on the ride with him to the bitter end. His only solace is a chance meeting with a hooker played by Elizabeth Shue, who falls in love with him because she understands and accepts who he is and he in returns accepts her for who she is. She adds a love for life attitude, despite her circumstances that he does not possess. I feel this particular movie really showcased Nicolas Cage’s acting ability.

4. 8MM (Schumacher, 1999)

8mm-movie_James-Gandolfini, nicolas cage filmsA disturbing thriller starring Nic Cage as a surveillance expert hired by a well to do widow to find out who killed her daughter. The murder was recorded on 8mm film and Cage’s character has to enter the morbidly seedy and dangerous underworld of Los Angeles pornography. He befriends a porn shop clerk played by Joaquin Phoenix, who helps him with the case. This is one of my favorite films with Nicolas Cage because I feel he really has to stretch his acting to get into the character. It is a method role I think Cage pulled off well, exposing himself to some very dark things that occur in a very sick subculture. The acting is exceptional and the cinematography is wickedly entertaining.

3. Red Rock West (Dahl, 1993)

red-rock-west_nicolas-cage-films_top10filmsIn the fashion of Blood Simple, Red Rock West is a less known film with Nic Cage and its unfortunate because it is such a good crime noir. He stars as a down and out Texan, who drives to Wyoming in search of work. He stops at a bar, where he’s mistaken for a hit man and accepts an offer from the bar owner’s manipulative wife (Lara Flynn Boyle) to kill her husband. When the real killer shows up (Dennis Hopper) it sparks off a dangerous cat and mouse game. Red Rock West is filled with double crosses and Cage really shines here, the ending is quite unpredictable.

2. Bringing Out The Dead (Scorsese, 1999)

bringing-out-the-dead-movie-nicolas-cage, nicolas cage filmsOne of my favorite Martin Scorsese films, it is a non-stop thrill ride through the streets of New York City. I believe this picks up where Taxi Driver left off. Nic Cage plays an EMT stricken with guilt and insomnia, he becomes obsessed with the death of a man he is unable to save and becomes romantically involved with the man’s daughter played by Patricia Arquette. What I particularly loved about Bringing Out The Dead is Cage’s frantic demeanor it’s so over the top, you can’t help but watch. I feel no other actor could have pulled off this performance better than Nicolas Cage. It is such an engaging story and the cinematography is so surreal and intense becoming almost a dreamlike state that makes you wonder if it is really happening or just all in his head.

1. Valley Girl (Coolidge, 1983)

Valley Girl, Nicolas Cage films, Top 10 Films,Written and directed by Martha Coolidge, Valley Girl is a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It’s one of my favorite Nicolas Cage films and happens to be Nic Cage’s first major role. Cage stars as Randy, a punk rocker from West Hollywood, who falls head over heels for a Southern California valley girl named Julie (Deborah Foreman). What I loved about Valley Girl so much, the film never gets old for me. I can watch it over and over again and that mainly has to do with Nicolas Cage’s character. I really related to Randy and that has to do with Cage’s acting, it is so convincing here. This is another film I feel showed his acting ability. The movie showcases the trends and music of the early eighties without being cliche. Martha Coolidge really hit the pulse of what was going on at the time with culture and music. Yes, somewhat of a sappy romance story but so entertaining and his charisma just radiates on screen throughout the whole film. A truly believable performance considering Cage was only 19 years old and it was his first lead role. I watched a documentary on Valley Girl and interestingly enough, in an interview he says it’s one of his favorite roles to date. On a side note – it happens to be one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films!

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

Top 10 Films asks: what are your fave Nicolas Cage films?

Discover More: Top 10 Films in which Nicolas Cage Performs for A-List Directors

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.
  1. Sonny Reply

    T’riffic list. Love the Cage! My personal “best of” has Leaving Las Vegas at the top! Bringing Out The Dead and Valley Girl are great though.

  2. Karlton Reply

    Moonstruck

  3. Jaina Mistry Reply

    Face/Off, Raising Arizona, The Rock, Lord of War, Gone in 60 Seconds are a few!

    • Dan Reply

      interesting choices Jaina… You like his action efforts then?

      • Jaina Mistry Reply

        Definitely a sucker for his action films. They’re just so much fun!

  4. Lisa Reply

    I liked Matchstick Men

  5. On The QT Reply

    Con Air, Face/Off, Raising Arizona, Matchstick Men, Adaptation.

  6. Fulmer Reply

    My Top 5 Nicolas Cage films: Leaving Las Vegas, War Lord, Bad Lt Port of Call, Wild at Heart, Raising Arizona.

    • Fulmer Reply

      Adaptation & Honeymoon in Vegas have a special place in my heart, but not top 5. Confession: never seen Moonstruck.

      • Dan Reply

        Same for me. Adaptation has to be one of his best performances and Honeymoon In Vegas is good fun.

    • Dan Reply

      Great to see Wild at Heart get a mention.

  7. Ted Saydalavong Reply

    So many, he used to be my favorite actor. Face/Off, The Rock, Leaving Las Vegas, Con Air are some of my favorites.

    • Dan Reply

      I’m not a huge fan of his action films although Face/Off is quite enjoyable. I do like Honeymoon in Vegas and Con Air used to be a favourite of mine as a teenager.

  8. James Brogan Reply

    Knowing, Con Air , National Treasure, Raising Arizona and for the fun of it The Wicker Man.

    • Dan Reply

      The Wicker Man! Surely not. But I love the original film.

      • James Brogan Reply

        I like because it is terrible to watch and makes me want to watch the original more.

  9. Adam Lumb Reply

    Nice list but I’d have to include Adaptation. Not a big fan of 8mm so I’d remove that one. He’s done a lot of bad films but your list shows there’s a few great ones out there.

  10. Andrew Davies Reply

    The Rock, Matchstick Men, The Family Man, Face/Off.

  11. Ryan Pollard Reply

    Kick-Ass all the way! Only Cage could imitate Adam West and get away with it.

  12. Neal Damiano Reply

    Theses are my faves!

    I didn’t particularly like Honeymoon in Vegas I see that got a lot of mentions. Not a big fan of Sarah J Parker.
    I never saw Adaptation, surprisingly enough……now I have to give it a watching seeing all its praise here. I wanted to include one action /adventure one here and The Rock just doesn’t trump Face/Off. The only regret, not including Wild At Heart it completely slipped my mind when writing this list, unfortunately.

  13. Leigh Bartram Reply

    Where’s Con Air and The Rock my 2 favorites.

  14. allflicker Reply

    Raising Arizona. Bringing Out The Dead, Face/Off, Wild At Heart

  15. Anna Reply

    Moonstruck, Adaptation

  16. Marcus Woolcott Reply

    Vampires Kiss, Bad Lieutenant, and Con Air.

  17. Colin Biggs Reply

    Matchstick Men, Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas

  18. Tyler Jacobs Reply

    Raising Arizona. No question.

  19. Shagwit82 Reply

    Con Air, The Rock and I know a lot of people don’t like it but I’ve always enjoyed National Treasure.

  20. Ratnakar Sadasyula Reply

    Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Bringing out the Dead, Adaptation, Matchstick Men, Face Off, Con Air, Bad Lt:Port of Call

  21. Darren Jones Reply

    Leaving Las Vegas is an astonishing film! Raising Arizona, Red Rock West & Wild at Heart are all rockin’ good too.

  22. Arch Reply

    Nice to see It Could Happen To You, I do like that one. One of my favorites is missing, that being Adaptation but I’m glad you put Valley Girl top as most wouldn’t do that. It’s also good to see you avoiding the likes of Con Air and The Rock, over hyped if you ask me.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      @Arch, thanks for noticing, yes daring but I love the film and absolutely no hesitation at number 1. Cage’s charisma is undeniable in VG!!

  23. Neal Damiano Reply

    Guess people like his action stuff, I particularly like his drama performances and think he is good at it! My undying love of Valley aGirl is what inspired me to write the list. Sorry all ^ I didn’t see Adaptation and The Rock just didn’t do it for me. I haven’t seen Knowing or National Treasure , Con Air or Bad Leutenant,
    sorry Keitel and Abel own that!!

    Maybe I should of put top 10 Nicolas Cage drama films, lol.

  24. Neal Damiano Reply

    BTW, everyone thanks for reading and the input!!

  25. Dave Fontana Reply

    My favorite Nic Cage films, in no particular order: Raising Arizona, Leaving Las Vegas, Moonstruck, Red Rock West, Adaptation.

  26. Rapunzel Rapunzel Reply

    Kick-Ass is probably my favourite – though I have a soft spot for both Con Air and City of Angels 😉

  27. Rachael Sinclair Reply

    I love Nic Cage in pretty much everything, here’s the proof: http://javafueledcreation.tumblr.com/post/45420821836/i-am-not-a-demon-i-am-a-lizard-a-shark-a

  28. YakuzaWarlord Reply

    Raising Arizona is best but two of his really good unseen ones were The Vampire’s Kiss and Knowing. Both highly underrated!!!

  29. Matthew Glenn Ward Reply

    Adaptation

  30. Evan Crean Reply

    I’ve never liked Nicolas Cage very much as an actor. However I can agree that Face/Off is a fun film that totally belongs on this list. I still think that Travolta does a better version of Nicolas Cage than Cage does in that movie.

  31. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Rachael Sinclair, then you probably like this list, lol!! Thanks for reading.

  32. Rory Fish Reply

    Cage has gone down in my estimation in recent years thanks to a string of crap but there’s no denying he’s quality in Leaving Las Vegas and Bringing Out The Dead.

  33. thycriticman Reply

    The guy has been in a movie at least once a year since 1980. That is insane when you think about it! I really like the latest movie that he did! Have you seen Joe yet?

  34. ruth Reply

    I’m thrilled to see It Could Happen To You on here!! It’s such an under-appreciated movie but I LOVED Cage in that. I love him in the over-the-top action stuff like Face/Off, Con-Air, The Rock, but he’s also great in comedies like Moonstruck. Still need to see Raising Arizona one of these days!

  35. Mark Reply

    Solid list Neal (as expected) …

    I’m actually glad Wild at Heart didn’t get in there. Having said that, I would have had Con Air down for sure, ditto Wind Talkers and possibly Birdy. Problem is it would be difficult to find stuff to drop from this lot, although I must admit Valley Girl is one I haven’t watched too closely (probably because I watched it many years ago and was disappointed when the Zappa song didn’t appear on the soundtrack). As an aside, I sat thru Bangkok Dangerous a few weeks back. Stupid nonsense, but Nic still manages a few nice moments, displaying the same kind of dogged resignation that seeped out of him during the early scenes of Word Trade Centre.

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Is this the Mark that requested I do a top 10 Cage list……from the top 10 Nic Cage performances from A- list directors list?? If so glad you like it!!

  36. Mark Reply

    Yes Neal, it’s me. Glad you did it … surprised you haven’t seen Con Air, though. Cage is enjoyable in it, but Malkovich steals the show …

    • Neal Damiano Reply

      Cool, glad you read this! Malkovich is awesome ….possibly a top 10 awaits!

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