When it comes to Nicolas Cage, there are only two acceptable stances to take regarding the actor’s varied and eclectic career: you either love the crazy, bug-eyed thespian, or… you can get the hell out!
Seriously. The door’s behind you.
Throughout the years, Nicolas Cage (or Nicolas Kim Coppola as he was born – yes, he’s the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola for those not in the know…) has turned in some truly inspired acting choices in his esteemed and often head-scratching career.
Lest us forget that the guy can clearly act.
He took home an Academy Award for his turn as alcoholic screenwriter Ben Sanderson in Leaving Las Vegas (1995), but not all of his performances are as Oscar-worthy. In this list, we’re here to celebrate the “other” Cage films. You know, the ones that are made into memes.
So here, avid reader, are the top 10 performances in which Nicolas Cage unleashed his inner most Cage.
“Oh not the bees. They’re in my eyes. Oh… the bees.“
10. Matchstick Men (2003)
In Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men, Nicolas Cage plays a character by the name of Roy who is a con artist with Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but when his teenage daughter turns up out of nowhere wanting to learn the business, Roy finds himself conflicted with being a father and pulling off the biggest heist of his ‘career’.
In a scene that sees Cage’s character bursting into a drug store in desperate need of medication, Cage is able to let loose with a Tourette fuelled, tick-heavy barrage of abuse, cursing out one customer in particular with a line that feels every bit like a Nicolas Cage improvised moment of insanity.
Despite this character having two very serious medical conditions (one of which gives him free range to swear as much as he can muster), this is still far from Cage’s most unhinged role on the list.
9. Outcast (2014)
Nicolas Cage is barely in this Chinese co-produced fantasy adventure flick, but for what little time he is on screen, he gives us a performance worthy of this list.
Well done sir.
The film, starring Hayden Christensen (who just can’t seem to catch a break) tells the story of a Chinese prince and his sister who seek the help of two British Crusaders (Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen doing the worst accents imaginable) to help them defeat their older brother after he murdered their father and seized the throne.
As he’s hardly even in this film, his performance is nominated for his brutally Cage-like farcical English accent, comical squinty eye and a medieval Jack Sparrow delivery of lines. Sometimes that’s all all it takes folks.
8. Ghost Rider (2007)
I’m sure no one really knows what it would feel like to slowly and painfully transform into a burning skeletal vengeance demon. But, in Mark Steven Johnson’s second Marvel comic book adaptation (after the abysmal Ben Affleck starrer, Daredevil) Nicolas Cage gets to go full Cage once more in the pivotal Ghost Rider reveal scene.
With his flesh melting away, and the burning skull of the Ghost Rider emerging through, Cage is seen giving a cross between severe screams of agony, satanical laughter, and a slight look of ecstasy.
I mean, sure. Who are we to judge?
7. Arsenal (2017)
If ever there was a sequel to a movie no one wanted, it would be Arsenal. Believe it or not, Arsenal is a direct-to-video follow-up to Nicolas Cage’s earlier cinematic stinker, Deadfall (which also makes the list). Here, Cage reprises the role of Eddy King, a ruthless crime boss, in this critically panned pseudo-sequel that saw Steven C. Miller (no I hadn’t heard of him either) taking over the director’s seat.
The only redeeming feature comes through giving Cage much more screen time than the previous movie did back in 1993, bringing back the fake nose and moustache of his earlier incarnation for full-on gangster Cage glory.
In a scene that has Cage reading aloud a hand-written letter to his dead criminal brother, Cage gives an impassioned delivery as his kidnapped victim sits opposite, wishing for the sweet release of death (I imagine).
6. Mandy (2018)
Okay, this one feels like a bit of cheat, because not only is this film really quite good, but Cage’s performance in this scene is pretty in-keeping with what had just transpired. After all, how would you react to your loved one being burnt alive before your very eyes?
Having witnessed the fiery death of his beloved girlfriend, Cage’s character eventually manages to untie himself of his restraints and does what most would probably do in his position…
Drink. Like, a lot.
After he starts guzzling down a whole bottle of alcohol, Cage then begins screaming like a crazed animal on a toilet seat in nothing but a bloodied t-shirt and his underwear.
Again, totally within reason.
Still, it’s one of the most fully ‘Cage’ moments on screen and more than earns its mention on the list.
I write film articles, sketch comedy and prose fiction.
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