Nicolas Cage: All Films Considered

Wild at heart

Average Metascore 53
Films Starring Nicolas Cage
Average User Score 6.9
Average Gross $67.6m
Highest-Grossing Film
National Treasure: Book of
(2007) 48
Best Opening Weekend $45.4m
Ghost Rider (2007) 35

All box office figures are U.S. only.

Nic Cage seems to have a hard time saying no. The omnipresent actor has appeared in close to 60 films since the early ’80s and shows no signs of slowing down, which may or may not have something to do with intense procurement of expensive comic-book collectibles. This same comic-book love led the former Nicolas Coppola to change his name to Cage (named after Marvel’s Power Man, Luke Cage) to avoid claims of nepotism, though his uncle Francis Ford Coppola did end up casting him in Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, and Peggy Sue Got Married.

Cage’s oddly unhinged energy and cadence made most of his early film appearances in the mid- to late ’80s unforgettable. But instead of sticking to modest or interesting projects, Cage, after winning his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, embraced an action star future with Con Air, and since then his work has been patchy at best.

After reminding critics and audiences that he could still blow them away with his performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans last year, Cage returns this week in the big-budget Hollywood release The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a loose adaptation of the Mickey Mouse segment of Fantasia. The film re-teams the star with his National Treasure franchise director Jon Turteltaub and early reviews pronounce it to be just as uninspired as that series. That’s just as well -- in a few movies, he’ll probably rise to brilliance once again.

Below, we look at Cage's best- and worst-reviewed movies. And, because his career has been so uneven that even critics don't always know what to make of his films, we've also highlighted five additional Cage films that were underappreciated by reviewers at the time of their release.

Nicolas Cage's 5 Best-Reviewed Movies
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Moonstruck 1987 83 9.3
"They're an irresistibly offbeat couple -- Cage playing on the edge, where he likes it; Cher creating a fairy-tale realist, captivating yet cautious."
-- Rita Kempley, Washington Post
Cage plays passionate one-handed baker Ronny, who vies for the affection of Loretta (played by Cher in an Oscar-winning performance), the fiancée of his estranged brother Johnny (Danny Aiello), in this acclaimed Italian-American romantic comedy from playwright John Patrick Shanley and director Norman Jewison. Though his accent comes and goes, Cage’s uniquely intense and simultaneously romantic performance stands out even amongst this insanely talented cast.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $81m
2 Adaptation. 2002 83 7.4
"The showy orchid role goes to Cage in an Oscar-worthy tour de force. He pours his body into Charlie's slumped frame of mind and creates a character churning with endearing contradictions -- the unforgettable nebbish."
-- Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
After a string of uninspired movie choices (Windtalkers 51, The Family Man 42, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin 36) Cage jumped onboard the Charlie Kaufman express and rode it into critically-acclaimed-ville. Cage plays twin brothers Charlie and Donald Kaufman in this Kaufman-penned and Spike Jonze-directed meta-adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. His impressive dual performance earned him his second Oscar nomination to date, but it gets lost in the plot when Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper’s characters take over.
  Budget: $19m U.S. Gross: $23m
3 Leaving Las Vegas 1995 82 7.1
"Cage again proves himself the most fearless actor now working in movies."
-- Sean Means,
Cage won an Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who heads to Las Vegas for one last bender and falls for a hooker with a damaged heart of gold. Cage’s Ben Sanderson and Elisabeth Shue’s Sera are riveting together in Mike Figgis’ tragic drama. Cage’s performance is remarkable, in that the audience ends up rooting for his character to fulfill his perverse wish of greeting death on his own terms.
  Budget: $4m U.S. Gross: $32m
4 Face/Off 1997 82 7.9
"Face/Off works like a charm right on down the line thanks to brilliant, exhilarating performances from Cage and Travolta, and the many tremendously enjoyable action set-pieces that are Woo's hallmark."
-- Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
Teaming with then-hot action director John Woo, Cage starred with John Travolta (popular again due to Pulp Fiction) in this hyper identity-swapping action flick. Subtlety was not employed, and Cage’s portrayal of freelance terrorist Caster Troy is an unfiltered delight. You can see how hard it is to match Cage’s manic energy when Travolta struggles to impersonate him after their personalities have been swapped.
  Budget: $80m U.S. Gross: $112m
5 Bringing Out the Dead 1999 70 6.5
"In a role as tailor-made for him as the story is for its writer and director, Nicolas Cage anchors the movie with one of his best performances."
-- Mike Clark, USA Today

The reteaming of Taxi Driver director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader had Cage playing paramedic Frank Pierce in this adaptation of Joe Connelly’s novel. The hopelessly grim and self-indulgent feature had Cage mostly reacting to other stranger and weirder characters, thus preventing him from doing what he does best. The film’s focus on style and his character’s insomnia prevent Cage from creating a compelling character that the audience can get behind.

  Budget: $55m U.S. Gross: $17m
5 Underrated Nicolas Cage Movies
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Wild at Heart 1990 52 7.6
"Mr. Cage is not always an easy actor to accommodate. He tends to go over the edge. Here, however, he has a role that perfectly fits him, like the Elvis-inspired snakeskin jacket he wears."
-- Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Nicolas Cage is Sailor Ripley in David Lynch’s adaptation of Barry Gifford’s novel. Essentially a road movie from hell, lovers Sailor and Lula (Laura Dern) are on the run from her vengeful, lipstick-challenged mother. Cage is well cast as the violently romantic Elvis fan who’s caught in a twisted Wizard of Oz-like universe where snakeskin jackets, cigarettes, and true love/lust reign supreme. The actor’s loose-limbed energy finds a perfect match in Lynch’s left-of-center direction.

  Budget: $10m U.S. Gross: $15m
2 Raising Arizona 1987 55 8.9
"Cage creates a homey and thoroughly likable character who earns the respect of the audience."
-- TV Guide
It’s hard to believe that this film isn’t on the five best list above. Cage plays ex-convict H.I., “Hi” McDunnough, who falls for police officer Edwina (Holly Hunter). After finding out that they’re unable to conceive, Hi and Ed kidnap one of a recent group of quintuplets. What ensues is one of the most hyper-comedic examinations of white trash that’s ever been put to film. Cage’s performance is literally hair-raising, as his energy matches the film’s even when it rises to cartoonish Looney Tunes heights.
  Budget: $6m U.S. Gross: $23m
3 Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans 2009 69 6.3
"It's that constant weirdness, coupled with Nicolas Cage's best performance in pretty much forever, that makes this depraved, sexually charged, over-the-top drama so much fun to watch."
-- Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

Cage reteams with Ghost Rider co-star Eva Mendes and reminds us what genius he’s capable of as he embodies drug- and gambling-addicted detective Terence McDonagh in Werner Herzog’s twisted police procedural. Coming off of another uninspired run of films (Next 42, National Treasure: Book of Secrets 48, Knowing 41), Cage is once again invigorated as his character tears through life with complete abandon.

  Budget: $25m U.S. Gross: $1.7m
4 Valley Girl 1983 n/a n/a
"This movie is a little treasure, a funny, sexy, appealing story of a Valley Girl's heartbreaking decision: Should she stick with her boring jock boyfriend, or take a chance on a punk from Hollywood?"
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Cage’s first lead role (after appearing in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) was Randy, a romantic with a hard exterior who like, totally falls for San Fernando Valley girl Julie. Martha Coolidge’s debut feature is a charmer, and Cage’s cool rebel rises above early ’80s Southern California stereotypes and gives in to his heart. He effortlessly coasts through the film as if possessed by the excellent soundtrack.
  Budget: $350k U.S. Gross: $17m
5 It Could Happen to You 1994 n/a n/a
"As Cage plays him, Charlie is the ultimate eccentric simply because he is honest and good. With a more conventional leading man, the character might be insufferable."
-- Hal Hinson, Washington Post
Cage reteamed with his Honeymoon in Vegas director Andrew Bergman in this old-fashioned romantic comedy. The wish-fulfillment story about Cage’s police officer Charlie Lang agreeing to split his lottery winnings with waitress Yvonne Biasi (Bridget Fonda) much to the disapproval of his wife (Rosie Perez, in a misogynistically written role) allowed Cage to dial down his erratic persona and play a more modest but no less satisfying character.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $38m
Nicolas Cage's 5 Worst-Reviewed Movies
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 8MM 1999 19 5.7
"Cage is an actor capable of great subtlety and sensitivity, but he's increasingly prone to coasting through movies on automatic pilot, then planting his feet and shouting at the camera when the script calls for emotion."
-- Andrew O'Hehir,

After the perversely dark Se7en became a box-office hit, Hollywood followed suit by producing a copycat movie from the same writer (Andrew Kevin Walker), with Joel Schumacher behind the camera. Cage, along with Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, and Catherine Keener, are wasted in this ridiculously hypocritical movie that damns exploitative snuff films while at the same time exhibiting that same type of exploitation for cheap thrills. The devil don’t change, the devil change you. Whatever.

  Budget: $40m U.S. Gross: $37m
2 Bangkok Dangerous 2008 24 5.1
"Cage's face here is so tight that it looks incapable of expressing an emotion of any kind. All the character and charisma have been blasted away. He can't scowl or squint or snarl. He just looks in need of a nap."
-- Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

Cage stars as a hitman named Joe in this pointless remake of a 1999 film by the same directors, The Pang Brothers. If you can even see Cage (with ridiculous hair that was said by be extended using doll hair) in the impossibly underlit, molasses-slow action film you’ll see a predictably dull performance in an even duller film. If your eyes didn’t already hurt from trying to see what’s on screen they’ll certainly ache from the constant rolling when Cage’s hardened killer falls in love.

  Budget: $45m U.S. Gross: $15m
3 Vampire's Kiss 1989 31 9.5
"It's hard to tell if Cage's performance is a grand stab at all-out, no-holds-barred comic acting or one of the worst dramatic performances in a film this year."
-- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
How can this be lower than god-awful The Wicker Man 36 remake? Cage had something to prove in his eccentric portrayal of literary agent Peter Loew who may or may not be becoming a vampire after a club night out with the beautifully mysterious Rachel (Jennifer Beals). The uneven film, infamous for a scene in which Cage eats a live cockroach, can’t decide whether it’s funny or disturbing, but it’s fun to see Cage completely uninhibited.
  Budget: $2m U.S. Gross: $0.7m
4 Ghost Rider 2007 35 5.7
"All of [Cages's] natural charisma is unable to compensate for the plodding narrative and thin characterizations."
-- Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
After his attempt at playing Superman with Tim Burton fell through years prior, Cage indulged his comic book love by playing popular Marvel Comics character Johnny Blaze, who becomes the chain-wielding, motorcycle-riding, flaming hero Ghost Rider. Hampered by a poorly directed film that’s concerned more with digital effects than an actual performance, Cage tries to fill his character with odd quirks (like his obsession with Carpenters songs) but can’t overcome the formulaic nature of this predictable Hollywood vehicle.
  Budget: $110m U.S. Gross: $116m
5 Gone in 60 Seconds 2000 35 9.1
"The movie doesn't just look and sound like a car commercial. It is a car commercial."
-- Dennis Lim, Village Voice

Reteaming with Con Air 52 and The Rock 59 producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Cage phones in an action-hero performance on autopilot as Memphis Raines, a retired car thief who must steal 50 cars with his crew (which includes Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall, and Vinnie Jones) to save the life of his brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) in this loud, brash, and unoriginal remake of the 1974 original.

  Budget: $90m U.S. Gross: $102m

Source for box office data: Box Office Mojo.

What do you think?

Which Nicolas Cage films are your favorites -- or least favorites? Are you looking forward to The Sorcerer's Apprentice? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (83)

  • Daelin  

    I agree with Metacritic for Face/Off and the fans for Gone in 60 Seconds

  • Seniormcsplosion  

    Nicholas Cage reminds me a lot of actors like Samual L. Jackson in that he is extremely talented and can prove it in powerful and emotional roles but at the same time takes no shame from doing films that can be considered cheesy or uninspired simply because he has fun doing them. He loes what he does which is a respectable quality in my book.

  • Ben  

    Fun fact: my dad looks like Nicholas Cage.

    And the National Treasure movies are a big favorite around my household.

  • Anthony  

    Next wasn't that bad. I actually liked it.

  • Christopher Field  

    As a founding member of the Nic Cage Film Society, I can qualify myself as an expert on all things Cage. I was hoping to see Vampire's Kiss sitting at no. 1 in the underrated column. It's place in the "worst" column is totally misguided. It is one of my all time favorites. For anyone that hasn't seen it, rent it. Allow yourself to enjoy a truly singular performance. I like Wild at Heart alot, too. Probably Lynch's most underrated, too (even though it won the Plam D'Or, no one ever seems to put it up there with Blue Velvet and Mullholland).

  • eli  

    Matchstick men was a good movie and his performance in kick ass was perfect, why those two movies aren't on there is a mystery. other than that this list is pretty good.

  • Eric  

    I think between the National Treasure movies and the Wicker man, Nicholas Cage has shown that he is the greatest actor alive.

  • Bill Chambliss  

    One terribly under mentioned good Nicholas Cage movie is Peggy Sue Got Married. He is excellent in a split role as the naive kid who falls in love with Peggy Sue and the jaded husband he becomes.

  • Ben  

    Um, maybe I just haven't seen many Cage movies, but I thought The Rock was excellent. Also, I have to agree that Ghost Rider sucked. Watching him walk around, saying "innocent" or "guilty" to random people was the worst.

  • cables  

    I actually think "family man" was a brutally underrated movie. it's one of my fav cage performances. anyway....wicker man remake was painful to watch, so was "next".

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