The 10 best Nicolas Cage performances. By Simon Miraudo.
Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage was one of the most respected actors on a planet. That time was before The Wicker Man, and public perception of the actor has shifted drastically in its wake. Though Cage has evolved from “bankable movie star” to “human punch line” over the past few years, he still has his devoted fans. And no, we’re not talking about the poseurs who just like watching the – admittedly incredible – video of him “losing his s***” over and over again. We’re talking about the disciples who still consider him history’s greatest actor (it’s a small flock, but I’m proud to belong). Sure, there are plenty of bad Nicolas Cage pictures, but there are no bad Nicolas Cage performances. In honour of his new direct-to-DVD release Trespass (reviewed here by Hilary Simmons), the sequel to Ghost Rider, Spirit of Vengeance (in cinemas March 15), and the dozen or so upcoming features in which he stars, please enjoy our not-at-all ironic selection of Nic’s 10 finest moments (and yes, now that we’ve devoted an entire list, we’ll try to stop mentioning him in every other top 10 we do).
In this underrated Alex Proyas sci-fi flick, Cage stars as an atheistic science teacher who must come to terms with the concept of the entire history of the universe having been plotted out by a higher power… right up until the impending apocalypse. And nobody reacts to paradigm-shifting revelations like Nic Cage does.
Everyone loves Moonstruck, but few remember that it was a young Nicolas playing the short-tempered, dangerous, adorable, and one-handed object of Cher‘s affections. A real shame.
Known for his bizarre but inspired selection of muses (Hungarian composer Franz Liszt was the inspiration for his character in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!), Cage delivered his best Adam West impression as violent vigilante Big Daddy in Kick-Ass.
Now, an actor must have one hell of an oeuvre when his Academy Award-winning performance can only nab seventh place. You’re unlikely to see a more upsetting descent into addiction than Cage’s turn as alcoholic screenwriter Ben Sanderson. Cage – unafraid of looking ridiculous, yet never seeming like he’s mugging for Oscar glory – goes for it, and never looks back (actually, you could say that about all of his roles).
In lieu of an explanation, here’s a video of Sailor singing Love Fool.
As an insomniac medic working a hellish 48-hour shift, Cage escorts us around the streets of Manhattan, whilst haunted by the ghosts of those he couldn’t save. This wonderful Martin Scorsese movie (fittingly, scripted by Taxi Driver‘s Paul Schrader) deserves your attention.
Perhaps he’s too ‘ticky’ here for some, but Nic is perfectly charming and disarming as a con-man with a conscience (and an overwhelming case of OCD). Ridley Scott‘s under-seen Matchstick Men proved that Cage can ground even the most over-the-top characters with a real humanity.
The Coen brothers’ second feature starred Nicolas Cage as a career criminal who falls in love with a cop (Holly Hunter), and steals a baby for them to raise. For all their later successes, Joel and Ethan Coen never managed to make a more sympathetic or lovable character than Cage’s H.I. McDunnough. Not Marge Gunderson. Not The Dude. Nobody.
Look, there were a lot of contenders that could have made this top 10: Castor “I could eat a peach for hours” Troy from Face/Off; Cameron “Put the bunny back in the box” Poe from Con Air; Edward “Killing me won’t bring back your Goddamn honey!” Malus from, yes, The Wicker Man.
But frankly, there was no question which film, and which performance(s), would come out on top. In Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, Cage plays real-life neurotic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, as well as his fictional, sweet, overly-confident twin brother Donald. Two diverse turns, with nary a bit of physical distinction to tell the two apart, besides Cage’s skill in inhabiting each character wholly and creating separate identities. Funny, heart-breaking, strange, and like so many of his performances, robbed of an Oscar (but not a nomination). We can’t wait to see his next collaboration with screenwriter Kaufman: Frank or Francis. We may even have to put together an entire ‘Top 10 other Nicolas Cage performances’ list to accommodate it.