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Top 10 Nicolas Cage Performances

Posted on the 26 September 2012 by House Of Geekery @houseofgeekery

Once upon a time there was an actor called Nicolas Cage. He received glowing reviews for almost every role that he tackled, bringing life to both dramatic and comedy roles with a barely contained mania that made him look as though he was bursting out of his skin. He was in high demand as a performer, collecting big paychecks and getting offered parts as big as Superman. He even won an Oscar for Best Actor playing a man attempting to drink himself to death.

These days we have Nicolas Cage, human punching bag and meme. His films are considered to be a joke, his performances are held up for ridicule and he can’t pin down a good role. Youtube is littered with clips of Nic Cage putting in some of the worst acting ever committed to a Hollywood production. Exhibit A: The Bees.

Sometimes he’s added to an art project just to add that extra layer of crazy. Exhibit B: Nicolas Cage Wants Cake.

But let’s ignore the crazy Nicolas Cage. Let’s remember the earlier Nicolas Cage who was a stamp of quality on a movie. Let’s give the new generation a list of movies that will show them what Nicolas Cage once was.

10. The Rock

The Rock

Not a role one would automatically summon to mind when considering fine performances, but as an action movie goes he brings more to the role then anyone could’ve expected. Playing the nerdy scientist type without the cliched eyewear and white coat, Cage gives the character plenty of quirks without using them to define the part. When he gets thrown into the action by Leo McGarry he steps up to the plate without losing his personality. He even manages to hold his own against Sean Connery in the action stakes.

9. Moonstruck


Playing an angry, bitter and barely contained dangerous but somehow vulnerable baker who lost his hand in a accident with a bread slicer sounds like typical dross for the Cage we know today, but this is young Cage. Playing the madcap character alongside Cher isn’t an easy task for anyone, but Cage takes it to the bank.

8. The Weatherman

The Weather Man

This rather dark and dry comedy required some restraint from Nic Cage, surprising given that it emerged at the beginning of the bat-shit crazy phase of his career. At the beginning of the movie David Spitz, local weather man, is separated from his wife, losing touch with his children, has been diagnosed with cancer, is a disappointment to his father and gets fast food thrown at him in the street. With only a few months to live he sets out to turn things around. Although the dark tone of the humour didn’t appeal to the mainstream audience Cage meets the role head on and makes it worth a viewing.

7. Bad Lieutanant: Port of Call New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant

For many viewers this remake of the the 1992 shocking drama flew right under the radar, possibly because from the outset it looking like a typical Cage outing along with everything bad that goes with one these days. Playing an unhinged cop is not a stretch for Cage but this painkiller addicted (plus everything else that’s on hand) detective has some seriously misfiring synapses in his skull. Cage is playing addled, twitchy and downright looney in a way he hasn’t managed in a long time. Plus he hallucinates iguanas.

6. Matchstick Men

Matchstick Men

Nicolas Cage is playing a con-man. Not the ultra-smooth, Armani wearing con-man you’d see in Ocean’s Eleven but the everyman who knows how to push the right buttons. Plus he’s agoraphobic, OCD, mysophobic and suffers an unusual tic that causes him to yell ‘pixies’ when surprised. Only Cage can manage that combination of lunacy. What sells the performance is the relationships with his partner in crime and his young daughter who’s made her first appearance in his life. Somehow Nic Cage managed both the emotional side of the character as well as the quirky.

5. Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona

Herbert I. “Hi” McDunnough is a repeat offender who strikes up a romance with the police officer who takes his mug shot, and the two have a shotgun wedding. Unable to adopt a baby they decide to take one from a wealthy couple who have had quintuplets. The quirky, over-acting rubber faced Cage fits in to the world of the Coen Brothers better than most other films where he pulls this routine as the entire universe seems to be populated by others just like him. Cage makes the most of the opportunity to fly well and truly off the handle.

4. Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage took away the Oscar for best actor for his turn as a man trying to drink himself to death and it’s well deserved. Cage threw himself into the role by going on a drinking binge in Dublin and having a friend videotape him so he could replicate his speech and behaviour. It’s a very raw performance where Cage strips away the surface of a damaged character to reveal what is happening beneath as he pushes himself down a path of destruction.

3. Wild at Heart

Wild at Heart

There’s one in every David Lynch movie…that character who is so outwardly dangerous yet we just find them so damn interesting. In Wild at Heart that character is Nicolas Cage, decked out in shades and a snakeskin jacket. Frenetic, frantic and furious it’s a high energy performance that leaves a trail of blood in its wake.

2. Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass Big Daddy

Nicolas Cage certainly didn’t seem like the obvious choice to play Big Daddy. He didn’t match the bulky physique of the character and his looney-tunes routine that he phones in these days wouldn’t have suited the dual role of comic-obsessed superhero and loving father. What no-one expected was for Cage to expand on the character created on the printed page and make him a damn sight more interesting and believable. Big Daddy convinces as both the revenge obsessed and extraordinarily violent vigilante while putting on his best Adam West impression and the caring father who has dragged him impressionable daughter into his world of insanity and death. Anyone who dismisses this as another comic book role is gravely mistaken.

1. Adaptation


Realistically this film could’ve filled two entries on this list as Cage puts in two very different and equally remarkable performances. When Charlie Kaufman was set to the task of adapting the book ‘The Orchid Thief’ his process spiraled out of control until he wrote himself into the script as the main character with Nicolas Cage bringing the neurotic writer to life on the screen. He’s a bumbling, sweating, awkward mess of tics and twitches and completely without the cartoonish quality that sometimes mars his acting. On the flip side Cage also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, over-brimming with confidence and making friends wherever he goes. Again Cage perfectly captures the simple yet effective outlook of Donald. More than just an Eddie Murphy style stunt the two performances perfectly merge together on screen making an already unmissable film that extra bit awesome.

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