I Watched Almost 100 Nicolas Cage Movies. Here Are 10 Great Ones You Don’t Know.

It’s hard for an actor not to become synonymous with a handful of films, even an actor as famous for making a vast amount of them as Nicolas Cage is. By the end of 2022, Cage will have appeared in over 100 movies (give or take, depending on whether or not you count a couple of cameos and voiceover appearances). But his name instantly brings to mind a few titles: his breakthrough appearances in Raising Arizona and Moonstruck, his Best Actor-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas, a trilogy of ’90s action films that made him a huge star (The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off), his double role in Adaptation. Maybe add the “not the bees” moment from The Wicker Man, a film whose excesses have become infamous thanks largely to YouTube and meme culture, which have combined to help keep Cage a household name while often reducing his performances to a few big, bold moments removed from context.

Then there are the many less famous but still excellent other highlights, from his starring debut in the first-rate teen comedy Valley Girl, through his work with David Lynch in Wild at Heart, and great turns in everything from Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead to, more recently, the art-horror revenge tale of Mandy and his sensitive, career-reviving performance in Pig.

Dig even deeper, though–and with Cage there’s more to dig through than most actors–and you’ll find still more remarkable work. Many of his films, particularly those released over the last decade, when Cage made one movie that debuted on VOD or at Redbox cubicles after another, never reached a wide audience. But there’s a lot more that’s worth a look than you might suspect, even in this era.

In writing my new book Age of Cage: Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career, I watched every performance Cage has committed to film, from his appearance in The Best of Times, a strange TV pilot about ‘80s teen life co-starring Crispin Glover, to Jiu Jitsu, a low-budget science fiction/martial arts action movie shot in Cyprus in which Cage dresses in a costume identical to the one Dennis Hopper wears in Apocalypse Now. . Below you’ll find a handful of quality Cage films that might not be on your radar. Some went largely unseen, some were hits that have fallen off the cultural radar for one reason or another, some don’t fit the definition of what we think about when we think about Nicolas Cage movies — but maybe should.

Birdy (1984)

You’re casting a movie starring Matthew Moline and Nicolas Cage in which one plays a bird-obsessed eccentric and the other plays an ordinary kid from a tough Philadelphia neighborhood. Who plays who? A few years later, Cage would be the obvious choice to play the odder character but, early in his career, he’d yet to develop a reputation for specializing in weirdos. That allowed him to deliver one of his best, and most naturalistic, performances in this Alan Parker film, in which he plays an easygoing, but sensitive early 1960s galoot who’s shattered by his experiences in Vietnam and desperately tries to rescue his friend from a mental hospital.

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I Watched Almost 100 Nicolas Cage Movies. Here Are 10 Great Ones You Don’t Know.

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