Nic Cage is definitely something of an acquired taste these days. Bursting onto the scene as a promising young actor, Cage lit up Tinseltown and bagged an Academy Award in 1994. However, the recent decade has seen him retreat to the relative ease and safety of the home video market. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Cage has achieved something of a cult fanbase over the years.
Always a talented actor, Cage no longer guarantees quality in terms of movies, but he does guarantee huge amounts of fun for viewers. With performances ranging from nuanced, to deep, to flat-out bonkers, Cage rarely gives less than 100% to performances. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but you always get the feeling he knows where he wants to go with the character. These are, in our opinion, the best performances Cage has given over the course of his career.
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
This is perhaps Cage and Martin Scorsese’s most underrated flick. Cage plays a strung-out paramedic suffering insomnia and hallucinations over three hectic nights in 1990s Manhattan. The movie is just the right amount of dark in tone, and Cage portrays his character well. Yes, there are parts where he overacts (it’s Cage, what were you expecting), but, with a director as experienced as Scorsese at the helm, he knows when to rein him in.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
This bonkers movie kicked off a mini-renaissance for Cage and got him back to the sort of acting he does best – over the top, quirky characters. Werner Herzog adapts Abel Ferrara’s cult movie, and the hysterical, crazy nature of the plot and character is perfect for Cage to wrap his acting chops around. This might be the perfect Cage role ever because it gives him such scope to just go with it and cut loose.
This is one of the best achievements Cage has ever enjoyed in his career, playing the twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman. He puts in exceptional displays as both of the brothers, and his performance(s) earned him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Though he lost out on the big awards, this is still widely regarded as one of his bet performances, and quite right too.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
In our opinion Cage’s finest performance comes in the heartbreakingly sad Leaving Las Vegas. Playing a struggling man with a drinking problem, who loses his job and moves to Las Vegas, Cage puts in pretty much a perfect performance. This is an emotionally exhausting movie, but one that you need to watch if you’ve never seen it. Scooping the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Cage deservedly garnered great recognition for this phenomenal performance.
Nic Cage is certainly an acquired taste for movie fans, but he hasn’t put in many performances you would forget in a hurry. There have been some truly wonderful roles from him over the years, and there are probably a couple of controversial omissions from this list. But, this is the list we feel best showcases his great talent.