The Ten Best Movie Performances by Nicolas Cage

Categories: Film and TV

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Adaptation (2002)

This second Spike Jonze-Charlie Kaufman collaboration (after Being John Malkovich) presents Cage in a challenging dual-role performance. Writing in the Voice in 2002, J. Hoberman noted that "[t]he perfectly seamless presence of the two Cages on-screen has the uncanny effect of neutralizing the actor's naturally obstreperous affect."

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Matchstick Men (2003)

One of the fleetest films directed by Ridley Scott, this comedy-thriller positions Cage as a con-man with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Writing in the Voice in 2003, J. Hoberman praised the actor's dynamic work: "Artful distraction is the key to a successful con, and Cage does more than that for Matchstick Men, dazzling the viewer with a veritable ob-com sonata based on a plethora of tics, hitches, stutters, twitches and obscure rituals."

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Lord of War (2005)

Gattaca writer-director Andrew Niccol's detailed look into the world of arms dealing was a kind of passion project for Cage, who's credited as a producer. In an interview he gave at the time of release, Niccol said, "I don't write with anyone in mind, but as soon as I finished I thought, 'Who can make the devil charming?' It's Nicolas Cage."

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The Weather Man (2005)

Cage is known for big performances; director Gore Verbinski (The Lone Ranger, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) is known for big movies. They both restrained themselves -- to satisfying effect -- in this somber, Chicago-set drama, which the Voice's Michael Atkinson championed in 2005 as "the most supremely odd American film of the year."

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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

This may end up being the most ridiculously perfect role Cage ever takes on: after all, a Werner Herzog remake of an Abel Ferrara film doesn't come along all that often. If the movie itself doesn't live up to every expectation, the performance is so overblown that it can't be dismissed: it plays like a greatest-hits reel of Cage's potential for hysteria.

Follow Danny King at @thekingbulletin

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4 comments
stevek77536
stevek77536

I had a discussion with a police sergeant friend who thought Cage's "Bad Lieutenant" compared very poorly to the original with Keitel.  I argued that Cage was playing it for laughs, unlike Keitel (and I did not point out the Ebert gave Cage's version 4 stars out of 4).  Funny stuff, kind of a guilty pleasure for me, like when his character tells the gang boss to keep shooting the dead rivals:


Terence McDonagh: Shoot them again!

Deshaun 'Midget' Hackett: What for?

Terence McDonagh: Their soul's still dancing!

[laughs hysterically]


(It was, too ...)

Meredith McNulty
Meredith McNulty

how do you not have Moonstruck listed??? One of my favorite movies

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill

I thought he did a decent job in "8MM".

Houstess
Houstess

Raising Arizona and Face Off are my favs.  Oh, yes, he's a fine actor.  Too bad he's a little nutty.

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