Happy birthday Nicolas Cage! Born January 7th, 1964, the prolific American actor has done just about everything under the sun in terms of roles and movies. Drama, Horror, Comedy, Action and more, it’s hard to find a film genre that doesn’t have at least one performance from the eccentric actor. Love him or hate him, Cage is guaranteed to always give you 100% Cage. It’s almost impossible to find a movie in his very long filmography that you can point to and say he phoned it there.
He operates at 11 out of 10 at all times, whether it works or not. And he stays busy, and whether that’s good or bad doesn’t really matter, because you can always bank on a Nicolas Cage film coming around the corner in any given year. Hell, we’re only 7 days into 2023, and he’s already got a revenge western out in select theaters called “The Old Way,” and he’ll be taking on the role of Dracula in the upcoming “Renfield.” Talk about variety, eh?
Celebrating another year of Cage (and hopefully more to come), the Nerdbot staff shared some of their favorite performances over his 40+ year career. Here are some of our picks!
Breana Caballos kicks us off with two big ones, “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Raising Arizona.” This is another testament to how varied his career has been as well as how long it has been. There’s 13 years between these films and they aren’t even close to the same genre. Both definitely display the full Cage quirk, with “Arizona” being more directly comedic with some drama flare and “60 Seconds” being a no holds barred, ridiculous action heist flick. These are solid choices, and are definitely key staples of Cage’s career as well as two performances that really put him on the map in the respective genres.
Amy Davis dug deep into the more independent outings of Cage’s career, selecting “Willy’s Wonderland,” “Mom and Dad,” “Mandy,” and “Vampire’s Kiss,” just to really round out the portfolio. I personally love these picks. Though I’m not as high on “Wonderland” as I wanted to be, these picks definitely show just how far and wild Cage can get. There’s a particular scene in “Mandy” where Cage is in a run down bathroom in his underwear with a bottle of whiskey mourning the death of his wife, and it is easily the most Nick Cage thing I’ve ever witnessed. “Mom and Dad” too is just purely bonkers, with Cage going full Cage in every interpretation you can think of when you read that. And ya, “Vampire’s Kiss” is a nice little throwback to early Cage, when he hadn’t really become the Cage we know and was starting to find his quirks. It is a fun little hidden gem, and Amy is right to recommend it.
Heath Andrews went for the jugular and simply wrote, “The Rock. Those two words say it all.” And he’s not wrong. “The Rock” is easily one of Michael Bay’s most ridiculous action thriller to date, but it’s also so perfectly 90s it’s hard not to love. The pairing of Sean Connery and Nick Cage really works here, and Ed Harris gives a better performance that the role could’ve ever asked for. I have a special place in my heart for “The Rock,” and from a purely entertainment value standpoint, it really holds up. Of course it’s preposterous, but that was the 90s baby! Cage is pretty damn great in this one, and Andrew managed to snag up one of his most memorable and iconic performances.
MAB as well went with just one, simple answer: “Con Air.” That’s right, put the bunny down and saddle in for Nick Cage in a white tank top and jeans delivering one of the most confounding southern accents ever put on film. Another 90s staple, “Con Air” too, never really stops being entertaining no matter how little the narrative holds up. The star studded cast doing the most egregious versions of every character only add to Cage fitting right in. There’s a great double feature if you’re trying to honor the Cage, and I’d definitely recommend watching “The Rock” and “Con Air” back to back for a non stop thrill ride of ridiculous 90s action.
Lastly, for myself, I have quite a few picks. I have really come around on Nick Cage, so much so that even when the movie is sub par I find myself still intrigued by whatever it is he’s doing. “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a great example of this. A movie I found to be lacking quite a bit of substance still managed to give me Cage with a bomb strapped to his testicles and shouting “HI-FUCKING-YA!” when he says he knows karate. How can you not love that? When we talk favorites though, films that I feel truly honor the man on his birthday, I have to include a combination of both powerful performances that remind us all that he can, in fact act and good old fashioned Nick Cage schlock.
My list includes “Pig,” “Kick Ass,” “Lord of War,” “Face/Off” “Leaving Las Vegas,” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” I think that pretty much covers all grounds, from deeply introspective and reserved outings like “Pig” in which Cage literally moved me to tears, to “Unbearable Weight” in which the culmination of his career and persona spill over into a meta commentary of himself, starring himself talking to himself. And there’s “Kick Ass,” in which Nick Cage shows up doing his best Adam West impression that strangely works. It’s even more fun when you learn that it was all Cage who came up with it, and Matthew Vaughn (director of “Kick Ass“) had no idea he was going to do it! Of course, “Leaving Las Vegas” is the award winning performance and the one that sky rocketed him into the forefront of A-listers.
But of course, you have to have fun picks as well, and that’s where “Lord of War” and “Face/Off” come in. The latter in particular is probably one of my favorites among the favorites, mainly because its not only Cage unhinged, but it’s also John Travolta essentially doing his best Nick Cage impression, and you just can’t go wrong with something as silly and outlandish as that. “Face/Off” may sport one of the most nonsensical plots of 90s cinema, but Cage and Travolta are having so much goddamn fun it doesn’t matter. Lastly, “Lord of War” isn’t particularly a good film, but it holds a special place in my heart for some reason, and always stands tall as one of my favorite Cage performances.
So there you have it, the Nerdbot staff picks for favorite Nick Cage performances! Happy birthday, Cage! We will forever ask the question: “How much Cage could Nick Cage Cage if Nick Cage could Nick Cage?”
As an added treat, check out the video below where Cage goes through his entire filmography and talk about each character and what influenced his performances. It’s delightful, and the perfect gift for his birthday from him to us.