Nicolas Cage is one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, in part because he's not at all choosy about the roles he takes on. But while Cage's will forever be mocked for movies like "The Wicker Man," these films serve as a reminder that he can be a great actor when given the right platform.
'Rumble Fish' (1983)
"Rumble Fish" is basically the more experimental film about surly teen gangsters Francis Ford Coppola made immediately after wrapping up work on "The Outsiders." It's a visually striking piece of work, and one that served as an early showcase for Coppola's young nephew.
Nic Cage and Cher make for a very unusual on-screen couple, but that's part of the charm of "Moonstruck." This romantic comedy works by emphasizing the "comedy" part, spinning a hilarious and engaging yarn about a widower who finds new love in the form of her fiance's hot-headed younger brother.
'Raising Arizona' (1987)
The Coen Brothers wanted their second film to be as tonally and stylistically different as possible from 1984's "Blood Simple," and they definitely succeeded. Cage is at his best here, in this goofball comedy about a dimwitted couple who realize their dreams of parenthood by kidnapping a baby. It's a role that capitalizes on his ability to play slightly dumb but lovable heroes.
'Wild at Heart' (1990)
Pair Cage with director David Lynch and you basically have a perfect storm of surreal on the big screen. Cage starred opposite Laura Dern as an ex-con just trying to reconnect with his girlfriend -- despite the best efforts of her vindictive mother. "Wild at Heart" didn't find much traction at the time, but today it's regarded as one of the better films in Cage's vast resume.
'Red Rock West' (1993)
Cage delivered one of the better performances of his career in this neo-noir thriller about a drifter who's mistaken for a hitman and makes the mistake of playing along. Sadly, the film's prospects were pretty much doomed when it was relegated to the direct-to-video market, meaning even many hardcore Cage lovers haven't seen this hidden gem.
'Leaving Las Vegas' (1995)
Cage may be a fixture at the Razzies most years, but thanks to "Leaving Las Vegas," he's also an Academy Award-winning actor. Cage won a well-deserved Best Actor award for his performance in this drama about a man who travels to Vegas to drink himself to death and, instead, winds up connecting with a fellow lost soul.
'The Rock' (1996)
Both Cage and director Michael Bay have similarly tarnished Hollywood reputations, but apparently joining forces was all they ever needed to deliver some of their best work. Or maybe Sean Connery was the stabilizing influence? Either way, "The Rock" remains one of the most exciting and well-crafted action movies Cage has been involved with.
Too many of Cage's action movies get derailed by silliness, but "Face/Off" has just the right blend of camp and stylish violence. The only thing better than pitting Cage against John Travolta as bitter enemies is doing so while each actor is pretending to be the other. It's like Cage-ception.
'Bringing Out the Dead' (1999)
It goes without saying that when you cast Cage in a Martin Scorsese film, you're going to get an above-average performance out of him. Cage offered a convincing portrayal of a burnt-out paramedic at the end of his rope. While it never made the impact of Scorsese's more well-known films, "Bringing Out the Dead" is nonetheless a fine example of his talents.
As much as Cage enjoys chewing scenery, you'd think the last thing any movie needs is to have him play two roles at once. But somehow that approach worked in this film, another quirky, mind-bending team-up between director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman. Here, Cage plays both Kaufman himself and his fictional brother, Daniel.
'National Treasure' (2004)
Cage has made several attempts at becoming a franchise leading man, but "National Treasure" is the only time he's really succeeded in that goal. This film offers a welcome dose of Indiana Jones-style thrills as Cage and his co-stars hop around the globe in search of a treasure linked to the Declaration of Independence.
'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans' (2009)
It's easy to picture a lot going wrong with the prospect of Cage starring in a film set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, somehow, "Bad Lieutenant" wound up being one of the actors finest movies of the 21st Century. Cage plays a troubled, painkiller-addicted cop saddled with a rookie partner and an impossible murder investigation.
Despite being a well-known superhero fanatic, Cage has never had much luck when it comes to actually playing these characters. But he did at least get the chance to co-star in the adult-oriented comedy "Kick-Ass" as Big Daddy, basically a blue collar Batman who uses his own preteen daughter as a sidekick. Had his character survived, we would have gladly taken a spinoff.
"Joe" is a perfect example of one of the great truisms in Hollywood. No matter how many bad movies Cage might churn out, there's always a chance he'll return to greatness. "Joe" captures Cage in all too rare form as a loner who befriends a troubled teen and winds up protecting him from an abusive, alcoholic father.