We love Face/Off! This one is one of our absolute favorite Nicholas Cage performances because of the first act switch between bad guy and good guy. Cage plays Castor Troy, an over-the-top (another theme with Cage) villain who once killed the young son of agent Sean Archer (played by John Travolta). Archer thinks he has taken down Troy for good and steals his face to infiltrate the criminal underworld Troy runs. Unfortunately for Archer (but fortunately for us), Troy wakes up and takes Archer’s face, becoming the do-gooding family man. Watching Cage flip from bastard to hero is awesome, plus the action is directed by John Woo, who is like the Asian Michael Bay.
4.) Leaving Las Vegas
This was Nick Cage’s Oscar winning role, and he’s amazing in it. He plays Ben Sanderson, who is a down on his luck Hollywood screenwriter (he seems to end up as those, doesn’t he?) and also an alcoholic. When Ben hits the end of his rope he decides to move to Las Vegas and, quite seriously, drink himself to death. Along the way he befriends a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue) who has her own fleet of problems, the least of which happens to be that she’s a Las Vegas prostitute. He moves in with her and they form an interesting union which drives the rest of the film. A must-see.
This one is a lot of fun, as Cage plays both introverted, slightly unstable writer Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother, the extroverted, womanizing Donald Kaufman. Charlie is hired to write a screen adaptation of the best-selling novel “The Orchid Thief” and can’t quite seem to get a grasp on it, mostly because he’s lonely and develops a crush on the author, Susan Orlean. He is forced to turn to his brother Donald for help. Watching Cage play two sides of the same coin is a real treat. Also, for you trivia buffs, the real Charlie Kaufman did write this screenplay and the movie you see is his adaptation of the same book. Mind=blown.
2.) The Rock
“Welcome to the Rock!” Everyone has seen this movie and it’s awesome. It was directed by Michael Bay which means it is chock full of slow motion explosions and every military toy known to man. Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed, a chemical weapons specialist who gets thrown onto Alcatraz with a guy who is the only man to have ever escaped (Sean Connery) in order to stop a bunch of military terrorists with a bunch of awful nerve gas pointed at San Francisco. Cage walks the line between government science nerd and fish-out-of-water very well in this one and, actually, holds his own against the likes of Connery and Ed Harris. His frequent meltdowns as real-world military stuff goes on around him are worth the price of admission.
1.) Raising Arizona
Written and directed by the always amazing Coen brothers, Raising Arizona tells the story of H.I. McDunnough and his wife, Edwina “Ed” McDunnough, and their ill-fated attempts to conceive. When big-time unpainted furniture salesman Nathan Arizona has quintuplets they decide to grab one because, “They have more than they can handle.” What results is a fantastically hilarious and heartfelt ride across Arizona as H.I. and Ed try to keep their bundle of joy’s true identity a secret while being chased by the police, a bounty hunter, and two moronic ex-cons. Cage plays the part of H.I. with a subtle nincompoopery that still rings as one of his finest performances.