To many, Nicolas Cage is an enigma. Is he a bad actor? Is he a terrible actor? Is he a genius in his own category? You'll find people on all ends of the spectrum, and that alone speaks to the man's qualities.
Only you can arrive at your own conclusion—but to do so, you'll need to watch his most iconic films that show him from every angle.
Nicolas Cage has done it all, from horror to rom-com to action to arthouse. No matter what you think of him, here are the best Nicolas Cage movies you have to see at least once in your life.
10. Pig (2021)
In Pig, Nicolas Cage plays the part of a truffle hunter named Rob Feld who lives in a secluded area of Oregon.
One day, someone steals his beloved truffle pig, so he must go back to his hometown of Portland to search for her. It's not an easy move, though, because he moved out of Portland for a reason.
Will Rob manage to find his dear pig and go back to his quiet life in the wilderness? Will he survive facing his past that awaits him back in Portland? This is one of Cage's finest performances of the decade.
9. Mom and Dad (2017)
Are you familiar with the term "mass hysteria"? Perhaps you've heard of the medieval "dancing plague" of 1518? Back then, in Strasbourg, people started dancing without reason—and couldn't stop.
Today, that phenomenon is called mass hysteria and it's labeled as a contagious dissociative illness. It happens when a large group of people experiences shared anxiety, which leads to endless perpetuation of a seemingly random action.
In Mom and Dad, parents suffer a case of mass hysteria that instills them with the urge to eliminate their offspring. The origins of the phenomenon are unknown. Will the children survive?
8. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
In Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage plays Ben Sanderson, a man who's having a night out in Las Vegas. He's lost his job, family, and friends due to his drinking habits, but he still won't stop drinking.
Why is he out and about in the city? The reason's pretty simple: he wants to drink himself to death.
In the midst of that, Ben meets a prostitute named Sera and they strike up an unconventional relationship: she cannot tell him to stop drinking, he cannot criticize her occupation.
7. The Family Man (2000)
Jack and Kate have been together since college, but now he has to leave for an internship in London. While at the airport, Kate begs him not to go—she's sure everything will change if he takes the job.
He leaves and proves her right. As we time-jump thirteen years ahead, we see that things turned out quite well for Jack, who's now a Wall Street executive in New York City. Kate is nowhere to be found.
Well, it's almost Christmas and angels are at work in New York City. Jack doesn't need any miracles, though, because he has "everything he needs"—or at least he thinks he does.
Cue Jack waking up in an alternate reality with Kate beside him, plus two kids, a dog, and a home in the countryside. What does this mean? Jack just wants his life back! But miracles don't work that way, and there's a lesson that must be learned.
6. It Could Happen to You (1994)
Starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda, It Could Happen to You was inspired by a wholesome real-life story.
Charlie Lang is a kind and hardworking police officer in the Queens area of New York while his wife, Muriel, is his polar opposite: greedy, materialistic, and selfish.
On the other side of the story is Yvonne Biasi, a waitress who was bankrupted by her shady husband yet remains optimistic and ready to help others.
One day, she serves Charlie and his co-worker, but he has no money for tips! So, he proposes a deal to her: double the tip or half of his lottery winnings. Jokingly, she accepts.
And, of course, Charlie ends up winning $4 million in the lottery, and now he must honor the deal. But what will the consequences be?
5. Mandy (2018)
Red Miller lives near the Shadow Mountains with his girlfriend Mandy. She's an artist who also works as a gas station cashier while he's a logger and a recovering alcoholic.
They live a happy and simple life in their cabin, until one day Mandy encounters a van with members of a religious cult named "The Children of the New Dawn."
The leader kidnaps Mandy with the help of a demonic, LSD-fueled biker gang. When Red finds out, he'll do everything in his power to follow them and punish every single person who took part.
Mandy is an amazing revenge story that requires a strong stomach for its gory scenes, overall violence, and psychedelic moments.
4. Adaptation (2002)
In Adaptation, Nicolas Cage plays real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who's struggling with writer's block and troubled thoughts.
Kaufman feels inadequate and hates himself. But to make it worse, he has to face his parasitic twin brother Donald—who's also played by Nicolas Cage. Double the Cage, double the fun!
In his attempts to adapt "The Orchid Thief," Kaufman encounters all kinds of creative difficulties that'll force him to grow, not only as a writer but as a person. In playing both Charlie and Donald, Nicolas Cage gives us one of his best movie performances ever.
Adaptation is a philosophical and self-reflective film that engages with themes of identity, creativity, life's purpose, and more.
3. Face/Off (1997)
Sean Archer (John Travolta) is an FBI agent who witnessed the death of his son at the hands of terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage).
After years of chasing him, Archer manages to catch Troy and put him in a coma. However, it turns out that Troy planted a bomb somewhere in Los Angeles and its location needs to be found.
There's only one way to figure out where it is: Archer needs to switch faces with the comatose terrorist and use his identity. But Troy wakes up prematurely—and, now with Archer's face, seeks revenge.
It's a far-fetched premise, but the film is wholly enjoyable thanks to the performances by both Cage and Travolta as they imitate each other.
2. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
Nicolas Cage plays himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Well, a fictionalized version of himself in which he still refers to himself as a "shamanic thespian," but one whose career has seen better days.
He's reminded of this by Nicky, a younger and more successful version of himself that appears to him often enough to make it weird. And so, after a series of defeats, he decides to quit acting forever.
But then he's hit with a vague-yet-enticing offer that gets him to travel to Mallorca. What awaits him there? That's for you to find out.
1. Raising Arizona (1987)
Written and directed by the Coen brothers, Raising Arizona is a modern fairy tale in which Nicolas Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a convenience store robber who falls in love with police officer Edwina.
For her sake, McDunnough puts his life back on track and finds work in a machine shop. They live happily together in a mobile home, but there's one thing they're missing: a child of their own.
At the same time, a wealthy furniture seller named Nathan Arizona has just had quintuplets! Who needs that many kids, they reckon? Surely he wouldn't mind if they just... took one...?
Raising Arizona mixes fantasy with realism to produce a film that's wholly unique—one that isn't meant to be taken seriously—and it features Nicolas Cage at his absolute best.