Top 20 Greatest Nicolas Cage Moments



Top 20 Greatest Nicolas Cage Moments

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Timothy MacAusland
These are the Cage-ist Nicolas Cage moments to ever Nic Cage. For this list, we'll be looking at this iconic actor's best movie moments, whether he was wowing us with his dramatic chops or being his batty self. Our countdown includes “The Rock”, “Gone in 60 Seconds”, "Con Air", “Raising Arizona”, "Mandy", and more!

Top 20 Nicolas Cage Moments

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Nicolas Cage Moments.

For this list, we’ll be looking at this iconic actor’s best movie moments, whether he was wowing us with his dramatic chops or being his batty self. We will however be excluding animated voice work wherein his beautiful face does not appear. Since some of these scenes come in key moments, there will be some spoilers.

What’s your favorite Nic Cage moment? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Cut Some Slack

“The Rock” (1996)

You know, we really wouldn’t have expected Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery to have excellent onscreen chemistry, but here we are. We also wouldn’t have expected Cage to be the ostensible straight man in that team-up, but again, here we are. Having said that, you can’t cage him for too long before the beast within starts to break out. Playing an otherwise mild-mannered biochemist, Cage’s Stanley Goodspeed gets embroiled in a mission to retake Alcatraz from extremists alongside Connery’s loose cannon John Mason. After Mason gives Goodspeed the business again and again, the latter starts to show his resolve by barking back in a glorious manner.

#19: Making a Scene

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” (2007)

The “National Treasure” movies are definitely more directed at general audiences, but that’s not gonna stop Nicolas Cage from going all out when the moment calls for it. In the sequel, the treasure hunt leads the team to infiltrate Buckingham Palace to look for further clues. Upon encountering his ex Abigail, Ben learns the plan requires making a scene, and he’s all too happy to oblige. Putting on his best - or should we say “worst” English accent - Ben makes sure the guards take him and Abigail to where he wants to go, but not before we get a hilariously over-the-top performance from both Cage and the character.

#18: I Want That Cake

“The Family Man” (2000)

This fantasy drama from the turn of the century gets often forgotten among Nicolas Cage’s filmography, but it does serve as a good showcase of his more grounded dramatic chops. Still, even in one of his more reserved efforts, audiences are still gonna come away with a bit wherein he lets loose. In this scene, Cage’s Jack arrives home to find that his alternate reality wife Kate has dug into a slice of chocolate cake he’d saved for himself. A playful chase ensues before Jack gets exactly what he asked for. Weirdly enough, this scene inspired an animated supercut in the early 2010s, and it definitely manages to capture the zany nature of Nicolas Cage, that’s for sure.

#17: Grilling the Chef

“Pig” (2021)

The most recent entry on this list, “Pig” showcases one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances in over a decade. A formerly renown chef turned reclusive truffle forager, Cage’s Rob goes on a resolute quest to locate his beloved pig after it gets pignapped. His journey takes him into Portland, where at one point he reunites with Derek, a former protégé of his. A man of few words, Rob makes every one count here as he calmly criticizes Derek for forgoing his culinary dream to open a generic fusion restaurant. While it’s Derek that adopts the manic facial expressions, it’s Cage that owns this scene as he bears deep into the man’s soul in order to get the information he wants.

#16: Desert Tunes

“Wild at Heart” (1990)

There’s not a lot of actors that can out-Cage Nicolas Cage, but Laura Dern definitely holds her own in this crime movie from the early ‘90s. In it, she and Cage play lovers Lula and Sailor who go on the run together, prompting a bounty to be put on Sailor’s head. Lots of humorous black comedy moments ensue, but our favorite is a little one that comes about halfway through. Disenchanted by all the dour radio broadcasts, Lula pulls over desperate for a palette cleanser. Sailor finds a heavy metal station, and the two let loose in the best way. As if he wasn’t animated enough, the car flip Cage performs to start the bit is just the cherry on top.

#15: Low Rider

“Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000)

We all need a choice track to pump us up every now and again, though we wouldn’t necessarily choose “Low Rider” by the funk band War. “Gone in 60 Seconds” is definitely one of Nicolas Cage’s more straight-laced action vehicles - no pun intended - but it still does well to get in some classic Cage-y asides in there. One comes as his character Memphis Raines preps his team of thieves before they set out to boost fifty cars in twelve hours. Rather than go for another headbanger of some kind, Memphis opts for the aforementioned classic before heading out. It’s a quirky moment, but one that obviously does the trick as the crew pulls off the heist in time. Well, almost.

#14: Airport Jail

“Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992)

Before Nicolas Cage was winning an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas,” he was having his “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Well, his character Jack was trying to, anyway, before another suitor came in and whisked his potential bride off to Hawaii. Indeed, Jack goes through quite the ordeal in “Honeymoon,” as he desperately tries to book a flight to the Aloha State only to be stymied by an obnoxious man at the counter. The man, played by esteemed character actor Ben Stein, takes a frustratingly long time buying a ticket, to the point that Jack has to cut in. Needless to say, if this movie took place today, Jack would’ve absolutely been taken to airport jail.

#13: Donald’s Pitch

“Adaptation” (2002)

“Adaptation” is definitely a weird… well, adaptation. But one would nowadays expect nothing less from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. In it, Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalized version of Kaufman, who similarly struggles to adapt a book into a movie. However, he also plays Kaufman’s actually fictional twin brother Donald, who, though dim-witted, may just be an even better writer. While Charlie struggles with writer’s block and self-loathing, Donald has a breakthrough, and pitches him a pretty out-there psychological thriller. This scene exemplifies just how good Cage can be with only himself to work off of, playing two distinct sides to the same coin.

#12: Shooting Hit-Girl

“Kick-Ass” (2010)

Out of context, a Nicolas Cage character shooting an eleven-year-old girl at point-blank range may not seem like a scene from a superhero movie, but such is the subversive nature of “Kick-Ass.” Having recruited his daughter to aid him in his masked crusade of revenge, Damon wants to make sure Mindy can take a bullet, so he shoots her. It’s a pretty shocking moment, until it’s revealed Mindy was wearing a bulletproof vest. Still, the mere visual of this plus the unassuming nature of the character make it classic Cage. While he may not be Father of the Year, Big Daddy definitely knows how to instruct a sidekick, even when he’s burning alive. (x-ref)

#11: Dancing Soul

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” (2009)

Whether or not you associate this movie with Harvey Keitel’s “Bad Lieutenant” from 1992, Nicolas Cage undoubtedly makes this one his own. From threatening a pair of elderly women (x-ref) to hallucinating a pair of iguanas, there’s no question that the drug-addled Lieutenant Terence McDonagh is off his rocker, but the best scene comes when he visits gang leader Big Fate. After McDonagh gets thoroughly hopped up, a rival gangster bursts in and attempts to take the score. Unfortunately for him, Big Fate’s hidden gun turns the tables before they eliminate the threat. McDonagh’s not satisfied, however, claiming he can still see the man’s soul. Now that’s what we call a spiritual double tap.

#10: Diaper Robbery

“Raising Arizona” (1987)

This Coen Brothers classic is partially responsible for giving us the Nicolas Cage we know and love today. In it he plays career criminal Herbert I. McDunnough, aka “Hi,” who marries a police officer, played by Holly Hunter. Unable to have kids, the two kidnap and attempt to raise a baby, only to find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Tempted, Hi returns to his thieving ways by holding up a convenience store for register cash and some diapers. Honestly, there’s something about him hightailing it from the cops with a pack of Huggies and pantyhose over his head that’s just so Nicolas Cage.

#9: Scraping at the Door

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” (2011)

Though they may not have been very good, Nicolas Cage went full Cage with his “Ghost Rider” movies. The second one, “Spirit of Vengeance,” is going to be either better or worse depending on your outlook; it’s worse as a comic book movie, but it might be better based on its more pronounced Cage-isms. Take for instance this cutaway in which Johnny Blaze describes what it’s like to pee as the Ghost Rider. (x-ref) But the scene that shows off Cage at his most Cage comes when he interrogates an associate of the villain’s. The way he exemplifies how close he’s coming to going full Rider is maniacally beautiful, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

#8: I Lost My Hand

“Moonstruck” (1987)

Though you wouldn’t think it, Nicolas Cage’s over-the-top acting actually works for this Oscar-winning romcom. He plays Ronny, the main love interest to Cher’s Loretta Castorini, who’s also an avid opera enthusiast. It’s this fanaticism that’s reflected in Cage’s performance, as Ronny is often prone to dramatic displays of emotion. Take for instance this scene, in which Ronny reveals to Loretta that his fiancée broke up with him after he lost his hand in an accident supposedly caused by his brother. At this point in the movie, Ronny’s clearly still heartbroken over the loss of his hand and his love. Even as he and Loretta begin to develop a romance of their own, however, Cage’s ardent performance persists as Ronny remains consistently theatrical.

#7: The Bunny

“Con Air” (1997)

Somehow, in a bombastic movie all about a plane being hijacked by some of the most dangerous criminals in the country, Cage’s character, the convicted Cameron Poe, isn’t over-the-top whatsoever. Well, unless you count that accent. In any case, Poe has to keep his identity as a discharged combat veteran and essential good guy under wraps, but things take a turn when another convict, Bedford, comes across his belongings. Among them is a stuffed bunny rabbit that Poe intends to give to his estranged daughter, which he sternly implores Bedford to put back. The ensuing fight is great and all, but it’s Cage’s delivery that turns this otherwise innocuous line into an iconic one.

#6: Thrashing About

“Deadfall” (1993)

“Deadfall” is probably Nicolas Cage’s worst movie. But in all honesty, he’s really the only interesting thing in it. Indeed, in an otherwise dully serious crime drama, Cage’s performance is way, way, way out there. In “Deadfall,” Michael Biehn stars as con artist Joe who joins up with his Uncle Lou after the death of his father. Joe’s presence in Lou’s life upends that of Lou’s lackey Eddie, played by Nicolas Cage. After Eddie learns that Joe’s taking his place and possibly his lady, he throws quite the tantrum. It’s one of those performances that practically precludes another actor from working off it, but seeing the quality of the rest of the film, it can only be an improvement.

#5: Bathroom Breakdown

“Mandy” (2018)

After something of a career lull in the early- to mid-2010s, the end of the decade saw a returned appreciation for Nicolas Cage’s idiosyncratic brand of acting; a Cagaissance, if you will. That all began with “Mandy,” a cerebral, brutal psychedelic horror flick into which he fits perfectly. After witnessing a cult murder his eponymous girlfriend, Red tends to his wounds in a bathroom. There’s something about a bloody Nicolas Cage drinking a bottle of vodka and screaming in nothing but tube socks, tighty-whities and a tiger shirt that speaks to us. But credit Cage for turning his shrieks into cries, presenting to us the full range of emotions his character’s undergoing.

#4: Pharmacy Scene

“Matchstick Men” (2003)

“Matchstick Men” has what has to be Nicolas Cage’s most underrated performance. Again playing a conman, this time he shows another side of his eccentricities, as his character Roy suffers greatly from various disorders, primarily OCD. Throughout the movie, Roy becomes more and more content with his place in life as he develops a loving relationship with his estranged daughter. However, things unravel quickly when Roy runs out of medication. Bursting into the pharmacy, Roy berates one of the other patrons in line with one of Cage’s craziest lines ever. Though not indicative of the whole movie, things only escalate further when Roy learns that his meds were only ever placebos.

#3: Hallelujah

“Face/Off” (1997)

Castor Troy is easily one of Nicolas Cage’s best characters, even when he’s being played by John Travolta. (x-ref) Before the whole face swapping thing that gives this movie its title, Castor is introduced as one of the most sociopathic criminal masterminds you’ll ever meet. After arming a bomb in a public space, Castor relishes his priest disguise by playing it up in front of a choir. With the choir singing “Hallelujah,” Castor reenters the scene with a head gyration that is… everything. As if that wasn't showboaty enough, Castor approaches a choirgirl and gets more than a little handsy, giving an expression that can only be saying, well… “hallelujah.”

#2: The ABCs of Cage

“Vampire’s Kiss” (1989)

We all know our ABCs, but here’s Nicolas Cage to remind us anyway. While the bulk of this horror comedy details yuppie Peter Loew’s pseudo transition into a vampire, a subplot involves his horrid treatment of his secretary Alva when he tasks her with the impossible task of locating a misplaced file. (x-ref) Through a mix of his nascent vampirism and frustration over Alva’s inability to find the file, Loew becomes more and more unhinged. He even has to vent to his therapist about how easy it should be to alphabetize files. Needless to say, Nicolas Cage gives a lot of gloriously meme-worthy moments in this performance, and his mistreatment of Alva continues even after she’s found the thing.

#1: The Bees

“The Wicker Man” (2006)

There are probably a lot of fans of the original “Wicker Man” who were miffed over the remake. And rightly so. But once you resign yourself to its quality, you might just find that Nicolas Cage has something else entirely to offer in another joyously batty performance. Hell, where else are you gonna see someone in a bear costume punch a lady in the face? (x-ref) Still the bees de résistance comes when his character is captured by the pagan cult (long story). Preparing to sacrifice him, the cult takes to torturing him with bees, and his reaction is wonderfully over-the-top. This sequence only appears in the alternate cut, but thanks to the Internet, Cage’s brilliance will live on in posterity.