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The Top 10: What are the Legitimate Best Nicolas Cage Performances?

So we asked What are the Legitimate Best Nicolas Cage Performances? And many of you voted, picking up to 10. We were kind of going for less of the crazy and more of the serious, bona fide acting. That said, even when Nic Cage is at his best, the madness in his eyes is not too far away more often than not. The votes were tallied, and her is a quick run-down of the top 10:

10. Mandy

Amidst a run of pretty much nonsense, yet indulging, films from Cage, he delivers a strong performance in this year’s Mandy. He is given free reign, as per usual no doubt, but exercises his acting muscles through helpless grief and torrid revenge. And even then, Cage manages to keep some of his cool.

9. Matchstick Men

In Ridley Scott’s sinfully near-forgotten Matchstick Men, there are inspiring performances from not just Cage, but Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman. Cage is a conman with a difference – suffering from tourette’s as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Without going heavy-handed, not diminishing the ailments, Cage delivers a composed character piece.

8. Bringing Out the Dead

In similar fashion, another great director, in one of his less talked about flicks, brings the best out of Nicolas Cage. Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead portrays a diminishing paramedic, seemingly stuck in the cycle of the graveyard shift. Cage’s Frank Pierce is losing his mind, seeing ghosts, and the whole ordeal is reeking havoc on his mental fatigue.

7. Wild at Heart

The wicked adventures of Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) in one of David Lynch’s finest, is a road movie with more bite and bark than most. Trying most unsuccessfully to not embroil himself in a world of violence, the bad-tempered Sailor spends his time out of jail giving Lula the adventure of a lifetime. One of my personal favorites of both Lynch and Cage, the actor is on fire in every scene in this movie, completely immersing himself in the dark and weird realm of the director.

6. The Rock

Flexing his thriller acting muscles alongside the likes of Ed Harris and Sean Connery do nothing to dent the credibility of Nicolas Cage here. Speaking of muscles, the role of the FBI weapons specialist Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, was earmarked for Arnold Schwarzenegger until he turned it down. The Rock has served Cage well, still of the most popular movies associated with the actor.

5. Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn’s comic book adaptation, Kick-Ass, brought a fresh, shattering take on the hero genre. With breakthrough Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass, and little Chloë Grace Moretz as eleven-year-old Hit-Girl, Cage shows up as the girl’s father, Big Daddy. Under the costumes though, they are Mindy and Damon Macready, a daughter-father team bouncing back from a tragic loss. Cage sinks his teeth into the super-hero character, but is ultimately touching in his gritty, ruthless portrayal of a protective father.

4. Face/Off

Not many filmmakers could entertain, let alone produce, such a premise in where two opposing men involve themselves in a literal face-swapping exercise. John Woo was a great choice. And in the casting of the FBI Agent Sean Archer and nutty criminal Castor Troy, they hit the nail on the head. Cage is let off the reigns as the sociopath, and then gets to don his best John Travolta impersonation. All with the best possible entertainment in mind, to be taken with a pinch of salt.

3. Leaving Las Vegas

Ben Sanderson (Cage) flees to Las Vegas to pretty much drink himself to an early grave, as his life seemingly crumbled around him. As the failed movie screenwriter fighting alcoholism, when all seems lost, Cage delivers perhaps his darkest turn, plucking at the heart-strings with a true sense of realism and tragic inevitability. Leaving Las Vegas presented a shift in pace for Cage, and the Academy voted in their droves, honoring him with the Best Actor Oscar.

2. Raising Arizona

A touch of genius in its conception and execution for the recently arrived Coen brothers, Raising Arizona brings together a crook and a cop with fine results. Cage is recognizably manic, but haphazardly vulnerable too, as thief Herbert I. “Hi” McDunnough. Bringing all manner of unexpected strife associated with swiping a baby, both Cage and Holly Hunter exude a flourish of madcap energy throughout.

1. Adaptation

Playing twins envisaged on the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Nicolas Cage packs on a few pounds and some fuzzy hair, earning another Oscar nod in the process. As both Charlie and Donald, Cage is truly brilliant, delivering the sharp lines of the marvelous script so naturally funny and melancholic. But also portraying two men clearly brothers, while inhabiting rather differing personalities, crossing a depressing, self-loather, with a much more positive, pest of a brother.


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