The Craziest Nicolas Cage Performances Ranked

Nicolas Cage is an actor unlike any other, and we have the performances listed here to prove it.

Best Nicolas Cage Performances in Face/Off, Moonstruck and Vampire's Kiss
Photo: Paramount Pictures / MGM / 20th Century Studios

Say what you will about Nicolas Cage’s films, but you can never accuse the man of phoning it in. Over the course of his 40+ year career, Cage has starred in Oscar-nominated prestige flicks, direct-to-video schlock, crowd pleasing blockbusters, introspective indies, and everything in between. Throughout it all, he’s remained dedicated to his craft, making interesting choices that may seem absurd to some but are always informed by his deep knowledge of cinema history.

In a Reddit AMA, Cage said, “I think many of the choices I’ve made have been inspired by film stars from the silent era, as well as cultural expression of performance like Kabuki and some of the Golden Age actors like [James] Cagney, so I don’t know how to say I’ve done something new because those elements are always on my mind.”

What you may call a “crazy Cage performance” is just an expressionist interpretation inspired equally by Kabuki theater and Douglas Fairbanks, okay? Still, we love when Cage goes big, pushing his unique energy as far as it can go to deliver something that feels wholly original yet authentic. Below are our favorite crazy Cage performances, but don’t tell him we called them that.

Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck

10. Moonstruck

This off-beat romance film features a knockout performance from Cher, but Nic Cage steals the show as eccentric weirdo Ronny Cammareri, a baker with a love of opera. If you could boil Cage’s career down into one scene, it would be Ronny explaining the loss of his hand and his fiancé to Cher’s Loretta. It is simultaneously a hilariously histrionic rant, and also a heartbreaking display of vulnerability. It’s the lightening that Nic Cage can provide captured in one beautifully poignant scene. 

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Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona

9. Raising Arizona

As H.I. McDunnough in the Coen Brothers’ whacky baby caper, Raising Arizona, Nic Cage delivered one of the most tender performances of his career while also hamming it up like a real-life Looney Tunes cartoon. In case that wasn’t clear, Cage’s character sports a Looney Tunes tattoo on his bicep.

Cage’s cartoonish antics fit like a glove within the heightened reality of the movie, and his affable presence makes you root for a character who has stolen a baby, something that should be unforgivable. Just like a lot of Cage’s acting choices, it seems like it shouldn’t work, but somehow, it just does. 

Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

8. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

This is Den of Geek, so of course we must talk about Cage’s turn as Johnny Blaze, aka the Ghost Rider. While neither of the two Ghost Rider films are that great, we have to admit that we love how much Cage turned up his inherent flair for dramatics in the film’s cheaper, but far more interesting sequel.

Cage is going for broke and is perhaps more intimidating as his normal self than he is when he’s his flaming skull alter-ego. Watch Cage twitch and convulse as he tries to keep the spirit of vengeance from feeding on bad men. We’re scraping at Cage’s door for more

Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass

7. Kick-Ass

Another comic book film featuring Cage, Kick-Ass expertly utilizes the actor as Big Daddy, a loving, dotting father who also trains his young daughter to be ruthless killing machine. Cage is so funny here, using a sweet, sing-songy voice to coax his daughter into perfect headshots and evasive maneuvers. And that’s before he starts modeling his vocal performance on Adam West every time he puts on Big Daddy’s menacing mask.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention (spoiler alert) his totally gripping death scene where he puts his vocal talents on display and truly makes you believe that he’s been lit on fire. We can hear those screams in our head right now, clear as day.

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Nicolas Cage in Mandy

6. Mandy

A modern day and winning vehicle for manic Cage, Mandy is a gnarly little psychedelic revenge flick that finds the actor going medieval on some acid casualty cultists that killed his girlfriend. Fueled by cocaine, LSD, and burning white-hatred, Cage plays the film like a man who’s escaped hell just to drag his enemies back down with him. Between his volcanic eruptions of rage, there’s a heartbroken, soulful side to Cage’s performance as well. The man has layers, but here, many of them can be called “feral.”

Nicolas Cage in Color Out of Space; RLJE Films

5. Color Out of Space 

Director Richard Stanley’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation finds a family battling against a terrifying extraterrestrial organism that infects their minds and bodies. In this truly trippy, dread-inducing freak out of a film, Cage plays family patriarch Nathan Gardner, whose best intentions to save his family battle against the madness brought on by “the Color.” Cage spends the third act fluctuating between rage-driven monster and family protector in this horror gem that rises to match Cage’s WTF majesty.

Nicolas Cage in Adaptation

4. Adaptation

Some like their Cage feral and explosive, but I prefer my Nic Cage neurotic and anxiety ridden. Playing real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Cage offers a masterclass in sweaty, worry-driven neuroses in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. To make things even better, Cage also plays Charlie’s fictional, dim-witted, happy-go-lucky brother Donald as well, and watching Charlie react to Donald’s casual perusal of screenwriting is comedic gold. Adaptation is a meta-masterpiece that continually subverts expectations and Cage has rarely been better.

Nicolas Cage in Wild at Heart

3. Wild at Heart

Donning a snakeskin leather jacket that’s as suited for power metal as it is to Elvis ballads, Nic Cage’s Sailor Ripley from David Lynch’s wickedly fun Wild at Heart is one of the most iconic characters of Cage’s career. An unapologetic romantic, Ripley is the sensitive bad boy who seems like he’d write flowery poetry to his lover in the blood of his enemies. Cage plays Ripley like a modern day James Dean, steely but sensitive, and it’s hoot to watch him thrash around or sincerely belt out “Love Me Tender” without a shred of irony. Weirdo melodramas are simply better with Cage.

Nicolas Cage in Face/Off

2. Face/Off

Here is the gonzo action masterpiece of the ‘90s. So ridiculous and camp that it can’t help but be beloved, John Woo’s Face/Off may be the moment that wider audiences started to notice there’s just something a bit different about Cage. The actor spends most of the film portraying good guy agent Sean Archer pretending to be homicidal sociopath Castor Troy—using Troy’s face!—but Cage is the most fun in the film’s opening moments, portraying the real Castor Troy, chewing up scenery like a teething Rottweiler.

Honestly, put Cage dressed as priest, groping himself to “Hallelujah” in the Smithsonian. It’s a shame that we don’t see more of Cage as Troy, but the man also does an incredibly solid Travolta impression.

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Nicolas Caged in Vampire's Kiss

1. Vampire’s Kiss

This mostly forgotten 1989 film about a bad boy literary agent who believes he’s been turned into vampire has roared back to life in the YouTube era, as film fans giddily shared scene after scene of Cage’s most unhinged acting to date. From donning fake vampire teeth to eating a (real) cockroach, to running through the streets of New York screaming “I’m a Vampire,” Cage fully commits to the role and takes an expressionistic approach to portraying a man’s descent into madness. It’s campy and unintentionally funny, sure, but it’s also weirdly magnetic. There’s truly nothing like it.