With the release of Renfield upon us, it's only fitting to honor the big daddy with the fangs — Mr. Nicolas Cage — and all he's accomplished over his illustrious career. He's a man of vast talents and countless bangers, becoming a legend on the internet. The thing is, Nicolas Cage is more than YouTube compilations of his zaniest performances or only worthwhile in B-Movies. Newer generations might not even know he's an Oscar-winning actor who's worked with the best of the best and continues to redefine his legacy as recently as 2021's Pig.
Today we commemorate a mythical entertainer, a powerhouse presence, and a one-of-a-kind talent with the 10 best Nicolas Cage movie moments, ranked.
10. Zandalee - Paint It Black
Chances are you’ve seen the “Black it out!” clip from Zandalee online before without knowing the title “Zandalee.” It’s a straight-to-video erotic thriller starring Cage as a cocaine mule slash artist who, in the painter’s freakout scene, is reacting to the death of his friend Thierry (Judge Reinhold) — because he’d been sleeping with his wife. It’s Cage doing what he does best, raising his voice and throwing himself into a scene like the Tasmanian Devil. Why does he tell a chair “F*ck you!” before hurling it across the room? We don’t question Cage’s methods, we just appreciate them.
9. Mom & Dad - Hokey Pokey
Nicolas Cage as a father who’s — for reasons unknown — hellbent on killing his children. Quintessential Cage, right? As Papa Cage takes a sledgehammer to his pool table while sing-shouting the “Hokey Pokey,” our smile beams wider by the second. It’s the kind of role Cage elevates as his presence slowly becomes more feral and agitated because Cage is always in control. That’s the secret. Cage lights a fuse and lets it burn slowly before the explosion hits full force. Cage leans into the buildup that is his frustration over parenthood grumbles, which only makes his children’s song finale all the more impactful.
8. Bad Lieutenant — Disrespect Your Elders
Who better to play a gambling-addicted, drug-munching “bad lieutenant” than Nicolas Cage? Scene after scene allows Cage to channel an inner monster that is so compelling despite his atrocious behavior. This specific altercation begins with Cage’s Terence McDonagh hiding behind an opened door, shaving his skin with an electric razor for effect. Performative anarchy transpires as Cage goes above and beyond when selling McDonagh’s crude interrogation of an elderly woman and her caretaker. Cage waving guns and cussing out sweet senior citizens brings McDonagh to a vicious low, spiraling into a madness as only Cage can deliver.
7. Pig - The Restaurant
The dominance of “Crazy Cage” memes and clips online might make people forget that Nicolas Cage’s range is more than a punchline. Chef Robin Feld is one of Cage’s most dominant performances in recent memory, as a reclusive cook looking for his missing truffle swine. Feld’s monologue to his once employee — now proudly serving pretentious high-dining dishes at his fancy restaurant — shows what Cage can do without yelling, wild gestures, or eccentrics. Cage cuts through a man’s soul and sips some wine, succinctly tearing down the blasphemy of creating whatever to please others, not ourselves, the creators.
6. Vampire’s Kiss - Alphabetical Order
“I NEVER MISFILED ANYTHING!” Ah, the arrogance of a literary editor who knows their alphabet and thinks they might be a vampire. We all know the alphabet — yet I’d listen to Cage scream his A, B, Cs for hours with his flailing arms like a wavy balloon man outside some used car dealership. It’s the essence of Cage. Take something normal and blow it to ridiculous proportions. Bless Vampire’s Kiss and all its Cageisms, from this impromptu educational lesson to Cage running down a sidewalk yelling “I’m a vampire!” as pedestrians cock their heads.
5. Mandy - The Bathroom
Mandy is one of the Cagiest movies that ever Caged, best represented by Red Miller’s bathroom breakdown. He’s filled with rage and agony, aimlessly swaying around in his tighty whities, devoid of answers. Every swig of alcohol, his guttural screams, the desperate sobs — he’s transforming into a beast before our eyes. Tears are interrupted by seething anger, then back to depression, then back to a predator’s scowl. Cage cycles through emotions like a Rolodex and stares into the camera, ready to leap from your screen, a berserker about to go nuclear as so divinely conveyed by a Cage who feels everything everywhere all at once.
4. The Wicker Man - Not The Bees
Did you know that the most memorable and quotable moment in all of The Wicker Man didn’t make the original cut? It wasn’t until the unrated version that audiences were gifted policeman Edward Malus’ torment, including a bee basket mask. Cage only has poorly pixelated insects to fear but projects immense fear as the animated bees cover his face like a beard. The way that Cage narrates what’s happening — “THEY’RE IN MY EYES” — makes his dialogue so sharable. No actor goes above and beyond like Cage as he digs miles deep to ensure Malus reflects every sting of displeasure surging through the investigator's swollen body.
3. Face/Off - I’d Like to Take His Face Off
"No more drugs for that man." Face/Off is a bizarre ‘90s masterpiece that lets two character actors rib one another's personas amidst gunfire. Cage (of course) steals the show, especially when explaining his plan to take "his face … off." It's not just about how Cage prolongs the delivery, but tugs on noses and flaunts wispy hand motions like he's some out-of-mind wizard. The quickdraw into a bathroom mirror is just the cherry on top as Cage steals another scene with his patented brand of larger-than-life acting prowess.
2. Con Air - Put The Bunny Back In The Box
Cameron Poe is an icon of ‘90s action cinema, as a father and husband who thwarts a prison transport escape to see his family again. Cage plays the former U.S. Ranger sporting immaculate Fabio hair with dedication, especially toward his daughter Casey. “Put the bunny back in the box” shouldn’t land with such intimidation, yet it’s one of the most cold-blooded line deliveries in the entire film. Cage’s face. The enunciation. The way each word strikes before any punches are even thrown. We all know the line, we all quote the line, and we’ll all continue doing so because Cage’s most famous works never go out of style.
1. Bringing out the Dead - Cocktail Hour
Cocktail hour in an ambulance ends as you’d presume for two New Your City medics on the night shift. Martin Scorsese’s examination of a burned-out ambulance paramedic presents one of Cage’s best roles as delusions haunt a man who looks paler than his ghosts. This scene sees Cage at his wit’s end, demanding alcohol at six in the morning while speeding through Manhattan. A first responder slurps gin before another call because he can’t stomach the next injured victim. Cage finds the loneliest portrayal of a broken man yet still brings his trademark energy, cackling loudly as he hoists himself from the overturned ambulance.