Nicolas Cage is a tremendous actor who was almost destined to be a Hollywood star. He was born in Long Beach, California to the famous Coppola family. His uncle is director Frances Ford Coppola, but Cage changed his name when he got into the movie business because he didn’t want the Coppola surname to precede him. Once Cage changed his name, he had a string of movie hits in the ’80s and ’90s that made him a household name.
Cage has appeared in over 100 movies, dating back to the early ’80s when he was a young, eager teenager trying to break through. He’s admittedly done movies just for the paycheck, as he fell into debt in the 2000s and had to work to get back on track financially. Still, Cage’s early work shines through and audiences around the world look forward to seeing his movies. These films got Nicolas Cage to where he is today and have become classics in many people’s eyes.
10 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a classic coming-of-age comedy that came out in 1982. It follows several teenagers as they navigate high school and try to figure out what they want to do once school is over. The movie is widely known for the character Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a stoner who likes to surf and goof off during history class.
In the movie, Nicolas Cage plays a friend of Brad’s (Judge Reinhold), and the two work together at a fast-food restaurant called All-American Burger. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of Cage’s earliest film credits – only he wasn’t credited with his stage name. He’s credited as Nicolas Coppola as the movie was made before he took on the Cage surname.
9 Raising Arizona
In Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage stars as H.I. “Hi” McDunnough, a convict who meets an attractive police offer named Edwina, or “Ed”, (Holly Hunter) during his arrest. Later, when Hi and Ed get together, they discover they are unable to have children, so they decided to steal one. The movie is directed by the Coen brothers and follows their exciting crime caper style.
Raising Arizona was one of the first movies that showed Nic Cage was capable of playing a lead role in a big Hollywood movie. The film was a critical and commercial success, raking in over $29 million at the box office on a modest $5.5 million budget. It’s also often cited as one of the best Coen brothers films.
Moonstruck is regarded as the movie that brought Nicolas Cage into the mainstream. Directed by Norman Jewison, the movie follows Cher as Linda Castorini, a superstitious widow in New York who believes her first husband died because they didn’t follow tradition. When Linda’s boyfriend proposes, she is hesitant and her true feelings come to light. Instead, she falls for her fiancé’s younger brother Ronny (Cage) and the two end up together in the end.
Moonstruck was a smash hit, earning six Academy Award nominations. Cher won the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Linda. It’s an original and funny movie that changed Cage’s career path forever. After that, he had a strong run of memorable ’90s movies in many different genres.
7 Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas is probably Nicolas Cage’s best movie. It’s based on the 1990 novel of the same name by John O’Brien. In the movie, Cage plays Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic who moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death after he loses his job and family in Los Angeles. Ben soon meets a prostitute named Sera (Elizabeth Shue) and the two end up talking instead of having sex. Sera accepts Ben for who he is and is by his side when he inevitably dies.
With a limited budget, Leaving Las Vegas didn’t have money to shut down the Vegas strip, so it was filmed during real-life scenes. Director Mike Figgis encouraged the actors to do first-hand research for their roles. Figgis also says Cage didn’t get paid for his role in the movie, even though it was one of the movies that made him very famous.
6 The Rock
When you think of classic ’90s action movies, The Rock immediately comes to mind. Directed by action aficionado Michael Bay, the film is about a group of ex-military mercenaries who take control of Alcatraz Island. The rebels take guests hostage and demand $100 million that they will distribute to military families whose loved ones died in covert missions. It’s up to FBI agent Stanley Godspeed (Cage) and a team of other FBI specialists to rescue the hostages.
The Rock is a fantastic action movie with a stellar cast that includes Ed Harris, Sean Connery, and John C. McGinley, among others. The movie crushed it at the box office, raking in $355 million on a $75 million budget. Cage was already a household name when the film was released in 1996, but The Rock cemented his legacy as a bona fide action star.
5 Con Air
With the success of The Rock, it seemed impossible for Nicolas Cage to make another memorable action movie. Then, in 1997, he starred in Con Air. Cage plays Cameron Poe, a parolee who is on a flight to freedom to meet his wife and daughter. On the way, the plane is hijacked by a group of prisoners trying to escape. Led by criminal mastermind Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom, the cons try to evade capture and make a break for a different country.
Con Air helped to make Nic Cage a star by giving him a likable character that the audience can’t help but root for. Poe is an ex-army man and with family values and an undying love for his daughter that makes you want to cry. With a great storyline, excellent acting, and explosive action sequences, it’s not surprising that Con Air is one of the greatest prison escape movies in history.
Face/Off is a John Woo action movie with an interesting premise. It’s a science fiction film about an FBI agent named Sean Archer (Cage) who gets an experimental face transplant done to go undercover. He takes on the persona of psychopath Castor Troy (John Travolta) to get information on the location of a bomb from Troy’s brother.
Despite its far-fetched and somewhat silly premise, Face/Off was yet another huge hit for Cage. The film made $245 million in theaters and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing. Cage was at the height of his stardom in the late ’90s, and Face/Off is one of his most memorable movies.
3 Snake Eyes
In 1998, Nicolas Cage decide to roll the dice with Snake Eyes. Cage stars as Detective Ric Santoro, an Atlantic City PD officer who checks out a late-night boxing match. After one of the competitors is supposedly knocked out, gunfire rings out in the arena, alerting Detective Santoro that something is off. He discovers the fight is rigged and works to find out who’s at the head of the scheme.
Snake Eyes is one of Brian De Palma’s best movies. It’s full of the Nicolas Cage quirks and idioms that many fans know today. The movie debuted at no. 2 at the box office when it was released, and it went on to become a cult classic.
2 Gone in 60 Seconds
In 2000, Nicolas Cageput the pedal to the metal in Gone in 60 Seconds. Cage plays Memphis Raines, a reformed car thief who is sucked back into the lifestyle when his little brother Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) needs help. In order to spare Kip’s life, Raines and his shady friends must steal 50 cars within 72 hours. One car eludes Memphis, though. It’s a 1967 Ford Shelby GT 500 that he’s never been able to successfully steal.
As its name implies, Gone is 60 Seconds is an awesome car chase movie. It pushed Cage’s trajectory into the new millennium and introduced him to a new audience that didn’t grow up with his popular ’80s and ’90s films. It was also one of the movies that broke out Angelina Jolie, who plays Memphis’ old flame Sara in the film.
1 National Treasure
For Nic Cage fans, National Treasure is an absolute gem. It’s an action-adventure movie with Cage in the role of Benjamin Franklin Gates, a treasure hunter who everyone thinks is crazy for believing an old family legend. With the help of his love interest Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and trusty sidekick Riley (Justin Bartha), Gates follows a series of leads until he determines that he must steal the Declaration of Independence before it falls into the wrong hands.
If this all sounds silly, it’s because it is. National Treasure isn’t known for its deep plot of smart dialogue but for its tense action sequences and sense of humor. The movie rolls with ridiculous punches and rewards the viewer with a fun movie that can’t help but make you smile.
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