There’s no other actor like Nicolas Cage. For nearly four decades, he’s been a singular screen presence in his offbeat, distinctive performances. Here are 10 of the best Cage movies, from hits to hidden gems, to stream right now.
Update, 1/9/23: We’ve reviewed our guide and cleaned up broken links so you can watch the best of Nic Cage’s filmography uninterrupted.
Cult filmmaker Richard Stanley adapts H.P. Lovecraft’s classic short story of psychedelic horror, and Cage fits right in. He plays the patriarch of a family that encounters a mysterious meteorite on their rural property. The alien artifact infects the members of the family, causing strange behavior and hallucinations, and giving Cage and the rest of the actors the chance to cut loose. Stanley combines trippy imagery with the genuine terror of a family falling apart and turning on each other. The movie uses Cage’s signature freakouts in service of fully freaking the audience out.
There are a lot of ridiculous Cage movies, but few are as entertainingly ridiculous as this revenge story about a man who literally escapes from hell. That’s Cage’s John Milton, who steals a gun from the devil and a vintage car from a waitress’ dirtbag fiancé. John and waitress Piper (Amber Heard) hit the road to take out the man who killed John’s daughter, while pursued by an agent from hell known as the Accountant (William Fichtner). It’s an entertainingly excessive combination of car chases and supernatural horror, with Cage gleefully leading the way.
The height of Cage’s action-movie career is this gloriously absurd crime thriller from Hong Kong action legend John Woo. Cage stars as criminal mastermind Castor Troy, who’s being pursued by FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta). Thanks to a nonsensical experimental procedure, the two are able to switch faces, giving Cage and Travolta the chance to play each other’s characters. The actors fully embrace the ridiculousness of the story and their characters’ shifting identities, and Woo delivers stylized action that matches the delightfully over-the-top performances.
Cage gives a more grounded, gritty performance in this drama from director David Gordon Green. Cage plays the title character, an ex-con working a tree-clearing crew who befriends a troubled teen played by Tye Sheridan. Joe is protective of the kid, who’s dealing with an abusive alcoholic father at home. Trying to do the right thing, Joe gets himself further into trouble, and Cage plays him as a haunted but ultimately good-hearted man who just wants to feel useful. It’s an underappreciated performance in an underappreciated movie.
Joe is streaming on Hulu ($7.99+ per month after a 30-day free trial) and for free with ads on Freevee, Pluto TV, and Tubi, and is available for digital purchase ($5.99+) and rental ($3.99) at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other digital outlets.
Sci-fi auteur Andrew Niccol takes on more present-day subject matter with this cynical dark comedy starring Cage as an illegal arms dealer. It’s a stylized take on a familiar underworld rise-and-fall story, held together by Cage’s world-weary narration as the main character. The movie covers a period of decades as Cage’s Yuri becomes more and more powerful, dealing with competitors, law enforcement, and a complicated personal life. Niccol delivers sharp social commentary alongside a complicated character study.
Lord of War is streaming on HBO Max ($9.99+ per month).
A rare comedic movie from director Ridley Scott, Matchstick Men is a lively, underrated con-artist story with satisfying plot twists. Cage and Sam Rockwell play a pair of grifters whose lives and criminal operations are thrown into chaos after the arrival of the long-lost daughter of Cage’s character. Roy (Cage) bonds with the teenage Angela (Alison Lohman), teaching her the tricks of the trade and emerging from his state of anxiety and emotional paralysis as he discovers fatherhood. Cage brings sensitivity and humor to the role, and he has appealing chemistry with the alternately snarky and sweet Lohman.
Cher won an Oscar for her performance as widowed Italian-American accountant Loretta Castorini, whose life is upended when she falls in love at first sight with her fiancé’s brother. Cage’s eccentric, passionate performance as Ronny, the moody, one-handed baker who falls equally hard for Loretta, matches Cher’s energy perfectly. They make for an unlikely but somehow perfect duo, an off-kilter pairing in this off-kilter movie that’s sweet, funny, romantic, and completely weird. It’s a crazy meditation on the craziness of love, and Cage embodies that fully.
Moonstruck is streaming on Showtime ($10.99 per month after a seven-day free trial).
For many, this acclaimed 2021 release is the movie that served as a reminder of Cage’s genuine acting skills. He’s mostly subdued and contemplative as a retired superstar chef who now lives an ascetic life in a cabin in the woods outside Portland, Oregon. Cage’s Rob Feld spends his time harvesting truffles with the help of his trusty pig, but when that pig is kidnapped, he reluctantly returns to the world he left behind, to seek vengeance. Writer-director Michael Sarnoski turns that somewhat absurd concept into a quiet, powerful meditation on loss and the things that truly matter in life.
There are several Cage movies set in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas, including the Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas and the hit comedy Honeymoon in Vegas, but this heist thriller is the stealth MVP of that group. Cage and Elijah Wood make for a surprisingly effective team as a pair of corrupt cops who take the residents of an apartment hostage so they can drill through the floor to a drug dealer’s safe below. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, and filmmakers Alex and Ben Brewer build tension and danger within a single confined setting for nearly the entire movie.
The Trust is streaming on Showtime ($10.99 per month after a seven-day free trial).
Cage tones down his energy for this darkly funny, melancholy film about a depressed TV weather personality. Director Gore Verbinski, better known for flashy blockbusters like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, brings his flair for striking visuals to this small-scale story about a self-sabotaging guy who feels inadequate no matter how outwardly successful he becomes. Cage delivers sardonic narration as his character trudges through life, always in the shadow of someone more respected or likable than he is. He puts a wry spin on the script’s pessimistic observations about life.
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