Last week I went into a little detail about how Nicolas Cage wasn’t always making the worst movies out right now. At that time, I created a list of what I felt were the five best directors he had worked with, especially during his prime years. I have now decided to create a list of his five best performances in his career. This list is judged strictly on HIS performance. It may not create many surprises, but nonetheless, I feel I should clarify exactly what I am basing this list on.
5. The Family Man Jack Campbell
The overall story of Brett Ratner’s The Family Man, is nothing original by any stretch of the imagination. The story of a man who is magically shown an entirely different life that he could be leading as a way to give him a moral compass. As Jack Campbell, Cage gives a lot of depth and emotion to the character. It’s unfortunate that the movie wasn’t as well received and remembered as it should have been.
4. Moonstruck Ronny Cammareri
My mother is not going to be happy that Moonstruck isn’t number one on this list. That said there is no way I could leave this off the list. The comedic aspect and dramatic aspect that combine in this role are unparalleled until you get to the first role I list. The man who brings Cher’s character, Loretta Castorini out of a comfortable and safe life that the widow has created for herself couldn’t have been done any better than it was done by Cage. I can’t even picture anyone else in this role and, delivering the best scenes of this movie.
3. Raising Arizona H. I. McDonough
Despite having already released the NOW critically acclaimed, Blood Simple, this is the movie that started the Coen brothers on their journey to becoming two of the most respected and sought after filmmakers we know. Raising Arizona was clearly a precursor to what is quite possibly their finest film, The Big Lebowski. Nicolas Cage was wonderfully cast and really stretched out his acting legs and cemented himself in cult status years before we knew it would happen. It would be quite something to see him reunite with the Coens again after all these years. They may be just what he needs to bring him back from exile.
2. Adaptation Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman
This film was pretty much a perfect storm. Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman had made a perfect team three years earlier with Being John Malkovich, and the film community was eager to see them team up again. Taking dual roles as two eccentric twin brothers (who actually exist) Cage couldn’t have been more perfectly chosen to portray them. This lead to his second Oscar nomination and it couldn’t have been more deserving and quite possibly could have given him his second win if not for Adrian Brody’s stunning performance in The Pianist. The film was nominated for four major Oscars and gave the great Chris Cooper his only win… so far.
1. Leaving Las Vegas Ben Sanderson
Cage’s performance of Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter who is let go from his job and is determined to use his severance package to drink himself to death in Las Vegas, is one of my all time favorites. I have an odd sense of attraction to movies and characters that revolve around self destruction, and this movie and performance is as good as it gets and couldn’t be done any better. Cage received his first Academy Award nomination and his first win amidst a tough group of nominees, and it couldn’t have been more deserving.
Matchstick Men Roy Waller
National Treasure Benjamin Franklin Gates
Valley Girl Randy
8MM Tom Welles