Surprise! Nic Cage Likes Weird Nic Cage Movies

Literally just say ‘Con Air’

Published March 13, 2024

Why are we obsessed with Nicolas Cage?

Maybe it’s his meme-ability, wacky facial expressions, or his approach to “acting” that swings from manic to lackadaisical. Maybe it’s sheer nostalgia, as he’s done so much work since first gracing the screen in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Whatever the case, Cage has such je ne sais quoi appeal that when Stephen Colbert recently asked Cage to name his own top five Nicolas Cage movies, we sat up and paid attention.

Not surprisingly, the doggedly harebrained actor made some odd choices.

Pig (2021)

Here, Cage plays introverted truffle hunter Rob Feld, content to live his days in the Oregon wilderness with his lucrative porcine companion–that is, until the spore-sniffing swine is kidnapped, and Rob must return to his past life in Portland to find him. The film grossed under $4 million worldwide, but it did garner a “must-see” Metacritic score of 82, so Cage wasn’t the only one who liked it. In fact, it ranks in Metacritic’s top 5 Cage list, beaten out only by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Adaptation, Moonstruck, and the next entry on the list…

Mandy (2018)

Premiering at Sundance, Mandy is a phantasmagoric blood-filled horror film in which the Cage character seeks to avenge his girlfriend’s murder at the hands of a cult leader. Its Rotten Tomatoes score (91) is even more effusive than Metacritic (83), with the New Republic saying, “It’s bloody, it’s nasty, and it burns,” which apparently is good! Despite all that, though, it grossed just $1.6 million worldwide. 

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Cage clearly loved this 1999 film–or at least the experience of working with Martin Scorsese–but moviegoers were more meh: It grossed $17 million against a $55 million budget, and IMDb users rate it just 6.8/10 (it’s low for Scorsese, ok?). The movie follows 56 hours in the life of Cage’s paramedic character, culminating in a “spiritual collapse.” He didn’t star alone, with Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, and Ving Rhames joining in, but all the star power in the world couldn’t have saved this piece the New Yorker called “exhausting.”

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) 

Maverick director Werner Herzog could have been a great match for Cage, who plays a rogue detective playing fast and loose with the law in NOLA, and indeed, Slate said, “It exists at the permeable border between high drama and low comedy.” Sounds very on-brand for both of them! But the Bad Lieutenant sequel was a straight-up stinker at the box office—it made back just 42 percent of its $25 million budget–despite a respectable Metascore of 69. 

Joe (2013)

An independent Southern Gothic crime drama by David Gordon Green–who later made the (checks notes) third version of Halloween IIJoe is about an ex-con/lumber crew boss (Cage, of course) who faces trouble when he takes steps to protect a boy from his abusive father. Both critics and viewers liked it okay, at least those few who saw it: The film Metascore of 74 and 7.2 from users, but made just $2.4 million worldwide. 

So, how weird were they?

As you can see, Cage picked five movies with a combined worldwide box office of about $33 million. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad, but, you know, an audience of millions can’t be wrong. And sure enough, in an IMDb poll of nearly 7,000 respondents, the top 5 picks were:

  1. Adaptation (2002)
  2. Face/Off (1997)
  3. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
  4. Raising Arizona (1987)
  5. National Treasure (1984)

Those make way more sense, right? Among the 34 movies that got votes in the poll, all of Cage’s picks came in at #21 or lower. Now, it’s not all bad: When Colbert said his favorite is Face/Off, Cage said “I like Face/Off a lot; I love Face/Off.” 

But then in his next breath he added, “I could have mentioned Vampire’s Kiss.”