The Top Ten films of birthday boy Nicolas Cage

Quirky actor turns 50 this week. A look back at his best work. Photo: Wikipedia

WASHINGTON, January 4, 2014 – Hollywood News Flash: Nicolas Cage celebrates his 50th birthday on Tuesday, January 7. It’s currently fashionable in at least some critical circles to disparage Cage for making his recent propensity to choose less than ideal scripts. But such naysayers neglect to remember this talented American actor’s best work. 

The versatile Cage, in fact, is best known for his wide range of roles in notable films such as “National Treasure,” “Face/Off,” and “Leaving Las Vegas,” the latter of which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. 

Cage was previously married to actress Patricia Arquette and Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie. He is also nephew of legendary director Francis Coppola. This week, the List of Ten takes a look at his top films. 

10. City of Angels (1998) - This picturesque fantasy about supernatural romance, is derived from the German film “Wings of Desire,” whose story line is transposed from Berlin to Los Angeles. Cage plays an angel-in-waiting, moved by the sorrow of Meg Ryan, a surgeon whose loses a patient. He and his heavenly hosts are garbed in long coats and gather on the beach at sunset. It is a brooding and thoughtful film. 

9. World Trade Center (2006) - This surprisingly good docudrama, directed by Oliver Stone, won rave reviews. Cage and Michael Peña play Port Authority cops who are among the last people rescued from the smoldering debris at Ground Zero. 

8. Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) - In this witty and charming nuptial chase film, Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker play private detective Jack Singer and schoolteacher Betsy Nolan, who take a marriage trip to Las Vegas. Their marriage plans are sabotaged by a notorious gambler, Tommy Korman, played to the hilt by James Caan who finds Parker to be an irresistible double for his late wife. Caan lures Cage into a high-stakes poker game and inevitable complications ensue. Film locations range from New York City to Las Vegas to Hawaii. 

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7. Moonstruck (1987) - Cage stars as a sweet, doe-eyed opera lover in this old-fashioned romance that stars Cher in perhaps her best film performance. In this poignant, feel-good flick, Cher is married to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). But after he flies off to visit his sick mother in Sicily, she falls for Johnny’s estranged younger brother, Ronny, earnestly played by Cage. 

6. It Could Happen To You (1994) - In this delightful romantic comedy directed by Andrew Bergman, New York cop Nicolas Cage splits his winning lottery ticket with waitress Bridget Fonda, much to his wife Rosie Perez’s chagrin. Cage portrays the patient, passive spouse in a classic ethnic and temperamental mismatch with his Puerto Rican wife. 

5. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) - You may find yourself tumbling into a state of profound depression as you watch Cage drain his umpteenth glass of alcohol in this fatalistic down-and-out odyssey, but his acting skills here are amazing to behold. Cage plays a disgraced, terminally alcoholic screenwriter named Ben, who has already lost his family to drink as well as being fired from a lucrative job before the movie even begins. 

After scrounging enough money to finance his reduced personal needs, Ben abandons his Los Angeles stomping grounds and spends the last sad weeks of his ruined life in Vegas, drinking himself to death. This is a great film. But you likely won’t be able to bear watching it twice. 

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4. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) - Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner), who is newly separated from her TV pitchman husband (Nicholas Cage), is reluctant to attend her 25-year high school reunion in this bittersweet time-travel romance directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 

The pair of actors apparently didn’t get on very well while making this film. In her 2008 book, Turner claimed that Cage was busted twice for DUI and once for stealing a dog. Cage responded by stating, “The reason why you’ve never seen a mugshot of me is because it does not exist.” He went on to win a libel suit against Turner in a London court. 

3. Face/Off (1997) - In this suspense thriller directed by John Woo, John Travolta’s FBI agent Sean Archer is so determined to foil villain Castor Troy, played by Cage, that he acquires a facsimile of Troy’s appearance via plastic surgery when going undercover in a federal prison. While complex, the film is a real nail-biter. 

2. Raising Arizona (1987) - Cage and Holly Hunter portray an odd, hillbilly couple longing to be parents in this cult-famous and quirky film directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. Cage’s deadpan narration warms you to his character. He plays a convenience store robber named “Hi,” who’s married to prison warder Hunter (“Ed”). When the couple discover they are unable to have children, they set out to kidnap a baby from the richest man in town whose wife has given birth to quintuplets. It’s a classic chase film involving a pair of escaped idiot convicts (John Goodman and William Forstythe) and a motor-bike riding bounty hunter from hell. 

1. Red Rock West (1993) - This suspense thriller starring Cage, Dennis Hopper and Sherilyn Fenn, turned out to be one of the best noir films to come along in quite a while. In the nondescript ranching town of Red Rock, Wyoming, Cage is mistaken for a hit man arriving a week late for his assignment, and finds it tempting to take the money and run. But surprising romantic complications cause the plot to thicken. 

This excellent film defied conventional marketing wisdom by enjoying theatrical success after having been shown on cable TV and released in stores as a rental. Directed by John Dahl, the film is exceptionally clever and witty. The audience identifies with Cage who portrays a well-meaning, resilient out-of-towner who finds himself stuck in a bleak, dead-end town surrounded by an unexpected nest of vipers. 

     − Compiled by John Haydon

 Sources: Associated Press, The Washington Times movie reviews, The Evening Standard (London)


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John Haydon

John Haydon has covered soccer for The Washington Times for two decades. He has reported on international soccer events in Germany, South Korea and Spain. John hails from Birmingham, England and has lived in the Washington D.C. region for over twenty years.  

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