Nicolas Cage’s 10 Wildest Movie Roles

Being a Nicolas Cage fan means never quite knowing what to expect. Over the course of his career, the acclaimed actor has delivered some truly outrageous performances in a bevy of boundary pushing films. In Prisoners of the Ghostland (streaming now on AMC+), Cage stars as a criminal tasked with rescuing a woman stranded in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. If he fails, the explosives attached to his body will detonate, and as you can imagine, this doesn’t make him happy. And when Nic Cage is unhappy, things can get a little crazy. 
From the mind of acclaimed filmmaker Sion Sono, Prisoners of the Ghostland is set in a world filled with samurais, mutants, and more eye-popping oddities. It's a gonzo slice of SciFi action filmmaking that Cage has called his “wildest movie” to date. Which is really saying something, considering the bizarro heights Cage has reached in his filmography. 
Before you check out Prisoners of the Ghostland, take a strange trip through some of Nic Cage’s wildest big screen roles.
10. Snake Eyes
Brian DePalma’s nail-biting conspiracy thriller never lets up, and neither does Nic Cage as a shady cop investigating an assassination during a high stakes boxing match. With his flashy suits and frequent manic outbursts, Cage rattles nerves with his every move. He’s well matched by DePalma’s flashy camerawork and use of split screens, that help to capture every pulse-pounding moment. If you’re going to keep up with Nic Cage, it’s best to raise your filmmaking game to a 10 -- and then push it all the way to 11. 

9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
The first Bad Lieutenant was a grimy crime flick with Harvey Keitel wallowing in all his miserable (and naked) glory. For this new take on the film, director Werner Herzog amps up the drug-addled energy and stages surreal tableaus, like the scene where Nic Cage’s corrupt cop hallucinates singing iguanas. The film delivers a stimulating hit of pure, uncut Cage, whether he’s spouting oddly poetic hard-boiled dialogue (“Shoot him again. His soul is still dancing...”) or ingesting ungodly amounts of narcotics.

8. Zandalee 
There are two kinds of Nic Cage fans: those who have seen the forgotten erotic thriller Zandalee, and those who have yet to witness the actor give a performance that could best be described as “drunken Cajun pirate.” Sporting an epic goatee and luxurious flowing locks, Cage’s tortured artist is caught in a love triangle between an unsatisfied married woman and her poet husband (Judge Reinhold, also mustachioed) who happens to be his best friend. If you think you’ve seen every crazed Nic Cage performance, wait until you see him ranting wildly while covering himself in black paint.

7. Adaptation 
Nicolas Cage gave not one, but two, of his most acclaimed performances in this meta dramedy from the team behind Being John Malkovich. Yes, it’s two Cages for the price of one as the versatile actor plays both real life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who struggles with writer’s block in his attempt to adapt the novel The Orchid Thief, and his (fictional) twin brother Donald Kaufman. The dual roles allow Cage to showcase both his laidback, unpredictable side as Donald, while also delivering an introspective performance as the mild-mannered Charlie.

6. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 
In our current era of cookie cutter superhero movies, it's interesting to remember a time when Nic Cage chugged coffee straight from the pot and talked about how his skull feels like it’s on fire as the supernatural anti-hero Ghost Rider. Cage starred in two Ghost Rider films, and the second outing finds him at his most—wait for it—uncaged. The filmmakers behind the Crank movies deliver a sequel that assaults the senses, and allows Cage’s blazing hot intensity to burn unchecked.

5. The Wicker Man
Director Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake of the British horror classic The Wicker Man isn’t exactly a good movie. But it is a “good bad movie” thanks to some odd, unintentionally hilarious scenes and Nic Cage’s fully committed performance. Cage earned a Razzie nomination for his role as a cop whose search for a missing woman takes him to an island inhabited by a creepy pagan cult. It’s difficult to decide which moment in this sea of weird is the most Cage-y. The part where he wears a bear suit and punches a pagan woman? The infamous torture sequence where he screams as bees are poured into his beehive helmet? Yeah, it’s gotta be the bees. Definitely the bees.

4. Wild at Heart
Nicolas Cage found an ideal collaborator in filmmaker David Lynch, who directed the actor in his acclaimed Palme d’Or-winning crime film. As ex-con Sailor, Cage croons Elvis tunes and busts energetic dance moves to thrash metal. (Fun fact: The snakeskin jacket Sailor wears as a symbol of his “individuality and belief in personal freedom” was Cage’s idea.) Perfectly paired with co-star Laura Dern, Cage brings an offbeat romantic heart to a role that could’ve been inscrutable in lesser hands.

3. Face/Off
Cage breaks bad in director John Woo’s adrenaline pumping action thriller… and it’s a joy to behold. In addition to some dazzling action sequences, Face/Off is jam-packed with signature Nic Cage moments like the scene where his character the villainous terrorist Castor Troy shakes his moneymaker to Handel’s “Messiah” while dressed in priest garb. Cage is well matched in the weirdo department by costar John Travolta, as an FBI agent who swaps lives (and faces) with Troy. The pair make for an entertaining duo, with Cage frequently breaking into song, going bug-eyed, and laughing maniacally throughout.

2. Mandy (Stream Now on AMC+)
Nic Cage has starred in his share of revenge flicks, but only Mandy finds him brandishing a chainsaw against a neon drenched post-apocalyptic wasteland. Filmmaker Panos Cosmatos’ trippy horror nightmare casts Cage as Red, a desperate man hellbent on revenge after an evil cult murders his girlfriend. Traversing a hellscape that resembles a heavy metal album cover, Red embarks on a LSD-fueled killing spree with his trusty axe and crossbow. Cage earned rave reviews for his intense performance in a film that is perfectly suited to his go-for-broke acting style.

1. Vampire’s Kiss
As the star of classics like Raising Arizona and Moonstruck, Nicolas Cage made a name for himself playing soulful oddballs. Vampire’s Kiss, however, is where he starts to become the cinematic force of nature we know and love. Weird voice that suggests an evil Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Hilariously odd physical mannerisms? Sudden crazed outbursts? The Cage-isms are all here in this cult horror comedy, which casts Cage as a high-strung yuppie whose tenuous grasp on reality collapses once he develops a taste for blood. Is he actually a vampire or is it all in his head? Cage’s high-wire performance keeps us guessing in this absurdist cult favorite that set the template for the actor’s enjoyably frantic roles to come.
Watch the trailer for Nicolas Cage's Prisoners of the Ghostland below, and stream the film right now on AMC+.