All this week, Uproxx will be paying tribute to the many facets of Nicolas Cage, from his big-screen triumphs to the legends that have come to surround him and the cult following both have helped create. Next: a guide to the most compelling Nicolas Cage movies you can stream tonight.
Though he gets more than his share of grief from critics and fans who struggle to see the method to his madness or detect a pattern in the kinds of roles and caliber of films that he chooses to work on, there’s one thing no one can deny when it comes to Nicolas Cage: his filmography is diverse. From ’80s quirk to ’90s rom-coms, intense dramas, big budget action films, and a lengthy recent run of heist movies and revenge thrillers whose titles might be unfamiliar to all but the most dedicated, Cage really has done it all at the top level — for better or worse. With that in mind, here’s a quick primer on the most memorable Nicolas Cage films that are presently available to stream on Netflix and Hulu.
It Could Happen To You (1994)
The most atypical period of Cage’s career isn’t his straight-to-DVD phase or his hard turn toward action movies following his Leaving Las Vegas Best Actor Oscar win. It’s the sad-eyed aw-shucks collection of romantic comedies that serve as a bridge from his more quirky early work to those other extremes. It just doesn’t compute with the rest of his resumé.
It might be a stretch to say that Cage was on the road to becoming the next Jimmy Stewart in the early ’90s, but it’s easy to see a Stewart and Frank Capra influence in It Could Happen To You. The film, from director Andrew Bergman (who also helmed the underrated, Cage-starring rom-com Honeymoon In Vegas) and writer Jane Anderson, is the rare fairy tale love story that manages to make hearts swell over an emotional affair while vilifying the jilted spouse (Rosie Perez). Cage plays a pure-hearted New York cop who finds inconvenient love and unwanted fame thanks to a kept promise over the proceeds from a lotto ticket that he splits with Bridget Fonda’s kindhearted, down-on-her-luck waitress character. Cage and Fonda are adorable together, so much so that you can’t get help but feel bad for all they endure when Perez’s character — who, unfortunately, gets turned into a greedy cartoon character — comes after every last cent. It’s a charming film with “How did they fit all these stars in one movie?” cast that includes Wendell Pierce, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Isaac Hayes, Ann Dowd, Seymour Cassel, and Red Buttons. (Hulu)
Guarding Tess (1994)
Cage plays a meticulous secret service agent who is locked into the assignment from hell when he has to protect a borderline abusive former first lady (Shirley MacLaine) in this 1994 film from Police Academy director and co-writer Hugh Wilson. But what begins as a lighter take on Driving Miss Daisy and a film that was made to mine laughs from the Cage character’s animated outbursts and the MacLaine character’s feistiness eventually finds its heart as it successfully veers toward drama in the third act. (Hulu)
Snake Eyes (1998)
Cage was in full action star swing — coming off The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off — when he teamed up with Brain De Palma for this Atlantic City-set thriller about a corrupt cop trying to get to the bottom of an assassination as storm looms on the horizon. At the time, it attracted a lot of attention for its long, unbroken shot following Cage as he makes his way through a casino and to a boxing match, and not much else. In a one-star review, Roger Ebert called it “worst kind of bad film: the kind that gets you all worked up and then lets you down, instead of just being lousy from the first shot.” That’s not quite fair. Though, apart from that first shot, Snake Eyes doesn’t find Cage and De Palma in top form, it’s an enjoyable thriller that makes good use of its seedy setting. And, hey, that’s first shot is really something. (Netflix)
Matchstick Men (2003)
One of the more overlooked films in both Cage’s career and that of director Ridley Scott, Matchstick Men finds both working on a much smaller-than-usual scale in service of a twisty story of con men. Cage plays Roy, an expert at the con game, despite suffering from Tourette’s and OCD. That might have led to a gimmicky performance with a lesser actor in the lead, but Cage makes his character’s troubles feel organic, something Roy has learned to live with on a day-to-day basis rather than an excuse to overact. And when Roy does start to lose control later in the film it’s all the scarier due to that matter-of-fact approach. Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman co-star in a twisty film that explores the possibility of whether or not there’s truly honor among thieves. (Netflix)
Lord Of War (2005)
With its oft-present-narration and more than a couple of familiar story beats, Lord Of War feels a bit like Goodfellas for international gun runners. Written and directed by Truman Show writer Andrew Niccol, the film can, at times, feel preachy and cynical as it follows Cage’s increasingly aloof merchant of death character while he grows his empire and the gulf between himself and everyone he’s ever loved before having a (long-overdue) epiphany. Still, there’s enough Cage swagger in the performance to make it worthwhile. (Netflix)
Cage stars as a former bank robber and convict trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter, but his plans are put on hold when she’s kidnapped and he’s forced to run through hoops to find her. The cast also includes Danny Huston as a dogged FBI agent with a penchant for eye-catching hats, Josh Lucas (who actually out overacts Cage in this) as a wronged bank robber, and Malin Ackerman as another former bank robber.
Directed by Cage’s Con Air director Simon West, Stolen doesn’t match the ambition or spectacle of their first collaboration, but it brings a lot to the table besides a solid cast. Maybe too much. Fancy safecracking, a car chase, missing gold, a kidnapping, a frantic search by a driven dad, New Orleans, an abandoned amusement park, a car fire, and a villain who just won’t die — it’s Nic Cage movie bingo. And while it was an outright bomb and panned by critics, if you unplug your brain and sign up for big dumb fun, the movie won’t disappoint. And that’s sort of become the standard by which a lot of Cage’s more recent films should be judged. (Netflix)
Pay The Ghost (2015)
Considering the heaviness of his workload and his propensity for showy roles, you’d think that Cage would do more in the horror genre. But he’s left it relatively untapped save for Wicker Man and this film from German director Uli Edel and writer Dan Kay, a solid story about a couple’s descent into grief after the disappearance of their child. It’s filled with terrifying child actors, and it also has the benefit of Cage committing to a familiar but still effective “driven dad” role. (Netflix)
The Trust (2016)
From brothers Alex and Ben Brewer, The Trust aims to be a somewhat quirky heist film about a pair of Las Vegas PD evidence techs turned criminals with Elijah Wood starring opposite Cage (with Jerry Lewis briefly appearing as the Cage character’s father in what wound up being his last role].
Wood and Cage play off each other well with Wood serving as the detached straight man to Cage’s more unpredictable senior officer, but the strongest takeaway may be the ease with which Cage leans on strange mannerisms when it comes to telling this story. In some cases, those rapid tonal shifts can overshadow good material, but in The Trust, they help to lend soul what could have been a stock character, elevating a middling story about frustration, moral greyness, and envy.