All this week, Uproxx has been 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. We bring it to a close with a study of his character names, ranked from the ho-hum to the awesome. Thank you for joining us.
Nicolas Cage has been in close to 100 movies. Some are great, most of them good to average, and some inexplicably awful. Others have ranked Cage’s work before, based on the objective quality of the film or his performance – or even (gasp!) sometimes a mix of those two measurable qualifiers. But sometimes the writing, directing, or Cage’s acting in a movie isn’t the best part of watching it.
Sometimes, the best part of a given Cage movie is the name of his character – whether he’s playing the lead, a supporting character, or just making a cameo. What follows is a comprehensive ranking of every Nicolas Cage movie based on his character’s name and only his character’s name.
This ranking encompasses all of Cage’s movies, excluding only the movies in which he plays or cameos as himself and any TV movies. While there is no hard and fast points system for this ranking, the general policy here is that the crazier the name the higher it’s ranked and the more ordinary a name the lower it’s ranked. Some monikers have been docked even further in the list based on their quality in relation to the movie at hand. For example, if Cage plays a magician in Las Vegas who can see the immediate future (still cannot believe this really happened) and his name is “Cris” rather than, say, Cock-a-doodle Ray, that’s lower on the list than a fairly normal name that fits better with the movie’s style and storyline.
The Most Boring or Inconsequential
Not every Nic Cage movie has a world-class character name, but not all of them deserve one either. There have been seconds-long cameos, straight up boring characters (and thus names to match) and altogether inconsequential names. These are those names.
71. Never on Tuesday (1989) – Man in Red Sports Car
This is barely a character name, so it barely gets a ranking.
70. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Brad’s Bud
The only reason this isn’t last is because Judge Reinhold (a.k.a. Brad) has cache and is better on screen than a red sports car.
69. Valley Girl (1983) – Randy
Randy is exactly the name a girl named Julie Richman would fall for out of rebellion.
68. Dog Eat Dog (2016) – Troy
You’re really going to be a hardened criminal and not change your name to something less vanilla than Troy?
67. Stolen (2012) – Will Montgomery
See above, re: Troy.
66. Rage (2014) – Paul Maguire
Stop. Giving. Movie. Criminals. The. Names. Of. English. Teachers.
65. Matchstick Men (2003) – Roy Waller
Why am I having to repeat myself all the time?!
64. Deadfall (1993) – Eddie
Eddie? A complete non-factor. Doesn’t even get a fun last name!
63. Red Rock West (1993) – Michael Williams
The name Michael is one of the most common names in the country, and the name William(s) is just as pervasive. Common name + common name = BORING.
62. Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001) – Jacob Marley
He’s playing a previously existing character which makes the mundane name a little more forgivable, but this still ranks among the least memorable of his character’s names.
61. Racing with the Moon (1984) – Nicky/Bud
If Cage had actually played two identical Marines named Nicky and Bud, this would have gone higher. Alas, he does not.
60. Trespass (2011) – Kyle Miller
With a name as one-note as Kyle Miller, Cage’s character in this movie absolutely deserved to be held for ransom in his own home.
Joe, John, or Jack
Nicolas Cage has played a character named Joe, John, or Jack a weird amount of times. As none of the characters themselves (or last names) stand out in any marked ways, they’re all getting dumped into a section to themselves. Despite the generic nature of these names though, they are still more interesting than those in the first section.
59. Joe (2013) – Joe
Well this one is obvious.
58. The Frozen Ground (2013) – Detective Jack Halcombe
Cage plays an Alaska State Trooper, and shockingly the character’s name in the book from which the movie was adapted is Glenn, which is more interesting than Jack. Who is making these decisions?
57. Windtalkers (2002) – Sgt. Joe Enders
This movie had much bigger problems than a character name, but it’s really boring. Add that to the list of complaints about the film.
56. World Trade Center (2006) – John McLoughlin
Cage played a Port Authority officer here, and considering the subject matter it’s good of the film to keep things straight and legitimate rather than crazy when it comes to naming his officer.
55. The Family Man (2000) – Jack Campbell
A dud character name for a dud movie.
54. Knowing (2009) – Professor Jonathan “John” Koestler
An MIT professor would absolutely be named Jonathan but say “You can call me John!” as soon as you shake hands for the first time.
53. Ghost Rider (2007) – Johnny Blaze
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) Johnny Blaze
Okay fine, I admit it. Johnny Blaze is a super cool name even if you aren’t also the Ghost Rider.
52. Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) – Jack Singer
If, at one point in a comedic venture, the decision is made to have the main character skydive out of a plain dressed as Elvis, maybe come up with a better character name than Jack. Even if the last name is a sort of pun about Vegas.
51. Vengeance: A Love Story (2017) – John Dromoor
Here, Cage is a Gulf War vet who is out for… you guessed it… vengeance. The name works, but it’s 2017 and people are still throwing boring first names on cool last names like that’s a smart strategy.
50. Bangkok Dangerous (2008) – Joe
The good news is at least he’s a successful hit man, even if it’s an incredibly boring hitman name.
49. Zandalee (1991) – Johnny Collins
Not only is Johnny Collins probably the nicest sounding name in a section of sameness, but Cage’s character also cuckholds Judge Reinhold’s character in this movie. Bonus points all around.
Actively Bad Choices
The only thing worse than a boring name is when a name could have been so much better based on who the character is, or when a character name completely fails to live up to the coolness of the movie and lessens the fun in the process. These are those names.
48. Fire Birds (1990) — Jake Preston
The logline for Fire Birds is “elite Apache helicopter pilots are tasked with destroying powerful armed drug cartels operating in South America” and the best they could come up with is the name Jake Preston? Downright shameful. Go write some country songs, Jake Preston.
47. City of Angels (1998) – Seth
I truly like this movie, if only because the first time I saw it I was 11 and have watched it minimally since. That probably makes me the only person Still, the only thing more gobsmackingly dumb than the way Meg Ryan dies is that they really and truly named an angel “Seth.”
46. Next (2007) – Cris Johnson
This movie is not good (and if you don’t know the twist that occurs near the end of the movie I encourage you to never watch it but just Google that part). However, it could have been a slightly better movie if their idea of a Vegas musician’s stage name wasn’t just “Cris without an ‘H’.”
45. Drive Angry (2011) – Milton
The legitimately real logline for this movie is “A vengeful father escapes from hell and chases after the men who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter” so the name Milton? Just not going to cut it. It’s a grandfather’s name all right, just not one played by Nicolas Cage.
44. Vampire’s Kiss (1988) – Peter Loew
This is only ranked so low, and in this section, because not everyone can be Dwyane Wade and pull off putting the letters in their name in any old order. Especially not in this movie.
Perfectly Chosen For The Character, Even If The Character Was Only Mostly Okay
When it comes down to it, some character names aren’t actively bad or amazing they just…are. They are exactly what they should be for the movie and the character at hand. These are those names.
43. 8mm (1999) – Tom Welles
Tom Welles is indeed a perfect name for Nicolas Cage’s private investigator character here. However, this is a movie that also boasts characters named Max California and Dino Velvet so Tom Welles feels a bit lame in comparison.
42. It Could Happen to You (1994) – Charlie Lang
He was a cop. This is a cop’s name. It’s fine.
41. Pay the Ghost (2015) – Mike Lawford
Finally a professor that is named like a professor instead of a cop named like a professor.
40. Seeking Justice (2011) – Will Gerard
This movie apparently involves wives being attacked, vigilantes, and “settling scores.” So, a standard late-stage Nicolas Cage movie plot. But they really couldn’t come up with something that doesn’t sound like his character is about to graduate as a valedictorian and has to decide between Harvard and Yale?
39. Snowden (2016) – Hank Forrester
Cage’s character in Snowden was an NSA agent created specifically for the movie to guide Edward Snowden. This definitely seems like an NSA agent name, and also one that an assistant had to make up at three in the morning so that the screenwriters could complete a draft.
38. The Runner (2015) – Colin Pryce
I’m pretty sure Colin Pryce is my financial advisor’s name.
37. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – Ben Sanderson
Everyone in the state of in California knows an alcoholic screenwriter named Ben Sanderson.
36. Bringing Out the Dead (1999) – Frank Pierce
A burnt-out ambulance paramedic who goes through a harrowing few days sounds like he should be named Frank Pierce, so there’s nothing really to quibble with here.
35. Guarding Tess (1994) – Doug Chesnic
Not only is Doug Chesnic such a Secret Service officer name, but it really rolls off the tongue as well.
34. Dying of the Light (2014) – Evan Lake
Similar to Tess, Evan Lake is exactly what you would expect a CIA agent hunting down a terrorist to be called.
33. The Trust (2016) – Lieutenant Jim Stone
Once again, he’s a cop in this movie and this is a good enough cop name. However, this gets bumped up a few spots from where it would be because in the movie Cage goes by just “Stone” which adds some cool points. If you have a badass last name, you should always go by just that.
32. National Treasure (2004) – Benjamin Gates
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) – Benjamin Gates
Very on point character names for both movies here, of course, especially as Ben’s middle name is Franklin and the plot is obsessed with Ben Franklin, his inventions, and his secret clues. It’s an above average name and it perfectly matches the absurdity of the character and his adventures.
Decently Entertaining Names
Some Cage names are just below greatness, but not out and out boring, this is the section where things get a little crazy – Nicolas Cage style. Some character names probably could have been better but most definitely could have been worse and each one here has that special Nicolas Cage panache.
30. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) – Lieutenant Terrence McDonagh
Probably the best cop name on this list if only for the combination of a good first and last name, plus the anglicized spelling of McDonagh. That’s a curveball.
29. The Ant Bully (2006) – Zoc
If, at one point in your acting career, you play an “ant wizard” in an animated movie, at least it should have a fun name, like Zoc.
28. Rumble Fish (1983) – Smokey
Smokey seems like a cool name for a gangster but in the movie this nickname stems from the color of the character’s eyes, which is not very gang-like, and thus it is docked a few points.
27. The Croods (2013) – Grug Crood
This character name is in this section because saying the word “Crood” is still kind of fun four years after the movie came out, and somehow the first name here is actually good instead of his name being “Bob Crood” or something.
26. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) – Charlie Bodell
This name is perfect for this character; it’s a solid name that also tells you everything you need to know about him in one fell swoop – namely that he’s a kidnapping cheater who can’t sing. It also gets “rolls off the tongue well” points here.
25. The Wicker Man (2006) – Edward Malus
Not the bees!
24. Left Behind (2014) – Rayford Steele
Yes, this is a not-good movie, one based off an even less-good book series that received all of the proper backlash it deserved in time. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Rayford Steele is a very, very good character name. Say it slowly: Ray. Ford. Steele. That’s ridiculous, but exactly the type of person Nic Cage was born to play. This probably would have been ranked a bit higher if the name wasn’t so wasted in a certifiably bad project.
23. Raising Arizona (1987) – H. I. McDunnough
Not only does this name fit perfectly with the events of the movie, but the addition of him going by his first two initials really kicks things up a notch.
22. Kiss of Death (1995) – Little Junior Brown
Something about the combination of both Little and Junior in the same name is immensely satisfying.
21. Con Air (1997) – Cameron Poe
As a quick recap, Cage plays an ex-con and former US Ranger here. Cameron Poe is somehow the perfect name for both of those descriptors. That’s hard to pull off.
20. Trapped in Paradise (1994) – Bill Firpo
It’s been 23 years since this movie came out and the name Bill Firpo is still flat out funny to say. It’s also perfect for his character’s circumstances here.
Not quite the top echelon of Nicolas Cage names, yet every single name in this section is USDA Certified Cage.
19. Outcast (2014) – Gallain
We’re going to need some logline assistance with this one!
“A mysterious warrior teams up with the daughter and son of a deposed Chinese Emperor to defeat their cruel brother, who seeks their deaths.”
Okay, Gallain is an awesome character name regardless, but especially in this context.
18. The Weather Man (2005) – David Spritz
Ha, he’s a weatherman named David Spritz. Do you get it? Spritz? Get it?
17. Wild at Heart (1990) – Sailor Ripley
Try and pretend you can read this character name and not immediately picture Nic Cage as a Sailor Moon character.
16. Snake Eyes (1998) – Rick Santoro
83% of shady police detectives in the lower 48 states are named Rick Santoro. That’s an official statistic.
15. G-Force (2009) – Speckles
Someone, in all of their brilliance, decided that Nicolas Cage should not only play a guinea pig but that that guinea pig should be named Speckles. Bless that person.
14. Time to Kill (1989) – Enrico Silvestri
You could say the name Enrico Silvestri in any accent in the world and it would only get better. This is so close to an all-time great, and was only docked points in this incredibly arbitrary system because Cage once again played a lieutenant which is the most expected thing someone named Enrico Silvestri could be. Even a janitor at a local high school being named this would be slightly more interesting.
13. Amos & Andrew (1993) – Amos Odell
You don’t see the name Amos a lot in everyday situations, which is perfect because it stands out all the more here, and it’s paired with a quality last name on top of that.
12. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) – Captain Antonio Corelli
Similar to Enrico Silvestri, this is just a great name any way you slice it. This could be my local bodega guy’s name and he would automatically be the coolest bodega guy on the block. Sure, he’s an adulterer in the movie, but the name is cool.
11. Kick-Ass (2010) – Damon Macready/Big Daddy
Having your normal, walking around name be Damon Macready but then also having a crime-fighting superhero alter ego named Big Daddy is borderline unfair. Like, leave some greatness for the rest of us, buddy.
10. Astro Boy (2009) – Dr. Umatarō Tenma
Small part, yet a great name. Even the syllable count seems perfect.
9. Grindhouse (2007) – Dr. Fu Manchu
This name would probably be a bit higher based purely on the strength of someone being named Dr. Fu Manchu if it wasn’t a character that has existed for nearly a century in one manner or another.
8. Birdy (1984) – Sergeant Al Columbato
Might this movie have been more of a classic if Nicolas Cage was the Vietnam War veteran who has a mental break and wants to become a bird? Probably. But unfortunately Matthew Modine got that particular bite of the Meaty Role Pie. A good consolation prize is the character name of Sergeant Al Columbato though. Plus, there are so many options for what Al could stand for. Alfonse? Albert? Alberto? The opportunities for this one to be even better are endless.
7. Face/Off (1997) – Castor Troy/Sean Archer
Both names are very, very good, especially considering the movie’s madness. Both are also the names of people who probably did way too many hard drugs in college, which adds to the perfection.
6. Sonny (2002) – Acid Yellow
This is a bit of a cheat since this isn’t exactly a full-fledged Cage caharacter. It’s a cameo he gave himself in a movie he directed. This name probably would have been even higher without that circumstance though, so it stays ranked here.
Before we get to the Top Five best Nicolas Cage movies based only on his character names, let’s take a brief break to look at character names from movies in which Cage played a real person. The characters here are either directly based on a real person, while still taking a few creative liberties, or Cage plays a real person. Since it’s hard to rank real people’s names without accidentally insulting someone, feel free to use this time to take a breather and learn some history before the best names.
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016) – Captain Charles B. McVay
Lord of War (2005) – Yuri Orlov (based on Viktor Bout)
Adaptation (2002) – Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman
Army of One (2016) – Gary Faulkner
The Boy in Blue (1986) – Ned Hanlan
The Cotton Club (1984) – Vincent Dwyer (based on Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll)
The big ones. The final countdown. The Cagiest of them all. Here goes nothing.
5. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – Balthazar Blake
In this movie, Cage plays a “master sorcerer” who finds and trains a descendant of Merlin. Even without an out-there character name, that sounds like a pretty cool person. Yet he does indeed get a crazy character name in Balthazar Blake, which is equal parts “street magician in Queens” and “little-known 14th century Lord who was persnickety about the way his quail was cooked.” It’s a really good name, is what I’m saying.
4. Moonstruck (1987) – Ronny Cammareri
Based on the complete and total mess that Cage’s character is in this movie, Ronny Cammareri is actually the perfect name. It’s a pretty perfect name regardless as it passes the “rolls off the tongue” test, the crazy Italian name test, and the Nicolas Cage movie test. Beyond that, it’s Ronny spelt with a “y,” which for some reason makes it all the better. Ronnie with an “ie” is normal on some level, but anyone named Ronny is with a “y” is probably out of their gourd.
3. Season of the Witch (2011) – Behman von Bleiruck
Say that five times fast! This is clearly the work of a screenwriter whose cat jumped on the keyboard and put a bunch of consonants together and everyone just left the name in because it would have been too hard to think of something any better than this unpronounceable magnificence.
2. Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) – Randall “Memphis” Raines
Here we go. The first of two big ones. Any Cage scholars out there (there has to be a few of those right?) could probably see this coming as both this character name and the next are nigh unimpeachable when it comes to Nicolas Cage movie characters. Utter the words “Memphis Raines” and you immediately picture Angelina Jolie’s absurd dreadlocks, Christopher Eccleston being a top-notch baddie, and reckless people stealing a whole ton of cars in one night.
The reason Memphis is number two here is because Randall Raines just isn’t as cool. Yes, his nickname is what he primarily goes by throughout the movie and yes, that is a really good nickname for a car thief. But his full name starting with Randall takes just a bit of the edge off despite the alliteration. Which leaves just enough space for the best name to claim the top spot.
1. The Rock (1996) – Dr. Stanley Goodspeed
On the surface, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed might not seem like an amazing name. You probably have to have seen The Rock at one point to fully grasp how great this one is, but honestly you should probably just watch The Rock anyway if you haven’t because if so what is wrong with you. A simple, mild-mannered chemist who just wants to save people from deadly chemicals and have a baby out of wedlock with his girlfriend in peace being named “Dr. Stanley Goodspeed” is almost too good. We’re not worthy. Just the way it all comes together, with the pure fineness of “Stanley,” the official tone of doctor to start it off, and then…”Goodspeed.” It’s so great. It never gets old to say it, to yell it (although why you would be yelling it on your personal time is questionable, but please live your life), or to watch other people yell it while all of San Francisco is in grave danger. It fits in with the movie perfectly, and Cage wears the name like he was born to play this role. This name is most certainly not something we wish we could disinvent.