Movies

The Premises Of Nicolas Cage’s Recent Films, Ranked From Least To Most Nutty

This has been a bad week for America, but a great one for Nicolas Cage fans. (If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan living in America, then you’re (I’m) emotionally conflicted.) According to Deadline, Cage has agreed to star in Pig, in which he plays a truffle hunter “who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness. When his beloved foraging pig is kidnapped, he must journey into Portland — and his long-abandoned past — to recover her.” Let that sink in: Nicolas Cage … living alone in the wilderness … with a “beloved” truffle-hunting pig … that gets kidnapped. OK! Pig is still in the pre-production phase, but I’m ready to give it Best Picture (and Best Pigture). Lionsgate at Home also gifted us with the trailer for Primal, which swaps the truffle pig for a “priceless white jaguar.” From the synopsis:

When Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage), a hunter and collector of rare and exotic animals, bags a priceless white jaguar for a zoo, he figures it’ll be smooth sailing to a big payday. But the ship bearing Frank’s precious cargo has two predators caged in its hold: the cat, and a political assassin being extradited to the U.S. After the assassin breaks free – and then frees the jaguar – Frank feverishly stalks the ship’s cramped corridors in hot pursuit of his prey, right up until the thrilling, unpredictable climax.

I would watch Primal based on the premise alone; Pig, too. This is true for much of Cage’s recent work, which I’ve ranked from the films with the least-nutty premise to the most. A few things to note: 2013 was my starting point; I only included movies that *aren’t* on his Box Office Mojo page, meaning no Mandy (but plenty of direct-to-video titles!), and left out big-budget hits, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and documentaries. I also copied/pasted the premises from either Deadline, Rotten Tomatoes, or Amazon Prime, with a link for each to prove that I’m not making these movies up. After reading what Outcast is about, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that.

19. A Score to Settle (2019)

Diagnosed with a fatal condition, Frankie Carver (Nicolas Cage) is released from prison after serving 19 years. With only a short time left to live, Frankie must desperately try to make amends with the son he left behind while he plots a bloody course of revenge – tracking down his old gang to make them pay one by one. (Via)

A Score to Settle came out last month. Have you ever heard of it? I have not. It has the same painfully generic plot summary as any number of films on Redbox, but also an incredible (and by “incredible,” I mean, 10 minutes on Photoshop) poster, which, as you’ll soon discover, is a trend among post-2013 Nicolas Cage movies.

18. The Frozen Ground (2013)

The movie revolves around Alaska’s most notorious serial predator Robert Hansen (John Cusack), who in the span of 12 years abducted more than 24 women, flew them into the Alaskan wilderness, and hunted and murdered them. Vanessa Hudgens plays the one teenage victim who escaped, and Nicolas Cage plays the Alaskan State Trooper who finds her on the street — together they work to bring Hansen to justice. (Via)

Another thing I noticed while doing research (“research”) for this article is sentences like this: “The film was released in very few theaters and directly to video on demand on August 23, 2013, and has received mixed reviews although Cage’s performance was cited as a highlight.” The same could be said about any number of Cage films, just with a different date. Although only The Frozen Ground has Cage and John Cusack, whose once shining career has also taken a direct-to-VOD tumble in recent years. He’s pretty good in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, though, and if you’re wondering if I’m rambling because I don’t want to make fun of a movie based on a horrifying true story, yes, yes, I am. Anyway, the top five top-five lists in High Fidelity are…

17. Inconceivable (2017)

A mysterious young woman, Katie (Nicky Whelan), and her daughter move to a new town to escape her past and befriends Angela Morgan (Gina Gershon), a mother of one who longs for a bigger family. As their lives become intricately entwined, Angela and her husband, Brian, (Nicolas Cage), invite Katie to live in their guest-house to serve as their nanny. Over time, the blossoming friendship between the two women spirals into a dangerous obsession as Katie becomes overly attached to the Morgans’ daughter. Enduring lies and manipulations, Angela and Brian realize that sweet Katie is trying to destroy their family from within. (Via)

Gina Gershon and Nicolas Cage have been in two movies together: Inconceivable and Face/Off. One is hailed as a ridiculous (and Oscar-nominated!) masterpiece; the other is Inconceivable. One has face waterfalls; the other is Inconceivable. One has Cage and John Travolta swapping faces using the face-off machine; the other is Inconceivable. I mean, I assume Inconceivable doesn’t have Travolta and Cage swapping faces? It could. I didn’t watch it. I’m waiting for the inevitable How Did This Get Made? episode.

16. Rage (2014)

Paul Maguire (Nicolas Cage) is a respectable businessman and loving father living peaceful life … until his violent past comes back to haunt him. When his teenage daughter is taken from their home, Paul rounds up his old crew to help him find her … by any means necessary. His search for justice leads Paul down a dark and bloody path of revenge, betrayal, and long-buried secrets. (Via)

Rage has not one, but two suspenseful pauses (…) in the plot description. What a heart-stopping thrill ride! Then why is it so low on this list? Because if you’re going to have “Nicolas Cage stars in Rage,” there had better be at least one Cage Rage moment in the trailer. It’s like if Tom Cruise was in a movie called Running, I’d expect to see the best damn running of his life. But my friends, although we’re almost there around 2:18…

RLJ/Image Entertainment

… the Rage trailer never reaches full Cage Rage. Shame.

15. The Runner (2015)

In the aftermath of the BP oil spill, an idealistic but imperfect New Orleans politician (Nicolas Cage) finds his plans of restoration unraveling as his own life becomes contaminated with corruption, scandal, and deceit. (Via)

But seriously, Tom Cruise should have starred in this movie. There’s a fun way to waste 10 minutes at the bar: put Tom Cruise in a Nicolas Cage movie, and vice versa. Outside of The Runner, I would love to see Cruise in Wild at Heart (the movie would be worse off for it, but Cruise working with David Lynch is a compelling what-if), and Cage in Magnolia. Or any Paul Thomas Anderson movie, honestly. Now there’s a director who could do wonders for Cage’s intent sadness mixed with boiled-over anger.

14. Looking Glass (2018)

After losing their daughter to a tragic accident, shattered couple Ray (Nicolas Cage) and Maggie (Robin Tunney) purchase a motel in the middle of nowhere in the hopes of starting a new life. But Ray begins to notice strange goings-on, and starts to piece together the history of a bizarre murder associated with the motel. Poking around in a basement one day, Ray discovers a crawl space, which leads to a two-way mirror into one of the rooms. As he becomes obsessed with the unusual activities that happen beyond the looking glass, his marriage, sanity, and life are threatened. (Via)

What the Looking Glass premise fails to mention is the “slashed corpse of a pig in the motel’s swimming pool” and “Ray watches her and another woman have BDSM sex and notices a man sitting around the corner in the bathroom.” I realize this is because a studio doesn’t want to give away the entire movie in the summary, but which title are you more likely to watch: Looking Glass or BDSM Sex Pig? Killing Eve knows what’s up.

13. Dying of the Light (2014)

When Evan Lake (Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage), a veteran CIA agent recently diagnosed with Dementia, learns that his lifelong nemesis, Banir (Alexander Karim), has resurfaced, Lake becomes consumed with exacting his revenge before his mind is completely lost to the disease. (Via)

Nicolas Cage is “Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage.” In the context of forgettable fare like Dying of the Light, that’s a reminder as jarring as “Dame Judie Dench in Cats.”

12. Running with the Devil (2019)

When a cocaine shipment is compromised to the dismay of a drug cartel’s CEO, known as The Boss (Barry Pepper), he orders his most trusted henchman, The Cook (Nicolas Cage), and his partner, master drug trafficker The Man (Laurence Fishburne), on a dangerous journey to audit the company’s supply chain. As the drugs make their perilous trek across international borders, past gangsters, refiners, and couriers, they are also being tracked by Federal Agents. When The Cook realizes where the network is breaking down, it may be too late to keep the cartel satisfied. (Via)

If you’ll allow a hot take: more movies should have dismayed drug cartel CEOs, and henchmen known as “The Cook,” and Laurence Fishburne as “The Man.” I’m excited to see Running with the Devil before it sweeps the Golden Globes. It must be getting an awards season release date. Let’s check. Oh. It apparently came out last week, and made $0 dollars at the box office. If only if it had been Marvel’s Running with the Devil.

11. 211 (2018)

Officer Mike Chandler (Nicolas Cage) and a young civilian passenger find themselves under-prepared and outgunned when fate puts them squarely in the crosshairs of a bank heist in progress by a team of highly trained and heavily armed men. (Via)

That’s a pretty boring summary, so why is 211 so high? Because I love how Deadline described the movie: “Nicolas Cage is in negotiations to star in Millennium/Nu Image’s 211 for writer-director York Alec Shackleton. It is scheduled to start production in Bulgaria in March. The story is about a bank robbery with a good cop (Cage) trying to thwart the heist; in police code, 211 means robbery in progress.” Not sure what I most enjoy about that: “Nu” Image; the name York Alec Shackleton; “production in Bulgaria,” where I assume Nic Cage is mayor for life; or the most helpful explanation of a police code since Sublime’s “April 29, 1992 (Miami).” Honestly, it’s all of the above.

10. The Trust (2016)

The Trust centers on two crooked cops who discover a hidden safe, the contents of which will lead them down a deadly road of corruption with no one left to trust — not even themselves. (Via)

I’d like to take a moment to say something: Nicolas Cage is great. His, let’s say, choices are fun to mock, but I do so out of love. Even in his most nonspecific movies, like The Trust (and even that has him and Elijah Wood attempting to break into a safe), it’s thrilling knowing that the next scene could be the one where he explodes into one of his “Nouveau Shamanic” freakouts, like a jazz saxophonist hepped up on hallucinogenic mushrooms and Monster Energy-marinated bugs. You do you, Mr. Cage. You do you.

9. Arsenal (2017)

Arsenal tells the intertwining stories of the Lindel brothers, Mikey (Johnathon Schaech) and J.P. (Adrian Grenier), who had only each other to rely on growing up. As adults, J.P. found success as the owner of a construction company, while Mikey became a small-time mobster, mired in a life of petty crime. When Mikey is kidnapped and held for a ransom by ruthless crime boss Eddie King (Nicolas Cage), J.P. turns to the brothers’ old pal Sal (John Cusack), a plain clothes detective for help. In order to rescue his brother, J.P. must risk everything and unleash his vengeance against King’s relentless army of gangsters. (Via)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Lionsgate Premiere

This one is worth $41,037, which is how much Arsenal made at the box office.

8. USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016)

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage recounts an incredible survival story from World War II when a torpedo forced 900 U.S. Navymen into shark-infested waters where they had to try to survive for five days after what was the worst Naval disaster in U.S. history. (Via)

With all due respect to the brave crewmen aboard the USS Indianapolis, when I hear “a Nicolas Cage movie set in shark-infested waters,” I except more than what I got in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. Still, that’s not the plot summary’s fault. It’s pretty great, and so is this: “Cage began collecting animals early in his career. In addition to owning two albino king cobras, which he purchased for $270,000, Cage also owned water-dwelling creatures. He reportedly spent $150,000 on a pet octopus as an ‘acting aid.’ Cage also owned a shark and a crocodile.” That “owned” is ominous. I’m not sure where Cage’s pet shark is these days, but he gave the cobras to a zoo after they tried to “to hypnotize me by showing me their backs, and then they’d lunge at me.” What a life.

7. The Humanity Bureau (2018)

The Humanity Bureau is set in the year 2030 when global warming has wreaked havoc in parts of the American Midwest. In its attempt to take hold of the economic recession, a government agency called The Humanity Bureau exiles members of society deemed unproductive and banishes them to a colony known as New Eden. An ambitious and impartial caseworker (Nicolas Cage) investigates a case appealed by a single mother and her son. Knowing the fate of the innocent boy, Kross sets off to save their lives and expose the truth about the bureau’s secrets. (Via)

Nicolas Cage has starred in shockingly few movies set in the future. That’s what sets The Humanity Bureau apart from the rest of his filmography. Well, that, and it’s called The Humanity Bureau, and he plays an “ambitious and impartial caseworker,” which I find hilarious for some reason. Imagine if Nicolas Cage was your assigned caseworker.

YOU, a normal person: “Thanks for meeting with me. I need help with…”

CASEWORKER CAGE, anything but: [rants about his dinosaur skull for 20 minutes]

But at least he’s ambitious and impartial.

6. Between Worlds (2018)

Between Worlds follows Joe (Nicolas Cage), a down-on-his-luck truck driver haunted by the memory of his deceased wife and child. He meets Julie (Franka Potente,) a spiritually gifted woman who enlists Joe in a desperate effort to find the lost soul of her comatose daughter, Billie (Penelope Mitchell). But the spirit of Joe’s dead wife Mary proves stronger, possessing the woman’s body and determined to settle her unfinished business with the living.

It took me a few reads to process what’s happening Between Worlds. It’s yet another Nicolas Cage dead wife and/or child movie, except this time, the dead wife possesses a living person, Julie, who Cage, playing a truck driver, meets while she’s demanding to get choked in a gas station bathroom to spiritually connect with her comatose daughter. That part isn’t in the premise, but it’s important to note. Speaking of important:

LIONSGATE

Put that in a museum. Which one? All of them.

5. Mom and Dad (2018)

A strange disorder suddenly causes parents to violently turn against their own children, forcing a suburban teen (Anne Winters) and her brother (Zackary Arthur) to evade the clutches of their now-deranged mom (Selma Blair) and dad (Nicolas Cage). (Via)

2018 was quite the year for Nicolas Cage. He voiced Superman (a lifelong dream for the actor) in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and Spider-Man Noir in the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; he starred in instant cult classic Mandy; and he and Selma Blair appeared in Mom and Dad, about a sickness that causes parents to kill their children. And sledgehammer a pool table while singing “The Hokey Pokey.”

COLLIDER

I want to drink that GIF and use it as energy.

4. Dog Eat Dog (2016)

Ex-cons Troy (Nicolas Cage), Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe), and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) are hired by an eccentric mob boss to kidnap a baby for a large ransom. When the abduction goes awry, the trio find themselves on the run from the mob and the cops. Vowing to stay out of prison at all costs, getting away with the crime is literally a matter of life and death.

Nicolas Cage: the only (?) actor to star in two movies about kidnapped babies.

3. Army of One (2016)

The film is inspired by the true story of Gary Faulkner, a handyman from Colorado who receives a vision telling him to go to Pakistan to do what no one else can do: to capture Osama bin Laden. So without any questions or skills, he follows his mission. (Via)

Turn on the bathtub faucet. Open a bottle of wine, the one you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Make sure the water in the tub is warm, but not too warm. Put on some Sam Cooke. Slowly dip your body in. Sink beneath the bubbles. Get comfy. Close your eyes. Take a moment to enjoy the finer things in life, like the movie where Nicolas Cage plays, to quote our review at the time, “a kook who traveled to Pakistan on a self-described mission from God to try to capture Bin Laden.” That’s tough to top, and yet…

2. Outcast (2015)

Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen star as ex-Crusades warriors who team up to help the children of a deposed Chinese Emperor battle their murderous uncle. (Via)

Who better to play ex-Crusades warriors living in 12th century China than Anakin Skywalker and Nicolas Cage, as a long-haired “bandit leader” known as the White Ghost? No, really, I’m genuinely asking, because this is perfect.

Entertainment One

Outcast‘s hair gel budget must have been out of control.

1. Pay the Ghost (2015)

Nicolas Cage will star as a professor whose young son goes missing during a Halloween parade in New York City. One year later he begins to sense his son’s presence and uncovers clues leading to a vicious and vengeful ghost that surfaces each Halloween to abduct children. Sarah Wayne Callies will play Kristen, Cage’s estranged wife and a whip smart environmental attorney who teams up with her husband to recover their son before he’s lost to the spirit world forever. (Via)

Don’t you hate it when your kid gets abducted on Halloween by a vengeful ghost and you, a professor, and your wife, a “whip smart” environmental attorney, have to team up to stop the supernatural being before your child is stuck in the spirit world when all you want to do is stay home and plot to steal the Declaration of Independence? Same. It wasn’t until Pay the Ghost, with its ultra-relatable premise, that I finally felt understood on the big screen. Thank you, Nicolas Cage. For everything.

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