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Worst To Best: Nicolas Cage

Birdy (1984)

The Movie: Buddies Birdy (Modine) and Al (Cage) both serve in the Vietnam War. But when they return home, the former becomes obsessed with learning how to fly like a bird.

So Cage It’s Good? Birdy is a great example of how times have changed for Cage – nowadays, it’d be him playing the loon obsessed with flying. Here, he settles for playing the best friend. Not a tick or twitch in sight.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

The Movie: Clueless director Amy Heckerling’s appraisal of teenage life in 1980s California.

So Cage It’s Good? Cage’s first film (acting under his given name, Nicolas Coppola), and not exactly the biggest part he’ll play (Sean Penn pretty much steals the spotlight… Bloody Sean Penn). Still, he looks good in that wedge cap, doesn’t he?

Face/Off (1997)

The Movie: FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) undergoes an experimental medical procedure that makes him look like the criminal he’s attempting to capture, Castor Troy (Cage).

So Cage It’s Good? This is easily one of Cage’s best action movie performances. And next to Travolta's hammy turn, he's a model of restraint, pulling off the dual role with all the swagger of a true movie star.

Matchstick Men (2003)

The Movie: Swindler Roy (Cage) and his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell) hatch a plan to separate import/exporter Frechette (Bruce McGill) from a cool $80,000.

So Cage It’s Good? By now, Cage knows what he does best – so Roy’s an OCD-crippled nutter who can’t leave the house until he’s taken his medication. And this being Cage, he’s a memorably unique character who couldn’t be played by anybody but Cage.

The Rock (1996)

The Movie: When insane General Francis Xavier Hummel (Ed Harris) takes Alcatraz Island hostage, it’s up to FBI biochemist Stanley Goodspeed (Cage) and Alcatraz escapee John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) to bring him down.

So Cage It’s Good? Not just anybody can challenge Sean Connery for screen-time, but Cage does it here, proving himself worthy of mahussive action blockbusters. It’s a genre he’ll return to numerous times.

Raising Arizona (1987)

The Movie: Childless couple ex-con H.I. McDunnough (Cage) and ex-cop Edwina 'Ed' McDunnough (Holly Hunter) kidnap quintuplets in their desperate desire for a child, unaware of the repercussions kids will have on their lives.

So Cage It’s Good? Cage is often best when he’s allowed to unleash his mad physical comedy skills, which is what he does here – not least during that stand-out nappy-stealing scene.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

The Movie: Hollywood screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Cage) is an alcoholic. Having lost everything, he heads to Las Vegas, where he plans on drinking himself to death.

So Cage It’s Good? Cage’s performance here is the very definition of ‘tour-de-force’. He brings a startling depth and humanity to Sanderson, and shows he’s good enough to play with the big boys. He deserved that Oscar…

Lord Of War (2005)

The Movie: An Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke) is on the tail of an arms dealer (Cage) who’s having a crisis of conscience over his line of work.

So Cage It’s Good? Cage has played heroes and villains, and here he proves himself king of the anti-heroes. It's a nuanced, gutsy performance that easily earns our empathy and affection.

Grindhouse (2007)

The Movie: Less a movie, more of a trailer. Cage pops up in a fake movie trailer for a film called Werewolf Women Of The SS , directed by Rob Zombie.

So Cage It’s Good? Trussed up in oriental garb (and killer facial hair) as Chinese criminal mastermind Dr Fu Manchu, Cage proves it’s not the size of the role that counts – just your dedication to the task.

Adaptation (2002)

The Movie: Cage plays Charlie Kaufman and his fictional brother Donald. Charlie’s a screenwriter who asks his brother for help when he gets stuck attempting to adapt a non-fiction book for the screen.

So Cage It’s Good? Cage went through rigorous behind-the-scenes body modifications to get his twin role right. Not only is it a shockingly well-constructed physical performance that holds up to many, many viewings, it’s also Cage’s favourite hair do. “It's kind of like a balding poodle!” he says.