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The 6 Best And 6 Worst Nicolas Cage Movies According To Rotten Tomatoes

Nicolas Cage's career has spanned decades, which means it's bound to have a few hits and misses. But even by that standard, his filmography famously careens up and down in quality. He's less predictable than a man who goes from stopping people from stealing the Declaration of Independence to stealing it himself to stop them from stealing it, only to use it for the exact same purpose they'd wanted it for, anyway.

Rotten Tomatoes isn't a definitive arbiter of a film's quality for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that every Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic thinking a movie is passably okay can end up sending a movie's score higher than if it's dearly beloved by only a certain type of person. But it can often give you an idea — especially if you read the reviews — and it's definitely fun, so let's take a look through the highest highs and lowest lows in the Rotten Tomatoes scores of Hollywood's most Nicolas Cage actor, Nicolas Cage. And no, surprisingly enough, Leaving Las Vegas doesn't make the list.

Best: Mandy (90%)

Correctly, one of Nicolas Cage's highest-rated movies is one where he goes full Cage. With 211 fresh reviews and 23 rotten, the critics consensus for Mandy praises the film's "gonzo violence," "palpable emotion," and, of course, having Cage in it. Per the official synopsis, the movie pits Cage against a cult in a "phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance." Among the site's critic reviews, Katie Hogan of She Likes Movies compares Mandy to a death metal band's music video. A negative, one-star report by Kevin A. Ransom of MovieCrypt.com still describes "a sense of raw filmmaking and imagery... coupled with throwbacks to 1980s post-apocalypse sci-fi and fantasy." 

Mandy is only from 2018, so Cage may be playing into type here. But unlike some of his other efforts at B-movies, critics seem to appreciate his collaboration with director and co-writer Panos Cosmatos, a relatively new name with only one previous film listed on the site.

Whether this is really his sixth best is debatable, though: Raising Arizona edges out Mandy at 91%, but only has 54 reviews. That movie's a screwball comedy by Joel and Ethan Coen. Predictably for anyone who's watched their movies, the critics consensus describes Raising Arizona as "eccentric."

Worst: Outcast (5%)

2015's Outcast features Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen in ancient China, a seemingly impossible premise to mess up, so this requires some faith in Rotten Tomatoes, especially when the critics consensus describes the film as "unforgivably dull." The film only has 22 reviews, but an audience score of 21% with 1,345 ratings suggests big trouble for Cage in fictional China. Cage's character is named "Gallain," the film features "a mythical outlaw known as The White Ghost," and, most epically, Christensen's character answers to "Jacob." It's about an heir to the throne who seeks protection after being targeted for assassination by his older brother, which is something most of us can relate to.

Steve Tilly of the Toronto Sun says the film "feels sort of like a Chinese pseudo-historical soap opera that's been crashed by a couple of white dudes," a very specific but strangely appealing reference point. The most worrisome critics quote comes from Nerdist's Scott Weinberg, who suggests it takes time for Cage to make his way onscreen: "The whole thing is a big mess, but sometimes it is an amusing mess — and doubly so once Cage shows up. Bless his heart." That last sentiment, at least, is something we can all agree on.

Best: Adaptation (91%)

More than 200 critics contributed to this rating, and equally impressive is the audience score, which sits at 85% with a whopping 188,619 votes. The critics consensus raves that Adaptation is "dizzyingly original" and it's easy to understand why when you learn the premise: A screenwriter faces writer's block as his brother moves in with him and attempts to become a screenwriter himself. The catch? The screenwriter in question is Charlie Kaufman, the real-life screenwriter who in turn wrote Adaptation. His brother in the film, however, is fictional... and both brothers are portrayed by Nicolas Cage. 

The film is officially credited to both real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and the fictional Donald Kaufman, and both were nominated for a very real Oscar. Donald Kaufman's real Rotten Tomatoes page notes that he's the first real-life Oscar-nominated fictional screenwriter, which seems like a genuine milestone in fictional representation. An interesting fun fact: Rotten Tomatoes lists Adaptation as both Donald Kaufman's highest and lowest rated film, but lacks his birthdate and birthplace, potentially because he doesn't exist. If you're a little confused on where this movie ends and real life begins, that's exactly the point.

This 2002 dramedy was directed by Spike Jonze, a fascinating filmmaker who also wrote and directed Her, among others. However, he isn't a Nicolas Cage character and any fictional brothers he may have remain utterly unaccomplished.

Worst: 211 (5%)

211 finds Nicolas Cage as a police officer caught in the middle of a bank heist along with a civilian. The movie was technically inspired by a real violent bank robbery in 1997 North Hollywood, but Luke Y. Thompson at Forbes reports in his review that the adaptation is very loose, complete with setting the tale in a more generic locale.

This R-rated action drama had a limited theatrical release in July 2018. It's writer/director York Alec Shackleton's first movie to be rated on Rotten Tomatoes, and he's made only one film since, the 2020 Guy Pearce film Disturbing the Peace, which earned a slightly better 17%. 211's actually tied with Outcast at 5% with 22 reviews, but 211's audience score is lower, at only 9% with 169 reviews. The critics consensus refers to "action clichés and uninspired set pieces," with Stephen Danay at Under the Radar declaring that it "frankly belongs in the conversation for worst films of the century thus far."

Best: Face/Off (92%)

One of Nicolas Cage's most memorable films is unsurprisingly also one of his highest-rated. In this R-rated 1997 action hit, Cage plays against John Travolta, with the two swapping faces and identities between an FBI agent and a criminal mastermind, but given how beloved Face/Off is, there's a decent chance you knew that already.

The spectacle's helmed by John Woo, the renowned Chinese filmmaker who made a name for himself in Hong Kong in the '70s and '80s before coming to Hollywood in the '90s. In his review's quote for Face/Off, David Ansen at Newsweek fittingly calls Woo "a master of poetical carnage," a fantastic label to achieve if you work in certain, very specific industries. Woo also directed Mission: Impossible 2, with less auspicious but still respectable results that include a 57 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Less well-known are Face/Off's screenwriters, Michael Colleary, Mike Werb, and Gary Capo. Werb also wrote the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy, The Mask, which holds 77% on the site.

Worst: Arsenal (3%)

The only reward sweeter than making one of the worst movies of your career is making two of them. Arsenal takes place in the universe of Deadfall, another entry among Nicolas Cage's lowest-rated films, with Cage reprising his role as mob boss Eddie King. The film stars Johnathan Schaech and Adrian Grenier as brothers, one of whom finds legitimate work, the other turning to the mob. Naturally, they both get sucked into King's orbit. Cage finally gets the chance to redeem the character, according to 3% of critics. The consensus notes that the movie features "a mustachioed Nicolas Cage acting from under a wig and behind a prosthetic nose," only to insist that, otherwise, "Arsenal has depressingly little to offer," despite this already being everything we could possibly want.

The 2017 release is currently screenwriter Jason Mosberg's only credit on Rotten Tomatoes, while director Jason C. Miller is best-reviewed for 2012's murderous Santa movie Silent Night, with 65% percent of critics decreeing it fresh.

Best: Moonstruck (93%)

A PG rom-com from 1987, Moonstruck finds Nicolas Cage romancing Cher, who plays a widow about to get remarried when she falls for her future brother-in-law. The moon is also involved, regrettably more as a motif than a rival for Cage. The critics consensus calls Moonstruck "an exuberantly funny tribute to love," while Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times notes that it's an "American movie with foreign-film sensibilities."

Cher's performance earned her an Oscar, while Olympia Dukakis also won one for a supporting role. Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley won his own Oscar and used the clout to make Joe Versus the Volcano, a comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan about a terminally ill man deciding whether to let an island tribe sacrifice him into a volcano to stop their island from sinking. The film has 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, a strangely low score for an achievement all of human civilization had been building towards. This is a real movie and we should talk about that more often, even if it inexplicably doesn't involve Cage.

Worst: Left Behind (1%)

An adaptation of a series of overtly Christian apocalyptic novels which were previously adapted into a film trilogy, this was probably always a tough sell, but critics didn't hold back, forming the consensus: "Yea verily, like unto a plague of locusts, Left Behind hath begat a further scourge of devastation upon Nicolas Cage's once-proud filmography." Bilge Ebiri of Vulture calls it "Biblical in its silliness," while James Berardinelli of ReelViews opines, "Not only is this an amateurish travesty combining fundamentalist Christian eschatology with disaster movie b.s., but it's plodding and tedious." Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star, presumably in good wit, considers the movie a victory for Satan. For her part, Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com notes: "It should have more bees."

Despite the crippling absence of bees, Diana Saenger from ReviewExpress.com calls Left Behind "high drama" featuring "a great cast," earning the film its plaudit, though at least Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times conceded that the film would "clean up at the next Razzie Awards." The 2014 mystery and suspense drama was, in fact, beaten in all three nominated categories — Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Actor (Nicolas Cage) — by Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas, which holds a clean 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Cameron, incidentally, previously starred in the earlier Left Behind trilogy. Even at the Razzies, it seems Cage's film was left behind.

Best: Red Rock West (95%)

An ordinary man is hired by a guy who mistakenly thinks he's a hit man to kill his wife. "Red Rock West is a hidden neo-noir gem with some delightful cracks in its surface," per its critics consensus. Richard Schickel of Time Magazine notes that "it has the kind of tension and energy — maybe even a touch of delirium — that is only a memory" in latter-day films. Joe Brown at the Washington Post calls the screenplay "intelligent and off-handedly witty," while Jeffrey M. Anderson says the movie "seems to understand the inner workings of film noir." The suspenseful 1993 drama/mystery is the highest-rated fiction film on Rotten Tomatoes to feature Nicolas Cage in the leading role: Essentially, this slightly below-radar flick is the best-rated "normal" Cage movie.

And if your own sensibilities are also twisted enough to think that this premise would make an excellent rom-com, there's always Divorce Italian Style, a 1962 Italian-language comedy sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, about a husband who tries setting his wife up with another man so that he can murder her under extenuating circumstances.

Worst: Deadfall (0%)

Deadfall sees Nicolas Cage portray the mustachioed Eddie for the first time, to limited applause and a few condolences. The film has five reviews, two ominously bearing the quote, "quote not available." The other three note that it's "[w]atchable only for camp value," "[s]hallow and unpersuasive," and, in a review that soars above the finest heights of film criticism, Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal reports, "Oh man! This film is so bad!" A random audience member, however, claims the performance is Cage's best, while giving the movie two-and-a-half stars. Most alarming of all is the "Movie Info" section, which explains the story in its apparent entirety, right up to, "Nicolas Cage, in a totally over-the-top performance also fails to give his character any believability or depth."

The R-rated 1993 crime drama, whose plot does admittedly seem complicated to explain, was written and directed by Christopher Coppola. Coppola is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director behind the Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now. Christopher Coppola is also the brother of the popular American actor Nicolas Cage, Francis Ford's other nephew, because Cage isn't Nicolas Cage's real last name and everything you thought you knew about the world was built upon a bed of lies.

All-Time Best: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (97%)

Nicolas Cage is far from the lead in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which stars Shameik Moore and features a stacked cast including Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry. That said, Cage does get to play a version of Spider-Man — specifically, Spider-Man as a black and white '30s noir detective. It's a good movie.

While Cage probably isn't the reason it succeeds, his character does embody the gleefully chaotic energy behind it, an energy that Cage has always channeled throughout his career. The film's unorthodox animation and escalating insanity could easily have spiraled out of control at any moment, a sense that pervades Cage's filmography as he constantly pushes his own boundaries (and often critics' and the audience's), to try creating a heightened experience we would never have without him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but he is always Nicolas Cage. Perhaps, then, Into the Spider-Verse is a more fitting high point on Rotten Tomatoes than it first appears.

All-Time Worst: Grand Isle (0%)

Nicolas Cage's character lives in a Victorian home with dark secrets that might be exposed when a guest seeking shelter from a hurricane is charged with murder. Grand Isle's 0% comes from only nine reviews and its audience score is surprisingly high at 74%. With only 46 user ratings, it's possible that Cage's family and friends just finally decided to come off the sidelines and help him out, but it also seems like this installment in Cage's Z-list is potentially underrated. That said, we won't be the ones to check.

Cage also has one other film in apparent war with Rotten Tomatoes: He produced, but did not appear in, the Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words, now at 0% on the site with 57 reviews. Cage also has tangential roles in more positively received films: He provides some narration for Love, Antosha, a 2019 documentary tribute to the late actor Anton Yelchin, currently at 96%.