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The most paused Nicolas Cage movie moments

Few people are in touch with their emotions. What lies deep down in our primal instincts remains dormant for most. But a gifted few are able to tap into that deep, dark well and unleash chaos on the unsuspecting — the unsuspecting in this case being movie audiences. And Nicolas Cage has obviously tapped into something ancient that the rest of humanity has forgotten. From time to time, he loses touch with it and stars in a movie like Next, but then he'll swing back and give us Kick-Ass. It's a pendulum that swings to the tune of its own wild lullaby while Cage pops out and screams "Haggis!" at the top of every hour.

There aren't many others in Hollywood (if any) with the depth in their resume that Cage has. His acting career has spanned nearly four decades. How many movies has he been in? So many that even Google scoffs at the question and simply responds with "at least 106". And the actor keeps us wondering which Cage we'll get next — crazy awful or crazy amazing. Even when he's truly bad, we can't peel our eyes away, and as a result, there are plenty of Cage moments worth pausing and rewatching. And we've scoured his filmography to bring you the best moments to hit pause and stare into the eyes of the one true god: Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas Cage gets religion in Face/Off

Face/Off is a flick that remains wildly entertaining, and the entire ordeal is all the more amusing when you realize that each actor's character is an interpretation of the other actor's interpretation of their character. But despite a valiant effort, John Travolta can't quite get to Cage's level intensity. He tries, but he isn't quite "ready for the big ride, baaaaaaby!"

When sitting down for a viewing of Face/Off, you don't have to wait long for a deranged Nicolas Cage to dance onto the screen and begin his tantric waltz with the human soul. After planting a bomb in a building, he steps out into the lobby and sees a choir singing hymns. How fitting that the mad man is already disguised as a priest. He claps his hands loudly together and begins headbanging to the gentle tune of God, with his crucifix and rosary beads whipping around his neck. He steps up behind a woman in the choir and whispers sweet nothings into her ear. A transcendent camera view zooms in from above at the apex of the hymn as Cage grabs a handful of choir girl booty and audibly gasps from the sheer excitement of being himself. It's a level of depravity that you can't look away from.

Witness the drug-fueled vengeance of Mandy

Mandy was a little-seen indie gem was released in only 250 theaters. The film has a 90% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, with audiences feeling how they usually feel about Cage — somewhere between bewilderment and amazement. Mandy features filmmaking techniques that amp up the surrealism and cover the entire experience in a thick ethereal coating. Cage slides right into place. 

He plays Red, who's wife (major spoilers) is killed by an insane, LSD-fueled cult leader. Cage answers back by consuming a bottle of vodka, screaming into the void, and then forging himself a battleaxe to wield against the hippies and their allies, a demonic biker gang. It's as wild of a ride as it sounds on paper. There are many moments to pause the film and reflect what lies behind those crazy Cage eyes, but our favorite lies towards the end. 

Red kills the evil bikers and then consumes a bunch of their cocaine and LSD before he presses onward towards his goal. After satiating his thirst for vengeance, the blood-soaked widower sits in his car in a psychedelic haze and looks over at the passenger seat ... right at his dead wife. The scene flashes about and cuts back to a wide-eyed Cage smiling from ear to ear, the whites of his eyes and teeth contrasting against the dark red blood covering every inch of the man. Sit in that moment with him, and you'll find out what madness feels like.

Nicolas Cage's crazy death in The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man was arguably the beginning of a dip in quality Cage roles. With that being said, it was also the beginning of the revelations regarding the mystery that swirls around the mystical thespian. The movie may be a series of nonsensical happenings, but it's impossible not to enjoy a frantic Cage zipping around an isolated, island community and punching religious zealots in the face. 

Cage plays Officer Edward Malus on a search for his missing daughter. His search sends him to an island built around a honey-producing economy and propped up by a pagan belief system. No one will give him a straight answer, and things get weird. It can be hard to pick a favorite moment while watching The Wicker Man. A close second would be Cage in a bear suit running up to a religious nut and slugging her right in the face. But the winning moment is when he's tortured by the village. 

He has a makeshift helmet cage strapped around his head and a swarm of bees are poured in. A caged Cage thrashes around while CGI bees swarm his face, and he screams in agony. It's halfway between legitimate horror and mental breakdown. And it is glorious. The post-production effects are weak, and we should count ourselves lucky this is the case because this leaves us with nothing but the almighty Cage raging against figments of his imagination.

Press pause in Vampire's Kiss, and behold the face of insanity

Even if you haven't seen Vampire's Kiss, you'll still recognize images from it. Pieces of the film have been implanted in the center of internet meme culture, and the insanity that Cage poured into the role was one of the first hints we got that the man might be off his rocker. He plays Peter Loew, a narcissistic corporate stooge with interest in nothing but money and one-night stands. Conversations with his therapist make it clear that Peter has some serious mental health issues, and after a one-night stand ends with a woman biting his neck, Peter starts believing that he's turning into a vampire. Watching his downward spiral will make your emotions flatline.

In one iconic scene, Peter accosts his poor secretary with the truth about what he thinks of her lowly workplace position. The camera slowly pans in on a wide-eyed Cage as he describes the corporate prison she's trapped in, with him as the monarch she can't escape from. Over the span of this single take, you can pause the screen at any moment and stare into the eyes of man enraptured by his own emotional torment. It's haunting, kinda hilarious, and mostly confusing.

In Matchstick Men, don't get between a man and his pills

For the most part, the Nicolas Cage we get in Matchstick Men is pretty reserved. He plays a con man who suffers from mild Tourette's, OCD, and panic attacks. Throughout most of the movie, Cage appears to hold himself together well. He is a con man after all, and as such, keeping your cool is a necessity. But this is Nicolas Cage — he can only be contained for so long. The beast within shows its face when Cage is frantically working through a busy pharmacy line to get a hold of his much-needed prescription.

Cage works his way to the front of the line, Tourette's symptoms ticking away at his facial features while he battles a panic attack. He gasps for breath and fights to get his words out while stepping in front of a large line to talk to the pharmacist. While frantically explaining his desperation, a man behind him speaks up about his line-cutting, and it's in his response that all of Cage's neuroses attain beautiful symbioses with his rage. He turns to the man and screams, "Hey, have you ever been dragged across the concrete and beaten until you p****d blood?" It's a man at his wit's end. You feel his frustration, but you also need to fight back laughter by gritting your teeth. We feel you, buddy.

Nicolas Cage feels the sun on his cheeks in Con Air

In 1997, shortly after winning an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, the next logical step for a man of Cage's star power was obviously to become an action star. And shortly after starring in The Rock, the man gave us Con Air, a film that's jam-packed with big names like John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, John Malkovich, and Dave Chappelle. The film is basically Die Hard on a plane, and with a vehicle full of wacky, psychotic inmates, it's astounding that a reserved Nicolas Cage is still the stand-out. The man is able to embody serenity, look straight at a crazed killer, and demand that he "put the bunny back in the box."

Maybe it's the juxtaposition against all the crazy, or maybe Cage's magnetism loops back around on itself somehow. Perhaps we just can't get a handle on how we feel about that long, flowing mane that he's rocking. Whatever the reason, Nicolas Cage pulls our eyeballs into a seductive tango and doesn't let go. He plays an ex-military veteran who's convicted of manslaughter. After almost a decade away from his wife and the daughter he's yet to meet, he's being taken home aboard a prison transport that's hijacked by the inmates on board. When he first steps off a bus to board the plane, time slows down, and the wind rustles his magnificent hair. Cage smiles as his locks sway in the wind, and sunlight kisses his cheeks. It's tranquility at its absolute worst.

Press pause in Ghost Rider, and you'll feel the burn

There was a horrific span of time when Hollywood was churning out superhero movies with little effort put into making them good. And in the whirlwind of superhero mediocrity are the Cage-driven Ghost Rider films. Good thing, too, because watching a leather-clad Nicolas Cage deliver sweet, demonic justice continues to deliver. The lackluster storyline and outdated graphics may not hold up, but the void they leave allows you to view Cage being truly devilish and delightful.

Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman who sells his soul to a demon to save his father. As a result, he ends up becoming the Ghost Rider. His first transformation into the comic book anti-hero is Nicolas Cage at his finest. After zipping across town at upwards of 200 mph, Blaze ends up in a warehouse where he morphs into the embodiment of fury. Flames flicker from his feet, and his flesh begins to smolder as it burns away to expose the skeleton beneath. The camera spins around Cage as he screams ... in pain? But also he seems to enjoy it in a way. There's even a flickering moment when he appears to spike the camera, and a freeze frame displays a man from another world, burrowing his way into your psyche. The rest of the movie can melt away, and we'd be happy with the bare bones — Cage being Cage.

You can't help but stare during Honeymoon in Vegas

Being an extra on the set of major Hollywood productions has to be both exhilarating and frustrating. On one hand, you want to do your job and be professional. On the other hand, you hear the voices of some of your favorite actors mere feet away from you, but you can't engage. The job has to be enormously more difficult when that actor is Nicolas Cage. Many times during Cage's intense moments, it can be equally enjoyable to watch the reactions of those around him. At times, you can see other actors and extras breaking the fourth wall to stare in amazement at what's happening right in front of them.

In Honeymoon in Vegas, Cage is subjected to one of the most frustrating aspects of air travel: Ben Stein. The monotonous, dry staple of '80s boredom is at the front of the line, holding things up for everyone. Cage steps up and expresses his frustration. After discovering that Stein isn't even traveling the same day, Cage loses his mind, shouting about his lack of worry regarding detainment in a pre-9/11 "airport jail." In close-ups on Cage, you can see blurry extras in the background repeatedly looking over at his performance. As far as Nicolas Cage rage fits go, it's pretty tame, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable, and the applause from everyone in the airport watching him adds to the joy.

The beast is unleashed in Deadfall

Deadfall is one of the worst movies Hollywood has ever produced. Nicolas Cage did the film as a favor to his brother on his directorial debut. The best part of the film is that Cage dies halfway through, and you can stop watching it after that. Few people saw the dud, but lucky for us, the internet breathed life into a hidden gem so we could view a younger Cage without a leash. The familial obligation allowed for complete freedom on set, and the result was the most unhinged version of Cage ever. 

Here, he's a drug dealer (or something) in a film that need not be viewed for any reason other than to watch Cage be absolutely insane. In one scene, hbursts into his room after a brush with death, fueled up on cocaine, and unleashes a flurry of nonsensical rants. The woman in the room displays what seems to be genuine fear at what's occurring in front of her. At a weird moment, the camera locks into place on Cage while he sniffs a cigar and sticks his tongue out while groaning. What happens is difficult to interpret. It might be a new emotion that the rest of us have yet to discover.

Dancing souls in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

There are many ways for "The Cage" to hypnotize. Sometimes, he need only display his fascination with the world around him. He does exactly that in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Here, Cage plays a police lieutenant addicted to painkillers, and he's sent down into a web of criminals while his drug use worsens, and he slowly loses his mind. In one particularly amazing scene, he's in a room with a gaggle of drug dealers, and the deal goes wrong. The crew around Cage guns down three men as he watches, trapped in an opioid daze. While the gun smoke hangs in the air, the only response from Cage is a burst of laughter. Then he claims that they need to keep shooting one of the bodies because "his soul is still dancing." Cage stares out into the ether at a hallucination of one of the dead men breakdancing across the floor in front of him. Another shot rings out, and the breakdancing vessel crumples to the floor. An iguana slowly marches among the corpses, and Cage stares through the scene in front of him. The mysteries of the cosmos swirl in those iridescent eyes. Or maybe it's just all the drugs.

Now switch to Kryptonite!

Some roles appear to be created just for the oddity that is Cage. In Kick-Ass, he plays an ex-police officer hell-bent on getting revenge against the criminal that framed him, as his wrongful imprisonment resulted in the death of his wife. Upon his release from prison, he takes back custody of his daughter and trains her to be a masked vigilante alongside his Batman-esque persona while they kick ass across the town.

Despite the film's insanity, Cage is pretty mellow and reserved for most of it. But when he's captured, strapped to a chair, and lit on fire, the time is ripe for Cage to unleash his true potential. An amazing action sequence takes place in a dark warehouse, with his superhero daughter zipping around, eliminating the villains one by one while Cage burns alive in the chair, the light from the flames the only thing illuminating the building. He's screaming instructions and reminders about what he's trained her for as his flesh slowly burns. You feel his agony, but it's put on the back-burner so he can be there for his daughter, but wow, does that back-burner burn bright. It's a beautiful blend of Cage intensity and insane circumstances that creates one of the most uniquely badass action sequences in movie history.

Press pause in The Rock to witness the glory of Nicolas Cage

In the '90s, we were blessed with The Rock, a Michael Bay/Nicolas Cage collaboration. In a movie where oversaturated film and lens flares dazzle us in standard definition, Cage plays a biologist sent on a mission to disarm missiles armed with a deadly nerve gas. The missiles are on Alcatraz Island, controlled by a general seeking reparations for his fallen comrades. Sean Connery leads the heroic pack into the prison, and Cage follows suit. In a climactic moment in the film, Cage is exposed to the deadly nerve gas and plunges a giant needle directly into his heart to administer the antidote. Then, he must light flares to alert those in charge of the mission's success. He better hurry, though, because fighter jets are approaching the island to drop missiles under the assumption that the mission has failed. 

Cage stumbles out to open ground, lights two flares, and dramatically waves them about. But it's a split second too late. A missile is fired off just as they're receiving abort codes and detonates right behind Cage. The camera zooms in from above on Cage with his arms outstretched, screaming into the sky. It is a glorious moment. You can see his fear. You can feel his despair. You can see his body fly through the air as he's flung into San Francisco Bay.

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