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The Best Nicolas Cage Action Movies Ranked

This content was paid for by Lionsgate and created by Looper.

For the past four decades, Nicolas Cage has been one of the most prolific and entertaining actors in all of show business. Born into Hollywood's prestigious Coppola family, Cage has proven to be a seminal screen star who can delight fans of all genres, thanks to his rip-roaring comedic timing, sizzling dramatic work, and even some truly thrilling horror performances, and he has a multitude of accolades to show for his impressive filmography.

Cage has also managed to maintain his dominance in the action arena over the years, with his fearless presence proving intensely watchable in almost any high-stakes circumstance. And on April 22, he'll bring his singular style to the exciting action-comedy "Massive Talent," which features the actor as, well, Nick Cage, an accomplished blockbuster action star whose glory days are in the rearview mirror, and he's ready to retire. However, once he's hired to attend the birthday party of a wealthy superfan named Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), he gets something of a second wind ... and is then recruited by a CIA operative Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) to channel some of his most iconic fictional characters for a very dangerous government mission.

The film marks the culmination of so many memorable moments from Cage's prodigious screen career, from his sprawling adventure stories to some searing action-dramas that impressed critics and audiences alike. So to celebrate this marvelously meta role, here's a look back at Nicolas Cage's best action movies of all time, ranked.

Ghost Rider

Just before the MCU emerged as a mainstay of the movie industry, Cage became one of Marvel's most fiery superheroes of all time – the title character of the 2007 flick "Ghost Rider." Cage stars in the pic as Johnny Blaze, a man who's forced to become the enforcer of the demon Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda), whose son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is attempting to obtain a contract for 1,000 corrupted souls.

Johnny has no choice but to do the devil's bidding because, as a teenager, he sold his own soul in exchange for his father's cancer being cured, only to see his dad die in a tragic motorcycle stunt accident right in front of him. Nevertheless, Johnny grows up to be an even more daring and popular stunt cyclist, so when he's charged with being Hades' newest henchman, he has very little fear.

With Johnny Blaze, Cage's performance manages to make the character both ruthless and redeemable, haughty and heartfelt, and condemned but not contemptible. It's a bold balancing act that's matched only by the mightiest stunt jump the character takes on in the film.

Drive Angry

There's something so satisfying about seeing Cage bring his skills to the screen for films that have a bit of a supernatural bent, and "Drive Angry" is another prime example of that. Cage stars in this 2011 3-D film as John Milton, a damned man who escapes from Hell armed with nothing less than Satan's own gun. Milton is on a mission to get revenge against a cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke), a devil worshiper who's murdered Milton's daughter and stolen his baby granddaughter in order to sacrifice the child and bring Hades onto the world.

It's clear throughout the flick that Cage has a lot of fun portraying this unholy, semi-human character who has absolutely nothing left to lose — not even his own soul. As he races against the clock to rescue the baby before it's too late, he makes a surprisingly fierce ally (Amber Heard) and has a minion of Hades (William Fichtner) hot on his tail, which makes for even more hella good action and stylish fight sequences with an otherworldly flair. Better buckle up for this high-speed film ride.


When it comes to Cage's sci-fi surprises, 2009's "Knowing" is a must-see for the actor's legions of fans. In the film, he portrays John Koestler, a grieving widower and celebrated astrophysics professor who has to try and put on a good face for his son in the very worst of times. Things only get more alarming for his little family when his boy, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), gets his hands on a document that's been furiously filled with numbers by its creator, a girl who was supposed to make a drawing for her elementary school's time capsule but was guided by whispering voices to write down this series of digits instead.

John soon discovers that the numbers are not random – they're actually a list of dates and coordinates that relate to major catastrophes throughout recent history and even current events. He soon witnesses some of these foretold calamities up close and finds himself right in the thick of the chaos, and even if no one else believes him, he thinks this parcel points to some very, very dark moments for mankind in the near future. As John scrambles to protect his child from the voices that are creeping into his own head and the impending disaster that looms large, Cage delivers a searing performance as a parent who has to grapple with the impossible before it's too late.


John Woo's 2002 war film "Windtalkers" reveals a fascinating and important layer of America's offensive in World War II – the Navajo code talkers who helped lead the troops to victory in the Pacific theater by using a code that was indecipherable to enemy forces. In the film, Cage delivers a riveting performance as Sgt. Joe Enders, who's greatly wounded in combat but fights to return to the battlefield. He's assigned to the crucial undercover mission of protecting a code talker, Pvt. Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), from being captured at all costs.

Enders is already keenly aware of the horrors of this war, but he feels confident that he can do whatever it takes to keep the code from getting into enemy hands. However, when he and his fellow Marines find themselves in duress amid an ambush, Enders has to decide whether to follow direct orders or forge his own path forward through the skirmish. As Enders, Cage brings both valor and vulnerability to the role, and what results is a poignant picture about a critical part of the Allied success in the war.


Some of Cage's best roles are those that allow him to show who he is, rather than spelling out the nuances of the character through dialogue. In 2013's "Joe," it's a real rush to watch the eponymous antihero reveal himself through his actions (and a few choice words, of course) because he's not your everyday action lead. In the film, Joe is the foreman of a shady logging business and runs a tight-knit crew in his little town. He has a highly checkered past that we get bits and pieces of throughout his journey, and he's apparently made quite a few enemies along the way of his mysterious life.

Although Joe tends to be a bit of a loner, preferring the company of his vicious guard dog to real relationships with other people, he takes a shine to a young man who stumbles onto his worksite looking for a job. The boy, Gary (Tye Sheridan), is hard-working but troubled, and soon, Joe finds out why. The kid's father, Wade (Gary Poulter), is an abusive alcoholic. Though Joe is initially inclined to stay out of it, as the details of Gary's home life come into view, he has no choice but to act, putting his own peace and security at risk. Put simply, Joe isn't your average Joe nor your prototypical heroic figure, but he's still quite admirable as he steps in and steps up, against all of his own instincts.

Red Rock West

In the 1993 neo-noir thriller "Red Rock West," Cage plays Michael Williams, a character who stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time. Michael is a wounded combat veteran who's resorted to drifting after being discharged from the Marine Corps, and he heads to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming, in search of work. He gets way more than he bargained for, though, when he's mistaken for a hitman named Lyle (Dennis Hopper). Bar owner and town sheriff Wayne (J.T. Walsh) wants his wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), dead, and he forks over some serious dough for Michael to make it happen.

But instead of taking on Lyle's duties, Michael decides to warn Suzanne of Wayne's plans, and when the actual "Lyle from Dallas" arrives, that's when the real chaos begins. Soon, Michael finds himself in the middle of a deadly domestic dispute, with a hitman and a powerful, rage-filled sheriff on his tail. This stylish little thriller has a bit of everything – high-speed chases, clever jailbreaks, and some very surprising twists, and Cage is as charismatic as ever in the role.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

If you want to see a film that allows Cage to channel every inch of his ability to become unhinged on-screen, look no further than Werner Herzog's jarring crime drama "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans." The film features the actor as one of the Big Easy's most corrupt cops, Terence McDonagh. Terence might've started out his career as a by-the-book police officer, but throughout the shocking events of the film, we watch him unwind into a spectacular disaster whose errant energy sends shockwaves throughout the city.

It all begins when his back is injured while trying to rescue a trapped prisoner after Hurricane Katrina, and after being prescribed pain killers, he starts to suffer from addiction to other substances. His need for illicit drugs marks the start of his moral flexibility spree, but there's so much more in store for audiences to witness as Cage lays bare the bananas nature of this character.

Amid an investigation of a grisly multiple homicide case, he has to grapple with a mountain of problems of his own making: debts, personal strife, and some terrible, terrible uses of his badge among them. More importantly, he also deals with his own deteriorating grasp on reality. As the consequences of his bad behaviors bubble up and his grip on sanity continues to wane, Terence chooses to lean into his warped views of justice and let the chips fall where they may, leading to one breathlessly messy action-adventure and a truly riveting screen turn for Cage fans. It also marks the second collaboration between Cage and actress Eva Mendes (following "Ghost Rider"), and their chemistry is absolutely off the charts.

National Treasure

The impossible is entirely possible in the "National Treasure" film series, and Cage's character — who's aptly named Benjamin Franklin Gates as a nod to his entire family's long held devotion to U.S. history — is a conduit for so many fascinating discoveries.

In the first film, released in 2004, Gates decides he must steal the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it – and the treasure map on the back of it – from potential pillagers. Meanwhile, in the second pic from 2007, he'll have to kidnap the actual president of the United States in order to get his hands on another map that leads to a fabled city of gold.

In both films, the excitement is electric right from the start, as Cage imbues the character with a true sense of honor and commitment to both uncovering and protecting the most precious pieces of the past — even if it means being completely reckless with his own life and liberty along the way. With illuminating anecdotes about the Founding Fathers and centuries-old conspiracies and some larger-than-life set pieces, the "National Treasure" series is a wholesome good time for Cage fans of all ages.

Gone in 60 Seconds

Cage's car chase scenes really get our engines revving, and the star-studded 2000 smash hit film "Gone in 60 Seconds" has a whole lot of that glorious roadway action. Cage stars in the film as Randall "Memphis" Raines, a retired car thief who has to get back into the business after his brother is threatened by a gangster after a boost-gone-wrong. Memphis has to quickly assemble a crew of fellow former heist aficionados who can help him track down and steal 50 specific luxury cars in the space of just three days to save his brother's life.

Together, the group puts pedal to the metal to organize a speedy series of heists to take place simultaneously across the city of Long Beach, California. Even though most of the lifts that follow are exceedingly slick, showing off the characters' skills for espionage, stealth, and, of course, supreme driving. However, they also hit a few speed bumps along the way that put the entire operation — and everyone involved — in grave peril. What results is a smashing series of highway chases involving some of the snazziest cars that have ever been seen on screen.


Superheroes may come in all shapes and sizes, but the titular costumed vigilante in 2010's "Kick-Ass" is still one of a kind.

The film centers on a nerdy kid named Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who decides to try a day-saving alter ego on for size because why not? The thing Dave doesn't know, though, is that there are a couple of real tough cookies out there training to deliver some homegrown justice of their own. Amid his roughshod crime-fighting adventures, Kick-Ass eventually meets Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her vengeance-seeking father, Big Daddy, played by Cage.

As Big Daddy, Cage is a real riot, parading around in a Batman-esque suit and coaching his daughter on how to destroy full-on armies of goons all by herself. The role is darkly comedic and shows off Cage's sublime gift for blending action sequences with quirky anecdotes and some very fiery character moments.

Lord of War

Cage is particularly gifted at playing characters who have a lack of scruples and absolutely no regrets, and that's certainly the defining characteristic of his character in 2005's "Lord of War." Cage stars in the pic as Yuri Orlov, a successful and carefree gunrunner who delights in providing arms to some of the world's most dangerous individuals.

Alongside his brother, Vitaly (Jared Leto), Yuri becomes a major player in the 1982 Lebanon War, selling weapons to both sides of the conflict without concern for either. And as a result, he becomes a target for an ambitious Interpol agent named Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). Still, it takes years for the true price of Yuri's crimes to come due, and when it does, well, let's just say Yuri finds himself in the middle of some very dangerous conflicts.

As Yuri, Cage is a complete enigma, bringing both humor and horror to a story that's truly engaging and intelligent.

Matchstick Men

Ridley Scott's 2003 black comedy "Matchstick Men" features our seminal star at the tippy top of his game. His character, Roy Waller, is at once a cavalier con artist and a desperately unraveling individual with a lonely home life. His ability to smooth-talk unsuspecting marks into handing over their hard-earned money is impressively strong, but he's also hanging on by a thread when it comes to his own sanity and sense of purpose.

Things take a major turn for Roy when he's introduced to the teen daughter he didn't know he had, Angela (Alison Lohman), and decides to embrace his dad status and teach her all he knows about running a game. Suddenly, as the stakes of his heists reach new heights and his mental health continues to waver, Roy has to worry about more than just his own financial interests for the first time in his life. Things eventually culminate into a gloriously chaotic climax with some dynamite twists that keep you guessing right until the end.

Raising Arizona

1987's "Raising Arizona" was one of Nicolas Cage's first major films, but it contains one of his all-time greatest comedic-action performances. The movie, which helped bring the Coen brothers into the mainstream, features the star as H.I. "Hi" McDunnough, a former convict who marries a police officer named Ed (Holly Hunter). After they decide they want to have children but are unable to bear or adopt any themselves, Hi and Ed decide to kidnap one of the quintuplet sons of a famous furniture magnate and raise him as their own.

Though they initially try to raise him as little "Junior" and pass him off as their own biological child, things get completely out of hand once the couple is reacquainted with some of Hi's former pals from prison, as well as other wildcard characters like Hi's offensive foreman and a monstrous biker. From there, poor Junior becomes the unwitting centerpiece of some blackly hilarious and action-packed exchanges.


It's not often that a movie with intense fighting and a complicated game of cat and mouse can also be a meaningful meditation on grief, but that's exactly what "Pig" manages to pull off.

The film features Cage as Rob, a man who lives completely off the grid in the forest alongside his prized pig. He spends his days hunting truffles with his beloved pet, and his only human interaction happens once a week when an ambitious young restaurant supplier from Portland comes to trade humble necessities for Rob's bounties of discovered delicacies. Rob relishes the quietude and isolation in his rustic old cabin, but when his talented pig is stolen amid a violent attack, he has to return to the city to face his mysterious past in order to save her.

There, as the layers of his life are slowly peeled like an onion, Rob must confront a seedy and dangerous underbelly of the city, along with his own mortality and loss. Though the film is dripping with dread and features some very satisfying moments of action, it's also refreshingly subversive and emotionally engaging. Anchoring it all is Cage's sensational and critically revered leading performance in the pic, which proves that even as accomplished as he already is, he's still got many surprises up his sleeve.


Nicolas Cage has strong rock-and-roll energy, and the 2018 horror flick "Mandy" is a prime example of that. The psychedelic film features the actor as Red Miller, a reclusive logger who's content to spend his quiet life with his girlfriend, artist Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), enjoying their idyllic wilderness and waxing poetic about the universe. Their peace is completely shattered, however, when Mandy is spotted and coveted by Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), the deranged leader of a terrifying hippie cult. As a result, the group attacks the couple in their home with the help of some demonic bikers.

After the siege, which finds Mandy in the clutches of these ruthless creeps, Red seeks revenge against the cult members and engages in a brutal battle that's made even more surreal by hallucinatory substances and Red's sheer ruthlessness. In addition to being a gonzo revenge story, the film is a gory, scary sensory experience, with Cage's deliciously berserk performance bringing all the batty action home.

The Rock

The cast of 1996's "The Rock" is a veritable who's who of action movie all-stars from the era, with Cage smack dab in the middle as one of the most entertaining screen heroes of all time. Cage stars as FBI Special Agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, a chemical weapons specialist who ordinarily spends his workdays inside a tank, diffusing bombs and stopping the spread of dangerous toxins employed by terrorists.

But once Alcatraz is taken over by a dangerous group of former Marines who aren't afraid of using WMDs to get what they want, the good doctor's life changes forever more. He has to work alongside a group of Navy SEALs and a highly classified spy turned prisoner (Sean Connery) to infiltrate the notorious prison and sabotage some poison-filled missiles before they ever launch.

If that's not a tall enough order, Stanley isn't trained for combat situations, be that a sly scuba-diving entry, the weapons he'll need to wield, or the hand-to-hand combat he'll need to engage in. As a result, audiences are treated to a taut thrillride packed with plenty of punches and, as is the custom in any good Cage movie, a lot of quotable moments.


For a film that manages to incorporate all of the trappings of a traditional action film, John Woo's "Face/Off" is still an incredibly original thrill. Sure, you may have seen planes crash into hangars and high-speed boat chases and mega shootouts on-screen before, but chances are good that you've never seen these events unfold during a blood feud between two people wearing each other's faces. At least, not until you check out this 1997 classic.

The film features Cage and John Travolta playing dual roles, with Cage starting off as the ruthless criminal Castor Troy. But when Troy falls into a coma, FBI Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) decides to surgically remove Troy's face and try it on for size – allowing him to infiltrate the terrorist's organization. Unfortunately, when Troy suddenly wakes up, he thinks it would be hilarious to take Archer's identity in the exact same way, allowing Cage and Travolta to play both characters.

With their roles reversed and each man pretending to be the other around their family members and colleagues, the performances of Cage and Travolta are exquisitely nuanced and off-kilter. They also both seem to be having the absolute time of their lives in these roles, which amplifies the rush factor as this memorable action ride brings the duo together for an epic – you guessed it – face-off.

Con Air

There are many, many roles that seem to have been specifically crafted for Nicolas Cage's unique screen talents, but with 1997's "Con Air," the entire film truly hinges on his particular gifts for earnestness and his ease with major action sequences. Here, he stars as Cameron Poe, a decorated combat veteran who's sent to prison after drunkenly killing a man who attacked his wife. Near the tail end of his sentence, as he looks forward to being released and reunited with his spouse and child, he finds himself on board a prison transport plane that includes a bevy of the country's most hardened criminals, who scheme to take over the plane and escape from custody.

Not only is Poe already different from these other convicts in that he's not a dangerous crook, but he also wants nothing to do with this hijacking — or the violence that follows. Once the chaos erupts, he quietly begins to work with authorities on the ground to stop the madness, at great risk to his own safety. For Cage fans, this film has a little bit of everything that makes him such a Hollywood legend. The character is tough but vulnerable, serious but also self-aware, and he has some unforgettable one-liners that only he can deliver. Put simply, when it comes to Nick Cage's most iconic action films, "Con Air" truly nails the landing.

With all of these amazing performances under his belt, it's really no wonder Cage manages to corral such intense fandemonium from the likes of Javi in "Massive Talent," a must-see theatrical experience you should see with friends in all its action-packed glory on April 22. Click here to get showtimes and tickets.