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Good or Bad? Rating Every Nicolas Cage Performance

on June 09, 2016, 12:00am
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The Best of Times (1981)

This is an entirely debatable entry, since The Best of Times was a failed TV pilot/TV movie that’s hard to find (bless you, YouTube uploaders), but Nicolas Cage’s entire existence was pretty well-formed here. At just 17, the sandy-haired teen flexed, screamed, and exploded with West Coast charisma as Nicholas (an easy name to remember). Pitched as a sort of ‘80s Laugh In, teens talk dating, partying, and other Saturday morning “issues.”

Forgettable, but worth the morbid curiosity of seeing Cage pump his biceps, grunt, and scream, “THAT’S WHAT WOMEN WANT!”

And he’s kind of been that way ever since. Welcome to Earth, Mr. Cage.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

As exciting as it is to see Cage’s first proper onscreen performance, there’s something inherently wrong when Judge Reinhold is upstaging him. Cage (or Nicolas Coppola at the time, hello nepotism) is just set dressing, looking nervous on a grill as Reinhold’s Brad threatens to kick 100% of a customer’s ass. Maybe there are deleted scenes somewhere, in a Universal vault, where Cage is talking to burgers or something (“I think you’re gonna love this, Amy Heckerling”). If only. But everybody starts somewhere, and it might as well be in the (fake) fast food industry. Onward and upward, Cage.

Good or Bad?

Bad.

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Valley Girl (1983)

Ignore Valley Girl’s dated legacy of mall madness, and look at how handsome and curiously natural Cage is here. Cage is Randy, the punk kid from the big city with a Flock of Seagulls ‘do and unnaturally coiffed chest hair. He’s the Hughes-ian kid from the wrong side of the tracks in this modern Romeo & Juliet. But Cage is just so gawky and unbelievably charming. He exudes shy, nervous confidence (with hints of future outrage), and Cage seldom looked this cool onscreen. This is like, totally a breakout.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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Rumble Fish (1983)

As Smokey, Cage has a certain sort of sleazebag confidence in his uncle Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish. Puffy-haired and jacketed like a jerk, Cage exuded youth angst and had to; this was an S.E. Hinton adaptation, after all. He even holds his own against a scenery-chewing Matt Dillon.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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Birdy (1984)

According to this, um, family dental site (?), Cage went all method and had his teeth removed sans anesthesia for Alan Parker’s post-Vietnam melodrama Birdy, in order to feel real pain and help himself get into character. It’s unnecessary, but you know what? That’s commitment.

Good or Bad?

Good.

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