Nicolas Cage comes from one of film’s most esteemed families. His uncle is Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”) and his aunt is actress Talia Shire (“The Godfather,” “Rocky”). Not wanting to appear like his career was the productive of nepotism, when he started acting he took the name Cage from one of his favorite comic book characters, Marvel’s Luke Cage.
Cage’s film career started off quite auspiciously with a small role in the popular comedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” when he was just 18 years old. He followed that up with a lead role in the cult classic “Valley Girl.” Both films interestingly dealt with the life of teenagers in the Los Angeles suburbs of the San Fernando Valley.
For his third film Cage would finally agree to work with his uncle when he appeared in Coppola’s “Rumble Fish,” followed the following year by Coppola’s “The Cotton Club.” The year 1984 proved an important year for Cage as he started to break through with increasingly larger film roles. After a well received supporting role in the Sean Penn/Elizabeth McGovern romance “Racing with the Moon,” Cage ended the year with a starring role in the acclaimed film “Birdy.”
From then on Cage has worked steadily in all genres of films. He is one of the few actors to receive acclaim in comedy, drama, and action films. In 1996 at age 32, he became the fourth youngest person to ever win a Best Actor Oscar when he took home the prize for the film “Leaving Las Vegas.”
Take a tour of his 15 greatest film performances, ranked worst to best, in our photo gallery. Our list includes the movies mentioned in this article, plus “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Raising Arizona,” “National Treasure” and more.