From Stanley Kubrick to Orson Welles: Nicolas Cage’s 13 favourite films of all time
Nicolas Cage, the acclaimed actor and filmmaker, has offered his thoughts on some of his favourite cinematic films of all time. It means that we all have a chance to climb inside the mind of one of the most dynamic actors of his generation and see what makes Nic tick.
Aspiring to be an actor from a very young age, Cage once said that moved into the profession and “wanted to be James Dean,” which will come as little surprise when you scroll down to see some of his film selections. “I saw him in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden,” he added. “Nothing affected me—no rock song, no classical music—the way Dean affected me in Eden. It blew my mind. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do’.”
It goes without saying that cinema runs through Nicolas Cage’s blood… quite literally. Growing up the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and of actress Talia Shire, Cage was destined to move into the business the moment he began to show an interest. Despite his family connections, Cage became a major student of cinema and worked his way through the industry, fervently indulging all forms of motion picture.
So when he was asked by the good people of Rotten Tomatoes to pick out his favourite five films, his answer of: “I can’t put it all in five. It’s just, there are different movies for different reasons in different lifetimes,” makes a little more sense.
See the full list, below.
Nicolas Cage’s 13 favourite films of all time:
Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone, 1969
Kicking things off we have Sergio Leone’s iconic 1968 epic Spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.
Starring the likes of Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and more, Leone’s masterpiece would go on to become a major critical and commercial success and propel those involved to major fame.
Official Film Synopsis: “There’s a single piece of land around Flagstone with water on it, and rail baron Morton aims to have it, knowing the new railroad will have to stop there. He sends his henchman Frank to scare the land’s owner, McBain, but Frank kills him instead and pins it on a known bandit, Cheyenne. Meanwhile, a mysterious gunslinger with a score to settle and McBain’s new wife, Jill, arrive in town.”
East of Eden – Elia Kazan, 1955.
Elia Kazan’s film, loosely based on sections of John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel of the same name, is a bonafide classic. In what marked James Dean’s first major screen role, East of Eden also included the likes of Julie Harris, Raymond Massey and Jo Van Fleet.
“East of Eden was the movie that really put the hook in me to become a film actor, because of James Dean’s performance when he has the nervous breakdown trying to get the money to Raymond Massey, playing his father, from selling beans, and he’s rejected,” Cage said of the film. “That nervous breakdown affected me more than anything else, and that’s what made me want to become a film actor.”
Official Film Synopsis: “In this film based on John Steinbeck’s epic novel, Cal Trask, the son of a California farmer, feels that his father cares only about his brother, Aron. When Cal embarks on a business venture to gain the favour of his dad, he finds himself dealing with his estranged mother, now the owner of a brothel, and tensions in the family rise even further when he begins to fall for Aron’s girlfriend, Abra.”
Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979.
“I was blown away by the scope of the film,” Cage said. “I don’t think there really was a movie like that before with the helicopter sequences, and with Brando’s performance with Dennis Hopper.”
In terms of war films, it doesn’t get much more epic than Francis Ford Coppola’s relentless take on the Vietnam War. In what proved to be intensely difficult working conditions for those involved, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and more managed to survive the filming and with that survival comes one of the greatest films of the great director’s esteemed career.
Official Film Synopsis: “In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz, a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad.
“In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer, and a crazed freelance photographer, Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.”
Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941.
Cage said of the film: “I was watching Citizen Kane when I was like eight years old, and I just watched it again. I watched it at night and I watched it the next day, and that is the best movie ever made. Nothing really ever comes close to it.”
Picking one of Orson Welles’ finest pieces, it shows that Cage’s taste isn’t resigned to the sensational but is more than happy to sample the intellectual side of Hollywood too. For many, Welles’ Citizen Kane is known as the greatest film of all time.
Official Film Synopsis: “When a reporter is assigned to decipher newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane’s dying words, his investigation gradually reveals the fascinating portrait of a complex man who rose from obscurity to staggering heights.”
Enter the Dragon – Robert Clouse, 1973.
Cage’s choices so far show off the intellectual side of the actor and while this movie does have its more profound moments, its all about the action.
Given some of Cage’s all action films it should come as little surprise that the actor is a fan of Robert Clouse’s martial arts blockbuster starring Bruce Lee. “I’d never seen anything like Bruce Lee, and that movie changed my life,” he said.
Official Film Synopsis: “Bruce Lee plays a martial-arts expert determined to help capture the narcotics dealer whose gang was responsible for the death of his sister. Lee enters a kung fu competition in an attempt to fight his way to the dealer’s headquarters with the help of some friends.”
The Nutty Professor – Jerry Lewis, 1963.
Given the boom in science fiction films released in the 1960s, Jerry Lewis’ comedic effort come sometimes be slightly overlooked; not by Cage though. “I think that The Nutty Professor has also had a huge impact in terms of my own tone, performance style,” he said.
In fact, for many of Cage’s performances you can trace it back to this film. Far removed from Eddie Murphy’s film, this one is oozing classic cinema.
Official Film Synopsis: “Julius Kelp is a college professor with a problem. Clumsy, awkward, inarticulate and unattractive, Julius is a hopeless case when it comes to women — but he’s desperate to impress beautiful student Stella. Fortunately, he does know something about chemistry and decides to concoct a potion that will turn him into a whole new man.”
The 400 Blows – François Truffaut, 1959.
François Truffaut’s 1959 French new wave drama film 400 Blows marked the filmmaker’s directional debut and had a major impact on defining the rising sub-genre of cinema. It has since become a keen part of cinema’s lexicon and one that Cage himself has noted.
French New Wave remains a shining light of the nation and this piece from Truffaut deserves revisiting or watching for the first time. It is one of the most stylish films of all time.
Official Film Synopsis: “For young Parisian boy Antoine Doinel, life is one difficult situation after another. Surrounded by inconsiderate adults, including his neglectful parents, Antoine spends his days with his best friend, Rene, trying to plan for a better life.
“When one of their schemes goes awry, Antoine ends up in trouble with the law, leading to even more conflicts with unsympathetic authority figures.”
The War of the Gargantuas – Ishirō Honda, 1970.
Japanese film The War of the Gargantuas, directed by Ishirō Honda and co-written by Honda and Takeshi Kimura, is quite possibly the epitome of a ‘cult’ film and good ol’ Nick Cage isn’t the only one to say it. The likes of Guillermo del Toro, Tim Burton, Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino have all had celebrated the artistry of this film.
Cage said: “I can lose myself in that movie, and I love the brothers warring, and it has kind of like a personal feeling for me.” The film should be on your essential watch list. If it has influenced those great names, chances are, you’ll enjoy it too.
Official Film Synopsis: “Two apelike brothers stomp around Tokyo; an American scientist (Russ Tamblyn) and his helper (Kumi Mizuno) advise.”
Juliet of the Spirits – Federico Fellini, 1965.
We simply could not have a list of all-time great cinematic moments without the inclusion of Federico Fellini. I know that, you know that, Nicolas Cage knows that. The 1965 Italian-French comedic drama Juliet of the Spirits stars the likes of starring Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo, Mario Pisu, Valentina Cortese, and more as the film tells the story of a middle-aged woman’s visions and memories.
Fellini is known as a great for a reason and Juliet of the Spirits gives you every reason you need to believe that he’s the best there has ever been.
Official Film Synopsis: “Middle-aged Giulietta grows suspicious of her husband, Giorgio, when his behaviour grows increasingly questionable. One night when Giorgio initiates a seance amongst his friends, Giulietta gets in touch with spirits and learns more about herself and her painful past. Slightly sceptical, but intrigued, she visits a mystic who gives her more information — and nudges her toward the realization that her husband is indeed a philanderer.”
The Wizard of Oz – Victor Fleming, 1939.
What needs to be said about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t been said already? “The Wizard of Oz, the witch was always haunting me, the green witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, so Wizard of Oz was also a huge impact film in my childhood, as well as Pinocchio,” Cage explains.
A true great of cinema, the film remains one of Hollywood’s greatest moments from a by-gone era and shows off that Cage has a softer side too. A side that wants to curl up with this film and let the world fly by for an hour or two.
Official Film Synopsis: “When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz.”
Pinocchio – Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, Wilfred Jackson, Norm Ferguson, Jack Kinney, T. Hee, Bill Roberts, 1940.
Based on the Italian children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, the 1940 film is etched in history when it became the second animated feature film produced by Disney.
Still capable of drawing laughter, contentment and a tear or two, revisiting Pinocchio is a dangerous game to play—the level of sentimentality is almost too much to bear.
Official Film Synopsis: “When the woodworker Geppetto sees a falling star, he wishes that the puppet he just finished, Pinocchio, could become a real boy. In the night, the Blue Fairy grants Geppetto’s wish and asks Jiminy Cricket to serve as the wooden boy’s conscience.”
Beauty and the Beast – Jean Cocteau, 1946.
Directed by French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, the 1946 effort famously starred Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as the Beast. “Jean Marais’ performance as the beast is wonderful,” Cage said of the film.
The performance even inspired one of his own character choices, “I wanted to have that sound to my voice when I did Moonstruck, and then Norman Jewison got very upset with me and lost his patience with it and almost fired from the movie.”
Official Film Synopsis: “The story of a gentle-hearted beast in love with a simple and beautiful girl. She is drawn to the repellent but strangely fascinating Beast, who tests her fidelity by giving her a key, telling her that if she doesn’t return it to him by a specific time, he will die of grief. A simple tale of tragic love that turns into a surreal vision of death, desire, and beauty.”
A Clockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick, 1971.
From the wondrous mysticism of Beauty and the Beast to, well, something a little bit different. “A Clockwork Orange, of course, was like the ultimate film for an adolescent to see,” Cage says. Yes Nic, we cannot stress that enough.
There isn’t much about A Clockwork Orange that we can say without feeling a little bit dirty but we must advise that everyone see this film. Ultra-violent it may well be but it’s vitally important too.
Official Film Synopsis: “In an England of the future, Alex and his “Droogs” spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on “a little of the old ultraviolence,” while jauntily warbling “Singin’ in the Rain.” After he’s jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady to death, Alex submits to behaviour modification technique to earn his freedom; he’s conditioned to abhor violence. Returned to the world defenceless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims.”