Total Recall: Nicolas Cage's Best Movies

We recount the best-reviewed work of the Knowing star.

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He's one of the most eminently mockable major stars in Hollywood, thanks to his frequently questionable tonsorial choices and evident thirst for somewhat less-than-challenging paycheck gigs, but as much as we love to rib Nicolas Cage, there's no getting around the fact that he's done some very impressive work over the course of his long career. Though many filmgoers will always think of blockbuster action flicks like Con Air, The Rock, and the National Treasure series when they hear Cage's name, he's never been afraid to take on smaller, less conventional projects with less-than-obvious commercial prospects. With his latest effort, Alex Proyas' Knowing, heading to theaters this weekend, we thought now would be the perfect time to count down the best-reviewed movies of Cage's career.

We asked the Tomatometer to give us a list of Cage's 10 biggest critical hits, and as always, we think you'll find a few surprises nestled in among the expected names -- and if you're anything like us, you'll be impressed all over again by the number of glowing reviews Cage's work has attracted along with the mountains of box office cash. Join us now as we pay tribute to the finest actor ever to strap on a bear suit and punch a woman in the face -- and then play our "Name Nick's Movie 'Do" game while revisiting his filmography!


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Valley Girl

This might be hard for the young'uns to understand, but in the early 1980s, the Valley Girl was a genuine cultural phenomenon, entering phrases such as "gag me with a spoon" and "like, wow" into the lexicon and giving Frank Zappa a richly deserved Top 40 single. Martha Coolidge's Valley Girl, starring Cage as a mild-mannered punk named Randy and Deborah Foreman as the titular object of his star-crossed affections, arrived in the thick of the whole fad, and although it wasn't a huge success at the box office, it helped launch the career of the actor formerly known as Nicolas Coppola. In many ways, Girl seems like little more than your average 1980s high school romance flick, but that's partly because many of its ingredients were co-opted by subsequent entries in the genre; in the words of MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher, "It's a measure of how, like, totally influential this little film was 20 years ago that there seems to be nothing special about it today."


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Matchstick Men

There's nothing quite like watching a good old-fashioned con movie; unfortunately, most of them tend to forget the "good" part, mistaking random twists and double-crosses for character development and a sensible plot. Not so Ridley Scott's adaptation of Eric Garcia's Matchstick Men, starring Cage and Sam Rockwell as a pair of grifters plotting a big score against a wealthy businessman. As Roy, the mentally unstable con man who is forced to question his life's work after the sudden appearance of the daughter he's never met, Cage is allowed to act at his sweaty, tic-ridden best; Roy's countless ailments -- including OCD and agoraphobia -- tap into the nervous energy that has fueled all his finest performances. Though not all critics took Matchstick Men's bait (Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons called it "an example of Scott at his worst"), the cast earned positive notices for its work -- particularly Cage, who is, in the words of the Kansas City Kansan's Steve Crum, "absolutely terrific down to his eye twitches and neck jerks."

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