We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


Three Underrated Nicolas Cage Thrillers That Prove He is Camp 

Don't put Nic in a Cage.

a photo of bloody nicolas cage holding a gun in 8MM
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

When you think about Nicolas Cage, you probably think of Face/Off or Leaving Las Vegas, or depending on your age, maybe National Treasure. And rightfully so.

Cage’s portrayal of suicidal alcoholic Ben Sanderson in Leaving Las Vegas earned him the Oscar Award for Best Actor in 1996, and what’s more iconic than the moment Benjamin Franklin Gates side-eyes the camera and declares he’s going to steal the Declaration of Independence? 

On the other hand, you also might think about the considerable number of flubs laced throughout his career. Films so strange he’s earned himself status as what Collider calls a “living meme.” (Raise your hand if you were also personally victimized by The Wicker Man remake).  

All of this to say, he’s an actor who has quite literally seen it all.

And, when you dig deep enough into the long and sometimes strange career of Nicolas Cage—nestled between 1998 and 1999—you’ll find a little trio of campy thrillers considered “strikeouts” in their day. These three films just might capture the essence of Nic Cage's strange magic.  

Snake Eyes 

Snake Eyes is a straight firecracker from Brian DePalma (Carrie, Scarface, and The Untouchables) which is often overlooked considering DePalma’s larger body of work, but it is quintessential Nicolas Cage.

It follows crooked detective Rick Santoro (Cage) who’s just looking to enjoy a nice boxing match at a new Atlantic City casino when all hell breaks loose in the form of a political assassination. What starts as a simple investigation reveals an unexpected conspiracy involving arms deals with Israel, and it turns out Santoro isn’t quite as bad as he seems.  

The combination of an Atlantic City fight night and Nicolas Cage as a scumbag cop in a leather suit rocking the hamburger meat chest hair is the ultimate camp. And after all, that’s a big part of what makes Cage so Cagey, isn’t it?

Camp. Something so weird it’s right. Something that’s just not supposed to work but it does. 

He makes being from Atlantic City seem almost cool, which if you know anything about Atlantic City is a feat in and of itself. Cage’s lines are delivered with sleazy bravado, and his performance has stink on it, but in the end, he manages to make you root for Rick Santoro wholeheartedly.

Collider says it best: “[Cage] turns this peacocking macho cartoon into a flesh-and-blood human being.” That’s not easy work.  


Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (writer of SE7EN), 8MM follows private eye Tom Welles, who is hired by a wealthy widow to determine the authenticity of a snuff film found among her husband’s personal effects.

What ensues is a headlong dive into the dregs of the LA kink scene and the dark world of fetish pornography. 

With the help of Max California, a punk rock clerk at a Hollywood porn shop (played by Joaquin Phoenix, who is undoubtedly one of the absolute highlights of the movie), Welles learns the film is real, and suddenly, what once was an investigation becomes a personal vendetta. 

om Welles vows to kill everyone involved in the production of the film. 

Certainly, 8MM comes up short when it’s compared to its AKW predecessor, which is the lens through which everyone would have viewed it at the time, but looking back, it’s arguable these films are two different things entirely because of Cage.

SE7EN is heavy, and 8MM would have been even heavier if it wasn’t for him. So heavy, that if it had the same tone as SE7EN, it likely wouldn’t have worked at all. 

Cage has this thing about him where his performances sit at the intersection of comical grandiosity and a self-awareness that reminds the audience he’s in on the joke.

It’s an experience entirely unique to viewing him. It doesn’t mock the characters or the content of a movie, but it instills a certain lightness, the only kind of lightness that could make watching a film about snuff films actually pretty fun.  

Bringing Out the Dead 

Rounding out the trio is Bringing Out the Dead, a film directed by Martin Scorsese (yes, that Martin Scorcese), which follows New York paramedic Frank Pierce through a weekend of work during which he loses his fucking mind.

A victim of a failed marketing campaign that tried to ride on the coattails of Cage’s preceding success with action films, Bringing Out the Dead promised viewers something much different than what they got, and at the time, it was considered quite the fumble.  

Suffering from insomnia and depression, Frank Pierce responds to every kind of call you can imagine all the while hallucinating images of a young girl he was unable to save.

He strikes up a relationship with Mary (Patricia Arquette), the daughter of one of his patients and a recovering heroin addict, who only further deteriorates his sanity. 

The whole thing is a fever dream of gory surrealism with Cage as its only tether to reality. Even Cage himself has been quoted saying it’s the most abstract he’s seen Scorsese get.  

Depending on where you look, Bringing Out the Dead is considered a psychological thriller or a horror-comedy. Labels that, depending on how you choose, are more or less indicative of whether or not you get Cage.

Bringing Out the Dead is no more a comedy than 8MM is, it’s just another example of how the “Cage Effect” can take something remarkably dark and infuse levity that doesn’t threaten or cheapen that darkness—just as Cage can take machismo and make it human.

His performance, in this film and the other two, has a keen awareness of the many surrounding absurdisms. It asks the viewer to trust him to keep them safe for the ride, in this case literally. 

And if you’re smart, you’ll say yes. 

Check out Cage as the namesake serial killer in Longlegs this summer, which has been hailed as the next The Silence of the Lambs.

 The trailer hardly shows his face, and it’s already nightmare fuel that seems like it could be one of his strangest roles yet.