Wild At Heart, Wild Onscreen: Nicolas Cage’s 5 Most Insane Movie Moments

Cage is a phenomenal actor who can be serious when a movie demands it or outlandish when the paycheck is worth it

We love road trips. Not just taking them—which we do in our March issue with ten custom-built routes from the California coast and Baja wine country to Zion National Park and the Desert Hills Premium Outlets—but also watching them onscreen.

This week’s road trip movie, presented at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood on March 11, is David Lynch’s masterfully crafted post-modern ode to The Wizard of Oz, Wild at Heart. Starring Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage as lovers Sailor and Lula on the run, the film also features stellar performances by Diane Ladd and Willem Defoe. Its success, along with that of Twin Peaks, plunged the nation into a fervent Lynch fandom.

When the audience is introduced to Sailor and Lula, the weirdness of their dialogue and the theatrical performances seem almost comical (a quality that makes a bit more sense if you know that Lynch’s directing style on the film involved shouting words like “Bubblegum!” and “Elvis!” at the actors as they shot scenes). Underneath, the film’s very real themes of broken families, abuse, and violence pulsate like a vortex. 

But what really sets Wild at Heart apart is Nicolas Cage’s sympathetic yet over-the-top performance. As Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation have proven, Cage is a phenomenal actor who can be serious when a movie demands it (Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation) or outlandish when the paycheck is worth it (Bangkok Dangerous, Trespass, the list goes on). His performance as Sailor in Wild At Heart offers a rare taste of both. Here are five other wild moments from his career.

Matchstick Men (2003)
Cage stars as an L.A. conman with a serious case of OCD in a movie that’s all about overcoming cynicism and connecting with the world. We doubt anyone has experienced as monumental a freakout in a RiteAid line. 

Face/Off (1997)
Directed by action auteur John Woo, Face/Off’s central premise is so ridiculous it could only have been conceived in the ’90s. When two archenemies, supercriminal Castor Pollux (Cage) and FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) switch faces, hell breaks loose. This scene features Cage, dressed as Catholic priest, headbanging to choral music.

The Wicker Man (2006)
This remake of the 1973 cult classic was universally reviled by movie buffs and fans of the original. However, Cage’s many (many!) insane moments (most famously punching a lady in the face while wearing a bear costume), have made this film a cult classic.

Deadfall (1993)
Cage loves nothing more than slapping on a wig, a fake mustache, and an incomprehensible accent that changes with every scene. (In his 2002 directorial debut Sonny Cage plays a violent pimp named Acid Yellow who sports a prosthetic nose and a jacket once owned by Liberace). Deadfall was a commercial fiasco, but it remains a testament to the level of crazy Cage can summon on command.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
“You’re what’s wrong with this country!” Cage’s character, hardboiled detective Terrence McDonagh, screams as he points a gun at a wheelchair-bound old lady with an oxygen tank. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is on of the most mindbending movies ever made, two hours of pure delirium featuring frequent lizard’s-eye-view zydeco interludes (if that doesn’t make any sense, it will once you to see the movie). Bad Lieutenant—which bears no connection to Abel Ferrara’s critically acclaimed 1992 movie of the (sort-of) same name—is the weird and wonderful result of Cage teaming up with eccentric German filmmaker Werner Herzog.