Horror Goes ‘Full Cage’: Ranking Nicolas Cage Horror Movies

Nicolas Cage is many things. First and foremost, Cage is an Oscar-winning actor who has earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However unlikely it seems, Cage has been action movie star, headlining big box office bonanzas. But Cage is also an Internet sensation – for all the wrong reasons – whose performances have become buzzworthy memes. Watch enough Cage movies and you’ll know what the expression ‘Full Cage’ means. In recent years, however, Cage has become increasingly known for his eclectic roles in offbeat movies. And while no one would necessarily coin Cage a horror movie star in the vein of, say a Vincent Price or Peter Cushing, he’s turned up in quite a few genre movies. Below is a ranking of where these movies fall …

11 – Pay the Ghost (2014)

As compared to other movies on this list, Pay the Ghost is pretty inoffensive stuff. It’s basically a bland ripoff of supernatural hits like The Conjuring and Insidious. So why put this generic supernatural thriller at the bottom of the list? Because who wants to watch a boring Nicolas Cage movie. Between The Wicker Man and his eventual late 2010s resurgence, Cage was still taking the occasional role in ‘serious’ movies. The result was forgettable fare like Pay the Ghost.

Full Cage Rating: 1 Full Cage out of 5

10 – Ghost Rider (2007)

Before there was the MCU, comic book fans had to settle for Sam Raimi’s fantastic Spider-Man movies, an occasionally good Blade movie, and an arthouse Hulk. Then along came Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze in Mark Steven Johnson’s 2007 Ghost Rider movie. By the way, Johnson also ruined Daredevil a few years earlier. Some fans may still appreciate Ghost Rider’s (un)intentional cheesy humour. But the correct response is that Ghost Rider is just a bad movie. Poor special effects, weak story and villain, and whatever was going on with Cage’s hairline – Ghost Rider is a dull, sigh-inducing affair.

Full Cage Rating: 3 Full Cages out of 5

9 – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Many critics and fans consider Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance to be a step down from the first Ghost Rider. These people would be wrong. Yes, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance suffers from an even worse screenplay and more terrible visual effects. But Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor seem to understand just how dumb the movie they’re making is and opt to double-down on insane action set-pieces. In addition, Spirit of Vengeance finds Cage in ‘Full Cage’ form all but ensuring that very little here is taken seriously. Call it a case of lowered expectations but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is more fun to watch. Keep in mind, Spirit of Vengeance is not a very good movie.

Full Cage Rating: 5 Full Cages out of 5

8 – The Wicker Man (2006)

Is The Wicker Man technically the worst movie on this list? Yes. But it’s not boring. After all, this is the movie that made Cage a living meme. And The Wicker Man is also the kind of bad movie that’s unintentional ineptitude makes it ‘so bad, it’s good’. Just how much director Neil LaBute misses the point could spawn countless essays on film critique. How anyone could have thought Cage running around in a bear suit was in the spirt of Robin Hardy’s classic folk horror is a mystery. Still it’s Cage’s wildly over-the-top performance that will sear itself onto your brain. ‘No! Not the bees’ is meme-worthy for a reason.

Full Cage Rating: 5 Full Cages out of 5

7 – Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

Equal parts dark comedy and horror, Vampire’s Kiss has achieved a level of cult status for a reason. Here, Cage plays a publishing executive who slowly descends into madness after he’s bitten by a woman he believes was a vampire. Today, Vampire’s Kiss sounds exactly like the kind of movie you’d expect to see Cage in. The humor is pitch black and Cage’s performance is dialed up to 10 – this is pure Full Cage. In fact, Vampire’s Kiss may be the first time Cage went Full Cage.

Full Cage Rating: 5 Full Cages out of 5

6 – Drive Angry (2010)

Drive Angry is a terminally stupid movie. Fortunately, it also knows it’s stupid. That helps. Here, Cage plays a dead man who escapes from Hell itself to avenge his daughter’s death and rescue his grandson from a killer cult. Like its title, Drive Angry is 90mph of chaotic car chases, shoot-outs and shoddy CGI. Key story elements – of which there are few – are doled out periodically. No character development, little exposition – writer and director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) wastes little time with things like logic. Instead Drive Angry is outrageously lean midnight movie mayhem.

Full Cage Rating: 3.5 Full Cages out of 5

5- Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Amidst yet another bizarro movie world, Nicolas Cage once again finds himself front row and center. And for the second time in 2021, Cage plays a character with no real name – he’s credited as Hero. However, in Prisoners of the Ghostland, Cage actually has dialogue, which he chews along with the scenery. And Prisoners of the Ghostland suits Cage up in a bomb-rigged leather jumpsuit before proceeding to blow off one of his testicles. That’s something that actually happens in the movie. While Japanese director Sion Sono’s genre mash-up is ambitious and the visuals stunning, Prisoners of the Ghostland is almost incomprehensible. And for a movie that blows off one of Cage’s testicles, it’s often a boring movie.

Full Cage Rating: 3 Full Cages out of 5

4 – Mom and Dad (2018)

Much of Cage’s career resurgence has come courtesy of midnight movies. As the actor has increasingly embraced more oddball movie choices, his off-the-wall performances feel … at home. And Mom and Dad’s story of a unknown television signal that drives parents into a homicidal rage was a perfect fit for Cage. In fact, if there’s a problem, it’s believing that Cage was ever a mind-mannered ‘Dad’ in the first place. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad also doesn’t have enough to say about the ‘horrors’ of parenting to make it much more than a diversion. But it’s a fun diversion.

Full Cage Rating: 4 Full Cages out of 5

3- Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Some people will question Willy’s Wonderland placing so high on this list. And that’s a very fair criticism. Bottom line, Willy’s Wonderland plays out exactly as advertised. It’s a Nicolas Cage movie with killer animatronic puppets. And Cage doesn’t utter a word of dialogue. If that doesn’t sound like 90 minutes well spent to you, then you can skip this one. But if you love Nicolas Cage in B-movies or really miss Chuck E Cheese, Willy’s Wonderland is a surprisingly fun ‘Midnight Movie’. Certainly, it’s a notch above the other killer animatronic monster movie, The Banana Splits Movie. Things breeze along with enough intentional silliness to qualify as a ‘so bad it’s good’ B-movie.

Full Cage Rating: 3.5 Full Cages out of 5

2- Color Out of Space (2020)

Let’s face it, Nicolas Cage and HP Lovecraft go together like peanut butter and jelly. The only question Color Out of Space raises – why did the pairing take so long to happen? Director Richard Stanley’s cosmic horror is an atmospheric, dreamy piece of filmmaking. While Color Out of Space is a surreal masterpiece of sci-fi/horror, it’s not at the top of this for one reason – Cage himself. Yes, Cage delivers another ‘Full Cage’ outing except it’s jarringly out of place here. Throughout Color Out of Space, Stanley meticulously crafts a sense of mounting dread. Though Cage is a gifted actor, his off-the-rails performance often tonally clashes with Stanley’s movie.

Full Cage Rating: 4 Full Cages out of 5

1 – Mandy (2018)

Simply put, Mandy is one of the best things Cage has done in long time. From Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a a surreal and trippy movie, which evokes the best characteristics of midnight movies. For Nicolas Cage, it was a welcome return to form. Cosmatos lets Nicolas Cage go ‘full Cage’ Most importantly, Cosmatos’ story requires Nicolas Cage to go ‘Full Cage” to fully achieve its midnight movie feel. And Cage obliges, turning in a fantastic wild-eyed performance. He is all emotion, channeling rage and loss in equal measures. It’s an unhinged performance that fits and elevates the movie rather than drowning it out.

Full Cage Rating: 5 Full Cages out of 5

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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