Peggy Sue Got Married (1986): To play a wounded Vietnam vet in Birdy, a 19-year-old Nic Cage had two prominent teeth pulled. And that’s not even the craziest thing he ever did for a role. Cage is attracted to extremes and he attacks wild roles with unpredictable (and oft-questionable) vigor. Cast as a would-be singer by his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, in this 1960s body warp fantasy, Cage adopted an accent he described as his impersonation of Pokey from Gumby . Studio execs demanded he be fired. Luckily they failed.
Vampire’s Kiss (1989): The ultimate Nic Cage performance lies in this otherwise dreadful film—the only produced screenplay by After Hours ’ Joseph Minion, sadly—about a Manhattan yuppie turned bloodsucker. The director simply asked Cage to follow any over-the-top instinct, no matter how nuts. And that he did. Let’s just say his eating a real cockroach is one of the lesser highlights, which include him screaming the alphabet for no apparent reason, conversing with a bannister, talking in an unplacable accent and much, much more. It streams on Hulu. You’re welcome.
Zandalee (1991): For this erotic thriller costarring Judge Reinhold (!!), Cage donned a mullet, a hilariously fake goatee and another unplacable accent. Perhaps it was even his idea for his character to resolve his beef with Reinhold via a slow dance.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995): Yes, his character’s drinking himself to death, but Cage still brought his A-game—many of his more extreme alkie outbursts are indistinguishable from the other films on this list. Who says the Oscars only reward a great actor’s most boring work?