10 Dark and Gritty Nicolas Cage Movies! Here are some horror movies you might have missed.

Nic Cage has shown some of his best work in dark and gritty films. From crime thrillers to horror, here are some bleaker films you may have missed.

An edit of Nicolas Cage featured in Mandy, Pig, and Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage‘s career spans 40-plus years and 120 performances, with a trajectory like no other, full of reaching highs and plummeting lows. He was an Academy Award winner who has also done some direct-to-streaming weaker films, a surprising actor with a bad taste for action films, and a one-of-a-kind performer, for good and bad.

The actor started his career in comedies and romantic stories before becoming much more brooding in the ’90s, and even having an action-hero career for a short stint. The 21st Century has been strange for him, being able to play lead characters in critics’ favorites like Adaptation, while also working in films that haven’t been released in cinemas. What’s for sure is that some of his best performances have come in crime stories, thrillers, and horror films. Here are 10 dark and gritty Nicolas Cage movies.

10Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Patricia Arquette as Mary and Nicolas Cage as Frank having a tense conversation in Bringing Out the Dead
John Goodman as Larry and Nicolas Cage as Frank inside an ambulance in Bringing Out the Dead

Bringing the team that made Taxi Driver back together,Bringing Out the Dead, is directed by Martin Scorsese, with a script by Paul Schrader. This movie is about depressed paramedic Frank (Cage), who is hallucinating patients he couldn’t save, while explaining what happens to him in three very stressful consecutive shifts.

The Actor Is the Movie’s Heart and Soul

This film shows Cage can play anguished, tortured, sleep-deprived, and depressed with the best, as his character spends most of the movie in a funk, after he hasn’t been able to save a patient in months. The actor is the heart and soul of this psychological thriller that shows some of the darkest parts of being a paramedic, when death, despair, and drug addiction are all around you. Stream on DIRECTV.

9Lord of War (2005)

Lord of War

A surprising look into the illegal world of weapons trading, Lord of War tells the story of Yuri Orlov (Cage), one of the biggest arms dealers in the world, and the consequences of trading in this world, where you’re selling people the arms they could kill you with.

Cage Sells His Character’s Internal Conflict

The film has become a cult classic, and there’s still talk about what a sequel could accomplish, and that’s in large part due to the performances by Cage, Ethan Hawke, and Jared Leto. Cage plays Orlov as a tragic figure who wants glory and is very good at his job, even if that means losing his family and helping bad people earn more power through violence. The actor sells that internal conflict perfectly, and the movie benefits from it, even if the story is not one of justice and triumph for the good people in the world. Stream on DIRECTV.

8Red Rock West (1993)

Dennis Hopper as Lyle, from Dalals pointing a gun at Nicolas Cage as Michael while he drives in Red Rock WestNicolas Cage as Michael and Lara Flynn Boyle as Suzanne in Red Rock West

A neo-noir thriller directed by John Dahl (Rounders), Red Rock West is all about Michael (Cage), a drifter, who, when he arrives in Red Rock, Wyoming, gets confused for a hitman and accepts the big sum of money in front of him to carry out the hit, but instead, warns the woman who he should have killed, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle). The problem comes when the real hitman, Lyle from Dallas (Dennis Hopper), finds him.

A Charismatic Performance

This role was the beginning of Cage leaving behind romantic parts and starting to become an action hero. The role suits him perfectly, as he’s allowed to do both while also showing some charisma, playing a man in way over his head, who just wants to do the right thing. This might’ve been a test run for his performance in Con Air, as the characters are similar. Red Rock West is not available for streaming.

78MM (1999)

Nicolas Cage as Tom and Joaquin Phoenix as Max in 8MMNicolas Cage as Tom in 8MM

A private investigator named Tom Welles (Cage) gets a new case: a widow has found a 8mm movie of what looks like a real murder of a girl in her dead husband’s safe. To know what really happened, he’ll investigate whether snuff films exist and who makes them, discovering some crude realities of what transpires in Hollywood when nobody is looking.

One of the Grimmest Movies Cage Ever Made

Directed by Joel Schumacher from a script by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en), 8MM might be the grimmest, darkest, stomach-turning movie on the list. Cage lends his talents here in an understated yet violent performance, as what’s happening around him is much more tragic and disgusting than anyone could expect. The movie also has one of Joaquin Phoenix’s first adult performances in film, a couple of years earlier than his breakout role in Gladiator. Rent on Prime Video, Apple TV, and the Microsoft Store.

6Pig (2021)


A truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregon wilderness must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped. Starring Nicolas Cage.

Pig starts like a pseudo-John Wick story before becoming something very different: Rob (Cage) lives in the Oregon forest, hunting for truffles with his beloved pig. One night, a group of assailants kidnaps his pig, and he must go to Portland to recover her, and also deal with his own past.

The Movie Wouldn’t Work Without Cage’s Performance

This movie is one of Nicolas Cage’s best, as the actor infuses the character with sadness, regret, and grief on his mission to find his stolen pig. Although there’s some violence and death throughout it, the more dark and gritty moments happen in conversations between Rob and some of the characters he encounters while trying to find his beloved pig, making for a surprisingly tragic movie that wouldn’t work without the actor’s performance that breathes life and realism into it. Stream on Hulu.

5Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Terence McDonagh (Cage) is a drug-addicted, corrupt police lieutenant in New Orleans who must solve an investigation about some murders happening in the city. The cop is a mess; not only is he a drug addict (painkillers) with many family problems, but he also has to deal with a corrupt criminal justice system that doesn’t care if he succeeds.

Using Cage’s Unique Style to Inform the Character

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans doesn’t have anything to do with Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, yet Cage’s performance is just as mesmerizing as the one by Harvey Keitel in that film. This movie is as dark and pessimistic as they come. Director Werner Herzog uses Cage’s unique kind of performance to show how the character is letting his demons and trauma transform him into a paranoid waste of a person who might redeem himself if he’s able to solve this case, in what might be one of the actor’s best performances of the 21st Century. Stream on Hulu.

4Snake Eyes (1998)

Nicolas Cage as Rick talking to Gary Sinise as Commander Kevin Dunne in Snake EyesNicolas Cage as Rick in Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes is a thriller with incredible direction by Brian De Palma, where corrupt detective Rick Santoro (Cage) finds himself in a conspiracy after someone kills a U.S. cabinet member during a boxing match. He’ll try to discover who killed him, even if that might put him in danger.

De Palma’s Most Stylized Film

This film is one of Brian De Palma’s best, with an incredible 10-minute single shot to start the movie, and presenting every character in it with a lot of style. Cage plays Santoro as a man at the end of his rope who just wants to resolve the case, even if his life is falling apart. As such, the actor uses his expressiveness to sell how out of his depth the detective really is and make an impression in this unique film. Stream on Prime Video.

3Wild at Heart (1990)

Laura Dern as Lula kissing passionately Nicolas Cage as Sailor in Wild at HeartNicolas Cage as Sailor walking on the side of the road in Wild at Heart

Based on the novel of the same name by Barry Gilford, this David Lynch film tells the story of Sailor (Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern), lovers on the run to California after Sailor has been released from jail. Even if they don’t know that leaving is a good idea at first, as Lula’s mom (Diane Ladd) has hired some men to kill Sailor.

Cage Fits Perfectly in Lynch’s World

Wild at Heart is a crazy film and one of the most Lynchian movies ever made, and Cage’s performance absolutely fits into this world, making it one of the best in a Lynch movie. Strangely, they never worked together again, as the actor’s unique, bold performances make sense in the director’s unique vision of the world. Here, Cage is violent, and a bit crazy, yet suave and romantic, and can sing Elvis’ songs, showing all his range. Wild at Heart is not available for streaming.

2Mandy (2018)


Red (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a peaceful life in the 1980s when a cult finds them and murders Mandy in front of Red. From then on, Red’s only mission in life will be revenge, and he’ll do anything necessary to end the cult’s lives, including their leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache).

Cage’s Acting Craziness Is Justified

Mandy has one of the most recent great Cage performances, as his over-the-top style and craziness are more than justified in this role. The actor combines those qualities with a much more raw, sad, and angry performance, making the film much more tragic than it needs to be. It’s also one of the most underrated movies about cults. Stream Mandy on Shudder.

1Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Elizabeth Shue as Sera hugs from behind Nicolas Cage as Ben who looks uncomfortable in Leaving Las VegasNicolas Cage as Ben in Leaving Las Vegas

Based on John O’Brien’s semi-biographical novel, Leaving Las Vegas tells the story of Ben (Cage), an alcoholic screenwriter who has decided to go to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. There, he meets Sera (Elizabeth Shue), a sex worker with whom he forms a surprising bond, even though he tells her booze will always come first.

Cage Won His Only Oscar for This Performance

Although this film has some romance in it, it’s still pretty dark, as Ben’s spiral into death by alcohol in the first act of the movie is very grim. The actor went all-in on this performance, recording himself drunk to know how he talked when he was under the influence, and not getting paid for the role, as he wanted to tell this character’s story. This is one of the best films set in Las Vegas and earned Cage his first, and for now, only, Oscar in his career. Stream on Max.

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