Nicolas Cage’s Best Movie Would Be Completely Different If Made Today

By Erika Hanson | 4 months ago

nicolas cage movie

Not many current leading Hollywood actors can boast as many accolades as Nicolas Cage. At 58-years-young, the Long Beach native has starred in over 120 films spanning some of the most lucrative far-fetching characters seen on film. The actor is often touted in pop culture for his impressive track record. Series such as the campy Community have cut jabs at Nic, where a college course titled “Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad” prompted one of the series stars, Abed, to become unhinged at the dilemma the class poses. While the question of personal preference is always up for debate, there are plenty of great Nicolas Cage movies to browse. From his recent surprise blockbuster hit Pig to 1987’s Moonstruck, one film stands out as the best Nicolas Cage movie of them all: the 1997 action thriller Face/Off

The nineties were a pinnacle point in Nicolas Cage’s expansive career. 1997 in particular saw the actor star in two of his most renowned roles with both Con Air and Face/Off. While some may argue that Con Air was the better film, the teaming of Nicolas Cage with John Travolta created pure movie magic. Furthermore, Face/Off was helmed by John Woo, one of the most prominent action film directors. Woo, who is best known for his intensely stylized action sequences, has worked on other renowned action films over the decades like Broken Arrow and Mission Impossible II


At the heart of things, Face/Off was a classic body-swap tale. Starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) plays cat and mouse with terrorist Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). After catching up with the villain boarding a plane in Los Angeles, the plane crashes leaving both men injured. To further his obsession with foiling the terrorist plot, Archer undergoes facial transplant surgery to assume the identity of the criminal mastermind who murdered his only son. However, things go awry as Troy wakes from a coma forcing the doctor to give him Archer’s face. 

When developing the film, plenty of other elite’s in Hollywood were proposed at playing the roles in Face/Off. When writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary wrote the script, they did so with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in mind. Johnny Depp’s name was even thrown into the running at one point, but the actor passed on the role of Sean Archer after reading the script. It ended up being John Woo who personally hand-picked both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage for the movie and its enigmatic roles. 

nicolas cage movie

With a production budget of $80 million, the minimal budget, even for the ’90s, showcased Woo’s impressive abilities to coordinate and deliver some of the most unhinged gunfights, boat chases, and real-life explosions of the decade. And with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage helming the intense interactions that found the dynamic pair at gunpoint countless times throughout the film, Face/Off’s action sequences stand tall against other popular films from the period including Die Hard.

Reflecting on the brilliance of it all, Face/Off actress Margaret Cho once said on the film, “What a big production! I know that the film actually takes place over a week, but it took us almost a year to shoot. It was many, many, many stunts. They actually explode a plane, and they really did. This is like 90s action filmmaking where they could actually explode a plane without CGI. This is before so many of these things were created with CGI. We had none of that. We only had planes and explosives!”.

Released on June 27th, 1997 Face/Off racked in over $23 million on its opening weekend with a number one postiition at the box office. It went on to become the 11th highest domestic and 14th worldwide grossing film of 1997, earning a domestic total of $112 million and $133 million overseas for a total worldwide gross of $245,676,146. As for accolades, the Nicolas Cage movie also shone successfully. The film was nominated for an Academy Award and it also won multiple Saturn Awards with Best Director and Best Writing. 

Often touted as the holy trinity for Nicolas Cage movies alongside both Con Air and The Rock, both Cage and Travolta’s performances and role reversal were subject of plenty of praise among critics and audiences alike. Renowned critic Roger Ebert said, “Here, using big movie stars and asking them to play each other, Woo and his writers find a terrific counterpoint to the action scenes: All through the movie, you find yourself reinterpreting every scene as you realize the ‘other’ character is ‘really’ playing it.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine said, “You may not buy the premise or the windup, but with Travolta and Cage taking comic and psychic measures of their characters and their own careers, there is no resisting Face/Off. This you gotta see…..”

As Face/Off remains the most prominent role of Nicholas Cage’s comprehensive career, the film stands the test of time and even recently received promising news regarding a reboot. Early last year, Deadline reported that Paramount Pictures would be re-imagining the iconic film. With the studio choosing Your Next director Adam Wingard to direct the upcoming project, the action film will be touted as a sequel to the 1997 counterpart. While little is known about the upcoming project, Nicolas Cage himself has expressed a desire to return to the pivotal role. Speaking on the red carpet this past summer, Cage said, “Oh, I would love to. I would love to get back into that character and to work with Travolta. Absolutely! That was such a fun movie to make, and I mean it would be great to just see that happen. But who knows?”

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