As video-on-demand continues to become the preferred route of distribution for a certain kind of independent film, much is being made of Nicolas Cage's willingness to slum for a paycheck, with recent examples including already-forgotten, small-screen-friendly items like Seeking Justice
, and The Frozen Ground
. (His character names in these projects -- Will Gerard, Kyle Miller, Will Montgomery, and Jack Halcombe -- are as interchangeable as the titles of the films.) Aside from citing the obvious appeal of doing work for money (a defense Cage himself brought up in a recent interview
with The Guardian
), it's also possible to back Cage by acknowledging the consistency with which he's taken on "serious" roles over the years.
David Gordon Green's Joe
, which hits limited release this weekend (more details on that here
), marks the latest instance of this trend, with Cage giving a reportedly subdued performance as an ex-con named Joe Ransom. In that spirit, we've put together a rundown of some of the actor's finest performances, all of which serve as proof that, though his over-the-top inclinations may make for a side-splitting YouTube compilation, Cage has amassed a career that few contemporary actors can equal. This list is hardly airtight in its exclusivity, so a few honorable mentions ought to go out to a pair of Cage's deliriously uneven auteur collaborations (David Lynch's Wild at Heart
, Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes
), 1983's Valley Girl
, 1987's Moonstruck
, and Alex Proyas's Knowing
of the late Roger Ebert).