With chameleon-like character actors becoming rarer than ever, box office draws can be estimated based solely on a leading man's tested-and-true strengths. For some, it's rugged good looks, others, a smile. But rarely is it their hair.
Although most leading men sport a single hairstyle for years at a time, Nicolas Cage decided to take a... different approach. With a face and voice that are instantly recognizable, Cage adopted a kaleidoscope of hairpieces and styles to bring a unique spin to each of his roles. And he's not alone.
Those days of wild hairstyles may have come to an end, but let's look back on the most memorable (for several reasons) candidates - here's our list of the Top 10 Nicolas Cage Hairstyles in Movies.
'The Valley Girl'
As Seen In:Valley Girl (1983)
It's a tale as old as time: spoiled girl born in the lap of luxury falls for a boy from the other side of the tracks. In Valley Girl, Nicolas Cage (casting off his last name of Coppola for the first time) brought the Hollywood/punk 'Randy' to life with a hairstyle that made it clear he wasn't the 'country club' type. Yes, there was a time when that teased and highlighted haircut was the mark of a dangerous man.
Among one of Cage's earliest roles, this hairstyle still made sense, given the character sporting it (even if it is one of the most dated). Who knows: maybe Cage's experiments with punk fashion and counter-culture planted a seed that would take years to develop...
As Seen In:Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
There's a good chance that what people will most remember of Cage's performance as 'Charlie' in Peggy Sue Got Married is not his hair, but his voice. We couldn't blame them, but a movie in which Nicolas Cage sports a sequined gold jacket and a blond pompadour is a no-brainer for this list, even if the 1960 setting means the hairstyle is a realistic one.
Lest anyone think we're understating Cage's acting chops, the pompadour makes one thing clear: few actors would actually be able to pull off the haircut, let alone the voice (inspired by 'Pokey' from The Gumby Show), but Peggy Sue was an early sign of just how deeply Cage would dive into his characters - and clear evidence that the actor would have been just as famous if he were born twenty years earlier.
As Seen In:Raising Arizona (1987)
The absolute peak of Cage's unkempt hair came with the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona. Given 'H.I. McDunnough's unsavory history with law enforcement and, to put it kindly, suspect fashion sense, it's no surprise that keeping himself well-groomed isn't among his top priorities. But throughout this often overlooked comedy, Cage's hair steals the show.
Our only real issue with this wild style is the suspension of disbelief required to accept that those thick locks, glorious chops and manicured mustache aren't the result of painstaking, time-consuming primping. Since McDunnough has other things to worry about (baby kidnapping, for instance) the audience is meant to believe that it's simply genetic to have hair that incomparable. But with genes like those, he'd be bound for much greater things.
As Seen In:It Could Happen To You (1994), The Rock (1996), 8MM (1999), The Family Man (2000)
It may be hard to believe, but as this photo proves, there was a time when Nicolas Cage wasn't singled out as one of Hollywood's strangest figures; a time when people would run to see his films and enjoy his performance, not stare blankly at what passed for his current hairdo. It was brown, thinning, and relatively unimpressive - but it was a hairstyle that a normal human being would be satisfied with - let alone the everyday working men Cage played while sporting it.
We don't know about you, but every time Cage showed up in a trailer with this 'normal hair' we would breathe a sigh of relief (even Gone in 60 Seconds featured a return to normal, albeit with blond highlights). Luckily, Cage has claimed that he's through "experimenting" with hairstyles in his films, so even if his normal hair these days can't hold a candle to that of the past, we're better off for it.
As Seen In:Con Air (1997)
"Put the bunny down." That line sounds foolish out of context, but Nicolas Cage actually made it sound not just menacing, but placed it among the most infamous action movie lines coming from the lips of 'Cameron Poe' in Con Air. It's difficult to say if the menace is owed entirely to Cage's acting chops or his hair (shoulder-length locks that only an eight-year stint in prison could produce), but we'll accept that it's a mixture of the two.
As yet another example of Cage's charisma, the hair didn't actually seem out of place among the airborne action of the film, and paired with the muscle Cage added for the role, cemented him as a certified action star. The overall film, like the hairstyle, remains a case of experimentation and 'outside-the-box' thinking that led to lasting success - even if the flowing hair was a one-time affair for the movie's leading man.
As Seen In:Adaptation (2002)
It would be difficult to try to explain any part of Adaptation, beyond describing it as a self-aware look at screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's battle with writer's block. Nicolas Cage played not just Kaufman, but his identical (and completely fictitious) twin, 'Donald.' A fat-suit helped the actor convey the downtrodden character, but to match Kaufman's ginger curls, Cage adopted a hairstyle that was even sadder.
Looking more like steel wool than hair, audiences were treated to not only one, but two simultaneous takes on the style. Although the hair may be one of the more (intentionally) pathetic Cage has donned over the years, it seemed to work; the film was a critical hit, and earned Cage an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
As Seen In:The Weather Man (2005)
This pedestrian hairstyle seems more at home on an eight year-old boy hopping out of a barber's chair than a grown man, but given Cage's role as the easygoing 'David Spritz' in The Weather Man, harmless was the intention. In all honesty, this stands as one cut that actually demonstrates why Cage thought that "experimenting" with hair for different characters was worthwhile; the unkempt, unassuming side-part is as non-threatening as the character is supposed to be (at first, anyway).
And yet, this neighborly haircut can't help but look downright absurd on a man with as healthy a hair prowess as Cage. In trying to reduce attention, it gains attention - proving once and for all that Nicolas Cage is so incredibly abnormal, even normal hairstyles look suspect when they appear upon his scalp.
As Seen In:Ghost Rider (2007)
After all these years, it's still unclear what the goal was with the unique hairpiece designed for biker-turned-demonic-avenger 'Johnny Blaze' in Ghost Rider. Thick, black, and relatively low maintenance seems like it should have been relatively unimpressive. But again, when placed above Cage's face, the hair stood out as clearly as it would have if it came equipped with a chinstrap.
It seems Cage ultimately came to the same conclusion, since the hairpiece was completely tossed aside for the sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The implication is that Johnny Blaze faced a serious hair crisis in the eight years between the films, but the discrepancy was never addressed. We can only assume the original hair was chosen to make Cage appear a bit younger, but the efforts proved fruitless.
'The Bleached Psycho'
As Seen In:Drive Angry (2011)
Sometimes you just want to get mad, get driving, and get some bleach. Nicolas Cage had gone with longer hair in recent films like Next, but in Drive Angry 3D audiences were given a glimpse of what the actor would possibly have looked like had he given up acting for a pro surfing career. Although Cage's co-star Amber Heard proved that blonde is still beautiful, his hairstyle offered something of a counterpoint.
Still, we'll grant the actor a bit of slack, but even if experimentation is all well and good, there's probably a reason famous, dark-haired actors don't suddenly sport long blonde locks and expect to be taken seriously. Drive Angry illustrated the reason perfectly, but we'd be lying if we said this wasn't actually a fairly laid-back style, given Cage's extensive hair history.
As Seen In:Zandalee (1991)
If you're filming an erotic thriller starring Judge Reinhold, it's a safe bet the resulting film is going to contain some truly strange elements. In the case of Zandalee, Nicolas Cage's hair is only one example (a particularly troubling one, of course). With a beatnik goatee that can't be done justice in a still photograph, Cage let his hair grow as it may, doing little more than parting it to portray a true artiste.
This photo should be enough to illustrate why we can't erase this look from our memory, but it stands as a testament to a fact few movie fans would actually believe: there was a time, long ago, when Nicolas Cage's hair was 100% natural... and it was still unsettling. The grass is always greener, we suppose.
It's sad to think that we may one day speak of "the good old days of Nicolas Cage's experiments in hair," assuming the actor keeps to his word of letting his performances garner attention, not his scalp. With more than a few fantastic films in his past, we can't say we find fault with his reasoning.
Everyone has their own favorites, so which roles come to mind when you hear the words 'Nicolas Cage' and 'hair' collide in the same sentence? Do you, like us, hope to see Cage go completely bald (seriously, picture it - may not be a bad idea)? We can dream.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.