I was an 80s teen and I love covering all things relevant to Generation X.
Nicolas Cage was born on January 7, 1964, as Nicolas Kim Coppola, nephew of acclaimed film director Francis Ford Coppola. When Nicolas was only 15 years old, he approached his uncle to ask for a screen test, but the actor eventually decided to forgo any appearance of nepotism, so he changed his name and stepped back from his famous industry-connected family.
Cage was always a huge fan of superheroes and comic books, so he decided to take on the name of one of his favorite characters, Luke Cage, the superhero from Marvel Comics. As desired, most audience members had no idea he was a member of the Coppola family and he went on to carve out a slice of Hollywood success on his own acting merit.
Today, Cage is an A-list actor and he has been for decades, but members of Generation X have fond memories of his prominent appearances in '80s movies...
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cage plays opposite Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. In this coming-of-age film, Cage plays the co-worker and trusted buddy of the main character (Reinhold). Fast Times was Cage's second film and here he is still credited as Nicolas Coppola.
This '80s movie is a Gen X staple, and it helped launch the careers of all of the stars named above, plus future Academy Award winners like Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony Edwards.
Valley Girl (1983)
In Valley Girl, Cage is given a starring role. Here, he played opposite actress Deborah Foreman. The storyline is based on the classic Shakespearean love story of Romeo and Juliet. In this version of the classic tale, Foreman plays Julie, a girl from the valley, who meets Randy, a punk from the city.
Cage plays Randy and two earn critical acclaim as they act out the parts of two people from totally different worlds who manage to stay together. Interestingly enough, it was Foreman who attracted most of the acclaim, but her star never caught fire while Cage went on to shine brightly.
Back in the '80s, the Valley Girl stereotype was a huge part of the culture. A "Valley Girl" was a fashionable and affluent teenage girl from the Valley in Southern California. She was vapid and self-centered, but not directly, intentionally mean. The characters Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dion (Stacey Dash) from Clueless are the perfect embodiment of valley girls, but the stereotype was first popularized in this '80s film.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
In Peggy Sue Got Married, Cage co-stars opposite Kathleen Turner. In this film, Cage plays the role of Charlie Bodell, the cheating husband of Turner's character, Peggy Sue. Peggy Sue and Charlie were high school sweethearts who only got married because Charlie knocked her up. On a high school reunion trip, Peggy Sue falls unconscious and wakes up 25 years earlier when she and Charlie were still just dating...
Under the direction of Cage's famous uncle, the film became a huge box office success, received positive reviews from critics and was nominated for three Academy Awards. At this point, Cage was a bonafide star.
Incidentally, Peggy Sue Got Married also stars Cage's Academy Award-winning director cousin, Sofia Coppola, along with a then-unknown Jim Carrey and Catherine Hicks from the Child's Play franchise, who's later known for the show 7th Heaven. It also featured one of the last appearances of classic film legend Maureen O'Sullivan.
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Further Success to Finish Out the 1980s
Cage finished out the 1980s with massive success and critical acclaim in the Cohen Brothers' film Raising Arizona (1987), opposite Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand, and John Goodman (one simply cannot have a proper Cohen Bros film without the presence of either of the aforementioned actors). Cage also starred in Moonstruck (1987), opposite Cher and Olympia Dukakis.
While Raising Arizona has gone on to be a cult classic, Moonstruck was a major critical and commercial success, winning both Cher and Dukakis Academy Awards and another award to John Patrick Shanley for Best Original Screenplay.
Cage has been married four times, the first time to actress Patricia Arquette. He has also been married to Lisa Marie Presley and two other women outside of the industry. His last divorce was granted last year in 2019.
Cage is said to be one of the most charitable and generous stars in Hollywood, and despite minor legal and financial issues, he is known for his personable nature.
Eventually, Cage won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas (1995), and as mentioned above, he has gone on to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars. However, many of us will always remember when we first got to know him from his many appearances in '80s movies.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on May 07, 2020:
Yes, Nicolas has done some horrible movies since that taxman got on his tail! I hope he shakes it off and comes back strong... Thanks for your support!
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on February 27, 2020:
I really like Nicolas Cage but lately, since the taxman has been chasing him it seems like he's put out some pretty (excuse this but ...) crappy movies. I still love him though.
Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on February 22, 2020:
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 10, 2020:
You know what? I TOTALLY forgot about "Guarding Tess." I LOVE that one!
Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on February 08, 2020:
Hey, fun article! I am Gen X too!
Although Gen X, I missed out on a lot of pop culture. So I have not seen most of the movies you list. I discovered Nicholas Cage a little later, when he was older. I like that he's so distinctive ... slight stoop, trademark strained/gravelly voice. Not a dreamboat but an actor you don't forget.
Out of the movies you list, I do abs love Moonstruck, especially that impassioned speech that Cage's character, Johnny, gives while standing the street.
Other than that, I've seen Guarding Tess, where he plays opposite Shirley McClain, which is just funny, quirky, and well-acted, highly recommend. Also I've seen that one where Cage plays a guy who can see into the future. I liked that one, though I didn't like what the costume people did with his hair. :) He's balding; they should let it be.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 05, 2020:
Linda, you definitely have to see Face Off if you don't see anything else on the list, Cage is opposite John Travolta in this one and it's quite an interesting film. Most of the other ones are unforgettable as well, they're just more on the quirky side... I'd love to read your review... :)
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 04, 2020:
I never knew that Nicolas Cage was related to Francis Ford Coppola, so I was intrigued by your article right from the beginning. The only movie I know from your list is Peggy Sue Got Married. I watched it a long time ago and remember that I liked it. I'll look out for the other movies that you've described.