It’s been almost 22 years since John Travolta and Nicolas Cage starred together in the neo-classic action film Face/Off. This film was brazenly over-the-top, but it was fun and both actors were in their prime. Travolta was enjoying a career revival, marked by his Oscar nomination for Pulp Fiction in 1995, and Cage was in between his Best Actor win for Leaving Las Vegas in 1996, and another nomination for Adaptation in 2003. Yet, since the beginning of the 2000s, their careers have been on a steep downward trajectory, to the point where both careers are in full dumpster-fire mode. We love checking the on-demand listing, and seeing what “straight-to-video” dreck these guys are starring in. What’s amazing is that they seem to be willing to do anything for a paycheck, yet they haven’t done a Face/Off 2 after all these years? I’d be tempted to check it out. Here we compare some of our favorite titles from their last 18 years. Who is worse?
When you look at their IMDB pages, Cage has 21 more acting credits over Travolta, despite the 10-year acting head start Travolta enjoyed. The one-two punch of Saturday Night Fever and Grease in the late ’70s put him on the A-list, but it was short-lived, as his career would nearly flame out within five years. From 1983 to Pulp Fiction in 1995, his most notable films were the Look Who’s Talking series. There were a few decent films after Face/Off, but things got really rough in 2000 with…
- Battlefield Earth (2000) – I actually watched some of this film to see if it was as bad as everyone said. It was worse. An abomination that torpedoed his career.
- Swordfish (2001) – Remember all the talk about Hally Berry’s breasts in this? Ugh. A bad film and even more unsavory stink on this one in the #metoo era.
- The Punisher (2004) – Not the shitty 1989 Dolph Lundgren one, this was the shitty Thomas Jane one. Travolta was the bad guy. I watched this – goodbye to those two hours and brain cells.
- From Paris With Love (2010) – Based on the poster, it looks like Travolta first tried on the bald look that he currently is sporting. How did this film not get sued by the Broccoli family?
- Savages (2012) – With Oliver Stone at the helm, Travolta must have thought this could be another comeback role. This was one of the worst films I’ve seen in the past two decades, and the last film I saw him in.
- Killing Season (2013) – What the hell – DeNiro costarred with him in this?! Travolta has a messed up beard/head stubble look with no mustache. (See my pictures above).
- Life On the Line (2015) – A shameless bid to curry favor with blue-collar workers. Travolta has to fix the electrical grid during a deadly storm! Get me the popcorn.
- In a Valley of Violence (2016) – Looks like a random western with Ethan Hawke. The Austin Chronicle hails it “Brutally Entertaining”. I’ll take their word for it.
- Gotti (2018) – This literally has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was directed by “E” of Entourage. I’ve heard so many bad things about this movie I’m almost tempted to watch it.
- Speed Kills (2018)/Trading Paint (2019) – Two “dramatic” racing films – one on a speedboat, one in a race car. Both films have no name directors and casts and both are probably available now in your cable company’s on-demand listings. Enjoy!
Bonus: Check out this cringe-worthy video from 2014: the Travolta/Olivia Newton-John reunion you never wanted. Travolta’s hair looks like a shaped growth of black mold. I guess it’s supposed to be a Christmas Song? The auto-tuner worked overtime on this one.
DJ: I watched part of Life on the Line, Travolta sports a pony tail than a mullet, I love the hair changes this guy does in his films. It was also TV movie level. Also watched 20 minutes of Gotti, completely convoluted in every way, no clue what’s going on and Travolta mimicking a Goodfellas impersonation that would make Rich Little cringe. I do love “Travolta in a race car”, “Travolta on a speedboat”, “Travolta as a cowboy”, “Travolta as a lineman”.
Cage may have done some better films than Travolta since 2000, Adaptation, World Trade Center, and Bringing Out the Dead, for example, he has also done many more worse films. Ironically his last three, Mandy, Into the Spiderverse and the Teen Titan’s Go! To the Movies have been all well-received. Two of them he his just doing voice-over work though. I am not a huge Nic Cage fan, I loved Face/Off but after the dreadful Snake Eyes and 8MM films, I lost the Cage buzz. I did enjoy the National Treasure films despite their ridiculousness and Adaptation was pretty good but nowadays he is just awful. Even his cameo in Snowden took me out of the film. I do hear he needs the money hence his large body of work. I could do a list of 20 easily. What I don’t get is how two former Oscar darlings can’t get into more mainstream films.
- The Wicker Man (2006) – A terrible remake of the 1973 Edward Woodward cult classic, is highly memed for Cage’s bees to the face scene and he also gets to fight a girl in a bear costume.
- Ghost Rider (2006)/Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence (2012) – Even Marvel fans aren’t buying his two completely different takes on Johnny Blaze, one as Elvis and one as Nic Cage. Agents of Shield did the Ghost Rider character better.
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – This is more of a Mickey Mouse production than the original Fantasia cartoon. A rare Disney flop. Disney movies need less live-action Cage and more voice-over Cage.
- Season of the Witch (2011) – I thought this was a remake of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, boy was I wrong. Cage as a knight has to transport a suspected witch to an abbey, then stuff happens, yadda yadda yadda Black Plague.
- Left Behind (2014) – A remake of a Kirk Cameron film is all I need to say. Based on the best selling book about the Rapture. Believers love this film but I can’t imagine Cage is a religious zealot. Travolta has Scientology and Cage this. Locked in at 1% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Outcast (2015) – This is hard to say but this Nic Cage has to be the craziest. He plays something called the White Ghost, he has a man bun, a snake wrapped around his waist, a horrific English accent and to top it off he is missing an eye but decided to just close it through the whole film. And get this he is a crusader in China teaming up with Hayden Christensen. Check out the trailer WTF?
- Pay the Ghost (2015) – The tagline: He will stop at nothing to save his son. Cage as a father who loses his son on Halloween to evil. I love Cage as an enraged parent, this film is full-on horror and looks like a sequel to The Wicker Man. Special bonus Cage dresses as a cowboy for the Halloween carnival.
- USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016) – Even in a straight film he feels like a parody. Based on a true story of the worst naval disaster in U.S. history, he plays the captain. Terrible dialogue and that’s just in the trailer. I could not bring myself to watch Cage and Thomas Jane in a Mario Van Peebles production.
- Arsenal (2017) – Nic Cage as a drug boss with a crazy ass wig, and it looks like a wig. He completely hams it up at least in the trailer, maybe his craziest look yet. Also stars quickly falling star John Cusack and Vincent Chase from Entourage.
- 211 (2018) – One cop, outnumbered, outgunned. “Aging” cop on a routine patrol get caught in an “inspired by true events” bank heist. Made by something called Momentum Films.
Bonus: The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015) – Not a Nic Cage film per se but this really cool documentary by Jon Schnepp about the Kevin Smith/Tim Burton proposed Superman film shows us what could have been with Cage as Superman, and it would have been batshit crazy, maybe killing the franchise.
MG: It’s funny that Cage was so obsessed with playing Superman his whole career, yet all he could manage to get in the 1000 comic book films was the crappy Ghost Rider (well, he did sort-of play Batman in KickAss in 2010, which he was actually good in). He definitely did more after Face/Off than Travolta, with some good stuff into the early 00’s, but the last decade or so has been horrific. Like you said, there are so many bad titles to pick from, most of them sound like cheap revenge stuff, such as: Rage, Trespass, Seeking Justice, Army Of One, Dying of the Light, Vengeance: A Love Story. Those sound more like the career playout of a B-level action hero like Dolph Lundgren or Van Damme than an Oscar-winning actor and nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. I think Cage has much more acting ability that Travolta, and could still do something good if he tried, but he seems to have just given up.