“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” opening Friday, is a sequel no one wanted. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when Nicolas Cage starred in movies that didn’t involve a flaming skull and were good.

Raising Arizona (1987)
Cage’s performance as H.I. in this Coen brothers masterpiece combines incredible comic timing with a deep sense of pathos. We only hope that when Cage dies, the Oscars use the shot of him with panty hose on his head during the Montage of the Dead.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
He shouldn’t have won the Best Actor Oscar this year (it should’ve gone to Sean Penn for “Dead Man Walking”), but his work as a writer out to drink himself to death makes up for at least one of the “National Treasure” movies.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Credited as Nicolas Coppola (his uncle is Francis Ford), Cage was up for the role of Brad Hamilton but lost to Judge Reinhold. Instead, he’s one of the guys who stumble out of Spicoli’s smoke-filled van.

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Cage is best when he gets to be funny and in love. Here, he plays a man who just doesn’t get that his high school girlfriend is actually his ex-wife from the future. It makes sense in the movie.

Adaptation (2002)
Cage plays twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in this mind-bender from writer Charlie Kaufman, who is not Nic Cage. It makes sense in the movie.