A-List: Top Five Tom Cruise Movies

By J. Don Birnam

August 27, 2015

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Before Straight Outta Compton wowed audiences and critics, impressed at the box office, and inserted itself into the pop culture ethos, a certain Mr. Tom Cruise had yet another impressive box office run with the release of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Indeed, one of Hollywood’s greatest living actors (at least in terms of box office draw and longevity) has had bona fide box office hits four years in a row - Jack Reacher, Oblivion, and Edge of Tomorrow all did well with audiences. Scientology and other scandals aside, Cruise has continued his remarkable string of successes with moviegoers enthralled with the edgy and different type of adventure/action movies that he presents. Today, then, we take a lot at some of Cruise’s best performances.

The rules for this one are simple - if Tom Cruise is in the movie then it’s eligible. As with other A-Lists about a particular actor, I’ll try to focus on the performance more than on the movie, although the two are always difficult to separate. What is remarkable in listing movies about Tom Cruise is that since his entry into the scene in 1981, Cruise has starred as an actor in approximately one movie every year, sometimes more, and he shows no real signs of stopping.

In going through the list, I realized I like almost all of Cruise’s movies that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen over 25 of approximately 33). Indeed, the only dishonorable mention that I can think of is Jerry Maguire. I realize this is a very popular movie, but I found it to be trite, overwritten, and over-acted. Jerry Maguire is essentially Cruise trying to rediscover the goodwill he obtained from acting as a boy’s boy, a man’s man, as he did in Risky Business (the movie that made him a superstar). It didn’t work. While the love interest between Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay works charmingly in Risky Business, it feels unreal between him and Zellweger in Jerry Maguire.

Aside from that, however, it is difficult to argue with any of his movies. Sure, few of them are deep or profound explorations of the meaning of life. Instead, they are all unabashed crowd-pleasers. So what? There is a place for that in the art of cinema too, and few have managed to do it better than Tom Cruise in this roughly-century-old medium.

The honorable mentions are many and varied. I loved his stoic performance as the ill-fated hero in Valkyrie (but I’m a WWII nerd), I found he was able to keep his own next to Oscar-winning performances in both Rain Man and The Color of Money, and I shared in his despair, melancholy, and emotional confusion as the misunderstood hero in The Last Samurai.

His two collaborations with Spielberg, Minority Report and War of the Worlds, are also favorites of mine, as Cruise plays the dramatic, scared action hero well, and he contrasts with the tougher, in-charge role that he normally is accustomed to. War of the Worlds is also the highest-grossing of Cruise’s hits, followed closely by most of the Mission Impossible movies.

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