This weekend marks the release of Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster and quite possibly one of the most entertaining movies of the summer. 30 years later and Cruise has barely slowed down in cranking out the hits. Known for the intensity and enthusiasm he adds to his roles (and pretty much everything else…), Cruise’s extensive resume has left its mark on us with countless memorable moments. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best:
1999 brings us Magnolia, a film that gives us a side of Cruise we’ve never seen before, and really only one time since (see #6). Although audiences were accustomed to Cruise’s portrayal of a guy with a bit of a sense of entitlement, he goes full on vulgar narcissist as Frank Mackey. He snagged a Golden Globe for this role and an Oscar nomination for this surprising performance. My apologies for the graphic language used in this video, but this scene had to be included. Because really, how often do you hear those words come out of that man’s mouth?
9) Rain Man
By the time the late 80’s rolled around, Tom Cruise was cranking out the big movies, and Rain Man was one of the most unique and impactful of the bunch. Although Dustin Hoffman outshines Cruise in his portrayal of a man named Raymond who has autism, Cruise does have his shining moments as Charlie Babbitt. These moments stem from the connection between two brothers, and the best scenes in Rain Man are the ones in which we see Raymond and Charlie form their relationship. We also see Charlie change, and we believe this change thanks to Cruise’s performance, especially in this scene.
Tom Cruise’s performance in Collateral is one of a kind for two reasons: 1) He rarely plays the villain, which is a shame because he proves here that he excels in giving audiences someone to hate. 2) His character, a hit man named Vincent, is (for the most part) cold and calculated, which is a far cry from the enthusiastic and often reckless persona we usually get from him. That’s what makes Vincent a great villain, and that’s also what makes this scene stand out. Cruise barely blinks as he shoots the jazz club owner between the eyes as a frantic Jamie Foxx attempts to stop him. Based on past performances, you would almost expect these roles to be reversed, which is another reason Collateral was one of the unexpected hits of 2004.
7) Mission: Impossible
If you haven’t been hiding out under a rock for the last 25 years, you know Tom Cruise prides himself on the fact that he performs most of his own stunts. The Mission: Impossible series gave him the chance to show us just how far he would go. Although all of these films contain countless high action situations for Cruise to puff out his stunt performing feathers, the famous wire scene boats more intensity than any other in the series (yes, including the skyscraper scene…). Even though Hollywood is still cranking out Mission: Impossible installments, when you think of the franchise, you automatically remember this sequence.
6) Tropic Thunder
Although Tom Cruise’s alter ego, Les Grossman, is probably now more well known for his dance moves than his actual cameo, his appearance in Tropic Thunder is what sparked it all. This is the only movie on the list that doesn’t feature Cruise as a main character, but his comical appearance along with his foul mouth surprised and delighted even those who aren’t fans of the actor. Those oversized hands, the bald head, and the subsequent dance moves proved that Cruise could still have some fun at a time when his personal life and religious views were earning him some extra negative attention. Director Ben Stiller also managed to keep this cameo a secret until the film was released, causing audiences to do a double take when Cruise appeared on screen.
5) Born on the Fourth of July
Born on the Fourth July is the first movie that really showcased Tom Cruise’s skill as an actor. His performance as disabled Vietnam Ron Kovac earned him his first Oscar Nomination and you can make a strong argument that he should have won. This was not an easy role to play and was a complete departure from the cocky, charming characters he’d brought to the screen up until this point. Ron Kovac (Tom Cruise) returns from Vietnam a broken man, spiritually and physically. Tom Cruise shows us every ounce of that heart-wrenching pain as he drunkenly berates his mother and the traditional values she represents. It’s a difficult moment to watch, but Cruise makes us hurt right along with Kovac.
4) A Few Good Men
That famous line, you know the one. The quote is actually delivered by Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), who steals the scene as he’s being interrogated by Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Cruise). But it’s not just the one line that makes this moment exceptional, it’s the intensity of both Cruise and Nicholson. The screen practically vibrates with tension during this heated back and forth as the two feed off of one another’s frustrations. The entire cast is at the top of their game here, and it’s apparent in more than just this single scene.
3) Top Gun
The fearless pilot, Maverick, remains one of Tom Cruise’s most famous roles after almost 30 years, setting the standard for the somewhat cocky, heroic persona we’ve come to expect with most of his characters. Two songs will be forever remembered for their feature in Top Gun: Berlin’s Take My Breath Away and The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. The latter became part of Cruise’s attempt at serenading his soon to be love interest, Charlie, with the help of a few friends in uniform. Cruise is at his best when he’s having fun, and he sure set the bar high here for cheesy and embarrassing ways to hit on a pretty girl with this scene. I had a friend in high school attempt to sing this to me at the bowling alley, but it didn’t produce quite the same result.
2) Risky Business
Risky Business is known for being the movie that really launched Tom Cruise’s career along with thousands of Halloween costumes and imitation videos of Joel Goodson’s performance of Old Time Rock and Roll. The premise epitomizes every parent’s worst nightmare when they leave their kid home alone for the first time. This scene show cases the carefree, charming Cruise we often saw in his earliest films. Although most teenagers don’t typically run brothels out of their house while they have the place to themselves, this scene does emulate what most of us actually did do in this situation: exactly what our parents told us not to. If you can’t thaw out a frozen dinner properly, you might as well just dance around the house with no pants on, right?
1) Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire is not only a stellar film, producing multiple Oscar nominations, it’s also a quotable goldmine. The dynamic performances of Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger, and Tom Cruise create so many big moments in this movie, it’s hard to choose just one. But the phone conversation between Rod Tidwell and Jerry Maguire is so delightful it can’t be passed up. I can’t watch this scene without cracking up as Gooding jams around his house rambling off requests, concluding with that one final demand: “Show me the money!” It takes the energy from both of these guys to make this scene, along with the rest of this film, so fantastic. Jerry Maguire was a culmination of all Cruise’s acting chops and displayed some of the intensity we know him for today, and it’s one of his best performances.