Incredibly enough, Tom Cruise has been making movies for over 30 years. Seeing Jack Reacher made me reflect on Cruise, the movie star. Since I've seen virtually all of his movies, I decided to rank my favorites. His career has been impressive.
Of course, he's made his share of duds. I loathe Legend, and Days of Thunder is nearly as bad. Knight and Day felt like it would never end. Lions for Lambs is horrible, and the less said about Losin' It, the better.
First, a few words about some Cruise movies that didn't make my list: If I considered The Outsiders a Tom Cruise movie, it would rank number 5 on my list. I love that film, but Tom had nothing to do with why I liked it. In fact, he hardly registers at all and any pretty boy could have played his tiny part back then. Far and Away came close to cracking the Top Ten, and if I re-watched it, it might yet get there. But in my memory, it has become a bit bloated despite a really great last act. All of the Mission: Impossible films are good action movies. Cruise was so good that I didn't recognize him in Tropic Thunder, but that movie didn't hold up well to a second viewing. I liked both The Firm and War of the Worlds when I first saw them, but their luster has dimmed in my mind. I remember Cruise first making an impression on me in Taps, and I remember liking All the Right Moves. I wish I had room for Collateral on the list, but I don't. That's no reason not to watch it, though.
And then there are Cruise's iconic movies Risky Business (dancing in his tighty whities), Top Gun ("I feel the need..the need for speed!") and Cocktail (juggling the bottles behind the bar.) They all have memorable moments. While Top Gun is a little better than the other two, all three of these films are really only mediocre movies at best.
So here are the Ten Greatest Tom Cruise movies, in descending order:
10. Magnolia - Cruise's role as a motivational speaker is a supporting role in this unusual film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It's a showy part, though, and Cruise steps out of his comfort zone in bringing this smarmy, unlikeable character to the screen. He was rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - The Mission: Impossible franchise is a great one for Cruise to be an action hero. While the first one has the best set piece (Cruise's Ethan Hunt entering the computer room from the ceiling) and the third one has the best villain (deliciously played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), this fourth incarnation is the most satisfying one throughout the entire film. It is directed by Brad Bird.
8. Valkyrie - I would have bet that this was going to flop. Cruise plays real-life German Claus von Steffenberg, a leader in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in World War II. This is a historical thriller that apparently has a lot of truth in it, and I was riveted. Bryan Singer directs.
7. Eyes Wide Shut - Cruise spent two years making this film for legendary director Stanley Kubrick. It's about a doctor who undertakes a dark sexual and moral journey when his wife admits that she has considered adultery. He is really out of his comfort zone here, and he succeeds brilliantly. And in spite of the material, this is one of my favorite Kubrick films. I also thought this movie would flop, but was pleasantly surprised.
6. A Few Good Men - Cruise holds his own against Jack Nicholson as a green military lawyer who defends some Marines on murder charges. Rob Reiner directs this tense adaptation of Aaron Sorkin's play.
5. Rain Man - It's tempting to see this as Dustin Hoffman's movie, but the film really doesn't work without Cruise's performance as the selfish Charlie Babbitt who learns to appreciated his autistic older brother. This is Cruise's only movie to have won a Best Picture Oscar, and it was directed by Barry Levinson.
4. The Color of Money - Martin Scorsese directed this sequel to 1961's The Hustler. Paul Newman reprises his role of Fast Eddie Felson, and Cruise is his snotty upstart protege who can really handle a pool stick.
3. Born on the Fourth of July - This is actually my favorite Cruise performance. He plays real-life paraplegic Vietnam War vet Ron Kovic in this Oscar nominee for Best Picture. Cruise received a Best Actor Oscar nomination at age 27 for his work here, and Oliver Stone won his second one as Best Director.
2. Minority Report - This is a great sci-fi action thriller directed by Steven Spielberg. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the movie is about a future where police can arrest murderers before the murders actually happen. And Cruise is a cop who goes on the run when the police try to arrest him for a future murder. Exciting stuff!
1. Jerry Maguire - Cruise scores as the title sports agent who loses his job when he has a moral epiphany, and then tries to to live his life under his new philosophy. Along the way he falls for a young mother and her six year old son. This is a near-perfect comedy-drama from writer-director Cameron Crowe. The film was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, and Cruise received his second Best Actor Oscar nomination.