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Tom Cruise’s Ten Best Performances

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" Exclusive Screening - Arrivals

Few A-list movie stars these days have been as durable as Tom Cruise. He can take a licking and keep on ticking, while still showing us something new from time to time. With the release this weekend of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, I wanted to take a look at the career of Cruise and pick out his very best acting jobs. As such, below you can find what I feel to be his top ten performances to date. While he’s focused on action roles of late, I think the next stage of his career will return him to drama, which is exciting, as he’s overdue an Academy Award. As always, this is just my take on things, but I do hope that you enjoy!

Here now are what I think are the ten best performances of Cruise’s so far…

10. Lions for Lambs – Not the best film he’s ever been involved in, but Cruise is almost too perfect as a Republican politician. The million dollar smile that occasionally can seem on the empty side is used to terrific effect here. It’s an incredibly underrated performance and one of the last times he’s attempted straight drama over the past decade or so.

9. A Few Good Men – Cruise spouting Aaron Sorkin dialogue is really a joy for me, and if he doesn’t have the flashiest part in the flick, he still makes his work rather memorable. He gets to go toe to toe with Jack Nicholson in court, as well as have a number of humorous lines that break up tension. It isn’t usually mentioned among his best works, but it should be.

8. Risky Business – The role that really made Cruise a star, it’s a strong performance that’s comedic, but also a bit of a straight man part as well. It’s a teen sex comedy, but one with a darker underbelly and a sense of maturity at times that I think is rare for the genre. As soon as he danced around in his underwear in that iconic scene, you knew that he was rocketing to the A-list. It was only a matter of time.

7. Collateral – A rare villainous turn by Cruise, it shows his magnetism used for evil instead of good, to great effect I might add. Intense and somewhat haunting with all of his liability stripped away, he still manages to be incredibly captivating. It’s the sort of performance that makes you wish he would occasionally go down this bad guy path again. One can dream, at least…

6. All the Right Moves – Another incredibly underrated movie of Cruise’s, this teen sports/coming of age drama is one of his best early roles. He flashes the charisma that would make him a star, but with a ton of youthful ignorance and confusion thrown in for good measure. I’m higher on this performance than most, but I think it’s one of his crowning achievements.

5. Minority Report – Cruise’s best action role to date also gave him a surprising amount of emotion to chew on. He gets to deal with tragedy as well as both law enforcement and being on the run. It’s a pretty full meal for him, and under the direction of Steven Spielberg, he more than makes the most of the opportunity. When you revisit this one, you notice his performance more and more.

4. Born on the Fourth of July – Perhaps his most overt play for an Oscar, Cruise is tremendous as a disabled Vietnam vet. It’s not a subtle movie, but it’s a moving one, with Cruise front and center throughout. Oliver Stone channeled his emotions about the war into three films, and while this one is perhaps his least personal of the trio, it’s still a top notch work.

3. Eyes Wide Shut – I’m not sure how many people realize how great Cruise is in this film. Sure, a lot of the focus was on this being the last movie from Stanley Kubrick and the reported graphic sexuality, but it’s Cruise as our partner and as a voyeur that’s the most memorable for me. It’s somewhat of a fever dream as a flick, but it’s more re-watchable than you might think.

2. Jerry Maguire – My most enjoyable Cruise role, this is him at his modern A-list movie star apex. There are iconic lines galore, that’s for sure, and he’s never been more appealing as a romantic lead, but again…there’s an edge to the performance. He’s hanging on to his sanity by a thread (remarked overtly in the film, in fact), which makes this a fuller meal. A classic from Cameron Crowe, one of the reasons that it soars is Cruise.

1. Magnolia – Easily the best performance of Cruise’s career, he perfectly captures a vile sexist pig who’s hiding his childhood pain through misogyny. Paul Thomas Anderson made an incredibly astute choice in casting Cruise, and the choice paid tremendous dividends. One of my all time favorite films, it’s the top of the mountain for Cruise performances, obviously. He doesn’t always get praised as much as he should for this one (though believe me, he’s often praised). It’s so amazing that he deserves more, regardless.

Honorable Mention: Edge of Tomorrow, Rain Man, Top Gun, Tropic Thunder, and Vanilla Sky

Tom Cruise 600 × 323

Be sure to check out Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, in theaters everywhere on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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