Tom Cruise’s The Mummy unspools in theaters this weekend and it’s not doing so hot with critics or audiences, if Rotten Tomatoes and early box office receipts are any indication. But every movie star stumbles from time to time. It’s how they pick themselves up and brush themselves off that counts, and Cruise has three solid opportunities to do just that.
Not only are sequels to Mission: Impossible and Top Gun (!) on the horizon, but those who dare see The Mummy in theaters will be treated to a trailer for Doug Liman’s American Made, which should help Cruise get his mojo back when it lands in theaters this fall.
So while you wait for the Mummy backlash to blow over, why not take a trip down memory lane and witness how Tom Cruise became one of the greatest movie stars Hollywood has ever seen. This is just one man’s opinion of Cruise’s ten best performances, so if you want to argue about it, hit the comments section or find me on Twitter, where healthy debate is always welcome.
1. JERRY MAGUIRE – As the Ultimate Tom Cruise Movie, this is the clear #1. There was no question in my mind. Cameron Crowe’s flawed sports agent represents Peak Cruise. In Jerry Maguire, he’s everything you could possibly want in a movie star, and that’s why he earned his second Oscar nomination. You can “show me the money” all you want, but this one is not up for debate. Who’s with me???
2. BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – Cruise is absolutely terrific as Ron Kovic, the Vietnam War hero who came home in a wheelchair only to feel betrayed by his country, prompting him to become an anti-war activist. Oliver Stone helped Cruise earn his very first Oscar nomination for this performance, which showcased a different side of the pretty-boy actor.
3. COLLATERAL – TC, as he’s known throughout Hollywood, doesn’t venture to the dark side very often, but when he does, it’s unforgettable. As the grizzled assassin known simply as Vincent, Cruise walks a tightrope and delivers an electrifying performance, even though it was Jamie Foxx who wound up with an Oscar nomination. Still, Cruise’s silver-tongued hitman is so vicious, he’ll make your hair turn white.
4. MAGNOLIA – Talk about a tour-de-force! Cruise upstages one of the greatest acting ensembles ever assembled and owns the screen with his gyrating turn as motivational speaker Frank T.J. Mackey, who hides his vulnerability behind a sheath of foul-mouthed armor. Cruise earned his third and final Oscar nomination here, and quite “frankly,” he should’ve won! Cider House Rules star Michael Caine should still be in jail for straight-up robbing him!
5. A FEW GOOD MEN – Cruise’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee may not have been able to handle the truth, but he sure did handle Jack Nicholson’s Col. Jessup in this Aaron Sorkin-scripted courtroom drama. Just as he did in The Color of Money with Paul Newman, Cruise ups his game around fellow acting greats, and you can tell he was eager to match Nicholson’s intensity in the scenes they share. Nicholson’s iconic line doesn’t work nearly as well without a worthy sparring partner. It’d be a mistake to dismiss Cruise’s work in this film, which came on the heels of…
6. RAIN MAN – After working with Newman on The Color of Money, Cruise paired up with the legendary Dustin Hoffman for Barry Levinson’s Best Picture-winning drama. He plays a selfish yuppie who escorts his autistic savant brother on a cross-country road trip to Vegas, where they count cards together and bond as siblings. Rain Man was an early sign of Cruise’s acting potential, and it indicating that there was much more lurking behind that movie star smile.
7. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – When the highlight reel of Cruise’s career unspools at some AFI tribute one day, it will either open or close with the famous image of Ethan Hunt suspended above a computer, watching that bead of sweat roll down his glasses. Mission: Impossible is Cruise’s signature franchise, and with the exception of John Woo’s M:I-2, it’s a pretty damn reliable one. So whether Cruise is hanging off the wing of a plane or climbing the Burj Khalifa, there’s no denying his commitment to pushing the envelope when it comes to stunts. He desperately wants the audience to believe that’s him defying death over and over, because in Cruise’s mind, he probably wants to live forever. And thanks to his body of work on the big screen, he will.
8. VANILLA SKY – Cameron Crowe’s remake of the Spanish film Abre los ojos rarely gets its due, but Cruise is fantastic as David Aames, whose experiences a stunning fall from grace following a car accident that leaves his face disfigured. Cruise doesn’t ugly himself up often — after all, his face is his moneymaker — but when he does, it’s for a story that’s worth it. There’s a tragic sadness hanging over this character, and I think it’s some of the best work Cruise has done. Perhaps Crowe just knows his find the actor’s extra gear and get the most out of him.
9. MINORITY REPORT – Well, hello Mr. Anderton. Minority Report was the first of two collaborations between Cruise and director Steven Spielberg, with the other being War of the Worlds. This Philip K. Dick adaptation is clearly the superior film, and that’s largely thanks to Cruise’s committed turn as Chief John Anderton, who leads a special police force that is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes. When Cruise himself is accused of a future murder, he’s forced to bust out his trademark running skills for this smart, stylish chase movie. I’ll take this movie over fellow sci-fi films Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion any day.
10. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE – Honestly, this one was a tough decision. I went back and forth quite a bit here. I nearly gave it to Cruise’s work with auteurs on Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick) or The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese), but no. I could’ve gone with one of Cruise’s “bestsellers,” such as The Firm or Jack Reacher, but no. I could’ve gone with one of his action-packed Tony Scott movies like Top Gun or Days of Thunder, or one of his charming early films like Risky Business or Cocktail. But alas, no. Not even Tropic Thunder, which was more of a glorified cameo, could crack this list. No, in the end, it was Cruise’s unlikely turn as the vampire Lestat that proved too hard to ignore. Author Anne Rice voiced her displeasure with Cruise’s casting back in the day, but once she saw the finished film, she was ready to eat her words. As I wrote about Collateral, it’s fun to watch Cruise sink his fangs into a darker character, and he has a blast doing just that as Lestat. It’s a seductive star turn from Cruise, who isn’t often sexualized on the big screen. If only there had been a sequel…
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief