To talk about a mission impossible, listing the best films by Tom Cruise, who for (more than) 36 years has been the biggest star in Hollywood is a herculean challenge. Proving that 80% of a star’s talent (some argue up to 90%) is knowing how to choose his projects, Tom is (almost) impeccable in his options and even his slips have a justifiable origin. For example, The Legend paired him with Ridley Scott, who directed the film. The musical Rock of Ages was a mega Broadway hit with an ensemble cast that could work. Romantic films, such as Knight and Day or Far and Away could suggest that the star does not hold comedies or dramas aimed at a female audience, but Jerry Maguire and Cocktail were successful to contradict the theory.
Although it is in action productions that he usually shines without competition, with franchises like Mission: Impossible, Jack Reacher, and Top Gun, Tom Cruise‘s focus was on working with the best. This strategy, even with critics questioning his versatility as an actor, is a champion. His legendary discipline, his signature of personally doing as much of the action scenes as he can, and his politeness and patience with journalists and fans alike, show that the actor has struck the perfect balance between fame, work, and fun. And doesn’t apologize to those who don’t like the way he lives and works. At (almost) 60, he has a right and a reason, doesn’t he?
Returning to the challenge of choosing the 5 best Tom Cruise films, if we divided them into decades it would help, but here I was bold to try something broader. With a filmography of more than 40 films, half of which are easily identified as “classics”, I almost gave up. But let’s go. Everyone has their list. Rotten Tomatoes tried to rank them all, but my list diverges right at the top.
5- Tropic Thunder
It’s just a cameo, with fans originally just discovering that it was Tom Cruise in the credits, but today certainly Les Grossman is one of the most iconic characters of his career. So much so that there are still rumors and spin-offs, and Tom Cruise went as Les in a VMA show and danced on stage, so nothing less than legendary applies to Les.
It was Tom who fought to be fat, bald, with giant hands, sweating, and dancing. The film is in the Amazon Prime Video collection in Brazil.
In another film in which Tom is part of the ensemble, he deserved his Oscar nomination, which he should have won, but lost to Michael Caine. Frank T. J. Mackey is one of the politically incorrect characters that is surprising that a star so aware of his public image has agreed to do it. Macho, abusive, and even criminal, Mackey is the dramatic side of a toxic man.
The “power of the c…” monologue was unbelievable then and it’s still awful now, even more so in Tom’s mouth and gestures, but it’s a classic too. There was a personal parallel to his relationship with his own father that the character presents, and it’s the actor’s best dramatic performance, so it needs to be at the top. To watch, the film is in the collection of Telecine/ Globoplay.
3- Top Gun: Maverick
The film will premiere at the end of May, it has been ready for theaters since 2019, with a release scheduled for 2020, and is only being released now, so that it can be seen in projection rooms and follow the traditional window of the market. He’s also here to play his original, Top Gun, 1986, which has made Tom Cruise the most profitable and famous actor in Hollywood since.
Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is the persona we most associate with the actor as we imagine him to be off-screen: daring, complicated, and talented. In the original, in keeping with how it functioned in the 1980s, the film is a succession of clips and commercial scenes, with Maverick dealing with his personal demons in a shallow way. He returns 36 years later, to still deal with his past, but now with a Tom Cruise in command and mastery of narratives, hence the unanimity of critics in putting Top Gun again, well, at the top. The sequel shouldn’t hit digital platforms until late 2022, but the 1986 film is on Starplus.
2- Jerry Maguire
The romantic comedy by Cameron Crowe places Tom Cruise in one of the sweetest and most complex roles of his career. Tom, who wasn’t even the first choice for the role, is impeccable in every scene, fun and exciting in equal measure. It was also nominated for an Oscar, losing to Geoffrey Rush in Shine.
There are so many classic lines and scenes, that Jerry Maguire gave Tom Cruise the credit of a modern anti-hero, which appeals to all audiences and certainly deserves to be called a “classic”. Jerry Maguire is available on Starzplay.
1- The Mission Impossible franchise
I’m stealing, of course, by putting all Mission Impossibles as number 2, but not even Tom Cruise envisioned it in 1996 when he acquired the rights to the brand name of the former TV series that would have gold in his hands. Ethan Hunt is the best spy in response to James Bond in American cinema (yes, Jason Bourne also deserves to be praised, but he hasn’t been breaking box office records for 24 years like Ethan). Even before starting the winning partnership with Christopher McQuarrie, in 2015, it was in 2006, 10 years after the first film, that Tom accurately brought personal elements of Ethan Hunt s life into the plot, allowing for an emotional turn for the character that is fun, tragic and comic in the right measures. Since then, it’s become impossible to find fault with the movie that is the perfect entertainment and reinvented the older action star.
Yes, Tom Cruise appears to be about (at least) 15 years younger and there is nothing to suggest that Ethan Hunt will not remain at the box office for decades to come, becoming the most important and emblematic character in the star’s filmography. Deservedly. To see all the movies, those who subscribe to Starplus can enjoy a binge.
Not on the list are the films that Tom made to work with his idols, such as The Color of the Money: Paul Newman and Martin Scorcese; Rain Man: Dustin Hoffman; Born on 4th of July: Oliver Stone; Minority Report and The War of the Worlds: Steven Spielberg; Days of Thunder: Robert Duvall; Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick; Lions For Lambs: Meryl Streep and Robert Redford; The Firm: Gene Hackman or A Few Good Men: Jack Nicholson, leaving out directors and actors such as Francis Ford Coppola or Morgan Freeman or even his boldness in Interview with a Vampire, which had him sharing the screen with Brad Pitt. Perhaps the easiest list is who still needs to work with Tom Cruise because he has always worked with the best of the best. That’s why it tops their list.
What would your ranking be?