Before Tom Cruise was known for his devotion to the Church of Scientology and jumping on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa, he was alright. In fact he was more than alright; he was pretty awesome. Scratch that – he’s actually still incredibly awesome and continues to churn out an array of interesting, fun, and thrilling box office hits.
His public image aside, we forget he’s actually an actor with a broad range, having appeared in critically acclaimed dramas to action packed romps.
Not content with just acting, Cruise is also responsible for bringing Mission: Impossible to the big screen, a franchise that has lasted 18 years and counting. He also performs his own stunts and he’s probably one of the most prolific on-screen runners, (there’s a tumblr page dedicated to his running) and Japan even have a National Tom Cruise day.
So, let’s put those bonkers stories aside and let us remember just why Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s most awesome assets. These are 15 Movies That Prove Tom Cruise Is Actually Awesome.
15. The Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
In a movie landscape littered with reboots, remakes and various superhero movies, Edge of Tomorrow, was a welcome change to 2014’s blockbuster schedule.
A seemingly unbeatable alien race hits Earth with an unrelenting assault and in the chaos, Major William ‘Bill’ Cage (Cruise), a public affairs officer with no military experience, finds himself demoted to private and labelled a deserter. He’s relegated to the J-Squad, and after an unfortunate encounter with one of these alien creatures (a ‘Mimic’) on the battlefield, he’s forced to relive that day’s events over and over again.
If us mere mortals had to relive the same bloody, war torn day on repeat, we’d not get very far past the military base bar, the world would end and the movie would be over pretty sharpish. However, this is a goddamn Tom Cruise movie we’re talking about here. With all that time on his hands, he trains like a boss, memorizes every nuance of the battle to negotiate his way out and finds a way to save mankind.
14. Oblivion (2013)
2013’s Oblivion was adapted from director Joseph Kosinski’s (Tron: Legacy) unreleased graphic novel with Cruise signing on in 2011, a few years before its release.
Cruise plays Jack Harper, one of the last remaining people on the entire planet after an intergalactic war devastates the Earth. Harper is a maintenance worker and works in a team of two along with Victoria ‘Vicka’ Olsen (Andrea Risenborough) stationed at Tower 49, while Harper works on the ground. Only the alien invaders or ‘Scavs’ are left on the ground while the human race prepare to relocate to Saturn’s moon, Titan.
When Oblivion opened, it fast became Cruise’s third best opening weekend just behind Mission: Impossible and War of the Worlds. The reviews were mixed but Tom’s performance was praised – balancing the fine nuances between action, drama and romance.
The film is a beautiful, slick glimpse into a dystopian future and, spoiler alert, Tom saves mankind again and makes some pretty huge sacrifices to do it. Pretty standard Cruise awesomeness here but with some clever little plot twists that have become standard when it comes to Cruise and sci-fi.
13. Minority Report (2002)
One of the best things about when Tom lends his name to sci-fi is that he chooses projects that are complex and thought provoking. His films often explore interesting themes about society and the future and Minority Report ticks all of these boxes.
Adapted from Phillip K. Dick’s classic novel, Cruise is troubled PreCrime Captain John Anderton. In 2054, with the aid of three psychics or ‘precogs’, the PreCrime unit is able to predict crimes before they actually happen. However, when Anderton’s name appears as the next PreCrime suspect, he finds himself caught in a sticky conspiratorial web.
Cruise evades capture at every turn, pretty much outsmarting, outrunning and out-‘hovering’ the whole PreCrime unit. In one of the film’s most memorable action sequences, Cruise performed his own stunts in a scene where he’s being chased down by PreCrime cops in hoverpacks. The crew built an 80 foot rig with 1.3 miles of cable which had Cruise being dragged around the soundstage.
Spielberg and Cruise also agreed to take no money upfront but instead 15% of the box office each with the film making more than $358 million worldwide. So, yeah, that’s still a good wad of cash… you do the maths.
12. Mission: Impossible (1998)
Adapted from the TV show which aired from 1967 – 1973, this was the first project for Tom’s newly formed production company – Cruise/Wagner Productions – set up with former casting agent Paula Wagner. Bringing the TV show back to life on screen, the film focused on crazy stunts and barmy plot twists with director Brian De Palma at the helm.
Some of the stunts and action sequences have gone down in cinematic history. The aquarium scene was rehearsed more than any other because De Palma and Cruise were worried about the high risk factor but, in usual Cruise fashion, it ended up looking pretty spectacular. The ‘cable drop’ scene, where Cruise is lowered into a high security room is absolutely unforgettable and has since been praised many times.
The film spawned a whole franchise, which is still going strong today and brought Mission: Impossible to a younger fan base. There was even a Playstation Game, but Cruise refuses to lend his likeness to action figures or computer game characters because there’s only one Tom Cruise… obviously!
11. Tropic Thunder (2008)
After the infamous ‘Oprah moment’, being let go by his agent because of his devotion to Scientology and Paramount subsequently ending their contract with Cruise with company Chairman Sumner Redstone stating “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount,” Tom had become somewhat of a laughing stock and Tropic Thunder arrived at an opportune time.
Tom appeared as studio executive Les Grossman in Ben Stiller’s film about a group of dysfunctional actors lost in the jungle during filming and it’s Cruise’s performance as Grossman that steals the show.
Stiller credited Tom Cruise with the whole concept behind the Les Grossman character from his personality to his massive prosthetic hands. Cruise was initially being considered for the Tugg Speedman role (played by Stiller), which is how Tom first heard of the script. Although there are no official comments from Tom. Stiller, writer Etan Cohen and co-star Bill Hader are amongst those who have said Cruise is the brains behind Grossman, who wanted to represent the disgusting side of Hollywood, inadvertently creating one of the most memorable comedy characters in film of the last ten years.
10. Legend (1985)
Director Ridley Scott’s dark fantasy has become a favourite amongst 80s kids. Unlike many of Cruise’s box office smashes, this was sadly a flop at the time though clawing back only $15 million on a $25 million budget. The film featured otherworldly sets and fantastical make-up and effects, which have since been praised but made Hollywood wary of the fantasy genre at the time since it hadn’t quite cashed out like they’d hoped.
In Legend, Cruise plays forest child (or a Nymph) Jack O’Green. It’s a beautiful, dark love story where Jack must defeat the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) from destroying daylight and marrying his love Lili (Mia Sarah).
Cruise was in his early twenties when he appeared as Jack and was a less commanding presence than what he is now relying more on his naive, boyish charm and good looks.
Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto has actually credited Legend for the inspiration behind Nintendo’s iconic fantasy computer game, proving that whatever Tom Cruise puts his name to ends up spawning something pretty special.
9. Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Interview With The Vampire was adapted from Anne Rice’s critically acclaimed 1976 novel. Upon hearing of the casting of Tom Cruise as vampire Lestat, she wasn’t pleased. However, after seeing Cruise in action, Rice did a complete u-turn and noted that he “got the essence of Lestat”, praising his performance.
The film tells the tale of Louis (Brad Pitt) and his transformation into a vampire by Lestat in 1791. The narrative is based around a present day interview between San Franciscan journalist Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater), where Louis describes his life vampire with Lestat and their 12-year-old vampire ‘daughter’ Claudia (Kirsten Dunst).
Johnny Depp was originally in line to play Lestat but Cruise’s performance as the charming and deadly vampire was absolute perfection. Although Louis was the main focus of the film, Cruise’s scenes were arguably more captivating and it’s no wonder that author Anne Rice ultimately gave her seal of approval.
8. Mission: Impossible 3 (2006)
Mission: Impossible 3 arrived a little late due to Tom’s commitment to War of the Worlds but it was well worth the wait.
This was J. J. Abrams’ directorial debut, with Cruise getting him on board after watching Alias and being suitably impressed. By the third film, IMF operative Ethan Hunt is now retired and engaged to his fiancé Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), unaware of his career as an IMF agent. However, Hunt comes out of retirement to stop elusive black market arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
One of the stunts in the film includes Tom jumping off a Shangai Skyscraper. The leap was so huge from where he jumped that it spanned an impressive 2km. Clearly an actor and business man with a nose for what works, the placement of Abrams at the directorial helm and Hoffman cast as the main villain, with a solid script and impressive action sequences, the movie topped the box office in its opening weekend. This third Mission: Impossible film firmly cemented the franchise as a Hollywood staple with Cruise’s production company the driving force.
7. Collateral (2004)
Michael Mann’s collateral was the last movie of the pre-Katie Holmes ere before he went slightly bonkers and we began to question the Golden Boy of Hollywood’s unflinching stardom.
Cruise is hitman Vincent who hires taxi driver Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) to drive him around to the various locations of his hits. Edward Norton was initially considered for the role and it may have been hard to imagine Cruise as the ageing hitman but he committed to the role, dyed his hair grey and proved that he could deliver and intense and edgy performance.
6. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Vanilla Sky is a film that tends to divide opinion and despite opening at the box office hitting the number one spot, it received mixed reviews. For some, it’s the perfect homage to Alejandro Amenábar’s 1997 original, Open Your Eyes, but for other’s the original provided more depth.
Cruise is David Aimes, a wealthy publisher who seemingly has it all. David enjoys the bachelor life style but after being introduced to Sofia Serrano (Penélope Cruz) at a party, his life is changed and he falls in love. But after an accident caused by his friend Julianna Gianni, who is jealous and hurt over David’s new found love interest Sofia, David is left horribly disfigured.
Seemingly a straight forward, yet tragic love story, director Cameron Crowe’s film explores morality, life and death and how our ‘choices’ effect us for better (or worse). Penélope Cruz reprised her role of Sofia, having appeared in Amenábar’s original and her chemistry with Cruise was perfection and the pair eventually became an item – Tom had only recently announced his separation from Nicole Kidman whilst filming.
Tom’s charm and wit are easy traits for him to rely upon as we’ve seen throughout his career but he’s not afraid to showcase torture, pain and the uglier side of the human condition too. It’s a well rounded performance and a captivating film that often goes unsung.
5. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Often noted as the film which heralded the end of one of Hollywood’s golden couples, Eyes Wide Shut was also legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s last film; he passed away four days after showing the final cut to Warner Bros.
Tom plays Dr. Bill Harper who, after hearing that his wife Alice (then real life wife Nicole Kidman) had contemplated an affair a year earlier, embarks upon a strange night encountering a large orgy of an unnamed secret society.
Cruise was at the height of his career yet still committed to 6 months shooting with Kubrick, and delayed Mission: Impossible 2 in favour of finishing the film. In fact, he was so nervous about working with the iconic director that he even developed an ulcer but refused to tell him, being the consummate professional as ever.
Tom’s star power and Kubrick’s cult infamy had the film topping the box office, making this Kubrick’s first ever film to do so. Although the film received mixed reviews, it still had that magic ‘Cruise touch’.
4. Magnolia (1999)
Although the majority of Tom Cruise’s films have been commercial successes, there are some that have struggled at the box office. Magnolia is one such film but despite not being the huge smash, it was a critical success leading to Cruise being nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award in 2000 for Best Supporting Actor.
Tom plays Frank T. J. Mackey, a misogynistic motivational guru who helps men with their relationships with women. Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s film about coincidence and forces beyond control was beautifully thought-provoking and miles away from Cruise’s appearance in Eyes Wide Shut.
After seeing Boogie Nights, Tom was keen to be considered by Anderson in one of his next projects, sneaking the director onto Kubrick’s notoriously secure set while filming Eyes Wide Shut.
If anyone is ever in any doubt about Tom’s acting chops, watch Magnolia. In a touching scene with actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, he completely improvised everything after the line “I’m not going to cry for you.” Tom didn’t feel the script quite worked so Anderson asked him to think back to when his Father had passed away. During the filming of this scene, Cruise subsequently broke down in tears.
3. Born on the Fourth of July
The casting of Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, didn’t have the full confidence of the studio. In the late 80s, Cruise had yet to do a serious drama but Stone was keen to have him in the main role, playing Vietnam vet Ron Kovic.
The movie was adapted from Kovic’s autobiography of the same name and Cruise’s even casting had the full approval of the author himself (Kovic even gave Cruise his bronze star).
Ever committed to his roles, even as a younger actor, Tom used a wheelchair as much as possible while preparing for the role and during filming so he could feel what it was like to be treated as a disabled person. Stone even considered using a nerve agent so Tom would know what it felt like to be paralyzed. Cruise was up for this but there wasn’t a safe way to do this.
The film rode high at the top spot for 6-weeks and earned Tom’s first Academy Award nomination. It was proof that Tom’s range expanded beyond the twinkling heart-throb audiences had been used to seeing him play and proved him to be a main contender going forward.
2. The Firm (1993)
For a short while in the early 90s, legal crime dramas definitely seemed to be thing. Crime novelist John Grisham was one of the most popular authors of the genre at the time so it was hardly rocket science that his 1991 novel The Firm would eventually make it to the big screen.
Tom Cruise plays Mitch McDeer, a law graduate who joins a massive firm. He’s mentored by Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman), and finds himself caught in a web of lies and corruption after stumbling upon the seedier side of the business.
The film was released during the height of Grisham’s popularity, even trumping 1993’s The Pelican Brief in terms of the box office. It was the largest grossing R-rated movie that year and of any movie based on a John Grisham novel. Cruise’s nose for a potential hit and an iconic thriller was razor sharp as ever and it’s become one of his ‘classic’ 90s hits.
1. Rain Man (1998)
Director Barry Levinson’s 1988 comedy drama has gone down in history as one of Dustin Hoffman’s standout performances but it’s Tom Cruise’s turn as the dubious Charlie Babbitt that gave Rain Man star quality as a drama with real heart.
Upon the death of his Father, Charlie Babbitt finds out his younger autistic savant brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) has been left his multi-million dollar estate. Unaware he even had a brother, the pair embark upon a cross-country road trip together.
Cruise and Hoffman rehearsed relentlessly, even whilst filming, often swapping roles as well. The cast mates also followed two brothers in a similar situation – one being autistic – to better understand their own roles in the film.
Further to this being one of Cruise’s most iconic movies of his career, it was the highest grossing film of that year and he even boosted the sale of Ray Bans by 15% after wearing them during the movie. Hoffman and Cruise complemented each other perfectly on screen, with outstanding performances.