Rohan Morbey selects his Five Essential Tom Cruise Films…
In a career spanning over 25 years, Tom Cruise has been one of the top grossing stars at the global box office throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, with his films topping $2.8 billion in worldwide ticket sales. He became the first actor in history to star in five films to consecutively gross $100 million or more at the US box office. He reached iconic status long ago and has a career and lifestyle to rival anyone working in the film industry today.
But Tom Cruise is far more than the money making machine some people label him as.
Nominated for three Academy Awards and the winner of three Golden Globes, Cruise has proven himself to be much more than the star of blockbuster movies, or a just another actor trading on his looks or appeal. The list of directors who have chosen to work with him reads as a who’s who of legendary film makers; Scorsese, Spielberg, De Palma, Mann, Coppola, Kubrick, both Scott brothers, Oliver Stone… the list goes on. The actors who have worked alongside him include Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, and Paul Newman - a list to rival that of his directors.
He commands and has earned respect from his peers both in front and behind the camera, and his body of work is proof in itself that Tom Cruise was, is, and remains one of the industry’s most valuable and iconic talents.
It is a difficult choice to select just five films form his career, but I believe these perfectly define the essential work of Tom Cruise:
5. Top Gun (1986, dir. Tony Scott)
Cruise’s most popular and iconic film to date, Top Gun is one of the quintessential films of the 1980s and the film which catapulted him into super stardom.
The very definition of a high-concept picture, Top Gun became one of the first mega hits for now-legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer (working with the late Don Simpson at the time) and was the most successful film in the US that year. So successful in fact, the US Navy had its highest application rate in years from young men wanting to be the next Maverick!
Certainly not Cruise’s best film, but deserves its place on the list for the future roles he landed as a result.
Key Scene: Maverick and Goose hi-five and utter the classic line “I feel the need, the need for speed!”
4. Collateral (2004, dir. Michael Mann)
The first and only time Cruise has played the villain in a movie and the role of Vincent is one of his most memorable to fans. Cool, cold, and calculated, Cruise takes to the as if he’d been playing the bad guy all of his career. Yet again, Cruise chose a screenplay which gives him something different to add to his CV and a director in Michael Mann who shot the film in glorious hi-def, making it one of Cruise’s most gritty film to date.
Key Scene: Vincent and Max stop in the cab to watch a Coyote cross the road. Both men are hypnotised by the animal’s presence. No words are spoken, there is nothing which can be said.
3. Magnolia (1999, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
After the run of box offices smashes in the mid to late 90s, Cruise made two of his best pictures to date in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia.
Magnolia joins the list as it marked Cruise first true ensemble piece. The posters didn’t focus on his name or face, the trailers didn’t sell the film as a Tom Cruise vehicle, and his screen time is evenly shared with the other star names across the film’s 3 hour duration.
Here Cruise gives arguably his best performance. His portrayal of T.J. Mackey shows us a side we’d not seen before - a range of emotions and subtle nuances perhaps not required in previous films or scripts. Both nasty and strangely compassionate, Cruise does so much in a relatively short space of time, it must be viewed as masterclass in character acting. The Academy Award nomination was well deserved.
Key Scene: Mackey talks to his dying father - a three minute rant which ends with him torn and conflicted, crying the words “Don’t leave me, you fucking asshole. don’t leave me.” Watch the scene on You Tube here.
2. Minority Report (2002, dir. Steven Spielberg)
2002. The biggest director in the world directs the biggest star in world. It doesn’t get much more monumental in Hollywood partnerships than Spielberg and Cruise.
The film is one which gets better with each viewing. At first perhaps it’s a great looking sci-fi thriller, but you soon realise Minority Report is much more than that, there are so many layers and themes, I won’t even try to list them all here.
A neo-noir, detective story, and sci-fi adventured rolled into one, the picture delivers on many levels and is enjoyable for audiences looking for just action and thrills, as well as those of us wanting something to think about long after the film has ended.
The collaboration proved so successful that the actor and director teamed up again just 3 years later for War of the Worlds. But it is the film, Cruise’s first in any of the aforementioned genres, that stands out as arguably his most entertaining and rewarding blockbusters.
1. Rain Man (1988, dir. Barry Levinson)
My number one choice for the essential Tom Cruise film is the 1988 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay; Rain Man.
This, out of all of his films, shows Cruise at his very best. At only 26 years of age, Cruise gives a performance in character acting well beyond his years. The accolades went to Hoffman for his role as the autistic savant, Raymond Babbitt, and no one can argue the genius of his performance. But to understand and appreciate the film, you must understand the role Cruise plays as his brother, Charlie, and how important it is to the film’s over riding success.
Charlie is the only one to change in the film - his character is the only one with an arc. Raymond remains the same at the end as he does when we first meet him, but the adventure we go on is with Charlie; it is his anger, pain, frustration, and ultimately, his love we feel throughout the film’s perfectly paced and executed picture.
Followed immediately after by Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, Rain Man opened the eyes of any critics of the young star’s potential to be more than just another flash in the pan actor. It is his finest hour, a film of true class throughout, and one which reminds us of Tom Cruise at his very best.
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Rohan Morbey - follow me on Twitter.