Like it or not, you like Tom Cruise. In fact, you probably even love Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is back atop the box office with his most recent hit, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which was reason enough to get the whole Prompt crew together for a rousing conversation about our favorite Tom Cruise movies.
Asking someone to rank Tom Cruise movies is like asking someone to rank the books of the Bible (I’m partial to Judges, myself, because it’s what I do when I brunch…). That said, Top Gun is the hands down choice. It’s got American military power, budding bromances, tense locker room talk, glistening bodies playing beach volleyball, Meg Ryan flirting, Meg Ryan crying, motorcycles, aviators, and calls signs so cool you thought all adults had them like some rite of passage they’d never told you about.
Top Gun is an action movie Hall-of-Famer, so why not do the exact same movie four years later but this time in race cars? Yep, we still felt the need, the need for speed, and Tom Cruise hit us up with that epic high-five in the form of Days of Thunder. The movie features a young and cocky Tom Cruise who once again doesn’t know much about how to operate the high-powered vehicle of choice, but thinks he knows everything about it. Once again he screws up, has some fun, finds a girl, then when it matters most, humbles up and finally listens to the advice he was ignoring all along about how to most-effectively operate said high-powered vehicle and save the day, or this time win the race or something. And while you may argue that making left turns isn’t nearly as exciting as gunning down foreign bogies and saving national security, you’d be right, but there’s still plenty of raw horsepower, masculinity and funny one-liners to keep you entertained. Oh yeah, and racecar spelled backwards is racecar. Take that, fighter jets!
As a Communication major, I was required to take a Film as Art class, which, let me tell you, is a helluva lot better than being a Business major and being required to take Calculus. Of course we watched the classics like Citizen Kane and Bonnie and Clyde, but I was tickled by some of the lighter fare, like Moonstruck. I’ll never forget the day* my professor switched off the film, Tombstone, because the national horror movie happening in real life was more important. I digress.
There was one Tom Cruise movie on the syllabus.
Can you guess which one?
Risky Business is so much more than Tom Cruise gyrating to Bob Seger, pantsless in a pink button-up. With 80s motifs including “hooker with a heart of gold” and “oops I drove Dad’s expensive car into a lake,” it explores themes of entrepreneurialism and innocence lost. The inclusion of a visual symbol, a crystal egg, is quintessential Film as Art, and the reason I’ve selected Risky Business as the greatest Tom Cruise movie of all time.
*it was 9/11
This one’s easy for me: Jerry Maguire. I saw it the night before I quit my job to open my own law practice, so it was inspiration city all the way. Plus lots of great lines—“You complete me,” “You had me at hello,” and of course Cuba Gooding’s Oscar award-winning performance with “Show me the money” and “Ambassador of Quan”.
Jerry Maguire is my favorite as well, so instead I will spotlight my favorite of the Mission: Impossible movies, Mission: Impossible 3. In this installment, Ethan Hunt has all but said goodbye to the superspy world and is trying to live the simple life, married to Michelle Monaghan. That simple life is completely fucked up when Phillip Seymour Hoffman kidnaps multiple people Ethan cares about. You see how that would have an effect on a person.
M:I3 is not the most intense in terms of the Cruise stunts that the franchise is known for, but it might be his most passionate and unhinged performance, as it’s literally “Mission: Impossible – This Time, It’s Personal.” I like movies where Tom Cruise freaks out, and he does a ton of that in M:I3 – crying, yelling, punching, jerking around, attempting to jump out of his own skin, hitting all the classic Tom hallmarks.
** one more thing, the punctuation of the Mission: Impossible movies are wild. It’s “Mission: Impossible 3” looks normal enough, right? And then the next three films all have a colon AND an emdash, ex. “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” You read that correctly! Let’s all just take a minute to appreciate this. There’s only one other franchise I can think of that sometimes does this, and their titles look like this: “Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi.” You don’t always see an emdash in a title! It’s cool. Keep doing you, Tom Cruise and the other MI producers!
Tom Cruise, before he was even a twinkle in Scientology’s eye, was Brian Flanagan, a bad businessman turned bad bartender, turned great bartender, turned bad poet, turned great businessman. Cocktail isn’t just my favorite Tom Cruise movie, but it’s one of my favorite movies, ever. It’s a movie of the 1980’s in all of the good, the bad, and the 1980’s ways. See Tom Cruise shoot baskets. See Tom Cruise fall down a subway entrance. See Tom Cruise dance the Hippy, Hippy Shake. See Elizabeth Shue’s sideboob. See Tom Cruise emotionally wrought over bad decisions. Just remember, before Tom Cruise ever jumped off a building as Ethan Hunt, or jumped on a couch, as Katie Holmes’s boyfriend and future ex-husband, he jumped on top of a bar and rhymed “orgasm” with “death spasm.”
You know that weird period of time in college when you’re really introspective and idealistic, trying to figure yourself out and express yourself through some existing canon of movies and music? Like, how the bands you listen to and the posters you hang up actually define you? Well, during that time, I watched a lot of Boondock Saints, Donnie Darko, and an underrated and creepy Tom Cruise movie: Vanilla Sky. Go ahead and psychoanalyze 20 year-old me. She’ll be curious what it all means.
I loved the concept of reimagining your broken down, demolished life from the comfort of your dreams. Going back to the people and times you loved, living in some subconscious dreamworld where even if your face is mashed in a car accident that did or didn’t happen, you can still find and restore your intense and beautiful love with Penelope Cruz.
I would have gone with Magnolia if we’re talking overall film, but my favorite flick that Tom Cruise singularly stars in is All the Right Moves. I have a thing for movies depicting Slav-populated steel town shit-holes, probably due to my love of The Deer Hunter, and All the Right Moves delivers on that front. It’s also set during the protagonist’s high school years, and I love the purity of that time in our lives. Not “pure” in the hipster-dipshit word-of-the-week sense, but how single-minded and black-and-white your morality was. Your first love? You’re gonna marry her! The coach you hate? Satan incarnate! Whether your parents were despots or saints hinged on whether or not you got to borrow the car keys on any given day. Makes for a good film.
I’m not a big movie buff, but even I have a favorite Tom Cruise big screen moment. It’s that time when, consumed by hatred and power (or perhaps just Scientology), he goes ballistic on the Queen of All Media and tries to end her life in front of a live studio audience.
2005 was a great year, am I right folks?
I’ll answer the question.
You want answers?
You think you’re entitled to answers?!
You want answers?!
You want the truth!!
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!
A Few Good Men.
Everyone else’s opinion is horribly misguided. The best movie Tom Cruise has ever been in is Austin Powers: Goldmember. For better or DEFINITELY WORSE, my mom’s poor judgement lead to this being one of my most influential childhood movies.
Oh? What’s that? Don’t remember TC’s greatest role where he has to act like anyone finds Gwenyth Paltrow attractive? Here’s the clip:
I was half joking when I said that American Made is my favorite because Cruise’s character actually meets his demise at the hands of Pablo Escobar towards the end of the film. That said, it’s almost a near-death experience to see Cruise playing a drug trafficker, who’s actually working for the CIA/DEA – and to be even more honest, I am trying to be original by not citing the other movie where he plays a pilot. The movie is based on a true story and Cruise, at times throughout his career, seems to do pretty well when he’s depicting non-fictional characters. Maybe because his own life is so fictional, this gives him an opportunity to actually be a real person… who knows? Bonus points for the elements of the movie that Cruise likely had little to do with, specifically the soundtrack (you can’t make a good cocaine movie without a good soundtrack that includes Rolling Stone sucking in the 70s tracks, and tracks with head bop compelling bass lines).
Yes, the boys like Top Gun for its action in the sky, and the bro-mance between Maverick and Goose has a special place in all of our hearts. But as a former dancer and theater nerd, one of the most cherished scenes of the movie is the spontaneous karaoke moment when Maverick busts out “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” It’s a moment that usually only happens in Broadway musicals, and was well ahead of the dance mob movement.
Special nod to my wedding DJ who recreated this scene at my wedding without my knowledge!
Tom Cruise’s greatest movie ever, one that would have flexed every over-acting muscle of his body, is undoubtedly Wall Street. Tragically, the part of Bud Fox instead went to Charlie Sheen.
1987 was peak Cruise, he was coming off of Top Gun and The Color of Money and was filming Rain Man and Cocktail*. The lead role in Wall Street opposite Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gecko makes more sense for Cruise than any role has ever made sense for an actor. Nobody else could have matched Gecko’s intensity and gravitas like Cruise. Unfortunately director Oliver Stone didn’t see it that way. He “liked the stiffness of Sheen’s acting style and used it to convene Bud’s naivete.”
How much better would this scene be with Cruise? The answer is infinitely better. This and every other scene. Such a crime.
*OK, time go get serious: Cocktail is the greatest movie of Tom Cruise’s actual career and it isn’t even close. It features every Cruise, Teen-Angst Cruise in the business class, over-the-top Showman Cruise at the bar, and Romantic Cruise with Elisabeth Shue (the first girl who made it move for me). And that’s just in the first half of the movie! We still get to see WAY over-the-top Cruise as the world’s last barman poet and hints of the Action Movie Cruise in the most unnecessarily intense scene in the history of cinema. Have fun with your list but in reality it starts and ends here.
I’m a little surprised that no one has grabbed at the second best Tom Cruise movie, so imma jump back in here.
Tropic Thunder. Because bald and hairy always seemed like polar opposites until Tom Cruise pulled it into a singular identity that terrified us. His role as the terrorist-negotiating, Hollywood-mocking, sexy-dancing Les Grossman ten years ago restored his place in our hearts and made every TC movie since–Rogue Nation, Fallout, Edge of Tomorrow–possible again. That movie was so good, it should’ve earned TC an Oscar.