I was so bummed that I missed my press screening of Edge of Tomorrow on Monday due to traffic. Not only do I really like Tom Cruise (and Emily Blunt), I’ve heard from many people I trust that this movie is f*cking fantastic (unlike Oblivion). I’ve also heard that it’s easily director Doug Liman’s best movie in almost 20 years.
So while I wait for a window to go check out Tomorrow this weekend, I figured I’d toss a list together ranking my favorite Cruise films. None of these are horror movies, but that’s what “The Further” is for.
This is the kind of thing where the rankings (and indeed the entries themselves) could change any day of the week, so I respect and welcome any disagreements. Check it out below!
5: Jack Reacher
This movie didn’t really set the world on fire (nor did I manage to see it in theaters), but I’d argue that Christopher McQuarrie’s 2012 film (along with Mission Impossible 4) set the stage for the Cruise comeback (in terms of public perception, his earning power hasn’t actually flagged that much) we’re seeing today. In many ways Jack Reacher is a perfect 90’s movie. It feels like the kind of film that would have been a massive budget buster in 1998, but it seems small by today’s standards. Which is great. It gives the film plenty of wiggle room to let Cruise’s character and his actions determine the stakes.
4: War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds is much stronger than people give it credit for. Spielberg made an excellent disaster film in 2005, only to see it overshadowed by the public’s response to Cruise’s personal life during the press tour. Not only is the film itself strong, but Cruise himself is fantastic here. Playing a loser dad who finally has to man up and make some intense (and morally divisive) choices during an apocalyptic event, he brings a real sense of urgency to one of his everyman roles.
3: Risky Business
Not Cruise’s first film, but the one that most assuredly launched him to stardom. And for good reason. His turn here as Joel, a repressed, wealthy high school senior struggling with college placement in the suburbs of Chicago is actually quite nuanced (and a lot of fun). He traces the arc from virgin to pimp (literally) deftly and thoroughly. And the movie itself is a blast.
In Michael Mann’s 2004 masterpiece Collateral (on some days I like it more than Heat, it’s leaner and more propulsive), Cruise is able to parlay his trademark sense of urgency and intensity into the role of Vincent, a hitman with a tight schedule who happened to pick the wrong cabbie in Jamie Foxx. Watching Cruise and Foxx play off each other is a delight, and there’s a sense of fairness to Vincent that Cruise is able to get more mileage out of than most marquee names I can think of.
I’m a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan, so naturally this was going to be near the top (even if it’s not my favorite PTA film). I imagine you’ve seen Magnolia, but seek it out if you haven’t. I’m not sure Tom Cruise actually gives the film’s best performance among the Altman sprawl here, but I think it’s a hugely brave one. It’s a testament to him that he was willing to take such a gamble on a choice this bold. Most movie stars would have likely found a way to imbue the odious Frank T.J. Mackey with sympathetic notes earlier on, but Cruise waits until the very end to sample his redemption.
Now you can go to the comments and yell at me for leaving Top Gun off. It’s a good movie, but I actually think it contains one of Cruise’s most conservative performances. I should note that I love Cruise’s take on Lestat in Interview With The Vampire, it’s the best thing in a movie that I don’t completely love.