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Ten Favorite Tom Cruise Movies

Updated on October 17, 2010

Cruise as Maverick, Vincent, and Brian

Maverick: the "best of the best"
Maverick: the "best of the best"
Vincent and Fast Eddie
Vincent and Fast Eddie
Brian tending bar
Brian tending bar

My all-time favorite Cruise flicks

Tom Cruise Mapother IV, better known as Tom Cruise was born on July 3, 1962 and has worked as a highly successful actor and film producer. Cruise has been nominated for three Academy Awards and won three Golden Globe Awards. His first leading role was the 1983 movie Risky Business, and he has appeared in more than 30 films in his career. Cruise has also gained notoriety for his endorsement and practice of Scientology and marriages to the beautiful actresses Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman, and Katie Holmes.

Tom Cruise movies are an interesting lot. The success of his movies seems almost contradictory in nature. Cruise is an undeniable box office draw, but his achievements were accomplished in part by effectively interacting with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman and Jack Nicholson. It is a tribute to his skills and the management of his ego that he teamed up with the biggest names in Hollywood, shared the billing, and still held his own. Cruise has played a variety of roles, but in the style of highly regarded actors John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, many of his portrayals are similar in nature.

My list has left out many superb Tom Cruise movies, and I want to acknowledge the excellence of films such as Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, The Last Samurai, Valkyrie, and the Mission Impossible series. Some might argue that these are better than many of the movies I’ve included on my list, but I prefer the formulaic Tom Cruise movies, the “hot shot learns a lesson flick” he mastered from the very beginning of his career.

My films are:

Top Gun: The best of the “Hot Shot Learns Humility” flicks, this movie features solid offerings from Tom Skerritt, Meg Ryan, Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer, among others. So many actors did such a good job in this film there was a lot of strong performances for Cruise to play off of. Cruise is Maverick, a hot-shot pilot sent to Top Gun training, where he learns about both aerial combat and life. Throw in an outstanding soundtrack, and you had a great movie that was so inspirational, armed forces recruiters set up stations outside movie theatres to persuade young men and women to sign up.

A Few Good Men: A morality play told inside a military courtroom that asks very tough questions about honor, duty, and responsibility. Facing off against Jack Nicholson, this movie offers great speeches and one of the memorable quotes in film history: the famous “you can’t handle the truth” line. Like the cast of Top Gun, everyone in this star-studded cast rose to the occasion with stellar performances, including bit parts from actors Noah Wylie and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The performances are so good it remains a fun movie to watch, even when you know how it ends.

Color of Money: Teamed with the late Paul Newman, I was interested more in Fast Eddie than Vincent, but Cruise did a nice job in reprising his hot-shot-without-humility role. In the Color of Money, however, Cruise’s character never really progresses. It is a movie about what’s going on with Fast Eddie, who takes us on a tour of his past with stops in back alleys and second-floor pool halls filled with colorful, seedy and sometimes dangerous characters. Eddie attempts to teach Vincent about pool excellence with mixed results, and despite a reluctance that comes with age, throws himself back into the pool-hustling fray at film’s end.

The Firm: Another dynamite cast that includes Gene Hackman, Jeannie Tripplehorn, Holly Hunter and Hal Holbrook, the Firm was a cliffhanger cast in the mold of Kevin Costner’s “No Way Out”. Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, who joins a Memphis law firm that seems a sure-fire way to transcend his working-class background. When the FBI investigates a web of corruption and murder within his firm, Cruise finds himself in a dangerous trap. Hackman, Holbrook and company shine as the two-faced mentors cheering his rise in the company while setting him up for a fall.

War of the Worlds: An older, mature Cruise works with an accomplished young actress named Dakota Fanning. Cruise does an outstanding job adding texture to a remade movie forced to rely on special effects because we already know how the story of Martians attacking earth ends. He deftly offers a solid portrayal of the part-time father who doesn’t know his kids as well as he should, and his interactions with them offers considerable light and shadow. Tim Robbins offers a wonderfully creepy portrayal of a man bent on surviving the alien attack, apparently at the cost of his sanity.

Cocktail: Reviled by many as a horrible movie featuring characters without values, I still liked it as another version of “hotshot gets shot down and picks himself back up”. Cruise plays Brian, a young man mentored in life and bartending by Doug (Bryan Brown). Their odyssey takes them from Manhattan, where they revel in the empty success of “superstar bartending” to Jamaica, where Brian finds love with Jordan (Elisabeth Shue) until Doug arrives to spoil the show. In the end Doug kills himself in despair, Brian wins Jordan’s heart and they marry in the bar he opens.

Jerry Maguire: Cruise stars as Maguire, a sports agent who suddenly questions what he’s doing with his life and is fired for publicly expressing his doubts. He attempts to go it alone with the one client who sticks with him. Short on substance but long on heart, this is a touching, sentimental flick as much about relationships and family as sports. This film was blessed with several classic film lines: “Show me the money!!!!” and Rene Zellweger’s “You had me at hello.”

Risky Business: A coming-of-age film starring Cruise as Joel, a young man interested in attending Princeton. While his parents are out of town he hires Lana, a pretty prostitute (Rebecca De Mornay) who steals a priceless antique in lieu of $300 owed for her services. He eludes “Guido the Killer Pimp” but deposits his father’s Porsche in Lake Michigan in the process of reacquiring the piece. In the end, he charms Lana into a relationship and settles on the University of Illinois. This movie is famous for Cruise dancing in his underwear to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”.

Interview with the Vampire: Cruise shares the screen with Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater and Kirsten Dunst in this stylish vampire flick. Pitt portrays Louis, who tells the tale of his 200 year history with the evil Lestat (Cruise) and the child vampire Claudia, played by then 11-years old Dunst. The blood and violence is often unsettling and perhaps overdone, but the mood and feeling epitomized by Pitt’s melancholy and Cruise’s evil is riveting. This movie and its depiction of the USA and Europe through the decades are visually stunning and a tribute to its art directors.

Eyes Wide Shut: Cruise plays a doctor jolted by his wife’s admission of sexual fantasies involving a stranger and throws himself into 24 hours of hedonistic adventures, culminating in attendance at a masked ball with ritualistic sexual practices. Cruise quickly discovers he’s in over his head, and his involvement at the ball threatens his marriage and even his life. The viewer feels uncomfortably voyeuristic watching Cruise in the bedroom with then-wife Nicole Kidman, but the whole movie seems intent on making one feel uncomfortable. The ending is abrupt, and one wonders what it would have been like had Stanley Kubrick been alive from start to finish.

I invite your comments. What are your favorite Tom Cruise movies?


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    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Vincek, thanks for offering your opinions here. BOTFOJ is indeed a great movie, and it demonstrates Cruise's true abilities as an actor. For some reason the movie did not grab me, however, and that is why I didn't include it on my list. I will certainly concede the merits of the film and Cruise's performance--both are truly outstanding.

      Thanks again.


    • profile image

      vincek 7 years ago

      Born on the Fourth of July is by far and away the BEST Tom Cruise movie ever made. The broad range of acting displayed, the character he portrays, thoughout the character's life, and the emotional twists and turns he encounters are all truly magnificent sights to behold. If you haven't seen BOTFOJ I highly encourage you to see it....his best movie.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Sjk6101983, thanks for your comments. 'Vanilla Sky' is not one of of Cruise's more memorable offerings. I guess no one can hit a home run every time at bat, and Cruise struck out with that one. 'A Few Good Men' and 'Top Gun' were two of my very favorites of his movies, but I enjoyed every movie on this list.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading, I appreciate it a great deal.


    • sjk6101983 profile image

      sjk6101983 7 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      I agree with Lady_E. I didn't get "Vanilla Sky" at all. Plus, that was around the time he was going to dump Nicole Kidman, too, and I always loved him and Nicole Kidman together.

      I have a soft spot for "A Few Good Men" and "Top Gun" because I come from a military family.

      Of course, "Cocktail", "Jerry Maguire", and "Risky Business" are great as well.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Houstonloans, thanks for reading. I agree, it is amazing to think so much time has passed since Top Gun came out. In my opinion it still holds up well as an enjoyable film, and I will usually watch it whenever it is televised. Thanks again for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed my article.


    • houstonloans profile image

      houstonloans 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hard To believe it has been almost 25 years since Top Gun! Thanks for the hub and the memories.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Nathan, thanks for reading. I liked Minority Report, as well. That's the trouble with a list like this--he has too many good movies! I appreciate your comments very much.


    • NathanSyckel profile image

      NathanSyckel 8 years ago from Akron, Ohio

      It wasn't on your list, and didn't get great reviews is Minority Report. Maybe I'm just a nerd, but I thought it was awesome. Tom Cruise is one of my favorites.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Hi Elena, thanks for stopping by. I like the Mission Impossible movies and on some level wish I had included them. Maybe I can up the list to a top 20 someday! O am glad you appreciated the reviews.


    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 8 years ago from London, UK

      Lovely Hub - I love Tom Cruise's movies and watch them more than once. However, I didn't understand Vanilla Sky. My Top 3 would be Mission Impossible (all), The Firm and Collateral.

      Thanks for the Reviews. There are about 3 above I haven't seen, so it helps to have an idea of what they are about.

      Best Wishes. :)

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Kimmie, thanks for reading. Those are some good choices and I like them also. Top Gun is still probably my favorite of all the movies Cruise has made.

      Thanks again.


    • Kimmie10 profile image

      Kimmie10 8 years ago

      I would say that Top Gun, The Outsiders, and Legend are my favorite Tom Cruise movies.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      suziecat, I liked War of the Worlds also--I thought they did a pretty good job keeping the story suspenseful--especially difficult since it was a faithful remake of an older film.

      Thanks very much for commenting.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I really liked War of the Worlds being a sci-fi buff. Great Hub - I'm a fan.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      the Color of Money is also one of my absolute favorites, and I particularly enjoyed his competitive student-mentor relationship with Paul Newman's Fast Eddie.

      Thanks for commenting, Truth.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 8 years ago from Michigan

      Jerry Maguire, and Risky Business were both really good along with his other films. But the Color of Money was probably my favorite of his. Thanks

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      rml, you're correct. We will agree to disagree. I wasn't a big fan of Collateral, but I did like Eyes Wide Shut. I can understand why that movie isn't for everyone, however.

      Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image

      rml 8 years ago

      My favorite Tom Cruise movie is Collateral, which didn't make your list. One of my least favorite is Eyes Wide Shut, which is listed here. Agree to disagree, I guess.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      I had to be convinced he was a good actor, but when I decided I liked what he did on the screen, I liked it a lot. And yeah, I would bet he wishes he were taller, I'm certain it wouldn't hurt him in trying to make action films....

      Thanks for your comment, Sabreblade

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I know it's "just an action flick" but I really liked Mission: Impossible too.

      Funny, I was just thinking the other day how a guy that's only 5'7 to 5'9 (debatable) can do action films so convincingly.

      I guess it's because he's a good actor.


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