Top 10 favorite Tom Cruise’s film/performance … and vote for your own top 3

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When people ask me who’s my favorite actor, I would always say without hesitation that Tom Cruise is my favorite. Then people would ask why or say that’s gotta tough liking Cruise. I respond back and say, why is that? He’s one of the most prolific leading men working in Hollywood today. But ever since the couch jumping incident on The Opera Show and his interview with Matt Lauer a few years back, it’s very fashionable to dislike him now. People tend to forget that many of his films in the 80s, 90s and early part 2000s were event films. In fact, studio would always release in films in either the prime summer or holidays season. Sure his box office power is not what it used to be now but he’s one of the few actors in Hollywood who can still convince any studio big wigs to green light a film if he’s involved in it. It took several years before Jack Reacher made it to the big screen and the reason why was because Cruise had agreed to star in it. In an interview with Reacher’s author, Jim Grant, he and the film’s producers tried many years without any luck to get the first Jack Reacher film into the cinemas. Finally Cruise got a hold of the script, he liked it and convinced Paramount to invest in the film.

TomCruiseOblivion

I feel Cruise never gave less than 100% in all of his films, even the bad ones, I thought he tried his best to give the film some life and that’s why I really like him as an actor. A good example was Knight & Day, a dreadful film but you can tell Cruise really tried hard to save that movie. You can’t say that to a lot of actors in his age group nowadays (Mr. Willis are you listening?) With his new film, Oblivion, opening later this week, I’ve decided to come up with my ten favorite films he starred in. I’ve seen all of his films except two, Rock of the Ages and Lions for Lambs. The criteria for this list doesn’t have anything to do with box office numbers or Oscar nominations but let’s face it, most of these films were either huge of office hits or received many Oscar nominations.

CruiseRole_JackReacher

10. Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher

I went into this movie with no expectations what so ever and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. Yes Cruise’s not the Jack Reacher fans of the book wanted but I thought he was great in the role and without him, the film would’ve been just another average action thriller. (Note: I haven’t read any of the Jack Reacher books so I can’t comment on how good or bad Cruise was compare to his character from the novels.)

CruiseRole_EyesWideShut

9. Dr. William Hartford in Eyes Wide Shut

This may have been the most un-Tom Cruise role he’d ever played. His character is someone who’s obsessed with sex and well the whole film was about sex. My favorite part in the film is when his wife told him she had a fantasy about having sex with another man and would leave him and their daughter just to be with this man. The expression on Cruise’s face was pretty darn accurate of how a man would feel if his wife/girlfriend would confess something like that to him.

CruiseRole_RainMan

8. Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man

I think this is the role he’s born to play. A young selfish, arrogant and all around douchebag. The film came out during the prime of his career and it made over $170mil at the box office! I highly doubt the film would’ve made that much without him, yes Dustin Hoffman was still a big named star back then but I don’t believe the film would’ve been as successful without Cruise.

CruiseRole_TheFirm

7. Mitch McDeere in The Firm

Another film I believe wouldn’t have been as successful if not for Cruise’s involvement. The film was based on a hugely popular novel by John Grisham. When the film version was announced and Cruise got the lead role, Grisham was not too happy about it. In the book, McDeere was a tall, blonde and blued eyes; someone how looks more like Matthew McConaughey. Of course when the film came out and was a box office gold, Grisham changed his tone a bit and said Cruise did a great job.

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6. Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men

Okay I don’t like to repeat myself but without Cruise, this film wouldn’t have earned more than $140mil at the box office. No doubt the film’s a great court room drama and his scene with Jack Nicholson was truly a classic scene. But I guaranteed if the lead role was played by someone else, the movie wouldn’t have a huge hit.

CruiseRole_DaysofThunder

5. Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder

This film was one of most highly anticipated summer flicks of 1990 and unfortunately it tanked at the box office. It’s Cruise’s first box office disappointment but I still thought he’s great in the role. I used to watch this film constantly when I was younger, I just love those racing scenes and car crashes. I know it’s a silly movie and very cheesy but it’s a reunion of the crew of Top Gun, directed by Tony Scott and produced by the powerful team of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson.

A little fun fact, the crew was also set to reunite again in the late 90s for Enemy of the State but because Cruise was stuck shooting Eyes Wide Shut with Kubrick, he had to back out. It’s too bad that he never got to do a movie with Tony Scott again.

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4. Stefen Djordjevic in All the Right Moves

High school drama was a quite popular genre back in the 80s and here Cruise played a high football star who’s desperate to leave his hometown. The writing and directing weren’t that great but I thought Cruise carried the entire movie even though he’s so young. I particularly like the scene when his team just loss a heartbreaking game and his confrontation with his coach played by Craig T. Nelson was quite excellent. If you’re a fan of Cruise, I highly you seek this movie out if you’ve never seen it.

CruiseRole_MissionImpossible

3. Ethan Hunt in all of the Mission: Impossible films

One of the most popular franchises in films and I felt Cruise always gave his best even for action genre. I mean who’s crazy enough to climb the tallest building the world without a stunt double? I don’t think many actors would do that. After the disappointment box office of the third film, many thought the franchise was dead but Cruise was smart enough to bring in Brad Bird to re-energize the franchise and M:I-4 was a big success. I’m looking forward to the fifth film.

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2. Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire

Another role that he’s born to play, an arrogant sport agent who’s all about the money. But I think the chemistry between him and Renee Zellweger that mad this film a fun watch. Of course who can forget the “Show me the money!” scene with Cuba Gooding Jr.

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1. Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July

I think Cruise should’ve won an Oscar for his performance in this film. It’s powerful and great performance, I don’t remember who were the other actors he was up against in that year’s Oscar but I thought he got robbed. I hope he’ll get to play a role like this again soon and maybe he’ll finally get that Oscar statue that he truly deserves.

– Post by Ted S.


Ruth’s note:

I agree with most of Ted’s picks here, but my top ten would definitely include these roles that aren’t on Ted’s list:

  • Vincent, Collateral
  • Chief John Anderton, Minority Report
  • Nathan Algren, The Last Samurai

Those are our favorite Tom Cruise’s films/performances, do share yours in the comments section. Of course if you’re a Cruise hater, then feel free to trash his films too. :)


Now your turn! Pick three of YOUR favorite Tom Cruise roles out of over three dozens of his feature films!

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102 thoughts on “Top 10 favorite Tom Cruise’s film/performance … and vote for your own top 3

    • I quite like him as Lestat, though it’ll probably only make my honorable mentions. He’s done a lot more roles that I like more than that but yeah, I like that film. Creepy and hilarious is right!

    • Lestat might have made my top ten but he’s only in the film for just the first half so I couldn’t include him on my list. I did enjoy the film though.

  1. Surprised Frank Mackey didnt make the list! I got to vote for him though, thats cool. I think Color of Money is actually one of his most underrated. He was great there as the hotshot young punk, even if thats how people felt he was then anyways…

    • I still haven’t seen Color of Money yet Mr T… er I mean Fogs :D I really need to rectify that soon, that’s the one w/ Paul Newman right?

    • I probably would include Mackey on my top ten if the film was all about him but since it’s an ensemble cast, I couldn’t include it on my top ten. I agree though that Cruise was pretty great in it.

  2. Ok this is another one of those “great minds think alike” things. My Monday Phenomenal 5 is written and ready and yes, it’s on Tom Cruise films. Lets just say most of my choices have been mentioned. :)

    I love the opening of this post! You hit the nail on the head, it’s very fashionable to dislike Tom Cruise these days. I felt some of his comments were off base and his couch jumping was idiotic. But other than that I have no problem with him and that’s in the past. He usually stays out of the limelight and these days you never hear of him inserting himself into controversies. More importantly he is a great actor who gives 100% to every performance. I’ve always appreciated that about him.

    • Wahoo!! Glad to hear it Keith! Looking forward to your Phenomenal 5 anyways, and you’ll be seeing Oblivion too right?

      I have to admit I was annoyed w/ him at one point, but not to the point that I refuse to see his films. I definitely still like him far more than Pitt as he seems to have a good sense of humor in interviews, etc. and not smug like most movie stars do.

    • Thanks Keith! Glad I found another Cruise fan once in a while, there aren’t a lot of them anymore since most people tend to love to bash him. You’re right about his personally life, he tends to keep to himself even though the trash magazines and websites would love to write made up stories about him.

  3. Great subject to write on, Ted. One can’t be indifferent with this actor. He’s as challenging as he is prolific. But, I see everything he puts out — I’ll be at IMAX tomorrow for ‘Oblivion’. And I have to admit, for Lee Child’s iconic novel character of Jack Reacher, damn if he didn’t convince me he was ‘Reacher’. I have an admiration for the guy, grudgingly. My three picks? Not surprisingly, they’re exactly the same as Ruth’s. Enjoyed this. Thanks.

    p.s., I may be in the minority (what else is new), but I enjoyed ‘Knight & Day’. It’s essentially a Bond flick from the perspective of the Bond girl. And Cruise made the super-spy character interesting.

    • Jealous that you and Ted are gonna see Oblivion in IMAX. I would too if I won free ones like Ted did, ahah.

      YAY, glad to hear you agree with my top three!! WOW, we must be kindred spirits Michael and we do love our Michael Mann don’t we? :D

    • Thanks Michael. We’re getting snow storm here in MN so I’m not sure if we can go to the IMAX theater to see Oblivion this weekend. That’s right you’ve read all of Reacher’s books, I still haven’t read the one you emailed me yet, I’ll get to it soon. Glad you liked Cruise in the role.

      That’s a great analogy of Knight & Day and I think with a better script, the film would’ve been a fun spy/action flick. But I thought the plot never took off and Diaz looked bore in the role. Had the film came out in the 90s with a different director and writers, it would’ve made a ton of cash at the box office.

  4. I like Tom Cruise, his personal life aside. I think he is talented and he is damn amazing shape for his age, he looks at least 10 years younger. My favorite performances of his were in Interview with the Vampire, Vanilla Sky and Magnolia.

    • He’s got such a great face too, sooo gorgeous! Plus he ages well, but not in an unnatural way. I still need to see the two performances of your top 3, esp. Magnolia!

    • Hey, glad to find another fan of Cruise. :)

      I enjoyed those films too but as mentioned earlier, he’s only in half of the movie in Interview with the Vampire and he’s part of an ensemble cast in Magnolia and was not the lead character. Vanilla Sky was good but his performance was nothing special to me.

  5. I know a lot of people slam Cruise, but I do think he’s a great actor, though I prefer him in dramas. My number 1 would be Frank T. J. Mackey in Magnolia, which is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.

  6. I’m hoping to see Oblivion soon, but I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to fit it in to be honest! It looks really good though, and I’m excited.
    My dad has always hated Tom Cruise but I never could figure out why. He’s not my favorite actor, but I do like him. I’ve gotten into arguments with him about it before, and we still can’t see eye to eye. *shrug*
    I don’t know what my favorite performance of his would be, but since I saw him in Eyes Wide Shut not too long ago I’ll go with that. I love how confused he was the whole time; confusion is not something I’d identify with Cruise. He surprised me in there.

    • Me too, there’s a snow storm here in MN, yeah it’s mid April but in MN it doesn’t mean it will stop snowing, so I’m not sure I can make it to the showing this weekend. I planned to go see it tonight but the snow is coming down hard.

      Did you ever ask your dad why he hate Cruise so much?

      • He thinks he can’t act. When I ask him why he thinks that, he can’t give me a good answer. I think it’s a just a personal preference thing really; there will always be some actors you just don’t like, you know? No good reason for it, you just don’t like them.

        • Totally understandable Hunter, it’s all about preference really. Just like I can’t stand Brad Pitt though to some people he’s a great actor.

  7. My 5 favorite Tom Cruises performances are:

    1. Magnolia
    2. Born on the 4th of July
    3. Tropic Thunder
    4. Eyes Wide Shut
    5. Top Gun

  8. I’m surprised TJ Mackey didn’t make either of your lists. I went with that, Eyes Wide Shut and Collateral. Though now that I think about it, I wish I did a write-in vote for Vanilla Sky. That film seems to get overlooked quite a bit, unfortunately, and Cruise was great in it.

    • As I mentioned earlier, Cruise was part of an ensemble cast so I couldn’t include Mackey character on my top ten, had the film was all about him, then he might be on my top 3.

      I haven’t seen Vanilla Sky in a long time so I’ll have to check it out again soon.

  9. I went for Minority Report, Collateral, and Rain Man. I had a brief moment where I considered adding him for Legend just because I have a soft spot for that movie.

    • Boy it’s been ages since I saw Legend, it’s interesting that it’s by Ridley Scott, and his brother Tony gave Cruise’s his breakthrough role.

    • I’ve only seen the two out of your list, I was wondering when people would mention his over-the-top performance in Tropic Thunder, ahah. That must be a fun role for him.

    • Those are all great characters but as I mentioned earlier, my list only include films where Cruise was pretty much the main character, even Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman, the film was really about him. I considered including Vincent but I thought the film was about both Foxx’s and Cruise’ characters.

  10. NOT a Cruise fan. That said, his performance in Magnolia is impressive, and if you guys haven’t seen Legend (SUPER-cheesy 80′s fantasy directed by RIdley Scott) you truly owe it to yourselves to check that out.

    • Oh I did see that ages ago but I might rent it again, I think it’s on Netflix streaming. As for Magnolia, I really need to see that soon.

    • I’m one of the few people who really enjoyed Legend but his performance wasn’t anything special. But it’s a fun film though.

      • Oh, yes. Definitely didn’t mean to imply anything about the performances (except maybe Tim Curry!), just a super-fun movie. :)

    • I don’t think I have seen Taps though now I’m curious about it since he talked about it with Jimmy Kimmel that it was his first film premiere.

    • Yeah I really liked Taps but he wasn’t the main character in this film so I can’t include his character on my list. He’s great in it even though he didn’t have a lot of screen time.

  11. Interesting choices, Ted. Glad to see his performance in Eyes Wide Shut on here. For me, it’s probably his second best performance, behind Magnolia.

    Ruth, it’s also nice to see you mention his performances in Collateral and Minority Report. He didn’t get much recognition for them, but I love those performances.

    • Yeah Eyes Wide Shut was probably his most un-Tom Cruise role. As mentioned earlier, had Magnolia was all about his character then it might be on the top 3 on my list.

  12. I’ve made my feelings pretty clear about Cruise but my choices would go

    1. Joel Goodson. This was before he got full of himself. There’s still an naivete to him in this. Also has a great supporting cast with then unknowns Rebecca DeMornay, Joe Pantoliano and Curtis Armstrong, Killer soundtrack by Tangerine Dream too. One of my favorite 80′s movies.
    2. Frank T.J. Mackey. Closer to his real personality than you’d think. My favorite PT Anderson film..
    3. Charlie Babbitt. Holding your own with Hoffman was no small feat. Making you believe that they were brothers was an even bigger feat… I mean really. LOL He really brought a slickness to the character that a lot of actors couldn’t have pulled off nearly as well..
    4. Les Grossman. He made me laugh. Best thing he’s done in a long while IMHO.
    5. Jerry Maguire or Collateral.

    Ted, I just never bought Cruise as a Vietnam Vet. The film was certainly well done by Stone who had a hell of a run with Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Talk Radio, Born on the 4th of July, The Doors and JFK but it just didn’t do it for me. You could tell Tom worked his ass off but that slickness and million dollar smile that worked so well for him in Jerry Maguire and Rain Man worked against him in this film I thought. He just felt miscast to me… we’re not talking a Michael J Fox in Casulties of War.level of miscasting… but you get what I’m saying. LOL…

    Ted, you saw every film but two? Even Losin’ It! I know LA Confidential’s Curtis Hansen directed it but still!

    • Good choices there Dave and yes I remember your feelings towards him. :)

      Oh yeah, I used to watch all those teen related films of the 80s back in high school and Losin’ It was one of my favorites. I didn’t know Hansen directed it though, thanks for the info!

    • I liked The Last Samurai and Cruise was good in it but I felt the film wasn’t anything special. Another story of a Caucasian male learning the way of an ethnic group and then fight with them again the oppressors, blah blah blah. It’s been done to death in Hollywood.

  13. As bat shit crazy as his private/personal life is, I can’t help but really enjoy the films he’s in. He’s a solid actor and probably the only thing that holds Oblivion together.

    Could easily vote for any of those roles but went for Born on 4th July, Collateral and The Last Samurai. Minority Report and Top Gun were in contention too.

    • Great picks Jaina! Glad to see we agree on two out of the three! I wish I could allow people to vote for up to five but it won’t let me!

    • Totally agree with you there Jaina, I’m quite sure in his private life Cruise is a nut case but he never shows that in his films and as I mentioned many times, he’s always put in 100% performance in all his films.

    • Glad to hear you like his role as Vincent! That made my top 3 as well. Cruise was cool as ice in that role, and it’s such a stylish thriller!

  14. Hi, Ruth and company:

    I was in my late 20s when Tome Cruise first made the scene as Cadet Captain David Shawn in ‘Taps’. Where he certainly showed he had “presence”. Though I’ve not been a huge fan of his over the years.

    His Ron Kovick in ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ is probably his most deep, intense and well executed role. Though I really like his Les Grossman in ‘Tropic Thunder’. Because he doesn’t look. act or behave as Tom Cruise ever would. His dance sequence through the final credits is a scream!

    • I want to see Taps now, somehow it eluded me as I watched a ton of Tom Cruise films in high school! Yeah, he was phenomenal as Kovick, whilst Grossman is just friggin’ hilarious!! He was getting a lot of bad press around that time so that was a good ‘come back’ of sort.

    • Hey Jack, yeah he’s memorable in Taps but since he wasn’t the main character in that film, his character didn’t make my top 10 list.

  15. I am not a Cruise fan, but I see where you’re coming from. :-) I did like him in Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, and Rain Man. I agree that, in Eyes Wide Shut, the scene with his wife’s confession was his best. He did great work there. Terrific post, Ruth!

    • Oh this is my friend Ted’s post, but thanks Steph! Glad you like at least some of his roles though you’re not generally fond of him.

  16. I confess Tom Cruise isn’t a favorite of mine. I don’t hate him or anything, I just don’t seek him out. In my defense, I felt like this well before the couch incident. I did vote for his roles in TOP GUN & BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY though. Those are two sides of the same coin I think.

    • I totally understand Paula. I’m not a huge fan but can’t deny his star quality and charisma on screen. He’s good at playing military types isn’t he?

      • Yes, he is. I remember thinking he was good in TAPS as well, it takes place at a military academy, but it’s been a while since I saw it.

    • Hey Paula, well at least you’re one of those people who somehow became Cruise haters after the his appearance on Operah and interview with Matt Lauer. :) It seems it’s quite popular and hip to say you hate Cruise after that.

      • For me the whole Oprah thing didn’t bother me. It’s the Scientology stuff.

        Actually this funny story just came out on Conan O’Brian:

        “The British comedian, Russell Brand, revealed how he tried to trick the Mission Impossible star into indoctrinating him into the cult when they co-starred in Rock Of Ages but the 50-year-old A-lister told him to read the Bible instead. ‘Every so often I’d say things like, “oh Tom, sometimes I’m a bit lost in life,” to see if he would try and get me in and he’d go, “oh yeah, I dunno, read the bible”,’ I guess even Cruise has standards. LOL.

  17. Top three for me:
    Frank T.J. Mackey, Ron Kovic, Lestat. Although, I did really like him as Vincent Lauria as well. He takes a lot of stick but Cruise is a very fine and capable actor.

    • Somehow I knew you’d go for Frank and Ron, but quite surprised to see you like him as Lestat. I do too, that’s still one of the best vampire films. I like him being a villain too, his Vincent is one of those really charismatic bad guys.

  18. I’m not a Tom Cruise hater and for the most part, he is tolerable but in most movies, it always feels like I’m watching Tom Cruise. Especially in his bigger films, he doesn’t becomes his characters, his characters seem to become him. I think A Few Good Men, Born on the Fourth of July and Collateral are my three favorites :D

    • I know what you mean there, he became such a big star that he can’t seem to escape his own “brand”. But as I said many times, I feel he’d never give less than 100% in his performance in all his films, can’t say that about other actors in his class.

  19. I’m afraid to say I haven’t seen the number one choice, One of my faves is Collateral but mostly I’m just glad there is no Rock of Ages here. Cruise was ok but the film was terrible.

    • Yay, another fan of Vincent in Collateral! I thought Cruise was appropriately chilling as the silent assassin, plus he looks so darn good w/ that salt n pepper hair! Ahah, well I haven’t see Rock of the Ages yet but Cruise seems to be the ONLY reason to see it.

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  21. I’m surprised he hasn’t won an oscar. I haven’t seen everything Cruise has done, off the top of my head my favorite performances by him are:
    1.) Magnolia
    2.) Rain Man
    3.) Collateral

  22. Never been a big fan of Cruise, for me he is one actor, who plays himself in every other movie, the same old “I am such a cool dude” smirk, that said, when he goes beyond his cool dude persona, he can be really good. So here are some favorites of mine.

    1) Minority Report- As the cop John Anderton caught up in a conspiracy.
    2) Collateral- Playing a cold blooded hitman.
    3) Valkyrie- As the Colonel who takes on Hitler.
    4) Jerry McGuire- Must say his cool dude persona worked well in this.
    5) Born on the 4th of July- Liked his performance in the later half.

    • Awesome Ratnakar! I think he’s great when he plays a villain too, i.e. Collateral. He’s got a coldness about him that I don’t usually see in his other roles. I agree he tends to play similar roles. I hope he branches out more now that he’s more *seasoned.*

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