Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Best: Top 10 Tom Cruise Movies

I have heard nothing but rave reviews for the new Mission: Impossible movie.  I still cannot believe that it has been about 20 years since the first film in the franchise.  I think this is in part a testament to the star power and talent of Tom Cruise.  I remember right after the whole Oprah debacle, many people thought his career was on the wane.  But he is still one of the most charismatic actors on screen today.

So in honor of that, I thought for today we would rank the best Tom Cruise movies.

I want to be clear that this a ranking of his MOVIES and NOT PERFORMANCES.  For example, I have not seen Magnolia, but I hear from many people that his Oscar-nominated performance is excellent but the movie itself is awful.  This list reflects movies that Tom Cruise is in, ranked by excellence.

10. Top Gun

I am not the biggest fan of this movie.  I think that Maverick is a horribly shallow character and a lot of the down time scenes are boring.  But I have to admit that director Tony Scott made a high-octane thrill ride.  I can understand why so many people signed up for the Navy's flight school after this.

9.  The Last Samurai

I had higher hopes for this film, but I remember seeing it in the theater and loving the interplay between Cruise and Watanabee.  I was reading a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub at the time, so I found the ronin culture very resonant.

8.  Minority Report

This is not one of Spielberg's best, but Cruise does a great job here and there are enough twists, thrills, and philosophical puzzles to make this still a very entertaining movie.

7.  Valkyrie

Because I knew the history behind this movie, I resisted seeing it for a long time.  But when I finally saw it I was moved by the wonderful performances.  It is tense story about men taking a potentially hopeless stand against evil.

6.  Collateral

I'm usually not one for the dark and gritty tone, but this movie was excellent.  It has such a straightforward premise: a hit man forces a cabbie to take him to all of his assignments during one night in LA.  Cruise and Foxx are amazing.  I especially love Cruise's nihilistic, predatory assassin who is as charming as he is heartless.

5.  Mission: Impossible.

There are obviously a few over-the-top moments.  But the story is very well structured and even after 2 decades, the movie has lost none of its visual power or fun.  No matter how many times I see it, I still feel tension as Cruise dangles from those wires.

4.  Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I think this is the best of the franchise (so far having not seen Rogue Nation).  Everyone rightly points to the tower scene and I cannot disagree.  As someone terrified of heights, that scene alone has burned its way into my brain the way few scenes have.  And Cruise makes it all fun to watch.

3.  Edge of Tomorrow

Even though this movie did not do well at the box office, I am a staunch defender.  I thought it was smart, stunning, and thematically rich.  Cruise gives a fantastic performance and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  This a great Sc-fi movie that you should check out if you haven't seen it yet.

2.  A Few Good Men

When people think of this movie, I imagine they think of Jack Nicholson and his monologue.  But I think that this does a disservice to Cruise who is amazing in this film.  It is one of my favorite courtroom dramas.  In fact, when I take long road trips, I will have this playing in the background so I can listen to it.  The dialogue is often so crisp and vivid.  And I love the fact the the big gotcha moment occurs because the hero uses Aristotelean logic.

1.  Rain Man

Again, this is a movie where I think people focus more on the Cruise's co-star rather than him.  But this movie is not only Cruise's best, but it is also his best performance (and the highest grossing film of 1988).  His Charlie Babbit is charismatic but he is vain and empty.  I remember watching it and actually hating him.  It is an amazing journey to watch the subtle transformation.  And I love how the movie, while heartfelt, does not take any easy way out (except for the blackjack), and fills you with a bitter-sweet satisfaction.



  1. What about Reacher? It has a bunch of good parts.

    I never cared for the denouement in Minority Report.

    1. Jack Reacher is good, but it didn't quite crack the list. I think Minority Report has its flaws, but Spielberg is Spielberg. And there are some really fantastic parts.

  2. Reacher had it's good parts too, TPTB took the best part of the books, Reacher's toxic attitude, and, sadly, the worst part, Child's fetishism for laborious exposition.

    "but Spielberg is Spielberg. And there are some really fantastic parts."

    Most Spielberg films have great scenes, but are the films greater than the sum of their parts?

    Even Lost World had great scenes; but everything in-between them was awful and infuriating.Much like the recent Godzilla anytime something good was about to happen they pan away.

    On a personal note: Pete Postlethwaite and his manly Elephant Gun vs a Dino-Murder Island full of T-Rexes is a movie, Jeff Goldblum spttin' and sputterin' through bad fatherhood is not.

    If memory serves, Howard Hawks said a great movie has three good scenes and no bad scenes.

    Now it seems that a great movie has three good scenes and the rest is filler, like sawdust in hotdogs.

    Lost Word has at least one homage to Hawks, the overlapping dialogue between Goldblum and Juliane Moore.

    1. For examples of Spielberg's genius, I would only touch on a few moments from Lost World. For the Howard Hawks criteria for great movies I would point to Jaws, Raiders, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and ET. Most of his other films have a few bad scenes, but they are still better than most.