We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
I like Tom Cruise movies. There, I said it. If I see his name in the credits, I expect to be entertained. For those of you who disagree, I really don’t know what you’re looking for. He throws himself into performances, cares about the finished product, and will occasionally surprise you with his range as an actor (not just superstar). But this list isn’t just about Cruise. It’s also about his choices. This TOP 7 list isn’t only about his character or his performance, it’s about the movie as a whole. He doesn’t always need to be leading the way, or have the most memorable part as you’ll see with four of my five favorite Cruise movies.
Knight and Day hits the theaters on June 23, 2010. While it wouldn’t crack this TOP 7 list, we do get to see a new side of Cruise on the big screen. I call it “Crazy Cruise” and once again, he entertains. Before we begin, I want to apologize to Les Grossman, Cole Trickle and Joel Goodsen. There’s just not room for all of you on this list. Do you want to know what pains me most of all? There’s no room for Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. That’s right, I really liked Valkyrie. And if you are rolling your eyes right now, it probably means you haven’t seen it. Or perhaps you are German, and even though director Bryan Singer sold me on the accent transition, it was too much for you. But I’m not here to talk about my number eight. On with the list …
Recap: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team of super agents are on another mission that looks very improbable. A dangerous arms dealer (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) discovers Ethan’s identity and makes this personal.
Reason: J.J. Abrams makes this part three the best in the series. It’s just pure, intense action. The set pieces, like Ethan avoiding rockets on a bridge, are fantastic to look at. Plus, Hoffman finally gives us a villain with some weight (no, not his mid-section) to fear. Besides the Bourne movies, I don’t have a more satisfying action movie from the last five years.
6. Top Gun (1986)
Recap: Maverick (Cruise) is a hot-shot navy pilot who enters and Top Gun flight academy, only to have to deal with rivals like Iceman (Val Kilmer), and his own personal, cocky attitude.
Reason: I feel the need, the need to quote the top lines from this movie! Jester’s dead! That’s right! Ice…man. I am dangerous. You can be my wingman any time. That last one is brought to new light by Quentin Tarantino’s rant in Sleep With Me. Put him in a body bag, Johnny! Oops, wrong one. Anyway. This film lands at number six on the list and marks Cruise’s emergence as a blockbuster star. Heck, he did Top Gun in a race car a few years later and it was still a hit. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to pour out a little from my 40 oz. for Goose.
Recap: Several people have loose connections in the San Fernando Valley trying to find happiness.
Reason: Motivational speaker Frank T.J. Mackey (Cruise) is just one reason this film is amazing. Aimee Mann’s music is another. If you don’t love this depressing and eventually uplifting L.A. story then it probably has something to do with you feeling sorry for frogs. The cinematic year of 1999 is the favorite of my lifetime. Besides being blown away by the power of Magnolia, films like Fight Club and Matrix also came out. Paul Thomas Anderson blew me away with the likes of Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy. It’s also one of those films that hit me on such a personal emotional level, at the perfect time.
4. Rain Man (1988)
Recap: Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) goes to get his autistic savant brother Raymond Babbit (Dustin Hoffman). He’s after him for the money his father left Raymond, but then he realizes there’s more of a connection on a road trip.
Reason: In the first viewing, you’re blown away by Hoffman. In the repeat viewings, you realize how much heavy lifting Cruise did to carry this film. Yes, it’s almost as quotable as Top Gun, but the fluff is kept at a minimum. I remember seeing this film when I was right around 13 years old. I felt like an adult, like I was responsible enough, just like Charlie eventually becomes during this journey.
Recap: A sequel to the classic The Hustler puts Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) back in front of the pool table, and now he’s training a young hot shot (Tom Cruise).
Reason: Who has the balls to make a sequel 25 years after the absolutely amazing original? Martin Scorsese, that’s who. Cruise is up for being cocky, and let’s just say Paul Newman and his mustache never looked better. The feel of this movie probably sent more teenagers into the seedy pool halls more than the dysfunction of their home lives. When this movie ends, I am desperately thirsty for more. Maybe when Cruise is an old man, he can pass the torch. Dear lord, 25 years would be … 2011. Let’s get on it!
2. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Recap: Sports agent Jerry Maguire (Cruise) gets canned after he expresses his doubt for what they do at his agency. He then takes his one client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and an assistant (Renee Zellwegger) to make a go of it.
Reason: Cameron Crowe adds his name to the directors who have gotten the most out of Tom Cruise. There’s a lot to love out of this performance. The first time I saw it, I decided to fall in love with the wrong girl. Yes, I blame sitting next to her in this movie (partially). It’s cute (the kid), it’s funny (anything with Rod and Jerry), it’s emotional (Rod talking to his wife on the phone), and in 1996, “You complete me” was insanely romantic.
Recap: A Navy lawyer (Cruise) has never seen the inside of a court room. But that’s where he ends up, defending two Guantanamo Bay soldiers accused of a crime that they say they were commanded to commit.
Reason: Hang on. A Few Good Men is currently on AMC. I’ll be back in two and a half hours … OK, I’m back. I don’t own this movie, and I think it’s mainly due to how happy I get every single time it’s on cable. And it’s on cable all the time. Rod Reiner’s political military drama thriller is most remembered for Jack Nicholson chewing the hell out of every single line. Those lines were created by Aaron Sorkin (who also wrote the play) back in the day when Sorkin was new and fresh. It’s smart. It’s tense. It gets a great performance from one of the best “that guys” ever in J.T. Walsh. Demi Moore and Tom Cruise go back and forth without resorting to sex. And best of all, Kevin Pollak is still getting residual checks for this one. That’s something we can all feel good about.