Tom Cruise is, without a doubt, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. Known for his deep commitment to his projects that sometimes borders on the extreme, Cruise rose to stardom in the early eighties thanks to films like Risky Business and Top Gun and has entertained audiences ever since.
One of the few major stars to never appear in a superhero movie, Cruise’s career is a successful combination of franchise blockbusters and smaller movies. These days, Cruise is the action star, thanks in large part to his role in the larger-than-life Mission: Impossible movies. Still, and with a filmography as extensive as his, there’s more than one role that could be considered his best.
10 Ethan Is Best: Destiny Fulfilled
In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Alec Baldwin’s Alan Hunley famously declares that Ethan Hunt “is the living manifestation of destiny.” There’s no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become.
In other words, Ethan Hunt is one of the coolest and most intricate characters in any action franchise. He’s more than just a guy doing the right thing, and he’s far from average. Hunt is complex, ever-changing, and as challenging a character as it gets. And for an actor as curious and restless as Cruise, Hunt is also the perfect challenge, a way to push himself even further.
9 Jack Reacher Is Best: A Man Of Perpetual Action
While the M:I franchise solidified his status as one of the leading action men in Hollywood, the Jack Reacher movies confirmed his place beyond any reasonable doubt. Based on the novel One Shot, the films follow the titular character, a former major-turned-drifter with a primal sense of justice.
In all honesty, neither movie is as good or as commercially successful as Ethan’s adventures. However, they both proof that Cruise’s charm and screen presence is powerful enough to elevate any story.
8 Ethan Is Best: Critical Acclaim
The first three films in the M:I aren’t exactly critically acclaimed darlings. That all changed, however, starting with the fourth film in the series, Ghost Protocol.
Chapters four, five, and six of Ethan’s adventures all received near-universal acclaim from both critics and audiences. The series hit an all-time high with the sixth entry, Fallout, which not only achieved a 97 on Rotten Tomatoes, but also an 86 on Metacritic.
7 Ron Kovic Is Best: Range, Range, Range
Cruise’s first Oscar nomination came in 1989, for his role as anti-war activist Ron Kovic. Directed by Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July received critical acclaim and eight Academy Award nominations. For his performance, Cruise won the first of three Golden Globes.
The film is notorious in Cruise’s career for a number of reasons. Up to that point, Cruise had established a leading man persona, thanks to films like Top Gun and The Color of Money. Born on the Fourth of July allowed him to truly disappear into a role, showing more range than ever before, and ultimately cementing his status as not only a star but a consummate actor.
6 Ethan Is Best: A Creative Mind At Work
As a producer in the franchise, Cruise has a lot of control over each Mission: Impossible movie, which explains why the series seems crazier and more elaborate with each new adventure. Indeed, he is not only the series’ leading man, but its main creative force as well.
In more ways than one, Cruise’s reputation and entire persona are tied to M: I, which can be both a blessing and a curse. But as long as the movies keep earning critical acclaim and pulling big numbers at the box-office, his career seems like it will be in a solid place.
5 Les Grossman Is Best: Get Back!
Tropic Thunder is a completely bonkers and out-there story, one where audiences never expected to find Tom Cruise. The plot centers on a group of self-absorbed actors who find themselves in a real-life conflict while filming a Vietnam War movie, also titled Tropic Thunder.
Buried under a pile of prosthetics, Cruise plays Les Grossman, the vulgar, loud, ill-tempered studio executive producing Tropic Thunder. The role allows Cruise to go completely wild, shouting profanity after profanity in a performance that ranks as one of his zaniest. The film’s ending also features him dancing to Ludacris’ “Get Back” which is just the icing on the cake.
4 Ethan Is Best: Those. Insane. Action. Sequences.
If there’s one thing that separates the Mission: Impossible franchise from all the other action films, is the insane action set pieces that Cruise and company engage in. From climbing the Burj Khalifa, to hanging from outside a moving airplane, to jumping from a helicopter, Cruise’s stunts often reach potentially dangerous levels.
During the chase scene in Fallout, for example, Cruise suffered a severe ankle injury while jumping from one building to another. Occupational hazards in the life of an action star.
3 Jerry Maguire Is Best: His Best Performance
Arguably Cruise’s most honest, heartfelt, complex performance, Jerry Maguire ranks as a unique film in the actor’s oeuvre. He plays the titular character, a well-meaning and relentless sports agents who wishes to cultivate a more personal relationship with his client.
The role is dynamic, heroic, and alluring, everything Cruise nineties persona represented. The actor gives a raw, committed and genuine performance, enhanced by the words and direction of a never-better Cameron Crowe. Cruise would earn his second Golden Globe and another Oscar nomination for the role.
2 Ethan Is Best: From Icon To Legend
In a lot of ways, Ethan Hunt defined Tom Cruise’s career. There’s no denying that Cruise played some indelible characters over his nearly forty-year-old career, but Ethan is the role that took Cruise from movie star and screen icon, to pop culture legend.
No other actor could keep the M: I franchise afloat quite as effectively as Cruise. And while there isn’t a shortage of capable and popular action men working in Hollywood today, there’s only one Tom Cruise, perhaps because no one else seems willing, or indeed capable of filling his role.
1 Maverick Is The Best: He (Still) Takes Fans’ Breath Away
The role that truly shot Cruise to absolute stardom, Maverick ranked as arguably his most recognizable turn before the first Mission: Impossible movie came along. Top Gun follows Maverick, a young naval aviator who receives the chance to train at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar.
Equal parts action and romance, Top Gun was the highest-grossing film of 1986. Cruise’s performance received praise, although the film itself earned mixed reviews from critics. Still, it remained popular in the following years and a sequel was finally announced in 2017. It’s set to premiere in July of this year.
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