Monday, June 9, 2014

Tom Cruise's Greatest Films

Having spent my youth and adolescence during much of the 90s, Tom Cruise has always been one of my favorite actors. Please don't misinterpret my remarks. I said one of my favorite actors, not one of the most talented. However, that doesn't mean that Cruise hasn't delivered a long list of fantastic roles in even greater films, because he has. Cruise's filmography flourishes with some of the most notable drama and action titles in cinematic history.

In honor of his newest release, Edge of Tomorrow, and a mammoth career in the industry, I've decided to devote June's Movie List of the Month (click here for May's List) to Tom Cruise's greatest films. With so many spectacular features to choose from, this was clearly a daunting task. Another key criteria was that Cruise had to possess a major role in the movie. That means The Outsiders and Tropic Thunder were deemed ineligible.

Honorable Mention: Interview with the Vampire, Mission: Impossible, Minority Report, Born on the Fourth of July and Top Gun (yes, I went there).

#5. Magnolia (1999)

Back on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2nd, we lost a great American icon when Philip Seymour Hoffman tragically passed. I devoted that month's list to The Greatest Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances. Upon looking back on Hoffman's illustrious career, I was forced to rediscover the compelling magic surrounding Paul Thomas Anderson's Oscar-Nominated film, Magnolia. Bombarded with a star-studded cast, only one performance was recognized by the Academy Awards and it was Tom Cruise's. In the film he plays Frank Mackey, a narcissist offering an ever-growing self-help course for men. Magnolia helped spawn the recent outburst of Hyperlink Cinema, a phrase used to describe the interconnection of multiple seemingly disjoint stories (for example Crash and Traffic). With a hefty three hour running time that whisks by surprisingly quick, Magnolia is a must-see feature on all accounts. 

#4. Jerry Maguire (1996)

"Show me the money" and "You complete me", Jerry Maguire is an extremely quotable Best Picture Nominee starring Tom Cruise in the title role. After a sleepless night sparks a moral epiphany in a sports agent, Maguire is fired from his powerhouse company. Left with only one remaining client, the vocal diva Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in an Oscar-Winning role), Maguire tries desperately to secure a new lucrative contract for the NFL wide receiver. After turning a reasonable $50 million budget into a world-wide gross of around $270 million, Jerry Maguire is a premier example of top-flight filmmaking. And although Cuba Gooding Jr. walked away from the final product as the most decorated cast member, let's not forget that Cruise was just as spectacular in an Oscar-Nominated role himself.

#3. The Last Samurai (2003)

I've always felt that Edward Zwick's epic tale, The Last Samurai, has become a forgotten and overlooked masterpiece. Cruise stars as a drunken Civil War hero named Nathan Algren who accepts a profitable deal to venture to Japan and train the Emperor's newly formed army about military tactics and how to use firearms. While overseas, Algren is captured by a band of samurai warriors during a battle with Japan's new armed forces. As a prisoner to these loyal sword-yielding combatants, Algren learns and gains a deep-rooted respect for the samurai way. After the turn of the millennium, Cruise tried his hand at an epic war film and, although he never garnered any awards season recognition himself, The Last Samurai went on to capture 4 Academy Award Nominations and the hearts of many. Beautifully shot and what the late Roger Ebert described as "an uncommonly thoughtful epic", The Last Samurai is a beyond-worthwhile and underrated feature.

#2. Rain Man (1988)

With the inclusion of Barry Levinson's Best Picture Winner, Rain Man, Cruise's list has now spanned three different decades. While such an accomplishment is rare and deserving of praise, you're probably asking yourself, "how is Rain Man not the #1 movie on the list"? It's certainly a fair question. Winner of 4 Oscars and nominated for an astounding 8 in total, Rain Man is an undeniable American classic. Cruise stars as Charlie Babbitt, a financially strapped luxury car dealer who receives word that his wealthy estranged father has passed away. Charlie and his girlfriend travel to Ohio to settle the estate and learn that $3 million has been entrusted to an unnamed source. Through social engineering Charlie discovers that he has an autistic brother named Raymond who is the beneficiary of his father's fortune. With an unforgettable and compassionate character arc delivered by Cruise in an overlooked performance, Rain Man will always be an American masterpiece.

#1. A Few Good Men (1992)

If you've had the opportunity to really sit down and discuss movies with me, chances are I've pronounced Rob Reiner's A Few Good Men as my favorite film of all-time. This captivating courtroom drama finds Tom Cruise in the role of military lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee. After two marines accidentally kill a fellow officer during a late night prank, they receive a court-martial and stand trial for their actions. Always quick to reach a plea bargain, Kaffee is assigned to their case and discovers that there's more than meets the eye. But rather than have his clients admit to murder, Kaffee takes the case to trial and challenges many high-ranking officers in the process. A Few Good Men has it all, a stellar script, a brilliant cast and enough thrills to keep the entire two-plus hours engaging for the audience. With no shortage of quotable moments and a charismatic Cruise in one of the finest roles of his career, A Few Good Men takes the top spot on this month's list.

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