Tom Cruise has had his share of ups and downs, but you cannot deny that he has maintained his action-star status longer than most. Cruise has a blockbuster opening practically every summer. With yet another one, American Made, in theaters this weekend, let’s take a look at ten of his most memorable roles. 

10) Tropic Thunder

In this Ben Stiller-directed war satire, Cruise dons a fat suit and lots of fake chest hair as irritable Hollywood producer Les Grossman. This is one of the more comedic roles Cruise has taken and he completely nails it, fully committing to the part. He’s so unrecognizable that many moviegoers had no idea it was Tom until the credits rolled. Grossman cares about nothing except profits and will do anything, including sacrificing his cast, to line his pockets. Memorable scenes include his profane insults towards Vietnamese heroin producers and his comical treatment of his feeble assistant (Bill Hader.)



9) Rain Man 

Tom’s full acting range and dramatic chops are on display in Rain Man. He is a materialistic luxury car salesman who suddenly must care for his autistic-savant brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman delivers an Oscar-winning performance, but Cruise’ role should not be overlooked. He matches opposite Hoffman’s virtuoso acting, bringing their heartfelt relationship to life after they grow closer during a road trip. It gets emotional! 

8) Eyes Wide Shut

Cruise has a hell of a stare, and he can tell you exactly what he’s thinking without speaking. He’s known for his confidence and the ability to absorb the energy onscreen. There was no better choice for Kubrick’s laboriously-filmed, erotic thriller. Cruise is Dr. William Harford, a Manhattan physician who is sexually estranged from his wife, Nicole Kidman. Strange things happen in New York at night, and Cruise delivers subtle, but top-notch, physical acting as he frustratingly bounces between bizarre sexual encounters. An underrated performance to be sure. 

7) Edge of Tomorrow

Somewhat of a sleeper hit when it came out in 2014, EOT was a sci-fi highlight for Cruise, compared to less well-reviewed Oblivion. EOT is Groundhog Day plus an alien invasion. Cruise plays a flawed but relatable army officer forced to participate in a doomed attack on the invading aliens. An attack he must relive every time he dies because of time-bending properties possessed by the aliens. The film was well received and Cruise adds the right amount of clumsiness and humor to his well-oiled action persona. We’re all looking forward to the next installment.



6) Jerry McGuire 

Director Cameron Crowe loves a good story about emotional and spiritual growth. Tom Cruise is his vehicle for this in Jerry McGuire. The film’s success is really owed to Cruise here, who was enormously popular at the time. Cruise effortlessly plays the materialistic type who is consumed by money and status, but comes back to earth when he finds the love of a good woman (Reneê Zellweger) and her adorable son. Memorable quotes are “Show me the money!” and “You…complete me.” You complete us all, Tom. 

5) Collateral

Cruise is Vincent, a gray-haired, icy, stone-cold contract killer. Cruise forces Jamie Fox, an L.A. cabbie, to drive for him all night while he searches out his victims. Vincent is a terrifying character brought to life by Cruise. He excels here and the chemistry with Fox is electric. The L.A. underworld at night comes alive in this fast-paced, neo-noir film directed by Michael Mann. 

4) Top Gun

‘I feel the need! The need for speed!” Top Gun has been a pop culture hit since its release in 1986. Cruise is “Maverick,” a hot-shot fighter pilot who woes the civilian instructor played by Kelly McGinnis. Looking past some campy dialogue, Top Gun has incredible dog-fighting sequences. Despite mediocre reviews, the film grossed a massive $350 million on a measly $15 million-dollar budget. It also inspired a generation of wannabe pilots and made mustaches, aviator shades, and shirtless volleyball totally rad.



3) Risky Business 

Little introduction is needed here. Risky Business, 1983, arguably launched Cruise’s career. He plays a privileged, but affable high schooler in suburban Chicago. Audiences will never forget Cruise sliding around hardwood floors in his boxers, tube socks, and a button down, singing along to “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Iconic. 

2) Minority Report

This was Steven Spielberg’s and Cruise’s first collaboration together. The product was an 

expertly directed, dystopian thriller set in future Washington, D.C. Cruise plays John Anderton, chief of the anti-crime unit in the D.C. police, where three genetically modified humans (pre-cogs) can accurately predict homicides. Things take a serious turn for the worse when the “pre-cogs” predict that Cruise himself will commit a murder in a matter of hours. There’s plenty of signature Cruise-running and Cruise-fighting. He is as emotive as ever and is immersed in the role. You are right there with him on screen as he races against the clock to prove his innocence. “Everybody runs.”

1) Mission: Impossible, 1 – 6 

What started as a smaller-scale, action/spy thriller in 1996, has transformed into one of the largest action franchises in film history. According to, the M:I films have grossed almost $3 billion dollars worldwide. This is in no small part thanks to Cruise’s dedication to the franchise. He continually ups the ante by staging the most daring stunts in film history himself. He’s climbed the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), he’s held his breath for six full minutes, and he’s been strapped to the outside of plane while it’s taking off, all for the love of the job.


Contributed By George Poor


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