Oh and I'll tell you right now: Top Gun puts me to sleep. Planes are boring.
You heard me.
On that note, let's fly through these bad boys! One maverick at a time...
Yup, Risky Business. Was going to file that one under guilty pleasure also but hell, it's a perfect teen movie! Taking the simple but effective premise of a teenager who finally gets his parents' house all to himself and decides to live it up but can't quite handle it all when his wild fantasies actually, against all odds, do in fact come true. It's an early one but a good one. You've got Cruise dancing around in his underwear, plenty of bawdy shenanigans and of course THAT train scene at the end which must have ruined so many VHS tapes over the years...
It's unlikely that Dustin Hoffman's whimsical performance as Cruise's savant brother will live on forever as an accurate depiction of autism but that movie just has a charm about it that seems to transcend pure cheese to become something actually sweet and subtly heartbreaking. The relationship between Cruise's douchebag and his bro and how it develops from being an uncomfortable mess to being convincingly heartfelt as a real bond is gradually made is the irresistible core that drives the movie. It's sentimentality on a basic level but it works and Cruise is brilliant throughout turning a seemingly unforgivably dislikable character into someone you do finally understand. A hard one to not include and not like.
Casting The Cruiser as a straight-up villain was hardly a new concept, after all the man had been the Vampire Lestat once, but in Collateral, Cruise confirmed that he could play an intimidating bad guy and STILL be likable. His Vincent is a cold, cynical killing machine who sadistically decides to ruin poor old Jamie Foxx's taxi driver's night in a big way just because he's got a job to do and nothing's going to stop him. It's an impressive villainous turn and until he gets in that cab, there's pretty much no movie. From that moment on, though: you're hooked. Vincent is unpredictable, calculating and... basically insane. It helps that Michael Mann builds a terrific film around that character but it's Cruise's show all the way.
M:I 2 and M:I 3
Had to include the Mission Impossible franchise in there somewhere! Why the second and third one? I'll explain. Although Brian De Palma's first film introduced us to our new favourite action hero and Ghost Protocol wowed the critics, it's the middle two that tend to stick with me. John Woo's ridiculous, hilariously overblown sequel is often dismissed as too silly (which it most definitely is) but it's also tons of fun and is best watched as if you were watching a high-octane, very detailed cartoon. J.J. Abrams' second sequel, however, is a somewhat more serious affair and as such is arguably the best of the bunch as it juggles the goofier aspects of the franchise with genuinely tense and action-packed sequences rather well. Plus it's got masks and Ghost Protocol doesn't, and the first film is mostly a snooze. Bottom line: whichever your favourites are, you gotta admit the Mission Impossible movies are a blast and I personally can't wait to see what comes next.
EYES WIDE SHUT
Yes, I know: it's long, it's dull, it's bizarre. But if you can let yourself be taken in by the film's hypnotic, dream-like vibe then it becomes a fascinating little gem and even arguably Stanley Kubrick's final masterpiece. It all depends on how willing you are to go on this lengthy, sinister adventure with Cruise's character. It's a film I've only seen once all the way through and much like Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, it has just stayed with me ever since. It leaves you in a strange, uneasy daze and perfectly captures that feeling of having been through a long, weird-ass night you'll never forget. When you think about it, it's genius. Definitely a must-see but you'll either love it or... fall asleep so be warned.
Let's face it: how could Magnolia not be in this list? The one role that earned Cruise an Oscar, his portrayal of macho guru Frank T.J. Mackey is just spot-on from start to finish. The film, of course, is a modern masterpiece and one of the best ensemble movies out there so that's certainly helpful but Cruise really does stand-out with an, at times, over-the-top but also very real, entertaining and convincing performance. He creates a character we like and yet dismiss as a douche who tries too hard to be someone he's not, from the offset we know it's all a show but the way the film breaks Mackey down is nothing short of fascinating. You also get to hear The Cruiser sing a bit, strip down to his underwear (once again) and yell out "respect the cock!" like it means something. What's not to like?
WAR OF THE WORLDS
Don't you roll your eyes at me! I know you hate me for choosing Steven Spielberg's much booed sci-fi disaster flick but I'm picking it nonetheless. Why? Because it's not only, I feel, unjustly underrated but it also happens to be a really fun and creative movie with a lot of impressive set-pieces, typically stylish and clever Spielbergian touches and Cruise being swallowed up by a big red anus. I'll admit the film starts to lose its magic in its last 20 minutes and its final 5 minutes particularly stand-out as being much less good than everything else but until we actually see those CGI aliens and they start going all Jurassic Park on our asses, it's fab sci-fi action all the way. It's a flawed film, for sure, but it blew me away on the big screen and I still find parts of it genuinely gripping and impressive. The tripods' first appearance, for example, is an awesome sequence however you look at it. Spielberg at his best. I just like it. Anyway, I bet I can make you hate me even more, stay tuned...
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
Well duh! It's not everyday you get to see Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and even Antonio Banderas act out an Anne Rice novel in a film that's actually all kinds of great. Hell, the very idea of casting these guys in a vampire period piece must have sounded positively absurd back in the day but you know what? It's one of the best vampire flicks ever made and, to this day, it still kicks ass. Capturing the spirit of Rice's novel admirably, the film sees Cruise camp it up as Lestat as we get the whole story from Louis' (Pitt) point of view. Sadly this means that Lestat isn't always the focus of the story but that only makes the moments he is on-screen extra special: Cruise is just awesome as Lestat and that's kinda weird because it's unlikely that anyone could have seen that performance coming. The movie is stylish and detailed but brutal and bloody, Twilight this most definitely is not. Interview With The Vampire is a must-see if only to witness a withering vampire Cruise get really, REALLY pissed off. Classic stuff.
Ready to hate me loads, yet?
Ok, here we go...
Well, it looks like the cat is finally out of the bag: I freakin' love this movie. It's hard to explain but Cameron Crowe's sci-fi romance, based on Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, is just one of those movies I was kinda obsessed by at some point in my life and since I've just accepted it as THE almighty guilty pleasure of guilty pleasures. Although I don't think I should even call it that because I genuinely feel that Vanilla Sky is one of the most underrated films around and could very well be a mini-masterpiece in disguise. The movie took the best stuff from Abre Los Ojos and simply made it even better and more relevant. Cruise plays a cocky, womanising rich dude who has the genius idea of falling in love just before his douchey ways come back to kick him in the ass full blast. The whole film then becomes about him breaking himself down and essentially rebuilding himself as a person both physically and mentally. The idea that the love for this woman he met only once is the only thing that kept him fighting for his sanity for (literally) hundreds of years and that she probably died long ago, never knowing how he truly felt about her is so damn tragically romantic and, dare I say, beautiful that... f*** it, it's heartbreaking, it's tear-jerkingly manipulative and I love it. I also find the movie visually stunning, sharply written and altogether unique, despite it being based on another film. Cruise's performance is daring and impressive throughout, Cruz is less convincing than she was in the original but by the end she'll still win you over, Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee and Kurt Russell are all great and the film boasts one of the best soundtracks around. It might just be me but Vanilla Sky is the only Tom Cruise film that I can honestly say really means something to me. Hence the number 1 spot.
So there it is, my best-of-Cruise. Feel free to share your lists and opinions on the man's body of work in the comments and also please enjoy this honourable mention, I know I will: