8 Things That Happen In Every Tom Cruise Movie


Tom Cruise is back after a four-year absence from the big screen in Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise will also reprise his role as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 for another adventure. As the actor is about to continue his long career, it’s interesting to look at the elements that go into the formula of almost all of his movies.

Whether it’s a comedy like Thunder in the tropics or a dramatic thriller like The company, there are certain aspects that can be found in almost all films featuring the actor. While a few exceptions may exist over the years, the general outline of a standard Tom Cruise feature has these elements, and fans should keep an eye out for them in Top Gun: Maverick.


The protagonist has an epiphany

Tom Cruise looks happy in Vanilla Sky

Tom Cruise characters usually spend the duration of movies confused as to their purpose before something causes an epiphany. It’s been seen in movies like Magnoliawhere Frank sees his hated father on his deathbed and realizes he never really despised him, with vanilla skywhere he concludes that he needs a leap of faith to wake up from his slumber.

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The epiphany is highlighted as the film’s turning point, in that it usually ushers in the climax or a change in tone. In The companythis is when Mitch realizes the true nature of his business, while War of the Worlds saw the world realize that extraterrestrials were sensitive to Earth’s atmosphere.

Someone wants to sabotage the other’s plans

Tom Cruise grabs Jamie Foxx by the throat in Collateral

There’s usually some sort of plot or scheme in Tom Cruise movies that leads to two opposing sides. In smaller scale films like Collateral, Jamie Foxx’s Max regularly attempts to stop Vincent de Cruise’s assassination attempts on his targets; blockbuster movies like War of the Worlds have the humans defying the alien invasion.

The Impossible mission the movies have that aspect to the greatest extent, with Ethan Hunt’s team always looking to foil the villain’s plans but realizing there’s an authority figure who betrayed them. This dynamic keeps Tom Cruise films high among fans since anything can happen at any time.

The protagonist realizes that he cannot trust everyone

Jim Phelps talks to Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible

Whether Cruise plays the main hero or a supporting role, his movies usually have the main character realizing that not everyone is his friend. In a comedy like Thunder in the tropicsthe heroes accept being trapped in the jungle with characters like Cruise’s Les Grossman abandoning them.

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In a thriller like Impossible mission, Ethan discovers that his boss and friend Jim has been the bad guy all along. In romantic comedies like Jerry Maguire, the titular protagonist is fired from the agency he was loyal to and must start from scratch after their betrayal. This aspect is usually necessary for the protagonists to stand out on their own.

Tom Cruise’s character isolates himself at least once

The Grossmans dance alone in Tropic Thunder

This feature is present in just about every best Tom Cruise movie because it emphasizes his character. It may be part of the epiphany he’s experiencing or just for comedic purposes, but Cruise will be seen alone at a time when he’ll have a moment of reflection.

In Thunder in the tropicsThe Grossmans waited until everyone was gone before launching into a dance number, while Eyes wide closed was all about Bill’s nocturnal adventure to satisfy his frustrations. In Minority reportJohn Anderton took a moment to reflect on his pursuit of the Precogs, and in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Ethan left alone after completing his mission and reuniting with his wife from afar.

There’s a notable public-facing quote to remember

Tom Cruise as Jerry in the Jerry Maguire movies

There are more than a few iconic quotes found in Tom Cruise movies, which aren’t always memorable but the intent is certainly there. This can be seen in Cruise’s earlier works as Upper gun, where the “Need for Speed” quote was notable; works later as Impossible mission Ethan exclaimed “Mission accomplished!”

Character-driven films have quotes placed in such a way that things are fully put into perspective. In some good men, Daniel Kaffee shouts “I want the truth!” in court which forces Colonel Jessup to fire back with “You can’t handle the truth!” In Jerry Maguirethe verse “You complete me” of the protagonist allows him to reconcile with his wife.

someone has a secret

Ethan Hunt and White Widow talk quietly in Mission Impossible Fallout

There’s usually an underlying secret in Tom Cruise films that is revealed late in the story to usher in the next act. In Cocktailis when Brian learns that the artist’s girlfriend who he cheated on is not only rich, but pregnant with his child, while knight and day reveals that Roy Miller’s secret identity is Matthew Knight.

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The Impossible mission movies always have that aspect in play to stay true to their spy thriller premise. Mission: Impossible – Fall contained the most of this, with everyone from White Widow, August Walker, and even Ethan Hunt’s team keeping their own plans secret.

Tom Cruise’s character learns a big flaw about himself

Mitch sitting at the desk

In just about every best Tom Cruise movie to date, his character must embark on a journey of self-discovery where he realizes he’s always been led astray. In The companyMitch realizes his lust for money is the reason he and his wife got into the whole fiasco, while the same lesson is learned by Barry Seal in American made.

In The Mummy, Nick realizes his obsession with finding Princess Ahmanet’s grave led to the events of the film and he vows to keep Set’s powers within him to make amends. In Jerry Maguirethe titular character promises his wife that he will no longer treat her as secondary in his career, which will lead to their reconciliation.

Tom Cruise character runs

Split footage of Tom Cruise performing Mission Impossible and Edge of Tomorrow

The biggest hallmark of Tom Cruise’s career is the run his character does in almost every movie. It doesn’t matter if it’s an action movie or a drama, Cruise will usually unfold for one reason or another. In edge of tomorrowhe even managed to run in a massive, heavy exo-suit.

His role as Ethan Hunt in Impossible mission saw him engage in the most sprints, with the third film offering real-time racing without any camera cuts. In dramas like Vanilla Sky, eyes wide closedand Jerry Maguire, the run coincides with his character’s epiphany and he sets out to try and fix the mess he’s created.

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