Tom Cruise’s Best Movie Performance of Every Decade Since the ’80s


Mickey Rourke didn’t make headlines for too long when he said some not-so-nice things about Tom Cruise’s career. But, when creating this list, I would have to disagree with Rourke’s view that Cruise has been playing “the same role for 35 years” because honestly, that really isn’t the case.

In fact, Tom Cruise actually has quite a varied list of roles in his filmography. So much so that I’m a bit blown away by just how many unique roles the superstar has taken on over the past 40 or so years. Also, with movies like Top Gun: Maverick which is still making a lot of money at the box office, and the next Mission: Impossible 7, where it seems legitimate that Tom Cruise nearly died a few times, he doesn’t seem to be ending his career anytime soon. So here are Tom Cruise’s best movie performances from every decade since the ’80s. How many of these classics have you seen?

Tom Cruise in Born on the 4th of July

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

80s: Born July 4 (1989)

In Oliver Stone’s second film in his Vietnamese trilogy, Tom Cruise earned his first Best Actor Oscar nomination, although he lost to Daniel Day Lewis in my left foot. That said, Cruise’s depiction of an all-American boy who wants to fight in Vietnam, only to become crippled and disillusioned with his country is a performance for the ages.

Tom Cruise goes through a wide range of emotions throughout the film, from victim to activist, and it just goes to show that Cruise isn’t just an actor who stiffly flees explosions. It’s the real deal!

80s Movies Finalist – Rain Man (1988)

When we made our list of 10 Tom Cruise movies that prove he’s more than an action star, the one movie that really stood out to me was rain man. And that’s because while everyone loves to point out Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance, it’s Tom Cruise who really wear this film. Cruise plays a selfish, selfish car dealer who, throughout the film, learns to let his guard down and let his brother back into his life. Yes, Hoffman is amazing in his performance, but it’s Tom Cruise’s character that has the biggest change, and so, it’s really his story at the end.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

90s: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Fun fact, but Eyes wide closed is the first R-rated movie I’ve ever seen alone in the cinema. I mean, how could I not? Stanley Kubrick has made some of the best films of all time, so it was an honor to see Kubrick’s latest film on the big screen. But, I had no idea at the time that Tom Cruise could play such a jealous, sex-starved man who would gladly try to get into a secret society where people wear masks and have orgies.

But, he made a movie like that, and it’s Eyes wide closed. Kubrick’s latest film is one of Cruise’s best performances since the whole film is a maddening erotic thriller, and Cruise plays the role of the jealous husband both titillated and terrified by this new world he is entering. Nicole Kidman – who was married to Tom Cruise at the time – is also excellent in it, making it both a time capsule of their marriage and also highlighting a time when Tom Cruise was not shy about getting rid of his movie star image for something. dark and sinister.

90s Movie Racer – Jerry Maguire (1996)

And then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is Cameron Crowe Jerry Maguirea rom-com sports drama about an agent who fails in both love and work, but ultimately wins out. Jerry Maguire is absolute proof of Tom Cruise’s range as an actor when juxtaposed with Eyes wide closedsince he is actually adorable and fun in Jerry Maguireinstead of being aloof, and bordering on misanthropic Eyes wide closed. There’s a reason he was nominated for Best Actor for this movie. You can not not love him in this movie.

Tom Cruise as collateral

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

2000s: Collateral (2004)

Very likable Tom Cruise had certainly played unlikable characters in the past, like the doctor in Eyes wide closedor the motivational speaker in 1999 Magnoliabut he never played a total villain like he did in Michael Mann Collateral. In the film, Cruise played a hitman who gave a taxi driver (Jamie Foxx) the night from hell as he murdered his targets one by one.

Cruise played a stone cold killer in the film with aplomb, and it was actually pretty terrifying to see how easily he could slip into the role of a killer. To this day, I still want to see more wicked tricks from Tom Cruise. He’s really good at it!

2000s Movie Finalist: Tropic Thunder (2008)

Tom Cruise has done comedies before – I mean, one of his biggest early roles was Risky business back in the 80s. But, he was always cool, no matter what movie he was in. Well, in the 2008 satirical comedy, Thunder in the tropicsTom Cruise was definitely not cool as studio head, Les Grossman. In the role, he pounded Diet Cokes and swore a lot.

The performance is also completely fearless in impersonating a huge jerk. When Tom Cruise finally decides to wrap it all up and let it be for good, I’m pretty sure Les Grossman will be the role that shows that Tom Cruise, for at least one movie, could be downright unlikable, yet hilarious in same time. time.

American Made Tom Cruise

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

‘2010s: American Made (2017)

Tom Cruise once spoke of his interest in being in American made and how he was fascinated by the real character the film was based on, Barry Seal. That said, if you actually research Seal, you’ll find that he and Cruise couldn’t be further apart when it comes to looks. That said, Barry Seal’s story is so much larger than life that it seems only a bonafide star like Tom Cruise could possibly play the part.

And he plays it brilliantly! Cruise makes Seal, who would have worked for the CIA as a pilot, a sympathetic thug. He’s our entry point into this world of crime, and he’s a great entry point in that regard. You feel safe with him in these very dangerous conditions, and if that’s not acting, then I don’t know what is.

‘Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation (2015) 2010s Film Finalist

And finally, I want to talk about the Impossible mission movies, because that’s the kind of action-packed stuff that Mickey Rourke may have been referring to when commenting on Cruise’s career, but honestly, Cruise is GOOD at doing action movies, and the Impossible mission movies are always great.

I want to focus on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which our own Mike Reyes called “the best movie of the summer” upon its release. And I tend to agree with Mike, especially since rogue nation had arguably Cruise’s most intense stunt when he clung to the side of a plane as it took off. The fact that Cruise is not only willing to act wholeheartedly, but to put his safety on the line for our entertainment shows how lucky we are to have Tom Cruise in our lives. He did it all!

And, that’s the list. But what is your Tom Cruise’s favorite performance over the years? For more on Cruise and other great actors, be sure to drop by here often.


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