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Tom Cruise, born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV on July 3, 1962, remains one of Hollywood’s top box-office draws. Cruise made his motion picture debut in Endless Love (1981), appearing in the role of Billy. The actor’s annual take from motion pictures is an estimated $65 million.
Here are seven movies no discerning Tom Cruise fan should ever miss. Show me the movies!
1. A Few Good Men (Columbia, 1992)
Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and Rob Reiner directed. Tom Cruise plays Lt. (j.g.) Daniel Alistair Kaffee, with Jack Nicholson (Col. Nathan R. Jessep), Demi Moore (Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway), Kevin Bacon (Capt. Jack Ross), Kiefer Sutherland (Lt. Jonathan Kendrick) and Kevin Pollak (Lt. Sam Weinberg) in strong support.
Budgeted at $33 million, A Few Good Men was filmed in California; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Washington, D.C. Texas A&M’s University Corps of Cadets Fish Drill Team performed the impressive rifle demonstration at the beginning of the movie.
Cruise turns in an outstanding performance as a young, Harvard-trained Navy lawyer tasked with defending two marines accused of carrying out an illegal Code Red at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Cruise is at his best in the climactic courtroom scene, where he grills Jack Nicholson on the stand. “I want the truth!” a strident Cruise shouts. “You can’t handle the truth!” Nicholson replies.
- Tom Cruise salary: $12.5 million
- Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson), Best Film Editing, Best Sound
- Box-office gross: $141.35 million (#5, 1992)
- Great line: “Don’t call me ’son.’ I’m a lawyer, and an officer of the United States Navy. And you’re under arrest you son of a bitch,” Tom Cruise to Jack Nicholson
- On DVD: A Few Good Men Special Edition (Columbia, 2001)
2. Born on the Fourth of July (Universal, 1989)
Director Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic penned the screenplay based on Kovic’s 1976 best-selling autobiography. Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, with Raymond J. Barry (Mr. Kovic), Caroline Kava (Mrs. Kovic), Tom Berenger (Gunnery Sgt. Hayes), Stephen Baldwin (Billy Vorsovich), Kyra Sedgwick (Donna) and Willem Dafoe (Charlie) in support.
Budgeted at $14 million, Born on the Fourth of July was filmed in Texas, New York, California, the Philippines and Mexico. Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic and Vietnam War protester Abbie Hoffman appear in cameo roles.
Cruise is positively riveting in the role of Ron Kovic, a gung ho marine infantry grunt who is wounded in Vietnam and returns home a paraplegic. The Vietnam War scenes are harrowing, as is Cruise’s stay in a seedy VA hospital. One of the best scenes takes place in Mexico, where Cruise and fellow vet Willem Dafoe engage in a brutal wheelchair fight at sunset.
- Tom Cruise salary: Unspecified percentage of the film’s gross
- Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Cruise), Best Director (won), Best Film Editing (won), Best Cinematography, Best Music Score, Best Sound, Best Writing
- Box-office gross: $36.803 million (#15, 1989)
- Great line: “Tell them – they have to operate on me. There’s something wrong with me,” a gravely wounded Tom Cruise to a military chaplain at a MASH unit
- On DVD: Born on the Fourth of July Special Edition (Universal, 2004)
3. The Color of Money (Buena Vista, 1986)
Richard Price wrote the screenplay and Martin Scorsese directed. Tom Cruise plays Vincent Lauria, with Paul Newman (Fast Eddie Felson), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Carmen), Helen Shaver (Janelle) and John Turturro (Julian) also on board.
Budgeted at $10 million, The Color of Money – the long awaited sequel to The Hustler (1961) – was filmed in Atlantic City and Chicago. A contingent of professional pool players were used in the production, including Steve Mizerak, Michael Sigel, Howard Vickery, Jimmy Mataya, Keith McCready and Ewa Mataya Laurance.
Cruise excels as a young pool shark who comes under the tutelage of veteran pool hustler Eddie Felson. Cruise (with all that hair high atop his head) is absolutely smashing, performing a dazzling array of trick shots that he had specifically learned for the movie. The film chemistry is extraordinary, with Cruise as the young punk and Newman as the old pro.
- Tom Cruise salary: Unknown
- Academy Award nominations: Best Actor (Newman, won), Best Supporting Actress (Mastantonio), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Writing
- Box-office gross: $24.435 million (#14, 1986)
- Great line: “Yes sir, boss. Rack ‘em up for Mr. Fast Eddie!” – Tom Cruise
- On DVD: The Color of Money (Buena Vista, 2002)
4. All the Right Moves (20th Century Fox, 1983)
Michael Kane wrote the screenplay and Michael Chapman directed. Tom Cruise plays Stefen Djordjevic, with Craig T. Nelson (Coach Nickerson), Lea Thompson (Lisa), Charles Cioffi (Pop) and Chris Penn (Brian) also in the cast.
All the Right Moves was filmed on location in Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh, Conemaugh, Johnstown. In preparation for their roles, both Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson were placed anonymously in high schools. Cruise lasted but one day – outed when another student recognized him from Taps (1981).
Cruise plays an ambitious high school football player in the heart of Pennsylvania steel country. His goal: win an athletic scholarship so he can get the hell out of his gritty industrial hometown of Ampipe. Cruise’s interaction with his hard-ass, disciplinarian coach carries much of the movie. One of the best scenes takes place in the locker room following a heartbreaking loss, where Cruise questions the wisdom of the omnipotent Coach Nickerson.
- Tom Cruise salary: Unknown
- Box-office gross: $17.233 million (#42, 1983)
- Great line: “You’re not God, Nickerson. You’re just a typing teacher,” – Tom Cruise to Craig T. Nelson
- On DVD: All the Right Moves (Fox, 2002)
5. The Firm (Paramount, 1993)
David Rabe, Robert Towne and David Rayfield wrote the screenplay based on the 1991 best-selling novel by John Grisham. Sydney Pollack directed with his usual flair. Tom Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, with Jeanne Tripplehorn (Abby McDeere), Gene Hackman (Avery Tolar), Hal Holbrook (Oliver Lambert), Terry Kinney (Lamar Quinn), Wilford Brimley (William Devasher), Ed Harris (Wayne Tarrance) and Holly Hunter (Tammy Hemphill) in principal support.
Budgeted at $42 million, The Firm was filmed in Massachusetts, Tennessee and the Cayman Islands. Once filming ended, Tom Cruise was presented with the same Mercedes his character had received in the movie.
Cruise plays a young attorney fresh out of law school who signs on with a sinister firm in Memphis. The place is tied to organized crime, with “nonconformists” winding up dead. Cruise eventually puts the entire thing together, making for a complex thriller crawling with violence, seedy characters and FBI types.
- Tom Cruise salary: Unknown
- Box-office gross: $158.348 million (#4, 1993)
- Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Hunter), Best Music
- Great line: “Let me ask you something: are you out of your (bleeping) mind?” – Tom Cruise to FBI agent Ed Harris, who wants him to testify in open court against the Mafia
- On DVD: The Firm (Paramount, 2000)
6. Jerry Maguire (TriStar, 1996)
Director Cameron Crowe penned the screenplay. Tom Cruise plays Jerry Maguire, with Cuba Gooding Jr. (Rod Tidwell), Renee Zellweger (Dorothy Boyd), Kelly Preston (Avery Bishop), Jerry O’Connell (Frank Cushman), Jay Mohr (Bob Sugar) and Bonnie Hunt (Laurel) in support.
Budgeted at $50 million, Jerry Maguire was filmed in California, Arizona and New York City. Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated nabbed a cameo playing – what else? – a sportswriter.
Cruise winningly plays a high-powered agent whose clients are some of the biggest names in the sports world. An arrogant, selfish, money-grubbing lout, Cruise later changes his ways, leaving the agency and striking out on his own. Cruise’s interplay with Cuba Gooding Jr. is movie magic, with both actors registering top performances.
- Tom Cruise salary: $20 million against 15% of the gross
- Box-office gross: $153.952 million (#4, 1996)
- Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Cruise), Best Supporting Actor (Gooding, won), Best Writing, Best Film Editing
- Great line: “Show me the money!” – Tom Cruise
- On DVD: Jerry Maguire Special Edition (Sony, 2002)
7. Mission: Impossible (Paramount, 1996)
David Koepp and Robert Towne wrote the screenplay and Brian De Palma directed. Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, with Jon Voight (Jim Phelps), Emmanuelle Beart (Claire Phelps), Henry Czerny (Eugene Kittridge), Jean Reno (Franz Krieger), Ving Rhames (Luther Stickell), Kristin Scott Thomas (Sarah Davies) and Vanessa Redgrave (Max) also along for the wild ride.
Budgeted at a whopping $80 million, Mission: Impossible – a loose adaptation of the classic 1966-73 CBS television series – was filmed in the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic. Watch closely, as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt accesses the Internet via “Crusenet.”
Cruise delivers a top-notch performance as an Impossible Missions Force agent trapped in a web of deceit. There are plenty of thrills here, with the lean, athletic Cruise infiltrating a CIA vault while precariously suspended by tiny cable wires. The movie is a high-tech spectacular, producing two sequels in 2000 and 2006.
- Tom Cruise salary: $70 million through gross participation
- Box-office gross: $180.981 million (#3, 1996)
- Great line: “My team is dead! They knew we were coming, man,” – Tom Cruise
- On DVD: Mission: Impossible Special Collector’s Edition (Paramount, 2006)