From hanging by the side of a plane to climbing the tallest building in the world and flying a F/A-18 jet, Tom Cruise has done it all himself. When it comes to action sequences, the Hollywood star who turned 61 today still goes the extra mile. But alongside his penchant for extremely risky stunts, Cruise has left a mark with his talent in several non-action films over his four-decade-long career. As we count down to his next film, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part Two, we pick seven films where Cruise shone for his versatility.
Joel Goodsen in Risky Business (1983)
After starring in a few movies in the early 1980s, a young Tom Cruise played a high-achieving high school senior, Joel Goodsen, in Paul Brickman’s teen sex comedy drama. Risky Business turned out to be his breakthrough role and established Cruise as a heartthrob in Hollywood. Cruise dancing around in the living room in briefs and a buttoned-down shirt to Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll is an iconic scene from the film.
Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man (1988)
Following the success of Top Gun (1986), Cruise showed up on screen as the street-smart wheeler-dealer Charlie Babbitt in Barry Levinson’s road movie Rain Man, co-starring Dustin Hoffman who won an Academy Award for his performance. Charlie wants to rob his autistic older half-brother Raymond (Hoffman) of the chunk of their father’s property that he inherited. During the course of the film, Charlie has a change of heart after he and Raymond hit the road and spend a lot of time together, and Cruise struck a fine balance between the cold and the tender aspects of his character.
Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men (1992)
In the film adaptation of Aaron Sorkin’s famous courtroom drama, Cruise plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, an honest navy lawyer who wants to unravel the truth in a sensitive case he has been handed. The case is about a US marine who was tortured to death by his comrades. The delicate nature of the case coupled with the complex ideologies of the accused makes A Few Good Men a gripping watch. The back-and-forth between Jack Nicholson and Cruise’s characters in the courtroom is one of the top draws of the film which also starred Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollak, J. T. Walsh, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Kiefer Sutherland.
Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire (1996)
Cruise played the titular character in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 romantic sports comedy drama alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and Renée Zellweger. Jerry is a successful sports agent working for a high-profile sports management company and wants to forge a more personal bond with his clients. However, the agency doesn’t like his ideas and fires him and he ends up with only one client. He gives all his efforts to his client while also sorting his dysfunctional personal life. Cruise’s nuanced performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Dr. William Harford in Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
In 1999, Cruise collaborated with his then-wife Nicole Kidman in filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s erotic mystery psychological drama Eyes Wide Shut. Adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), the film chronicles Dr William Harford’s (Cruise) escapade in a masked orgy organised by a secret society after his wife Alice (Kidman) reveals that she had contemplated having an affair. Cruise plays a man who is confused about his most cherished relationship and wants to break the pattern of his mundane life with little knowledge of how it was going to impact his life.
Frank Mackey in Magnolia (1999)
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s psychological drama Magnolia, Cruise is a motivational speaker and pickup artist named Frank Mackey. Designed in three seemingly unrelated stories, the film doesn’t offer Cruise a lot of screen time but he leaves a lasting impression within that. Frank learns about his estranged father’s critical condition and suffers from a dilemma of whether to reconcile with him or not. Cruise plays the duality of the character with spectacular extravagance. It also earned him his only supporting actor Oscar nomination.
Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (2008)
A virtually unrecognisable Cruise took cine-goers by storm in Ben Stiller’s 2008 spoof action comedy alongside the likes of Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey, Bill Hader and Stiller himself. Cruise plays Les Grossman, a baldheaded, foul-mouthed and ill-tempered studio executive producing a high-budget Vietnam war drama film Tropic Thunder. Cruise knocks it out of the park by showcasing his comedic skills. His crackling chemistry with his assistant, played by Bill Hader, is one of the highlights of the film. Watch out for Cruise dancing to Ludacris’ Get Back in the end credits.