Weekend Roundtable: The Best & Worst of Tom Cruise

For this, officially our 100th Weekend Roundtable post, we thought we’d pick a pretty simple and straightforward topic. Tom Cruise has a new movie in theaters today. Let’s look over the best and worst from this sometimes-charismatic but sometimes-annoying star’s career.

Luke Hickman

Best: Go ahead, let the ridicule begin. My favorite Tom Cruise movie is ‘Vanilla Sky‘. I love Cameron Crowe’s blend of romance, drama and (spoiler alert) science fiction. The original Spanish version (‘Abre Los Ojos’) is fantastic as well, but Crowe’s remake is polished with elements of Americana and aesthetics. As a cocky playboy lowered to humility, Cruise is great. The man who has everything at his fingertips loses his perfect image and can’t have the one thing money can’t buy – love. I adore this journey.

Worst:Rock of Ages‘. Despite his zany public appearances and odd controversy, I’ve remained an unwavering Tom Cruise fan. Now, it seems like Cruise is performing damage control. His character role in ‘Tropic Thunder’ was unexpected and hilarious, but his similarly wild and way too over-the-top performance in ‘Rock of Ages’ isn’t enjoyable or entertaining. Imagine an oblivious rock star not unlike Aldous Snow in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ and ‘Get Him to the Greek’, only even less believable or likable, and the movie that he appears in sucks all sort of ass. The best thing about seeing ‘Rock of Ages’ is knowing that I’ll never have to watch it again.

Aaron Peck

Best: I’m torn between ‘Minority Report’ or the first ‘Mission: Impossible’. I love both movies, but I think I have to go with ‘Minority Report‘. Since it came out, the film has remained one of the best sci-fi movies out there. It’s a movie that’s able to perfectly establish a vision of the future and the rules and technology used there. It feels complete and fully developed, whereas many sci-fi movies seem to be missing a few things here and there as high-octane action takes top priority. There’s more than enough action in ‘Minority Report’, but it never detracts from the movie or its purpose.

Worst:Cocktail‘ is such an awfully stupid, forgettable film. It came on the heels of ‘Top Gun’, so it tried its hardest to capitalize on Tom Cruise’s heartthrob/bad boy status, but it simply came across as a laughably lame attempt to cash-in on someone who was becoming a huge celebrity.

Brian Hoss

Best: While Cruise is hardly alone in doing some of his best work in ‘A Few Good Men‘, two big factors make his performance as Daniel Kaffee stand out in his career. ‘A Few Good Men’ has an excellent ensemble cast, which puts Cruise in the position of starring in a movie that’s not really a Tom Cruise vehicle like almost everything else he makes. By all accounts, Cruise used a tenacity usually reserved for scaling rock faces, tactical gunplay or other physically demanding stuntwork for learning the legalese necessary to deliver a convincing and effective performance. His character’s development from an interloping J.A.G. Lieutenant concerned mostly with economical plea bargaining, to a defiant and impassioned courtroom orator who still favors effective legal tactics over ideals, is entirely carried off by Cruise, and is a far cry from the stone-faced technique his more serious roles have today.

M. Enois Duarte

Best: The best Tom Cruise performance would have to be ‘Magnolia‘. He’s already a fine, tolerable actor as is, but his role as a motivational speaker is the only time I’ve ever thought of him as genuine, as if he was really acting. (I’m also a bit biased since it’s one of my favorite movies to begin with.)

Worst:The worst Cruise flick is definitely ‘Lions for Lambs‘. The movie is bad enough on its own, but Cruise pretending to be a Senator feels too much like a joke or a deleted ‘SNL’ sketch.

Tom Landy

Best: I don’t know if it’s the best, but my favorite Tom Cruise movie is ‘Rain Man‘. In the film, Cruise stars as Charlie Babbitt, a self-centered douchebag who discovers that he has an older brother he never knew about. Played by Dustin Hoffman, the savant Raymond annoys the hell out of Charlie at first, but soon begins to teach him about life and the meaning of family. While Hoffman certainly steals the show, Cruise also delivers a top-notch performance here, and the film just wouldn’t have been the same without him.

Worst: As for the worst Tom Cruise movie, most might go with ‘Vanilla Sky’, but at least that movie isn’t about the exciting career of bartending. Yep, in the same year that we got ‘Rain Man’, we also were poured a very stiff ‘Cocktail‘. The movie’s a bland borefest that would have easily been the next date rape drug if it wasn’t for the catchy pop soundtrack.

Creepy Guy: “Hey baby, wanna watch this VHS tape with me? It has Tom Cruise in it.”
Unsuspecting Young Woman: “Oooh, I like him. He’s cute.”
Creepy Guy: “Heh… Heh… Heh…”

I’ll bet the Blu-ray for ‘Cocktail’ comes in a limited edition dirty glass.

Mike Attebery

Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise are like Peter Parker and the Alien Costume, a symbiotic relationship that initially brought good things, but later became a hellish nightmare come to life.

Best: It started with the first Crowe/Cruise collaboration, ‘Jerry Maguire‘. I like this movie quite a bit, but when I first saw it, I loved it. I can still recall leaving the theater and walking back to my car feeling totally energized by what at the time seemed like the perfect movie. Cruise had never been more down to earth and real. Something about playing a character who has had the shit beaten out of him by life really did him some good. Other than ‘Say Anything’, Crowe has never created more iconic lines and exchanges than in this movie. Perfection.

Worst:Vanilla Sky‘. The trouble began with Cameron Crowe. Though he’s shown subtle signs of recovery over the last year (very subtle signs) I believe after ‘Almost Famous’ he became a total egomaniac and lost touch with the very things that made his early movies like ‘Say Anything’ and ‘Jerry Maguire’ so good. By 2001, he had received near-universal praise for ‘Almost Famous’, shot a cameo in a Steven Spielberg movie (‘Minority Report’ with… yes, Cruise), and really, REALLY fell in love with Hollywood, himself and especially Tom Cruise. Don’t believe me? Listen to the audio commentary to the ‘Vanilla Sky’ DVD, where he has Nancy Wilson, his now ex-wife (hmmmm….), play guitar to provide a soundtrack to his 136 minute hyperbolic soliloquy, while he damn near trips over himself praising his own movie and Cruise, and Cruise and his own movie. Then he calls Cruise and puts him on speakerphone while the two of them literally clap their hands and talk about how brilliant this 2001 turkey is and how amazing the shooting of every single scene was. Thing is, the movie isn’t brilliant. It’s BAD, embarrassing even. The Crowe/Cruise symbiotic relationship gave each of them one of the worst films of either’s career. While Cruise would have a slight uptick with his next film, Crowe would only continue his downward descent into egomania with his follow-up four years later.

Josh Zyber

Best: For my money, ‘Born on the Fourth of July‘ is the movie where Tom Cruise officially transitioned from a smug piece of man-meat who happened to look nice on camera into a genuine actor. Oliver Stone’s adaptation of the Ron Kovic memoir tells the story of a red-blooded, patriotic kid left paralyzed by a war injury and his journey to becoming one of the key voices of dissent against the Vietnam War. It’s an impassioned, harrowing film, and Cruise gives one of his best performances in it.

Honorable mentions to ‘Risky Business’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Magnolia’, ‘Collateral’, ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’.

Worst: I find it interesting that ‘Vanilla Sky’ has made both Best and Worst lists above. I have a love/hate relationship with the film myself. There are things about it that I really like, but other things that I find laughably awful. Make no mistake, Cruise has certainly made his fair share of bad movies over the years. I’m thinking of the likes of ‘Legend’ (even the Director’s Cut is a mess), ‘Cocktail’, ‘Days of Thunder’, ‘Far and Away’, ‘Mission: Impossible II’ and ‘The Last Samurai’. Even so, the worst career mistake that Cruise ever made was that notorious ‘Today Show’ interview with Matt Lauer in 2005.

Cruise comes off as such an insufferably pompous jackass in this. (“You don’t know the history of psychiatry. I do!”) Between this and the Oprah couch-jumping incident, the actor managed to destroy all of the public’s goodwill for him. People stopped wanting to see him in movies anymore. His name became toxic, which hurt the box office performance of perfectly-adequate movies like ‘Valkyrie’ and ‘Knight and Day’. (Neither are great masterworks, but they’re certainly not unwatchable either.) Only recently with the success of ‘Ghost Protocol’ has Cruise started to repair that damage and rebuild his career. What an enormous blunder!

Give us your thoughts on the best of worst of Tom Cruise in the Comments below.


  1. Mike Attebery

    Didn’t all of Cruise’s PR debacles occur shortly after he parted ways with his longtime spokeswoman and replaced her with his sister? Shows how the right people can really save a star from himself.

  2. JM

    Best: ‘Jack Reacher,’ written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie.

    Worst: Reboot of ‘Van Helsing,’ from the writers of ‘Transformers 2.’

    ??? – ‘Top Gun 2’ was also scripted by McQuarrie, for Tony “Meh” Scott.

    And 2013 will see two Tom Cruise Vs. Aliens movies ?!?

    (1) ‘Oblivion,’ written by William Monahan, directed by Mr. ‘Tron: Legacy.’

    (2) ‘All You Need Is Kill’ about TC trapped in a time loop, by Doug Liman.

    So I beleive Tom Cruise’s best and worse movies are coming soon.

  3. Drew

    Best: ‘Collateral’ (By far), ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Mission: Impossible 3’.

    Worst: ‘Legend’, ‘Days of Thunder’, ‘Rock of Ages’

  4. Drew

    Jane, you’re wrong. No way Tom has anything on the horizon worse than ‘Rock of Ages’.

    However, his best performance may indeed be yet to come.

    I also need to add ‘The Firm’ to his worst list.

    • JM

      I agree on ‘Collateral.’

      Can I count ‘Rock of Ages’ as a personal worst if I never intend to see it?

  5. Eric

    How can anyone like “Eyes Wide Shut”? That is a grating thoroughly awful film. Go rent some porn and you will see the same quality of writing and performances. I thought the score for that film was created by a five year old with a keyboard. Not only do I think that is Cruise’s worst film, I think it might be film’s worst film. I’ll take “A Few Good Men” also as his best.

  6. Drew

    Yes. You must count ‘Rock of Ages’ as a personal worst, especially if you never plan on seeing it.

  7. Drew

    Eric, go and watch ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ again, and try not to find the genius on display in it. I have a hunch that you probably watched it during your prepubescent years hoping for a good orgy scene. The film has nothing to do with the sex. It’s an authentic, raw, and brilliant commentary on marriage, in and of itself. In fact, if you’re not married, don’t bother. But don’t try to discount it, because the sex and/or nudity didn’t live up to your adolescent expectations.

  8. Best: Collateral. Great performance.
    Worst: War of the Worlds. I wanted him and his stupid kids to just die in this.
    Honorable Mention: Color of Money. He was such a perfect asshole in this, it was hard not to like him

  9. CK

    Favorite movie: Mission: Impossible.
    Best Performance: Collateral

    Honorable mentions: M:I 3, Knight & Day, A Few Good Men, Minority Report, Vanilla Sky.

    Least Favorite: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

  10. Kevin


    Best: Collateral, Eyes Wide Shut, and from the “guilty pleasure” standpoint- Top Gun.

    Worst: The Mission: Impossible film series

  11. I have gone over his resume on IMDb and I have only seen “Collateral”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Rain Man”, “Interview With The Vampire”, “Magnolia”, “War of the Worlds” and “Minority Report”.

    I like all of those movies, but especially “Minority Report” (my favourite science fiction of the past decade) and “Collateral”.

  12. While I don’t think Vanilla Sky is Cruise’s best work, I think it’s a really good movie. My personal pick would be Jerry Maguire, but there’s a good many that would fall just below that (Born On The 4th Of July, Magnolia, The Color Of Money). His worst, and boy there are some stinkers here, would have to be M:I 2. Weird because the first, third, and latest MI films were all good and he was perfect in them.