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21 Times Tom Cruise Blows Us Away With His Exceptional Performances

Tom Cruise is one of the most celebrated actors of our time. While he has some eccentricities, being a member of Scientology, his talents is undeniable.

Even in his 50s, as Ethan Hawke, Tom is the face of the Mission Impossible franchise. He has dozens of movies under his belt, including smash hits like Interview with a Vampire, Top Gun, Top Gun Maverick, and Magnolia. The dashing superstar power still hasn’t faded.

As the top-billing star in Tinseltown, Tom Cruise has had many memorial performances in his four-decade-long career. So many that even most avid movie aficionados can still miss one or two.

His talents are also acknowledged by his peers and other movie institutions and awards. Tom Cruise has been nominated for and received many awards in his career, including the Golden Globe Award and Academy Award.

Take a look at his career with us with these 21 times Tom Cruise blows us away with his exceptional performances.

#1 Interview with the Vampire

Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise played the renowned Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat with a lot of flairs. He has equal parts elegance, grief, and ferocity, Tom Cruise left a mark in movie history as the over-the-top nihilistic vampire, ensuring that Interview with the Vampire has remained a treasure of the genre to this day.

#2 Born on the Fourth of July

Source: Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

In Oliver Stone’s famous adaptation of Ron Kovic’s memoirs, Tom Cruise garnered his first Academy Award nod for his unquestionably poignant and riveting portrayal of anti-war campaigner Ron Kovic.

#3 The Outsiders

Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise wasn’t exactly front-and-center in The Outsiders, but he surely had brought Steve to life with enough passion and charisma. He also blended the right combination of blue-collar charm and adolescent angst.

#4 Jack Reacher

Source: Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Fans of Lee Childs’ action hero actively campaigned against Tom Cruise’s casting, yet he beat the odds to perfectly convey Reacher’s piercing fury and explosive passion for justice.

#5 Minority Report

Source: 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection

The subject of Minority Report did not necessarily showcase Tom Cruise’s emotional range as a dramatic actor. However, Cruise still earned his Empire and Saturn Award-nominated performance as John Anderton in this acclaimed sci-fi action epic.

#6 American Made

Source: David James / Universal/ Courtesy Everett Collection

In a flashier, sleazier, and ultimately underestimated performance as a drug runner in American Made, Tom Cruise reunites with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman, displaying confidence and desperation in equal measure.

#7 The Color of Money

Source: Buena Vista Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Early in his career, Tom Cruise was pitted against one of his generation’s best performers, Paul Newman, in this sneaky sequel to The Hustler. While Newman won the Oscar, Cruise demonstrated to his haters that he was undoubtedly more than just another pretty face.

#8 Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Source: Chiabella James / Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Though Tom Cruise has played Ethan Hunt in the franchise Mission: Impossible four times now, his performance in Fallout is by far his most impressive, bringing vulnerability and emotional volatility as things “get personal” for Hunt.

#9 The Last Samurai

Source: Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Despite its often-mocked title and fundamentally flawed “white savior” idea, The Last Samurai features one of Cruise’s more emotionally honest performances, as he navigates empathy, remorse, and wrath in both quiet and dramatic moments.

#10 The Firm

Source: Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

With his morally torn part in Sydney Pollack’s gripping paranoid thriller, Tom Cruise demonstrated vulnerability and range against an incredible ensemble of theatrical vets.

#11 Risky Business

Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise’s breakout role that made him a bonafide as a Hollywood heartthrob. The actor displayed great comic talents and smooth confidence that would help define his public and professional career for many years.

#12 Top Gun

Source: Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise’s brazen and brash portrayal as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell certified him as a big-screen action hero and sex symbol. The movie recently returned as an acclaimed sequel, proving Cruise still has what it takes as an action movie star.

#13 Vanilla Sky

Source: Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise teams up again with Cameron Crowe for this mind-bending and enticing thriller. In Vanilla Sky, he dives headfirst into an extraordinary, out-of-character performance as an arrogant and pretentious CEO whose life is shattered by a tragic catastrophe.

#14 Magnolia

Source: New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

As one of his most acclaimed performances, Tom Cruise’s performance in Magnolia is a must-watch. As a troubled and misogynistic motivational speaker who must face his estranged father’s impending death, Tom’s very convincing as he seethed with unfiltered rage and heartbreak with every spellbinding line.

#15 Eyes Wide Shut

Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise’s performance as a mild-mannered doctor who falls down a sexually-charged rabbit hole after learning of his wife’s contemplation of an affair is one of his most understated and underappreciated. His performance here has aged like fine wine in comparison to the usual bombastic nature of his roles at the time.

#16 A Few Good Men

Source: Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise wields Aaron Sorkin’s prose like a sword in this brilliant performance as a brave and reckless young lawyer. Indeed, Cruise’s face-to-face climactic showdown with Jack Nicholson is undoubtedly the actor’s best performance of all time.

#17 Tropic Thunder

Source: Red Hour Films / DreamWorks SKG / Road Rebel / Prod.DB / Alamy

Tom Cruise as the furious and foul-mouthed Les Grossman, a volatile studio executive largely based on the likes of Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein, stole scenes throughout this acclaimed comedy to the point where he nearly received his own feature picture spin-off, stunning audiences throughout the country.

#18 Edge of Tomorrow

Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

In Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise plays a cowardly public affairs officer who becomes humanity’s sole hope of repelling invading alien threats, displaying his ability to properly merge his humorous abilities and his action staging prowess while being stuck in a Ground Hog Day scenario.

#19 Rain Man

Source: United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

While Dustin Hoffman’s performance in the film is iconic, Tom Cruise’s appearance as Ray Babbitt’s selfish, needy, and manipulative brother proved the actor capable of darker parts outside of his squeaky clean reputation.

#20 Jerry Maguire

Source: Tristar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Cruise succeeds as a romantic protagonist in this really heartwarming story of an obsessive sports agent whose crisis of conscience allows him to gamble on himself in one of his most grounded, human performances.

#21 Collateral

Source: Dreamworks SKG / Paramount Pictures / Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans / Courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Cruise has never been more intense or frightening than his psychopathic hitman in Michael Mann’s Collateral, a part that will almost certainly ascend to the top of this list as time passes.