Tom Cruise's five most iconic roles

Tom Cruise in 1983's

Tom Cruise in 1983's "Risky Business."

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

I first met Tom Cruise on the set of the silly sexcapades movie Losin’ It in 1983 in the California cattle town, Calexico. Cruise might have been a virtual unknown at the time, but he was amiable, eager, ambitious and confident.

Since then, he has shot more stinkers (Cocktail, Days of Thunder, Rock of Ages, Jack Reacher). He has starred in pretentious nonsense (The Color of Money, Vanilla Sky, Eyes Wide Shut). He has propelled mainstream entertainments into big hits (Jerry Maguire, Top Gun). But he has also dared to be different and is still carving out an interesting career as a bona fide actor. He occasionally does stunning cameos in other people’s movies (Magnolia, Tropic Thunder). That means Cruise is not just a movie star who flashes that megawatt smile or runs like a weirdo in his Mission: Impossible movies.

Here are five of his most memorable leading-man performances (in chronological order):

Risky Business (1983): Paul Brickman’s crime caper catapulted Cruise to stardom. It is worth remembering that his on-screen work was edgy, smart and more sophisticated than just playing air guitar in his underwear.

Rain Man (1988): Predictably, Dustin Hoffman won the best actor Oscar for playing the title character, a colourful man with severe autism. But, for Hoffman to create a believable character, he and director Barry Levinson needed Cruise to match him beat-for-beat as the irresponsible brother. Together, the Hoffman-Cruise combo created an American classic.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989): Oliver Stone’s serious drama legitimately earned Cruise the first of his three Oscar noms (the others were generated by Jerry Maguire in 1996 and Magnolia in 1999). Cruise stars as true-life Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, whose combat wounds left him permanently paralyzed before he became a human rights activist and anti-war campaigner.

Collateral (2004): Playing a villain — a rarity for Cruise — he teamed with the terrific Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann’s inventive crime thriller. Cruise plays Vincent, a hitman on deadly assignment in Los Angeles. Foxx is the cabbie forced to drive him around as the bodies pile up.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011): Brad Bird’s spy thriller did not just revive the M:I franchise (this is the best one ever) it also showcased Cruise’s growing maturity as an action actor. He has the moves, physique and stamina necessary. But he also has the gravitas and emotional complexity to make Ethan Hunt even more interesting.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca


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