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Top 10 Tom Cruise Movie Moments

daniel cohen looks at tom’s top movie moments in honor of jack reacher hitting theaters…


Whether he’s dancing, wearing shades, running intensely, or flashing that big goofy smile, there is no denying Tom Cruise’s charisma. No matter how bad a film he might be in, I admire how much effort he puts into every single movie he does. Even in something terrible like Rock of Ages earlier this year, Cruise was easily the shining beacon of that pile of junk. But even with all his eccentric performances, let’s not forget that this is still a legitimately great actor, and a 3-time Academy Award nominee. It’s no secret that in recent years his popularity has dipped due to his odd and widely publicized behavior, but people forget how big a star this guy was, and how many of his movies got the parody treatment. I’m not here to talk about Tom Cruise’s personal life. With his new film Jack Reacher just around the corner, I’m here to look back at the professional work of Maverick himself.

So ‘take those old records off the shelf,’ because here are my Top 10 Tom Cruise Movie Moments…

*Spoilers Abound for these Films*

10.) ‘You Complete Me’ (Jerry MaGuire, 1996):

Oh yeah…starting off big. This is just one of many iconic Cruise moments. We get all the Cruise mannerisms here: the ‘okays’ said with a tinge of over acting, the hand gestures, and just as Jerry MaGuire is basically about to go on a big monologue about being in a ‘cynical world,’ he closes with ‘You complete me,’ as it’s followed immediately by another iconic line, ‘You had me at hello.’ It’s not the greatest scene in the world, but it’s impact on popular culture cannot be argued.

Notable Parody Alert: The Joker says ‘You complete me’ to Batman in 2008’s The Dark Knight.


9.) Stealing the CIA NOC List (Mission: Impossible, 1996):

A classic Cruise action scene. Well, maybe not technically an action scene, but a thrilling moment nonetheless. There have been four Mission: Impossible movies, and I guarantee this is the first scene people mention when they talk about this series. It’s just a super-sized suspense filled set piece. You get a rope, you get laser alarms, you get the classic sweat catch…it’s the type of tension only Cruise can deliver, as he hangs just inches away from touching the floor and alerting the entire CIA of his presence. For some reason though, it’s the easiest level in Nintendo 64’s Mission: Impossible video game…WTF.

Notable Parody Alert: In the 1998 film Wrongfully Accused, Leslie Nielsen fills in for Tom in this sight gag filled parody.


8.) ‘Who’s Coming With Me’ (Jerry MaGuire, 1996):

Even with ‘You Complete Me,’ Cuba Gooding Jr., and all the ‘Show me the Money’ shenanigans, I always come back to this scene when thinking about Jerry MaGuire. Cruise manages to make this both funny and brave at the same time. The ‘flip out’ is crazy, taking the fish is hysterical, but the classic Cruise delivery of ‘Who’s coming with me’ is all you need to make this a Cruise classic.

Notable Parody Alert: The great Jim Breuer in Half-Baked gets fired from the record store and replicates Cruise perfectly.


7.) The Underwear (Risky Business, 1983):

‘What!? This is only #7 on the list!?’ Yea, yea, get over it. Don’t get me wrong…I think it’s the most iconic Cruise moment there is, and the one that made him a star, but for me, it’s #7. There really isn’t much to say. The scene speaks for itself. A great moment…I just liked six more better.


Notable Parody Alert: Ben Stiller does a classic Tom Cruise impression, so it’s no surprise he would eventually tap into this scene in the classic MTV Movie Awards parody ‘Tom Crooze.’


6.) Shooting Pool and The Werewolves of London (The Color of Money, 1986):

This is probably the most obscure moment on the list that many people will rarely think of. But for me, it’s Cruise completely and 100% in his element. The song choice is perfect, as he dances, gets whacky, and makes trick pool shots as the young, cocky, and fiery Vincent in this Scorsese classic.


5) ‘I’ll Look For You on the Field’ (The Last Samurai, 2003):

Without a doubt, one of Cruise’s most underrated films. And even though it’s just one line, oh man, is it a good one. As Cruise has defected to the ways of the Samurai, the animosity between Cruise’s character Nathan Algren, and his former superior officer Colonel Bagley is finally paid off after the Colonel tells him in so many words that the Government will show him no mercy. Algren’s response…

‘I’ll look for you on the field’

While it doesn’t take much acting, it’s probably the most bad ass I’ve ever seen Cruise, and it’s played off later when he hurls a sword right through the Colonel’s face…nice.


4.) Les Grossman Threat (Tropic Thunder, 2008):

It’s amazing to think this was Tom Cruise’s first full on comedy of his career. But boy, was it worth the wait. Cruise is let loose like a wild animal in this role, and while Les Grossman is an overdone and tired character, there is something about Cruise’s performance that transcends the cliches. And while Grossman’s first appearance is hysterical, as he asks a camera man to punch his director, it’s the second scene with Les where he just grabs the phone from Matthew McConaughey and unknowingly threatens a drug lord. This character was so popular, there was even talk of doing a spin-off movie about Les. While I’m not sure that would work, this is ironically one of Cruise’s best performances.

Notable Parody Alert: How about Tom Cruise parodying himself? Les was used in several MTV Movie Award spots, even one where he berates Robert Pattinson.


3.) ‘That Loving Feeling’ (Top Gun, 1986):

Do I really need to talk about this one? I think it’s actually required by law that every guy at some point in their lives view Top Gun. And between all the dog fights, Goose, and Maverick’s ‘rebel without a cause’ attitude, it’s this scene everybody remembers most, and no one can even fathom it without Cruise.

Notable Parody Alert: While not a full on parody, Hot Shots with Charlie Sheen is basically a satire of Top Gun, and they do a slight version of this as Sheen’s character Topper jumps on the piano to impress the lady.


2.) Enter Frank T.J. Mackey (Magnolia, 1999):

Out of all the films in Cruise’s library, critics will probably tell you this is the actor’s finest achievement. It’s hard to argue, as Cruise plays the foul mouthed man hero Frank T.J. Mackey. And while it’s a very Cruise like performance, there’s such a foul and vile undertone to the character, it becomes maybe his most versatile. While Cruise’s performance is outstanding from beginning to end, it’s the character’s introduction that makes it great, as Mackey slides out to the stage in that iconic shot, and dives right into a perfectly delivered monologue that only Cruise could perform.

Notable Parody Alert: Once again, I’m going back to the Ben Stiller well. In the same sketch in which he parodies Risky Business, Stiller does so here as well, and has some real fun playing with the not so family friendly dialogue of the original film.


1.) The Complete Breakdown (Born on the Fourth of July, 1989):

While this list has been full of fun, dance numbers, and great suspense, I’m going to end it with Cruise’s most dramatic, and what is truly his best acting moment. Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone’s epic post-war drama, is not a perfect movie. But the most consistent aspect about it is Cruise’s heartbreaking, and at times cringe worthy performance as Ron Kovic, a man paralyzed after the Vietnam War. You can imagine this subject matter is chock-full of gut wrenching moments, and believe me, it is. But this particular scene in which a drunken Kovic returns to his parent’s home and just let’s loose is hard to watch, but not because it’s bad, but because Cruise is just on another level. The back and forth between him and his mom is depressing, but also riveting. While it’s fair to say that many of Cruise’s performances feel similar, I don’t think anyone can argue that point in this brilliant scene.

Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen likes movies and bagels, and that’s pretty much it. Aside from writing Box Office predictions, Daniel hosts the monthly Batman by the Numbers Podcast on the Breakcast feed. Speaking of Batman, If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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