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Tom Cruise’s Best Action Films: A Retrospective

20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks
Say what you will about the guy's personal life, Tom Cruise has had an amazing career, appearing in a wide variety of films and always throwing himself into his performances one hundred percent. As this month sees the release of Cruise's hopeful new action franchise with ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘ it seems like a good time to inventory the actor's action bona fides thus far and see how his many years of punching and shooting people add up.


'Mission Impossible'

 
 

Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible series, his flagship action hero vehicle, has a lot in common with James Bond, except where James Bond will change actors and styles to fit the times, Tom Cruise just keeps changing himself, making his Ethan Hunt the biggest Mitt Romney of all cinema.

For some reason, we keep coming back for more. It probably has to do with each film's ability to kick ass regardless of normally important stuff like consistency or continuity. Except for part two. There's not much to salvage with that, save maybe for Tom Cruise's luscious locks of hair blowing in the wind.

 
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

'Jack Reacher'

 
 

One franchise is never enough for a guy like Tom Cruise, and with this adaptation of the Lee Child novel, "Kill Shot," Cruise adds Jack Reacher as an action character he can return to whenever he feels.

Cruise's Jack Reacher, like his literary, was highly intelligent and meticulously violent and could be a new franchise.

 
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

'Collateral'

 
 

Collateral may be more of a crime drama than an action film, but when Cruise's Vincent starts shooting people, it gets hard to tell the difference. That's typical of director Michael Mann, who kind of specializes in crime dramas which also have exemplary action sequences.

Cruise is so cold and vicious in this film. It's a real shame he doesn't play more villains because he's totally believable as a guy who wouldn't mind blowing your head off.

 
DreamWorks
DreamWorks

'Knight and Day'

 
 

Knight and Day is about as silly as they get. Someone described it to me as a James Bond film from the point of view of the Bond girl, which sounds just about right. It's not easy to take Tom Cruise all that seriously in this one, but that's the point. Cruise delivers such a smooth operator that simple truths like gravity and physics fall over themselves to make exceptions for his shining charisma. Just let the film float by you on the strength of his big, toothy smile, and don't sweat the small stuff, like logic.

 
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

'The Last Samurai'

 
 

Yes, it's kind of ridiculous that a drunken white dude ends up being one of the greatest Samurai ever by force of determination and sheer Tom Cruiseness. If you want to enjoy The Last Samurai, you'll just have to grow beyond such easy cynicism. Maybe it's not all that believable, but when you witness a wounded and surrounded Tom Cruise take on a whole Samurai battalion you kind of stop caring about reality. The guy wears a kimono like he was born in one.

 
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

'The Outsiders'

 
 

While Tom Cruise isn't in much of The Outsiders, his contributions should not go by unnoticed. He definitely makes his presence known in the big rumble near the film's end as we see him overzealously punch people on multiple occasions. But the best part is when he does that backflip on the way to the big fight. Seriously, who else but Tom Cruise would casually do a backflip on their way to a big fight? Someone forgot to tell him The Outsiders wasn't a musical, to out eternal benefit.

 
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

'Top Gun'

 
 

If you're anything like me, all you remember about Top Gun is volleyball, Goose, Val Kilmer being a jerk, and Kelly McGillis being super hot. But there was more to it than that. There was also a lot of jet fighting. In fact, flying jets was actually supposed to be the point of the film rather than volleyball.

Anyway, Tom Cruise, plays Maverick, who flies is plane the same way he lives his life: Like a Maverick. That's how he got the name. When his partner dies, he becomes a little less Mavericky, but he never once stops being Tom Cruise. Besides, Val Kilmer becomes his new pal, so it's all good.

 
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

'Minority Report'

 
 

Tom Cruise made two science fiction films with Steven Spielberg that kind of blended genres. War of the Worlds was sci-fi horror, while Minority Report was sci-fi action, chase action to be precise.

Poor Tom Cruise just can't catch a break in Minority Report. He's Mr. Cool at the beginning, but as soon as that Precog fingers him for a yet to happen murder, he's on the run until the film's last superfluous twenty minutes. Cruise pulls some pretty great moves, too, jumping off cars, dodging robot spiders, and flying jetpacks.

 
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

'Far and Away'

 
 

In retrospect, Far and Away may seem a little too cute to appear on a Tom Cruise action list, but that's not the case at all. Not only does a younger and more spry Tom Cruise spend the whole film bare knuckle boxing people for money, but when the big land-grab race comes at the end, he literally punches his unruly horse in the face to gain its obedience. Ninety-nine percent of this film could be little girls playing with Barbies and it would still be eligible for action status for this moment alone.

 
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

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