If you chronicle his career starting with “Risky Business,” in 1983 (apologies to that small but devoted contingent of “Losin’ It” fans), Tom Cruise has starred in 35 feature films. He has been a movie star for 35 years, so you do the math: Cruise is a measured, meticulous, one-movie-a-year guy, and for a long time that worked for him.
He made rousing popcorn crowd-pleasers, or he teamed up with prestigious directors and made artful movies — or, often enough, he did both at once. In recent years, the Cruise method hasn’t worked out as well, although it still yields occasional gems. What’s remarkable to see, when you sink into his best work, is what an indelible actor he is. There are a number of words that he owns (like, you know…cocky), but as soon as you try to pigeonhole Cruise, he comes back and surprises you with his soulful subtlety.
I should say that there’s a reason Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July” didn’t make this list: I think it’s a bad movie, and that Cruise is woefully miscast in it. (You can see how hard he’s trying, but he pantomimes the pain.) In the 10 films below, though, he hits the true note.