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The very best of Tom Cruise

Last updated on: July 8, 2010 11:00 IST

The very best of Tom Cruise

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Raja Sen in Mumbai
He's Mr Box Office, this Tom Cruise. One of the biggest names in entertainment across the globe, he's a hugely influential megastar with a phenomenally popular filmography.

With his Knight And Day releasing in India this Friday, we thought we'd take a look at Tom the Oscar-nominated actor, instead of the icon who made airplanes, air-guitars and Aviator sunglasses cooler than ever.

So click on for my take on the ten best Tom Cruise performances:

Image: A scene from Knight And Day

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10. Collateral

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Cruise has always been a very, very effective bad guy, and his Vincent was without doubt the coolest part of Michael Mann's overnight thriller. A silver-haired hitman not given to smiling much, Cruise was sinister even while quizzing doomed barmen on Miles Davis.

Image: A scene from Collateral

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9. Born On the Fourth Of July

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An anti-war film he signed to combat the jingosim of Top Gun, this Oliver Stone feature saw Cruise mostly in a wheelchair as wounded Vietnam vet Ron Kovic. The actor dealt with disillusionment and despair with stoic yet stirring anguish, and grounded the film around him.

Image: A scene from Born On the Fourth Of July

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8. Eyes Wide Shut

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In Stanley Kubrick's underrated exploration of urban sexual debauchery, Cruise starred opposite then-wife Nicole Kidman as Dr Bill and Alice Hartford, an affluent couple who fall into a sordid world of exclusive sexual experimentation. Cruise is striking in the role of a man wanting more from his life, and not brave enough to step forward at least not by himself.


Image: A scene from Eyes Wide Shut

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7. Interview With The Vampire

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So incensed was Anne Rice on Cruise's being cast for the part of antagonist Lestat de Lioncourt in Neil Jordan's adaptation of her novel that the author took out a full-page ad decrying the decision. The film carried on, however, and forced skeptics to eat humble pie as Cruise shone despicable and alluring and deviant making for a truly memorable screen vampire. A chastened and impressed Rice publicly apologised to the actor after watching the film, and changed her stance entirely.

Image: A scene from Interview With The Vampire

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6. The Color Of Money

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With the exception of one rather unbelievable jump shot, Cruise pocketed all his own balls in this terrific Martin Scorsese picture about pool-players. Reprising his role as Fast Eddie Felson from the 1961 film The Hustler, Paul Newman played mentor to Cruise's mercurial Vincent Lauria. And while the old man deservedly won an Oscar for the part, it is Cruise's volatile arrogance and cocky energy that really keeps the film crackling.

Image: A scene from The Color Of Money

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5. Jerry Maguire

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Cameron Crowe's film about a sports agent branching out on his own after being thoroughly jaded with his profit-obsessed profession would never have had the magic it did without Cruise. The actor channelled extreme likability and gargantuan screen presence into texturing a great character, one created so earnest he could well have been a joke. Instead, we gladly sang along with Tom's Maguire as he tunelessly belted out Free Fallin' in a moving car.

Image: A scene from Jerry Maguire

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4. Tropic Thunder

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Giving up his innate TomCruise-ism for Ben Stiller's genius farce, the megastar hid behind a fatsuit, hairy knuckles and a thick-nosed bald head to play phenomenally profane producer Les Grossman. Using his last name almost as a character brief, Cruise stunned audiences with a fantastically filthy mouth and inimitably weird hip-hop dances that stole the film from its great leading men. Impossible to ignore, this plaaay-a.

Image: A scene from Tropic Thunder

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3. Rain Man

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While all the attention in this Barry Levinson drama spiralled naturally around Dustin Hoffman's autistic savant character Ray, Cruise did strikingly well in the role of callous younger brother. A Lamborghini smuggler exploiting his brother to count cards in Vegas, Cruise's Charlie Babbitt traversed a complicated narrative art, going from inconsiderate to protective while making it look deceptively easy.

Image: A scene from Rain Man

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2. A Few Good Men

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Rob Reiner's court-martial drama throws Cruise into the thespian deep-end, pitting him against Jack Nicholson in an author-backed role. Tom's cocky apple-chewing lawyer Daniel Kaffee seems no match for Nicholson's severe Col Jessep throughout the film, until he gets into his stride just in time for the climax. Aaron Sorkin's dialogues give both actors enough to work with, but it is Cruise who ensures we root for the good guy as he makes things clear clear as crystal.


Image: A scene from A Few Good Men

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1. Magnolia

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Paul Thomas Anderson's masterful ensemble drama spread out over multiple lives and stories in one Los Angeles day saw Cruise at his absolute best. Tom played Frank Mackie, a seductionist based on Ross Jeffries, giving out 'motivational' lessons in manipulating women enough to eventually get them into bed.

The casting was a masterstroke, Cruise's normal squeaky-clean persona completely subverted by this wonderfully amoral smooth-talking character a charmer for all the wrong reasons. And yet the film has Mackie at his lowest, a man learning about the death of his father. It's a breathtaking performance from the actor, assured and confident, amusing as hell and yet, occasionally, heartbreaking.


Image: A scene from Magnolia

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