18 Reasons Why Tom Cruise Is the Best Actor of the Last 30 Years

Tom Cruise is the best actor of his generation. This is a statement I make with zero irony, and a statement that normally causes people to ask me one of three questions:

  • Are you crazy?

  • Are you a Scientologist?
  • Are you gay?
  • To the best of my knowledge, I'm none of the above. I just think Tom Cruise has made more great movies than anyone else in Hollywood. Naysayers toss out names like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, and Daniel Day-Lewis -- all damn fine actors, but you can combine all their classic films and they still won't add up to the ridiculous body of work Tom Cruise has put together.

    Oh, and just to be clear, most of these are pre-couch Cruise. He lost his mind and his talent the minute he bounced up and down like a giddy, bat-shit-crazy schoolgirl on Oprah. Talking post-couch Cruise is like talking post-text Tiger. It's just not fair.

    So here are 18 pre-couch reasons why Tom Cruise is the best actor of the last 30 years. Please be open-minded as you read ahead. Don't be afraid to admit some things about yourself as this list opens your eyes to the big, bright light you've been drawn toward since you were in grade school. His glow is so bright, in fact, you've been blinded. Let me remove the glare:

    1. Taps: A remarkable introduction into Hollywood for the young actor playing a military schoolboy.

  • The Outsiders: Oh yeah, you forgot he was in that classic coming-of-age story, didn't you? Well, he was. And he wore a lot of sleeveless denim shirts. And if you try to tell me you haven't seen that movie at least five times, or that you didn't cry when Macchio died right after telling Pony Boy to stay gold, you're lying.
  • Risky Business: A young Cruise slides across his parents' hardwood floor in nothing but an oxford shirt, socks, and tighty whities. And a star is born.
  • All the Right Moves: Come on, it's just a good, solid movie -- that you've seen seven times on cable.
  • Top Gun: Mav 'n' Goose. Kenny Loggins. Shirtless volleyball scene. Biggest hit of the '80s. Enough said.
  • The Color of Money: His black T-shirt simply said "Vince." Because that was his name. Let it not be forgotten that Cruise overshadows another great, Paul Newman, throughout the film.
  • Cocktail: Seriously? Yes. Why? Because you've seen it nine times. And if it came on A&E Classics tonight, you'd watch it again.
  • Rain Man: Dustin Hoffman got the Oscar on this one, but it was Cruise's subtle, powerful acting that allowed Hoffman to give his last great performance. Since then, Hoffman has been a bust. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Born on the Fourth of July: Shattering the pretty-boy image, Cruise ages himself and gets out of shape, bald, and paralyzed for this tour-de-force role as a Vietnam vet. Cruise gets his first Oscar nomination, and the movie is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • A Few Good Men: Did you order the Code Red? You're God damned right I did! We wanted him, and needed him, on that wall.
  • Mission Impossible: OK, it's easy to forget how good this was 16 years ago. But it was the largest grossing film of 1996 and set the mold for all the fast-paced, over-the-top espionage dramas like the Bourne franchise.
  • Jerry Maguire: OK, this one I don't love, but it cannot be ignored on this list, as it got Cruise his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. And like a great athlete, Cruise made those around him better. Never before or after would Cuba Gooding Jr. do anything that wasn't appalling and offensively bad. But under the tutelage of Cruise, the man won an Academy Award. It's like this: Scottie Pippen won six rings. Do we think that had something to do with him playing alongside Jordan? And yes, I just called Tom Cruise the Michael Jordan of acting. Boom!
  • Eyes Wide Shut: Arguably Cruise's most nuanced and brilliant piece of acting. An underrated gem of a film, carried from start to finish by Cruise. And the "Fidelio" orgy scene.
  • Magnolia: As motivational speaker Frank T.J. Mackey, Cruise steals every scene he's in and proves he can do humor with the best of 'em. The film gets an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
  • Vanilla Sky: See it again. Trust me.
  • Minority Report: You've seen it. You love it. And you'll never forget that scene where he moves the hologram files around by waving his hands.
  • Collateral: Cruise and Jamie Foxx turn what could have been a nothing movie into the AFI Movie of the Year. Ninety percent of the action is just the two of them in a cab. And it's riveting. That's acting, my friends.
  • Tropic Thunder: A classic cameo role that will not soon be forgotten. Cruise flexes his comedy skills like never before.
  • His scientology video: Yes, the one that accidentally went viral online. This is pure, unadulterated, mind-blowing genius. If he's acting, it's the role of a lifetime. If he's not acting, it's amazing that someone this fucking crazy can become a megastar, let alone function in the everyday world.
  • I know, I know. You can see more clearly now. You're welcome.