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The Tom Cruise roles that prove he's more than just a stuntman


Tom Cruise has made headlines today by injuring himself on the set of Mission: Impossible 6, due for release next summer.

But although Cruise's insane acts of derring do grab the media headlines (he did hang onto the outside of a plane, after all), he's actually a damn good actor too, and those chops are on display in this month's American Made.

Cruise reunites with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman for the blackly comic and outrageous true story of Barry Seal, a pilot and eventual drug runner who found himself caught between the forces of the CIA and notorious criminal Pablo Escobar.

Liman himself has stated: "People forget that behind the celebrity, he's a brilliant actor who's been in some of our favourite movies. He's extraordinarily talented and his range is incredible."

So on that note, here are Tom's finest non-action roles.

Risky Business (1983)

Cruise the comedian? You'd better believe it. This quintessentially eighties story about a teenager who becomes a pimp in his parents' absence features one of the greatest dance-in-your-pants sequences of all time. But it's also a dark drama about growing up, Cruise showcasing the acting range that would bloom later on.

Rain Man (1988)

It takes a brave actor to play a complete a-hole but Tom nails it in this blockbusting drama. He plays self-serving car salesman Charlie who discovers that he has an autistic elder brother, Raymond (an Oscar winning Dustin Hoffman), on his late father's side.

A road trip soon begins, initially to exploit the money that's been left in Raymond's trust fund, but it eventually blooms into a beautifully heartfelt story of brotherly love. The underrated Cruise arguably proves the more compelling of the two actors, brilliantly sketching Charlie's journey from selfishness to compassion.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Tom's best performance? It has to be this one. He's the fiery, emotional and heartrending centre of Oliver Stone's blistering drama, the true story of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic's journey from mortally wounded soldier to staunch anti-war protestor.

Fully embodying the righteous indignation and physical mannerisms of his real life counterpart, this is a role Tom Cruise truly disappears inside. A proper rejoinder to all those who say he can't act.

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

It's no secret that several of Cruise's finest performances have seen him dabble with the dark side. He really chews the scenery up in this lavish Anne Rice adaptation, a sprawling horror story in which his decadent, aristocratic vampire Lestat hovers menacingly on the fringes at every turn.

Rice famously denounced Cruise's casting when it was revealed, but upon seeing the movie reversed her opinion and praised his deliciously cackling antagonist. He's so good he makes up for sleepwalking co-star Brad Pitt.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Less a movie than a pop culture milestone, Cameron Crowe's bittersweet romantic drama unleashed a whole host of phrases upon us. "You complete me" was even uttered by Heath Ledger's demented Joker in The Dark Knight.

This gentle story of a cocky sports agent who loses it all, only to subsequently rebuild his life and discover true love, hinges on Cruise's charm. The famous smile is in full force but the actor also reveals the insecurity lurking behind Jerry's facade, enjoying lovely chemistry with co-star Renee Zellweger.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick's probing drama about infedilty and disintegrating marriage (his last movie) is even more uncomfortable viewing in lieu of Cruise's eventual divorce from co-star Nicole Kidman.

Nevertheless both actors commit themselves fully to Kubrick's chilly worldview, fully exposing the neuroses and anxieties in their characters. Cruise in particular is great as a man who ventures into the heart of himself, and is terrified by what he sees.

Magnolia (1999)

Uncharacteristically, Cruise is an ensemble player in Paul Thomas Anderson's kaleidoscopic masterpiece. But he's probably the best thing in it – no mean feat when the extraordinary cast includes the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly.

Cruise is unapologetically unpleasant and startling as slimy misogynist self-help guru Frank T.J. Mackey – it's a powerful reminder of his underrated gifts as an actor. The character's eventual slide into vulnerability and regret seal it as one of Cruise's finest roles.

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Cruise's second collaboration with Cameron Crowe sees him play a man whose psyche fractures after a devastating car crash, the actor largely concealing his face behind prosthetics.

It's a glossy remake of Spanish thriller Obre Los Ojos (open your eyes) and critics agreed it was an inferior imitation. Nevertheless Cruise's raw and bitter performance deserves a re-assessment.

Collateral (2004)

Michael Mann is a director famed for getting the best out of actors, whether it's De Niro and Pacino in Heat or Russell Crowe in The Insider. And when he turned his attention to The Cruiser for this superb neo-noir thriller, the results were spectacular.

Resplendent in grey hair and suit, Cruise is utterly convincing as sociopathic hitman Vincent, a consummate, ice-cold professional who won't let anything like the value of human life stand in the way of his next hit. The star is genuinely chilling and electrifying in the role – would that he were to work with Mann again.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Our final choice on this list comes full circle back to Cruise the funnyman. In truth, he's never been more ridiculous or hilarious than as foul-mouthed movie mogul Les Grossman in Ben Stiller's hit comedy.

As the intimidating studio exec tasked with overseeing a disastrous Vietnam war epic (including Robert Downey Jr. as a white actor who's surgically blacked up for the part), Cruise is a rib-tickling force of nature, spitting out rabid lines with the best of them. The balding pate and fat suit meanwhile were so effective that many didn't realise it was Cruise until the end credits. Now that's acting.

American Made is released on 25th August. Got a favourite Tom Cruise movie that isn't a blockbuster? Let us know @Cineworld.