It’s not an overstatement to say Tom Cruise is the last real movie star. The actor is back on the big screen with the larger-than-life action flick Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, the seventh entry in the long-running and acclaimed Mission: Impossible series. Cruise is among the last actors capable of mobilizing global audiences on name alone, with many still willing to pay for a movie ticket just to see him doing his thing.
In a career spanning over forty years, Cruise has starred in multiple hits and certified classics, from Oscar-winning darlings like Rain Man to iconic action vehicles like Top Gun. Those looking to start the month with more Cruise should undoubtedly check out these stellar films starring cinema’s most famous daredevil, which will surely make for a thrilling and unforgettable August.
Two years after Cruise’s star-making role in Top Gun, he returned to the big screen with Roger Donaldson’s romantic dramedy Cocktail. The plot follows cocky student Brian Flanagan, who works as a bartender to pay his way through college. After a falling out with his former mentor, Flanagan moves to Jamaica to earn enough money to open his own bar.
Cocktail is not a great movie – some might say it’s outright bad. However, Cruise is at his most likable, doing fancy bartending tricks against a paradisiac Jamaican background. Released at the peak of his ’80s popularity, Cocktail showcases all the qualities that turned Cruise into a star; he is confident and roguishly charming, single-handedly keeping the paper-thin plot afloat through sheer force of will.
Cocktail is streaming on Hulu.
Brian De Palma and Cruise brought the long-dormant Mission: Impossible series back to life with the now-iconic 1996 film of the same name. The plot centers on IMF agent Ethan Hunt, who must uncover a dangerous plot while attempting to find who framed him for the murder of his fellow agents.
Some might say Mission: Impossible is the best in the series, and they might have a point. A stylish and tense action thriller that benefits from De Palma’s trademark approach, Mission: Impossible is the rare action movie that doesn’t sacrifice narrative poignancy for cheap bombast. The film also has some of the most iconic sequences in Cruise’s career and action cinema as a whole in service of an anxious and non-stopping plot that remains unmatched today. More importantly, it marks the beginning of what would eventually become Cruise’s longest-running franchise and arguably his greatest contribution to American cinema.
Mission: Impossible is streaming on Paramount+.
Ben Stiller’s deranged war comedy Tropic Thunder follows a group of spoiled actors shooting a war picture. Unbeknownst to them, they have been dropped into an actual warzone in a misguided attempt to give the film a more realistic tone. Stiller stars opposite Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr., with Cruise playing a short but memorable role as Les Grossman, the profane and mercurial producer of the film.
Tropic Thunder is wild, politically incorrect, and absolutely unhinged. Buried under a mountain of make-up, Cruise delivers one of his most unexpected performances as the vulgar and grateful Grossman. It’s the kind of performance no one expected from Cruise, usually known for his hunky, leading-man roles. Yet Grossman is … well, gross. a morally and physically repugnant, a thinly-veiled take on Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein. Tropic Thunder still holds up to this day, largely thanks to its bold and uncompromising approach perfectly showcased by Cruise’s performance.
Tropic Thunder can be rented or purchased at digital vendors like Apple TV.
Cruise and Cameron Diaz teamed up for the second time for James Mangold’s 2010 action rom-com Knight and Day. The film follows June, a woman who inadvertently becomes involved with eccentric secret agent Roy Miller’s ultra-dangerous mission after a fateful encounter at an airport.
Knight and Day is fun and breezy, a summer romance with incredible action to boot. The film lives and dies with Diaz and Cruise, and the A-list couple more than delivers. The duo is electrifying together, two shining movie stars at the top of their game doing what they do best. What Cruise and Diaz do in Knight and Day might seem easy, but it’s not; it only seems that way because of how effortless and confident they are together, seamlessly blending romance, action, and screwball into a neat and underappreciated package.
Knight and Day is streaming for free on Freevee.
Doug Liman’s 2017 action comedy American Made stars Cruise as Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal. Inspired by Seal’s real life, the film chronicles his work as a CIA pilot and his eventual turn into a life of crime by becoming a drug smuggler for the Medellin cartel in the 1980s.
American Made features one of Cruise’s best performances since his ’90s heyday. Calm, collected, and devastatingly cool, Cruise is in his element as the resourceful Seal, delivering an endlessly watchable and compelling portrayal of a controversial but fascinating real-life figure. American Made cares more about entertaining than sticking to real-life facts, but with such a performance from Cruise, it’s hard to care about anything other than what’s on screen.
American Made can be rented or purchased at digital vendors like Apple TV.
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