This may come as a surprise, but I've come to praise Tom Cruise, not to bury him.
Before all the couch-jumping and creepy laughter in leaked Scientology videos, before public spats with Matt Lauer and Brooke Shields, Cruise wasn't just THE
A-lister among all Hollywood A-listers, he was also an actor who could really act.
In recent years, his off-screen antics have overshadowed his on-screen talent. Knight and Day
, coming out this week, should turn that around: Cruise is at his charismatic best here, equally adept with the stunts in the action sequences as he is with the banter with co-star Cameron Diaz
So it's a good opportunity to look back at his strongest performances - the ones that made Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise:Magnolia (1999)
Pretty much universally recognised as his best work ever, it earned him the third of his three Oscar nominations, this time for supporting actor. As cocky self-help speaker Frank T. J. Mackey, Cruise electrified Paul Thomas Anderson's opus about intertwined lives - and falling frogs - over one day in Los Angeles. He was totally commanding in his arrogance on stage, yet also laid himself bare watching the death of his father (Jason Robards) and struggling with the conflicting emotions it stirred.Jerry Maguire (1996)
OK, so maybe the "You complete me" scene is more than a little cheesy in retrospect. Still, his performance as a sports agent trying to rebuild his career and his personal life allowed him to show the full range of highs and lows within him. And that line from Cameron Crowe's film remains famous largely because he's the one who says it - just like the movie's catchphrase, "Show me the money!" (Jerry Maguire also earned Cruise one of his two best-actor Oscar nominations.)Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Here's where Cruise showed his ability to dig deep, and do more than just charm us by flashing that sexy smile of his and working his high-energy, verbal magic. He'd had plenty of dramatic scenes in The Color of Money
and Rain Man
, but in Oliver Stone's searing film about Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who returned from the war partially paralysed and fully disillusioned, the transformation in Cruise occurred not just superficially but internally, as well. (This was his first Oscar nomination for best actor.)Minority Report (2002)
Sure, the visuals and the bold ideas are what you probably remember from Steven Spielberg's darkly thrilling sci-fi drama, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick. But Cruise is at the centre, holding it all together confidently as the straight man in a fantastic, futuristic world, even as his detective character, John Anderton, goes on the run for a crime he hasn't yet committed. Delivering a rare understated performance really works for him here.Risky Business (1983)
Of course, the movie that made him a star in the first place. In retrospect, it's a classic Tom Cruise role, the prototype: a young guy who has it all and thinks he has all the answers, only to experience a comeuppance and learn more than he bargained for. It's a performance that solidified his place in pop culture; nearly 30 years later, the scene in which he dances around in his undies to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" is still being parodied.* Do you prefer his performances in Top Gun, Mission Impossible, Interview with the Vampire? Let us know below.