Welcome to a new series here on Cinematical where we select an actor or actress and the role we think is their all time best.
There may be no other actor to have such an impressive resume of great performances in hit films, yet receive so little respect for his acting talent, than Tom Cruise. Starting with his breakout performances in Taps, The Outsiders and Risky Business, through his 1980s star turns in Top Gun, The Color of Money and Rain Man, then on to his 90's hits Days of Thunder, Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire, Cruise has held onto a solid fan base while still being seen as little more than a flashy set of teeth. He's one of the top box office draws in the world and, though he's made a couple of unfortunate choices (Cocktail, anyone?) he's never turned in a performance that's been totally eviscerated by critics ... yet people still don't think that the man can act.
Much of this can be attributed to his decision, early in his career, to follow the path of "movie star" rather than serious actor, playing essentially the same character in a number of films. In an early fling with serious thespianism -- and following a political and artistic epiphany inspired by his friendship with Paul Newman -- Cruise went all Method in 1989's Born on the Fourth of July, playing wheelchair-bound activist Ron Kovic. It was the first of several roles to be met with a surprised, "Hey, Tom Cruise is acting," a refrain that's still repeated every time he inches away from his standard action-hero persona. At the age of 47, with some 35 films under his belt, perhaps it's time to acknowledge that Cruise is actually very good at what he does.