Key Cruise Moments: Before Oprah’s Couch
Before Tom Cruise freaked everyone out by jumping all over Oprah’s couch, the charmingly big-nosed, steely blue-eyed leading man had some surprisingly funky dance moves that made him magnetic on the silver screen. Let’s take a look back to a simpler time, when tightie-whities and black Ray Bans were all it took to make us cough up ticket money.
Risky Business (1983)
The sexy, teen comedy craze of the mid-80s yielded Cruise’s first big hit with Risky Business, in which he played a do-gooder Chicago teen who hires a prostitute while his parents are out of town.
Key line: Sometimes you just gotta say, what the fuck?
All the Right Moves (1983)
Adult Cruise doesn’t often dabble in local dialects, but ’80s Cruise sure did in All the Right Moves, a high school football drama set in a small Pennsylvania steel town.
Key line: You’re full of shit, man. You just sit there in your office. A scholarship here, no scholarship there. He goes. He stays. Who in the hell gave you that power? You’re just a coach. You’re just a high school football coach. You know, Nickerson, you are not God! Huh? You’re just a typing teacher!
Top Gun (1986)
Oh, Maverick. I don’t care to admit how many times I’ve seen this movie, but suffice to say I recently purchased an olive-green jumpsuit that I may or may not accessorize with aviators and clip-on wings in the privacy of my own apartment.
Key line: This is what I call a target rich environment.
Rain Man (1988)
Cruise’s portrayal of Charlie Babbitt, the yuppie car salesman brother of Raymond, an autistic savant (and inheritor of his father’s fortune), is among the more sensitive of his career.
Key line: That man right there is my brother and if he doesn’t get to watch People’s Court in about 30 seconds, he’s gonna throw a fit right here on your porch. Now you can help me or you can stand there and watch it happen.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Oliver Stone’s bitter tale of American disillusionment cast Cruise as Ron Kovic, a paraplegic veteran who becomes an implacable spokesman against the Vietnam war.
Key lines: Mrs. Kovic: Don’t say penis in this house! Ron Kovic: Penis! Penis! Big fucking erect penis, Ma!
A Few Good Men (1992)
Cruise’s performance in A Few Good Men is often overshadowed by Jack Nicholson’s (“You can’t handle the truth,” etc.), but Cruise does a gangbuster’s job in the role of Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a military lawyer who defends a group of young marines accused of murdering a fellow soldier under orders.
Key line: Oh, I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. You were sick the day they taught law at law school.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Admittedly, this movie really grosses me out: all the ambiguously sexual blood-sucking, the pale white foundation and the weird ice blue contacts—meant to convey soulessness, or something—make me want to stream chipper episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That said, Tom Cruise in 19th-century Louisiana get-up (with a long blonde ponytail) is tough to beat.
Key line: Lord, what I wouldn’t give for a drop of good old fashioned Creole blood.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
It’s hard to pinpoint why, exactly, Jerry Maguire became the defining rom-com of the late ’90s, but Cameron Crowe was genius to set his love story against the hitherto unexplored world of celebrity sports. This was, after all, the decade that saw its top athletes go from earning $250k in 1990 to upwards of 3 million by 2000. Cruise’s portrayal of Jerry, a struggling sports agent, is as funny as it was insightful into this peculiar pocket of the sports/entertainment industry.
Key line: I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a new commercial, starring you, broadcast during the Superbowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not sleep until that happens. I’ll give you fifteen minutes to call me back.
By far one of Cruise’s strangest roles (and we’re including his portrayal of Jack, the hero ‘forest boy’ in Legend) was in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, for which he played misogynist, self-help writer Frank T.J. Mackey.
Key line: I will drop-kick those fuckin’ dogs if they come near me.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut was the first and certainly the most interesting in a series of “waking nightmare” film projects that Cruise starred in, including VANILLA SKY and, to some extent, Minority Report.
Key line: No dream is ever just a dream.