The Best Tom Cruise Movies You Haven’t Seen

by Natalie Kiser

No one can deny that Tom Cruise is a superstar. His level of celebrity is rarely achieved and really may have never been reached before. He’s been at the top of his game for so long that it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t the biggest name in the world. Believe it or not, he was once a struggling actor trying to figure out what his next project was going to be. Surprisingly there may be some movies you didn’t even realize he was in. Some were just early in his career or just didn’t make a lot of noise at the box office. Either way, let’s go over some of the best Tom Cruise Movies you haven’t seen.

Tom Cruise taps

Taps (1981)

In one of his earliest roles, Tom Cruise plays David Shawn. A hothead cadet at a military academy. The academy general announces that the board has decided to close the school, but that it will remain open for one more year. This allows the next group of seniors to graduate and the rest of the students to find new schools. After an altercation with some local teenagers, one of the cadets accidentally shoots one of them. This causes a chain of events that causes the cadets to take over the academy and demand the school to remain open. Things get more and more out of hand throughout the film and Cruise’s character causes them way more trouble than they bargained for.

The cast is star-studded with Timothy Hutton and Sean Pean playing some of the main cadets in the school and George C. Scott and Ronny Cox playing military officers. While it is early on in his career, you can easily see how Cruise will push his way to superstardom. Surrounded by such high-caliber talent I’m sure helped him pick up a few things. Worth your time and one of the best Tom Cruise movies.

Tom Cruise Chris Penn

All The Right Moves (1983)

Released the same year as Risky Business, this film marks the first time Tom Cruise’s name appears above the title on the poster. Cruise plays Stefen, a high school senior that is hoping that his football career will help him get away from the small mill town that he grew up in. Clashes with the football coach put that plan in jeopardy and his relationship with his girlfriend threaten to keep him trapped in a life he doesn’t want.

Cruise does a great job in the film and his constant clashes with the football coach played by Craig T. Nelson show a great side to Cruise as an actor. He knows his life is being flushed away, but he can’t just stand by and do nothing. Lea Thompson has talked about how she was required to do two nude scenes in the film but Cruise talked the producers into dropping one of them and said he would do their scene together completely naked to make it fair. Seems like a stand-up thing to do early in his career. Easily one of the best Tom Cruise movies you haven’t seen. Fix that.

Tom Cruise Paul Newman

The Color Of Money (1986)

A lot of Tom Cruise fans may not know that this is actually a sequel to a 1961 Paul Newman movie called The Hustler. Newman plays Fast Eddie. He meets Vincent (Cruise) who is one of the best pool players he has ever seen. Eddie takes him under his wing to show him to become a pool hustler. When Vincent becomes a master of the game, Eddie realizes he is tired of living the conman lifestyle. His only reason to play pool now is to beat Vincent one on one.

Having Cruise and Newman together on screen is great. The two play off each other magnificently. Scorsese being behind the camera does hurt either. One thing we always hear about is how dedicated Cruise gets to his roles. Word is he did all but one of the trick shots in the movie on his own. Scorsese said Cruise could easily have learned it over a couple of days but said it would have cost too much to shut down production, so they have a pro take his place for the shot.

Tom Cruise

Magnolia (1999)

Tom Cruise takes the role of Frank T.J. Mackey. He is truly repulsive as he teaches rooms full of men how to seduce women and to rule the encounter with subliminal body language and other tricks. For Cruise, this is a very different character than he is used to playing. The film is an ensemble piece as we see two older men that are dying and trying to reconnect with their estranged adult children. Cruise gives a moving performance when he’s confronted with his father’s death. He says he wouldn’t cry for him but in the end, breaks down sobbing.

Cruise was hesitant to take on such a bold character but Paul Thomas Anderson was able to get him on board. He was well on a rocket to the moon when he jumped onto the movie. Having just done Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire a few years before. He was on the set shooting Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut when he watched Boogie Nights. He called Anderson and said he wanted to be in his next movie. It took some persuading, but he agreed and knocked it out of the park.

Valkyrie (2009)

At this point Cruise just about had a new movie coming out every year. This pace made him maybe a little oversaturated to the general public. They seemed to turn away from this film but that is a shame. He plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg as he leads a plot from within the Nazi party to assassinate Adolf Hitler. It was based on a real incident during World War II.

Cruise plays a Nazi which is not something you think would ever happen. He was intrigued by the role when he saw a picture of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and was amazed at how similar they looked. While the film grossed over 200 million dollars worldwide it didn’t seem to catch on in the United States. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the film and give it its proper due.

What are some of your favorite under-seen Tom Cruise movies? Let us know in the comments.