By Chuck Walton
Formula for mega Hollywood success? Just ask 30+ year veteran Tom Cruise, who rocketed to major superstardom in Top Gun, and now returns to theaters in the sci-fi action-adventure Oblivion. It’s simple, really. Suit up for high-flying missions with the best filmmakers in the business and blast off.
Endless Love (1981)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Franco Zeffirelli
Filmmaker's Highlights: Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew
Movie Mission Results: Oscar-nominated director Zeffirelli gave Thomas Cruise Mapother IV his big break at age 19, casting him as a teen pal who tells his buddy a fiery story that motivates him in his quest to woo Brooke Shields.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Harold Becker
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Onion Field, Sea of Love
Movie Mission Results: Next up, director Harold Becker, hot off crime thriller The Onion Field, cast Cruise as an intense military cadet opposite Oscar winner Timothy Hutton and an up-and-comer named Sean Penn.
The Outsiders (1983)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Francis Ford Coppola
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now
Movie Mission Results: Coppola had an eye for young talent that would define ‘80s superstardom. Those cast as ‘60s greasers included Cruise, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon and C. Thomas Howell.
Losin’ It (1983)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Curtis Hanson
Filmmaker's Highlights: L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys
Movie Mission Results: Easily dismissed as a Porky’s style rip-off, this ‘let’s head to Tijuana’ teen comedy still paired future L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile director Curtis Hanson with teen talents Cruise, Jackie Earle Haley and actor-future director John Stockwell.
All the Right Moves (1983)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Michael Chapman
Filmmaker's Highlights:Cinematographer - Taxi Driver, Raging Bull
Movie Mission Results: It’s a working-class drama about Tom Cruise’s high school athlete, who dares to dream big in his small coal mining town. It’s also an underrated gem from long-time Scorsese cinematographer Michael Chapman.
Risky Business (1983)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Paul Brickman
Filmmaker's Highlights: Men Don’t Leave
Movie Mission Results: Cruise’s first big breakthrough as a burgeoning lead star was the classic Risky Business that found his high school senior Joel teaming up with sexy escort Lana for some wild adventures in the Chicago burbs.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Ridley Scott
Filmmaker's Highlights: Alien, Blade Runner
Movie Mission Results: Legend was a bit of an artistic failure, but the fantasy pairing of Cruise, Ferris Bueller sweetheart Mia Sara and director Ridley Scott still has some awesome visuals, and likely led to the more successful match-up between Cruise and Ridley Scott’s brother, Tony.
Top Gun (1986)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Tony Scott
Filmmaker's Highlights: True Romance, Crimson Tide
Movie Mission Results: Five years into his career, Tom Cruise landed on the A-list of Hollywood movie stars as the high-flying pilot Maverick Pete Mitchell, surrounded by fellow fliers Anthony Edwards as buddy Goose and Val Kilmer as rival pilot Ice Man.
The Color of Money (1986)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Martin Scorsese
Filmmaker's Highlights: Goodfellas, The Departed
Movie Mission Results: Fresh off mega hit Top Gun, Cruise proved he had the acting chops to burn, too, playing the young upstart to Paul Newman’s older “Fast” Eddie Felson character from The Hustler. Scorsese oversees the proceedings with his usual standard of excellence.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Roger Donaldson
Filmmaker's Highlights: No Way Out, Thirteen Days
Movie Mission Results: This is basically Maverick as a bartender – a whirlwind of cocky energy who’ll learn his lesson and eventually end up on top. It’s pretty silly, but that didn’t stop it from being a late ‘80s commercial success.
Rain Man (1988)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Barry Levinson
Filmmaker's Highlights: Diner, Good Morning, Vietnam
Movie Mission Results: Winner of Best Picture, Best Director for Barry Levinson and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man - the tale of two very different brothers - was a massive success for all involved.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Oliver Stone
Filmmaker's Highlights: Platoon, JFK
Movie Mission Results: Oliver Stone won Best Director for telling the story of injured Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, and Tom Cruise was nominated for the first time for Best Actor for playing the man. It’s one of 1989’s best films and remains a highlight on Cruise’s resume.
Days of Thunder (1990)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Tony Scott
Filmmaker's Highlights: Enemy of the State, Beverly Hills Cop II
Movie Mission Results: It’s Top Gun on a race track. It’s even directed again by Tony Scott. The great news is, that all works in its favor. We’re more than happy to see Cruise behind the driver’s wheel, with Scott’s car stunt sequences rivaling the dogfights in Top Gun.
Far and Away (1992)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Ron Howard
Filmmaker's Highlights: Apollo 13, Parenthood
Movie Mission Results: So in love they decided to headline a movie together, Cruise and Nicole Kidman played Irish immigrants seeking American land in the 1890’s, with ace ensemble filmmaker Ron Howard at the wheel.
A Few Good Men (1992)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Rob Reiner
Filmmaker's Highlights: Stand By Me, The Princess Bride
Movie Mission Results: The bar of excellence was raised even further when Cruise teamed up with Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson and amazing supporting cast Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and Demi Moore. Add in an excellent script from Aaron Sorkin and – voila – instant critical and commercial acclaim followed.
The Firm (1993)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Sydney Pollack
Filmmaker's Highlights: 3 Days of the Condor, Out of Africa
Movie Mission Results: Kicking off a whole mini-genre of movies based on John Grisham books, Cruise and collaborator Sydney Pollack spun summer box office gold with this tale of sneaky machinations in the legal machine, and a battle of smarts between Cruise and crusty vet Gene Hackman.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Neil Jordan
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Crying Game, The Company of Wolves
Movie Mission Results: Rewind to 1993, and you’ll find lots of hems and haws over the casting of Tom Cruise as Anne Rice’s popular creation the vampire Lestat. Cut to one year later when the film’s released, and fears are allayed and box office is ka-chinged.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Brian DePalma
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Untouchables, Carrie
Movie Mission Results: The first Mission: Impossible is a potent combination of Tom Cruise action and strange Brian DePalma flourishes and visual tracking and backtracking. Mission: Successful? Absolutely.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Cameron Crowe
Filmmaker's Highlights: Say Anything, Almost Famous
Movie Mission Results: Here are the types of things you get when you combine Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise. “Show me the money.” And “you complete me.” Once again, Cruise was nominated for Best Actor and the film was nominated for Best Picture.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Stanley Kubrick
Filmmaker's Highlights: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining
Movie Mission Results: The last film from Stanley Kubrick is an uncomfortable and visually stunning film about infidelity starring – at that time – the industry’s most famous married couple. Cruise and Kidman wouldn’t last, but the film stands on its own.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director P.T. Anderson
Filmmaker's Highlights: Boogie Nights, The Master
Movie Mission Results: P.T. Anderson helped Cruise to yet another Oscar nomination as misogynist, profane self-help speaker Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia. It’s a daring role for the mainstream movie star, and one of his best.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director John Woo
Filmmaker's Highlights: Face/Off, Hard Boiled
Movie Mission Results: For part II, Cruise enlisted blood and bullets auteur John Woo to bring his visual artistry to the series, with mixed results. It’s likely the most disposable in the series, yet it still has its pleasures, among them the opening cliff sequence, and the beautiful Thandie Newton as Cruise’s love interest.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Cameron Crowe
Filmmaker's Highlights: Singles, We Bought a Zoo
Movie Mission Results: A re-make of the “Is it reality? Is it a dream?” thriller Abre las Ojos, and a re-pairing of Cruise and Cameron Crowe, Vanilla Sky wasn’t quite the commericial or critical success that Jerry Maguire was…but it’s worth another watch.
Minority Report (2002)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Steven Spielberg
Filmmaker's Highlights: Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Movie Mission Results: The biggest star on the planet circa 2002 and the biggest filmmaker teamed up to tell a sci-fi story based on the short story by Philip K. Dick about a “PreCrime” department that captures criminals based on the foreknowledge of “precogs.”
The Last Samurai (2003)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Edward Zwick
Filmmaker's Highlights: Glory, Legends of the Fall
Movie Mission Results: Zwick and Cruise collaborate on a project about an American officer who takes up arms alongside Samurai warriors in a rebel uprising set in 19th century Japan. The film’s a good mix of Cruise’s “serious”acting side and his physical action side.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Michael Mann
Filmmaker's Highlights: Heat, The Insider
Movie Mission Results: Cruise scores one of his most menacing roles as the hitman who terrorizes Jamie Foxx’s cab driver on a wild night of mayhem and contract kills. Michael Mann – a master of the crime thriller genre – provides a perfect background of seedy L.A. night-time danger.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Steven Spielberg
Filmmaker's Highlights: E.T., Schindler’s List
Movie Mission Results: Cruise and Spielberg combine forces again for a remake of War of the Worlds that focuses less on the giant spectacle and more on the interpersonal relationships of a real-world dad trying to connect with his two kids while the world falls apart.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director J.J. Abrams
Filmmaker's Highlights: Star Trek, Super 8
Movie Mission Results: J.J. Abrams – known at the time as an expert TV producer and storyteller – made a fine major film debut with the third M:I, which moves along at a good clip while still finding ways for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt to connect with a new wife and new team members.
Lions for Lambs (2007)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Robert Redford
Filmmaker's Highlights: Ordinary People, Quiz Show
Movie Mission Results: Audiences left Lions for Lambs out in the cold, as they did with most Middle East war thrillers…but kudos are still due to Redford’s attempt to use Cruise’s particular charms in the service of a role as a U.S. senator more concerned with advancing his agenda than doing the right thing.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Ben Stiller
Filmmaker's Highlights: Reality Bites, Zoolander
Movie Mission Results: Ben Stiller directs Cruise to get in touch with his inner funny with some outrageous and hilarious results. Cruise is comic gold as producer Les Grossman, an overweight and disgusting show biz titan given to highly profane rants.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Bryan Singer
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Usual Suspects, X-Men
Movie Mission Results: Even if you know the end result of this story based on a real attempt by German officers to assassinate Hitler during World War II, Cruise and director Bryan Singer manage to ratchet up the tension to the point where…well, we think we know the ending…but do we?
Knight and Day (2010)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director James Mangold
Filmmaker's Highlights: Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma
Movie Mission Results: Given the collaborators, the results of this action comedy about an agent teaming up with a civilian to take on higher powers of villainy are indeed a little silly. But given the star power on display, it’s still a passable enough diversion.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Brad Bird
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Incredibles, Ratatouille
Movie Mission Results: One thing’s for certain with Tom Cruise. Never count the top gun out when it comes to Hollywood hit-making. During the 2011 holiday season of moviegoing, the fourth installment of M:I, expertly directed for maximum fun by Brad Bird, became the must-see of the season.
Rock of Ages (2012)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Adam Shankman
Filmmaker's Highlights: Hairspray, Bringing Down the House
Movie Mission Results: This one wasn’t a hit with audiences, but we give Cruise huge props for trying something really different by playing an ‘80s hair metal god named Stacee Jaxx. He’s hilarious, and even better yet, who knew Tom Cruise could sing?
Jack Reacher (2012)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Christopher McQuarrie
Filmmaker's Highlights: Co-writer - The Wolverine, Jack the Giant Slayer
Movie Mission Results: Chris McQuarrie hadn’t directed too many films, but his pedigree as an A-list Hollywood screenwriter was unquestioned, and Cruise made a good call choosing McQuarrie as his man behind the adaptation of the popular book.
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Joseph Kosinski
Filmmaker's Highlights: Tron: Legacy
Movie Mission Results: Folks might scratch their head at Tom Cruise playing a drone repairman in this sci-fi action film from Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. But the trailer looks intriguing, and Kosinski, who wrote the screenplay, co-produced and also wrote the original graphic novel, is the perfect man for the gig.
All You Need Is Kill (2014)
Cruise's Co-Pilot: Director Doug Liman
Filmmaker's Highlights: The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Movie Mission Results: Cruise is also set to star in Doug Liman’s sci-fi action film All You Need Is Kill, playing a combat fighter who finds himself reliving the day he was killed over and over again. It's Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Awesome.