Tom Cruise is one of those celebrities that needs no introduction. Everyone knows him and has enjoyed his movies, from infants to the elderly.
Cruise belongs to that select group of actors whose work and versatility over the years have taken them to the status of total stars, being recognized worldwide.
But before winning his Golden Globes, playing agent Ethan Hawke, and carrying a katana, Tom made many memorable movies in the era that saw him born as a star, the 80s.
So join us on this journey back to that decade of overspray hairstyles, baggy clothes, and a young Tom Cruise who charmed both producers and audiences with his smile, but who also showed he had the potential to become one of the great actors of modern cinema. These are
The Best Tom Cruise Movies Of The 80s
Endless Love (1981)
Of course, we have to start with his first film, in which he had a small role, but it was in which he got his first chance in Hollywood.
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Endless Love (from Amazon) tells the story of a privileged girl, played by Brooke Shields, who falls in love with a handsome student David (Martin Hewitt).
It is a relationship to which the girl’s father is severely opposed, causing David to take matters into his own hands.
The film was not well received by critics or audiences, although it is remembered today with some fondness by a small group of fans who appreciate its powerful message about first love and how obsessive it can be at that turbulent age.
In addition, the film featured an original song called Endless Love composed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie that reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
At only 17 years old, Tom had a small role as a supporting character, but it was enough to fill the screen with his charisma, even if only for a few minutes. And yes, his first movie and he already has a running scene.
The Outsiders (1983)
Tom Cruise had another small role in this film by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, who in this dramatic coming-of-age film tells the story of two gangs of teenagers in an Oklahoma city. The Socials, sons of wealthy parents, and the Greasers, lower-class kids with little chance of a better future.
Between the two gangs there has always been a rivalry with occasional conflicts, but things get worse when a member of the Greasers kills a member of the Socials in a fight, which of course brings serious consequences.
What shines most in The Outsiders (from Amazon) is its cast full of young stars who were not very well known at the time but later exploded as great talents in the industry.
Cruise is joined in this film by names like Ralph Macchio, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, and Rob Lowe, among others. They all contributed to creating a classic coming-of-age film that won a place in the hearts of many teenagers of the time.
All the Right Moves (1983)
Although another youth film, this was the first major starring role for Tom, whose performances in earlier films were beginning to pay off.
Directed by Michael Chapman, this sports story introduces us to Stef, a young high school football player who aspires to get a scholarship to study at a good college but mostly to get out of his boring town. This changes when he has a conflict with his coach, played by Craig T. Nelson, forcing the arrogant Stef to rethink his options and begin a journey of redemption.
This film was a moderate success for its studio, 20th Century Fox, grossing 17 million for a rather small budget of 5 million. And no wonder, since these types of films were the winning formula of the time.
Tom was beginning to make a name for himself as a youth idol.
All the Right Moves (from Amazon) is a film that every teenager has to see, for its powerful real-life depiction of how difficult it is to achieve your dreams in a difficult context, but never give up, your future depends on it.
We jump a few years ahead when Tom was already more established as one of Hollywood’s young promises.
Cocktail (from Amazon), directed by Roger Donaldson, introduces us to Brian, an ambitious young man who just got out of the Army and starts a job as a bartender in a New York club, in order to pay for his studies.
With the help of his boss, played by Bryan Brown, the young man becomes the attraction of the place, gaining enough confidence to travel to Jamaica with the intention of opening his own bar, where he meets the love of his life.
Let’s be honest, this film didn’t really have a remarkable story but it was a huge success at the box office, grossing $171 million against its $20 million budget, a phenomenon that can only be explained by having someone like Tom Cruise on the poster.
However, Cocktail is enjoyable if you just want to enjoy a simple story of ambition, bravery, and love, with a soundtrack full of period gems and a Tom Cruise who steals every scene with his gallantry and presence.
A guilty pleasure par excellence.
This is undoubtedly a classic that everyone has seen in their childhood, despite the sinister touch in its story.
Legend (from Amazon) is a fable of fantasy and adventure directed by Ridley Scott, starring Tom Cruise as Jack, the young hero of this story who must stop the evil Lord of Darkness, played chillingly by the iconic Tim Curry.
The Dark Lord wants to eradicate all light from the magical kingdom where he lives. And as in every fantasy, there is a princess, played by Mia Sara, with whom our protagonist falls madly in love.
Although it did not achieve the expected success, this film is considered a cult classic today very much appreciated by cinephiles and fantasy lovers.
The particularity of this story is that it is darker than it seems, with some terrifying scenes, especially those involving the villain, which pushed its PG rating to the limit. But there is also beauty in its composition, with spectacular cinematography, an enveloping magical atmosphere, and show-stealing camerawork, something that Ridley Scott is quite good at.
The Color of the Money (1986)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Paul Newman and, obviously, Tom Cruise. That should be enough to get anyone hooked. This sequel to the 1961 pool movie “The Hustler” shows us the life of “Fast Eddie” Felson 20 years after the events of that film, now retired from the pool.
Eddie’s life changes when he meets Vincent Laura (Tom Cruise), a young man full of vitality in whom he sees himself reflected. This brings Fast Eddie back to billiards, serving as a mentor for the inexperienced Vincent.
The Color of Money (from Amazon) was very well received by both critics and audiences, thanks to which Paul won an Oscar for Best Actor for his incredible role as the enigmatic Fast Eddie.
For his part, Tom also benefited, because with this film he stepped out of the teen drama genre, which although it gave him the initial boost in his career, he could not be trapped in those roles.
Accompanied by movie legends Scorsese and Newman, Cruise gave a performance that showed he was ready for more complex roles.
Rain Man (1988)
Tom once again shared credits with a great veteran of the silver screen, the brilliant Dustin Hoffman.
Directed by Barry Levinson, Rain Man (from Amazon) tells the story of Charlie (Tom Cruise), a vain car salesman who, after the death of his millionaire father, receives the news that his large inheritance would not go to him. Instead, it will go to Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), his older brother whom he did not know existed.
Raymond is autistic and was in a mental institution when Charlie decides to kidnap him and force him to hand over his share of the inheritance, but over time he develops a deep affection for him, creating an endearing bond of brotherhood.
Rain Man is well remembered today, thanks to the fact that it was the highest-grossing film of 1988, receiving 8 Oscar nominations of which it won 4, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role. Of course, most of the plaudits went to Hoffman for his incredible portrayal of an autistic man, but Tom also deserves recognition, for his role as a shallow man who thanks to his brother slowly improved as a person.
Risky Business (1983)
We go back a few years and return to teenage stories, but to one full of fun and with a Tom Cruise who amazed the young people of the time with his iconic dance scene in underwear to the rhythm of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”.
Directed by Paul Brickman, Tom plays the role of Joel, the young son of wealthy parents who leave him home alone while they are out of town. This freedom unleashes a series of more than questionable decisions by the “innocent” Joel, getting involved in a series of funny situations to recover his mother’s Steuben crystal egg, stolen by Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), a prostitute he invited to his house for fun but who ended up cheating on him.
A coming-of-age gem that remains one of Cruise’s most popular films, and no wonder, since it was the one that catapulted him to fame, opening the doors to many other roles that later consecrated him as a legend.
Whether you want to see a lesson on the loss of innocence or just enjoy a fun time watching irresponsible teenagers, Risky Business (from Amazon)s is the movie you’re looking for.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
As is usual in Hollywood, all great actors must prove their talent in a biopic. Tom Cruise was no exception to this tradition, playing Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran who was paralyzed after combat, in this film directed by Oliver Stone.
Ron himself was part of the production, as the plot was not only based on his autobiography but also co-written with Stone.
Born on the Fourth of July (from Amazon) shows us the most important events in Kovic’s life, from his childhood, enlistment in the army, the combat in Vietnam that left him paralyzed, and his return home, where he became an anti-war activist after an emotional journey that transformed his heart. With that new perspective, Ron stops at nothing to voice his opposition to the armed conflicts in which his country is involved.
In this film, Tom gave us his best performance of the ’80s, to close it with a flourish. Even to this day, he continues to receive recognition for this role, which earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Oliver Stone was also highly praised, winning the Oscar for Best Director for this film.
Lately, we are more accustomed to popular celebrity biopics, but Born on the Fourth of July is a much-needed one as well, leaving a poignant message about the senselessness of war, something that comes in good stead in these turbulent times.
Top Gun (1986)
You could see it coming and you know it, it’s obvious that this is Tom Cruise’s most emblematic and best movie of the 80s.
Directed by Tony Scott, this action-drama film is set at the “Top Gun” aviation school located in Miramar, where Lieutenant Pete Mitchell, better known as the talented aviator “Maverick” (Cruise), is assigned, along with his friend, officer Nick “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) sets out to be the best fighter pilot.
There, Maverick develops a clandestine romance with flight instructor Charlotte (Kelly McGillis) and a rivalry with the academy’s most talented pilot, Tom “Iceman” (Val Kilmer). All while trying to leave behind the bad reputation of his father, a Vietnam War pilot who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Filled with incredible flying scenes, a fantastic soundtrack in which the mythical original theme “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin stands out, and characters overflowing with charisma, Top Gun (from Amazon) became an icon of popular culture, being referenced on countless occasions.
If Risky Business launched Tom to fame, Top Gun confirmed him as a blockbuster movie star, despite having debuted only a few years earlier.
The film was not so well received by critics, due to its clichés and certain exaggerated moments, but it was a massive success at the box office, grossing $357 million.
36 years later, its sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” was released in May 2022, becoming a modern classic almost immediately.
These were the best Tom Cruise movies of the 1980s, a golden decade for the actor, in which he rose meteorically to stardom, where he remains to this day and hopefully will continue to amaze us with his charisma and action scenes for many more years to come.