Paramount Pictures / Getty Images
Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."
Tom Cruise couldn't have asked for a more dramatic 50th birthday week. On Friday, the world learned that Cruise and Katie Holmes were splitting up, leading to all kinds of buzz about the age of Cruise's three wives when their marriages broke up, Holmes' acting future, and even Rupert Murdoch's thoughts on Scientology.
It's hard to separate headlines relating to Cruise's personal life from his movies. But start recalling his roles,and you realize he's starred in some classics over the years. "Taps." "Risky Business." "A Few Good Men." "Top Gun." And like any good actor, he's capable of reinventing himself -- witness "Tropic Thunder."
So happy half-century mark, Mr. Soon-to-be-Single Cruise. In your honor, here are some of our staff's favorite scenes from your movies.
The 1983 movie that launched a young Tom Cruise to superstardom still holds up as a quintessential coming-of-age tale. Who hasn’t attempted to imitate the actor’s lip-syncing slide across that wood floor in just socks and underwear? But the scene that sticks in my mind is high-schooler Joel Goodson’s talk with a Princeton recruiter in the midst of an epic house party. With call girls and horny teens interrupting, and the prospect of an Ivy League education apparently slipping away, Cruise’s character delivers a line straight out of an Internet age that’s still years away. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years, sometimes you gotta say, ‘What the f---?’” With his signature Wayfarer sunglasses and ear-to-ear grin, Cruise created an iconic movie-star moment that left just one response for anyone who would question his future success: WTF? --Kurt Schlosser
'A Few Good Men'
Everyone remembers Jack Nicholson's "you can't handle the truth!" scene from this 1992 movie. Look beyond Nicholson's awesome performance and you'll notice Cruise standing right in there with him as young military lawyer Daniel Kaffee, going toe to toe with Nicholson's imposing Col. Nathan Jessep. Cruise's voice trips up and down the scale, gently purring one second, then rising to a bellow the next. In a true Perry Mason minute, he's about to get Jessep to confess on the stand, and right up until it happens you believe that his character doesn't exactly know what he's stumbled upon. But when Cruise rises to a crescendo, you can hear the punctuation in his voice. COLONEL JESSEP! DID YOU! ORDER! THE CODE RED? You're goddamn right he did. --Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
When “Taps” came out in 1981, Tom Cruise was far from famous. The actor had just one other professional film credit –- as a budding arsonist in “Endless Love” –- and in “Taps” he seemed well on his way to crystallizing a career as an actor who only played psychopaths. As the rest of his fellow cadets throw down their weapons and turn over their beloved school to the authorities, Cruise -- firm-jawed, sporting a red beret and a slight hint of madness in his eyes -- sprays the troops with gunfire; when his fellow school chums Sean Penn (in his first feature role) and Timothy Hutton race to stop him, he turns and shouts, “Isn’t it beautiful?!” The result? Hutton dies in Penn’s arms, giving Tom Cruise one more feather for his cap: He can take credit for having made Sean Penn cry in a movie. --Randee Dawn
“Top Gun” was Tom Cruise at his best: handsome, high-energy, charismatic. His portrayal of the cocky fighter pilot, Maverick, in the 1986 film firmly established Cruise as a Hollywood superstar. In a classic scene, he tries to impress the smart and sexy Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis. His brash, off-key serenade to The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” earns him a begrudging invitation to sit down next to her – and sparked karaoke imitations everywhere. --Joy Jernigan
Cruise is known for playing the smooth lead in blockbusters. So when he unexpectedly appeared as fat, hairy, balding, foul-mouthed studio head Les Grossman in Ben Stiller’s 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder,” jaws dropped -- and moviegoers couldn’t stop laughing. The confidence that Cruise always brings to his roles was there in “Tropic Thunder,” but with Les, he delivered a new level of comedy that fans hadn’t really seen before. To be more specific, he showed off some amazingly awesome and slick, booty-shaking (and oddly sexy) dance moves to the tune of Flo Rida’s “Low.” (You can watch his full, 15-minute dance here, but beware of explicit lyrics.) The small role was such a hit, Cruise brought Les back at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards to give his young “Risky Business” self some advice on set and shake his moneymaker with Jennifer Lopez. Rumor has it that Les is even getting his own full-length feature film. --Anna Chan
Have a favorite Tom Cruise movie scene? Tell us on Facebook.