Risky Business: Every Tom Cruise Film, Ranked

From top guns to impossible missions, we rate the movies of America's reigning movie star from worst to best

'Born on the Fourth of July' (1989)
Universal Pictures2/36

2. 'Born on the Fourth of July' (1989)

Tom Cruise was practically destined for Oliver Stone's epic film about Ron Kovic, a fresh-faced good soldier who became a paralyzed Vietnam protestor. It may be set in the Sixties and Seventies, but Kovic's story calls into question the alpha-male militarism and single-mindedness of the Eighties as well -- in effect interrogating the Tom Cruise persona itself. The star is perfect for the film's early scenes showing Kovic as a can-do, unquestioning high school jock, for whom a defeat on the wrestling mat is downright apocalyptic. Kovic's journey through the battlefields of Vietnam, the horrors of the VA hospital, and the turmoil of a politically explosive homefront becomes a classic hero's journey, a modern American myth. And every step of the way, Cruise is genuinely riveting — from All-American star to wandering, wounded soul to, finally, determined activist. The movie is a masterpiece for Stone, and it may be Cruise's greatest lead performance.

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