15. 'Taps' (1981)
As a borderline-psychotic cadet who helps spur an armed revolt at an elite military academy, Cruise almost walks off with this tense, deceptively strange film. His Cadet Captain David Shawn is the demonic opposite of Sean Penn's more conflicted, peace-loving Cadet Captain Alex Dwyer; together, the two battle for supremacy over the conscience of the film's ostensible hero, the talented and intelligent young Cadet Major Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton). Full of adolescent aggression but thoroughly devoid of charm, David is a fascinating dry run for the gung-ho heroes of many of Cruise's later films. You could tell that there was more to this kid than a pretty face and money-minting smile.