5. 'Born on the Fourth of July' (1989)
The second of Stone's Vietnam movies adapts the autobiography of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), who went into the Vietnam War a devout Marine and came out paralyzed from the chest down. The roughest moments in Born aren't the scenes of combat, but the scene in the dank and hideous VA hospital, where rats move freely over patients who cannot. Until the uplifting (some said entirely too uplifting) ending, Born is an exceptionally dark movie and Cruise navigates its emotional contours, and shifts from pride to disillusionment to rage, really well (folks who only know him from, say, Oprah and Mission: Impossible would do well to check out this, Rain Man and Risky Business to see the roots of his star power).