This Memorial Day we finally get the long-awaited sequel to Top Gun. The original film—released in 1986—was one of the films that helped make Tom Cruise one of the biggest stars in film. But it was hardly his only notable release from the 1980s. As we prepare to ride into the Danger Zone yet again, this week I’m looking at five other Cruise films from the 1980s for those that want to get nostalgic this week.
About: This drama is set at a military academy, featuring an incredible roster of young talent making their first blush with audiences. Cruise stars alongside Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton and veteran George C. Scott. This is a fascinating and compelling film. It is one I’ve seen several times and continue to find compelling.
Risky Business (1983)
About: This is probably the film that first put Cruise on the map. He plays a high school student who gets involved with an older woman (Rebecca De Mornay), who helps him raise money to repair his parents’ vehicle while they’re away. This has some of the classic Cruise charm on screen and more than a few classic scenes. It’s a better movie that some give it credit for being.
The Color of Money (1986)
About: Cruise had quite a run in the 1980s. This film, a sequel to The Hustler starring Paul Newman and directed by Martin Scorsese, is one of the better entries on Cruise’s filmography. Many think of him as kind of a pretty boy movie star, but even in the 1980s he was taking roles in films of substance.
Rain Man (1988)
About: The run continues with this film from Barry Levinson, co-starring Dustin Hoffman. The film is considered something of a classic, with Cruise doing a lot of the heavy lifting as the straight man. I think it’s OK but I don’t love it as much as others.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
About: Cruise ended the decade in a starring role for Oliver Stone. Here he played Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran who was injured in the war and became an anti-war protestor. For his work in this biopic, Cruise received the first of his three career Academy Award nominations. This is a difficult and powerful film, miles away from the kind of character he plays in Top Gun, showing his range.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.