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Tom Cruise at 50 — He Completes Us

From 'Taps' to 'Rock of Ages,' ignoring Tom Cruise is mission impossible, as these pictures prove

  • Tom Cruise in Taps, 50 years old
    Twentieth Century Fox/Photofest

    'Taps' (1981)

    Cruise wasn't the star of Taps — Timothy Hutton and George C. Scott were the headliners. But moviegoers couldn't keep their eyes off the newcomer as the hotheaded young military school cadet whose itchy trigger finger ignites the final shootout. It would be one of the few times Cruise died before the end credits.

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  • Tom Cruise in Risky Business, 50 years old
    Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Risky Business' (1983)

    Is there a more-imitated scene in all of movie history than this one from Cruise's breakout film, Risky Business? It's been mimicked in commercials, on TV shows … and by virtually every teenage boy who's ever had the house to himself for a few hours.

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  • Tom Cruise in The Color of Money, 50 years old
    Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'The Color of Money' (1986)

    Determined to prove that he was more than just a pretty face, Cruise got himself cast opposite screen legend Paul Newman in The Color of Money, the sequel to Newman's 1961 classic, The Hustler. Cruise still credits director Martin Scorsese with helping him become a first-rate screen actor.

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  • Tom Cruise in Top Gun, 50 years old
    Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Top Gun' (1986)

    The planes were supposed to be the stars of Top Gun; the U.S. Navy loaned Paramount several F-14 fighter jets, and director Tony Scott got to bring his cameras on board the USS Enterprise. But even weighed down with a cheesy plot, it was Cruise — cooler than ever in his Ray-Ban 3025 sunglasses and green jump suit — who packed in audiences. Well, him and his steamy love scene with costar Kelly McGillis, tussling to the tune of “Take My Breath Away” by the group Berlin (whatever happened to them?)

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  • Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers, 50 years old
    Courtesy Everett Collection

    Mimi Rogers

    His 1987 marriage to actress Mimi Rogers, seven years his senior, lasted just three years — but she introduced him to Scientology, and he's remained an outspoken proponent of the group ever since.

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  • Tom Cruise in Rain Man, 50 years old, Dustin Hoffman
    Everett Collection

    'Rain Man' (1988)

    As the fast-talking brother of Dustin Hoffman's autistic character in Rain Man, Cruise painted a multilayered portrait of a man's journey from scheming opportunist to compassionate champion. He was already one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, but with Rain Man, Cruise proved once and for all that a true artist was at work beneath the boyish facade.

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  • Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July, 50 years old
    Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Born on the Fourth of July' (1989)

    If there were any naysayers left regarding Cruise's acting chops, they were silenced (or should have been) by Born on the Fourth of July. His gritty portrayal of Ron Kovic, the disabled, disillusioned Vietnam War vet, earned Cruise his first Oscar nomination.

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  • Days of Thunder (1990)
    Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Days of Thunder' (1990)

    If the turbo-adrenaline-charged Days of Thunder was a return to standard popcorn fodder for Cruise, it did put him on track for a major change to his life: He met his next wife, costar Nicole Kidman. They'd costar again two years later in the epic Ron Howard film, Far and Away.

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  • Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson, 50 years old
    Columbia Pictures/Photofest

    'A Few Good Men' (1992)

    Can you handle the truth? Cruise went toe-to-toe with legendary screen hog Jack Nicholson in the military court drama A Few Good Men — and came away with a winning verdict.

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  • Tom Cruise in Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Brad Pitt, 50 years old
    Warner Brothers/Photofest

    'Interview With the Vampire' (1994)

    Years before the Twilight movies made vampires cool again, Cruise sank his teeth into his most over-the-top role, costarring with Brad Pitt as Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles.

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  • Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible, 50 years old
    Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Mission Impossible' (1996)

    His Mission: Impossible movie franchise eventually became an exercise in excess, featuring frantic editing and ever-wilder stunts. But in the 1996 original, Cruise and director Brian De Palma created unbearable tension in one long, wordless sequence that had hero Ethan Hunt hanging by a thread.

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  • Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, 50 years old
    TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Jerry Maguire' (1996)

    "Show me the money!" he screamed as Jerry Maguire, and Oscar responded by showing Cruise his second Oscar nomination. (He also told Renee Zellweger, "You complete me," providing a generation of would-be Romeos with one helluva can't-miss line).

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  • Tom Cruise in Magnolia, 50 years old
    Peter Sorel/New Line Cinema/Photofest

    'Magnolia' (1999)

    The ensemble drama Magnolia boasted stellar performances from  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore and John C. Reilly. But only Cruise, as a charismatic — but deeply troubled — motivational speaker, walked off with an Oscar nomination, his third.

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  • Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, Nicole Kidman, 50 years old
    Warner Brothers/Photofest

    'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)

    The sexy psychothriller Eyes Wide Shut was director Stanley Kubrick's last movie — and it also came at the end of the line for the fairy-tale Cruise-Kidman marriage. They have two adopted children.

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  • Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, 50 years old
    Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

    'Vanilla Sky' (2001)

    Weirdly mysterious and occasionally surreal, the psychological drama Vanilla Sky was another cinematic journey into a character's psyche. The Cameron Crowe-directed movie was a remake of a Spanish film. Both starred sultry Penelope Cruz, who became Cruise's next high-profile love.

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  • Tom Cruise Katie Holmes, 50 years old
    Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press/Corbis

    Katie Holmes

    He broke up with Cruz — and soon his heart was roaring for actress Katie Holmes. Some thought Cruise was off his rocker when he famously jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch in 2005, declaring his love for Holmes. Alas, it was not to last forever. Holmes recently filed for divorce, after six years of marriage. They have a daughter, Suri, 6.

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  • Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, 50 years old

    'Tropic Thunder' (2008)

    Thanks to a skull cap and a pillowy paunch, even Cruise's most ardent fans might not have recognized him as loudmouth producer Les Grossman in Ben Stiller's comedy Tropic Thunder. Actually, we thought he looked suspiciously like James Lipton, host of Inside the Actors Studio, on which Cruise guested in 2004.

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  • TOM CRUISE as Stacee Jaxx in ROCK OF AGES
    Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment

    'Rock of Ages' (2012)

    Nearly 30 years after tearing up the air guitar in Risky Business, this summer Cruise lived a rock-and-roll fantasy for real, starring as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages. Just the kind of guy you'd take home to meet your mother … if your mother's name were Marilyn Manson.

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En Español | As he turns 50 on July 3, Tom Cruise may be facing a third divorce, but remains squarely at the top of an unparalleled career. Time and again Cruise has challenged himself with ambitious new parts. His screen roles have often corresponded to personal landmarks in one of the world’s most publicly perused lives. Click through the images above to see him in his most memorable moments.