I am on record as stating Tom Cruise is the finest Amercian actor of the last 30 years.
I am also frequently mocked for holding this position.
Recently, in a fascinating Twitter group discussion, (well chronicled here by Lance Haun), a Mr. Tom Hanks was proposed as at least a rival to Mr. Cruise in this regard. I stipulated that Hanks deserved consideration.
So for today's Off Topic post, I am breaking down the filmography (selected) of both of these venerable actors, to determine once and for all who deserves the title of 'Greatest American actor of the last 30 years', (admittedly a meaningless title that I made up). And since this is my meaningless title to bestow, I have created an equally meaningless basketball-themed model to frame the assessment.
So here we go:
Hall of Fame Caliber - the three greatest films for each actor
Cruise - Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire
Hanks - Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away
Advantage - Push. Gump is a legendary film, but over time Cruise's work is holding up well. And all three Cruise films still resonate with quotes, catch phrases, etc. Only Gump registered in the American psyche in that way.
All Star - the next three best films
Cruise - Minority Report, Born on the Fourth of July, Risky Business
Hanks - Philadelphia, BIG, Sleepless in Seattle
Advantage - Cruise, but it is close. Risky Business clearly head and shoulders above anything Hanks did in the first few years of his career as well.
Solid Starter - films that are not necessarily great, but are eminently watchable AND re-watchable
Cruise - The Last Samurai, Mission Impossible, Collateral
Hanks - The Green Mile, A League of Their Own, Apollo 13
Advantage - Hanks, but close. I wanted to go with Cruise mainly on the strength of Collateral, but from top to bottom Hanks' depth and quality rates the edge.
Rotation player - films that will do in a pinch, like if your cable goes out but you find an old DVD lying around
Cruise - Rain Man, The Color of Money, Cocktail
Hanks - Splash, The Money Pit, You've Got Mail
Advantage - Cruise, easily. All three Hanks films are forgettable, while both Rain Man and The Color of Money are very solid, could even be higher on the chart type works.
Rookie - their early films, a sign of future potential
Cruise - Taps, The Outsiders, All The Right Moves
Hanks - Bachelor Party, The Man With One Red Shoe, Volunteers
Advantage - Cruise, and it isn't close. Bachelor Party is a classic, but it is the only memorable film of the bunch. All the Right Moves is very underrated.
Draft busts - the worst or most disappointing films in their catalogue
Cruise - Vanilla Sky, Eyes Wide Shut, Rock of Ages
Hanks - Joe Versus the Volcano, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Terminal
Advantage - Push. These are all horrible, horrible films.
The Overall Winner?
CRUISE, in a fairly close contest.
And sure, I was a little biased coming in. And yes, I did not include 'voice' parts where Toy Story might have factored in Hanks favor. But I think the depth of Cruise's work gives him the decision. Feel free to disagree in the comments.
So that is it. As far as I am concerned this case is closed. And probably should never have been opened.
Have a great weekend!