‘It’s beautiful, man!’ The many on-screen deaths of Tom Cruise

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I’ll be honest with you. I love his movies. I do. I’m a Tom Cruise fan. I celebrate the guy’s entire catalogue.

Even the movies where his character dies.

There’s this assumption that A-list movie stars won’t allow themselves to die on screen, but it’s a load of bunkum. Death is a good career move – just look at Leonardo DiCaprio, he dies in everything, from (400-year-old spoiler alert) Romeo + Juliet to (100-year-old spoiler alert) The Great Gatsby.

While Tom Cruise may not be able to match Leo’s death rate, his characters still have a slight tendency to kick the bucket. His new movie, however, Edge of Tomorrow, takes this to extremes – it’s Groundhog Day meets Source Code as The Cruiser’s character dies and dies again in order to learn from his mistakes and save the world.

But what about his previous on-screen demises? Here they are… and some of them might surprise you.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. WELL… D’UH.

1. Taps (1981)

Type in ‘Taps’ to Google these days and you get a lot of suggestions for bathroom furnishing, but back in the early ’80s it was the movie that give Cruise his big break and his first on-screen clogs-popping. He wasn’t the lead in this tale of military cadets striking back against the establishment, but his character’s death – shot down in a blaze of glory by tank fire – is still the film’s most memorable and quotable scene. Beautiful, man.

2. Far and Away (1992)

You have to wait more than a decade for Cruise to konk out a second time, in Ron Howard’s dreadful paen to Oirish immigration to the US of A. Far and Away is dreadful, and Cruise has a dreadful death scene, made all the more bloody dreadful because he comes back to life seconds after Nicole Kidman tells him she loved him all along. ‘You can be sure I won’t be dying twice,’ says Tom, leaving out a few ‘to be sure, to be sure’s, I’m sure. You can be sure I won’t be watching this dirge twice.

3. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Neil Jordan’s adaptation of the bestselling novel by Anne ‘Tom Cruise is too short to play my vampire – oh no, hang on, he’s perfect’ Rice shows its age in parts these days, but it’s still a cracking watch, with a toothsome performance from Cruise, sinking his spiky gnashers into just the right amount of ham. Okay, so his Lestat isn’t technically vanquished in the movie, but he is bled dry after having his throat cut by Kirsten Dunst’s little vampire. And then he is set on fire. Mind you, Lestat is of course dead for the whole proceedings, being a bloody vampire and all.

4. Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Hang on! When does Tom Cruise die in the second Mission: Impossible movie? How come there’s two more movies with him in it after this? Good question, inner voice. Although it’s easy to forget that Ethan Hunt gets bumped off amongst all the misdirected Woo. Yes, yes, he’s not actually killed, but the guy wearing his face as a mask is, much to the chagrin of Dougray Scott, who should have been paying attention given there are exactly 19 face-changing scenes in this awful, awful, awful but intermittently awfully fun movie.

5. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Cameron Crowe’s pretty good and pretty mindbending remake of the superior Spanish flick, Abre los ojos, cast Cruise as multi-millionaire man-child David Aames, who is so busy spending all his dosh that he doesn’t notice that he is actually dead, having given himself a drugs overdose after a car crash and a bad time in a nightclub. That’s what happens when life is but a dream. The line, ‘Somebody died… it was me’, remains a great one.

SIDE NOTE: According to MovieBodyCounts.com, there are no fewer than 558 deaths in The Last Samurai (2003). Cruise’s character is not one of them. Un. Be. Liev. Able.

6. Collateral (2004)

Cruise stepped into the bad guy’s role for Michael Mann’s taxi-based LA thriller, and what happens to bad guys? That’s right: they croak it. The death of the bad guy in question, Vincent, is given extra poignancy by the fact that he foreshadowed his demise early in the action, talking about someone else who died on public transport while no one noticed. Like all cool bad guys, Vincent doesn’t die until about two minutes after he gets shot.

7. Mission: Impossible III (2006)

JJ Abrams is obviously a Far and Away fan. Yep, Cruise gets brought back to life by his female love interest again, this time after Philip Seymour Hoffman sets off a charge in his head. Nothing a good thump to the chest won’t fix.

8. Valkyrie (2008)

If you knew your Second World War history, you knew the ending to this one already. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is killed by a firing squad after his plot to kill Adolf Hitler doesn’t go according to plan.

9. Oblivion (2013)

Before he ‘dies like 200 times’ in Edge of Tomorrow, in the words of the film’s director, Doug Liman, Cruise got some sci-fi die-fi practice in during his last outing, Oblivion. It’s a visually stunning, beautifully scored piece of work, and while it pilfers from plenty of classics of the genre, it does so with a blatant abandon that is actually quite sweet. It’s definitely worth an extra watch or two, if only to figure out The Cruiser’s death pattern in it. For starters, it turns out he’s playing a clone, so his original is long dead. On top of that, the main Clone Cruise we follow during Oblivion blows himself up at the end of the film to save humanity. Or clone-anity. Or something. It sounds remarkably crap, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. It’s dead good. And Cruise is a dead good actor at dying on screen. He always has been. Apart from in Far and Away.

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2 Responses to “‘It’s beautiful, man!’ The many on-screen deaths of Tom Cruise”

  1. great, fun post. I also liked Oblivion: I think it’s an underrated film. “And how can a man die better/ than facing fearful odds/ For the ashes of his father/ and the temples of his gods.” Great stuff. And Collateral is just brilliant (maybe his best performance). Thank you for reminding everyone that Far and Away is a dreadul piece of shite. For some reason I thought Cruise died in The Last Samurai. Did he?

  2. cheers Niall. yeah Oblivion was decent. a lot better than Edge of Tomorrow, which is fun, but doesn’t really have anything to say.
    yeah, he somehow survived the Last Samurai, the sneaky git

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