Circuit 10: Tom Cruise, Running for His Life

As his Twitter and Instagram bios proclaim, Tom Cruise has been running in movies since 1981.

In fact, he made his introduction to film by running along a high school field in “Endless Love.” (Which is a really creepy movie and he, thankfully, only graces about 45 seconds of screen time for it.) So yes, the man who runs in nearly every movie he makes actually did start out that way.

And it isn’t just in his action films. He manages to find perfectly valid reasons to run in dramas, romances, in a comedy or two. Cruise’s propensity for running onscreen is a trademark that we can only hope he’ll hold onto forever. This week, he will continue the tradition with “Mission: Impossible—Fallout.” As a testament to the sacrifices we writers sometimes have to make for this job, we have scoured the Tom Cruise filmography, looking for memorable running sequences from his 42 (or now 43) films. Here are his 10 best.

You can also watch our original content highlighting the ten above.

10. “Rain Man” (1988)

Though his running time in this Oscar winner is, sadly, limited, Cruise’s Charlie Babbitt lands on this list because of what he conveys in these scenes. In the beginning, he’s running after Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who constantly wanders off. Charlie is frantic, but selfishly so. If he loses Raymond, he loses his shot at his father’s money. By the end, though, he’s running *to* his brother. Charlie wants to help him for reasons that aren’t all self-serving. It’s an understated way to demonstrate growth of a character. Those moments aren’t flashy, but they are significant.

9. “Far and Away” (1992)

Whether going after the men that burned down his family home in Ireland because of unpaid debts, or trying to stake a claim on the Oklahoma plains, Cruise’s Joseph Donnelly has places to be. He may end up injured and crossing the Atlantic as an indentured servant, but nothing can stop him. Not even Nicole Kidman brandishing a pitchfork.

8. “Vanilla Sky” (2001)

Who hasn’t dreamed of jogging through an empty Times Square? Of course, that dream turns into a nightmare when Cruise’s David Aames just wants some answers. The world around him becomes increasingly bizarre. Characters appear and disappear and change names and swap faces. Up is down and logic is illogical. Add a deserted theater district to the mix and that would certainly be unnerving.

7. “Jerry Maguire” (1996)

Cuba Gooding, Jr. gets to be the NFL Running Back in this film about a grown man coming of age. But it is Tom Cruise who learns about life and love, and then runs through an airport and into our hearts. And into the heart of Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd. And what better reason to hurry than in the hopes that someone will be there when you say hello?

6. “Minority Report” (2002)

After years of talking about it, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg finally got together with this sci fi/crime/thriller that features the star as Chief John Anderton, head of the Pre-Crime division of the Washington DC Police Department. The year is 2054 and as John hunts down future murderers before they strike, he also has a past he’s trying to reconcile. Past and future collide, though, and John finds himself the target of a new pre-crime arrest and, therefore, a run for his life and freedom. Whether trotting through the dark and grimy back alleys in search of a Neroine fix, or fleeing from Colin Farrell‘s Danny Witmer, Cruise has a lot of reasons to run.

5. “Mission: Impossible 3” (2006)

The “Mission: Impossible” franchise is full of great action scenes, chases, stunts, and more. Narrowing down the best moments is a big task. IMF Agent Ethan Hunt never stops moving. From tracking down criminals to trying to save the world from catastrophe, Hunt is clearly one of Cruise’s favorite characters. For “M: I 3,” he teamed up with J.J. Abrams in a race against time and Philip Seymour Hoffman. He dashes through sewers under the Vatican, and snags a valuable object from the middle of a busy Shanghai street before tearing through a tiny Chinese fishing village to rescue the woman he loves.

4. “Collateral” (2004)

We’ve established that Tom runs a lot in his films. But one thing he doesn’t often do? Play the villain. And in this rare look at his darker side, he is Vincent, a contract killer who hires a cabbie (Jamie Foxx as Max Durocher). Instead of going after the bad guys and trying to save the day, he’s going after the good guy and trying to ruin it. Somehow, they find themselves in an unnaturally empty section of Downtown Los Angeles and a foot chase ensues. Though occasionally broken up with hiding and seeking, this may technically be one of the longest chase sequences in a Tom Cruise movie.

3. “War of the Worlds” (2005)

The second pairing of Cruise and Spielberg was a modern adaptation of the HG Wells novel in which aliens invade and start killing Earthlings. The entire movie (and the novel) is one long series of evading capture, with a few spare moments to breathe in between. One of the most intense—and simultaneously heartbreaking—scenes involves Cruise as Ray Ferrier, out in the streets as the attack begins. He rushes to get home to his kids, but the streets are clogged and impassable. His only option is on foot. And as he passes others, the aliens pick them off at will. By the time he gets home, he is covered in the ashes of the dead. His survival would be miraculous if he wasn’t such a good runner.

2. “The Firm” (1992)

This film very nearly took the top spot on this list. It contains one of the most memorable running sequences of Cruise’s career, split in two by a small reprieve when he momentarily thinks he is safe. First, his Mitchell Y. McDeere has to outrun Wilford Brimley, the head of security. Maybe that’s not so hard, especially when there happens to be a loaded cotton truck strategically located in an alley beneath a fourth story window. But then he also has to get away from The Nordic Man (Tobin Bell) and The Squat Man (Dean Norris) at the Mud River footbridge. It’s exciting and tense and oh so great.

1. “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol” (2011)

But then there is this little film called “Ghost Protocol.” The fourth “Mission: Impossible” flick was a bit of a surprise, and came with a big question mark when the director of “The Incredibles” decided to direct a live-action feature and got to take over the IMF team. This film has several truly fantastic tracking shots of Ethan Hunt breaking out of prison, getting away from the Kremlin right before it explodes, trying to board a moving train, breaking into the Burj Khalifa from the 110th-ish floor. But it all culminates in a scene that sends Hunt from the Burj, through the streets of Dubai in a sandstorm, in pursuit of Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist). The sheer difficulty involved in pulling this together puts “Ghost Protocol” at the top of the list.

Mission: Impossible—Fallout” is in theaters this Friday, July 27.

What are some of your favorite examples of Tom Cruise running in movies? Comment below and share!

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Written by Karen M. Peterson

Karen Peterson is a writer from Southern California. When she is not at the ballpark cheering on her LA Angels, she can usually be found in a movie theater or in front of the television. Karen is obsessed with awards shows, and loves everything from the smallest indie film to the biggest of big budget spectacles. She is also unapologetically in love with Tom Cruise.


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Joey Magidson

This is Peak Karen, in all the right ways.


This has to be Karen’s way of coping with the fact that she only gave Fallout 3 1/2 stars and the four her heart wanted.

Orlando Whitcomb-Worden

One of the best articles/videos ever published on awardscircuit. Where’s the promotion?


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