His latest role is a soldier stuck in a time loop in Edge Of Tomorrow. We look into Tom Cruise's own travels through time to find out which era he truly belongs to
The great thing about being an actor is that you can be a time traveller.
You can go to the past, stay in the present, or visit the future.
Tom Cruise has made many such journeys over the course of his long career, far more than most actors.
In his latest project Edge Of Tomorrow, which opens here tomorrow, the 51-year-old Hollywood superstar plays a military PR man who winds up getting killed on the battlefield and must live out the same horrible day again and again.
Here, we enter the mists of time to find out where exactly Cruise has been, and where he truly belongs.
FILMS SET IN THE PAST: 9
BIGGEST HIT: The Last Samurai (2003); $573 million worldwide
TOP THREE COOLEST FILMS: Legend (1985); Interview With The Vampire (1994); Rock Of Ages (2012)
HIGHEST AWARD: Best Actor Oscar nomination for Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
SIGNATURE LOOK: Long hair; flashy costumes; a bit haggard
THE SKINNY: Cruise generally uses period pictures to explore weirder sides of himself and to distance himself from his very straight movie image.
No one expected him to be able to pull off the poncy and portentous vampire character Lestat in Interview With The Vampire, but he impressed even the original book's author Anne Rice.
No one thought he could play a samurai in The Last Samurai, but the Japanese loved it more than anyone.
No one expected him to make a convincing 80s rock star in Rock Of Ages, but he was the best thing about the movie musical by far.
If more people paid money to see his historical pictures, I suspect he'd do even more of them.
There's a playful side to Cruise, as we see in Ridley Scott's beautiful fantasy Legend, but his audience generally prefers him in conventional manly roles.
THE OUTSIDERS (1983)
LOSIN' IT (1983)
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)
FAR AND AWAY (1992)
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)
THE LAST SAMURAI (2003)
ROCK OF AGES (2012)
FILMS SET IN THE PRESENT: 25
BIGGEST HIT: Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (2011); $872 million worldwide
TOP THREE COOLEST FILMS: Risky Business (1983); Top Gun (1986); Magnolia (1999)
HIGHEST AWARD: Best Actor Oscar nomination for Jerry Maguire (1989)
SIGNATURE LOOK: Short hair; sporty; yuppie style
THE SKINNY: The present is Cruise's wheelhouse. With his toothy smile and beefcake body, he looks like a prototypical all-American guy.
Cruise has the air of a purebred suburban (he was born in Syracuse, New York, then raised in Ottawa, Canada, and Glen Ridge, New Jersey).
Cruise's iconic roles are very contemporary - or at least they were in the year that they were released.
Top Gun is the ultimate 80s film - an ode to Reagan-era ambition and confidence.
Jerry Maguire is the ultimate 90s film - an ode to Clinton-era feels and chillness.
War Of The Worlds is the ultimate noughties film - an ode to Bush-era fear and paranoia.
Cruise has a way of always capturing the zeitgeist, which is one of the reasons he's been so successful.
His most enduring success is the Mission: Impossible action franchise, which is almost painfully of the now.
The films seem to have no historical context. They exhibit no consideration of the future.
They exist precisely in their moment, and when they're over, they're gone.
RISKY BUSINESS (1983)
TOP GUN (1986)
THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986)
RAIN MAN (1988)
A FEW GOOD MEN (1992)
THE FIRM (1993)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996)
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)
EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000)
WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)
TROPIC THUNDER (2008)
KNIGHT AND DAY (2010)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE -- GHOST PROTOCOL (2011)
FILMS SET IN THE FUTURE: 3
BIGGEST HIT: Minority Report (2002); $449 million worldwide
TOP THREE COOLEST FILMS: Minority Report (2002); Oblivion (2013); Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
HIGHEST AWARD: Empire Award for Best Actor in Minority Report
SIGNATURE LOOK: Clean-cut; militaristic; snappy uniforms
THE SKINNY: It's relatively recently that Cruise has dared to venture into the future.
He scrupulously avoided sci-fi for the first two decades of his career, and it's only over the past 10 years that he's made the jump.
Perhaps he's more secure with himself in middle-age, and feels confident about appearing in the low-prestige (but high-profit) genre.
Even so, he had to be lured into the future by the great Steven Spielberg, his director on Minority Report.
Based on a book by Philip K Dick, it was a classy, top-drawer production filled with big ideas.
His last two sci-fi flicks have been made in quick succession - Oblivion last year and Edge Of Tomorrow this year.
Like Minority Report, both represent sci-fi at its best.
Based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill, Edge Of Tomorrow is a mind-bender that's half Groundhog Day and half Starship Troopers -- two terrific movies.
Cruise brings an earnestness, intensity and credibility to his projects. He grounds them and ensures a degree of class.
MINORITY REPORT (2002)
EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
SO WHERE DOES CRUISE REALLY BELONG?
It's clear that Cruise belongs wherever Cruise happens to be.
This seemingly-ageless star has a timeless quality that transcends genres.
Whether he's in the past, present or future, Cruise finds a way to fit in.
Anyone who looks that young at that age must be some kind of Time Lord.
Give away - Win Edge Of Tomorrow movie tickets
We are giving away 10 pairs of movie tickets to Edge Of Tomorrow, which stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, courtesy of Golden Village Pictures.
TO WIN, ANSWER THIS QUESTION:
Name the lead actress of Edge Of Tomorrow.
1. Emily Mortimer
2. Emily Browning
3. Emily Blunt
SMS your answer to 146077877 in the following format:
TNPMEDGE Answer NRIC Name
Each SMS costs $0.21 (with GST). Contest ends on Sunday, 11.59pm.