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Top songs: a guide to Tom Cruise singing cheesy tunes in movies

Might as well face it, Tom Cruise is addicted to belting out an off-key classic in his films. Here’s a quick guide to some of his most memorable – and more forgettable – moments on the mic

Ace fighter pilot, champion stock car racer, secret agent extraordinaire, barman at TGI Fridays: Tom Cruise has lived exciting lives which we mere mortals can only dream of through his blockbuster acting roles. And yet, from watching the vertically challenged sexy scientologist’s movies over the years, I can’t help but sense that his greatest ambition in life has never been fully realised.

I still haven’t seen Top Gun:Maverick – and I understand he judiciously leaves the theme song to Lady Gaga – but if it doesn’t feature a scene in which Cruise wonkily if gamely sings his little heart out to some sort of vintage rock’n’roll tune then he is selling us all and indeed himself short. The man clearly just wants to sing!

Not content merely packing the soundtracks of his movies with hit songs that can have taken anywhere between three and seven minutes to write – be it Take a Look Around, Limp Bizkit’s butthurt riff on a Lalo Schifrin TV theme classic from 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2, or Paul McCartney’s fantastically lazy Vanilla Sky from 2001’s film of the same name (sample lyric: “Tonight you fly so high up/In the vanilla sky”) – Cruise has on many a memorable occasion grabbed the mic himself, only rarely crashing and burning in the process. Shake your nerves and rattle your brain, with a short history of Tom Cruise singing in films. 

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Great Balls of Fire Top Gun (1986)

Whether it’s spectacular aerial dogfights or a very homoerotic beach volleyball match, Cruise’s breakout action classic is full of memorable scenes, including not just one but two where he sings. The best is of course when Mav and Goose and their respective better halves are drunk in a bar, and Goose is banging away at an upright piano with his young son perched on top, and the two BFFs are going ballistic howling Jerry Lee Lewis’s horndog anthem like a right pair of flaming testes. Unbearably wholesome content.

Addicted to Love Cocktail (1988)

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It’s hard to believe it happened not long after Top Gun, but Cruise’s arguably worst-ever film saw him play a flair bartender at a MOR American chain restaurant, serving up extravagantly made boozes with often sexy results. His credentials as the money-maker shakin’ lothario who can also do you a decent margarita are burnished by a scene in which the erotic mixologist starts ad-libbing to Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love behind the bar while a woman stares at him longingly, whether smitten or perhaps just wondering when the hell she’s getting her drink. 

Free Fallin’ Jerry Maguire (1996)

He’s a cocky American sports agent just been binned from his job, she’s a naive and let’s face it desperate secretary and single mum (played by the future multiple Oscar-winning Renée Zellweger). Their relationship makes no sense whatsoever and is actually quite tragic. But watch this much-overrated romcom anyway for the always enjoyable scene where Jerry’s driving off from doing what he thinks is a career-saving deal, searching the radio for a song to match his ecstatic mood, before finally settling on Tom Petty’s 1989 classic Free Fallin’. Cue Cruise frantically car singing along at the top of his voice with no-one’s-listening aplomb. 

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Little Deuce Coupe War of the Worlds (2005)

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, but still they come!” OK, so sadly Cruise didn’t have a go at singing Jeff Wayne’s 1978 funky prog-rock opera based on HG Wells’ Victorian era proto-sci-fi frightener. But in playing the unlikely part of the deadbeat dad in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 blockbuster movie adaptation, he does have a pretty sweet moment when, searching his mind in vain for a lullaby to sing his terrified daughter, from somewhere he comes up with The Beach Boys’ 1963 hot-rod rock ode, sung in a fragile reedy voice with tears in his eyes. 

Various songs Rock of Ages (2012) 

Perhaps we should be more careful what we wish for. Back in 2012, Cruise really did get to fulfil many of his obvious rock star fantasies by joining the ensemble cast of a film based on a popular glam-rock Broadway jukebox musical. The actor took lessons with Axl Rose’s vocal coach to get up to scratch for his role as brooding superstar Stacey Jaxx, and ended up singing surprisingly passable lead vocals on various songs including Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City, Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive and Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me. Luckily the film tanked at the box office, and music’s loss remains acting’s gain.

Top Gun: Maverick is in cinemas now, with official soundtrack by Interscope Records


Malcolm Jack is a freelance journalist

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