Tom Cruise’s Worst Movie That Has 9% Rating Bloomed His Hollywood Career More Than Any Mission Impossible Movie Has Done So Far

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Controversial while he may be, Tom Cruise is the quintessential movie star. You can love him or hate him, but his on-screen charisma and willingness to go all in for all his roles is what makes him, even now, a considerable box-office draw.

He embodies cinema, and his dedication to pulling out all the stops in whatever he does—whether riding off a cliff on a bike or carrying out an impossible fight sequence on the top of a moving practically-constructed train—evidences his legacy and brand in Hollywood. 

Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988)
Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988). Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

But this trait of his isn’t one he cultivated recently. Even before the plethora of Mission: Impossible films showed us Cruise’s knack for committing to the unimaginable, there was one movie, right after Top Gun and The Color of Money, called Cocktail (1988), where the actor’s diligence and tenacity spoke volumes of his character.

While the endeavor was critically panned and even earned itself the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture, the now-61-year-old Hollywood icon’s image within the industry solidified further—and when word-of-mouth failed to back the film’s box office success, it was Cruise’s star-power that proved revolutionary.

How The Critically Panned Cocktail (1988) Cemented Tom Cruise’s Hollywood Stature

Cocktail (1988)
Cocktail (1988). Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

Seven years into his Hollywood career, after hits like Risky Business and Top Gun, audiences saw Tom Cruise—a rising star, then—embody the role of an ambitious bartender Brian Flanagan in Cocktail. The film takes from Heywood Gould’s book of the same name. Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, and Interscope Communications backed the endeavor. While the effort didn’t lack either talent or commercial support, it failed to resonate with reviewers.

And though some movies of the past, mistakenly judged in their nascence, get reappraisal, Cocktail never quite did. It holds a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes‘ Tomatometer. The audience score, however, stands at a slightly favorable verdict of 58%. Later, even Cruise admitted that the Roger Donaldson-helmed initiative wasn’t his career’s crowning jewel (via Rolling Stone). 

If that wasn’t enough, the film even snagged Cruise a Worst Actor nomination at the Golden Raspberry Awards.

But get this: with all that critics had to say about the film, it still mounted to a commercial triumph. Against a budget of $20 million, the film amassed $78 million at the domestic box office (via The Numbers). Its total worldwide gross was estimated to be a whopping $171.5 million. If that isn’t impressive, what is?

Cocktail (1988)
Cocktail (1988). Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

Cocktail did not have positive word-of-mouth to fall back on, but it had Tom Cruise, whose sheer magnetic draw attracted flocks to the theatres. Whether the film would’ve achieved so without the Rain Man alum is hard to determine.  

However, this isn’t all that seemingly contributed to Cruise’s stature in Hollywood post-Cocktail. Sure, his succeeding endeavors would prove the building blocks for the image he enjoys now. Regardless, the actor’s commitment to the 1988 picture illustrated to Hollywood that the then-young star was worth banking on.

The film glaringly asserted that depending on Cruise meant he would leave no stone unturned in seeing to fruition whatever was assigned to him—even when the effort in question could’ve been passed off as a money grab or one of the many credits in one’s filmography that act as filler spaces before the next best thing comes along.

But that just isn’t how Tom Cruise does things.

Tom Cruise Gave His All Even To The Worst-Rated Movie Of His Career

Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988)
Cocktail (1988). Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

If his efforts to go all-in weren’t blatant in Top Gun—a film that first illustrated the power behind Cruise’s stardom—Cocktail, which didn’t rival the preceding film in any metric, was proof enough. Even for a pursuit that many actors could’ve brushed off as an endeavor that wouldn’t need honing of one particular skill, Cruise stood apart from the crowd and went to extreme lengths in giving tangibility to the character of Brian Flanagan.

In an old interview, the bona fide star revealed the homework that went into his portrayal of the character in Cocktail. Talking to CBC, Tom Cruise affirmed, “When I started out, I interviewed about 35 bartenders.” In learning their craft and seeking their assistance to nail the realism of the premise, the actor demonstrated having put his best foot forward for the endeavor, even when it meandered into his worst-rated film. 

Cocktail (1988)
Cocktail (1988). Credit: Buena Vista Pictures

This penchant for ‘doing’ rather than merely ‘showing’ proved that Tom Cruise will stop at nothing to ensure that a task is to the highest standards. Instead of relying on Cocktail as a buffer between other opportunities or an acting gig snagged purely from a profitable perspective, Cruise prioritized the practicality and the art that characterizes filmmaking.

And these traits are reflected in his legacy and branding even today!

In putting the same effort he would in the impossible stunt sequences that characterized much of his career later on, Cruise’s stint in the 1988 romantic comedy-drama may have sealed the deal on his authenticity. It proved the actor loves doing what he does—that he reveres the craft above all.

Therefore, Cocktail may have failed to impress the critics and audiences of the time, but it showcased Tom Cruise’s status of a box office draw against all odds, ultimately making him an actor Hollywood studios could invest in and rely upon.

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