America’s favorite movie star, the action ass-kicker of the last decade (or two, or three) and professional big-smiler Tom Cruise has the uncanny ability to charmingly dominate each and every film he stars in. That’s what being a leading man is all about, really, but Cruise manages to do it while surrounded by all kinds of seemingly distracting things — attractive co-stars, cool technological gadgets, extreme sports — and is still able to consistently emerge as the main event. But even when Cruise is the biggest of a film’s big stars and attractions, he still needs a little sidekick action to drive both his character and the narrative. Tom Cruise is a good leading man, but he’s a great leading man to work alongside.
But if Cruise is the kind of guy any sidekick would love to accompany, is it possible to pick out the best of his cinematic buddies? Of course it is! And, yes, it’s totally possible we’ve left out your very favorite cinematic sidekick, so feel free to share who we so obviously missed in the comments (nicely!). Until then, here’s our definitive ranking.
12. Other Jacks (Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise), Oblivion
Sidekick duties: Minimal, mainly because (spoiler alert?) all the other Jack Harpers in Joseph Kosinski‘s visually stunning and otherwise disappointing sci-fi film think they are the real Jack Harper. No one wants to be a sidekick, they think they’re the guy.
Actual helpfulness: Low, although watching clones fight each other looks awesome.
Success rate: Surprisingly high, considering that it’s another clone (not the main one we’ve been following for the entire film) who carries on the legacy of the Jack we’ve come to know best over the course of the film. Nice work, Tech 52.
11. Tighty whities, Risky Business
Sidekick duties: Support.
Actual helpfulness: Well, they keep Cruise’s Joel Goodson (minimally) clothed during the film’s most iconic scene. They do their job, that’s for sure.
Success rate: Ultimately, much higher than Joel’s home brothel business.
10. Cryonic sleep (eh, delusion), Vanilla Sky
Sidekick duties: Lucid dreaming to keep Cruise’s David Aames in a lovely state of eh, sure, this is real after a bad drug overdose snuffed him out of the “real world.”
Actual helpfulness: Really helpful! Until David figures out what’s actually going on, thanks to his own subconscious’ attempt to override the dream. Just keep dreaming, buddy.
Success rate: Low.
9. Dancing, Tropic Thunder
Sidekick duties: Sweet hip-swiveling skills, deep rap appreciation, bad facial hair.
Actual helpfulness: Minimal, but damn if it didn’t make for some memorable sequences.
Success rate: Medium, if only because it served to remind everyone how funny and weird Cruise can be when he wants to.
8. Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), Cocktail
Sidekick duties: Brown’s Doug Coughlin is a lot of things to Cruise’s Brian Flanagan — mentor, business partner, best friend. And then he screws him (well, he screws Brian’s cougar lady friend and then steal their business idea).
Actual helpfulness: Super-high in the beginning, really low in the middle, hard to quantify by the end.
Success rate: Medium, over ice.
7. Terrifying haircut, Collateral
Sidekick duties: To terrify, to obscure, to attempt to make Cruise’s nameless and nefarious hitman look not so Cruise-cute.
Actual helpfulness: High. The guns, however, might have the edge here.
Success rate: Medium, little pink in the middle.