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The 10 Romantic Leads with Which Tom Cruise Has Had The Least Chemistry

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | April 22, 2013 | Comments ()


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The number one film at the box-office this weekend was Tom Cruise's Oblivion, which racked up $38 million and represents yet another comeback for the up-and-down career of Tom Cruise. It's Cruise's fifth best opening overall, and the best opening for a non-sequel that he's had since War of the Worlds in 2005. Like Dan, I enjoyed Oblivion despite the fact that it was rooted in familiar genre tropes.

My complaint with Oblivion, like with most Tom Cruise films, is his extraordinary lack of chemistry with his romantic leads. In fact, I've began to notice something of a pattern in the way that Cruise selects his projects: Even when there is a romantic couple, it always plays second to the main plotline. Moreover, Cruise has a tendency -- Cameron Diaz, aside -- to select romantic counterparts who appeal to a certain demo rather than based on their onscreen chemistry. Cruise is still a bigger star internationally, which would explain the list of European ladies who he cast opposite him: Rosamund Pike, Penelope Cruz, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Emmanuelle Beart, and Samantha Morton. His leading ladies seem more like Vice Presidential nominees, selected to win over a state, than people with whom he connects chemically.

That may be because Cruise has realized that he's incapable of onscreen chemistry with any woman. That's not a statement on his sexuality (although, you may infer that); it's more, as Grantland noted in their review, that "it's hard not to love a man who loves us as much as Cruise does. He just has no chemistry with anyone else." Cruise's romantic interests are subjugated, so as not to take the focus away from him. Tom Cruise stars in Tom Cruise movies, not Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts or Kate Hudson movies. Formidable A-listers have a diminishing effect the Cruiseness of his films.

That's not necessarily a terrible thing; the last thing we need is another generic romantic comedy, and Cruise is one of the few A-listers who still tries to movies that aren't based on already hugely popular properties (the Mission Impossible movies and The Color of Money are the only sequels that Cruise has made in his 30 year career). Nevertheless, Cruise makes for a dreadful romantic lead, including one of his best movies, Jerry Maguire, a romantic comedy where all of the chemistry was between Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Cruise and the kid, Jonathan Lipnicki.

In fact, here's a quick look back at Tom Cruise's worst romantic onscreen pairings. Also note the weird face-touching thing. What is up with that?


10. Michelle Monaghan, Mission Impossible III -- From Average Man's Reviews: "Action is the name of the game in this one. That is a good thing because there is absolutly no chemistry between Cruise and Monaghan. There is one especially excruciting rooftop scene that will leave you groaning and praying for something, anything, to blow up."

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9. Renee Zellwegger, Jerry Maguire -- From The Movie Freak: "There is little chemistry that makes an onscreen relationship between actors such as Zellweger and Cruise believable. Furthermore, their characters seem to hardly love each other. I'd estimate that the two of them broke up and got back together at least four times throughout the film."

tom-cruise-and-renee-zellweger-in-jerry-maguire.jpg

8. Rosamund Pike, Jack Reacher -- From the NYTimes: Pike is especially bland, making Helen a weak figure who has no chemistry with Reacher's mysterious loner. "

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7. Olga Kurylenko, Oblivion -- From USA Today: "While Cruise's character is given two romantic interests, the actor doesn't connect with either."

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6. Jeanne Tripplehorn, The Firm -- As FilmsOnDisc wrote, "The romantic chemistry between Cruise and Jeanne Tripplehorn who plays Abby doesn't have the spark to ignite a pile of movie twigs."

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5. Kelly McGillis, Top Gun -- From The Faculty Lounge: "The lack of chemistry between Cruise and Mcgillis makes it seem like the love scenes are mother to son incestuous."

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4. Penelope Cruz/Cameron Diaz, Vanilla Sky -- From Emmanuel Levy: "One of Vanilla Sky's biggest problems is Cruise's lack of chemistry with either of his glamorous co-stars: Diaz and Cruz."

Penelope-Cruz-and-Tom-Cruise-in-Paramounts-Vanilla-Sky-2001-8.jpg

3. Nicole Kidman, Far and Away -- From Martin Teller: "We care only because Tom and Nicole are a cute couple with winning smiles, but the lack of chemistry (surprising or unsurprising, depending on your viewpoint) leaves little reason to care. The film's sluggish middle act spends so much time pussy-footing around their "romance" (as Cruise sublimates his sexual desire with fisticuffs) that I'm not sure which is more implausible: their getting together, or their not getting together."

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2. Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day -- From The Measured Circle: "the movie is sunk by the complete lack of chemistry between the stars. I was fairly convinced quite often that they had shot their two parts separately using green screen, and were later put together digitally."

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1. Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut -- From the NYTimes (and EVERYONE): "The sexual chemistry between its married stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, is tepid at best."

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • The chemistry was supposed to be bad in Eyes Wide Shut - you just made Kubrick's day.

  • John M Wood

    Two easy explanations for his complete lack of chemistry with other actors: he's either a complete narcissist incapable of meaningful human interaction OR he's a very limited actor.

    Or, a third possible explanation is he'd rather be canoodling with a member of the same gender.

    I'm going to lean towards a combo of the narcissist/limited actor explanation.

  • Guest

    I agree with all but Knight and Day. Not only is it the most underrated mainstream action movie of the decade, but Cruise and Diaz are great together.

  • Strand

    Man.... what the hell happened to Michelle Monaghan? She was seemingly in every second movie a couple years ago, did Eagle Eye and Source Code torpedo her career? It seems like Jessica Chastain just came out of nowhere and took every 2012 role in town.

  • googergieger

    To be fair, outside of making his romantic lead a gigantic penis, there isn't much you can do about it.

  • loco taco

    Becky De Mornay should be on there. They had no chemistry. She is older than him also.

  • I keep saying it: Tom Cruise is probably completely a-sexual. He's not gay, he's not straight, he's just...nothing. He has zero sex drive. Like a robot.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I can't believe I've never noticed that before. You are EXACTLY right.

  • luthien26

    The only person I can think of that he had real chemistry with was Vanessa Redgrave in the first Mission: Impossible film. Their scenes were a lot of fun to watch and they really seemed to spark off each other. Shame she wasn't in that movie more!

  • sean

    Interesting. It seemed to me that is was barely disguised loathing on her part. That she hated him, and the movie. That she was just taking a paycheck.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Initiate gag reflex... oh yeah... that is an involuntary reaction... ugh, what a mess...

  • Derreck

    I don't know. I *really* thought Tom and Nicole had it in Far and Away. That's the closest i've seen him with chemistry with any of his co-stars.

  • e jerry powell

    I think a good bit of that was synthetic, but YMMV.

  • How does one define "chemistry"? I've always wondered this when I see these complaints.

  • $27019454

    Its like porn: I know it when I see it.

    Hint: Never in porn.

  • $2786243

    I thought he and Jeanne Tripplehorn were cute in The Firm. Not SMOKING HOT or anything, but cute. Otherwise, yeah-- he's basically Troy McClure, isn't he?

    In other news, this post makes me Sort Of Want a Cruise-Jolie movie.

  • sean

    That is deeply insulting to the memory of Phil Hartman.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Good lord, someone cast this man in a Planet of the Apes musical, stat!

  • em.me

    Upvoting for the Troy McClure comparison. It's perfect and I am ashamed of myself for not thinking of it.

  • Bring on the fish rumours

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    I haven't seen him in any aquariums lately, which leads me to believe he's been banned from them.

  • dizzylucy

    I think this is definitely related to the Cruise piece from last week, and his lack of ability to connect as a real person.

  • HyperJ

    The premise of this article is IMO a bit flawed.

    Has Cruise ever had a great chemistry with anyone on-screen? Finding the example of the opposite situation might be more illuminating.

  • Cuba Gooding, Jr. and the kid!

  • ed newman

    There is a broader point to be made here: I can't name any woman, on screen or off, with whom he seemed to share good chemistry. Mimi Rogers might be closest.

  • Mrs. Julien

    George Clooney is the anti-Tom Cruise. He ALWAYS has chemistry with his female costars. Brad Pitt not so much.

  • e jerry powell

    Clooney has chemistry with me, and we've never even met.

    George Clooney has chemistry with the dead.

    George Clooney is a freaking Junior Scientist chemistry set.

  • $27019454

    But when Brad has it, he HAS it. I think Harrison Ford is a go-to chemistry guy (with women) as well. Same with Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Javier Bardem, Steve McQueen, Sam Shepard, Albert Finney. I could go on, but I'll be in my bunk...

  • Mrs. Julien

    My entire reaction to this list is LOOK AT NICOLE KIDMAN WITH HER PRETTY, CURLY RED HAIR! So pretty, so, so pretty.

  • sean

    Kidman was so cute.Also, she can act her equally cute ass off. I would have liked to see her age naturally.

  • Bert_McGurt

    AND her face moves!

  • $27019454

    Contrast the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in Witness. Just re-watched that last night. Quiet, subtle and SMOKING hot.

  • $27019454

    Gross, you guys.

  • Skyler Durden

    Downvote me if you want, but I really enjoyed his repoire with Penelope Cruz in Vanilla Sky. I totally bought it.

  • e jerry powell

    Eh. Abre los ojos was, what, written for Penelope Cruz? She'd already done it once in Spanish. They could have cast her opposite a crash test dummy in Vanilla Sky and it would have worked.

  • $27019454

    Count me in. I loved that movie and I usually don't like Cruise all that much. I loved the original Spanish version and I loved this too. It's a very polarizing movie. I did buy him with Cruzz. The chemistry (in my opinion) was not "hot" per se, but...good, believable even.

  • princessdi81

    Me too.

  • Mrcreosote

    This is unfair. He was excellent with Tim Curry.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Everyone is excellent with Tim Curry and Mr. Curry gets all the credit.

  • Mrcreosote

    Mr. Curry is just a red herring.

  • pumpkin

    You forgot Katie Holmes.

  • DeltaJuliet

    Looking at these pictures, especially the kissing ones, just makes me wonder how he ever got any women to sleep with him. I'm thinking sex with Cruise is a HUGE disappointment. I mean, if you can't even find my mouth......

  • sean

    Ummm...I am pretty sure that he never did.

  • DeltaJuliet

    You're probably right. I hate buying into all the "bearding" conspiracies...but these pictures are pretty damning ;)

  • guhross

  • carrie

    i totally disagree :he has a great chemistry with Renée Zellwegger,Cameron Diaz ,Kelly McGillis,Rebecca DeMornay and Penelope Cruz

  • KV

    Nobody mentions Risky Business, where I think Cruise chemically reacted quite well with Rebecca DeMornay.

  • e jerry powell

    Not so much with McGillis. That's kind of funny, since she had such a good connection with Harrison Ford. Says to me that McGillis is a bit of an actress, which I can't really say so often about Cruise.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I feel like I need a compare and contrast for this post. Like couples with insane chemistry to bounce against these. I want to feel normal again.

  • DeistBrawler

    People might rag on the movie but the chemistry between Ryan Golsing and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook is amazing.

  • poopnado

    Molly Ringwald and anybody in a John Hughes movie. She makes me remember the intensity of being a teenager in love. She makes teen angst adorable and serious at the same time.

  • Michael Fassbender with everyone else.

  • Maguita NYC

    He doesn't count. The man has chemistry even when alone with his d*ck.

  • sean

    To be fair, it is the dick that does most of the work

  • Maguita NYC

    It does look like quite the power tool.

  • LMAO! Fair enough. Fair enough.

  • James McAvoy and Romola Garai in Rory O'Shea Was Here
    James McAvoy and Christina Ricci in Penelope
    James McAvoy with Michael Fassbender in X-Men
    James McAvoy and a brick wall, to be honest

  • Derreck

    Oh man, McAvoy and Fassbender. There was one moment in X-Men: First Class where i knew it would never happen, but i fully expected them to make out.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    Fuck, seriously. I also love that we are now living in a world where McAvoy and Fassbender were constantly asked about their amazing chemistry during interviews. If the next X-Men film replicates that, my lions may drown.

  • Pants-are-a-must

    James McAvoy and The Scottish Vortex of Charm.

  • DeltaJuliet

    James McAvoy and Kiera Knightly in Atonement **tingles**

  • PDamian

    For a "compare and contrast," look no further than Eyes Wide Shut. First, the lukewarm lovemaking of Cruise and Kidman in front of the mirror, then the scenes in which Cruise's character imagines his wife half-naked in the arms of a naval officer. Those scenes, with Kidman's dress half off, legs bared and hair tossed, were truly erotic, not to say scorching hot.

  • Maguita NYC

    I remember that scene as being hot as well, when the officer was slowly slipping off her undies... I almost felt naked in her stead.

  • Salieri2

    Agreed. Rene Russo & Pierce Brosnan in the Thomas Crown remake, Cobie Smulders and NPH back when How I Met Your Mother was good*, Brangelina in Mr & Mrs Smith [it pains me but you know it's true.

    *cite: http://www.gifbin.com/984255

  • BWeaves

    Just watch Roger on Mad Men whenever Mona shows up. I swear they could ignite my living room carpet just talking to each other.

  • Hollyg

    It makes me so happy when they have scenes together because even though Roger would never get back together with Jane, you can see by the way Roger looks at Mona that if she so much as snapped her fingers he'd run back to her like an adorable puppy. I hope they never get divorced in real life.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I'd argue that in Oblivion, lack of chemistry is actually a plot point.
    To say more would be seriously spoileriffic.

  • Isn't that why they gave him the little spaceship - a smooth, clean-looking, externally operated machine - in this latest film? To give him something to relate to?

  • Maguita NYC

    I thought it was penis envy...

  • emteem

    Well, to be fair not having chemistry was sort of the point in EYES WIDE SHUT and JERRY MAGUIRE, and the relationship in JACK REACHER wasn't a romantic one.

  • Feralhousecat

    These images are unpleasant.

  • toblerone

    Where's Goose? Iceman?

    *The 10 Romantic Leads with Which Tom Cruise Has Had Least Chemistry.

    Sorry in the two instances below "Least" would be "Most". Monday mornings...Barf.

  • Maguita NYC

    There is always chemistry with tea-cup boyfriend:

  • Salieri2

    Upvoting just because I miss Skinny Val.

  • lowercase_ryan

    or David Miscavige

  • toblerone

    11. Taka - The Last Samurai.

  • Repo

    See? I know I hassled you earlier this week, but this is doing it right.

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