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Why Tom Cruise's Lowest Rated Rotten Tomatoes Movie Is Worth Watching

Tom Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and that's been the case for a very long time. The actor rose to prominence in the 1980s thanks to movies such as "Risky Business" and "Top Gun," both of which amassed plenty of favor among fans and critics alike. That said, some of Cruise's biggest hits from his breakout decade haven't enjoyed similar acclaim. "Cocktail," released in 1988, was a financial success (per Box Office Mojo), but the movie was savaged by critics, as evidenced by its 7% score on Rotten Tomatoes. As of this writing, it's Cruise's lowest-rated movie on the review aggregator. 

Based on Heywood Gould's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, "Cocktail" centers around Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise), a bartender who dreams of becoming a salesman on Wall Street. Unfortunately, the top sales firms only want to hire people with experience and college degrees, so he pursues his fortune by opening beach bars and flirting with the gigolo lifestyle. Along the way, he befriends a veteran bartender called Doug (Bryan Brown), falls in love with a woman named Jordan (Elisabeth Shue), and makes some costly mistakes. It's an experience, to say the least.

Is "Cocktail" the best movie in Cruise's oeuvre? Absolutely not. But that doesn't make it a bad film by any means. In fact, "Cocktail" is actually an enjoyable dramedy that strikes a perfect balance between '80s excess and darker storytelling, and more people ought to put some respect on its name. 

Cocktail is a cheesy delight

"Cocktail" is far too entertaining to be Tom Cruise's lowest-ranked movie. The film is loaded with memorable moments that typify '80s cinema at its most excessive and ridiculous, and that's a good thing if you can appreciate a little bit of cheese in your cinematic diet. Characters juggling beer bottles at the bar like they're performing at the circus? Check. Bartenders performing alcohol-themed poetry to a nightclub full of wealthy socialites? Check. Fistfights at art exhibits? Check. Throw in a hip '80s soundtrack and Cruise singing Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," and what you have is a recipe for success.

Of course, all of these moments pale in comparison to the scene in which Cruise and Elisabeth Shue's characters have a sizzling makeout session underneath a waterfall. It's the romantic peak of the entire movie, and Cruise deserves credit for his upbeat performance considering that filming the scene in Jamaica had a negative effect on the actor. "It's not quite as romantic as it looks," Cruise told Rolling Stone (per Mental Floss). "It was more like 'Jesus, let's get this shot and get out of here.' Actually, in certain shots, you'll see that my lips are purple and, literally, my whole body's shaking."

While critics weren't taken by the excess and cheese on display in "Cocktail," the film clearly had an impact on fans. For example, the waterfall in the aforementioned scene is a popular Jamaican tourist attraction these days (per Wander Wisdom), and many holidaymakers undoubtedly discovered it thanks to "Cocktail."

Cocktail explores the dark side of materialism

There's no denying that "Cocktail" is a cheesy flick at times. However, when you strip away the allure of the sunny beaches, romantic waterfalls, and flashy cocktail bars, you'll find a story about a flawed man who undergoes an interesting transformation. When we first meet Brian, he's a materialistic womanizer who only cares about making money, which causes him to demonstrate some self-destructive behavior. By the end, he's a changed man who values more substantial things, such as love and family.

"Cocktail" isn't particularly deep, but it doesn't gloss over some of the warts-and-all elements of the protagonist's topsy-turvy journey. The original screenplay was a complicated story about the dark side of power and money (via The AV Club), but when Disney boarded the project, those elements were toned down as the studio wanted the characters to be more likable and hopeful. Still, some of those themes and ideas are still apparent in the version of "Cocktail" that exists today. Doug's death, for example, is particularly upsetting, though it does drive home the film's core message about the dangers of excess and living a vacuous, empty life. 

For a movie that was marketed as a lighthearted rom-com, "Cocktail" still possesses a cynical streak. Furthermore, the film's tonal shifts flow together pretty seamlessly, which is remarkable considering that it can shift from a ridiculous moment to a harrowing one at any given moment.

Cocktail is a quintessential Tom Cruise movie

It'd be unfair to say that Tom Cruise makes the same movie over and over again. After all, he's probably the best action movie star in the West, renowned for performing his own risky stunts and going the extra mile for his fans. He most definitely pushes himself. At the same time, some viewers have pointed out that Cruise is drawn toward playing specific types of characters, and they aren't wrong per se. That's not a bad thing, mind you, as audiences can't get enough of him.

In the 1980s, Cruise was prone to playing ambitious underdogs who wanted to be the best at their respective vocations. "Top Gun," for example, saw him portray a cocky pilot who experiences a crisis of conscience and falls in love. His "Days of Thunder" character experiences a similar arc, albeit from behind a racecar steering wheel instead of the cockpit of a fighter jet. "Cocktail" has a similar framework, only set within the world of bars and clubs. Cruise carries all of these movies with his trademark charm, and his performance in "Cocktail" plays to his strengths. 

In short, if you're a fan of movies like "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder" (or any other Cruise flick that sees him play flawed aspirational characters who experience triumph, tragedy, and romance), then "Cocktail" will be right up your street.