Movie star Tom Cruise has been, somewhat quietly, passing through one of the high-water marks of his career as of late. In December, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" became his biggest box office success to date, which is saying something in a career that has included such blockbuster fare as "Top Gun," "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," not to mention three previous entries in the franchise; he managed to be just one of very few elements of "Rock of Ages," currently in theaters, to come away unscathed; and, oh yeah, he's turning 50 today.

Cruise has been in the news a lot this week as a result of his (naturally very public) divorce from Katie Holmes. But I'll save the melodrama regarding what the "real" story is behind all of that for those overly interested. It's unfortunate that this planned piece of commentary ended up coinciding with one of Cruise's personal low points, but so be it. As noted in The New York Times yesterday (beat me to the punch), he always bounces back.

Cruise had a rocky mid-aughts to push through: episodes with Matt Lauer, Oprah Winfrey and, er, Sumner Redstone to grapple with in the media, a promising start only to be followed by an abrupt collapse of the resurrected United Artists label and an overall sense of having left his best days behind him lingering in the industry. And yet, here he is, strong as ever, with even a handful of potential franchises on the horizon (Paramount's "Jack Reacher" and Universal's "Van Helsing" reboot).

I've been pretty pro-Cruise throughout it all. He's still one of the hardest-working guys in the business and yet he has somehow remained, over all this time, an underrated performer. (Interestingly, actors who have performed opposite Cruise have been nominated for six Oscars, seven if you want to count Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder," though he didn't actually share any scenes with Cruise in the film. Three have won.)

So with that in mind, and as a salute to the star on his 50th birthday, I wanted to dedicate an installment of The Lists to Cruise's best work on the big screen. Because while he's brought in his share of dollars and cents over the years, he's also offered up his share of quality portrayals. He has, after all, three Oscar nominations to show for himself. And he's probably left a few on the table in his time.

So Happy Birthday, sir. Many happy returns.

Check out my picks in the gallery below. And please give us your comments and/or offer up your own list in the comments section.

"Rock of Ages" is currently in theaters. "Jack Reacher" opens everywhere December 21.