Jerry Maguire [1996]

One of the best romantic comedies of the 1990s, this box-office hit cemented writer-director Cameron Crowe's reputation as "the voice of a generation." Crowe could probably do without that label, but he's definitely in sync with the times with this savvy story about a sports agent (Tom Cruise) whose fall from grace motivates his quest for professional recovery, and the slow-dawning realization that he needs the love and respect of the single mom (Renée Zellweger in her breakthrough role) who has supported him through the worst of times. This is one of Cruise's best, most underrated performances, and in an Oscar-winning role, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the football star who remains Jerry Maguire's only loyal client on a hard road to redemption and personal growth. If that sounds touchy-feely, it is only because Crowe has combined sharp entertainment with a depth of character that is rarely found in mainstream comedy. --Jeff Shannon

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