Birthday Special: July-born actors and their best movies to watch this month

From Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone, to JLO and Arnold Schwarzenegger, July is filled with birthdays of some charismatic superstars whose movies continue to make a mark.

Harper's Bazaar India

The rains are here and it’s time to cuddle up in the couch and treat yourself to some of the best works in cinema by some of the best actors. This list of July-born, Cancerians and Leos includes the likes of Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Jennifer Lopez, Sandra Bullock, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Be it as an ace pilot, an underdog boxer, or a robot from the future set out to complete a task, these actors have pushed the envelope to give us a host of iconic characters and movies we enjoy to this day. 

Tom Cruise (July 3)

Top Gun (1986) and Top Gun Maverick (2022)

Cruise, who plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young naval aviator for the United States, stole our hearts away the second he appeared on screen. This '80s movie makes flying planes look cool, especially with Cruise looking charming and competitive as ever in the cockpit. It wasn’t surprising to see the movie become a favourite among cinephiles since its release. And it's sequel Top Gun Maverick, released 36 years later, was received with equal enthusiasm and love. We saw Maverick in the much-awaited return with his showmanship and effortless style. And more importantly, it showed us Cruise is only getting better with time and age. 

Mission Impossible franchise

Doing the impossible has always been easy for Tom Cruise—he has kept us at the edge of our seats in the role of Ethan Hunt over eight engrossing films. From the first movie, Mission: Impossible in 1996 to the upcoming Mission: ImpossibleDead Reckoning, that’s scheduled to release in two chapters—Part one on July 14, 2023 and part two, the next year, this spy thriller franchise keeps getting bigger and better, thanks to Cruise. While the movies leave us in awe with breathtaking action sequences and jaw-dropping stunts, it’s the man behind those missions who shows how young and adventurous he is at heart by performing many of the stunts—whether it riding a bike and jumping off a cliff, or dropping from a plane, nothing seems to be impossible for Cruise. 

Sylvester Stallone (July 6)

Rocky series (1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1990, 2006)

Stallone will forever be known as Philadelphia boxing champion, Rocky Balboa. In the mid '70s, when he wasn’t getting the roles he desired, the actor decided to do things his way and create one of the most iconic characters in cinema (don’t believe us, the American Film Institute ranked Rocky Balboa seventh on its list of the 50 greatest heroes in American cinema history). Not only did the film go on to become the highest-grossing film of the year, but it also paved the way for five more films spanning a decade. The franchise went on to become a billion-dollar entity. While boxing may be the underlying theme of the movie, the film has emotions and drama in equal measure and this story of an underdog will fondly be remembered. 

Rambo Series (1982, 1985, 1988, 2008)

It’s great to have not one, but two iconic franchises in your acting career. The first Rambo film, titled First Blood introduced the world to John Rambo, an action hero that we’d watch in three more films later on. Here was a troubled Vietnam war veteran who loves fighting back against oppressors to make things right. While the first film sees him resort to guerrilla warfare in the hills and forests of America, in the movies that follow, he seeks justice on deadly missions across a host of locations around the world, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Burma, and Mexico.

Harrison Ford (July 13)

Star Wars (1977, 1980, 1983 and 2015) 

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) changed how movies were made and it certainly changed Ford’s life forever as he packed a punch playing Han Solo. While the film put him on the map, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) sees Ford give his best performance, as we witness Solo's depth and character arc despite things not ending well for him in the film. The love confession scene between him and Princess Leia is iconic and Ford's improvisation skills is to credit it for. The Return of the Jedi saw Ford get the loudest cheers as Solo gets out of the frozen carbonite and goes on to become a hero again. It then took 32 long years before we could see Ford again as Solo, in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). His scenes with Carrie Fisher’s Leia, where the two pick things up right where they left off and his death at the hands of Kylo Ren is tragic, and Ford adds so much emotion, giving us some of the best scenes in the film.

Indiana Jones 

Despite Ford being part of the Star Wars franchise, he wasn’t its face. He became a superstar, thanks to the Indiana Jones franchise. Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas, the very first film—Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) saw Ford as Indiana Jones, an archaeologist-adventurer who is hired by the US government to find the biblical Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. The film went on to win four Academy Awards with Ford’s performance establishing him as one of the biggest movie stars of the decade. While Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) couldn’t match up to the high expectations, having Sean Connery as Indiana’s father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was just what the franchise needed to get back on its feet. Ford returned as everybody’s favourite archaeologist in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and even managed to survive a nuclear bomb in a fridge (yes, he can do anything). And if you thought, Ford, at 80, can’t save the day, it’s time to watch him race against time to retrieve a legendary artifact that can change the course of history in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) that’s currently showing in cinemas.

Jennifer Lopez (July 24)

The Wedding Planner (2001)

Thanks to its plotline and great chemistry between the two leads, The Wedding Planner is one of the most entertaining rom-coms. It stars JLo as Mary Fiore, a wedding planner who falls in love with her client’s fiancé, played by Matthew McConaughey, and sees her life take a wild turn. While one might find it impossible to imagine and believe that the diva struggles to find a date, her scenes with McConaughey feel like a breeze. The release of the film catapulted her to new heights of fame and success as it debuted on the US box office the same week Lopez's album J.Lo was ranking number one, making her the first woman ever to hold the simultaneous honours.

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

The movie revolves around Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez), a single mother born and bred in the boroughs of New York City, who works as a maid in a fancy Manhattan hotel. By twist of fate and mistaken identity, she meets Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), heir to a political dynasty, who believes she is a guest at the hotel. Fate steps in and throws the pair together for a magical night of romance. When Marisa's true identity is revealed, the two find that they are worlds apart. Just like The Wedding Planner, this rom-com sticks to formula, but it mostly works, thanks to the charms and commitment of its cast, especially a winsome performance by Lopez. 

Sandra Bullock (July 26)

Miss Congeniality (2000)

This action comedy sees Bullock play Gracie Hart, an FBI agent who must go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant to find a terrorist who plans to disrupt the Miss United States ceremony. It is romance, comedy, and drama all packed into one as Bullock exhibits two contrasting personalities—a no-nonsense agent and a polished contestant. The actor paces herself perfectly depending on what the scene demands making this double delight in a film a box office hit.

The Blind Side (2009)

Bullock won her first Academy Award, her first Golden Globe Award, and her second Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance as the real-life Leigh Anne Tully, a Memphis socialite who takes in homeless high-school football player Michael (“Big Mike”) Oher (Quinton Aaron). We knew Bullock was a great actress, but she completely blindsided us with this powerful performance that not many of us saw coming and have not forgotten since.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (July 30)

The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

The actor is a commanding presence in every frame, courtesy his signature look, which holds a special place in pop culture. The actor showed that less is more, especially if the role demands it. Schwarzenegger’s T-800 intimidates right from the word go—a cyborg from the future who has got so many muscles that it makes most of us shudder. But we couldn’t stop rooting for this bad guy. This was followed by Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the greatest science fiction movies ever. Stunningly visuals, it has aged well, and with a score that is emotional and apt, the film bagged a host of awards, including four Oscars. 

True Lies (1994)

This action-comedy, written and directed by James Cameron, sees Schwarzenegger play a secret agent while pretending (to his wife) to be a computer salesman. On learning that his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) has become bored, Harry decides to spice things up by secretly enlisting her in a mock-spy mission. Things become real when Harry and Helen are both abducted by terrorists and the truth, along with the threat of a nuclear explosion, comes to light.