Is Tom Cruise the greatest movie star working today? Quite possibly, and he’s one of the busiest too. When he’s not scaling tall towers he’s hanging from planes, and when he’s not risking his life doing dangerous stunts, he’s making a special appearance in front of the Queen.
Does the man never put his feet up with a cup of tea and the latest Jack Reacher novel? Probably not as his main interest lies in missions that are impossible so we can’t expect him to live the quiet life that many of us strive for.
Tom’s latest movie, Top Gun: Maverick, has recently received rave reviews, which is not uncommon for the actor who has had more hits than misses. Far and Away and The Mummy were rare misfires but these didn’t impact a career that is one of the most successful in Hollywood.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to check out our picks below for the top 10 Tom Cruise movies.
Rain Man (1988)
Dustin Hoffman won an Academy Award for his role as Raymond, the autistic guy at the centre of this entertaining movie, but Tom Cruise still deserves credit for his role as Charlie, Raymond’s brother.
In a less showy role, Cruise manages to stand out as the smarmy yet caring man who is forced to endure a road trip with his estranged sibling. Their relationship is antagonistic and broken at first, but gradually the two bond and Cruise’s character becomes more protective over the man that is his ticket to a small fortune.
The two actors have great chemistry and it’s a joy to watch them interact with one another, even if Hoffman overacts occasionally. It’s a real tear-jerker of a movie and one of the earliest signs that Cruise was was more than just a movie star.
Born On the Fourth of July (1989)
Cruise didn’t win an Oscar for Rain Man, but he deservedly received an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Ron Kovic, the paralyzed anti-war veteran at the heart of this true story. Oliver Stone’s movie is incredibly moving and it’s another attempt by the director to convey the ‘war is hell’ message that he so successfully put across in Platoon, which came out three years earlier.
Many actors get by on their good looks and charm and rarely deviate from formulaic movie roles but time and again, Cruise has pushed himself outside of his comfort zone. Cruise’s performance as the embittered but resilient Kovic is astounding and is further evidence of his incredible range as an actor.
He didn’t get the Oscar for this but the real-life Ron Kovik gave the actor his bronze star after admiring his performance. For Cruise, that must surely be more meaningful than a shiny gold statuette.
A Few Good Men (1992)
Legal thrillers were all the rage in the 90s and Cruise starred in two of the best – The Firm and A Few Good Men. This one is arguably the best of them all (if you don’t agree, you clearly can’t handle the truth) and it gave Cruise another opportunity to show audiences what he could do when given a decent script (this one by Aaron Sorkin).
The diminutive actor stars as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a disaffected military lawyer who is tasked with defending two Marines that have been accused of murder. The final courtroom scene, when Cruise and Jack Nicholson (Colonel Nathan R. Jessup) go up against one another is electrifying and Cruise more than holds his own (as both his character and as an actor) against the forcefully aggressive Nicholson.
Edge of Tomorrow (2004)
Tom Cruise is never afraid to play characters that go against his good-guy image. Magnolia is certainly proof of this and so is Edge of Tomorrow (or Live Die Repeat if you’re in the US), a sci-fi action movie where Cruise’s character, Major William Cage, is more of a cowardly custard than a hero.
Based on the graphic novel “All You Need Is Kill,” this is yet another time loop story but it has more in common with Independence Day and Battle: Los Angeles than Groundhog Day.
Cage is forced to relive the same day over and over again after being ordered to fight on the front lines against a deadly invasion of aliens. As he gets to live each day anew, he gradually learns how to fight against the fearsome enemy that is threatening the world but not before dying in some gruesome and occasionally funny ways. A sequel is in the works apparently but let’s hope it’s as inventive and enjoyable as Doug Liman’s original.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
It’s rare to see Cruise in a romantic movie (Eyes Wide Shut doesn’t count) but here he is in a disarmingly sweet movie that made many of us consider our work roles and the meaning of our lives. In Cameron Crowe’s movie, Cruise is very funny as the sports agent who has a midlife crisis but credit must also go to Renee Zelwegger who stars as Dorothy, the secretary that Jerry eventually falls in love with.
It’s an endlessly quotable movie – You had me at hello/You complete me/Show me the money – but the memorable lines would be less than impactful without the talented playing its two stars. They are both on top form here as is Cuba Gooding Jr who takes on the role of Jerry’s one and only client. Of course, mention must also go to Jonathan Lipnicki who is adorably sweet as Dorothy’s son and who nearly steals the movie whenever he appears on screen.
A ‘potty mouth’ Cruise is not but he swore like a trooper in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble movie that gave him one of the most unlikely roles of his career to date. Gone is the charm of Jerry Maguire in this one as his character, Frank T.J. Mackey, a foul-mouthed motivational speaker, is the very epitome of toxic masculinity.
Of course, despite his rude and sexist behaviour, Frank is not a bad guy at heart. Traumatic events from his past have shaped the person he has become and after learning of his father’s imminent death, we see him mellow and become more human as he tries to forgive the person who caused him so much pain as a child.
The movie is jam-packed with standout performances from a range of terrific actors, including Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John C. Reilly. But as Mackey, it’s Cruise you are likely to remember the most, for both his stunning performance and the shock value of seeing him portray a character whose on-stage persona is sickening to behold.
Minority Report (2002)
The future is bleak if you’re a criminal. In 2054, you can be arrested for a crime before you even commit it! But hey, at least you’ll have the joy of seeing cops flying around with a jetpack strapped to their backs! Well, according to Steven Spielberg’s neo-noir movie you will, an adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s 1956 short story.
The movie is one of Cruise’s regular forays into sci-fi territory (see also Oblivion and War Of The Worlds), and it gave him the opportunity to play an action hero again, this time as Chief John Anderton who is accused of committing an act of murder when the ‘Precrime’ unit he works for mistakenly interpret a vision by one of their psychics.
As he tries to prove his innocence, we see him engage in all kinds of chase scenes – as befits the movie’s tagline ‘Everybody Runs’ – but as this is an action movie that is more thoughtful than most, this is more than just another thrill ride.
You can count the number of heroes Cruise has played on two hands (possibly even three if you have an extra one). But villains? Aside from the disgraceful studio exec in Tropic Thunder (allegedly inspired by Harvey Weinstein) and the disarmingly charming drug dealer in American Made, it’s hard to think of many others.
Well, with the exception of Vincent, that is, the silver-haired hitman that Cruise portrays in Michael Mann’s Los Angeles-set thriller. He’s utterly convincing as the contract killer who hijacks Max’s (Jamie Foxx) cab and he’s more than a little frightening too. But while he and Foxx deserve credit for their roles, a shout-out must also go to the intoxicating night-time photography and sublime soundtrack which elevate this stylish thriller to greater heights.
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
To be honest, with the possible exception of the second chapter in this exciting franchise, we could have added any of the Mission Impossible movies to this list. As Ethan Hunt, Cruise has saved the day time and time again, and he has done so while tackling dangerous sequences without the aid of a stunt double.
In this one, Hunt goes up against the Apostles, a terrorist faction with links to foes he has fought before. But while the story is decent enough, with all of the twists and turns that you will expect, it’s the action that many of us come for.
You get plenty of bang for your buck in Fallout as Cruise takes part in a terrific helicopter battle, has an intense bathroom brawl, and skydives from a great height. He also takes part in one of the greatest chase scenes ever put on film as he scrambles around Paris on foot and by car and motorbike.
More Mission: Impossible movies are on the way and it looks like the next two are going to be connected to one another. They are due out in 2023 and 2024 respectively.
Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun wasn’t Cruise’s first movie but it was the first major hit of his career. After a bit part in The Outsiders and more prominent roles in All the Right Moves and Risky Business, he took to the skies in Tony Scott’s thrilling movie and cemented his role as a movie star.
As Lieutenant Pete Mitchell (aka Maverick), Cruise was both an action hero and a romantic lead, and he managed to pull off both roles successfully. The movie itself isn’t his strongest but it had massive box office appeal and is still one that is talked about with fondness today.
Judging by the reviews, the recent sequel is much better, but even if this slightly cheesy 80s flick is a little dated now, there’s no denying the adrenaline rush that can still be gained when watching Maverick pull off dangerous midair manoeuvres while blasting through the sky.
And there we have it, our picks for our 10 favourite Tom Cruise movies!
What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch movies? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below!