What are the best Tom Cruise movies? We might have a lot of Hollywood Toms: from Hanks to Holland, to Hiddleston, and Hardy — but there is irrefutably only one Tom Cruise. He’s been a mainstay in the industry from the ’80s up until the present day — and although he turned 60 this year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down his dominance in the industry: with his record-breaking turn in Top Gun: Maverick leaving nobody in doubt that he has still got it.
Since childhood, Cruise has largely been his own stuntman: making his roles in various high-stakes thriller movies, action movies, and science fiction movies all the more impressive. After his 1986 role in Top Gun, which he returned to 35 years later, he even became a professional pilot, and trained to hold his breath for six minutes in preparation for Mission: Impossible. Cruise has also been outspoken about his experiences with dyslexia in the past, along with his affiliation with the Church of Scientology.
Although it is impossible to rank every single Tom Cruise film — given he’s appeared in at least 56 of them — we’ll give our best shot at ranking some of what we feel are the best Tom Cruise movies. And if you don’t agree, I guess you just can’t handle the truth!
What are the best Tom Cruise movies?
- Mission Impossible: Fallout
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Tropic Thunder
- Top Gun
- A Few Good Men
- Minority Report
- Jerry Maguire
- Top Gun: Maverick
- Mission: Impossible
Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
It might be the sixth Mission Impossible movie, but it’s by no means stale. The film is whiplash-inducing in the best possible way: providing dizzying spectacles with helicopter stunts while also not compromising on compelling character work, with plenty of high-stakes betrayals, passion, and scheming along the way — Cruise, of course, leads the way both in terms of stunts and acting.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
As Stanley Kubrick’s last movie before he died, there’s a lot of debate over whether the final cut we saw was the final cut Kubrick always intended. Nonetheless, the psychological sex cult thriller Eyes Wide Shut is electrifying, with Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s IRL chemistry as a then-married couple definitely coming through on-screen.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Maybe it’s because we aren’t used to Tom Cruise looking ugly, but it’s hard to look away from his grotesquely hilarious character in Tropic Thunder.
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The best part is that, according to the film’s writer and director Ben Stiller, Cruise made up Les Grossman entirely on his own. Talented, funny. hot — is there anything he can’t do?!
top gun (1986)
At this stage in his career, Cruise is still finding his feet, but the swagger of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell acted as a blueprint for that now-trademark Tom Cruise confidence, and it also incredibly impressive in terms of stunts. It’s cheeky, it’s cringe, and it’s a little bit confusing (Why are they playing volleyball in jeans?)— but we can all agree that Top Gun is just good fun and well-deserving of its status as a classic. And that soundtrack!
A Few Good Men (1992)
You can’t handle the truth! Tom Cruise has had plenty of one-liners throughout his career, but his quotes from A Few Good Men are the cream of the crop. While the smarmy lawyer archetype is a bit overdone, Cruise is able to believably channel Lt. Daniel Keefe’s transformation as he pursues justice and unravels a sprawling Naval conspiracy.
You wouldn’t expect a thriller set in the dazzling lights of Los Angeles to make your blood run cold, but that’s exactly what Collateral does.
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Paired with Jamie Foxx, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role, Cruise is genuinely terrifying as a sociopathic, sadistic hitman posing as a taxi driver. If you’ve ever taken a late-night Uber, it’s your worst nightmare.
Minority Report (2002)
Twenty years on, with facial recognition software being installed in busy London stations, and algorithms and misinformation seemingly at an all-time high, Minority Report couldn’t be more relevant today if it tried.
Again, Tom Cruise arguably plays a murderer, but unlike Collateral, there’s a hell of a grey area because Cruise’s character hasn’t committed a murder yet — but a sophisticated computer system predicts he might do. He grapples with a lot of philosophical and moral questions that continue to make this movie a compelling watch.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Every respectable actor needs a heartfelt biopic and feel-good romance under their belt in order to make it in Hollywood, and with Jerry Maguire, Cruise is able to hit those two birds with one stone. He plays an underdog we’re really able to root for as Jerry Maguire, balancing authenticity with genuinely hilarious moments and tender romance. It’s no surprise the film was a critical darling and breakout role for Renée Zellweger.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
I know what you’re thinking — why is Top Gun 2 higher than Top Gun? The answer is simple: Top Gun is a classic, but it’s also corny as hell and, at moments, literally bananas. We can appreciate the movie for what it is 35 years later, but it’s not Cruise’s best work. Top Gun: Maverick, however, is definitely among some of the actor’s best.
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Of course, it wouldn’t exist without Top Gun, and it’s that very same appreciation and nostalgia we have for it that makes the sequel such a compelling watch. It’s easy to revisit a popular movie, but something else entirely to be self-aware enough to make a meditation of nostalgia, bringing both growth and maturity to a character while being able to still capture the spirit that made audiences fall in love with them in the first place. Cruise does an impeccable job at this.
With all those big-budget action movies, it’s easy to forget that Tom Cruise is a hell of an actor — and with the complex, layered character of Frank TJ Mackie, he’s really able to show his incredible range.
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We get, for instance, his cocksure arrogance underlying crippling insecurity, keeping a tight lid on years of trauma, pain, and resentment before eventually exploding into grief, love, and anger.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
The one that started it all. What else would be first but Mission Impossible? It’s the perfect spy movie for an insatiable audience, delivering a labyrinth of a plotline along with action sequences which, even 25 years later, filmmakers are still struggling to live up to. As one of the defining films of the ’90s, there is no movie more deserving of the top spot.