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The 10 best Tom Cruise movies, ranked

Tom Cruise is still providing great movies almost four decades into his career

The term “movie star” is thrown around a little loosely these days. Actors appear in one big blockbuster, and suddenly they’re thrust into celebrity status for the foreseeable future. There are very few performers who have stood the test of time and created hits for decades. Sometimes, though, it works out. Tom Cruise fits this definition as well as any actor who’s ever lived.

Cruise puts his all into his performances and movies, doing a majority of the stunts himself without a body double and funding his films through his own production company. While he may not have the Academy Awards of Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino, he’s been arguably the defining actor of the action genre since the mid-1980s.

We’re here to help you sort out which Tom Cruise movies you should watch next to get the full picture of his career. From his early dramatic turns in legal dramas and sports pictures, to his franchise work in Top Gun and Mission: Impossible, there are plenty of options to enjoy the best Tom Cruise movies.

10. Jack Reacher (2012)

10. Jack Reacher
Genre Crime, Drama, Thriller, Action
Stars Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Amazon Prime Video released its TV adaptation of the famous Lee Child novels to sufficient acclaim in 2022, but Tom Cruise was the first actor to take on the role of Jack Reacher in this fun and flashy 2012 flick. Some hardcore fans of the franchise were unhappy about the casting choice of the hero, as Cruise doesn’t physically fit the description of the hulking protagonist from the books. Still, it’s hard to argue against Cruise starring in a film in which the main character shoots the bad guys and saves the day.

9. Vanilla Sky (2001)

9. Vanilla Sky
Genre Mystery, Science Fiction, Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Thriller
Stars Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Vanilla Sky is a unique combination between several different genres that Tom Cruise usually appears in, given that it takes advantage of science fiction and thriller elements. Cruise plays David Aames, a man whose story is told through a psychologist after a car accident nearly ends his life. The film also features Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, and Kurt Russell. This is a film you should check out if you like ambiguous endings and uneasy storytelling that makes you feel like you’re in a dream state.

8. The Firm (1993)

8. The Firm
Genre Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman
Directed by Sydney Pollack
One of the earliest films in Tom Cruise’s career, The Firm is based on one of the best novels ever written by John Grisham. Although not as acclaimed as the book, this film, directed by Sydney Pollack, delivers on the same thrills, twists, and turns of the source material. Cruise plays a brilliant young attorney who gets in over his head at a law firm that is hiding more than it seems. Gene Hackman and Holly Hunter give great supporting performances, the latter of which helped Hunter receive an Academy Award nomination.

7. War of the Worlds (2005)

7. War of the Worlds
Genre Adventure, Thriller, Science Fiction
Stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin
Directed by Steven Spielberg

This film is one of the most famous adaptations of the classic alien invasion story by H.G. Wells. Stephen Spielberg directed this special effects spectacle and placed Tom Cruise exquisitely in the lead role. Cruise plays a protective father very well here, adding some human substance to a film that often gets critiqued for its overreliance on computer-generated imagery. This was one of the highest-grossing movies of 2005.

6. Tropic Thunder (2008)

6. Tropic Thunder
Genre Action, Comedy, Adventure, War
Stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by Ben Stiller
Tom Cruise’s part in Tropic Thunder isn’t as big as the roles played by some of the other big names like Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller, but fans still get excited at the thought of his performance. He plays a satirical take on a crazed Hollywood executive. This movie is often considered inappropriate for modern viewing given its spoof on blackface, but it remains a cult classic.

5. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

5. Born on the Fourth of July
Genre Drama, War
Stars Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava
Directed by Oliver Stone
War films are something of a necessity for legendary male actors in Hollywood. Nobody’s portfolio is complete without machine guns, atomic bombs, and the American flag waving patriotically in the background. Tom Cruise is no different here in his first Academy Award-nominated role was as Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Cruise expertly gives credence and perspective to Kovic’s memoir, which the film was based upon. Kyra Sedgwick and Willem Dafoe do excellent supporting work throughout the movie.

4. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

4. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Genre Action, Adventure
Stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
We could have chosen any of the Mission: Impossible films to put into this list, but the 2015 installment has just the right mix of exciting action and interesting storytelling to draw viewers to the screen and keep their attention for the duration of the film. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was able to keep people enthralled and anticipatory of more movies in the franchise at a time when movie-goers could have gotten bored with the series otherwise.

3. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

3. Top Gun: Maverick
Genre Action, Drama
Stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

We could have chosen the original Top Gun film here, but the most recent sequel is an even better Tom Cruise blockbuster than the classic 1980s hit. Cruise reprises his role as Pete Mitchell in all of his action-packed, perfectly shot glory. Top Gun: Maverick is, surprisingly, the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career, which in itself is a testament to his longevity and devotion to summer movie fun.

2. Jerry Maguire (1996)

2. Jerry Maguire
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Directed by Cameron Crowe
The film known for spawning catchphrases like “Show me the money!” is more than just a few iconic lines. Following the relationship between the titular sports agent and football player Rod Tidwell, this film incorporates many different genres such as sports, business, drama, and romance. Cuba Gooding Jr. supports Cruise impeccably throughout the movie, which was nominated for several Academy Awards.

1. Rain Man (1988)

1. Rain Man
Genre Drama
Stars Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Directed by Barry Levinson
It’s ironic that Tom Cruise’s best movie is one in which he plays a supporting role. This perfectly demonstrates Cruise’s incredible versatility and his willingness to step outside of his normal genre work that would eventually define his career. Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, a young man who bonds with his autistic brother, Raymond, throughout the film. Rain Man is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 1980s, and fans still enjoy the chemistry that Cruise has with cast mate Dustin Hoffman, who won an Academy Award for his role in this film.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek,, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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