From his action-packed portrayal of Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible franchise to his underrated performance in The Last Samurai, Cruise has given us years of unforgettable moments. Let’s take a closer look at the top ten Tom Cruise movies!
10. “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
Directed by Ben Stiller, this comedy film surprises us with an unconventional role for Cruise. His portrayal of the crude, hilarious studio executive Les Grossman is far removed from his typical charming leads. Cruise’s commitment to the character, complete with a bald cap and fat suit, surprised us, in the sense that he doesn’t always have to be the leading role, or take himself so seriously. His performance is a masterstroke of comedy, standing out even amidst the star-studded cast, including Stiller himself.
9. “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014)
Directed by Doug Liman, Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi thriller based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, an officer who has never seen a day of combat. He’s dropped into the middle of a war with aliens, and finds himself caught in a time loop where he relives the same brutal combat, dying again and again. But with each battle, he learns to become a better soldier alongside the warrior Rita Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt. Edge of Tomorrow is another departure for Cruise, in the best way possible.
8.”Risky Business” (1983)
Paul Brickman’s Risky Business marks Cruise’s breakout role as Joel, a high school student who turns his house into a brothel. The film’s combination of comedy, romance and Cruise’s youthful charm resonated with audiences, turning him into an overnight movie star. Who could forget the iconic scene of Cruise dancing in his underwear, epitomizing the reckless abandon of youth?
7. “Jerry Maguire” (1996)
A romantic comedy-drama directed by Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire allows Cruise to play a sports agent undergoing a moral and personal crisis. His performance is heartfelt, showcasing his ability to seamlessly transition from light-hearted banter to introspection. It’s a performance that earned Cruise an Academy Award nomination and the film was also a box office success.
6. “Mission Impossible” (1996)
The film that started it all, the 1996 action-thriller directed by Brian De Palma, showcased Cruise in what would become his most iconic role – Ethan Hunt, an agent of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force). When his team is wiped out and he’s framed for the crime, Ethan uses his quick thinking and remarkable physical abilities to clear his name. Mission Impossible was a box-office sensation and set the stage for a series of sequels, each showcasing Cruise’s willingness to perform his own stunts. The first Mission Impossible film was a crucial chapter in Cruise’s career and cemented his status as a bona-fide action hero.
5. “A Few Good Men” (1992)
In this Aaron Sorkin-scripted military court drama directed by Rob Reiner, Cruise plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a military lawyer defending two U.S. Marines charged with murder. His intense courtroom face-off with Jack Nicholson remains one of Hollywood’s most famous scenes, showcasing Sorkin’s writing and the acting chops of both Cruise and Nicholson. A Few Good Men lands at #5 on our list of the best Tom Cruise movies of all time.
4. “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989)
This war drama directed by legend, Oliver Stone, showcases Cruise’s dramatic abilities. He gives a heartbreaking performance as Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran who becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by his country. Cruise’s transformation from an eager young recruit to a disillusioned, wheelchair-bound veteran earned him his first Oscar nomination.
3. “Rain Man” (1988)
Directed by Barry Levinson, Rain Man makes the #3 spot on our list. Cruise portrays Charlie Babbitt, a self-centered hustler who discovers that his estranged brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) has inherited their father’s fortune. It’s a touching story of brotherhood and personal growth, with Cruise delivering a powerful performance opposite Hoffman’s equally impressive portrayal of an autistic genius.
2. “Top Gun” (1986)
Directed by Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) , Top Gun sees Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky naval aviator. The film combines high-octane action sequences with a passionate love story, making it the perfect 80’s blockbuster, and possibly the most loved. It’s impossible to forget the image of Cruise as a fighter pilot, soaring through the skies, embodying the maverick spirit that has come to define his career. The new Top Gun: Maverick (2022) was equally satisfying, but with so many Cruise classics, it didn’t make the cut.
1. “The Last Samurai” (2003)
Directed by Edward Zwick, The Last Samurai takes our #1 spot. Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, a disillusioned former U.S. Army captain who finds a new purpose among the samurai in Japan. It’s a tale of redemption and honor, beautifully framed against the backdrop of Japan’s Meiji Restoration. Cruise’s transformation from a lost soul to a warrior is his most underrated role to date. There’s something truly remarkable about watching Cruise drop his ego and deliver such a powerful, humble and gentle performance.
Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg, deserves an honorable mention, as does The Outsiders starring Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez. Tom Cruise movies we did not love include, Eyes Wide Shut (with ex-wife Nicole Kidman) directed by Stanley Kubrick, Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and Vanilla Sky co-starring, Penelope Cruz.