Top Ten Tom Cruise Movies

Top Ten Tom Cruise Movies

It's probably more difficult to rank the films of a particular actor than those of a given director. A filmmaker's ouevre is often bound together by similar thematic elements or stylistic trademarks, whereas most actors work within a wide range of styles and genres, with directors of vastly varying abilities. And while most dedicated cinephiles have seen the majority of Stanley Kubrick's or Martin Scorsese's features, how many can say they've seen even half of the performances from legends like Paul Newman or Robert De Niro (or even more modern stars like Sean Penn or Bruce Willis)?

No one would ever mistake him for Daniel Day-Lewis, but Tom Cruise has been nearly as selective over the course of his career, consistently working with prominent filmmakers: Scorsese, Kubrick, Spielberg, Coppola, De Palma, Mann, Stone, the brothers Scott. Seriously, who else's resume reads like that? Even when collaborating with up-and-comers like Brad Bird or (at the time) J.J. Abrams, he finds those refreshing cinematic voices who can match that level of quality we've come to expect from a Tom Cruise project.

While I'm sure many will order their list of favorite Tom Cruise movies differently than I have, that's the reasons we make these lists in the first place. All things said, here's my take on the ten best movies starring an actor who, from Taps to Jack Reacher, has never made a truly bad movie. Beg to differ all you like, that's just my opinion. Then again, I've spoken to at least three other people in the past week who openly admitted to enjoying Cocktail. Go figure...

Minority Report

Tom Cruise in Minority Report
Tom Cruise in Minority Report
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Steven Spielberg's futuristic thriller stars Cruise as a pre-crime fighter whose own unit suspects him of a future murder, with both star and director at the top of their respective game. This is one of those rare big budget blockbusters that's both imaginative and thought-provoking, while still being downright entertaining.


"Listen, Wally - I like you. So, I don't wanna have to kick you or hit you with anything hard, but only if you promise to help me."

Top Gun

Tom Cruise in Top Gun
Tom Cruise in Top Gun
Photo: Paramount Pictures

You know it. You love it. Tony Scott's 2-hour military recruitment ad firmly established Cruise as a box-office powerhouse and Maverick as, well, pretty much the coolest dude ever.


"I feel the need... the need for speed."

  • Brett McNeill

    WOW! No Risky Business?!!!?!?!? Shame!

  • maja

    I'm a massive Tom Cruise fan so i really enjoyed this list. The only one that i think I would have included which you haven't is Risky Business (and possibly The Firm) which i think is very solid and has one of his most memorable performances and some fantastic dialogue.

    My favorite film which Cruise is in is Minority Report but there are several films where he puts in more memorable performances - Eyes Wide Shut, The Firm, Risky Business and Collateral.

  • Mikey

    Good list. The only one I strongly disagree with is Jerry Maguire. It was a decent film the first time i saw it, but over time it's just gone down hill. I do applaud you however for not going with "Show me the money" as the quote. I was hoping Tropic Thunder would get at least a mention though.

  • David

    I figured you would put collateral first... But I'm shocked that the last samurai didn't make the list.... That is easily one of his best films

  • Kessler

    Very nice list Kevin. I'm a big Tom Cruise fan myself and I think he deserves much more credit as an actor. I would actually rank Minority Report much higher and put Magnolia in the #1 spot. I think it's easily his best performance and is always my response for whenever someone says that Tom Cruise can't act.

    The only film I would add to this list is probably Tropic Thunder. I know it's a supporting performance, but Tom Cruise is hilarious in it and still makes me laugh when I watch him.

  • Winchester

    I'm not going to do them in order strictly but while I don't like every Cruise film I don't feel he has ever made a truly awful film. But some I like more than others along the way.

    I'll also say something else. I did not like Cruise for years. I didn't like him until the mid to late 90's actually. So my choices tend to veer a little more over to that phase of his career.

    I would say my Top Ten would have in it -

    Minority Report (2002): It's a great sci-fi thriller from Spielberg but there is also great work by Cruise as the man on the run dealing with his past. The hotel room scene between him, Samantha Morton and the man he believes kidnapped his son and later with Kathryn Morris gives the film more than just a thriller grounding.

    Vanilla Sky (2001): I may be in a minority here but I really like this one and it's performances as he plays the man who has the golden life taken away. Plus it has a great soundtrack to boot anyway. But as he plays cockiness, confusion and everything else in the midst of the films mysteries he's good.

    A Few Good Men (1992): Great courtroom thriller.

    Collateral (2004): Personally, I dont quite love the film as a whole entity, but the performances between Cruise and Foxx is there and works.

    Top Gun (1987): I actually don't love this film even a little bit. Nothing to do with pro Military blah blah blah but it's really just Bruckheimer/Simpson nonsense. However it IS his iconic breakthrough and popular mostly so I feel it has to be included on that basis.

    Magnolia (1999): I don't think Cruise has really seriously stretched himself as an actor since he doubled this with his work with Kubrick. But here he totally goes against the tyoe of role we had really seen him in for a long time. I think he will challenge himself in the future again though.

    Born on The Fourth of July (1989): To think he did this just a couple years after Top Gun and that they are polar opposite looks at aspects of military life really shows the interest he had then in taking chances. I know he went serious with Rain Man the year before but this is such a counterpoint to his iconic role.

    Mission: Impossible III (2006): This is actually my favourite of the series as well after the first but I do have a soft spot for this franchise............not the second one though. That is the weakest.

    War of The Worlds (2005): In honesty I think this is a film that is not perfect but in his second collaboration with Spielberg makes a Summer Blockbuster out of what is actually at times a very dark and intensely done take on alien invasion. Rife with the at the time echoes of Sept 2001 it again features some great work from him as the absent father made to be responsible again. I think this film gets wrongly dismissed sometimes.......especially as a Spielberg film.

    The Firm (1993): This is more coz I used to be a John Grisham fan in fairness........

    But I also like Interview With The Vampire and a couple others. I haven't seen Rain Man in way too long to have an opinion on it and while it may be unfortunate I just have never been able to see Eyes Wide Shut past about the halfway mark. Tried a couple times and it just does zero for me period. One day I may finish it as I work through Kubrick's catalogue but I find it an immense bore when I do try it. Not big on Days of Thunder, Far and Away etc

    I'm looking forward to both Oblivion and Kill..........but I have to wonder when he'll hang up the sci-fi actioners. At 50 he doesn't have too many left and he wants to make Mission 5 still.

  • Ravi Bhaskar

    Man I was hoping for Tropic Thunder to sneak in somewhere.. Cruise is the best part of the movie.. Still a great list Brad..

  • Jordan B.

    The one thing I have to say about Tom Cruise, no matter his reputation in the tabloids as a "crazy person,", is that above all else, the guy is a legitimate movie star. I was watching the special features for M:I-GP, and he just has that movie star persona, always looking for a vehicle to showcase his skills and tell a compelling story, but he is also a business man willing to take risks in order to reap box office rewards.

    Anyways, I'd have a hard time actually ranking my favorite Tom Cruise movies -- and there are quite a few I haven't seen in a long time -- but here are some that I really enjoy, even if all he has is a cameo (in the case of Tropic Thunder).

    Jerry Maguire
    Mission: Impossible Franchise
    Top Gun
    Tropic Thunder

    I actually have yet to see A Few Good Men, Magnolia, and Minority Report, sorry to say, but I am pretty sure I'll enjoy them. Cruise has the ability to make me even enjoy some of his lesser works (like Jack Reacher or War of the Worlds), so I can only assume I won't mind watching his work in more reputable roles and films.

  • C.J.

    10. The Last Samurai
    9. Interview with the Vampire
    8. Mission: Impossible 3
    7. Risky Business
    6. Mission: Impossible
    5. Jerry Maguire
    4. Minority Report
    3. War of the Worlds
    2. Eyes Wide Shut
    1. Collateral

  • Foggy

    I do always find it shocking when people dismiss Cruise as a terrible actor considering his really damn good films, but this list shocked me by how great of an actor he actually is. He's definitely a diverse actor, give him a great director and he'll turn in a great performance, give him a great character and he'll run riot with it but he does fall apart when he lacks something to do.

  • Newbourne

    He's a nutjob though. That anti-psychiatry/Scientology fanaticism really drives away the fans. The man is cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

  • Ryan

    To say that he has not had a bad movie is false. War of the Worlds, The Firm, Far and Away, Legend, Interview with a Vampire was HORRENDOUS, The Outsiders and All the Right Moves (but that is just because they are not my cup of tea), and the second and third Mission Impossible films are some of the worst actions films and the worst performance by Phillip Seymor Hoffman. I couldn't stop laughing so hard and did not find him menacing, even when he had a gun to Tom Cruises head. Though I liked for the most part Lions for Lambs, Cruise was so underused in it. I can forgive this list only because you have Collateral, Rain Man, and A Few Good Men on this list.

    • Ryan

      Now this is not to say I dont like his movies. I actually really do like him. But of other actors out there, there are so many that are better than him and have a better track record. These are the only films I like.
      Few Good Men
      Jerry Maguire
      Last Samurai
      Magnolia (only because I liked the last half hour)
      Minority Report
      Mission: Impossible
      Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol
      Rain Man
      Risky Business
      Tropic Thunder
      Valkyrie (I Know, but I liked it)
      (And no Top Gun or Eyes Wide Shut, I hate those movies)

    • David

      ^^^ this guy is stupid

  • AS

    1. Eyes Wide Shut
    2. Magnolia
    3. Collateral

  • Dale

    I agree with "Collateral" being ranked #1 (very effective casting against type), but I'd put "Born on fhe Fourth of July" second and "A Few Good Men" third.

  • G-Man

    Nice list, Kevin. My top ten would go as follows:

    1. Rain Man
    2. A Few Good Men
    3. Collateral
    4. Mission Impossible 3
    5. Mission Impossible 4
    6. Vanilla Sky
    7. Jerry Maguire
    8. Tropic Thunder
    9. The Firm
    10. Mission Impossible

    Notable titles still need to still see:

    Risky Business
    All The Right Moves
    Top Gun (never start to finish)
    Born on the Fourth of July
    Eyes Wide Shut
    The Last Samurai
    Minority Report
    War of the Worlds

  • Andrew13

    1. Magnolia
    2. Eyes Wide Shut
    3. Collateral
    4. Jerry Maguire
    5. Rain Man
    6. War of the Worlds
    7. The Last Samurai
    8. Mission: Impossible III
    9. A Few Good Men
    10. Risky Business

  • Aleonardis

    Risky Business is just far and away (Ah!) the best movie he's ever done. Not performance though. That goes to either Collateral or Magnolia. Haven't seen Eyes Wide Shut in a bit...I should remedy that.

    Best Movie List:
    1: Risky Business
    2: Collateral
    3: Magnolia
    4: The Last Samurai
    5: War of the Worlds

    Best Performance
    1: Magnolia
    2: Rock of Ages
    3: Collateral
    4: Interview With A Vampire
    5: Risky Business

  • Chris138

    Solid list. Many of my choices were included: Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, Born on the Fourth of July, Minority Report. And I'm probably in a minority with this one but I'm a sucker for The Last Samurai, even with its overly-familiar plot. That movie is magnificent on a technical level and hits all the right notes as pure entertainment for me.

  • Lewis

    Born on the Fourth of July should be clearly at the top spot. Come on! Great film and...STILL Cruise's best performance.

  • Central Ohio

    Hello! Has anyone seen 'The Color of Money'? Are you kiddin' me? Correct me if I'm mistaking, but I haven't seen it on anyones list so far. That is my #1!

    1) The Color of Money
    2) Born on the Fourth of July
    3) Magnolia
    4) Rain Man
    6) Taps
    7) Jerry Maguire
    8) A Few Good Men
    9) Minority Report
    10) Risky Business

  • SP1234

    1. The Last Samurai
    2. Minority Report
    3. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
    4. Legend
    5. Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol
    6. Mission: Impossible III
    7. Magnolia
    8. War of the Worlds
    9. Vanilla Sky
    10. Top Gun

  • SohoDriver

    " The film marked Cameron Crowe's creative peak with a blend of humor and heartwarming drama he's been trying to recapture ever since. "

    I'd say that Almost Famous was far better than Jerry Maguire.

  • The Jackal

    Great list, I love all the films mentioned. A few films of note were missing, but I realize you were limited to 10 choices. Risky Business constantly gets the shaft. Though initially resistant to its charms, it has since become one of my all-time favorite coming-of-age films.

    The Last Samurai is another one of Cruise's finer moments. Say what you will about the film, its story, plot and pacing, but this film makes you take notice of Mr. Cruise's range as an actor.

    Finally, though it may be utter heresy, but Cocktail is a good B-film to watch on a boring Sunday afternoon, the film is ludicrous, but good fun.

    Thems the facts

  • John

    Tom Cruise is the greatest movie star we have today. His best are:

    A Few Good Men
    Rain Man
    Minority Report
    Jerry Maguire
    Born on the Fourth of July
    The Firm
    Mission impossible 4
    Mission Impossible
    The Last Samurai
    Tropic Thunder
    Interview with the Vampire
    The Color of Money
    Risky Business
    Top Gun

  • Sylvia

    I'm agree 100% with Andrew13. So I won't repeat his list.

  • Dan

    Having read enough of your thoughts over the years, I was not surprised to see Collateral come in at number one, and deservedly so.

    I figure All You Need Is Kill will be the next good Tom Cruise movie. The plot sounds fascinating...much like Source Code except with a little more flair and genre-centered. Good list Brad. And like Andrew13, I feel The Last Samurai and Tropic Thunder deserve a bit more consideration.

  • 0Freeman.

    How is there no The Last Samurai?? That's one of my favorite Tom Cruise movies ever. I thought you even gave it an A+ grade?

  • smithmisc

    how can people make a "best of" Tom Cruise list and then put 10 or 20 on the list? It seems like the whole idea of doing a "best of" is you have to be a bit discriminating and try to pare down what is truly great or unique rather than just making a giant list of his big blockbusters. Part of greatness it seems includes doing something that another actor could not have done. I think what Cruise did in War of the Worlds could have been replicated by another actor fairly easily. I also think the film itself has to have quality writing/acting/character development and films like MI and Vanilla Sky just don't make the cut.

    For me, and I haven't seen all of them, it would be Few Good Men, Color of Money, Top Gun, and RainMan in no particular order.

  • Frank

    Personally, despite whatever he may be like as a person, I think Cruise is a wonderful actor! Definitely in the top 30 of all time! Here are my top 10 favorite films of his:

    10. Jerry Maguire (SHOW ME THE MONEYYY!!!)
    9. Mission Impossible III (GREAT performances from Cruise and Hoffman)
    8. Risky Business (Looks like university of Illinois!)
    7. Born on the Fourth of July (In my opinion, his GREATEST performance!)
    6. Minority Report (Very good Spielberg film. Great performance from Cruise too!)
    5. Top Gun (Always a classic!)
    4. Collateral (I DO THIS FOR A LIVING!)
    3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Without question, the best of the franchise.)
    2. Rain Man (Should have been Oscar nominated for this and #1.)