15 Best Tom Cruise Movies Ranked

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Tom Cruise isn't just the greatest movie star working today ... he has been an icon for nearly 40 years. A top box office draw, his taste in projects has kept him on the A-list for the long haul. Despite his popularity, Cruise only seems to pick projects that he's interested in. He has worked with many of the greatest filmmakers of all time and has starred in a wide variety of dramas, comedies, science fiction, and action films. 

Cruise also continues to perform his own dangerous stunts. Although many actors rely on computer-generated special effects or their stunt doubles, Cruise is committed to realism. His dedication makes these action sequences ever more exciting to watch. The "Top Gun: Maverick" star has such an extensive filmography that narrowing down his best roles was a challenge, but we summoned Cruise-like courage and did it. Here are the 15 best Tom Cruise movies, ranked.

15. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Although he's renowned for his intensity, Tom Cruise has been just as comfortable in more comedic roles. Cameron Crowe's 1996 film "Jerry Maguire" gave Cruise the chance to show off his versatility by bringing his signature sincerity to the titular role while still being very funny. He stars as the titular successful sports agent who is beginning to doubt his own success and winds up going through a change of heart.

In order to give himself a new purpose, Jerry writes an extensive "mission statement," an essay that pledges to bring compassion back to the sports trading profession. Jerry's co-workers think he is having a midlife crisis, and refuse to support him, so he decides to start his own agency. Jerry's only follower is the secretary Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger). Dorothy is a single mother who is hopelessly in love with Jerry, and as they build their new agency the two begin to bond. Jerry becomes a father figure to Dorothy's young son, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki).

14. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Cameron Crowe's science-fiction thriller "Vanilla Sky" is a widely misunderstood film. The film mixes mystery, suspense, romance, and philosophy into its highly complex story, which makes it worth revisiting as there are many different ways to interpret the final moments. Crowe has discussed the ending's implications in some of the behind-the-scenes material, but many of the film's secrets remain a mystery. Tom Cruise gives a brilliant performance, which helps to hook the viewer into the story by becoming the audience's avatar. He often seems just as confused as we are. 

"Vanilla Sky" is told mostly in flashbacks. The film follows the publishing tycoon David Aames (Cruise), who has inherited his father's corporation. David is a playboy who falls in love with the mysterious woman Sofia Serrano (Penélope Cruz). David's girlfriend Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) discovers his infidelity, and while out for a drive with David she crashes the car on purpose. David explains how he was caught between these two relationships with the futuristic psychologist Dr. Curtis McCabe (Kurt Russell).

13. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

One of Tom Cruise's most admirable qualities is how he consistently chooses ambitious, original science fiction projects. Although the sci-fi action film "Edge of Tomorrow" was loosely based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's graphic novel "All You Need Is Kill," it felt like a breath of fresh air. By combining the best elements of "Groundhog Day" and "Independence Day," it tells a time loop story set amidst an alien invasion.

Cruise stars as the U.S. Army Major William Cage, a character who is nothing like Ethan Hunt. Not only is Cage not a hero, but he's also a complete coward. After he is caught trying to abandon the service, Cage is assigned to fight on the front lines. He has no combat experience, and during the hectic conflict Cage becomes trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again. Cage discovers that another soldier, Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), is also caught in the time loop. They work together to break out of their cycles and defeat the aliens.

12. Top Gun (1986)

There are few projects in Tom Cruise's filmography that are as iconic as the 1986 film "Top Gun." The military action-thriller was one of the first big hits of Cruise's career, proving his range as a movie star. He had to be a charming romantic lead, a compelling action hero, and an inspirational dramatic character all at once. He pulled it all off with his performance as Lieutenant Pete Mitchell, also known as "Maverick."

"Top Gun" follows a group of young military officers who train at the US Navy's Fighter Weapons School in San Diego, California. Maverick and his best friend Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) have a knack for getting into trouble, competing with their classmates to outdo each other. Although the film is really quite funny at times, Cruise still makes the emotional scenes effective. Maverick's horrified reaction to Goose's death is absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

11. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Oliver Stone is a notoriously political filmmaker, outspoken about societal issues related to conspiracies, propaganda, corruption, justice, and democracy. The story of the famous anti-war activist Ron Kovic is one Stone was keen to tell, casting Tom Cruise as Kovic in the biographical film "Born on the Fourth of July." Cruise received his first Academy Award nomination for best actor.

The film explores how Kovic turned from a staunch patriot into a fierce protester after traumatic events during his military service caused him to reconsider his values. Kovic enlisted in the U.S. Marines after hearing President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech in 1961. However, during a routine military reconnaissance operation in Vietnam, Kovic accidentally kills a young private under his command. His superior officers urge him to stay silent. After he's paralyzed in combat, Kovic returns to the United States and begins campaigning against the war effort.

10. Risky Business (1983)

"Risky Business" was the film that truly launched Tom Cruise's career. The 1983 coming-of-age dark comedy was Cruise's first major lead role and proved that he could carry a film with his personality alone. The story deals with some very serious themes, exploring the nature of greed and how disconnected the upper class is from reality.

The film follows top student Joel Goodsen (Cruise), who is poised to gain acceptance to Princeton University. The prestigious school is his father's (Nicholas Pryor) alma mater. Despite his academic success, Joel is looking forward to temporarily escaping his parents while they are away on vacation. He gets into some trouble when his friend Miles Dalby (Curtis Armstrong) hires the prostitute Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) on his behalf, and Joel falls in love with her. Joel is forced to admit his feelings to Lana, interview with a Princeton recruiter, and fix his father's broken car over the course of a hectic weekend.

9. The Firm (1993)

While there were many courtroom dramas released in the 1990s that were based on John Grisham's novels, 1993's "The Firm" is one of the best. Legendary filmmaker Sydney Pollack ("Tootsie," "Out of Africa") explored an intense ethical dilemma, and despite the 154-minute running time the film never loses momentum. Tom Cruise is an actor who naturally embodies confidence, so he was perfectly cast as a slick young lawyer.

The film follows the Harvard Law School graduate Mitch McDeere (Cruise), who is hired by the prestigious law firm Bendini, Lambert & Locke right after he completes school. Mitch immediately accepts his new position and moves with his wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn) to Memphis, Tennessee. While he's overwhelmed by the generosity of the firm, Mitch discovers that his new employer is not everything that it's promised to be: Bendini, Lambert & Locke is involved in a money-laundering scandal. Mitch must avoid being framed for the firm's crimes as he unravels the conspiracy.

8. The Color of Money (1986)

It was very ambitious to make a sequel to the 1961 film "The Hustler." Robert Rossen's gambling thriller was already a beloved classic and featured one of Paul Newman's greatest performances ever. Thankfully, director Martin Scorsese created a sequel that was just as formidable as the original: "The Color of Money" honors the first film's legacy, but you don't need to see "The Hustler" to enjoy it. Newman returned to his iconic role as the troubled pool player Eddie Falson, who goes by the nickname "Fast Eddie." 

After the events of "The Hustler," Eddie has retired from gambling. He knows the consequences of betting big and losing it all. However, he takes an interest in the young pool shark Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise). He decides to take on Vincent as his protege. While Vincent is incredibly skilled at playing pool, Eddie offers him surprising insights about hustling. Newman finally won the Academy Award for best actor for reprising his role after being nominated in the same category six times previously, but Cruise holds his own. In many ways, it felt like one great movie star passing the torch to the next generation. Their chemistry makes the film very entertaining, but there is depth to both characters as Vincent learns that he's becoming overconfident, determined not to repeat the same mistakes that Eddie made.

7. Collateral (2004)

Tom Cruise has played many iconic screen heroes, but he is rarely cast as the villain. However, he managed to subvert his endearing persona in Michael Mann's riveting 2004 thriller "Collateral." His character Vincent is essentially the polar opposite of Ethan Hunt, creating chaos and fear wherever he goes. Cruise is completely terrifying in the role.

"Collateral" explores a violent series of events over the course of one night in Los Angeles. The cab driver Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) picks up the mysterious Vincent (Cruise) on his second stop of the night. Vincent offers to pay Max an extra $600 if he drives him to a series of different stops, claiming that he is trying to complete a major real estate deal. Max suspects that he has more sinister motivations, and after their first stop discovers that Vincent is actually a hitman. Although Max tries to escape, Vincent forces him to keep driving. They hide a corpse in the back of Max's car, and the events that follow grow even more hectic. However, Mann keeps the film grounded so it never becomes far-fetched. 

6. Minority Report (2002)

Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" defies any genre label, containing elements of science fiction, action, drama, mystery, thriller, and social satire. Tom Cruise gives a very complex performance as a compelling action hero struggling to cope with a personal tragedy. "Minority Report" takes place in 2054 when crime has almost vanished entirely thanks to a special police force called "Precrime" that is able to predict murders before they occur by utilizing three psychics called "Precogs." When Precrime commanding officer Chief John Anderton (Cruise) is surprisingly accused of committing a future murder, he refuses to believe his guilt. He eludes the Precrime forces and seeks to clear his name, with the ruthless Department of Justice agent Danny Witwir (Colin Farrell) attempting to track him down.

Anderton has been in mourning since the disappearance of his young son, John (Tyler Patrick Jones). He learns that he's been accused of killing Leo Crow (Mike Binder), who supposedly killed his son. Anderton frees the Precog psychic Agatha (Samantha Morton) to help him investigate how Crow, Burgess, and the other Precrime agents are involved in a government conspiracy. Cruise shows the heartbreak that Anderton had endured, and is determined to uncover the truth behind the tragedy.

5. Magnolia (1999)

"Magnolia" features one of the strongest ensembles that writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has ever assembled, yet Tom Cruise somehow managed to give the best performance in the film. He received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. Cruise rarely plays supporting characters, but every second he appears on screen in "Magnolia" is electrifying. In this epic romantic drama exploring a tapestry of love, kinship, and heartbreak in the San Fernando Valley, Cruise plays Frank T.J. Mackey, a motivational speaker who teaches men how to gain confidence. 

Frank personifies toxic masculinity. He is incredibly rude and sexist. Despite his reprehensible demeanor, Frank is hiding traumatic events from his youth, having never been able to connect with his father, Earl Partridge (Jason Robards). Earl abandoned Frank and his dying mother, and Frank has never forgiven him. Earl is on his deathbed and tells the nurse Phil Pharma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that he wants to reconnect with his son, determined to apologize to Frank before he dies. Initially, Frank rejects his father's invitation, but Phil is able to convince him to visit Earl in the hospital. Their reunion is absolutely devastating, with Cruise completely vulnerable as he sobs and reflects on all of his painful memories.

4. Rain Man (1988)

Dustin Hoffman may have won the Academy Award for best actor for the 1988 drama "Rain Man," but Tom Cruise's performance was just as worthy. The film wouldn't be nearly as impactful without their great chemistry. "Rain Man" follows the workaholic salesman Charlie Babbitt (Cruise), who has a difficult relationship with his father, Sanford. After Sanford unexpectedly dies, Charlie is tasked with managing his estate, whereupon he learns that he has a brother named Raymond (Hoffman), who is living in a medical institution.

Raymond has autism and savant syndrome and rarely travels outside of the institution. While Raymond has an incredible memory, he becomes very agitated when his routines are disrupted. Both brothers are shocked to learn of each other's existence, and Charlie decides to temporarily break Raymond out of the medical facility and brings him to his hotel. Charlie learns that the only way he can access his father's fortune is to become Raymond's custodial guardian. Although Charlie wants to take his brother with him back to Los Angeles, Raymond refuses to fly. Charlie reluctantly agrees to drive all the way from Cincinnati to California, and the two begin to bond over the course of their trip. Charlie decides to take advantage of his brother's superb recall and takes him to Las Vegas where Raymond learns to count cards while playing blackjack at a casino. Initially, Charlie is only watching over Raymond to take advantage of him, but his intentions become more sincere by the end.

3. A Few Good Men (1992)

Hollywood does not make enough legal thrillers anymore. There were many in the 1990s, but Rob Reiner's "A Few Good Men" was among the best. Based on a Broadway stage show by Aaron Sorkin, the film explores the ambiguities of the American justice system. Tom Cruise's idealistic Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee is assigned a sensitive case where he must represent two Marines accused of murder. Marines Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Louden Downey (James Marshall) will be placed under court-martial if they are found guilty, having killed a fellow officer named Private William Santiago (Michael DeLorenzo) during a training procedure. 

However, they both claim that they were acting under the orders of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson). The legal experts predict that the only way for Dawson and Downey to avoid a conviction is to plead guilty. However, Kaffee surprisingly enters a plea that they are innocent. Kaffee and his co-counsel, Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), investigate the case. They discover that Jessup had ordered a "code red," which is an intense form of punishment given during training. Kaffee decides to expose Jessup for his brutal techniques but faces an uphill battle as the Colonel is incredibly influential within the military. The final trial sequence is absolutely electrifying, and Cruise does a great job of showing Kaffee's nobility.

2. Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

Tom Cruise has played many iconic characters, but he is perhaps best known for his role as Ethan Hunt in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise. The "Mission: Impossible" saga is that rare blockbuster series that has improved over time. It seemed like there was no limit to the dangerous stunts that Cruise would perform, but 2018's "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" exceeded the high expectations. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, who had previously helmed "Rogue Nation," explored Ethan's commitment to his team as well as his tormented visions of the "Rogue Nation" antagonist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

Ethan is unable to prevent a group of terrorists called "The Apostles" from escaping with a plutonium device. The IMF discovers that the terrorist sect is under the command of an enigmatic extremist, known only as "John Lark." Ethan and the CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) are assigned to infiltrate a nightclub party in order to investigate while Ethan is unaware that Walker is actually Lark.

1. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Tom Cruise has worked with many amazing filmmakers, but nothing could prepare him for his collaboration with the legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick. Two years before they were divorced, Cruise and Nicole Kidman starred in Kubrick's last film "Eyes Wide Shut." Kubrick was notoriously meticulous and this swan song is one of his most complex films, with film fans debating the film's shocking ending for over 20 years. "Eyes Wide Shut" is set during the Christmas season in New York City, where Dr. Bill Harford (Cruise) and his wife Alice (Kidman) go to a festive holiday party. Bill is reunited with his medical school classmate Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who tells Bill that he recently attended a private ceremony where he was blindfolded during a secret ritual. 

This fascinates Bill, who has become convinced that Alice is being unfaithful to him. He decides to visit a mansion that Nick mentioned, infiltrating a secret society that performs ceremonial sexual acts. The society's members discover that Bill has broken into the ceremony without an invitation. He is banished from the mansion but becomes obsessed with what he saw, determined to return and learn the cult's secrets. "Eyes Wide Shut" studies obsession, toxic masculinity, and sexual infidelity, with Cruise capturing the delusions of a jealous man unable to resist his own impulses.