The top 20 Tom Cruise movies – ranked!

As the actor returns with Mission: Impossible – Fallout, we rank his 20 best films, from 1983’s The Outsiders to 2008’s Tropic Thunder

20. Far and Away (1992)

It was a toss-up between this and Vanilla Sky for the 20th spot, and Far and Away just nudged it because it is – admittedly not intentionally – hilarious, while the latter is a mega downer. No movie accent will ever give me as much joy as Cruise’s Irish accent.

19. War of the Worlds (2005)

Not a disaster, but nowhere near as good as a Spielberg-Cruise adaptation of HG Wells’ tale should have been. Cruise, deep into his publicly eccentric years, plays a divorced dad just trying to do right by his kids while fighting alien invaders, but comes across more alien than the invaders.

18. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This film was supposed to be exciting because we kinda, sorta, maybe got to see Cruise and his then wife, Nicole Kidman, have sex, but a major flaw in that sales pitch is no one wanted to. Including, it turned out, them. Their marriage fell apart soon after the making of this film and some of us are still unconvinced it was worth the marriage.

17. Days of Thunder (1990)

It’s Top Gun – in a car. And nowhere near as good. This film is best known as the one in which Cruise and Kidman met. But it should be celebrated for giving Cruise’s character the name of Cole Trickle. For not laughing hysterically every time they say his name, everyone in this film deserves an Oscar.

16. All the Right Moves (1983)

No one watches this movie now. But they should. Babyfaced and clearly vertically challenged, Cruise plays the most unlikely American football player ever committed to film, but even in the early days of his career, his charisma was undeniable. Unexpectedly gritty and with lovely support from Craig T Nelson.

15. The Firm (1993)

Gosh, who should we get to play the young lawyer, full of morals and ambition, who suddenly finds himself in a bad world filled with bad men? John Grisham may not have written the part with Cruise in mind, but whichever Thetan Cruise worships made him for thismovie.

Cruise in Cocktail.
Cruise in Cocktail. Photograph: Everett/Rex/Shutterstock

14. Interview With the Vampire (1994)

Eat me, haterz: people who criticise this film have no sense of fun. Cruise is enjoyably weird as Lestat de Lioncourt, the ultimate vampire. The real problem with this movie is Brad Pitt, who takes it all way too seriously. Cruise understands this is not a drama – it’s a camp delight.

13. Cocktail (1988)

Frankly, if you don’t enjoy the sight of Cruise slinging rum cocktails on a beach to a Beach Boys soundtrack, then please march yourself to a doctor immediately because you have lost your soul.

12. The Colour of Money (1986)

Grizzled Paul Newman, rehashing his role from The Hustler, hands the matinee idol baton here to a young and twinkly-eyed Cruise. It is hard not to die a little inside when you look at Cruise’s pretty face and think of the weird life choices he would go on to make; a babe heading off into the dark woods.

11. Tropic Thunder (2008)

A bit of a cheat this, yes, as Cruise is barely in the movie. But, his performance as the deranged studio executive Les Grossman was so good it saved his career after all the sofa jumping and Scientology bullshittery. Some of us have never really recovered from the sight of a bald Cruise grooving to Flo Rida.

10. Collateral (2004)

Probably not a movie that Cruise kicks back and watches in his spare time, given that his ex-wife, Katie Holmes, is now dating his co-star, Jamie Foxx. Still, that shouldn’t distract the rest of us from enjoying Cruise playing memorably against type as a killer and Foxx as the cabby he hires for the evening. It does distract a little, mind.

9. Rain Man (1988)

Hear me out: Cruise should have got the Oscar for this instead of Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s performance is all tricks and tics, but Cruise, as the obnoxious jerk who learns he has a brother, is subtle and true. Setting the pattern for his career, Cruise was underrated because he made it look effortless.

8. Minority Report (2002)

Cruise and Spielberg should, by rights, be as natural a combination as bread and butter, and yet Minority Report is the only truly satisfying movie they have made together.

7. The Outsiders (1983)

Playing a working-class teenager in Oklahoma alongside then fellow near-unknowns Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane and Matt Dillon (someone give that casting director a medal), Cruise his a small but pleasing role in this, the most beautiful of all 80s teen movies.

6. Jerry Maguire (1996)

Cameron Crowe wrote this role of the beaten-down sports agent for the other Tom – Hanks – and the movie probably would have made more sense with him: Cruise is just too good-looking to be a credible underdog. But, he seizes the part with irresistible intensity, making even the naffest of Crowe’s lines sound heartfelt.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible.
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

5. Mission: Impossible (1996)

The film that, for better or worse, confirmed Cruise as the action star of his generation, and while that means he has churned out a lot of action landfill for the past decade, the original Mission: Impossible, directed by Brian De Palma, is a stone-cold classic. Somewhere, in all of our hearts, Cruise will be forever suspended on that zip wire.

4. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

It is Cruise’s misfortune that his one real shot at an Oscar – before the Scientology weirdness ruled him out for ever – coincided with the year of Daniel Day-Lewis’s unbeatable performance in My Left Foot. His performance as a Vietnam vet is the definitive retort to any fool who insists he is a movie star, not an actor.

3. A Few Good Men (1992)

Pure cinematic pleasure. Cruise is known as a screen-chewer, but it is too rarely acknowledged how good he is at playing second fiddle to a true ham: Hoffman in Rain Man and Jack Nicholson here. “I want the truth!” is Cruise at his Cruisiest, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

2. Magnolia (1999)

One of three performances for which Cruise should have won an Oscar. Heretofore seen as almost asexual, Cruise is astonishing as TJ Mackie, the men’s rights activist guru with the catchphrase “Respect the cock!” No one could have imagined him in this role before. It’s now impossible to imagine anyone else playing it.

1. Top Gun (1986)

Risky Business made Cruise famous, but it’s a terrible movie. Top Gun, on the other hand, made him a legend, and it remains one of the greatest movies of all time. Cruise, playing “a flyboy”, took to the film’s endearingly overt homoeroticism like a natural. The volleyball scene put a generation through puberty.


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