Top 10: Tom Cruise Movies

Breaking down the star’s top cocktail of a filmography. 

To celebrate the release and subsequent praise of Mission Impossible: Fallout (check out my full review here), I have compiled a list of the 10 best films starring Tom Cruise. The notoriously brave action hero’s roles were a bit more varied in the past, so let’s see which of his outings took our breath away the most.

Make sure you let me know what you think.


10. Rock Of Ages

© – Warner Bros

This musical, as a whole, doesn’t always hold up on repeat viewings. The pacing before the inevitably sappy third act reaches its climax is, being generous, misguided. But the first act of this jukebox, power ballad fare is elevated to supreme heights by the absolutely show-stopping performance from Cruise as the egotistical, enigmatic super-rock-star Stacie Jaxx. The showmanship in his ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ number helps create one of the most transportive gig sequences I’ve experienced.

9. Cocktail

© – Buena Vista Pictures

Rather appalling and unjustly judged upon its release in the 80s, this abused gem features a young, zippy Cruise at his finest, juggling the minor responsibilities of a booze-maestro womaniser with a teen’s spirit. That is until the heftier dramatic portion of the film kicks in, and although not a lot actually happens, and yes it is all a bit silly, it’s good ol’ harmless fun reserved for a rainy Saturday night.

8. Magnolia

© – New Line Cinema

Quite the departure from his previous filmography, Cruise’s only collaboration with the great Paul Thomas Anderson evoked a both a spirituality and smug self-awareness from the star, a take which helped carry an otherwise excellent but way over-long feature along finely.

7. Rain Man

© – MGM

Obviously, Rain Man is more commonly remembered for Dustin Hoffman’s outstanding performance. But Cruise is deserving of praise here – imagine the sort of boyish arrogance from Top Gun, but heightened to an unhealthy level, coupled with a lack of a tolerance. That’s his character in Rain Man,the slimy brother of Hoffman who has to become a much better person in order to appropriately care for his recently discovered, autistic sibling.

6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

© – Paramount Pictures

Fallout is a blockbuster beyond the standard pedigree. That’s down to the immense, unparalleled skills and creativity of director Chris McQuarrie, and Cruise’s adroit naturalness and bravery in some of the greatest action sequences ever crafted for film. A masterclass, that’s for sure.

5. Jerry Maguire

© – TriStar Pictures

He really did have me at ‘hello’ in this much-loved rom-com. Striking up a workable chemistry with relatively unknown at-the-time Renee Zelwegger, and engaging with the Oscar-winning Cuba Gooding Jr in the film’s most famous and electric scene (“Show me the money!”), Cruise’s charming naivety and solid-heart is at the core of this likeable flick.

4. War Of The Worlds

© – Paramount Pictures

Spielberg’s post 9/11 sci-fi infuses ground level terror with big-budget set pieces, creating a thoughtful examination of a hysteric, fearful world while keeping the pulse-racing thrills. We see the ambush on the world by a large number of mammoth tripods through the eyes of Cruise’s temperamental father, with plenty of him running (a trend which has become the actor’s most loved trait), but also a fair deal of genuine emotion, such as a scene in which he is covered head-to-toe in human ash, wide-eyed and petrified.

3. A Few Good Men

© – Columbia Pictures

A barnstorming, perfectly scripted courtroom drama (thanks to the fast-paced wordsmith, Aaron Sorkin), that saw a relatively young, but infectiously cocky and fiercely intelligent Cruise go up against the cold-faced, commanding Jack Nicholson. Easily one the most frequently quoted films of our time (“You can’t handle the truth!”), the script may be its greatest strength but Cruise is more than a match for other members of the cast, especially in a time in which he still had to prove his dramatic chops.

2. Top Gun

© – Paramount Pictures

Oh, how I adore Top Gun. Cheesy, stupid, blindingly homoerotic, and unstoppably entertaining. Cruise’s performance as Maverick is one that made the world fall in love with him, donning the aviator shades and riding his classic motorbike to timeless delights such as Kenny Loggins’ testosterone-pounding ‘Danger Zone’ and the swooning ‘Take My Breath Away’. Ultimately, it’s about finding yourself and the power of brotherhood, but who’s thinking about those themes during the still-impressive aerial set-pieces and the enduringly hilarious volleyball sequence.

[Honourable mention: Cruise’s gut-achingly funny take on a megalomaniacal movie producer in Tropic Thunder remains an absolute treasure.]

1. Collateral

© – Paramount Pictures

Cruise has played many, many different roles. An war activist in Born On The Forth Of July, a lawyer in The Firm, a sexually frustrated doctor in Eyes Wide Shut – but what is he often not? A villain. He’s known best as a hero, the one who will save the day and put the bad guys away, all while running probably. But in 2004 came Collateral, a neo-noir, delectably stylish thriller directed by Michael Mann, that placed a cool, villainous Cruise at its centre, alongside Jamie Foxx. Cruise plays a hitman who hires Foxx, a cab driver, to taxi him around a nighttime L.A. to carry out his several hits. This manages to split the film into two – a compelling character study, and an exciting action thriller. The pair’s interplay is magnetic, all while steeped in the moody, orange-soaked roads of a nocturnal city. Cruise is magnificent, embodying a playful edginess that never loses the sense of danger he imposes. A truly terrific baddie – shame he hasn’t tried any more nefarious roles.

There you have it – let me know what you think. What’s your favourite Tom Cruise movie? 

Published by

Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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