Tom Cruise's Top Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Rock of Ages star.

Tom Cruise

Over the last 25 years, he's completed four impossible missions, learned about Wapner time, and driven the highway to the danger zone -- and now it's time to refresh Tom Cruise's Total Recall in honor of the about-to-reach-theaters Rock of Ages, so we're here to look back at the best-reviewed films of his career. For a guy with so many movies to his name, Cruise has had remarkable good luck with critics, and by limiting ourselves to his 10 most critic-friendly efforts, we had to exclude a number of fan favorites (sorry, War of the Worlds and Last Samurai). Still, we think you'll find plenty of vintage Cruise on this list, culled from the years both before and after he became better known for abusing Oprah's furniture than his acting. Let's stroll down the Tom Cruise block of memory lane, shall we?


84%

10. Magnolia

After the spectacular success of Boogie Nights, New Line gave director Paul Thomas Anderson carte blanche on his next project -- and he took full advantage of it, spinning a three hour-plus yarn about the lives of various residents of the San Fernando Valley. So much serious analysis has been devoted to Magnolia that it would be foolish to try getting into it here; even a cursory synopsis would require more space than we have. Suffice it to say, then, that playing sleazy "self-help" guru Frank Mackey was the perfect way for Cruise to shake off the years he'd spent working on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut -- and though the movie doesn't rest on his performance, his work here still won praise from a number of critics, such as Chris Gore of Film Threat, who referred to it as "an amazing display of acting for Tom Cruise, and one of the best films of 1999."

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83%

9. Tropic Thunder

Take note, future Hollywood stars: When you're trying to come out of a public relations skid that has lasted through several years, the dissolution of a high-profile studio partnership, and the loss of your longtime business partner, there's no cure quite like strapping on a fat suit and letting the profanity fly in an acerbic sendup of the hand that feeds you. Cruise's appearance here as foul-mouthed studio executive Les Grossman just about stole the show, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that the cast included Robert Downey Jr. in blackface, and netted Cruise a Golden Globe nomination in the bargain. In the words of TV Guide's Ken Fox, "Cruise is downright scary. It's the creepiest -- and most entertaining -- performance since his unforgettable appearance in that Scientology video."

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85%

8. Jerry Maguire

It wasn't just a hit, it was a phenomenon, spinning off a Top 40 hit for Bruce Springsteen, five Academy Awards nominations for the cast and crew, and Renee Zellweger's entire career. By blending sports with romance -- and liberally sprinkling the script with instantly quotable one-liners -- Cameron Crowe unlocked the formula to the perfect date movie (and, not coincidentally, oceans of box-office cash). As the sports agent who loses his high-paying job -- and finds himself in the process, natch -- Cruise brought his million-dollar charisma to its logical conclusion, which is probably why he spent the next decade choosing projects that obscured it. Though some critics were immune to its charms, most critics agreed with Kevin L. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal, who applauded Jerry Maguire by saying "it has a lot of charm and it's smarter than most Hollywood movies. It's terrific entertainment."

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86%

7. Collateral

After so many years of playing good guys (with great smiles), Cruise started to get a little restless in the late 1990s, taking risks by playing against type in films both well-received (Magnolia) and not (Vanilla Sky). It was Michael Mann's Collateral, though, that presented perhaps the most intriguing new facet of all: Cruise as unrepentant villain. Stuart Beattie's script isn't the most profound source material -- something many critics were quick to point out -- but Collateral's power comes from Mann throwing Cruise together with Jamie Foxx and framing them against some of the most beautifully filmed nighttime shots of Los Angeles ever seen. Though the action thriller had lost much of its luster by the time it was released, Collateral proved the genre could still work under the right conditions, netting Oscar and Golden Globes nominations for Foxx and rave reviews from the likes of From the Balcony's Bill Clark, who called it "one of the most compelling films of the summer."

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90%

6. Rain Man

Two years after sharing the screen with Paul Newman, Cruise lined up alongside another acting legend when he shared top billing with Dustin Hoffman in Barry Levinson's Rain Man. Though the character of Charlie Babbitt sent Cruise on a by-now familiar path -- cocky, shallow ne'er-do-well undergoes life-altering experience, becomes real person -- the whole thing is pulled together with such perfectly lovely old-school filmmaking flair that audiences (and most critics) were powerless to resist. It was Hoffman's work as the autistic Raymond Babbitt that got most of the attention, but his co-star won positive notices of his own, from critics such as the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum, who said it was "nice to see Cruise working for a change in a context that isn't determined by hard sell and hype."

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Comments

Aseel Salem

Aseel Salem

Does this list mean all RT's critics think that all these movies are better than A Few Good Men?

Jun 13 - 04:16 PM

Jónas Haux

Jónas Haux

No, it means that the percent of critics who liked each of these movies are higher than A Few Good Men (which has 81 %).

Jun 13 - 05:07 PM

David Gutiérrez

David Gutiérrez

Perfectly said.

Jun 18 - 03:43 PM

quietus28

jj l

I am surprised A Few Good Men is rated that high, frankly. A pretty generic and mediocre courtroom thriller, whose big "twist" (if you could call it that, being able to see it a mile away) was given away in all the trailers.

Jun 14 - 03:32 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

RISKY BUSINESS is WWWAAAAAAAAAYYY BETTER than A FEW GOOD MEN; Risky Business is (like) THE BEST TEEN COMEDY MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!!!

Jun 14 - 07:13 PM

Jvee Veneracion

Jvee Veneracion

Sir, John Hughes would like to have a word with you.

Jun 16 - 07:43 PM

Michael Dalton

Michael Dalton

Most films are better than A FEW GOOD MEN.

Jun 15 - 02:58 PM

Bertram Krogh

Bertram Krogh

For me, Rain Man and Magnolia are two of the finest films I have seen. Tom Cruise is truly a remarkable actor when the director and screenwriter devote time and character to him.

Jun 13 - 04:28 PM

Brantastic16

Brandon Williamson

Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia are my favorites, and Risky Business would probably my number 3. I haven't seen Minority Report yet though.

Jun 13 - 04:43 PM

Jónas Haux

Jónas Haux

No, it means that the percent of critics who liked each of these movies are higher than A Few Good Men (which has 81 %).

Jun 13 - 05:07 PM

David Gutiérrez

David Gutiérrez

Perfectly said.

Jun 18 - 03:43 PM

Jason H.

Jason Huang

i don't know about you guys, but ghost protocol is one of my favorite movies (yeah i'm pretty young). i'm a big fan of tom cruise, and i've seen all of these movies(except for one or 2). here's the rest of the list:
2. Minority Report
3. Collateral
4. Rain Man
5. Tropic Thunder
6. Magnolia
7. Jerry Maguire
8. Born On The Fourth Of July

Jun 13 - 05:10 PM

B P.

B P

Ghost protocol was a two hour commercial for bmw and apple.

Jun 14 - 11:55 AM

Vivek Thakur

Vivek Thakur

but it was gud...wasn't it???

Jun 16 - 01:50 AM

Joe O'Leary

Joe O'Leary

That's complete rubbish, excellent film.

Jun 17 - 03:47 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE!!!!!! (Lestat rules!!!!); also TAPS . . . Ghost Protocol is AWESOME---much better than that piece of CRAP Prometheus by Ridley Scott.

Jun 14 - 07:16 PM

jalfreziboy

mark ashworth

only a true thick idiot would compare ghost protocol with prometheus.

Jun 15 - 07:02 AM

David Broome

David Broome

He's right about Prometheus though - other than the one good genuine scene of horror and suspense it was visually striking but a complete mess.
I've seen better characterisation in Daffy duck cartoons.

Jun 18 - 02:10 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

You're dishpicable.

Jun 18 - 02:12 PM

dd9090

Don Romero

Loved "Taps" .. Timothy Hutton and George C. Scott .. not so much for TC's role. Also don't get how a stunt / action movie and a sci-fi prequel (for "Prometheus 2", not "Alien") merit a head-to-head, but I haven't seen MI4:GP yet, so..

Jun 16 - 11:19 AM

Mary Bogumill

Mary Bogumill

You've got to be kidding me a "CRUISE" list without "A Few Good Men" and "Top Gun" - PUHLEASE - hey we're not all pseudo-intellectual movie critics - These are the movies that made him Tom Cruise and these are the reasons we LOVE HIM

Jun 13 - 05:35 PM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

Sorry, but if putting Risky Business at number one makes the list look overly intellectual, we have different definitions. And Top Gun was Karate Kid with airplanes. Nothing new to see here.

Jun 15 - 11:07 AM

Lee Broxson

Lee Broxson

lulz

Jun 15 - 08:50 PM

dd9090

Don Romero

Huh? Where was TC's sensei Mister Miagi (sp?) -- or the COBRAs? -- in "Top Gun"?!

Jun 16 - 11:23 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Magnolia is his best role. I like Eyes Wide Shut, but sometimes I think Kubrick was capitalizing on his fake charm for that one. Tropic Thunder and Collateral were both great roles against type. Rain Man is an underrated performance, lost in the shadow of Dustin Hoffman, just like he shines beneath Paul Newman in Color of Money. I still prefer the first Mission Impossible, but like Minority Report, both excellent, but, you know, he's playing Tom Cruise.

This might be one of the few times where the fan list is totally off. Interview with a Vampire? Few Good Men? Last Samurai? huh. I mean, Top Gun is cheese puffs, but at least he didn't sleepwalk through it.

Some of his underrated roles - Taps (small role, excellent film), Lions for Lambs and Valkyrie. Risky Business is (was?) a lot of fun, and it's the film that really made Cruise a star. I wouldn't put in the top five though, much less #1.

Jun 13 - 06:08 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I just remembered All The Right Moves. Not as much fun as Risky Business, it was a great performance, the first true signs of his chops.

Jun 13 - 06:30 PM

Jimmy G.

Jimmy Gee

Yeah--Mission Impossible 1 is my favorite of all of them. And I loved Minority Report. These 2 aren't his best acting roles necessarily, but maybe my 2 favorite movies he was in.

Jun 14 - 08:15 AM

Jim H.

Jim Hardy

Risky Business is clearly better than everything else in the top 5, except for the awesome Color Of Money. It's a good choice for #1, given the other flicks in the top 10.

Nice call on All The Right Moves, that's a good movie.

Jun 15 - 09:43 PM

Michael Thierry

Michael Thierry

Good call on Valkyrie. Loved that movie and kind of underrated in my opinion.

Jun 16 - 02:11 AM

Armond White Sucks

Michael Baldelli

A Few Good Men is still my favorite Tom Cruise film.

Jun 13 - 06:14 PM

daftfunk

Mircea M

My Top Three Cruise films:
Eyes Wide Shut
The Color Of Money
Jerry Maguire

Jun 13 - 06:27 PM

Scott Harris

Scott Harris

Any listing of Tom Cruise roles that doesn't include The Last Samurai... Is truly no list at all.. Poignant, Moving and Excellent script... Soundtrack draws you in and doesn't let you go..

Jun 14 - 03:24 AM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

Avoided Samurai because I don't tend to like big battle scenes with lots of noise. Maybe it rises above that though?

Jun 15 - 11:11 AM

Rob Salomon

Rob Salomon

I really enjoyed The Last Samurai, but I wouldn't say it's a great movie. It really doesn't have many battles, it's more about a clash of cultures and being an outsider.

Jun 15 - 11:30 PM

dd9090

Don Romero

There aren't many battle scenes in movies that make me openly weep.. "Last Samurai" had one of them. (The attack on Fort Wagner in "Glory" was another.) Not too noisy.. 19th century weapons and Michael Bay didn't direct it. LOL. "Samurai" is VERY much worth watching. Just MHO.

Jun 16 - 11:34 AM

Eddie Felson

Eddie Felson

I said those are my top three. I didn't want to get into a top ten because it would have taken me too long to figure out where to place each movie on that list haha.

Jun 15 - 03:48 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I just remembered All The Right Moves. Not as much fun as Risky Business, it was a great performance, the first true signs of his chops.

Jun 13 - 06:30 PM

David L.

David Long

Tom Cruise brings down every movie he's in.

Although Minority Report and The Color of Money are absolutely fantastic. Magnolia is also good, but more because of Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's perfomances, rather than Cruise's.

Jun 13 - 07:35 PM

Jen Fotojenic

Jen Fotojenic

"Magnolia is also good, but more because of Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's perfomances, rather than Cruise's. " - this just completely invalidate your credibility and taste in judging performance.

Jun 13 - 07:43 PM

David L.

David Long

In what way? I didn't say his performance was bad, but rather not as good as the two listed.

Jun 14 - 10:53 AM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

What a snotty comment, Jen.

Jun 15 - 11:12 AM

Jimmy G.

Jimmy Gee

I would disagree strongly. I am no Tom Cruise fan--he is arrogant and seems like a jerk. BUT--personality differences aside, he has an amazing charisma that make his movies a lot of fun. For example, I don't think MIP:GP would have been nearly as fun if he wasn't in it. I would say his presence elevates action/thrillers to a higher level.

Jun 14 - 08:18 AM

Lyn Adams

Lyn Adams

Actually its been widely said that Tom Cruise is a very nice individual, and great to work with.

Jun 14 - 08:43 AM

Jimmy G.

Jimmy Gee

I think Spielberg might disagree with that one. Then there's the Matt Lauer incident, the falling out with Paramount (which used to be Tom Cruise's choice studio, going back to the Top Gun days) Then there were some pretty well-documented issues with his wife and child.
Cruise seems to alienate people, due to his arrogance--a lot of time about his religion of Scientology. I'm not saying he's an awful person, (Or the only one that has had these problems) but he has done a lot to tarnish his own image.

Jun 14 - 01:57 PM

Scott Senechal

Scott Senechal

Worked on Rain Man. You are right about his likablilty. Very kind. No hubris. Just a nice guy to work with. Don't agree with his religious affiliation, but at the time he never forced it. And I do think his performance was much more nuanced. I was disappointed he didn't win the best actor award.

Jun 14 - 03:14 PM

Michael Thierry

Michael Thierry

I have to disagree there. While Hoffman's and Moore's performance in Magnolia were brilliant, I think Magnolia was his best acting job of his career. That movie had about 4 or 5 just brilliant acting performances in it and it's hard to choose one over the other.

Jun 16 - 02:13 AM

Ryan Wigginton

Ryan Wigginton

Agree. I'm also a fan of Moore & Hoffman, and really didn'y like watching Cruise in this movie. I always feel like he's over-acting, if that makes any sense. Minority Report is good solid sci-fi and I remember liking his character in Collateral.

Jun 19 - 05:45 AM

Jen Fotojenic

Jen Fotojenic

"Magnolia is also good, but more because of Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's perfomances, rather than Cruise's. " - this just completely invalidate your credibility and taste in judging performance.

Jun 13 - 07:43 PM

David L.

David Long

In what way? I didn't say his performance was bad, but rather not as good as the two listed.

Jun 14 - 10:53 AM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

What a snotty comment, Jen.

Jun 15 - 11:12 AM

Ralph

Ralph Myers

Call me an asshole but The Color of Money is bad, probably Scorsese's second worse film besides New York New York and Jerry Maguire is even friggen worse, Magnolia should be number 1 cause it's pretty much a master piece (almost as good as Short Cuts) and Eyes Wide Shut should deff be on that list somewhere too, also Ghost Protocol is extremely over rated, also Tom Cruise is an asshole

Jun 13 - 07:47 PM

Ralph

Ralph Myers

Oh yeah forgot to mention Minority Report is an absolutely amazing film

Jun 13 - 07:48 PM

Ralph

Ralph Myers

Oh yeah forgot to mention Minority Report is an absolutely amazing film

Jun 13 - 07:48 PM

The Anticritic

peter gallo

I understand the functions of the list but... no Eyes Wide Shut?! Not even from the user ratings? WOW! Just WOW. That film was an epic mind fuck and IMO Stanley Kubricks best movie. I find something new every time i see it.

Jun 13 - 08:41 PM

dd9090

Don Romero

OT perhaps, but "Eyes Wide Shut" wasn't one my favorite Kubrick films. Probably because I'm too stupid to get it, blah, blah. I barely remember TC's performance in it.

Jun 16 - 11:49 AM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

First of all, not complaining: good list of movies, although if we are talking in terms of best Cruise performance, I think the honor goes to BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. Seriously: that was the only film in Cruise's resume where I completely forgot who was playing the role. He IS Ron Kovic. 2 Runner Ups? Frank T.J. Mackey in MAGNOLIA and Joel Goodson in RISKY BUSINESS Most Overrated? TOP GUN and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE Most Underrated? FAR AND AWAY (call me nuts, I think his accent wasn't that bad). Just WTF? VANILLA SKY

Oh, and I think ENDLESS LOVE is one of the absolute worst films ever made, completely destroying Scott Spencer's magnificent novel for the disgusting sake of soft-coring Brooke Shields' underage body in "erotic" blue light. Obviously, it's not Cruise's fault, although the irony is that his character was a ridiculous composite who triggered lead David Axelrod's decision to burn his girlfriend's house down after her father banned him for making obsessive, excessive love to the daughter (hence the title). The book opens moments before David strikes the first match, and by that time we recognize the real depth of his obsession. The movie has some gloriously bad lines that would rival the gold standards of SHOWGIRLS and HOWARD THE DUCK, like when Brooke's mother says "You know he stays overnight here and just scuttles away in the morning. He's been doing that for a while now. It's so sweet?they're like bats!" (FU, Judith Rascoe!)

Jun 13 - 08:57 PM

Stefan Feist

Stefan Feist

No Vanilla Sky? I found his best performance there, and the movie is awesome.

Jun 13 - 09:48 PM

Michelle Downs

Michelle Downs

I know! Vanilla Sky is one of his best roles. I was hoping to see it on this list as well.

Jun 15 - 11:34 PM

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