10 best Tom Cruise movies
Tom Cruise is our most confounding movie star. He reminds us how great movies can be—he does his own stunts, he remains loyal to the script and the director, he insists on shooting with film over digital—but he also reminds us of how uncomfortably seedy Hollywood can be. As both the 21st century’s biggest and most spectacular action star and the face of the Church of Scientology, Tom Cruise is as enigmatic as they come.
There’s no denying Cruise’s star power. From the very beginning of his career—Top Gun, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July—to his recent works—Edge of Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible—Tom Cruise has demonstrated extensive amounts of skill as an actor and cemented himself as a staple of American cinema. He can do action, drama, comedy, he can work with the biggest names in cinema or a small independent filmmaker, he can lead a film, he can steal a scene as a supporting character, he can stay behind the camera as a producer—he can do it all. It’s truly an experience to see Cruise perform his own stunts, to consistently show up film after film as a strong lead.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Given how many times you’ve probably heard people talking about M:I – Fallout, it should come as no surprise to see it at the top of a list of his best movies. His stunt work is fantastic, his timing is impeccable, and the film is an absolute blast from the first frame to the last. This movie would simply not exist without Cruise and his dedication to the franchise and the medium of film as a whole. It’s a masterwork in method acting and in blockbuster filmmaking.
One of Paul Thomas Anderson’s earliest (and most ambitious) films, Magnolia follows a whole cast of characters living in the San Fernando Valley. Their lives touch and intertwine with one another’s, including Cruise’s character: a sex guru named Frank ’T.J.’ Mackey. Anderson wrote the part specifically for Cruise, and the two’s talents combine to create something incredibly memorable. The film is a doozy, spanning more than three hours in length, but it’s almost worth it entirely for Tom Cruise’s performance alone.
Edge of Tomorrow
One of Tom Cruise’s first collaborations with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie also happens to be one of their best collaborations. In what can only be described as Groundhog Day-meets-Alien-meets-Independence Day, Edge of Tomorrow is the kind of original blockbuster we so desperately need in this current climate of reboots, remakes, revivals, and sequels. It’s endlessly watchable, the performances are spectacular, and it’s a blast from start to finish.
Cruise and science fiction seem to go hand-in-hand about as perfectly as… well, Cruise and action, Cruise and comedy, or Cruise and drama. In this collaboration with Steven Spielberg, he plays an officer who is arrested for a crime he hasn’t committed yet thanks to a special police force with the technology to predict who will become a criminal and when. It is purely and unabashedly a classic staple of 21st century science fiction.
Who doesn’t love Rain Man? Rain Man is delightful, it’s crowd-pleasing, it’s sweet, it’s one of Cruise’s best. He plays Charlie, the straight man to Dustin Hoffman’s eccentric and incredibly intelligent character Raymond, as they travel cross-country after the death of their father. It’s a must-watch for almost anyone, as it’s hard to imagine not feeling at least a little joy when watching one of Cruise’s first and most lighthearted roles.
Eyes Wide Shut
While many are divided on whether or not Stanley Kubrick’s final film is actually any good or not, Cruise’s performance certainly deserves praise. In this film, he’s obsessive, he’s deranged, he’s in too deep—it’s quite the movie and quite the performance, as well. Any actor would be lucky to have worked with Kubrick during his lifetime, but Cruise is even luckier to have given such a standout performance in one of his films.
It’s interesting to compare Cruise’s Ethan Hunt here and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in M:I-Fallout. He’s the same character, but he’s so much older and so much more willing to take things well over the top in order to complete the mission he chose. Still, this very first installment, directed by the great Brian De Palma, is the definition of what we now know as a Cruise vehicle. He’s learned how to play roles like this so well, and it’s due completely to his performance in this film.
Ben Stiller’s satire of the Hollywood blockbuster wouldn’t be complete without Tom Cruise’s truly insane portrayal as the inimitable Les Grossman, a large and balding man with a potty mouth and a knack for dancing. The movie is funny enough as is, but Cruise’s character is ultimately what allows this movie to surpass the bar usually set by your typical big-budget comedy. Even though he’s acting in a comedy, you can tell he’s giving it his all.
War of the Worlds
Another Spielberg collaboration calls for another spot on the top 10 list—this time, Cruise plays the leading man in the war between aliens and earth. This movie feels like a completely different experience now compared to watching it in 2005, seeing as special effects and filming techniques and even the world around us has changed so much, but the sheer talent that Cruise carries with him in every role is what earns this movie a spot on the list.
This might be a little blasphemous, but have you ever noticed that Top Gun is kind of boring? We all understand its appeal—after all, it’s the epitome of 80s cheese—but its lasting power has not proved to be as strong as we once thought. Oh well, it’s no matter: this film managed to launch Cruise to bigger and better roles that he never could’ve imagined without. Not to mention, i’ll certainly be interesting to see him reprise the role next year.