The Top Ten Tom Cruise Movies

Alright, alright.

Let’s do another one of these things.

After the relative success of my Top Ten Ridley Scott Films a couple of weeks back, I feel ok enough with these to take another crack at them. This time up? A Top Ten with an even higher level of difficulty, the Top Ten Tom Cruise Movies.

Mr. Cruise has been in a number of high quality films over the years, this was an extremely difficult list to whittle down. There are a number of really excellent films that didn’t make my cut… including some of his truly iconic roles.

Please keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily ordered by his performances, this would be what I would consider an attempt to rank his best movies. Of course, there are a few films of his I havent seen, I think I have all the major bases covered though.

With those disclaimers out of the way, read on!!

10) Risky Business (1983)

The toughest choice of all for me actually, because whichever ones I didn’t select wouldn’t get represented on the list… In the end I had to go with Cruise’s breakout role, Guido the killer pimp, and the iconic scene where Cruise slides across the floor in his fruit of the looms. It’s actually Cruise’s highest rated film on rotten tomatoes @ 98% (although reviews that pre-date the actual site skew high). Sometimes, you’ve just gotta make “Risky Business” your number 10.


9) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

The consummate action movie. Fast moving, slick and filled beginning to end with memorable set pieces. Cruise steps back into his role of Ethan Hunt after five years and doesn’t miss a beat. Aided by incredible special effects work and a strong supporting cast, MI:4 is an adrenalin charged thrill ride. The sequence on the side of the Burj Khalifa is absolutely unforgettable. If this movie had a memorable villain it would be talked about as one of the greatest action movies ever.


8) Tropic Thunder (2008)

Needing to resurrect his career after a string bizarre behavior incidents, scientology videos, and coming off horribly in an interview with Matt Lauer, Cruise donned the fat suit and gave us all Les Grossman. The foul-mouthed, volatile, hip-hop dancing Grossman reminded us that Cruise could be funny (and likeable). The movie itself is a hysterical comedy, thanks in large part to Cruise’s sizeable contribution.


7) Jerry Maguire (1996)

Cruise plays a sports agent who makes the mistake of thinking his company would want to do the right thing. Forced out on his own with only one client, Maguire has one chance to make it. Along the way, he finds romance with an ex coworker and her insufferably cute kid. With Cameron Crowe calling the shots and picking the tunes, you know you’re in for an emotionally manipulative ride, but this one works, as evidenced by its five Oscar noms (and one win – Gooding Jr.)_____________________________________________________________________________

6) Minority Report (2002)

Directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, “Minority Report” is a superb sci-fi action thriller. Futuristic concepts pepper a tautly paced film with a complicated plot. A harried Cruise runs for his life throughout most of it, dodging the police and fighting against fate itself. It’s a head trip at times, and “The Fugitive” in the future at others, but the meeting of Spielberg, Cruise and Phillip K Dick’s did not disappoint!


5) Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Ron Kovic, a young marine who is paralyzed in Vietnam. A true believer when he went in, he loses more than his ability to walk in the war. He loses the very foundation of his beliefs. With nothing left to stand on, literally and metaphorically, he’s forced to go journey of self discovery that ends with him protesting the war and condemning the very things he once held so dear. A powerful anti-war movie, and easily one of Cruise’s most challenging roles.


4) The Color of Money (1986)

Martin Scorsese directs Cruise at his young hotshot best. Paul Newman reprises his role as “The Hustler”‘s Fast Eddie Felson, who first mentors Cruise, then comes out of retirement to challenge him. Cruise whoops and hollers around as Newman tries to channel his energy in the right direction and coach him in the way of the hustle. All the while, Scorsese’s visually striking direction makes nine-ball look cooler than it ever has.


3) Magnolia (1999)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic masterpiece on the human condition. It’s an incredible film, with an enormous, talented cast. A challenging, unique and poetic movie, Magnolia is easily one of the best films Cruise has ever been involved with. It takes a look at the fragile coincidences that connect us all as we move through life, each of us trying to do the best we can. Epic and operatic.

2) A Few Good Men (1992)

A rock solid courtroom drama featuring great performances, containing one of the most memorable lines in movie history. Cruise plays Daniel Kaffee, an underachieving Naval lawyer coasting by on his charm. When he’s suddenly assigned a case with enormous stakes, however, Kaffee rises to his potential. The entire movie is great, but it’s the unforgettable climactic courtroom scene with Cruise and Nicholson thundering at each other that makes the movie such a legend.

1) Rain Man (1988)

The story of the Babbit brothers may be most memorable for Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), but it’s Charlie who changes. It’s a moving story of a self-absorbed man who discovers he has an older brother he never knew about, only to learn that he’s autistic. In an attempt to gain his share of the inheritance, Charlie winds up on a road trip with Raymond, and learns that there are more important things in life than money. Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


Well, there you have it. My weigh in on the top ten Tom Cruise movies ever. There were some PAINFUL omissions. I have seen but, for one reason or another, “Cut”: “Collateral”, “Legend”, “War of the Worlds”, “MI: 1-3”, “The Last Samurai”, “Vanilla Sky”, “Cocktail”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Top Gun” and “Interview with the Vampire”.

I mean, every one of those movies could easily place on a lesser star’s top ten with no problems. But Cruise’s filmography is filled with high quality pictures, he has no shortage of candidates for a “Top Ten” list, at all.

So what do YOU think? Which omission gets your blood boiling? Which movie do I have ranked to high, or too low? Let’s hear it, what do YOU think?


76 thoughts on “The Top Ten Tom Cruise Movies

  1. Interesting list. Mine would be pretty different, though. The big omission in my opinion is Collateral, which is up there with Magnolia is his best performances. Without giving it too much thought, here’s what I would pick:

    1. Magnolia
    2. Minority Report
    3. Collateral
    4. Jerry Maguire
    5. Rain Man
    6. Mission: Impossible (Ghost Protocol is close, but this is slightly better)
    7. A Few Good Men
    8. Born on the Fourth of July
    9. Interview with the Vampire
    10. Top Gun (very silly, but still a trademark ’80s film)

    • Yeah, I know that Collateral is a really popular choice, a lot of people like it a lot…

      I’m not really one of them. I think it goes completely off the rails towards the end. I’m just not a big fan. No issues with shuffling the order on the rest of them though, the man has a lot of great movies…

      • I’ll admit that I give Michael Mann a lot of leeway. I even really liked Miami Vice, if that tells you anything. I’ve heard similar thoughts about the last third from a lot of people, but I didn’t bother me.

        I know your list wasn’t about performances. What did you think of Cruise’s performance in Collateral?

      • He was fine, but I think he gets the “Playing Evil Estimation Bump”. You know, that % of overrating that comes when a traditionally good guy / hero actor takes on a villain role? OH MY GOD TOM HANKS AS A VILLAIN IT WAS INCREDIBLE. LOL.

        It happens. He did a great job, but I think – personally I think – that movie is overrated.

  2. Interesting list! I’d definitely put Collateral in the top 10 as well as The Last Samurai and Top Gun. I personally would have MI4 much higher too. That film was insanely fun!

    • I leave off “Last Samurai” for one reason… the end.

      I was totally in love with that movie, and then that battlefield finale… well, I dont want to spoil it for anyone, but lets just say it was insanely farfetched to me. LOL. And really kind of ruined the spell of the entire flick for me.

      I considered it though, Pete, it IS a good flick…

  3. Fogs, you were reading my mind my friend! I was just yesterday having a conversation about this very topic, and worked on my own top 10 Tom Cruise films. Let me preface by saying, I’ve never seen Magnolia and couldn’t get into Tropic Thunder.

    10 – Cocktail
    9 – Minority Report
    8 – The Last Samurai
    7 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
    6. Born on the Fourth of July
    5. Jerry Maguire
    4. Top Gun
    3. Rain Man
    2. A Few Good Men
    1. The Color of Money

    Honorable Mention: Risky Business, Vanilla Sky, Eyes Wide Shut, Mission Impossible 1-2 (hated the 3rd)….basically, you covered them all.

    • DOH! I left Collateral off my list…should have been in the 5 slot, knocking Cocktail out of the top 10..

    • Ooh. Color of Money at #1! I like that. Probably my personal favorite out of the bunch… either that or a few Good Men.

      I dont think I was reading minds as much as its “going around”. I checked in with Rotten Tomatoes to see a score on one of these today, and they had their list of best Cruise films up. A big opening will do that, I think. Saw your next comment that you left off Collateral. LOL. Not easy, is it? 😀

      • Agreed, they are my 2 personal favorite films of his.

        I’m not sure how big an opening Rock of Ages will get, but when you are pushed as a draw for the movie..yep, it will do that.

        I had it written down, but just passed right over it.

        Cruise, with no one to blame but himself, has such a bad rep that most people just kind brush him aside as an actor..but when you look at the movies he’s done throughout his career, he really has been in a some fantastic films and has done a more than admirable job in most of them.

      • Oh, yeah, definitely.

        He’s not the greatest actor ever, but he has some great moments. Born on the Fourth lets him show off some range, I thought. Magnolia, too.

        But he’s at his most enjoyable, I think, when they just let him be himself and be that super cocky guy… he plays that role to perfection. 😀

  4. Interested to see that my teenage-favorite TOP GUN didn’t make the cut for you.

    Part of me feels like I’ve outgrown Tom Cruise (I could probably count the films of his from the last ten years that I’ve enjoyed on one hand), but then I think about how much fun I had with M:I-4 and realize that might not quite be the case.

    • Too much cheese. It was seriously considered for the #10 spot though. Honestly, I kind of agonized a little between that, Risky Business, Collateral and Interview with the Vampire. The rest of the list I have strong enough feelings about to argue their positions, but #10 was a choice of like, which movie DONT I want left off this list the most. LOL

    • That aint bad then Brik! Plus you’re the hardest critic to please in the crowd! 😀

      MI:3 was a consideration, but 4 is so intense…

      And Samurai… I just didnt care for the fact that all the Gatling guns stop so these dudes could commit Hari Kari. Other than that, it is a great flick. I suppose I should revisit in order to see if I can get past that now, now that I know its coming.

  5. Gotta be honest…I loved “Tropic Thunder,” but I thought Cruise was the weakest element of the film. It was all too obvious that it was Tom Cruise in bad makeup…which just reinforced the reason why I’ve never been all that thrilled with Cruise as an actor in the first place…he never seems to allow himself to vanish in the role. It’s still just Tom Cruise.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’ve enjoyed many of his films and enjoyed him in many of the films, but I can’t say he’s ever surprised me.

  6. Nice list, but I seem to be more on the wavelength of Dan Heaton. I’d prob have to say:
    10. The Last Samurai
    9. Vanilla Sky
    8. Eyes wide shut
    7. Interview with the vampire
    6. Jerry Maguire
    5. Collateral
    4. Rain Man
    3. A few good Men
    2. Minority Report
    1. Magnolia
    I haven’t seen the Colour of Money, Born on the Fourth of July or Risky Business so am not one to judge on those. The first two are definitely ones I’d like to watch though.

    • Risky Business is a good one too TCT, give it a shot if you get a chance. It’s a fun flick.

      Meanwhile, I fully expected the “Collateral” backlash, but didnt expect so many to side with Last Samurai. Will raise the movie in my mental estimation accordingly. LOL

      Vanilla Sky is going to be WAY too inaccessible to way to many people for me to have put it up. It’s just… impenetrable for most. You know?

      • The good thing about Vanilla Sky is at least its trying to be bit different, fine it was not quite thought out enough, or maybe the opposite, but I think its decent.

        I have to say, I don’t like the Last Samurai that much but just
        couldn’t think of that many more Tom Cruise films I liked LOL. It is impressive though, if a bit ridiculous

      • Have you ever heard that Vanilla Sky is an extended metaphor for the Buddhist cycle of life, death afterlife and rebirth?

        It loses its audience as a surface level film by doing it, but each of the major scenes is representational of a stage of that reincarnation cycle. For example, the mustang driving into the empty Times Square is birth… the car crash is death, he examines the life he led in the afterlife sequence, he learns to let go, Diaz/P Cruz are yin yang fear/love, him jumping off the building is him choosing to be reincarnted and live again…

        I worked up a whole outline once, I find it fascinating. If it had worked better as JUST a movie, like a no thought put into it beyond what is shown level? That movie would have been brilliant…

      • Interesting, but too much for a film like that. And for something so intelligent and thought out, why Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Make it sleek and stylish with young unknown actors, anyway it’s been done now, and it isn’t awful, just not great

      • Vanilla Sky is a remake of Amenabar’s “Open your Eyes”, which also had Penelope Cruz. Amenabar said it was a movie of dualities, perception versus reality. Sounds Buddhist to me!

  7. I LOVE that your posts are always so ‘of-the-moment’ Fogs! The Cruisters been in the limelight a lot lately, that man’s still got it. I think my top five Tom Cruise movies would be: Collateral, The Last Samurai, Minority Report, Top Gun (for nostalgia sake) and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Knight & Day was awful though, plus I can’t stand Cameron Diaz.

    • “I LOVE that your posts are always so ‘of-the-moment’ Fogs!”

      I credit my lack of originality. It forces me to ride whatever wave pop culture is currently sending our way. LOL 😀

      Meanwhile, yes, Knight and Day was… silly. Totally disposable.

  8. A couple of under rated films for Cruise; Knight and Day, Eyes Wide Shut. Knight and Day because it’s his only one with action and comedy. I liked it but I think the comedy killed it with critics. Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick. Says it all. Well maybe not. I guess the dark underworld of New York and gothic sexual repression wasn’t enough for critics. A better ending would have helped immensely but I think Kubrick was dead by then and Spielberg was driving. Legend. Good enough for your top Ridley Scott list but not Cruise? HUH? What gives?

    • Cruise has a lengthier, deeper filmography. It helps that actors can churn out movies faster than directors can.

      I need to revisit Eyes Wide Shut. It’s got a bit of a cult thing going on. First impression though was that it was a steaming mess. LOL. And Ive never gone back.

      I need to in order to solidify my Kubrick knowledgebase though now that I’m blogging…

  9. Your lists are top notch, mainly because even if I dont pick them similarly, there is just no arguing about the quality! The only change I would make to this is to swap out Minority Report for The Last Samurai. The reason is his character arch is from disdain and disgust to empathy and honor in that film and it is a real achievement for him as an actor. At least in my view.

    • Yeah, there’s certainly more growth there. People definitely seem to be loving that one… I hadnt anticipated the groundswell of support it would get or I might have snuck it in at 10. LOL. Of course then everyone would be saying “Where’s Risky Business”? 😀

      I stand by my “Implausible Ending Diminishes Movie” theory though…

  10. Your list is great (except for the exclusion of “Collateral”, but you explained why).

    You’ll probably want to revise the list after you watch “Rock of Ages”. Cruise owns every scene he is in.

    The only film I disagree w/ you is “Minority Report”. I cannot forgive that movie for its poor screenplay. Fist, you are wanted by the authorities and you are able to still your eyes in retina scan to get into the holy of holies where the psychics are? And second, you are now in jail and someone else uses your eyes again in another retina scan to break you out? Really?

    As you can read, I still had issues w/ that film.

    • Wow. Couple of REEAALLLYS? In there Vic! 😀

      Rock of Ages has been getting slammed so far. I havent been hearing good things… so thats a surprise to hear.

      And then… I guess you could nitpick some things in Minority Report… but there ought to be some kind of Movie Theorem about the proportionality of a movie’s quality to the audience’s willingness to forgive it for small plot points. In a lesser movie, I’m all over stuff like that. In this one, I breeze right by…

      Logical? Nope. Truth? Yup. LOL 😀

      • Funny, because it is a Spielberg/Cruise film is why I find it unforgivable.

        As for “Rock of Ages”, it’s a popcorn movie w/ a great Tom Cruise performance. My review for it is up today.

      • Mn. Will have to swing by next week… actually still have some Prometheus reviews to catch up on thanks for reminding me. 😀

        Dont read reviews now til I do my own…

  11. Oh! Mr. Fogs, you tease us so.
    It’s hard to pick his top ten film’s. It’s easier to pick his top ten performances. Just to get this out the way, I think the man gets a lot of undeserved stick for his personal antics and beliefs but I’ll at the very least deliver my top five, otherwise it’s too hard..
    #1. Magnolia
    #2. Eyes Wide Shut
    #3. The Color Of Money
    #4. Born On The Fourth of July
    #5. Rain Man

    Just for the record. Tropic Thunder was a thunderous piece of tropical shit. The only highlight was Cruise himself. That being said, I bid you adieu. 😉

    • “That’s a negative on the Tropic Thunder, Ghost Rider, the movie is hysterical”

      People’s beliefs and behaviors and stuff should be their own… unless they’re promoting/interviewing/being a celeb

      I dont favor the paparazzi stalking people in any way… but if youre going to go on a talk show its different. That’s where I shake out. He brought some of that stuff on himself.

      Meanwhile. Yeah, these lists are actually difficult exercises. Especially knowing you’ll have to defend them later LOL.

      I’m definitely going to have to revisit Eyes Wide Shut now, huh?

  12. Ahhhh this is the poll I had lined up for next week at TWS! I am trying to ride the coattails of Rock of Ages, too. 😀

    When researching for the poll, I was surprised to find how many Cruise movies I really enjoyed. He’s not someone I would normally think of as a favorite or anything, but you can’t go wrong with Rain Man, Minority Report, Eyes Wide Shut, etc. Dude has had some duds over the years, but he can still bring it when necessary.

  13. I agree with your list except for the Color of Money(TCOM) and Tropic Thunder. The critics weight TCOM heavily due to Newman. While decent, it is in pool with other good films like Last Samurai that didn’t quite make the top 10 spots.

    Top Gun is an enigmatic role for Cruise and so many other 80’s talents including Kilmer, Robbins, Skeritt, and Edwards. TG has something for everyone including some of the best jet sequences in any film and is highly rewatchable. It is high production, high adrenaline, and oh so quotable. Tom Cruise even had a hand in writing small portions of the script.

    Tropic Thunder is just a supporting role even though it’s hilarious, so it doesn’t fit.
    Collateral is respected by both critics and audiences and is a rare bad guy part for Cruise that should be in the ten.
    Born on the 4th of July’s Kovic is a strong character and one of Cruise’s BEST acting performances which I enjoy but is not as mainstream as other movies.
    Ghost Protocol is a great film but could be lower (but not by much) as it’s a rehash of some earlier MI film characters.

    My List of Cruise 10
    Rain Man #1
    Few Good Men
    Top Gun
    Ghost Protocol
    Minority Report
    Jerry Maguire
    Born on the 4th of July
    Risky Business

    • Well, count me amongst the critics then in terms of The Color of Money. That’s a severely underrated flick. I love it. VERY entrtaining. Great roles for both the leads, great supporting cast, and all the Pool looks SOOOOOO cool. LOL Love that one S. Agree to disagree.

      Top Gun was a really difficult exclusion for me. It may be attributable to having gone so long without rewatching it… its been several years at least. It’s got a lot of 80s to it, almost too much for me. And cheese. But I have no issue with people wanting it included…

      Tropic Thunder MAY have just been a supporting role, but it was a movie stealing supporting role, and so popular they’re still considering doing a movie around that character.

      Meanwhile, I knew going in to this one that excluding “Collateral” would be unpopular. I have serious issues with it though, and even at 10 (which I considered just to be able to say “See? I included it”) I would have had to bullshit about why I think its good. It’s got some great stuff, yes. Yes, it was great seeing Cruise play evil. But it’s a three car crash when Foxx “turns the tables” at the end, and there’s a number of points along the way where I was questioning things… Cant get with it, but I will acknowledge it’s probably just me.

      All that said, 8 outta 10 aint bad…

  14. I have seen every Tom Cruise movie except Lions for Lambs (& Rock of Ages, but that doesn’t count, because I’m seeing it on Monday; regardless of RT’s 44%!), oh, and Lions is on my Netflix’s queue. I agree with your list with 2 exceptions: 1. I’m not sure how I feel about MI:4 being on the list, but I really don’t know which I would replace it with if I removed it. & 2. Magnolia needs to be #1 (my tattoo in my profile pic is the outline of the magnolia from the movie posters), it’s my favorite movie of all modern movies, but you included Tropic Thunder so I forgive you! ;).

    I would also like to say that I totally agree with your thoughts on Collateral & I disagree with many about Eyes Wide Shut. It is crap. Kubrick blamed Tom & Nicole for its failure and claimed they ruined the movie. I personally feel it lay on Kubrick. While I admire Kubrick, I think EWS lacked substance & depth. It had the potential to be amazing but the script never really went anywhere!

    Great post, Dan!

    • I have been waiting for this comment! Boom! FINALLY, someone that agrees with me on Collateral! We’re outnumbered here like 20 to 1 though Kim so watch out!

      I love Magnolia, too. I really do. But a factor I need to take into account when I consider “Greatness” is accessibility… a word I like to use a lot for really high level films. I’m not saying that movies should dumb themselves down to the audience, but if a movie is going to “go over people’s heads” I think that that’s a factor to consider in comparative lists. That’s really the biggest reason why I (Gasp, I know!) ranked it at #3. LOL

      Good to hear you’ll have my back when I MTESS it one day though. 😀

      Thank you for supporting Tropic Thunder, too! Mannnn… been having to defend that one a lot too!

  15. I do not get the love Ghost Protocol keeps getting all over the place. It was just an average action flick to me. Nothing more! Same with Tropic Thunder – ugh, that film just annoyed the heck out of me.

    I’ve not seen a lot of his earlier flicks but of the ones I have seen, this is what my list would look like:

    1. Born on the 4th of July
    2. The Last Samurai
    3. A Few Good Men
    4. Jerry Maguire
    5. Minority Report
    6. Top Gun (For funsies!)
    7. Mission Impossible
    8. Collateral
    9. Interview with the Vampire
    10. Valkryie

    This list would probably change on a monthly basis, but this is a snapshot of my mindset today!


      😀 That is Awesome. My day is started off with a bang now. LOL 😀

      Ghost protocol is a very very good action moive, its definitely not average… And Tropic Thunder is hysterical! I love it! It’s been getting a lot of heat though as a selection.

  16. I would concur about Rain Man but I think Born on the Fourth of July would be my #2 pick. As for 3-10…I’d really have to sit and think on it…Minority Report would probably be #3, though.

    • It IS tough. LOL. If you ever do this as an exercise, the tough part is all those films in like the 8-20 slots that are all worthy of being mentioned somehow, but you can only pick a few!

      Born on is definitely a great movie… with a filmography as strong as Cruise’s though, I had trouble ranking it higher. He just has so many great flicks to contend with, Andy!

      • He really does have one of the best acting portfolios of any actor (living or dead). It’s hard enough for me to do rankings of things so ranking his work would really almost come down to coin tosses.

  17. I would have Collateral very much near the top of my top 10. Very underrated flick IMO and he went after the grain, playing a baddie for once.

    • (Glumly nodding… tempted to count the number of “I would have had Collateral” comments I’ve gotten)

      Looks like I picked the wrong movie to underrate, myself. LOL! 😀

  18. I don’t feel like I can argue with your list. May not be what I’d pick off the top of my head for a Top Ten for Cruise, but I can’t really disagree with the choices. Some of the movies that weren’t as good had good performances by Cruise. Really easily to come up with reasons to move his movies around.

    I know where you’re coming from with Collateral. I really like that movie (possibly love), but it’s flawed. I guess there are just parts that I like so much that I try to ignore the unpleasant aspects (like Ruffalo’s hair/gotee thing).

    Glad Tropic Thunder was included. Cruise and Coogan stole that movie and they had such small parts.

    • Excellent. Taken a lot of heat over Collateral, I really appreciate the support when I get it Nic. 😀

      Meanwhile, I think part of the problem with making a list of his flicks is he has so many really good ones. It’s not very clean cut as to what the best ones should be because so many of them are excellent, excellent movies…

      Makes it difficult.

      But I shall brave on. 😀

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