John Travolta with long hair sitting in the back of a convertible.

Best John Travolta films

Written by:
November 15, 2022
Miramax

Best John Travolta films

There are few Hollywood career arcs stranger than that of John Travolta. Even calling it an arc is a misnomer. Travolta took the chance to bully poor, supernatural Carrie White and parlayed it into the role of heartthrob on "Welcome Back, Kotter." He used his dancing skills in "Saturday Night Fever" and musical theater prowess in "Grease" to become one of the biggest stars in the world, acting in the #1 movie and hitting #1 on the Billboard charts in 1978. Later that year, he was in a film so horrible it almost ended both his and Lily Tomlin's careers.

As always, Travolta bounced back. His first revival flick was "Urban Cowboy"—think "Saturday Night Fever" in a country-western bar; later, the role of a lifetime appeared in "Pulp Fiction," landing Travolta back in Hollywood's good graces again. But even that seemingly infallible revival as Vincent Vega—about as iconic as characters come—was squandered with odd choice after odd choice. His recent television role as Robert Shapiro in "The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story" seemed gifted from the gods—producer Ryan Murphy is the king of camp, an arena in which Travolta thrives. But even then, he was overshadowed by others in the series' all-star cast.

Travolta is undoubtedly one of the most known Hollywood figures of all time. Forty years later, does he still shock us with performances no one saw coming? Almost certainly.

To look back on Travolta's enduring career, Stacker ranked all feature-length John Travolta films by IMDb user rating, with ties broken by votes. Cameos and documentaries were not included. Without further ado, here are Travolta's best movies.

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John Travolta under a green light with long dreadlocks and a round device on his temple.
1 / 58
Warner Bros.

#58. Battlefield Earth (2000)

- Director: Roger Christian
- IMDb user rating: 2.5
- Metascore: 9
- Runtime: 118 minutes

A lot of terrible things have been said about this movie—it's been called a "10-ton turkey," "appalling," and the "worst of the millennium"—and rightly so. This film based on the L. Ron Hubbard novel of the same name is B-movie bad without any of the fun. The problems are nearly countless, but known Scientologist Travolta's devotion to the source text, written by the religion's founder, must have made the adaptation process tricky. Travolta plays an embattled security chief of an alien race who illegally tries to mine gold to pay back to his home country. He wears a codpiece and a dreadlock wig—and it gets worse from there.

John Travolta and Lily Tomlin decorating a sandcastle on the beach.
2 / 58
RSO

#57. Moment by Moment (1978)

- Director: Jane Wagner
- IMDb user rating: 3.1
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Travolta had a three-film run with Cream and Bee Gees producer Robert Stigwood: "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease," and then this poorly reviewed romance—still a tremendous two-year run. Written and directed by Jane Wagner, "Moment by Moment" tells the story of an older Beverly Hills socialite (Lily Tomlin) who rebounds from her divorce with a pillhead named Strip Sunset (Travolta). Both actors were at the height of their power, but something just didn't click, and the film was an absolute mess. It was so bad it nearly derailed both actors' careers.

John Travolta standing under an arch outside wearing plaid shorts and a hawaiian shirt.
3 / 58
Quiver Distribution

#56. The Fanatic (2019)

- Director: Fred Durst
- IMDb user rating: 4.2
- Metascore: 18
- Runtime: 88 minutes

In a poorly executed meta role, Travolta stars in "The Fanatic" as Moose, a fanboy who begins stalking his celebrity action hero, Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). The film's attempts at satire fell flat with critics and audiences alike, earning it just $3,153 at the box office on its opening day, a colossal failure. Travolta even won Worst Actor at the following Golden Raspberry Awards for his performances in both "The Fanatic" and the car-racing film "Burning Rubber."

John Travolta sits on a garden patio drinking sparkling rose with a blonde woman.
4 / 58
Hannibal Media

#55. Speed Kills (2018)

- Director: Jodi Scurfield
- IMDb user rating: 4.3
- Metascore: 19
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Inspired by the life of the late speedboat racer Donald Aronow, "Speed Kills" stars Travolta as Miami businessman Ben Aronoff, whose success as a boat racer is interrupted when his former mob acquaintances attempt to seduce him into the drug trafficking underworld. As John DeFore described the critically panned "Speed Kills" in his Hollywood Reporter review: The movie kills—"kills careers that is."

John Travolta dressed as a pilot flying an airplane.
5 / 58
TriStar Pictures

#54. Look Who's Talking Now (1993)

- Director: Tom Ropelewski
- IMDb user rating: 4.4
- Metascore: 26
- Runtime: 96 minutes

The third in the Look Who's Talking trilogy, "Look Who's Talking Now" adds talking animals into the fold. The 1993 film follows Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and their two unexpectedly talking babies, who are now old enough to talk without the aid of overdubbed grown-up actors. The family gets some dogs (voiced by Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito) who also have the gift of gab but lack the same magic as their predecessors.

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John Travolta with a beard, wearing a black ball cap and black collared shirt.
6 / 58
Elipsis Capital

#53. Burning Rubber (2019)

- Director: Karzan Kader
- IMDb user rating: 4.5
- Metascore: 34
- Runtime: 87 minutes

Sorry, Travolta, not every father-son sports movie can be a home run. This was the case of the ill-received "Burning Rubber" (aka "Trading Paint"), which sees the actor depicting a legendary car racer whose son (Toby Sebastian) ditches him for his longtime rival, Bob Linsky (Michael Madsen). The movie helped win Travolta a Golden Raspberry Award, but hey, at least it has Shania Twain.

Jamie Lee Curtis in a headband talking to John Travolta in sunglasses outside.
7 / 58
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#52. Perfect (1985)

- Director: James Bridges
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Metascore: 46
- Runtime: 115 minutes

There's a great section in Joe Hagan's biography of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner where he talks about the misguided decision to play a caricature of himself in this film. Wenner, ever the scenester, thought it would be great to act alongside Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis, playing Mark Roth, the editor of Rolling Stone who ends up being the villain in "Perfect." Travolta plays a reporter who falls in love with his subject (Curtis), a workout instructor. Roth ends up changing Travolta's feature on gyms as the "single bars of the '80s" to make it more salacious. The film not only appears dated in hindsight—it already felt too late upon its release to be relevant and too self-promotional for Wenner's magazine to be taken seriously.

John Travolta and Kirstie Alley looking inquisitively.
8 / 58
Big Mouth Productions

#51. Look Who's Talking Too (1990)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 4.6
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 81 minutes

While the second film in the Look Who's Talking trilogy is far from perfect, it does have a solidly punny title. This time, the young couple (Travolta and Kirstie Alley) are struggling parents whose lives are further complicated when they add a baby daughter (voiced by Roseanne Barr) to their brood. Strangely, Mel Brooks voices a talking toilet. Archeologists will look back at Travolta as the ur-handsome '90s dad in this film.

John Travolta in a black leather jacket shaking hands with Sylvester Stallone in a cream leather jacket with fringe.
9 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#50. Staying Alive (1983)

- Director: Sylvester Stallone
- IMDb user rating: 4.7
- Metascore: 23
- Runtime: 93 minutes

Somehow, this sequel to "Saturday Night Fever," penned and directed by Sylvester Stallone—with a soundtrack written by Parkland student bully Frank Stallone—exists. As expected, catching up with disco dancer Tony Manero (Travolta) a half-decade later—now on Broadway—does not recapture the somewhat gritty, lived-in feeling of the original. The whole product seemed flawed from the start, and pulling genius from a precarious premise is not a specialty of the Brothers Stallone. Still, it's always a joy to watch Travolta dance.

John Travolta in torn up clothes talking to a woman with short blonde hair.
10 / 58
Twentieth Century Fox

#49. Two of a Kind (1983)

- Director: John Herzfeld
- IMDb user rating: 4.7
- Metascore: 5
- Runtime: 88 minutes

It was a big deal to have Travolta and "Grease" co-star Olivia Newton-John reunite five years after their musical megahit. Unfortunately, "Two of a Kind"—about an inventor (Travolta) who robs a bank (at which Newton-John is a teller) while God (Gene Hackman) contemplates a second flood—was far from greased lightning. The film flopped and was lampooned by critics, but the Newton-John-heavy soundtrack went platinum. One of the singles was "Take a Chance," a duet with Travolta.

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John Travolta and Kelly Preston dressed up at a dinner event.
11 / 58
EFO Films

#48. Gotti (2018)

- Director: Kevin Connolly
- IMDb user rating: 4.7
- Metascore: 24
- Runtime: 112 minutes

Described by one critic as "the Gigli of gangster movies," this derided biopic stars John Travolta as notorious New York mobster John Gott. He acts alongside his real-life then-wife, Kelly Preston (who plays Gotti's wife, Victoria). The film was in development hell for years, and as the reviews indicate, it shows in the final product.

John Travolta talking to a dark haired woman in a red dress.
12 / 58
BBI

#47. Eye for an Eye (2019)

- Directors: Francesco Cinquemani, George Gallo
- IMDb user rating: 4.7
- Metascore: 26
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Also known by "The Poison Rose," this crime thriller sees Travolta taking on the role of Carson Phillips, a private investigator whose investigation into a mental facility patient's missing person case in Texas unfolds into a far-reaching web of crimes and conspiracies. Grossing a measly $323,754 at the box office, The Guardian called "Eye for an Eye" a "ridiculous and mostly boring hardboiled thriller."

John Travolta and another guy trying to get into a door but a guy inside holds the closed sign up.
13 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#46. The Experts (1989)

- Director: Dave Thomas
- IMDb user rating: 4.8
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 94 minutes

This 1989 Cold War comedy is an example of a legendary premise that gets botched in execution. "The Experts" follows two American party boys (Travolta and Arye Gross) kidnapped by a Russian spy on the way to a club and transported to a phony American town in the center of the Soviet Union. The town is used to train Soviet spies on how to be American, and Travolta and Gross become the ambassadors to America's way of life. Quickly, the spies fall for the guys' love of fun and excess, leading to panic among the higher-ups. Travolta has a genuinely fantastic mullet in this film.

John Travolta writhing in pain outside in acid rain.
14 / 58
Sandy Howard Productions

#45. The Devil's Rain (1975)

- Director: Robert Fuest
- IMDb user rating: 5.0
- Metascore: 28
- Runtime: 86 minutes

Between the end of the "Star Trek" TV series and the beginning of its film run, William Shatner did a few B-movies, including this one, which has him battling a supernaturally powerful satanist. This movie has no business being memorable, but it features a young Travolta in his first film role, in which he gets indoctrinated into the satanic cult.

John Travolta and Tim Roth sit at a restaurant having coffee.
15 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#44. Lucky Numbers (2000)

- Director: Nora Ephron
- IMDb user rating: 5.1
- Metascore: 31
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Directed by the legendary Nora Ephron, "Lucky Numbers" has all the ingredients of a great film: a fun storyline, a great director, and a noteworthy cast, including Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O'Neill, Bill Pullman, Michael Rapaport. But unfortunately, the film—which follows a beloved but financially distressed weather reporter (Travolta) trying to rig the state lottery—did not strike gold. Part of the problem may have been that it was the only Ephron-directed film she did not write—in other words, it could've used more of her signature banter.

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John Travolta holding a handgun on the cover of the movie poster.
16 / 58
Management Company Entertainment Group (MCEG)

#43. Chains of Gold (1990)

- Director: Rod Holcomb
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Travolta wrote this film, which didn't get a theatrical release and instead aired on Showtime. He stars as an alcoholic-turned-social worker who fights to save a Miami kid from a crack-peddling street gang run by Benjamin Bratt's character, Carlos.

John Travolta.
17 / 58
Universal Pictures

#42. Shout (1991)

- Director: Jeffrey Hornaday
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 89 minutes

In this film, Travolta plays a music teacher at a strict West Texas all-boys school in the 1950s who introduces his students to rock 'n' roll—much to the dismay of the headmaster. Heather Graham plays the headmaster's daughter, who falls for one of the boys, and Gwyneth Paltrow shows up in her first movie role.

John Travolta and Gil Bellows at a tablein a bar cheersing with beers.
18 / 58
Elite Film Productions

#41. Life on the Line (2015)

- Director: David Hackl
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Metascore: 24
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Based on a true story, "Life on the Line" follows a crew of lineworkers fixing a power grid who must survive a barrage of downed power lines during a deadly storm. Travolta plays a crew member, but ironically, the film lacks electricity. Instead, it falls into a classic "based on a true story" trap, being overly reverential and recounting events rather than exploring the characters' interior lives.

John Travolta.
19 / 58
TWE

#40. The Tender (1991)

- Director: Robert Harmon
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Although "The Tender" (aka "Eyes of An Angel") was released in France in 1991, it didn't reach U.S. audiences until 1994, when Travolta's career was revitalized with the release of the Quentin Tarantino classic "Pulp Fiction." In this film, Travolta plays recovering alcoholic and struggling single father Bobby, whose young daughter fights to be reunited with her adopted dog as Bobby deals with the fallout of stealing his brother-in-law's money. "The Tender" was still a fairly under-the-radar release, going straight to VHS.

John Travolta in a white t-shirt.
20 / 58
Rysher Entertainment

#39. White Man's Burden (1995)

- Director: Desmond Nakano
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 89 minutes

It's hard to believe this film exists. Clearly birthed from high-minded and hopeful ideas, "White Man's Burden" imagines a world where white Americans are the underclass while African Americans make up America's ruling elite. Travolta plays a white factory worker who is fired by Harry Belafonte's character and responds by kidnapping the factory owner. This film wasn't well-received in the mid-'90s and is even less accepted decades later.

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John Travolta, Robin Williams and two kids in green scout uniforms.
21 / 58
Walt Disney Pictures

#38. Old Dogs (2009)

- Director: Walt Becker
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Metascore: 19
- Runtime: 88 minutes

Dedicated to Travolta's late son Jett, "Old Dogs" co-stars him and Robin Williams as free-wheeling business partners whose carefree lives are turned upside down when Williams' character discovers he's the father of twins (one of whom is played by Travolta's daughter, Ella Bleu Travolta). The raunchy film was derided for its dimwitted physical comedy, and Travolta received a Golden Raspberry nomination for Worst Actor for his performance.

John Travolta shooting a bow and arrow.
22 / 58
Millennium Films

#37. Killing Season (2013)

- Director: Mark Steven Johnson
- IMDb user rating: 5.4
- Metascore: 25
- Runtime: 91 minutes

Despite featuring the much-awaited pairing of Robert De Niro and Travolta, "Killing Season" was a flop. In the film, De Niro plays a retired colonel who oversaw the execution of Serbians during the Bosnian War. Travolta—donning a misguided beard and accent—plays a survivor of the shootings, bent on revenge, who tracks down De Niro at his rural cabin and befriends him under false pretenses. An at once compelling and suddenly anticlimatic face-off ensues.

John Travolta in a brown jacket talking to police.
23 / 58
Hannibal Classics

#36. I Am Wrath (2016)

- Director: Chuck Russell
- IMDb user rating: 5.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 92 minutes

This action film follows a former Black Ops agent (Travolta) who turns into a vigilante to avenge his wife's murder at the hands of a street gang. This film is another entry in the seemingly endless pool of old action star revenge flicks; the standout of this one is that Travolta gets a back tattoo that says, "I am wrath."

John Travolta talking with Vince Vaughn on the street.
24 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#35. Domestic Disturbance (2001)

- Director: Harold Becker
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Metascore: 29
- Runtime: 89 minutes

This thriller stars Travolta as a divorced shipbuilder whose wife (Teri Polo) remarries a pillar of the community with a dark secret (Vince Vaughn). While Travolta and Vaughn do fine, the film never unleashes the bizarre Vaughnian menace of a much better, if still disappointing, "Psycho."

John Travolta wearing a suit and smoking a cigarette on the roof of a building in the city with a girl in a bikini laying out in the sun.
25 / 58
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#34. Be Cool (2005)

- Director: F. Gary Gray
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Metascore: 37
- Runtime: 118 minutes

The sequel to the fantastic "Get Shorty" sees the return of Travolta as Chili Palmer, a hitman-turned-film producer who now wants to break into the music industry. Both the original and this sequel were based on crime-writing legend Elmore Leonard's novels; both are hilarious and star-studded. Travolta is great as the tough-yet-kind Palmer, but Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson steals the show as a bodyguard named Elliott.

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John Travolta, wearing overalls with no shirt, and Andie MacDowell sitting at a table with several other people.
26 / 58
Turner Pictures

#33. Michael (1996)

- Director: Nora Ephron
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 105 minutes

In this Nora Ephron film, Travolta plays the archangel Michael, brought to Earth to get two tabloid reporters together—God works in mysterious ways. Travolta's Michael is a booze-dipped, cigarette-stained angel but reveals the goodness within him as the film goes on. "Michael" is scored by Randy Newman, who starred in one of the greatest music videos of all time and wrote the songs for "Toy Story."

Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and John Travolta in all black leather on motorcycles.
27 / 58
Touchstone Pictures

#32. Wild Hogs (2007)

- Director: Walt Becker
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Metascore: 27
- Runtime: 100 minutes

By the same director as "Old Dogs," "Wild Hogs" tells the story of a group of middle-aged friends (Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen, William H. Macy, and Travolta) who put on lots of leather and go on a motorcycle road trip. Critics hated this film, but it was a hit at the box office. Disney canceled the planned sequel after "Old Dogs" bombed at the box office.

John Travolta at a casual restaurant with a woman and a teenage boy.
28 / 58
Saban Films

#31. The Forger (2014)

- Director: Philip Martin
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Metascore: 32
- Runtime: 92 minutes

In this crime thriller, Travolta stars as a thief and art forger released from jail on a favor from a crime syndicate to see his dying son (Tye Sheridan). Once outside, the syndicate asks him to create a fake Monet and pull off a heist, so he enlists his son and his thief of a father (Christopher Plummer) to help him pull it off. A family drama or a heist film with these three actors had the potential to be great. Unfortunately, the two plots never quite connect.

John Travolta in a black suit and dark sunglasses.
29 / 58
Capacity Pictures

#30. Criminal Activities (2015)

- Director: Jackie Earle Haley
- IMDb user rating: 5.8
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 94 minutes

"Criminal Activities" follows four young men, including Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey," who invest borrowed money in a can't-miss company that, because of regulatory scrutiny, manages to miss. Travolta plays the mobster who cashes in by having them kidnap a high-powered crime lord's nephew. As expected, things go horribly wrong.

John Travolta high fiving a toddler.
30 / 58
TriStar Pictures

#29. Look Who's Talking (1989)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 93 minutes

The talking baby franchise's original was the brainchild of Amy Heckerling, who also directed "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Clueless." In this film, Kirstie Alley is left with a newborn by her older, married co-parent (George Segal) and dives back into the dating pool, eventually re-meeting the handsome cabbie (Travolta) who had helped her while she was in labor. The title refers to the film's most memorable gag: Alley's baby is voiced by a cynical, rude, but funny Bruce Willis.

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John Travolta, Sean Penn, Nick Cassavetes, and Harry Dean Stanton stand together talking.
31 / 58
Miramax Films

#28. She's So Lovely (1997)

- Director: Nick Cassavetes
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 100 minutes

This film was written by the legendary actor and director John Cassavetes and finally brought to the screen a decade later—and eight years after the elder Cassavetes' death—by his son, the director Nick Cassavetes. Sean Penn and Robin Wright play a young married couple whose lives are derailed when their violent neighbor (James Gandolfini) beats up Wright. Penn's character seeks vengeance and ends up in an insane asylum, and Wright remarries a construction manager played by Travolta.

John Travolta holding a gun up against his face like he's thinking.
32 / 58
Twentieth Century Fox

#27. Broken Arrow (1996)

- Director: John Woo
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 108 minutes

In director John Woo's second English-language movie, "Broken Arrow," Travolta stars as an Air Force pilot whose co-pilot (Christian Slater) intentionally crashes their plane in Death Valley to make a nuclear arms deal. Travolta must team up with a park ranger (Samantha Mathis) to save the day. Luckily for the world, Woo liked working with Travolta enough to bring him on for "Face/Off" the following year.

John Travolta in a black western suit and cowboy hat walking away from a horse.
33 / 58
Universal Pictures

#26. In a Valley of Violence (2016)

- Director: Ti West
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 104 minutes

This Western, which premiered at South by Southwest, stars Ethan Hawke as a drifter who finds himself and his dog in trouble. Travolta plays Marshal, the father of Gilly (James Ransome), who runs the violent town Hawke must cross to get to Mexico. Jason Blum's Blumhouse, the lucrative indie studio dominating the box office in the horror genre, produced this film. Yet unlike "Get Out" or "The Purge," it was not a runaway hit.

John Travolta holding a long gun up to Dustin Hoffman, who is on the phone.
34 / 58
Warnder Bros.

#25. Mad City (1997)

- Director: Costa-Gavras
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Metascore: 45
- Runtime: 115 minutes

"Mad City" tells the story of an aggrieved, recently fired museum security guard (Travolta) who returns to his former place of business with a shotgun, looking for vengeance. A reporter (Dustin Hoffman) happens to be inside and uses the exclusive access to revive his fading career. The Costa-Gavras-directed film was a flop.

John Travolta at a bar wearing a blue western shirt and black cowboy hat.
35 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#24. Urban Cowboy (1980)

- Director: James Bridges
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 132 minutes

"Urban Cowboy" is basically "Saturday Night Fever" but with country-western music and mechanical bulls in place of disco balls and leisure suits. Here, Travolta plays the titular character, who moves to Houston and finds a home at a bar centered around mechanical bull-riding. Debra Winger plays the scene-stealing love interest, who emerged as the film's breakout star. Though the film didn't reach the heights of either "Grease" or "Saturday Night Fever," it was big enough to bring Travolta back from the edge of the career disaster that was "Moment by Moment."

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John Travolta holding his hand up at something.
36 / 58
Touchstone Pictures

#23. Phenomenon (1996)

- Director: Jon Turteltaub
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 41
- Runtime: 123 minutes

"Phenomenon" tells the story of a small-town mechanic (Travolta) who suffers a supernatural head injury and awakens with genius-level intellect and telekinesis. This Disney film looks at how the life of the mechanic and those around him change after seeing the light. Many think the film is meant to depict the state that Scientology calls "going clear," but it's no "Battlefield Earth."

John Travolta and Madeline Stowe at a bar.
37 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#22. The General's Daughter (1999)

- Director: Simon West
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 116 minutes

Based on the novel by Nelson DeMille, "The General's Daughter" was director Simon West's follow-up to the dumb-yet-fun "Con Air." In this film, Travolta is brought onto a military base undercover to investigate the death of Gen. Campbell's (James Cromwell) daughter, a highly respected captain on the base. As Travolta and his partner (Madeleine Stowe) start digging, they see that neither the general nor the captain are as they seem. The film was disliked by critics but made its money back at the box office.

Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, and Connie Nielsen having beers and food at a table.
38 / 58
Phoenix Pictures

#21. Basic (2003)

- Director: John McTiernan
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 34
- Runtime: 98 minutes

In "Basic," Travolta plays an ex-Army Ranger brought in to investigate the disappearance of Sgt. West (Samuel L. Jackson) and some Special Forces trainees in the jungle of Panama. The film is something like "A Few Good Men," mixed with M. Night Shyamalan-level twists and a heavy dose of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Unfortunately, despite a skilled performance from Travolta, this film's many twists wrestle free from director John McTiernan's grips.

John Travolta and Laura Harring dressed up having wine.
39 / 58
Lions Gate Films

#20. The Punisher (2004)

- Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 33
- Runtime: 124 minutes

The film tells the comic book story of Frank Castle (Thomas Jane), an FBI agent who kills the son of crime boss Howard Saint (John Travolta)—who retaliates by killing Castle's whole family. The film follows Castle as he becomes the darkened vigilante, the Punisher, and seeks revenge on the world. This Marvel movie was successful, but far from a smash hit—four years later, "Iron Man" would begin the Marvel Cinematic Universe and change the entire film industry.

John Travolta talking to Salma Hayek in a booth table.
40 / 58
Millennium Films

#19. Lonely Hearts (2006)

- Director: Todd Robinson
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 60
- Runtime: 108 minutes

"Lonely Hearts" is based on the true story of Raymond Fernandez (Jared Leto) and Martha Beck (Salma Hayek), dubbed "The Lonely Hearts Killers" after a murder spree in the 1940s. Travolta and James Gandolfini play detectives tasked with catching the killer couple. The film made rounds at festivals but never got a wide release.

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John Travolta, with short hair and a mustache, pointing a gun on a train.
41 / 58
Columbia Pictures

#18. The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

- Director: Tony Scott
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 106 minutes

In this remake of the 1974 film, Travolta plays a criminal who takes a subway train hostage. Denzel Washington is tasked with negotiating the terms of the release, and James Gandolfini plays the mayor of New York City. The thriller was not hated but not well-loved, ultimately falling short of high expectations on account of its cast and director.

John Travolta, with a shaved head, holding a gun inside a vehicle.
42 / 58
EuropaCorp

#17. From Paris with Love (2010)

- Director: Pierre Morel
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 42
- Runtime: 92 minutes

This action movie, created by French director Pierre Morel, stars Travolta as an experienced CIA agent sent to Paris to investigate a drug ring tied to Pakistani terrorists. Travolta works with and becomes a mentor to a young aide to the U.S. Ambassador to France, who also works with the CIA. The film was a huge flop, which clipped the wings of director Morel, who had just directed the megahit "Taken" the year before.

John Travolta, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Taylor Kitsch sitting at a table by the water with colorful umbrellas.
43 / 58
Ixtlan

#16. Savages (2012)

- Director: Oliver Stone
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 59
- Runtime: 131 minutes

"Savages" follows Californians Ben (Aaron Johnson), O (Blake Lively), and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), whose idyllic life growing and selling marijuana is disrupted when cartel leader Elena (Salma Hayek) demands a piece of the action. Before long, the trio recruits a DEA agent named Dennis (Travolta) and prepares to face off against Elena and her allies. Although the film received mixed reviews, it had notable defenders—including celebrated film critic Roger Ebert, who described the two sides' conflict as "spellbinding."

John Travolta in a suit wearing dark glasses.
44 / 58
Hollywood Licensing Group

#15. Swordfish (2001)

- Director: Dominic Sena
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 32
- Runtime: 99 minutes

This heist thriller centers a recently paroled computer hacker (Hugh Jackman) who is convinced to help with a billion-dollar heist by the beautiful Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry) on behalf of her boss, Gabriel Shear (Travolta). The world of "Swordfish" is dramatically lit and overly sexualized in a '90s action film kind of way. Berry made a historic Oscar-winning turn in the film and was paid $500,000 in tandem with a $2 million salary to appear topless in a scene. In one scene, Jackman must prove his hacking prowess by cracking into a government server while having a… sensual experience. Travolta received a Golden Raspberry Nomination for Worst Actor for portraying the criminal mastermind.

John Travolta and an older man dressed as firefighters in an engine.
45 / 58
Touchstone Pictures

#14. Ladder 49 (2004)

- Director: Jay Russell
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 115 minutes

This moving film tells the story of Baltimore firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix), who runs into a burning building to save a man's life and becomes trapped. "Ladder 49" features heavy flashbacks, telling the story of Morrison's life and how he became the person who would run into the building. Travolta plays the firehouse's chief and Morrison's mentor, who must decide whether Morrison is beyond saving. The film is moving if a bit two-dimensional.

You may also like: 50 best movies about the Vietnam War

John Travolta in a suit talking to a woman in a coat inside a court room.
46 / 58
Touchstone Pictures

#13. A Civil Action (1998)

- Director: Steven Zaillian
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 115 minutes

Based on the nonfiction bestseller by Jonathan Harr, "A Civil Action" tells the true story of a 1980s class-action lawsuit against two large corporations who have dumped toxins into a community in Washington. Travolta plays an arrogant attorney who decides to take on the giant companies and eventually lets his desire to do good override his ability to represent his clients best. John Lithgow plays the judge, and Robert Duvall depicts a corporate defense lawyer in an Oscar-nominated performance.

John Travolta giving a speech at a podium.
47 / 58
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#12. Primary Colors (1998)

- Director: Mike Nichols
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 70
- Runtime: 143 minutes

Based on the partly fiction book written by a correspondent covering the 1992 Clinton campaign, "Primary Colors" is a comedic drama that covers the rise of a charismatic Southern politician while all hell breaks loose with behind-the-scenes sex scandals. Travolta plays Bill Clinton-lite, and Emma Thompson plays the Hillary Clinton stand-in—the rest of the cast includes Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, and Maura Tierney. The legendary Mike Nichols directed the film.

John Travolta dressed as a plump teenager dancing onstage.
48 / 58
New Line Cinema

#11. Hairspray (2007)

- Director: Adam Shankman
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 117 minutes

Based on the 1988 John Waters' classic and the subsequent Broadway hit, 2007's "Hairspray" is a light, goofy musical about teenagers on a 1950s Baltimore dance show, but it does highlight integrational issues of the time. The film secured the biggest-ever opening weekend for a movie musical at the time and includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron, among others. Here, Travolta plays protagonist Tracy Turnblad's (Nikki Blonsky) mother, Edna—a part traditionally played by a man in drag.

John Travolta in a collared shirt smoking a cigarette.
49 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#10. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

- Director: John Badham
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 118 minutes

Based on a 1976 article in New York Magazine—revealed to be faked two decades later by its writer—"Saturday Night Fever" tells the story of a Brooklyn kid (Travolta) working a boring job who becomes a hit at a disco club called 2001 Odyssey. The film follows Travolta's Tony Manero through complicated love affairs, family issues, and run-ins with a local gang. The film was a megahit, and Travolta's performance secured him a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Suddenly, the "Welcome Back, Kotter" heartthrob was a legitimate movie star.

A cartoon of a white dog scared of a group of pigeons.
50 / 58
Walt Disney Animation Studios

#9. Bolt (2008)

- Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 96 minutes

This Disney animated feature about a famous dog (voiced by Travolta) and his co-star, owner, and best friend, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), was a critical darling but is most important for its future impact. "Bolt" was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards and helped spur Disney to get serious about animation again—five years later, "Frozen" made over $1 billion for the studio.

You may also like: 100 best fantasy movies of all time

John Travolta, Rene Russo, and James Gandolfini looking down from the top of a building.
51 / 58
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#8. Get Shorty (1995)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 82
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Based on the Elmore Leonard classic, "Get Shorty" follows Chili Palmer (Travolta), an East Coast loan shark sent to Hollywood to settle a debt, who then ends up falling for the industry. Travolta is perfect as the silky smooth, incredibly tough gangster with a heart of gold in the film, which also sees Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Danny DeVito in hilarious performances that knowingly lampoon Hollywood types. Director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps everything fast-paced and stays out of the way of his fantastic cast.

John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, and Gabriel Macht leaning up against a wall on a portch smoking cigarettes.
52 / 58
Lions Gate Films

#7. A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)

- Director: Shainee Gabel
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 119 minutes

Travolta plays the titular aging alcoholic and former English professor at the center of "A Love Song for Bobby Long." He co-stars alongside Scarlett Johansson's Pursy, a young woman who finds him and his protegé, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), living in her estranged mother's New Orleans home. Slowly, she becomes ingratiated into the household, even as questions of her mother's will linger. Although the film received mixed reviews, it did garner Johansson her third Golden Globe nomination—no such luck for Travolta's scruffy professor, sadly.

John Travolta and his buddies hang out on the bleachers.
53 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#6. Grease (1978)

- Director: Randal Kleiser
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 70
- Runtime: 110 minutes

Travolta followed up the runaway success of "Saturday Night Fever" with another massive hit showcasing his charm and dancing and singing skills. The iconic "Grease" tells the story of a bad boy (Travolta) who falls for the beautiful, sweet transfer student (Olivia Newton-John) in a high school star-crossed lover tale set in 1950s California. The film did gangbusters at the box office—it was the fourth highest-grossing film of the 1970s after "Star Wars: Episode IV," "Jaws," and "The Exorcist." The Travolta-Newton-John duet "You're The One That I Want" reached #1 on the Billboard charts in June 1978.

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage up against a wall with guns.
54 / 58
Paramount Pictures

#5. Face/Off (1997)

- Director: John Woo
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 82
- Runtime: 138 minutes

This was an elevator pitch for the ages: What if, to foil a criminal mastermind's evil plot, a cop got elective surgery to switch faces with him, but then the records of the surgery disappear, and the cop now must live his life as the criminal mastermind and vice versa? Luckily for moviegoers everywhere, director John Woo shot the film with a seriousness that makes this Nicholas Cage-John Travolta schlockfest a cinematic marvel. "Face/Off" is just one endless exclamation point but reaches its absolute apex when Travolta plays Cage playing Travolta after the face-swapping surgery.

John Travolta in a car with a woman who is licking his hand.
55 / 58
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#4. Carrie (1976)

- Director: Brian De Palma
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Based on Stephen King's first novel, Brian De Palma's film tells the story of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), who lashes out after being tormented by a terrible practical joke. The film is pitch-perfect—frightening, upsetting, entertaining, and a bit campy for good measure. Travolta had a minor yet important role as the bully who plays the brutal prank on Carrie; his performance helped launch the young actor's career. Spacek and Piper Laurie, who played her abusive mother, were both nominated for Oscars for their performances. This was the first film adaptation of a Stephen King story.

You may also like: 15 controversial Oscar wins—and how they've aged

John Travolta drinking beers at a booth with a woman.
56 / 58
Cinema 77

#3. Blow Out (1981)

- Director: Brian De Palma
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 108 minutes

From the mind of legendary director Brian De Palma and created as an homage to the 1960s art film "Blow-Up," "Blow Out" tells the story of a sound engineer (Travolta) who sees a car fly from a bridge while recording in the wilderness at night. He manages to save Sally (Nancy Allen) but not the other passenger, who turns out to have been a presidential hopeful. Travolta's character becomes obsessed with the tape of the incident, which he believes is proof of foul play. The film is a gripping '70s-style thriller that was not a hit at the box office but was loved by critics, marking Travolta as an actor capable of pulling off serious roles.

John Travolta in military uniform on a ship talking to other soldiers.
57 / 58
Fox 2000 Pictures

#2. The Thin Red Line (1998)

- Director: Terrence Malick
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 170 minutes

"The Thin Red Line" marked acclaimed director Terrence Malick's return to filmmaking after a 20-year hiatus and counted Travolta among its A-list ensemble cast. Based on James Jones' 1964 novel of the same name, the film presents a fictionalized account of World War II's Battle of Mount Austen through the eyes of several U.S. soldiers (including Travolta's Brigade Gen. Quintard). "The Thin Red Line" received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and director Martin Scorsese later named it his second favorite film of the 1990s.

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in black suits pointing guns.
58 / 58
Miramax

#1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 154 minutes

Two years after bursting onto the scene with the Sundance hit "Reservoir Dogs," Quentin Tarantino returned with "Pulp Fiction"—a perfectly acted, highly stylized, violent-yet-hilarious masterpiece. The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is considered the most important film of the 1990s. Tarantino, a lover of genre and camp, gave Travolta—whose career was once again in shambles—the role of a lifetime. As Vincent Vega, Travolta could banter with Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel, fall in love and win a dance competition with Uma Thurman, and begrudgingly save Ving Rhames' life. The performance also saved Travolta's career—if only for a moment.

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