The best (and worst) Tom Cruise movies

Written by:
July 6, 2018
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Every Tom Cruise movie ranked from worst to first

Tom Cruise arrived in Hollywood with a bang and has been a star—at the box office, in tabloids, on talk shows—from that moment on. While Cruise may not be the best actor of his generation—though his performances in acclaimed films like “Magnolia” and “Rain Man” show his depth—he is the definition of a movie star. 

That also means he’s inflicted with the movie star curse: Unlike the best character actors, it’s impossible for him to disappear into a role. He can be charming and rude, but still make audiences root for him because often times his insecurities shine through. Some believe George Clooney is more handsome, Brad Pitt is cooler, and Leonardo DiCaprio is a better actor. And yet, Cruise has been in the game for more than 30 years and is one of the world's richest actors with a net worth of $550 million. 

Ahead of the sixth “Mission: Impossible” movie, which will be released in Stacker has ranked Tom Cruise’s movies from #39 to #1, according to IMDb rankings. There are some bad teen comedies and some over-the-top action roles, but there’s also genius here, too: Cruise has been nominated for three Academy Awards. 

Read on to revisit Cruise classics and perhaps discover a few films you haven't watched yet. 

RELATED: Click here to see the rankings of Adam Sandler movies from worst to first

1 / 39
Tiberius Film Productions

#39. Losin' It

IMDb rating: 4.8
IMDb votes: 3,519
Release year: 1983
Director: Curtis Hanson

One of Cruise’s first films was this raunchy comedy about a group of teens who cross the Mexican border into Tijuana to have sex for the first time. This film came out the same year as “Risky Business”—it appears Hollywood wanted to see Cruise lose his virginity in 1983.

2 / 39
PolyGram Pictures

#38. Endless Love

IMDb rating: 4.8
IMDb votes: 6,097
Release year: 1981
Director: Franco Zeffirelli

Based on the novel by Scott Spencer, this Brooke Shields film marked Cruise’s big-screen debut. The film is particularly sappy, but it’s memorable for its theme song of the same name by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross—it was nominated for an Academy Award. Rewatching Richie and Ross’s Oscars performance is like taking a trip on a time machine to the early '80s.

3 / 39
Universal Pictures

#37. The Mummy

IMDb rating: 5.5
IMDb votes: 134,802
Release year: 2017
Director: Alex Kurtzman

Critics were not impressed with this reboot of the popular 1999 film, “The Mummy,” which has Cruise in Brendan Fraser’s original role. The New York Times' A.O. Scott called Cruise's version, "an unholy mess," and argued the 2017 film was made for the fans, rather than the critics. However, this new iteration was so disliked, it may have ended Universal’s planned Dark Universe.

4 / 39
Touchstone Pictures

#36. Cocktail

IMDb rating: 5.8
IMDb votes: 69,214
Release year: 1988
Director: Roger Donaldson

“Cocktail” exists in a similar universe to the Patrick Swayze classic, “Road House”—only instead of bouncers being world-famous, bartenders are the major players on screen. Cruise takes on the role of Brian Flanagan, a brash, bottle-flipping bartender on the come up, and Elisabeth Shue plays Jordan, an artist on vacation and Cruise’s love interest in the film. "Kokomo," the song made popular by The Beach Boys, was actually written for this film by several people, including the Mamas and the Papas' John Phillips, who drafted the verses.

5 / 39
Twentieth Century Fox

#35. All the Right Moves

IMDb rating: 5.9
IMDb votes: 13,728
Release year: 1983
Director: Michael Chapman

In the same year Cruise starred in “Risky Business” and “Losin’ It”, he also played a high school football player in hopes of a scholarship in “All the Right Moves.” After clashing with his coach, all of Cruise’s dreams for his future hang in the balance. This film is based on an article by sports writing legend Pat Jordan.

6 / 39
Warner Bros. Pictures

#34. Rock of Ages

IMDb rating: 5.9
IMDb votes: 67,360
Release year: 2012
Director: Adam Shankman

This 2012 film—which is full of '80s glam-metal superhits, including the cast's version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and a rendition of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” by Cruise—tells the story of a small-town girl (Julianne Hough) trying to make it in the L.A. music world. The cast of this Broadway show remake is star-studded; Cruise, who plays rock icon Stacee Jaxx, is joined by Alex Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, and Mary J. Blige, to name a few.

7 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#33. Days of Thunder

IMDb rating: 5.9
IMDb votes: 68,116
Release year: 1990
Director: Tony Scott

Directed by legendary action director Tony Scott (“True Romance,” “Crimson Tide”), this film stars Cruise as a Cole Trickle, a hot-tempered race-car driver, and his soon-to-be wife Nicole Kidman as Dr. Claire Lewicki. The late Robert Ebert wrote in 1990 that this film is an "entertaining example" of what one might call a "Tom Cruise Picture," noting that it relies on many of the effective elements that were included in "Top Gun," "The Color of Money," and "Cocktail."

8 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#32. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

IMDb rating: 6.1
IMDb votes: 104,403
Release year: 2016
Director: Edward Zwick

The sequel to 2012’s “Jack Reacher” is a by-the-numbers action thriller, in which director Edward Zwick (“Glory,” “Blood Diamond”) "barely manages to tickle [audiences'] adrenaline." In “Never Go Back,” Cruise reups the role of Jack Reacher, the badass problem solver dreamed up by the author Lee Childs.

9 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#31. Mission: Impossible II

IMDb rating: 6.1
IMDb votes: 269,708
Release year: 2000
Director: John Woo

One reviewer wrote that the second “Mission: Impossible” film "appears to have been put together by a 13-year-old boy who thinks that everything looks cooler when doused in slo-mo, explosions, inexplicable flocks of doves and a Limp Bizkit soundtrack." Action-director John Woo (“Face/Off,” “The Killer”) tells the story of secret agent Ethan Hunt with his high-octane action touch—there is rock climbing, knife throwing, and motorcycle gymnastics.

10 / 39

#30. Lions for Lambs

IMDb rating: 6.2
IMDb votes: 44,021
Release year: 2007
Director: Robert Redford

This hugely ambitious film is a three-pronged story that hoped to tell the real story of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the film was not compelling enough to connect with viewers, despite the notable cast—Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Cruise, Michael Peña, and Andrew Garfield—with one reviewer suggesting the dialogue throughout the movie was not realistic. Cruise plays a Republican senator hoping to bolster his presidential campaign by giving a sprawling interview to a reporter (Streep).

11 / 39
‎Regency Enterprises

#29. Knight and Day

IMDb rating: 6.3
IMDb votes: 162,414
Release year: 2010
Director: James Mangold

This action-comedy from director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) breaks no new ground, but works from an entertainment standpoint because of the strength of Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s chemistry. Diaz plays a woman on the way to her sister’s wedding who happens to come in contact with a Jason Bourne-like super-agent (Cruise) who is being pursued by a government task force. Diaz comes to trust Cruise and the two go on the lam through Europe in the fast-paced, fun flick.

12 / 39
20th Century Fox

#28. Legend

IMDb rating: 6.5
IMDb votes: 51,923
Release year: 1985
Director: Ridley Scott

It’s hard to deliver a synopsis to this Ridley Scott classic without sounding slightly crazy, but here it goes: In a mystical world with many unicorns, a peasant hero (Cruise) fights the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) to save Princess Lili (Mia Sara) and the rest of the world from an ice age. Also, Cruise is accompanied by a bunch of elves. This movie is truly weird and struggled at the box office, but the director’s cut has become well-loved.

13 / 39
Imagine Entertainment

#27. Far and Away

IMDb rating: 6.5
IMDb votes: 52,608
Release year: 1992
Director: Ron Howard

This epic film by director Ron Howard traces the path to America—and the struggle to grab a piece of the American Dream—for two Irish immigrants (Cruise and Nicole Kidman) in the 1800s. The film takes its time charting the couple’s path, first to the slums in Boston and finally to the West. Cruise’s Irish accent is regularly ranked among the worst in film history.

14 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#26. War of the Worlds

IMDb rating: 6.5
IMDb votes: 370,433
Release year: 2005
Director: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s adaption of the H.G. Wells classic is pure Spielberg: grand, epic, and focused on a single family at a time of worldwide catastrophe. Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a divorced New England father, forced to take his two kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin) into hiding as an unknowable, unbeatable extraterrestrial fleet threatens the Earth.

15 / 39
20th Century Fox

#25. Taps

IMDb rating: 6.7
IMDb votes: 14,552
Release year: 1981
Director: Harold Becker

Starring Sean Penn, George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, and Cruise—in his second-ever film role—“Taps” tells the story of an elite military school slated for closure because of “invading” condo developers. The highly trained, yet immature students take over the school, arm themselves, and prepare for a fight. Audiences can watch a fresh-faced Cruise and Penn act a film together just as their careers were taking off.

16 / 39
Warner Bros.

#24. Risky Business

IMDb rating: 6.8
IMDb votes: 69,440
Release year: 1983
Director: Paul Brickman

Writer and director Paul Brickman’s magnum opus tells the story of a Chicago teenager left alone by his parents, who gets involved with an escort and becomes entangled in a wildly out-of-his-control world. This could easily have been a throwaway teen-sex comedy, but Brickman gives it an arthouse feel. Best known for the dancing in tighty-whities scene, this film sometimes gets misremembered as something like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but it’s much, much darker—alerting the world to the fact that 19-year-old Cruise was on his way to becoming a bonafide movie star.

17 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#23. The Firm

IMDb rating: 6.8
IMDb votes: 99,457
Release year: 1993
Director: Sydney Pollack

Based on best-selling author John Grisham’s second book, this stylish Sydney Pollack-directed thriller tells the story of a young Harvard law school grad (Cruise) who takes an inexplicably high-paying job at a Memphis law firm. Eventually, Cruise learns that the law firm’s real business comes from serving the mob—the stacked cast (Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, and Holly Hunter) makes this legal thriller a winner.

18 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#22. Vanilla Sky

IMDb rating: 6.9
IMDb votes: 225,077
Release year: 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe, of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Almost Famous” fame, directed this sexy, futuristic thriller based on the Spanish film “Open Your Eyes.” In “Vanilla Sky,” Cruise plays a womanizer whose suicidal ex (Cameron Diaz) drives him off a bridge, killing herself and gravely injuring him to the point of needing reconstructive surgery. He is nursed back to health by his friend’s ex (Penelope Cruz) whom he falls for—but eventually, things take a turn to sci-fi and nothing is as it seems.

19 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#21. Top Gun

IMDb rating: 6.9
IMDb votes: 246,927
Release year: 1986
Director: Tony Scott

Tony Scott’s legendary “Top Gun” tells the story of Maverick (Cruise) as he tries to prove himself at the elite Miramar Naval Air Station—where he and his archrival Iceman (Val Kilmer) fight for the titular honor. The film was such a hit that it actually led to a spike in military enrollment. For others, it birthed a love for Kenny Loggins and beach volleyball scenes.

20 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#20. Mission: Impossible III

IMDb rating: 6.9
IMDb votes: 284,851
Release year: 2006
Director: J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams is a master at entering existing franchises, such as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” “Mission: Impossible III” has Abrams' steady hand, and much of its greatness comes from its big bad, weapons dealer, portrayed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. An Entertainment Weekly writer said of the third film in the series: "This is an Abrams production through and through, which means it starts with an exciting flashforward—that ultimately leads into a deflating less-cool-than-you-think reveal."

21 / 39
Touchstone Pictures

#19. The Color of Money

IMDb rating: 7.0
IMDb votes: 64,794
Release year: 1986
Director: Martin Scorsese

25 years after starring in the 1961 classic, “The Hustler,” Paul Newman reprised his role in this delayed sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. In the time since the first film, Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson has gone from upstart pool hustler to a front man for up-and-comers. Cruise plays the newest wonderkid at the pool bar—and eventually, he and Newman have a face-off.

22 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#18. Jack Reacher

IMDb rating: 7.0
IMDb votes: 267,469
Release year: 2012
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Based on the book by Lee Childs, “Jack Reacher” follows a tough, talented ex-military drifter (Cruise), who arrives in time to help a beautiful lawyer (Rosamund Pike) clear the name of a wrongfully accused sniper. But this is far from a legal thriller—cars are chased and butts are kicked. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie is also responsible for “The Usual Suspects, ”Edge of Tomorrow,” and the slightly lesser-known “The Way of the Gun.”

23 / 39
Universal Pictures

#17. Oblivion

IMDb rating: 7.0
IMDb votes: 433,333
Release year: 2013
Director: Joseph Kosinski

Set in 2077, “Oblivion” takes part in a world where humans have evacuated Earth after a brutal alien attack. Cruise plays Jack Harper, a security repairman stationed on Earth as part of a last-ditch effort to grab vital resources that humans have left behind. When he finds a beautiful downed traveler, his whole notion of what went wrong on Earth is thrown into flux. This was director Joseph Kosinski’s follow up to his debut feature, “TRON: Legacy”—it's visually appealing, but it does lack in the script department.

24 / 39
20th Century Fox

#16. Valkyrie

IMDb rating: 7.1
IMDb votes: 204,425
Release year: 2008
Director: Bryan Singer

In this high-stakes historical thriller, Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a patriotic German who eventually realizes to save the soul of his country, he must join the Resistance. Eventually, the stakes are raised even higher when it falls upon Stauffenberg himself to kill Adolf Hitler.

25 / 39
Warner Bros.

#15. The Outsiders

IMDb rating: 7.2
IMDb votes: 64,531
Release year: 1983
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Based on S.E. Hinton’s classic novel, “The Outsiders” is a stylized directing feat by Francis Ford Coppola—but the real star of the film is the casting director: Janet Hirshenson, who managed to populate the Oklahoma street gangs with Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, and a young Diane Lane. Hirshenson has worked on 169 films since “The Outsiders.”

26 / 39
Universal Pictures

#14. Born on the Fourth of July

IMDb rating: 7.2
IMDb votes: 85,780
Release year: 1989
Director: Oliver Stone

Director Oliver Stone’s second Vietnam War film—“Platoon” was his first—explores the true story of wounded veteran Ron Kovic (Cruise), who returns home, hits rock bottom, and then pulls himself back from the brink to become a face of the anti-war movement. Cruise was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Kovic.

27 / 39
Universal Pictures

#13. American Made

IMDb rating: 7.2
IMDb votes: 103,588
Release year: 2017
Director: Doug Liman

This wild action film tells the based-on-a-true-story tale of Barry Seal (Cruise), a Trans World Airlines pilot who is recruited by the CIA and finds himself in the Iran-Contra scandal. The South American affair eventually birthed Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel—it was a disastrous stain on America’s history, but the film treats the whole situation a bit lightly. Still, Cruise’s charisma shines through—director Doug Liman clearly understands the kinetic power of the leading actor.

28 / 39
TriStar Pictures

#12. Jerry Maguire

IMDb rating: 7.3
IMDb votes: 211,543
Release year: 1996
Director: Cameron Crowe

Speaking of kinetic power, no film better unleashes Cruise’s charisma than Cameron Crowe’s “Jerry Maguire.” In one of the essential '90s rom-coms, Cruise plays the titular sports agent, newly single and without work, trying desperately to keep his eccentric client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) happy while pursuing the first pick in that year’s NFL draft. The film ends up centering around Cruise’s burgeoning relationship with his assistant (Renee Zellweger), a single mother who never expected to have a shot with a guy like Maguire. This is Cruise perfected—a coiffed, cocky exterior, but with a heart of gold under it all.

29 / 39
Warner Bros.

#11. Eyes Wide Shut

IMDb rating: 7.4
IMDb votes: 258,082
Release year: 1999
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s final film, released 12 years after “Full Metal Jacket”—and four months after his death—tells the story of a New York City doctor (Cruise) who dives into a strange world of sex and cult-like ritual after he learns that his art curator wife (Nicole Kidman) has a propensity for flirting. The film is clearly the work of a master, though it never reaches the heights of other Kubrick films.

30 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#10. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

IMDb rating: 7.4
IMDb votes: 278,803
Release year: 2015
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

The fifth in the “Mission: Impossible” series pits Ethan Hunt against the Syndicate, a group of rogue agents hell-bent on destroying the Impossible Mission Force. This film, in which Cruise reunites with director Christopher McQuarrie, came out two decades after the first of the Cruise-helmed “Mission: Impossible” movies.

31 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#9. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

IMDb rating: 7.4
IMDb votes: 400,232
Release year: 2011
Director: Brad Bird

The same man behind some of Pixar’s biggest films followed up “Ratatouille” with a “Mission: Impossible” film. Incredibly, Cruise threw out the idea after seeing Brad Bird’s animated hit “The Incredibles,” and J.J. Abrams made it happen. In the fourth “Mission: Impossible,” Ethan Hunt’s team is blamed for bombing the Kremlin, and while on the run, he must also stop a nuclear war from breaking out.

32 / 39
Paramount Pictures

#8. Collateral

IMDb rating: 7.5
IMDb votes: 321,662
Release year: 2004
Director: Michael Mann

Tom Cruise is built to play heroes, but in Michael Mann’s stylish, sparse thriller he gives one of the performances of his career as a villainous contract killer. Jamie Foxx plays a cabbie who picks up Cruise and agrees to keep the cab running during five stops for a few hundred bucks. Eventually, he realizes that Cruise is killing people and must find a way to stop him without getting himself killed. A co-star is essential to get the good Cruise, and Foxx is a perfect onscreen partner-in-crime.

33 / 39
Warner Bros.

#7. Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

IMDb rating: 7.6
IMDb votes: 262,641
Release year: 1994
Director: Neil Jordan

Based on the bestseller by Anne Rice, “Interview with the Vampire” is a star-studded, slightly campy time capsule of 1994. Starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, and Kirsten Dunst, “Interview with the Vampire” tells the story of a young reporter (Slater) who interviews a guy claiming to be a 200-year-old vampire (Pitt). River Phoenix was initially cast in the role of the reporter, but he tragically passed away before the film was made. Rice publicly complained about Cruise’s casting in the film, but some view his wild performance as one of his best.

34 / 39
Columbia Pictures

#6. A Few Good Men

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 203,800
Release year: 1992
Director: Rob Reiner

This military courtroom drama, directed by Rob Reiner, is all Aaron Sorkin—with sharp and incisive dialogue, often given hastily while walking from room to room. Eventually, Jack Nicholson steals the film with his memorable, “You can’t handle the truth!” scene, but Cruise holds his own as the attorney questioning the old colonel. Demi Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, and Kevin Bacon all play supporting roles alongside Cruise.

35 / 39
Warner Bros.

#5. The Last Samurai

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 352,879
Release year: 2003
Director: Edward Zwick

This 19th century epic tells the story of Nathan Algren (Cruise), a Civil War veteran hired by the Japanese emperor to train an army to eliminate the last of the samurais. But after being captured, Algren falls in love with the lifestyle and tradition, and begins to believe in the noble warriors’ ways of life. This film seemed created in a lab to win Cruise an Oscar, but he wasn’t even nominated for his portrayal of Algren.

36 / 39
20th Century Fox

#4. Minority Report

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 447,481
Release year: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg

Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, this Steven Spielberg megahit posits a future where the police can arrest people for “precrime.” Cruise plays a Washington D.C. detective in the Precrime unit who learns that he has been implicated in a future murder of a man he’s never met—and must go on the lam in the heavily surveillanced 2054 America. This high-concept film is action-packed and Cruise is a key chess piece for Spielberg to use to tell his futurist story.

37 / 39
Warner Bros.

#3. Edge of Tomorrow

IMDb rating: 7.9
IMDb votes: 513,492
Release year: 2014
Director: Doug Liman

Sometimes films overcomplicate things, but Doug Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” has trimmed all the fat. This action-packed film follows Major William Cage (Cruise) as he is dropped into a seemingly impossible fight against alien invaders—only to die and have to start over, again and again. With the help of a scene-stealing Emily Blunt, Cruise gets closer to winning each time, in this “Groundhog Day”-meets-”Starship Troopers” action-movie masterpiece.

38 / 39
New Line Cinema

#2. Magnolia

IMDb rating: 8.0
IMDb votes: 261,241
Release year: 1999
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

“Magnolia” earned P.T. Anderson a second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and helped Cruise score a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Cruise plays Frank T.J. Mackey in a sprawling tale of a rainy day in L.A., which was only meant by Anderson to be a "something very small, very quick, very intimate."

39 / 39
MGM/UA Communications Company

#1. Rain Man

IMDb rating: 8.0
IMDb votes: 423,282
Release year: 1988
Director: Barry Levinson

Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor for his portrayal of Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant forced across the country on his brother’s bid to get a piece of their father’s fortune. Cruise portrays Charlie Babbitt, the arrogant, heartless brother—which one New York Times reviewed called, "the film's true central character."

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