Whether you’re a fan of Top Gun: Maverick, Risky Business, or Cocktail, chances are you’re also a big fan of the actor who appears in all of these movies. That actor is Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, who is better known to you and I as Tom Cruise.
Across the course of many decades, and plenty of film reels, Cruise has entertained audiences’ countless times over. He has appeared in a wealth of pictures, crossing various genres, and he’s built up a sizeable portfolio in the process.
Today, I want to throw the spotlight on Tom Cruise with a look back at some of his best work. During the course of his career, Cruise has starred in a string of hit movies, many of which are truly entertaining, and I want to highlight the best of the best, with a rundown of his top films!
Below you will find a collection of the best Tom Cruise movies that you really should watch. These are the movies to stick on your watchlist, because they showcase Cruise at the top of his game.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
First up is the romantic comedy-drama, Jerry Maguire. The movie – written and directed by Cameron Crowe – sees Cruise take the title role, playing a sports agent, who re-evaluates his career, after experiencing a life-altering epiphany.
Filled with plenty of humour, some really nice touches, and a standout performance from Cruise, as well as co-star Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire is a delightful movie with real heart. It’s so good that Cruise was nominated for Best Actor at the 69th Academy Awards, and although he didn’t win (he lost out to Geoffrey Rush for Shine), he more than deserved his nomination.
Up next is a stone-cold classic from the late 1980s: Cocktail. The movie is yet another romantic comedy-drama, this time from director Roger Donaldson.
The movie sees Cruise take on the role of a business student, who becomes a bartender in order to help pay his way through business school. Lots of drinks are tossed around the screen, and although it sounds like fluff in the story department, there is a bit of depth here and there.
Fun, cheesy, and very much a product of its time, Cocktail is a fan-favourite Cruise movie. It wasn’t a critical hit upon release, but it was a huge financial success and has become a cult ‘80s favourite in more recent times.
Rain Man (1988)
Sticking with the late ‘80s for this next movie, and when Cruise wasn’t busy pouring drinks in Cocktail, he was appearing in the road movie, Rain Main. The film – directed by Barry Levinson – told the story of Charlie Babbitt and his autistic brother, Raymond.
Cruise took on the role of Charlie, with Dustin Hoffman playing his sibling. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, picking up four including Best Picture.
Risky Business (1983)
In coming-of-age sex comedy, Risky Business, Tom Cruise takes on the role of high school student Joel Goodsen – a high achiever from a wealthy family. After his parents go away on a trip, Joel decides to have a good time with wine, women, and song, but things don’t run quite as smoothly as he had hoped.
Paul Brickman directs, while Rebecca De Mornay and Joe Pantoliano are amongst the cast.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
And now time for a touch of gothic horror in the shape of director Neil Jordan’s epic vampire tale, Interview with the Vampire. The movie – based on the book of the same name by Anne Rice – follows the story of an 18th Century vamp called Lestat, and his centuries long survival.
Tom Cruise takes on the role of Lestat, while Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, and Christian Slater feature amongst the supporting cast. Once again, this film was nominated for a number of Academy Awards, and although it didn’t win any, it remains a ruddy good picture!
The Last Samurai (2003)
Onto another Academy Award-nominated movie (spotting a theme here?) and this one is the period action drama, The Last Samurai. The movie tells the story of a US soldier who befriends a Japanese samurai during the 19th Century.
Cruise takes on the role of Captain Nathan Algren, while Ken Watanabe plays Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto, aka the eponymous ‘Last Samurai’. Edward Zwick directs.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
In Oliver Stone’s biographical anti-war movie, Born on the Fourth of July, Tom Cruise takes on the role of Sergeant Ron Kovic – a military officer who experiences life-changing injuries during the Vietnam War. The movie depicts Kovic’s life over a 20-year-period, including his post-war years spent as an anti-war activist.
As with a number of movies on this list, Born on the Fourth of July was nominated for multiple awards, winning two Oscars in the process. Cruise was nominated for Best Actor, but sadly he didn’t win, this time losing out to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot.
Top Gun (1986)
No list of Tom Cruise movies would be worth anything if it didn’t include Top Gun – purely for its iconic status alone! Widely regarded as one of Cruise’s most famous movies, the film follows the story of a young naval aviator, who is given the chance to train at an elite jet fighter school.
Tom Cruise takes on the role of Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, while the supporting cast includes Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. Tony Scott directs, while the soundtrack includes the likes of Kenny Loggins, Berlin, and Miami Sound Machine.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Thirty-six years after he took to the screens as Maverick in Top Gun, Cruise jetted back into cinemas for the belated sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. And while this movie may have taken a long time to arrive, it certainly proved well worth the wait.
Picking up (more or less) in real time, Maverick finds himself back in the cockpit, teaching a collection of new pilots how to become the best of the best. Along the way, he shows off some excellent aerial skills, with Cruise treating the audience to a superb sequel, not to be missed!
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Onto something a little different now; and by “different”, I mean a little bit weird. The movie is Vanilla Sky – a psychological sci-fi thriller, written and directed by Cameron Crowe.
The film is an English-language remake of Alejandro Amenábar’s Spanish movie, Open Your Eyes, and follows the story of a disfigured man, and the mind-bending journey he goes on. Cruise plays the lead role, while the supporting cast include Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, and Tilda Swinton.
Sticking with unusual films for this next movie, leads neatly onto Magnolia. The film – written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson – is a drama about a collection of characters seeking meaning to their lives.
The film is very much an ensemble piece, with Cruise part of a number of high-profile cast members, and it is certainly not for everyone – especially thanks to its whopping 188-minute running time. However, Cruise delivers one of his best performances in Magnolia, playing a motivational speaker, so love it or loathe it, Magnolia simply has to be on this list!
The Colour of Money (1986)
Tom Cruise and Paul Newman take the lead in this sports drama, based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis. Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Color of Money (a belated sequel to 1961’s The Hustler) follows the story of a pool hustler and his protégé.
John Turturro, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Forest Whitaker feature amongst the cast.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
As a general rule of thumb, pretty much all of the Mission: Impossible movies are worth watching. The action-adventure franchise, about a secret organisation undertaking seemingly impossible missions, is filled with fantastic films, making it one of the best film series around.
So, choosing one Mission: Impossible film for this list is a tricky task indeed. However, Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the sixth entry in the series) is so much fun, it simply has to be included.
As with all of the other entries in the M:I series, Cruise plays the role of agent Ethan Hunt. This time around Hunt has to track down some missing plutonium, paving the way for plenty of impressive stunts and various scenes of eye-popping spectacle.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, and loosely based on a novel by H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds is an award-winning epic sci-fi action film, about an alien invasion. The film follows a dock worker – played by Cruise – who fights for survival, and the survival of his children, in a world overrun by extra-terrestrials.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
In Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live, Die, Repeat), Tom Cruise stars alongside Emily Blunt, in a futuristic story about time loops and alien invaders. Doug Liman directs this intelligent blockbuster, which has built a strong and loyal following since its release back in 2014.
And finally, Michael Mann directs Tom Cruise in this neo-noir action thriller, about a hitman who hires a taxi driver to take him on a contract killing spree. Cruise takes on the role of hit man, Vincent, while Jamie Foxx plays cabbie, Max Durocher.
Both actors are on fine form in Collateral, but Cruise in particular provides a scene-stealing turn. If you’ve never watched Collateral, then make sure you check it out, along with all the other films on this list!
So, those are the sixteen best Tom Cruise movies. Now, to save you from having to scroll back up, here are the titles of all the movies in one handy list!
- Jerry Maguire (1996)
- Cocktail (1988)
- Rain Man (1988)
- Risky Business (1983)
- Interview with the Vampire (1994)
- The Last Samurai (2003)
- Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
- Top Gun (1986)
- Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
- Vanilla Sky (2001)
- Magnolia (1999)
- The Colour of Money (1986)
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
- War of the Worlds (2005)
- Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
- Collateral (2004)
And if you are a fan of Tom Cruise you might like to know that many of his hit movies are available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray, including one of his most popular films, Edge of Tomorrow.
If you’ve not watched Edge of Tomorrow before, the film is a sci-fi spectacular not to be missed.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about the best Tom Cruise movies – I hope it has proved useful. For more useful posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
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