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10 Best Tom Cruise Movies

Updated on September 22, 2014
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Few stars command a bigger box office draw in Hollywood than Tom Cruise. His strong screen presence and ability to cull out bad scripts, has led Cruise to produce some of the biggest blockbuster movies of our generation from Top Gun to the Mission Impossible series to Jerry Maguire. In fact, three of his films are on the Top 100 all time Worldwide Box Office leaders.

However, while he has achieved significant box office success, critical acclaim has largely alluded him. Despite a 30 year film career with over 35 film titles, he has only been nominated for three Academy Awards and has never won an Oscar. Probably his most compelling case would be for his portrayal of Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July, a gripping tale of a soldiers readjustment to civilian life after the loss of his legs in Vietnam.

Many of Cruise's roles have been simplistic in nature with a macho flair that does not lend it self to critical acclaim. However, several of the best Tom Cruise films were largely overlooked by the Academy including Valkyrie, The Last Samurai and Collateral. Hopefully, that is not an Academy stigma that lasts much longer. Cruise has definitely stretched himself as an actor over the past ten years and it should eventually pay off with critics.

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10. Risky Business (1983)

A 1980s Classic in the Drama Comedy Genre

The movie that catapulted Tom Cruise to stardom, Risky Business made such a splash that is often referred to as a generation defining movie for the 1980s. Risky Business was to the 80's what Rebel without a Cause was to the 50's; they were films that perfectly reflected the social norms of their generation.

Written and directed by Paul Brickman, this coming-of-age film is one of the seminal 1980s teenage romcoms and upon hitting the theaters, Cruise and his Ray-Bans became cultural icons.

Joel Goodsen (Cruise) is a handsome high school senior with dreams of going to Princeton. While his parents are away on a trip, Joel decides to lose his virginity to a call girl, Lana (Rebecca DeMornay), an angel-faced prostitute, and she rocks his world. Joel and best friend Miles (Curtis Armstrong) cook up a scheme to make money by bringing call girls to the undersexed friends at their high school. However, their scheme gets them sideways with Lana's pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano) and then the travails begin.

Despite all of Cruise's subsequent success, Risky Business still remains one of his most iconic films. Brickman couldn't have chosen a better lead for his directorial debut and the young Cruise, brimming with charisma, captured the hearts of millions.

If you loved Risky Business, then you should also check out Ferris Bueller's Day Off

9. The Firm (1993)

An Intense Legal Thriller with a Strong Cast

The Firm is Sydney Pollack's smooth adaptation of the John Grisham legal thriller of the same name. Mitch McDeere (Cruise) is a young, sought-after graduate of the prestigious Harvard Law School. The story opens with Mitch being interviewed for a position. While actively pursued by several law firms, he decides on a small, but prestigious, Memphis-based firm, Bendini, Lambert & Locke.

At the tax-based firm, McDeere begins to suspect that everything is not above board at the firm. Then after the death of two of his colleagues at the firm, Mitch discovers the sinister of his new partners. McDeere makes it his mission to gain evidence on the firm's illegal activities and get that proof to prosecutors.

A fairly typical role for Cruise, he is serviceable in this machismo-style role. However, the supporting cast of The Firm is stellar and includes Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and the beautiful Jeanne Tripplehorn. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress (Hunter) and Best Original Score.

If you enjoyed The Firm, then you should also see Pelican Brief

8. Collateral (2004)

What Would you Do If a Cold Blooded Killer Got in Your Cab?

Filmmaker Michael Mann (Heat) is best known for his neo-noir films and Collateral loosely fits that genre. This fast-paced suspense thriller is just a tad shy of a masterpiece mixing Mann's impressive direction with Stuart Beattie's tightly written script.

Max (Jamie Foxx), a Los Angeles cabdriver, unknowingly picks up a ruthless hitman, Vincent (Cruise), who forces him to drive to five stops during a ten hour shift. Max soon realizes what Vincent is doing at each stop and he also figures out that he is ultimately in trouble. The series of heart-stopping events force Max to stand up for himself to try prevent the last murders, including his own.

Whereas Cruise is sharply brilliant as the cold and precise Vincent, Foxx is a revelation as he portrays his character's growth from daydreamer to a man of destiny and action with incredible finesse. Foxx was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film. The film was also nominated for an Oscar for Film Editing.

Collateral is an enjoyable thriller that sizzles and shocks and will have its viewers gripping on their seats.

7. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

A Dark Vampire Tale Based on the Anne Rice Novel

Interview with the Vampire is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Anne Rice. Even before the publication of the book, the author already knew it had to be made in film. After David Geffen purchased the rights for $500,000, Neil Jordan took responsibility of directing this 1994 gothic drama with a blockbuster cast including Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and a very young Kirsten Dunst.

Initially Anne Rice did not favor Cruise for the role of Lestat, but she relented after watching Cruise screen test for the role. A very different role for Cruise, he transformed himself into the melancholy and tortured Lestat. Unlike his previous works, Interview did not showcase the star's trademark machismo style roles but rather explored a much darker side of the actors craft.

Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200 year old vampire, tells his epic story of living the life of the undead. In his interview with reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater), he recounts how the loss of his wife and child led him to verge of suicide. Lestat seeing Louis as a potential companion, offered him immortality as a vampire. However, Louis regrets his choice of immortality and describes the daily torture of living as a vampire.

Much darker than the popular Twilight series, this movie stands in deep contrast to the romantic vampire genre. Interview was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.

If you liked Interview with the Vampire, then you should also see The Prestige

6. Top Gun (1986)

The Best of the Best Battle at Top Gun

In only his second directorial feature film, Tony Scott hit a home run with Top Gun. This military drama about the elite fighter pilot training facility, nicknamed Top Gun, really struck a nerve with moviegoers and grossed over $344 million worldwide.

Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) arrives at Top Gun with a reputation as a wild card. The son of a former Navy fighter pilot who died in action, Maverick has a chip on his shoulder and is out to prove he is the best of the best.

However, Mav must beat out another brilliant, by-the-book pilot, Iceman (Val Kilmer), who is everyone's favorite to take the top pilot award. Of course, Top Gun is also a love story and along the way, Maverick falls for a captivating astrophysicist and instructor, Charlie (Kelly McGillis). After tragedy strikes, Maverick's confidence is briefly shaken, but he is able to gain back his edge when he absolutely needs it.

The action packed movie may not be an award-winning film but it is definitely a captivating move that embodies the 80s generation. While already a star when he took the part, Top Gun is the film that catapulted Cruise to mega-stardom. The movie won an Oscar for best song and featured a memorable soundtrack with many great songs that endure as fan favorites to this day.

5. Jerry Maguire (1996)

A Touching Film About Loyalty, Friendship and Dedication

Jerry Maguire was such a seminal film that some of its key lines have become ingrained and reused throughout our culture. Think "show me the money" and "...you had me at hello". Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, this romantic comedy drama was very unique because it was a "chick flick" dressed up in a sports films -- brilliant in its appeal to both men and women.

Jerry Maguire (Cruise) is a brash young sports agent on top of his game at the biggest talent agency, but he has grown disenchanted with the sports agent game. He has an epiphany during a recruiting trip and writes a manifesto on the sleaziness of the industry, which he circulates throughout the industry. He preaches that agents should be the champions for their young charges rather than focused solely on money.

Naturally company management is not pleased and for his transgression, Maguire is fired a few days later days, and a race is on to retain Maguire's clients. After a frantic effort, Maguire is only able to keep one client, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a talented but headstrong and self centered wide receiver. However, he does take along one employee, Dorothy Boyd (Rene Zellweger), a single mother in the accounting department who was moved by Maguire's manifesto. The film follows the pairs struggle to sign Tidwell to a long-term deal and thereby financing their struggling business.

Decades later, Jerry Maguire is still one of Cruise's best performance. He is in top form as he transforms from corporate hustler into a compassionate and humbled man. Zellweger and Gooding also shine in this compelling film in which Gooding won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The film was nominated for four more Academy Awards including Best Actor (Cruise).

If you loved Jerry Maguire, you should also see The Blind Side

4. The Last Samurai (2003)

A Sweeping Epic Fiction about the Samurai Life

The Last Samurai is another Tom Cruise movie that surely gave a new flavor to the world of entertainment. Directed by Edward Zwick and co-produced by Cruise himself, this action adventure drama highlighted Cruise's range as an actor as he depicts a broken down character that must rethink his entire value system in light of the culture he is captured by.

Nathan Algren (Cruise), a retired captain of the US Civil War has become a drunk and a sideshow in a traveling Wild West Show. He is approached by an emissary of the Emperor of Japan and offered a position training the Emporer's army to rebels backed by a group of Japanese Samurai. When Algren is captured by the rebels he lives among the Samurai and his entire philosophy of life changes. In the face of what he sees and learns with the Samurai he becomes a staunch ally instead of a captive and goes to battle with the Samurai in their fight.

Truly, this Tom Cruise movie touches our hearts and became a blockbuster success at the box office with over $450 million in revenue. The Last Samurai was nominated for 4 Academy Awards but did not win any. Surprisingly it was not nominated for Best Picture despite its sweeping epic backdrop. This is a very strong film in the Tom Cruise filmography and a must see for any true Cruise fan.

3. Minority Report (2002)

A Brilliant Sci Fi Collaboration of Spielberg and Cruise

Predictions about the future will never fail to grab people's attention. And Minority Report's unique vision of the future is very interesting in its vision of the future. Steven Spielberg returns to the sci fi genre with this film based on a Philip K. Dick sci fi short story. With its high-wired action, intense suspense and complex storyline, Minority Report is a sci fi winner.

The year is 2054 and advancements in crime prevention that allows law enforcement to catch murderers before they commit the crime. John Anderton (Cruise) is an officer in this special Pre-Crime division. They work with three psychics, known as pre-cognitions (pre-cogs) who can predict the future events.

However, Anderton learns that the pre-cogs predict he will kill a man under the next minority report. As he firmly believes his innocence, he kidnaps the most gifted precog, Agatha (Samantha Morton), in hopes that she can foretell his innocence. But now he is a fugitive on the run and with the tables turned he gets a taste of the havoc he has wreaked on his own Pre-Crime arrests and their families.

Combined with Spielberg's direction, Cruise creates a dark and complex portrayal that make this one of the best sci-fi films of the past decade. Minority Report will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seats throughout. The film was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.

2. A Few Good Men (1992)

A Dramatic Courtroom Drama in Military Court

Directed by Rob Reiner and with a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin, A Few Good Men is based on the Broadway play of the same name. The film is a military courtroom drama that is peppered with superb directing, sharp acting, witty dialogues and a predictable yet compelling story.

Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Cruise) is a young second generation Navy lawyer assigned to defend two Marines accused of murdering a member of their platoon. Known for arranging plea bargains, Kaffee works out a quick, smart agreement with Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon), the prosecuting officer and sets about to continue with his life.

But an earnest, qualified colleague, Lt. Cdr. Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore) is convinced that there is more to the case than appears on the surface. Galloway persuades Kaffee to face his demons and go to trial instead of taking the easy plea bargain. Together, they dig their way to the bottom of the case thereby taking on the might of Navy's top brass, Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

Headlined by a top-notch ensemble including Cruise, Nicholson and Moore, A Few Good Men is a highly entertaining, gripping melodrama with moral undertones. As the testosterone-fueled, callow Kaffee, Cruise is largely cast in a role similar to many of his predecessor roles. Moore delivers solidly and Nicholson was so good as the intimidating Jessup that his performance earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Definitely one of the best Tom Cruise Movies , the film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, but did not win any as most awards went to the acclaimed, Unforgiven, that year.

If you enjoyed A Few Good Men, you should also see Runaway Jury

1. Rain Man (1988)

A Beautiful Film about Family and Friendship

Rain Man is a timeless tale about the sanctity of familial love. Charlie Babbit (Cruise), an egocentric, driven Los Angeles car dealer who will use anyone to get a step ahead. When his estranged father dies, Charlie is summoned back home in Cincinnati, Ohio to settle his father's estate, but also finds that he has a long lost brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman).

Unfortunately for Charlie, he also learns that Raymond, an autistic savant, was named the sole heir to their father's $3 million estate. In an attempt to get his half of the fortune, Charlie steals Raymond from his mental facility home to drive him back to LA. During their week-long trip, the brothers develop a reluctant friendship that gradually grows into much more.

Hoffman's unforgettable portrayal of the autistic Raymond garnered him his second Oscar. Cruise also held his own as he brings depth to the emotional growth of his character. Valeria Golino also adds an extra spark to the film as Charlie's girlfriend. Akin to many movies with Tom Cruise, Rain Man is poignant motion picture you would not want to miss. In the end, this is a moving film that gives a pedestrian outlook on autism and celebrates the importance of family and the power of blood ties.

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, Rain Man actually won 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

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    • Alex Dino profile image

      Alex Dino 15 months ago from Canada

      My favorite is Vanilla Sky !!

    • profile image

      Zaman 2 years ago

      He is brilliant actor

    • profile image

      Niktravelfit 3 years ago

      Nice lens! Tom Cruise was my childhood hero in Mission Impossible.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Tom Cruise is a great actor, great movie list

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      I'm having computer problems and can't thank you properly on yor landing page. Thank you so much for liking so many of my lenses. It feels wonderful to have others like them.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Tom Cruise is a wonderful actor. Great lens.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 4 years ago from GRENADA

      Tom Cruise is a very talented actor. His best acting part for me was in Interview with a vampire! I had read the book and it came alive with his acting in the movie. Brat Pitt was also good in that movie.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I really like him in Mission Impossible.

    • raelcalu profile image

      raelcalu 5 years ago

      I'd go for Jerry Maguire...and Interview...lastly Eyes Wide Shut (who could forget the difficulty he experienced with all the cuts just to get the perfect crying shot with Stanley Kubrick)...I'm curious to see Risky Business.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It seems I like whatever Tom Cruise film I'm watching and it would be a toss up between Rain Man and A few Good Men for me...but then he had me at hello in The Firm! Nicely reviewed!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      Mission Impossible is one of my favorite movies.

    • BuildABetterMouse profile image

      Steve and Annette 5 years ago

      My wife is NOT a Tom Cruise fan but she's letting us watch the new Mission Impossible movie tonight. Great lens.

    • pcgamehardware profile image

      pcgamehardware 5 years ago

      I like most of Tom Cruise's movies, I thought he done really good in War Of The Worlds... Nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Not crazy about how he acts in person, but he definitely has talent and I enjoy his movies.

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I'm not a huge fan but he has certainly made some very good movies over his career.

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I'm not a huge fan but he has certainly made some very good movies over his career.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      So much talent shown in his early films...

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Definitely some excellent performances here!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It is a crime not to have an 'All of the above' button on your polls! :(

      Cheers! :))