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The 10 Best Tom Cruise Movies You Need To Watch

22 April 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Juan Carlo Rodríguez


As a sixth Mission: Impossible movie comes our way this year, we are again reminded as to why, complain as we might, we still love Tom Cruise. You’d never believe he’s approaching his 53rd birthday as he once again becomes über secret agent Ethan Hunt trying to take down the Rogue Nation, a sort of anti-Mission: Impossible Force that may pose an even greater threat than he’s used to.

In the end, of course, we know we’re just going to see him do some crazy stunts and show off how buff he is. But when you look that good and work that hard, haven’t you sort of earned it?

After the tabloid whirlwind that was his marriage to Katie Holmes, couch-jumping incident and all, not to mention his devotion to Scientology, it’s a fact that Thomas Cruise Mapother IV has had to prove time and again that he truly is a very good actor besides a commanding leading man, and he does it by being one of the hardest working men in cinema out there.

And it’s not just that he has such a dominating presence on screen, he makes those who act around him get so much better (you’ll see how many of them won or were nominated for an Oscar instead of him) just to try and keep up. (And let’s not forget he had the “Lip-Sync Battle” down to a T before it even was a thing, and in his boxers, no less.)

The man seems to know no fear or boundaries when it comes to either great action scenes or harrowing human drama. As proof, let us remind you of his ten best films.


10. Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun (1986)

The one that made him a bona fide movie star and a staple on teenage girls’ bedroom walls, Tony Scott’s Top Gun is basically a 110-minute recruiting video for the Air Force. But Cruise shows just why he was perfect for the role, with his ability to be both an intense macho man and a sensitive human being. He brings just the right amount of crazy to make the ladies swoon and the men want to be him.

Almost 30 years later, people still watch Top Gun no matter how much it gets parodied and criticized because it is just so entertaining and exhilarating. And a big part of it is thanks to him, who matches Scott’s intense directing frame for frame.


9. The Color of Money (1986)

The Color of Money (1986)

As if to prove he wasn’t just action star material, Tom decided to follow Top Gun to work alongside two “young upcomers”: a promising New Yorker named Martin Scorsese, and an elegant gentleman by the name of Paul Newman. Alright, the tongue is outside of cheek now.

Cruise started proving he had some true chops by managing not to look like a caricature next to Newman’s quiet majesty, managing to keep up with the Hollywood legend at every turn, although it was the veteran who got his only Oscar out of the deal. Yes, Cruise still is “that jock from Top Gun” – the two movies came out the same year –  but he and Newman have a cool father-son chemistry that doesn’t get talked about enough.


8. The Last Samurai (2003)

The Last Samurai (2003)

Our man’s Dances with Wolves, where he plays a disenchanted American colonel fresh off the Civil War who gets hired to train the Japanese troops against rebel samurais who allegedly refuse to accept progress.

Many have dismissed this sweeping epic as lesser Cruise material, mainly because it delves into such familiar tropes –the Noble Savages, the White Savior—and is pretty lax on the historic details, but this is a perfect showcase of the man’s talents without going over the top like the M:I movies, meaning his complete commitment and his ability to work with actors who compliment him.

As a bonus, he also shows some excellent horseback riding ability; how easy can it be to ride a galloping horse into battle while drawing a sword? Acting also as producer, Cruise worked hand in hand with director Ed Zwick to make both harrowing battle scenes, exciting action set pieces and genuinely heartbreaking drama.

Pair that with Cruise’s scenes with venerable Japanese actor Ken Watanabe –this was the movie who earned him both an Oscar nomination and his entry into Western cinema—who again is the stoic majesty to Cruise’s electricity, and this is one epic you’d be wrong to dismiss.


7. Jerry Maguire (1996)


By the time Cameron Crowe (Singles, Almost Famous) came up to Cruise and offered him the role of a sporting agent that has a moral epiphany –a role he had written with Tom Hanks in mind— the actor was already a megastar, with four consecutive 100-million-dollar hits (A Few Good Men, The Firm, Interview With the Vampire and Mission: Impossible).

Jerry Maguire was to be his fifth, but it was also the first time Cruise decided to shed a bit of his cocky persona and show himself as a vulnerable man who really isn’t sure what he’s going to do next and seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He is so good that the Academy saw it fit to give him his third Oscar nomination (though it would be his co-star Cuba Gooding, jr., who would famously get the gold –notice a pattern here?).

And admit it, ladies, if Tom Cruise comes barging in the house all teary-eyed just when you thought you’d lost him and beg you to come back, you’d also say “You had me at ‘hello’”.


6. Rain Man (1988)

Rain Man (1988)

This will be the fourth movie on this list (and not the last one) that sees Tom’s co-star get the Academy recognition instead of him, and in this case it will be Dustin Hoffman for his now famous portrayal of the autistic Raymond Babbit.

Again, this proves that Cruise can be at his best when he has someone he can bounce his talents off and, as said before, compliment him, and may be an indication that it forces those who act with him to work harder to keep up or try to steal the show away from him.

Still best known for Top Gun at this point, Cruise is again playing the cocky jerk, but that gives him a chance to show depth while his character grows. And he is no slouch next to Hoffman; he goes from annoyed, to exasperated, to intrigued, to loving, to heart-broken in a truly believable manner during the film’s length.



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  • Upward

    that reminds me, time to watch Magnolia again.

  • No Eyes Wide Shut?

    • Bryton Cherrier

      … Ehhhh…

  • Brian Lussier

    Two points. First off, it’s a fifth Mission: Impossible we’re getting, not a sixth one. Do your research before appearing like an idiot. Second: where in the FUCK is Eyes Wide Shut?!?!?! Cruise made two masterpieces in his career, that’s all, the other being Magnolia. How could you miss out on that one and put shitty (entertaining, but still shitty) films like Top Gun in its stead? You’re officially the worst moron who has yet written for this site, and that’s saying a lot!

    • Caelus Champion

      You don’t like subjectivity much huh

      • Brian Lussier

        I agree with SOME subjectivity, but there are limits between being subjective and not knowing anything about the subject about which you’re writing. This, sadly, falls in that latter category. Put it this way: would you be singing the same chorus if this had been a list of Marlon Brando films and The Godfather had been excluded? Probably not.

        • Caelus Champion

          Yes, because it would still be an opinion. Where’s your article that you wrote on this anyway?

    • Gabby

      Vanilla Sky too!

    • Alex Nasaudean

      Lussier, you off the meds again? Who in the name of sweet F— made you judge here, you turd?

      • Brian Lussier

        I don’t know. Who approved that moron as a writer for this site? It’s been going to the dogs recently, and this is one sad example.

        • Alex Nasaudean

          Before criticizing other people’s work, think about this: they write for almost nothing, using a lot of time. You, on the other hand, are a spiteful and obnoxious debaser. Write your own lists, then criticize!

      • Col

        Whether or not you personally enjoyed EWS or not, it is widely acknowledged that Kubrick’s worst is more notable than the majority of directors’ best, so EWS is a glaring omission and should have replaced Top Gun or Edge of Tomorrow at the very least. Also, your attitude and language is making *you* look like a mouth-frothing lunatic in need of medication.

        • Caelus Champion

          Lol widely acknowledged by who? It may be accepted in your circles but that doesn’t mean it is in everyone’s circles. I know plenty of people who dislike Kubrick’s entire category, save mostly for 2001. You really need a lesson in opinions and subjectivity.

          • Col

            That’s ironic that you think I need a lesson in subjectivity. You seem to think subjective opinion is the final word in what’s right, which of course is a total contradiction in terms. The point is, by “widely acknowledged” I am pointing out that your opinion, and your friends’ opinions don’t matter – what is historically and creatively important matters, not what you like to stare at while munching popcorn with your mates. This list is called “The Ten Best Tom Cruise Films You Need to Watch”- it should be better informed and more comprehensive – Eyes Wide Shut is a glaring omission when far inferior films are mentioned. That would not be an issue if the list was called “Ten Tom Cruise Films Juan Carlo Rodriguez Really Likes” – ie. with a purely subjective intent. If I made a list of the top ten war time romances and left out Casablanca because I personally disliked it, then I’d be failing to provide a comprehensive and informative list. Just Google “greatest directors of all time” and see how many times Kubrick’s name appears, then tell me how much the opinion of you and your friends matters.

          • Caelus Champion

            Wow. That is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. Do you even know what you just wrote? Reread that mate, you just made yourself look incredibly stupid. This conversation is over.

        • Alex Nasaudean

          My language was proportionate to the other guy’s language. Are you his lawyer? The guy who wrote this list took a lot of time to do it, it was his choice to omit EWS. He doesn’t deserve to be called a moron by certified nutcases like Lussier. And you, Sir, can take a hike and mind your own nonexistent business. Suck my froth!

      • Aaron T. Starks

        What an ass.

  • Erik Kyle Loncar

    If he missed it, you don’t need to, come and take a look at my Eyes wide shut analysis 🙂

  • Hiram Manrah

    minority report ?

  • Chris

    Yes, Minority Report is missing – of course! As well as Risky Business and the first two Mission Impossibles…

  • Veronica Clarke

    Minority Report definitely should have been on the list, and Top Gun definitely should not be.

    • Aaron T. Starks

      Yeah, I’d easily swap out those two. I also loved him Tropic Thunder.

      • Bryton Cherrier

        … Is it weird to say I always forget he was in that film?

  • Max Tupeuxpas

    Vanilla Sky was good too ! (fuck top gun by the way)

  • Col

    Did you actually watch Far and Away (I’d forgive anyone for not bothering)? Cruise plays an IRISHMAN, not a Scot. So I guess it’s totally acceptable that he “failed to hold a Scottish accent”. I’m thinking these lists need some better research and editing. There have been quite a few blunders lately (eg. the Anne Frank one).

  • Aaron T. Starks

    The ONLY reason Cruise isn’t more celebrated (openly) is the Scientology thing. It hangs over him like a cloud. Fortunately, I could give a shit about his religion. There are plenty of so-called “Christian” sects just as secretive, just as bullying, exploitative and cruel and we’re pretty much fine with them.

  • Still D.R.E.

    The guy who wrote this called Scorsese an up and comer when talking about Color of Money…dude Scorsese had already directed Taxi Driver at this point he had directed over 10 films he was pretty mad by 1986

    • Trevor Munsamy

      He said it tongue in cheek…but that obviously flew over your head.

  • Bryton Cherrier

    Even if I detest Cruise
    Magnolia will always be an absolute classic masterpiece.