Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s best-loved actors, a symbol of action, versatility, charm, sex appeal and 1980s myth. A veritable box-office machine, capable, without a doubt, of leaving an indelible mark on modern cinema, thanks to a series of films that have become true legends.
Believe it or not, the star we all know today almost became a priest when he was young but moved to New York in search of an acting career. Tom made his debut in 1981, and now, more than forty years later, he is an immovable standard-bearer of cinema that has delighted different generations of audiences.
Tom has been the subject of retrospectives, documentaries and even podcasts. Loved and hated in equal parts, the truth is that there isn’t a single person who doesn’t recognise Tom Cruise’s name or have enjoyed some of his films. So, today, our mission, should we accept—and we totally do—is to highlight the top Tom Cruise films; let’s dig in!
What are the Top Tom Cruise Films?
With a career spanning over four decades, it is hard to choose a few good films only. We mean, if this talented actor didn’t know how to make good films, he wouldn’t have lasted this long, right?! However, coming up next, we remember some of the best films of Tom Cruise.
Risky Business (1983)
Who can forget that iconic slide of Tom Cruise while wearing a shirt only? It is timeless! It’s funny, it’s intelligent, it’s shot with nerve and a lot of intention. However, beyond the mythical shot of Tom Cruise sliding across the parquet floor singing with his shirt on, Risky Business is a snapshot of the American upper middle class in the 1980s.
Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise) is the perfect son. Responsible, polite, never rebels, exemplary behaviour? He is the apple of his parents’ eye, who have placed all their hopes in him and expect him to become a business tycoon in the future. However, Joel is tired of carrying an image and a character that has been imposed on him. He is tired of being the perfect son and decides to unleash his “dark side”.
Risky Business is, considered a masterpiece by Generation X, boosted Tom’s stock price, and with that smile, he managed to charm and convince critics and audiences alike.
Top Gun (1986)
Set in the magic hour, aeroplanes, operators, wind and Danger zone playing at full blast: this is how Top Gun, one of the most mythical movies of the 80s, begins. In 1985, Tom Cruise was coming off excellent thanks to his performances in Risky Business (1983), The Outsiders (1983) and Legend (1985), so he was chosen by producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to star in Top Gun under the direction of Tony Scott.
The film tells the story of a young, daring pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is sent to the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) to receive training in advanced air combat techniques. There, Maverick finds himself in a heated competition with Tom “Ice” Kasansky, but he also finds something he didn’t expect!
The film, with its great, emotional and biting soundtrack, serves as an election spot for the US Navy, which registers the highest number of enlistments since the attack on Pearl Harbor after the film. Everyone wanted to be like Maverick, who, in conflict with the very blond Iceman, Val Kilmer, proved to be the best pilot in the entire Navy.
Top Gun became an iconic film of the 1980s and, in a short time, a cult for its generation. The film definitely took Tom Cruise’s career to the sky and concentrated his name as an action world star.
Rain Man (1988)
In 1988, Tom Cruise decided to play the nasty, unpleasant brother in this Barry Levinson film about greed and the family we learn to love. But it was a wise choice as Rain Man turned out to be a classic and one of the best films from the 1980s.
The film follows Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who finds out that his recently dead estranged father has left him no money and instead gave the money to the caregivers of his autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Charlie then kidnaps Raymond in an attempt to get some of the inheritance.
However, as they journey across the United States, Charlie not only learns how to cope with Raymond’s personality but begins to care about his brother, surprising even himself with his capacity for love, to come to the conclusion that money is not everything in life.
Imitated a thousand times but never surpassed, Rain Man is great in the small moments and culminates in an ending that doesn’t leave the viewer sold on cheap weepiness. The film is an emotional and committed affair, with Cruise juggling a great performance alongside the great Dustin Hoffman, who somehow defined the way autistic people with Savant syndrome were portrayed in films up to the present day.
A Few Good Men (1992)
“Did you order code red?” and “You can’t handle the truth!” are two of the best lines in the ’90s cinema, and they’re both crammed into a minute and a half near the end of A Few Good Men, one of the best films Hollywood has ever given us.
Aaron Sorkin made his film debut with one of his best scripts, where a senior Navy lawyer, who has never been in a courtroom, gets assigned by the Navy to a murder case. Two Marines have been arrested for killing a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both claim that their platoon commander issued a Code Red, an official order. In the wake of this event, the lurid secrets of the workings of the armed forces will come to light.
Playing the character of the lawyer proved that Tom Cruise can hold his own with the big boys, the likes of Jack Nicholson, who also presented an impeccable performance as always. A Few Good Men is a small marvel that, although it may lack more convincing investigation, still holds its place at the high altar.
The Mission Impossible Saga (1996-…)
In 1996, Cruise filmed the first chapter of the Mission Impossible franchise with Brian de Palma. The film series, recounting the adventures of CIA agent Ethan Hunt, launched Tom as an action-movie star.
The success of Mission Impossible is still going strong, with seven films and another one in the making. Mission Impossible became one of cinema’s most profitable productions, able in a short time to stand alongside a great spy film saga such as James Bond.
Opinions are divided on which is the best Mission Impossible film. For some, it’s the original, with Brian De Palma’s signature. For others, it’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout part with a unique visual extravaganza. For us, it has to be Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, where Brad Bird left animation behind to shoot a comic, uninhibited and spectacular action film.
Tom Cruise hanging from the Burj Khalifa, then crashing into a window: this is the most mocking Ethan Hunt, the one who is the best at getting the job done! No scene is too dull, too serious or too funny: everything is just right, blended with precision and resulting in the best action movie of this century.
An excellent drama film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, in which Cruise is part of a great cast made up of many excellent actors. Tom was undoubtedly the undisputed star and managed to bring out the best in a film that is regarded as one of the late 1990s avant-garde.
Hated by some, loved by others, Magnolia is a story of crossed lives full of details and in which all the stories are memorable in themselves until reaching an ending in which all the coincidences become one.
Tom Cruise was immense in this film, presenting one of the best roles of his career: Frank Mackey, who is a misogynistic, absurd, impossible character, the kind that seems locked into a single shot.
But each line takes us deeper into who he really is, and the culmination of his story is the high point of Cruise’s career, in which he atones for the sins of his own life by coming to redemption in the face of all viewers. It is a film that is, without a doubt, a masterpiece!
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
In the midst of the collapse of the Cruise/Kidman marriage, Stanley Kubrick made his last film, which follows Dr William Harford, played by Tom Cruise, as he searches for himself on a night with an orgy that gives us some of the most recognisable shots of the actor’s career.
It is a psychosexual drama with thriller overtones that the couple decided to shoot for as long as the director wanted. It took more than fifteen months non-stop, but it was worth it. The film is one of Kubrick’s most intriguing films and a perfect testament to his genius.
Strange and unique, no one finishes Eyes Wide Shut without ending up hurt, fascinated, and maybe feeling a little bit lost. The film leaves very few moments of dreamlike calm, with the couple showing excellent complicity and harmony even on set.
Minority Report (2002)
Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. In Minority Report, he has produced one of his best works, with poisoned candy included for those who are not satisfied with the ending that is projected for us.
This sci-fi crime story set in a dystopian future never loses interest and is as enjoyable artistically as it is technically perfect. The film is a succession of twists and turns, set in a future (2054) that is distant but not too distant, where modern society makes extensive use of new technologies to prevent and solve crimes and murders.
Minority Report was able to tell very complex ideas in a simple and brilliant way (free will vs. the Pre-Cogs) because it is tremendously intelligent, not only thanks to some unique ideas, both plotwise and visually, but to a complex main character trapped in a personal debacle from which he has no way out. A sci-fi landmark on its own!
The Last Samurai (2003)
It may not be perfect, and it may err a little on the side of the “white saviour” myth, but The Last Samurai is a return to classic Japanese cinema seen from a Yankee perspective. The film not only presented some great action scenes, but it was also thoughtful and showed a somehow unorthodox samurai, aka Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise). The Last Samurai is emotional, intense and sensitive but also tough.
The film follows an American Civil War veteran, Captain Nathan Algren, who lands in Japan to train the emperor’s troops in their fight against samurai rebels. But during a battle, the enemy traps Algren, who is taken to the camps where these legendary fighters train for the fight. During Algren’s time with them, he becomes increasingly attracted to their way of life.
Actor Ken Watanabe showed exquisite attention to detail in his performance, and Tom Cruise managed to match him as a Westerner lost in a world he doesn’t know but is willing to call home. It is a terrific work about retribution, redemption and trust.
Never has Tom Cruise done better with a character so far from his stereotype as he did in Collateral. Director Michael Mann found the perfect look for the actor by bleaching his hair and showing a complete lack of compassion for human life.
In the film, we meet Vincent, a hitman, and Max, a taxi driver, who are thrown together for a night in which they make five stops. The tension rises quickly as the film grabs your attention until it reaches an ending unlike anything you expect when you think of Cruise’s type of film.
The visuals, the night photography, Max (Jamie Foxx) seeing his shadowy reflection in Vincent (Tom Cruise), Collateral presented a personal style without boring the viewer. It is impossible to do so during this film, marked by the personality of Michael Mann and a cast that flies over the clichés of the genre to offer nuances that are only hinted at in the script and that turn this film into a sometimes misunderstood blockbuster.
It is World War II time, and Adolf Hitler is beginning to lose ground. His own allies hatch a plan to kill him before it all goes too far. Based on a true story (and with considerable care taken to maintain historical fidelity beyond the language), Valkyrie is a gripping thriller in which you know the plan is not going to work, but for a moment, it allows you to imagine an Inglourious Basterds scenario.
Although it falls into the myth of the “good Nazi” film, Von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is a character you come to love until the very end. A suspense film elevated to the maximum, a thriller to the last consequence and shot in such a classic way, without being carried away by the trends of the moment that we can only applaud this surprising work that in its day caused hardly a stir.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
If there is one director in Hollywood who always manages to get the best out of every script and cast he has in front of him, it is certainly Doug Liman. So, it is no surprise that everything runs like clockwork in his film Edge of Tomorrow.
The action is spectacular; the science-fiction creates a new world with a simple but attractive lore, and the comedy is a nice additional touch. It is also seasoned with one of the subgenres that has given the most delights in the history of genre cinema: time loops. Moreover, unlike many of the films in this genre where the loop occurs with plot excuses, here, there is a reason for everything that happens.
The story is set in the future when a savage alien invasion of Earth aims to destroy the human race. The story takes place right at this moment, where a man (Tom Cruise) and a woman (Emily Blunt) do their best to resist the attack and prevent their demise.
Even if Cruise and Emily Blunt’s infatuation with each other didn’t quite work, it’s a minor flaw in one of the most original mainstage films of the last ten years.
Tom Cruise is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors. With a career spanning over 30 years and countless mind-blowing performances, he has cemented his place among the greatest names that ever worked in the industry. From fast-paced action to dramatic roles exploring deeper themes, Tom Cruise has always brought his A-game to the screen.