The 25 Tom Cruise movies that are essential viewing

Tom Cruise has settled into the role of action-movie star over the last decade or so, and a Top Gun sequel aims to keep that momentum going. But, zooming out, Cruise’s filmography is actually a patchwork of more complex characters and roles. Picking the “best” Cruise movies is no easy task: He’s traversed comedy, rom-com, drama, thriller, horror, historical epic, action.

Of course, there are aspects of Cruise’s personal life that are distressing to some and likely drove viewers away from the box office. Nonetheless, the guy has Mission: Impossible films announced into 2022 (!), so fans have that to look forward to. Perhaps Mission: Impossible—Deepfake will be next.

Meanwhile, here are Tom Cruise’s 25 best movies to watch.

The 25 best Tom Cruise movies, ranked

1) Eyes Wide Shut

Rent it: Amazon for $2.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

tom cruise movies eyes wide shut Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

The making of Stanley Kubrick’s final film often outshines the actual movie. However, what was once panned as an out-of-touch male fantasy reads a little differently 20 years later. Eyes Wide Shut is often reduced to its orgy scene, but its exploration of the fragile male ego is much more interesting. The fact that it’s become a holiday classic is even more perverse. Audra Schroeder

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2) Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for free

tom cruise movies interview with the vampire Movieclips/YouTube

The 1994 movie adaptation of Anne Rice’s vampire novel cast Tom Cruise as Lestat, a charming vampire who kills with gusto. Additionally, Brad Pitt stars as Louis, a lost soul whom Lestat turned immortal and who has agreed to a present-day interview with a journalist (Christian Slater). Louis recounts the blood feasts and erotic adventures, but the film also conveys the eternal sadness of being a vampire. Rice reportedly slammed Cruise’s casting as Lestat, but she apologized to Cruise after seeing the film. I can’t imagine what a John Travolta–led film would have looked like. A.S.

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3) Magnolia 

Rent it: Amazon for $2.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

tom cruise movies magnolia Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Paul Thomas Anderson’s intersecting-lives ensemble piece is an engaging collection of performances and quite a feat of storytelling. The generational effect of pain and trauma is the throughline. As a follow-up to Boogie Nights, it ropes in some of the same players (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly), but it takes the story in a different direction.  A.S.

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4) Tropic Thunder 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

Stream it: Philo for subscribers

tom cruise movies tropic thunder Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Ben Stiller’s Hollywood spoof tracks a film crew making a war movie and inadvertently overstepping their bounds, ending up in unfriendly territory. Naturally, hilarity ensues. It’s easy to forget that Robert Downey Jr. (whose comeback started in summer ’08 with this and Iron Man) was Oscar-nominated for his work as Kirk Lazarus, a cocksure Australian actor playing a black American character. However, he’s great, Stiller is great, Jack Black is great, Matthew McConaughey is great, everyone’s great. —Eddie Strait

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5) Collateral 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies collateral Movieclips/YouTube

Michael Mann knows how to film Los Angeles, and 2004’s Collateral gets you acquainted right away. Additionally, Mann knows how to draw out tension between male leads — in this movie’s case, Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. Here, Max (Foxx), an aimless taxi driver, and Vincent (Cruise), a hardened hit man, are locked in a psychological battle after Vincent commandeers Max’s cab for a night. A.S.

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6) Jerry Maguire 

Rent it: Amazon for $2.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for free

Stream it: CBS All Access for subscribers

tom cruise movies jerry maguire YouTube Movies/YouTube

Cameron Crowe is stuck in his fall-from-grace period, but it’s worthwhile to dig back to when Crowe was still consistently great. Consequently, it’ll help restore your faith in the man after his recent run of movies has just about burnt up all his goodwill. Jerry Maguire is a quintessential ‘90s movie that still holds up more than 20 years later. —E.S.

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7) Edge of Tomorrow 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies edge of tomorrow Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube

This 2014 film was one of those big-budget action sci-fi comedies that found a fanbase and critical consensus. As a result, it is getting a sequel. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt battle an alien army in the Doug Liman movie, though the premise is what could set it up for endless sequels: Cruise’s Maj. William Cage can’t really “die.” He’s stuck in a loop where he lives the same day over and over. A.S.

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8) Minority Report 

Rent it: Amazon for $2.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

Stream it: Hulu and Amazon Prime for subscribers

tom cruise movies minority report Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Steven Spielberg’s 2002 adaptation of Philip K. Dick doesn’t feel outdated quite yet. In this movie, Tom Cruise gets more comfortable as an action star — a role that defined a majority of his aughts output. The film is set in 2054, when crime can be stopped before it happens, but what makes it feel less like science fiction is the way surveillance tech is depicted. A.S.

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9) Top Gun 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies top gun Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Is Top Gun a satire of masculinity? An exploration of homoeroticism? A “woo”-filled action blockbuster from a bygone era? People are apparently still engaged enough with this 1986 film about guys and their big jets to warrant a sequel, but the original is a subtext-laden curiosity of mid-’80s cinema. A.S.

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10) Mission: Impossible 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies mission impossible YouTube Movies/YouTube

It’s hard not to love the Mission: Impossible franchise (even with the ludicrous John Woo contribution), and it’s easy to make the argument that, save for No. 2, each movie in the series has gotten better. Much like with the Terminator films, however, I hold the original nearest and dearest. —E.S.

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11) Risky Business 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

Stream it: Showtime for subscribers

tom cruise movies risky business Movieclips/YouTube

Tom Cruise’s breakout role in this movie inspired Halloween costumes for years. It presents a premise in which a well-to-do teenager ends up housing a sex worker (Rebecca De Mornay) while his parents are out of town. But this isn’t another horny ‘80s movie: Risky Business looks at the pitfalls of capitalism and social climbing. Bonus points for the Tangerine Dream score. A.S.

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12) Born on the Fourth of July 

Rent it: FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies born on the fourth of july Movieclips/YouTube

Oliver Stone’s 1989 movie places Tom Cruise in the role of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran who was paralyzed in combat and uses a wheelchair. Kovic, who wrote the autobiography the Vietnam drama is based on, went on to become an anti-war activist, but the film shows the broken path back from war for so many veterans. Cruise’s performance swivels from rage to anger to acceptance and back. A.S.

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13) Legend

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

Stream it: Starz for subscribers

tom cruise movies legend Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

This 1985 Ridley Scott film was no doubt illuminating for horny adolescents (I certainly had some confusing feelings about Tim Curry), but it’s still pretty dark. The gauzy forest romance between Tom Cruise’s Jack and Mia Sara’s Lili is doomed when the Lord of Darkness (Curry in full prosthetics) snatches her away, and Jack embarks on a hero’s journey. The acting and set design doesn’t quite hold up, but Legend remains one of those fantasy films that benefits from its weirdness. A.S.

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14) Vanilla Sky

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies vanilla sky Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Tom Cruise reunited with Cameron Crowe for this 2001 puzzle piece of a movie about memory and time. Penélope Cruz (who appeared in Open Your Eyes, the film Vanilla Sky is adapted from) and Cameron Diaz also star. Though the film didn’t get glowing reviews when it was released, it’s seen renewed appreciation over the last decade or so. A.S.

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15) A Few Good Men 

Available for purchase only

tom cruise movies a few good men Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Aaron Sorkin’s first screenplay, A Few Good Men, is a courtroom drama that explores the death of a Marine at Guantanamo Bay, which was inspired by real events. The heated exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson is the movie’s dramatic high point, but it also features solid performances from Demi Moore, Kiefer Sutherland, and Kevin Bacon. A.S.

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16) Rain Man 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

Stream it: Netflix for subscribers

tom cruise movies rain man Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

Has Rain Man aged well? Its depiction of an autistic savant (Dustin Hoffman) whose estranged brother (Tom Cruise) kidnaps him from an institution was based in research. However, 30 years later, ideas about people on the autism spectrum have changed. At its core, Rain Man is a dramedy about two strangers trying to figure each other out and adapt. A.S.

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17) American Made 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99

Stream it: Cinemax for subscribers

tom cruise movies american made KinoCheck International/YouTube

Another collaboration with Doug Liman, this movie stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, the real TWA-pilot-turned-drug-smuggler-turned-Drug-Enforcement-Administration-informant. The movie fast-tracks us through the unbelievable story, which involves Pablo Escobar and the Iran–Contra affair. On the other hand, it pauses to show us the hubris, as well.  A.S.

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18) The Outsiders 

Rent it: Amazon for $1.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies the outsiders YouTube Movies/YouTube

Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic novel offers a stark look at male friendship and troubled childhoods in small-town Oklahoma. What’s more, the movie is filled with the era’s hunks: Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, and Rob Lowe. A.S.

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19) Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

Stream it: TNT for subscribers

tom cruise movies jack reacher never go back Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

While critics didn’t quite get onboard for a second Jack Reacher movie, Never Go Back is still entertaining. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he’s a magnetic screen presence. Moreover, he’s always giving maximum effort. This time, Reacher finds himself at the center of a government conspiracy he will have to kick and punch his way out of. There is a certain baseline quality to Cruise’s action movies, and Jack Reacher may never reach (sorry) the heights of the Mission: Impossible movies, but it’s more than serviceable. —E.S.

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20) Days of Thunder 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies days of thunder YouTube Movies/YouTube

This movie was probably meant to keep the momentum going after Top Gun, placing Tom Cruise in another need-for-speed role. He plays impulsive young NASCAR driver Cole Trickle, whose teammate becomes his rival. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw it all parodied in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. A.S.

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21) The Color of Money 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

tom cruise movies the color of money Amazon Prime Video

This movie isn’t always brought up when talking about Martin Scorsese’s oeuvre, but it’s full of the director’s usual themes. Paul Newman reprises his role as Eddie Felson from The Hustler. Felson finds new blood in Tom Cruise’s Vincent, a young pool player he thinks he can hustle into hustling opponents. Audra Schroeder

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22) The Firm 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

Stream it: Amazon Prime for subscribers

tom cruise movies the firm Movieclips/YouTube

A year after A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise played a lawyer in a movie once again, but this one comes from a John Grisham novel. Mitch McDeere is a young, sought-after lawyer who’s enticed by a Memphis firm that issurpriseactually very corrupt. A.S.

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23) War of the Worlds 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $3.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies war of the worlds Movieclips/YouTube

Another Steven Spielberg–Tom Cruise project, this 2005 movie adaptation of the classic alien-invasion novel bumps up the action, offering a more modern take. —A.S.

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24) Cocktail 

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $2.99

Stream it: Showtime for subscribers

tom cruise movies cocktail YouTube Movies/YouTube

Now that the craft cocktail scene has gone beyond parody, this 1988 rom-com about a bartender who can juggle bottles (and babes!) is a painful watch. However, if you’re looking for a movie that really screams 1988 and made “Kokomo” a hit, this time capsule is for you. A.S.

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25) The Mummy

Rent it: Amazon for $3.99, FandangoNow for $2.99, and Vudu for $3.99

tom cruise movies the mummy Universal Pictures/YouTube

Did The Mummy really need another reboot? No, but we got one regardless in 2017, with Tom Cruise in the movie’s lead role. At least we got some laughs out of the trailer. —A.S.

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Audra Schroeder

Audra Schroeder

Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.