Tom Cruise’s Movies from Worst to Best
Whether you love him or hate him, Tom Cruise is just like many actors. As in, he has done some incredible movies and had his fair share of flops. On the heels of the success of the highly-anticipated sequel Top Gun: Maverick and the upcoming new Mission: Impossible movie, Cruise also just celebrated his 61st birthday (July 3, 2023).
What better way to celebrate than to rank some of his movies from worst to best? Follow along and see if you agree or disagree with some of these choices, or think we should have added something else from his ever-growing resume!
‘Lions for Lambs’ (2007)
Cruise has often been a bit of a controversial star with his ties to Scientology and highly publicized relationships. After some PR issues, he starred in the 2007 film Lions for Lambs, also starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. With such big names, you’d think it would be a great film but it didn’t go over well and is often considered Cruise’s worst film ever. He plays a conservative senator in the film and the whole thing has been described as politics from Facebook. Yikes.
‘The Mummy’ (2017)
Brendan Fraser‘s Mummy franchise is considered the best and the remake starring Cruise didn’t go over well with fans. The plot, the characters, and the storyline just weren’t as good, and perhaps if fans had nothing to compare it to, it could have gone over a little better. Even with Russell Crowe as the villain, many say that both stars just phoned in their performances, likely only doing it for the paycheck.
‘Rock of Ages’ (2012)
Rock of Ages is the film adaptation of the popular musical and Cruise stars as Stacee Jaxx. While many musicals can translate well into film, this one just didn’t hit the mark. Though critics say that Cruise did a great job in this film with what he was given, many criticize Adam Shankman’s adaptation filled with autotune and lackluster staging.
Directed by Ridley Scott, this was Cruise’s only fantasy film and probably the reason why he has never made another one. The movie is one of those that is so bad it is entertaining and has reached cult status over time. Cruise seemed uncomfortable in the role the whole time while fighting the Lord of Darkness, played by Tim Curry while trying to save his love Lili (Mia Sara) from his grip. The only good parts of this film are the makeup effects (nominated for an Oscar) and the great instrumental soundtrack by Tangerine Dream along with Brian Ferry and John Anderson of YES. It is no wonder that Cruise stuck with action movies because he shined in Top Gun the same year.
‘The Outsiders’ (1983)
One of his first films, starring a ton of now-famous actors including Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane. Based on a 1967 novel of the same name, the film follows a teen gang in Oklahoma fighting with a rival group and tackles all of those teenage emotions in a West Side Story kind of way. The film was the start of the Brat Pack genre in the ’80s which also includes films like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.
On March 25, 1983 a relatively unknown cast came together to shoot Francis Ford Coppola's ‘The Outsiders,’ all of them would go on to become enormous stars.
‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996)
This film inspired so many popular catchphrases including “Show me the money!” and “You had me at ‘Hello.'” Cruise stars in the film as Jerry Maguire, a sports agent, and the film itself was inspired by an experience real-life sports agent Leigh Steinberg had with client Tim McDonald a few years prior. It became one of the highest-grossing films of 1996 and was nominated for five Acadamy Awards, becoming one of Cruise’s top films in his career.
‘Rain Man’ (1988)
While Cruise’s character Charlie Babbitt is certainly cringy and downright mean at times, this film is certainly one of his best. The story follows Charlie as he discovers that his estranged father has died and left almost all of his riches to his other son, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Raymond is an autistic savant and Charlie had no idea he had a brother. Determined to get his inheritance back, he finds Raymond and learns a lot of life lessons along the way. The film was the highest-grossing movie of 1988 and won Best Picture at the 61st Academy Awards.
‘A Few Good Men’ (1992)
Cruise stars alongside greats Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore in this American legal drama. The film follows two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and their court case. The three top stars received high accolades for their performances. With a budget of $40 million, the film went on to make over $243 million and was a huge success.
‘Born on the Fourth of July’ (1989)
One of the few awards that Cruise has won came from this American biographical drama called Born on the Fourth of July. The film was based on the autobiography of Ron Kovic and depicts his life from childhood to military service to anti-war activism. Director Oliver Stone co-wrote the script with Kovic, making sure to get every detail right for this powerful film. Cruise’s portrayal in this movie has often been praised by fans and critics alike.
‘Risky Business’ (1983)
Is there anything more iconic on this list than Cruise dancing in a dress shirt in this film? Cruise played a high school student who finds trouble while his parents are away on vacation. That particular scene alone has been recreated in so many other films, making this movie one of his greatest. Be honest, you tried to recreate that scene once or twice, didn’t you?
‘Mission: Impossible’ films (1996, 2000, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2023, 2024)
Mission: Impossible is an American action spy film that was so well received it has spawned a record-breaking seven sequels, with one out now and another coming in 2024. It is a continuation of the 1966 and 1988 series and follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) who aims to uncover who framed him for the murders of his Impossible Mission Force team. Cruise has been known to do his own stunts for these films, making his role that much more impressive. Of course, we could rank all of these movies individually but that would probably make a great separate post… comment if you’d like us to do so!
‘Top Gun’ films (1985 and 2023)
Top Gun is undoubtedly Cruise’s best work and fan-favorite film. While it received mixed reviews at first, it is now considered a cult classic and spawned a sequel decades later that also did quite well in theaters. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the films and the movie was actually inspired by an article called “Top Guns” written by Ehud Yonay. Fans were delighted to see Val Kilmer return as Iceman in the second film as well, not knowing if he would be able to due to health issues.
Bonus: Perhaps his most surprising role was in 2008’s controversial Tropic Thunder. He was unrecognizable in a bald cap and a fat suit as he played horrible studio executive Les Grossman. There aren’t many comedies on this list because Cruise is mainly a serious actor, which made his cameo so funny and beloved by many fans, despite him playing a pretty awful human being. Some fans have even asked for a film to be made with Grossman as a star character.
What is your favorite Tom Cruise movie?