From teen heartthrob to three-time Academy Award nominee to blockbuster action staple, there’s not one kind of role that Tom Cruise hasn’t played.
Cruise’s first crack at the Ethan Hunt character gave us some iconic scenes and laid the groundwork for what would eventually be Cruise’s biggest franchise. The series has gone so much further than we ever expected, but the original, with its double-crossing and complex plot, remains a great movie.
The twisting plot of the comic-turned-movie was a great vehicle to show Cruise’s grittier side. Able to pull off action like few can, Cruise’s Reacher was as smart a detective as he was lethal a fighter.
Turning in an excellent performance as the immortal bloodsucker, Lestat, Cruise steals every scene from both Pitt and Dunst. The ending may have left this one open for a sequel, but we can’t imagine that’s ever going to happen.
Cruise shared the screen with plenty of heavy hitters in Francis Ford Coppola’s coming of age story. It’s not the best look for Cruise, but it certainly made for a memorable character early in the movie star’s career.
Surprisingly harrowing for a fish out of water story, the historically inspired tale of a foreigner in Asia was a solid role for Cruise, as the American army man whose demons follow him to a bloody conflict in 19th century feudal Japan.
JJ Abrams’ first involvement in the MI franchise earned it a huge blockbuster showing and a renewed sense of life for the franchise. Cruise’s unstoppable agent plays perfectly against the understated mania of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as the calculating villain Davian.
Playing the concerned father during an alien invasion, Cruise turns in a surprisingly heartfelt performance in a movie that easily (and largely) was him running dramatically from scene to scene while being followed by enormous, world-conquering ETs.
Kubrick’s final film didn’t quite make it to theaters the way it was intended, but it did star Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman in the eerie, oddly sexy and often off-putting allegory that ultimately takes a weird, deep dive into societies secret underbelly.
Cruise does military well, and that can be traced back to very early in his career when he played a cadet occupying a military academy. The ensemble cast has a few big name actors in it, but this one definitely helped get Cruise recognized early on.
Cruise’s success in this adaptation of the Grisham novel was a logical follow up to his legal expertise in the prior year’s A Few Good Men, also one of Cruise’s greatest roles. Cruise didn’t go on to star in more legal thrillers, but his success in this role definitely helped more Grisham novels get turned into movies.
We can’t help but feel this one comes in criminally low on the list. Cruise goes head-to-head with Jack Nicholson here, and it remains likely one of the most important and iconic scenes in all of cinema’s history. A Few Good Men is one of those movies that you must watch to completion if you ever flip to it on cable, and that’s largely Cruise’s doing.
In the unusual movie that features Tom Cruise in a cameo rather than a starring role, his hilarious take on the awful movie exec, Les Grossman, is a wonderfully out of character role for the actor who, when you think about it, really ought to bust out his comedy chops more often if he’s able to pull off a fat suit this well.
Cruise’s contribution to the ensemble cast here made for one of his most serious performances in a movie that was both heartbreaking, heartwarming and about as deep as you see Cruise get.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Jerry Maguire. Whether he knew it or not, Cruise’s take on the sports super agent with a big heart remains a rom-com favorite to this day.
Playing the aging hitman opposite Jamie Foxx proved to be a dynamite combo that fit Cruise’s action chops perfectly. This was an unexpectedly good thriller, and the two leading men both put in performances that are worth rewatching to this day.
Tom’s signature charm made him a believable CIA agent, manipulating governments and criminals alike in this recent adventure based on a true story.
The team-up between Paul Newman and a young Tom Cruise in Scorsese’s story of a pool hall hustler who comes out of retirement is still a great movie, one that you should watch whether you like Newman, Cruise, Scorsese or any combination of the three.
Funny, slick and sometimes sad, Cruise’s take on the callous brother of a savant was a perfect compliment to Hoffman’s extraordinary performance in this oddball take on the road trip genre.
Part Groundhog’s Day, part Starship Troopers, this totally underrated gem doesn’t just showcase Cruise’s action chops, it’s one of the best sci-fi movies he’s ever made.
Probably one of the hardest movies to watch on this list, Cruise’s role in Oliver Stone’s anti-war film is about as political as you’ll see him get.
Easily his best known sci-fi role, the high-tech but still extremely bleak vision of the future puts Cruise on the path of a murder, and ties it all together with thrills and twists at every edge.
The whole world seems to love the new direction of the M:I series. Rogue Nation sets the stage for the events everyone is about to see in M:I Falllout, setting up a huge villain and introducing new characters while relying on the over-the-top stunts that have become a trademark of the series over the years.
See? Everyone really loves Mission: impossible. JJ Abrams may not have helmed this one, but his Bad Robot production company remained behind the series and it’s easy to see the positive effect they had. After all, who would pass up the opportunity to see the Kremlin turn into a smoking crater?
One of Cruise’s earliest movies is also his most iconic. Firmly planted as an '80s classic, you may not have guessed that the teenager dancing around in his tighty whities would become one of the biggest actors of all time but here we are.
Currently rocking a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, could Cruise’s best movie ever be his latest one? With lots of old faces returning and Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett joining the fray for a highly complex, globe-trotting, dual-nuke adventure, all the makings are there but time will tell if M:I Fallout remains supreme in Tom Cruise’s filmography.