“He is uniquely trained and highly motivated – a specialist without equal – immune to any countermeasures. ... He is the living manifestation of destiny.”
Those words belong to Alec Baldwin’s CIA honcho in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, describing the superspy Ethan Hunt played by Tom Cruise. But Baldwin might as well just be describing Cruise himself, a pure force of will who has elevated (almost) every movie he has been involved with. After spending the past half-year diving into the star’s filmography, here is my mission report. Presenting all 44 Tom Cruise movies, ranked from worst to best.
44. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016): Good advice, someone should’ve heeded it.
43. Rock of Ages (2012): Puke-box musical.
42. The Mummy (2017): Denial ain’t just a franchise in Egypt.
41. Endless Love (1981): Barely a pipsqueak, Cruise’s first role is just plain squeaky.
40. Losin’ It (1983): A charmless thing starring a man of pure charm, fancy that.
39. Interview with the Vampire (1994): Dead, and not loving it.
38. The Last Samurai (2003): The Last White Saviour movie to likely get such a high budget.
37. Lions For Lambs (2007): Faux-political drama operating on slaughter-house rules.
36. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000): To John Woo, thanks for nothing.
35. All the Right Moves (1983): Perhaps Jerry Maguire could help Cruise’s NFL wannabe. Perhaps not.
34. Far and Away (1992): Ron Howard must be, but so far hasn’t been, stopped.
33. Knight and Day (2010): Right repairing with Vanilla Sky’s Cameron Diaz, but the wrong movie.
32. Oblivion (2013): Sterile sci-fi, but it introduces Cruise to Top Gun: Maverick director Joseph Kosinski.
31. Legend (1985): Tawdry make-believe that imagines a better movie just beyond its grasp.
30. Cocktail (1988): The martini glass is half-empty. But points for Kokomo – and Toronto.
29. Valkyrie (2008): Once you adapt to his accent-less Nazi turncoat, it sorta clicks.
28. Jack Reacher (2012): Just a few inches short of a tight thriller.
27. Taps (1981): Cruise’s determination codified, if not yet quite personified.
26. The Outsiders (1983): Rare ensemble work that toughs it out.
25. Vanilla Sky (2001): Cameron Crowe and Cruise follow Jerry Maguire with a vision too heavy for even the sturdiest of eight-pound heads.
24. Tropic Thunder (2008): Timeless performance in film otherwise composed of ancient cultural artifacts.
23. The Color of Money (1986): True grit from Cruise, Paul Newman and Martin Scorsese, three of our finest hustlers.
22. Days of Thunder (1990): Inseparable from Top Gun, cementing Cruise as our Golden Boy.
21. Top Gun (1986): Ridiculous beefy silliness that breaks the sound barrier.
20. The Firm (1993): The true origins of Cruise’s running-man shtick.
19. Mission: Impossible (1996): RIP Emilio Estevez’s character, but long live Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.
18. War of the Worlds (2005): Apocalyptic parenting par excellence.
17. Mission: Impossible III (2006): The resuscitation of a megafranchise, bigger and louder and Alias-er.
16. American Made (2017): All smiles, sweat and sex, delightfully absent any moral centre.
15. Rain Man (1988): No one plays the jerk-who-comes-round better.
14. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015): In Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise finds his kindred collaborator/enabler.
13. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011): Jeremy Renner could never.
12. Edge of Tomorrow (2014): Live, die, repeatedly watch this all-killer-no-filler Groundhog Day riff.
11. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023): No movie is worth dying for, but then again ...
10. Collateral (2004): The rare villainous turn, slicked to the nines with devilish dark-night-of-the-soul fun.
9. Born on the Fourth of July (1989): The war movie no one expected from Cruise, but the war movie he had to make.
8. Magnolia (1999): In this life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you deserve – it’s what you take.
7. A Few Good Men (1992): In which Cruise gives us the god’s honest truth, 100 per cent.
6. Risky Business (1983): Sunglasses at night, old time rock-’n’-roll charm during the day.
5. Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Revelatory work that shatters celebrity perception.
4. Minority Report (2002): Steven Spielberg’s finest sci-fi fantasia and Cruise’s top fugitive fantasy.
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018): In which Cruise becomes immortal.
2. Jerry Maguire (1996): It’s had us at hello for a quarter-century now.
1. Top Gun: Maverick (2022): The hero American cinema needs, the hero the world deserves.