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Open this photo in gallery:Tom Cruise appears in character in the film "Jerry Maguire." "Jerry Maguire" was nominated for Best Picture in the 69th Annual Academy Awards nominations in Beverly Hills, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 1997. (AP Photo/Columbia TriStar, Andrew Cooper)

Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire (1996).Columbia TriStar via The Associated Press

“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.

Meet Christopher McQuarrie, wingman to Tom Cruise’s death-defying maverick

The Tao of Tom Cruise, our last action hero

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Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018).David James/The Associated Press

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.

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Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut (1999).The Canadian Press

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.

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Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton in Minority Report (2002).Handout

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.

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Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick (2022).Paramount Pictures/Paramount Pictures

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.

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