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A Definitive Ranking of Every Tom Cruise Movie

Yes, even ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’

(Ringer illustration)
(Ringer illustration)

The critics have spoken: The Mummy, Tom Cruise’s reboot of the 1999 Brendan Fraser bonanza, is not a very good movie. Some are going further, and suggesting that The Mummy is one of the worst movies — if not the very worst movie — Cruise has ever released. But is it? And if there’s a worst Tom Cruise movie, then there’s a best Tom Cruise movie, too. Which one is that? These are Tom Cruise Movies, Ranked.

Very Bad

These are the Tom Cruise train wrecks — the movies that are remarkably terrible, usually because they’re based on something else that’s dumb and bad.

40. ‘Rock of Ages’

Tom Cruise in a movie about ’80s-era rock ’n’ roll? And it’s based on a Broadway play with an extremely rote premise? And Tom Cruise looks like this?

(Warner Bros.)
(Warner Bros.)

Who says no? Everyone. Everyone says no.

39. ‘Lions for Lambs’

Here’s something odd: Tom Cruise — our most unknowable movie star; a canny, calculating executive; a man with an interesting personal life — is really bad at playing a politician in this Iraq War fable. (Also: "Iraq War fable.")

38. ‘The Mummy’

The reboot of Brendan Fraser’s 1999 campy classic and the beginning of the Dark Universe [rolls eyes so hard] starts off well enough — Sofia Boutella makes a good mummy, Tom is doing his signature jerk-with-a-heart routine — but everything falls apart very quickly, much like the wraps and bandages on Boutella’s Sexy Mummy every time she sucks the life out of a British security guard. I blame Jekyll and Hyde.

37. ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’

Let’s just say no one watched the first Jack Reacher and said, "Man, they should make another one of those, only worse." Beyond the time he punches a dude through a car window, everything here is disappointing: a Halloween parade that came a year after Bond did a Day of the Dead parade in Spectre, an unnecessary "whose kid is this?" plot, and rough chemistry between Cruise and Cobie Smulders.

36. ‘Mission: Impossible II’

One of the nuttiest action movies ever made, and not really in a good way. If the doves fluttering above Ethan Hunt as he does a roundhouse kick or the absurd plot about a disease called Chimera don’t make you jump ship, the onslaught of unmasking scenes will.

35. ‘Knight and Day’

Cruise’s collaboration with Cameron Diaz airs approximately 13 times a week on cable channels. That’s about the nicest thing to say about it. Cruise’s character is named Roy Miller, which is … a totally fine name. Quick satellite ranking: Which Cruise character has the best name?

Tom Cruise Character Names, Ranked
35. Nathan Algren (The Last Samurai)
34. Billy (Endless Love)
33. Ray Ferrier (War of the Worlds)
32. Nick Morton (The Mummy)
31. Jack Harper (Oblivion)
30. Joseph Donnelly (Far and Away)
29. Steve Randle (The Outsiders)
28. David Shawn (Taps)
27. John Anderton (Minority Report)
26. William Harford (Eyes Wide Shut)
25. Brian Flanagan (Cocktail)
24. Maj. William Cage (Edge of Tomorrow)
23. Jack (Legend)
22. David Aames (Vanilla Sky)
21. Roy Miller (Knight and Day)
20. Lt. Daniel Kaffee (A Few Good Men)
19. Stacee Jaxx (Rock of Ages)
18. Vincent Lauria (The Color of Money)
17. Vincent (Collateral)
16. Frank T.J. Mackey (Magnolia)
15. Woody (Losin’ It)
14. Joel Goodson (Risky Business)
13. Mitch McDeere (The Firm)
12. Senator Jasper Irving (Lions for Lambs)
11. Ron Kovic (Born on the Fourth of July)
10. Charlie Babbitt (Rain Man)
9. Jerry Maguire (Jerry Maguire)
8. Les Grossman (Tropic Thunder)
7. Claus von Stauffenberg (Valkyrie)
6. Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview With the Vampire)
5. Jack Reacher (Jack Reacher)
4. Stefen Djordjevic (All the Right Moves)
3. Ethan Hunt (Mission: Impossible)
2. Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Top Gun)
1. Cole Trickle (Days of Thunder)

Bad

These are the movies that reached too far, misunderstood the gifts they had, or never got enough support.

34. ‘Cocktail’

Both these things are true: Cocktail is a classic ’80s film; it is also a movie that treats becoming a bartender like it’s the same thing as training to be the Dalai Lama.

33. ‘Endless Love’

"Eight years old, and I was into arson!" Tom Cruise’s first appearance on the big screen was brief but fun, and suffers only because it comes in a schlocky ’80s romance.

32. ‘Losin’ It’

This movie is about Tom Cruise (and his friends) trying to lose his (and their) virginity.

31. ‘Far and Away’

The pieces are all here — Cruise, Nicole Kidman, director Ron Howard, composer John Williams — but Cruise struggles as a late-19th-century Irish immigrant: He has a rough go of it with the accent, and looks frankly bizarre in period costume.

30. ‘The Last Samurai’

A borderline offensive white-savior movie that still made nearly half a billion dollars worldwide. The Last Samurai with any other actor possibly bombs; with Cruise, the movie almost quadrupled its budget and brought in four Academy Award nominations.

29. ‘Valkyrie’

Somehow makes "Tom Cruise killing Hitler" boring.

28. ‘Oblivion’

This is a pretty film — director Joseph Kosinski crafts a beautifully desolate future, and Melissa Leo gives a stirringly odd performance as a planet-killing artificial intelligence. But Cruise is mostly on his own here, hamstrung by a couple of obvious twists and a wasted post-apocalyptic performance from Morgan Freeman.

27. ‘Vanilla Sky’

This Cameron Crowe film is a bit of a mess and probably uses one too many Sigur Ros songs. But it does have its moments — like the truly bizarre "Good Vibrations" climax when the plot’s endgame reveals itself — and Cruise’s chemistry with Penélope Cruz is off the charts. Speaking of Vanilla Sky, let’s do another satellite ranking …

Tom Cruise’s Best Performances in a Mask
3. Mission: Impossible II
We’ve been over this a little already, but in Mission: Impossible II, Cruise lets the mask wear him, rather than the other way around.
2. Eyes Wide Shut
(Warner Bros.)
(Warner Bros.)
Really great eye work here. Even though he has a mask on, you can tell how horny Cruise’s character is.
1. Vanilla Sky
(Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)
A mask performance that stands by itself. Even though his mask in Vanilla Sky is smooth and expressionless, Cruise adds wrinkles of pathos all over it. Plus, he just looks really dope in the club:

Fine

These are the Tom Cruise movies that are resolutely average. Each has some sharp moments, but they’re nothing special.

26. ‘Legend’

Let’s put it this way: after Legend, Cruise never made another fantasy film.

25. ‘Days of Thunder’

Notable for being the first of three Cruise–Nicole Kidman features (four if you count marriage, and five if you count divorce), and for implying that Tom Cruise has ever been to a NASCAR race.

24. ‘Taps’

Like A Few Good Men, but with teens and without Nicholson.

23. ‘Jack Reacher’

A solid, fun action movie with a character Stunt Cruise was born to play. It also has the honorable distinction of featuring Tom Cruise’s best menstruation joke:

And now, a break to talk about Tom Cruise running:

The Seven Most Impressive Tom Cruise Runs
Cruise is, famously, a great movie runner: Give him the slightest window, and he will sprint through it. These are our seven favorite Cruise sprints.
7. Outrunning a sandstorm in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol
6. Dodging an alien death ray in War of the Worlds
5. Sprinting down a sand dune only to find his own clone in Oblivion
4. Sprinting through a riverside neighborhood in Shanghai while making sure to be polite (in Mandarin!) in Mission: Impossible III
3. SPRINTING (seriously, this might be the fastest Cruise has ever run) out of the house and down the street after his wife in The Firm
2. Jogging away from an exploding Kremlin in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol
1. Running along the side of the Burj Khalifa — the tallest building in the world — in Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol
AND THEN RUNNING DOWN THE FACE OF THE BURJ, WHICH, AGAIN, IS THE TALLEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD.

Good

These are the Tom Cruise movies that are fun as hell. You will probably watch the whole thing if a rerun is airing on TNT.

22. ‘All the Right Moves’

Sports Tom Cruise! All the Right Moves is like a better Varsity Blues, and Cruise shines playing off of Craig T. Nelson and Lea Thompson. Bonus points because protagonist Stefan Djordjevic is a safety — you don’t see many football movies about guys on the defensive side of the ball, let alone guys in the secondary.

21. ‘Tropic Thunder’

Post Oprah-couch-jumping and the terrible Lions for Lambs, Cruise was losing his juice in 2007. He got some of it back by outshining Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. as Les Grossman, an overweight, extremely foul-mouthed movie exec who danced to Ludacris’s "Get Back."

20. ‘Interview With the Vampire’

Cruise and Brad Pitt play vampires. It’s a weird look, and Weird Cruise is generally good Cruise. Interview ranks here for the ponytail and accent alone.

19. ‘Rain Man’

Rain Man is a classic two-hander, with virtuosic performances on both sides: Cruise excels as a rich dick, and Dustin Hoffman’s Academy Award–winning performance is legendary and legendarily parodied. This might rank higher, if not for the premise having curdled into something slightly uncomfortable.

18. ‘War of the Worlds’

Peak Blockbuster Cruise: This should have been a boring remake of a radio play, and yet it’s transfixing. Mostly because of how Cruise throws a baseball:

17. ‘Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation’

16. ‘Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol’

15. ‘Mission: Impossible III’

These three are fun popcorn jams; they also mark Cruise’s move from "actor" to "Stuntman of Note." While Mission: Impossible II failed because it tried to turn Cruise’s Ethan Hunt into a character with recognizably human traits, these three films succeed because they recognize that Cruise’s greatest gift in his later years is his willingness to hang off the side of a plane, or climb the Burj Khalifa, or hold his breath for half an hour.

The Top 4 Times Tom Cruise Lost a Fight
No one takes a punch quite like Tom Cruise. These are the four best times he got his ass kicked in a movie.
4. The Mummy
The mummy Ahmanet drags Tom Cruise’s beaten body back and forth across London — one time, he tries to fight her with a stick and she backhands him 20 feet into the air. And then, Cruise goes and mostly loses a fight with Edward Hyde, played by an extremely beefy Russell Crowe.
3. Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation
Cruise enters a record store that’s actually an IMF safehouse, where the impossibly attractive clerk quizzes him about jazz. Cruise says "Shadow Wilson played drums," and then he gets sleeping-gassed in a listening booth, while the female agent is shot at point-blank range. This is the worst first date imaginable.
2. Edge of Tomorrow
By this count, Cruise dies 27 times in Edge of Tomorrow, though that’s leaving out the presumably thousands of deaths that aren’t shown onscreen. Cruise takes them all like a champ.
1. Jerry Maguire
So, Jerry breaks up with his fiancée because she’s really mean. She pretends to cry, but that’s just a trick so she can do this:
At the NFL draft, no less! Jerry Maguire was at the lowest point of his life … and then his girlfriend kicked the crap out of him in public. It’s so brutal! That’s why it’s the best.

Quite Good

Excellent Cruise, slightly less excellent movie — or: slightly less-than-excellent Cruise, excellent movie. Still: really, really good stuff.

14. ‘Minority Report’

This Spielberg-Cruise collaboration is one of the weirdest-looking films in Cruise’s career: harshly lit, bleached out, futuristic as hell. It’s a spectacle, and Cruise’s John Anderton sprints through it all.

13. ‘Born on the Fourth of July’

Cruise and Oliver Stone take on the story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War vet whose post-war experience led him to fight for better veteran care. This one’s centered on a firing-on-all-cylinders Cruise performance. (Notable: Cruise lost out on the Oscar only because Daniel Day-Lewis won it for My Left Foot, which is like making it to the Olympics as a sprinter and then finding out Usain Bolt is running, too.)

12. ‘The Outsiders’

Talk about pedigree. Director Francis Ford Coppola lined up the entire future of Hollywood for The Outsiders: Cruise stars alongside Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, and Ralph Macchio as some mean ’60s teens. It’s a notably dark teen movie, and also created the Brat Pack. Points all around.

11. ‘The Firm’

A+ legal thriller, and not just because it’s a plot point on Season 2 of Billions.

10. ‘Eyes Wide Shut’

A singular look into the psychology of marriage, this is an essential film in Cruise/Kidman canon and in Stanley Kubrick’s canon. Plus Tom Cruise angrily walking around the West Village in leather gloves for hours would be its own compelling feature film.

9. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

A crucial text, because this movie is about what it takes to become Tom Cruise. Cruise plays Bill Cage, a smug Army PR guy tossed onto the front lines of a sure-to-be-lost war against aliens. Cage quickly learns that every time he dies, he Groundhog Days back to the moment he woke up that day. With lots of training from Emily Blunt, and by carefully piecing together the strategic script required to defeat the aliens, Cage becomes essentially the greatest action star of all time — which is to say, Tom Cruise.

8. ‘Collateral’

One of Cruise’s best performances, as a deliciously unhinged hitman who takes an L.A. cab driver (Jamie Foxx) hostage for a night. The entire movie is great — essential Michael Mann — as is everyone in it, but a graying Cruise carries the film.

Extremely Good

We made it. This is Peak Cruise.

7. ‘Risky Business’

An unassailable classic that launched Cruise into superstardom. Let’s just watch the below clip and agree on that.

6. ‘Top Gun’

Highway to the Danger Zone! In retrospect, it’s odd that a movie about fighter pilots isn’t also a war movie — this is basically a college film, which is the key to its success. Cruise is a hot dog, there’s lots of oiled-up volleyball, everyone gets perfect call signs. And Maverick can sing:

5. ‘The Color of Money’

Scorsese. Newman. Cruise. Paul Newman won an Oscar for this sort-of-sequel to The Hustler, but the 1986 film marked the arrival of an actor who could share a screen with the legend. Acting excellence is not about excellent acting.

4. ‘Jerry Maguire’

Peak rom-com Cruise, if only because there isn’t very much Rom-com Cruise to choose from. Which is a shame: it’s really a tour de force performance. The "Show me the money" scene; the "Who’s coming with me?" scene; the scene where Jerry shows up at Dorothy’s (Renee Zellweger) house blackout drunk. Cruise is even able to sell all of Jerry Maguire’s super-saccharine lines. People tell their significant others "You complete me" today because Jerry Maguire told Dorothy Boyd that.

3. ‘Mission: Impossible’

This marks the birth of Franchise Cruise™. It’s easy to forget that Mission: Impossible was a campy TV series, but Cruise and Brian De Palma turned it into a nervy, stylish spy thriller that made Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond look like a cartoon character. And it introduced one totally indelible movie image, too:

(Paramount Pictures)
(Paramount Pictures)

2. ‘Magnolia’

In an already great movie, Cruise is incredible as a pickup artist/motivational speaker who reconnects with his dying father. There’s so much range in his performance, vacillating from frenetic and hypermasculine to completely fragile. Watching Magnolia now will make you want to grab Tom Cruise by the face, shake him violently, and beg him to stop hanging off of airplanes.

1. ‘A Few Good Men’

In A Few Good Men, you get everything that makes Tom Cruise great: Lawyer Cruise, Sports Cruise, Drunk Cruise, Uniform Cruise — it’s all here. Plus, this is the hottest Tom Cruise ever was, and that’s an important, undeniable fact.