Often described as the last remaining movie star, Tom Cruise has had one of the most glowing film careers of any actor of his generation.
Despite still missing that elusive Oscar win, he has remained one of the few actors in Hollywood capable of commanding almost any price both as a performer and producer. At times during the pandemic, it felt like he was leading a one-man mission to save cinema, insisting on COVID safety on the set of his latest blockbuster, and delaying Top Gun: Maverick so it could only be seen in on the big screen.
Read more: Tom Cruise's most memorable moments
Tom Cruise continues to be one of the most lucrative and universally adored non-MCU stars. And in a week of two Cruise milestones — of the man himself turning sixty, and Top Gun: Maverick becoming the first of his movies to gross $1billion worldwide — let’s celebrate his career to date by looking back at ten of his best and most noteworthy starring roles.
10. War of the Worlds (dir Steven Spielberg, 2005)
In Spielberg’s remake of HG Wells’ 1898 novel of the same name, Cruise — in a much-praised lead role — stars as divorced dockworker Ray Ferrier, who tries to reunite his two children with their mother when faced with the terrifying prospect of extraterrestrials invading and destroying the civilisation of planet Earth.
His harried, everyman persona keeps the high drama rooted in reality.
9. Edge of Tomorrow (dir Doug Liman, 2014)
Another sci-fi epic, this time with Cruise in the role of PR officer Major William Cage who is tasked not only with trying to protect Europe from an invading alien race called the Mimics, but also with finding himself trapped in a time loop.
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Dying again, and again, it's another movie that shows Cruise is at his best playing flawed characters who can take whatever life throws at them, valiantly, and on the chiselled chin.
8. Magnolia (dir Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
In an award-winning Altmanesque narrative from Boogie Nights' director Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia unfolds over a 24-hour period, giving Cruise of his most memorable roles. Playing against type, he's creepily magnetic as the terrifyingly unscrupulous public speaker Frank TJ Mackey, who has made his millions from teaching men how to be sexual predators.
The film also stars Julianne Moore and Jason Robards, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it's Cruise that shines through despite his relatively brief screen time.
7. The Colour of Money (dir Martin Scorsese, 1986)
Although it was Paul Newman who won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as pool hustler ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson in this sequel to Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961), Cruise made a great, lasting impression as Felson’s cocky but talented protégé, Vincent Lauria.
6. Rain Man (dir Barry Levinson, 1988)
Brash wheeler-dealer Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) discovers that his late father has left almost his entire estate to his other son, autistic savant Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), in this multi-Oscar winning road movie.
Read more: Tom Cruise's biggest stunts
Cruise really should have won an Oscar for this moving drama that allowed him to move clear of the Brat Pack label given to his generation of actors.
5. Born on the Fourth of July (dir Oliver Stone, 1989)
Based on Ron Kovic’s acclaimed memoir, this screen adaptation charts his life over a twenty-year period, from his formative years, to his military involvement in the Vietnam War, where he becomes paralysed from his injuries, followed by his subsequent work as an anti-war activist.
Cruise was much praised for his role as Kovic, for which he conducted a year of intensive research.
4. Interview With the Vampire (dir Neil Jordan, 1994)
In a stylish screen remake of Anne Rice’s acclaimed gothic horror novel by the director of The Crying Game and Byzantium, Cruise delivers a stunning performance as Lestat de Lioncourt, who transforms grieving nobleman Louis (Brad Pitt) into a fellow vampire.
It's a rare example of Cruise playing the villain — Michael Mann's Collateral is another great example — that shows he has the range to deliver menacing performances when necessary.
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (dir Christopher McQuarrie, 2018)
In this sixth instalment of the M:I film franchise, and the second to be directed by McQuarrie, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) tries to stop a terrorist group from amassing plutonium scores for use in nuclear weapons. Cruise has been playing Ethan Hunt for over 20 years now, far eclipsing the reign of any actor to have played James Bond.
He'll do it two more times — at least — in the upcoming Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Parts 1 & 2, but we've picked Fallout as the culmination of Cruise's time as Hunt so far.
2. Top Gun: Maverick (dir Joseph Kosinski, 2022)
Over three decades after the fondly remembered 1986 Top Gun movie, about a group of young fighter pilots competing to be the best of the best, Cruise climbed back into the cockpit for this electrifying sequel.
The gloriously meta plot sees Cruise returning as test pilot Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, an ageing, old school star of the navy who refuses to settle for a more pedestrian life in favour of living on the edge, pulling off high stakes stunts that no-one else of his vintage would dare.
Read more: Top Gun cast: Then and now
He's pressed back into service at the Top Gun academy where he's called upon to show the next generation of fighter pilots how it's done, saving the world (and the cinema industry) nearly single-handedly.
Only Tom Cruise could pull it off.
1. Jerry Maguire (dir Cameron Crowe, 1996)
In what is often cited as the last great romantic comedy, and in one of his most popular roles, Cruise stars as hapless sports agent Maguire, who experiences an epiphany about his industry.
With co-stars Renée Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr — the latter being the well-deserved recipient of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar — Jerry Maguire has it all: a moral compass, a heartfelt message and a beautiful love story between Cruise and Zellweger’s characters. Cruise has never been better.
Watch: Top Gun: Maverick trailer