Whether you're a Tom Cruise fan or not, there's no denying the three-time Oscar nominee has starred in some of Hollywood's finest offerings. But that doesn't mean he always hits it out of the park… In honor of his 59th birthday on July 3, 2021, Wonderwall.com rounded up the best and worst T.C. movies to revisit — from action flicks and sci-fi films to comedies, dramas and more.
Keep reading to see where your favorites rank…
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No. 33: "The Mummy"
Tom Cruise starred as a U.S. Army sergeant who awakens a deadly mummified princess with apocalyptic intentions in the 2017 action-adventure flick "The Mummy" — Universal's attempt at building a film franchise around classic movie monsters including Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Phantom of the Opera. That explains Russell Crowe's seemingly out-of-left-field appearance in "The Mummy" as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sadly, that plot point (and many others) didn't land with audiences… or critics. The film scored a 16% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes plus Tom won a Razzie Award for worst actor. Yikes!
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No. 32: "Cocktail"
Tom Cruise starred in the 1988 romantic drama "Cocktail," which is based on the Heywood Gould novel of the same name, as Brian Flanagan, a New York City business student who turns to bartending to make money. While the film received primarily negative reviews, it was considered a box office hit, grossing upwards of $170 million against a $20 million budget. "'Cocktail' makes beer commercials look deep, makes 'Top Gun' look like 'Hamlet,'" wrote Jay Carr of The Boston Globe. Ouch!
No. 31: "Rock of Ages"
Tom Cruise far exceeded expectations with his portrayal of fictional rock star Stacee Jaxx in Adam Shankman's 2012 adaptation of the Broadway musical "Rock of Ages." Unfortunately, his stellar performance couldn't save the flick, which bombed at the box office after failing to impress critics.
No. 30: "Knight and Day"
Tom Cruise shared the screen with Cameron Diaz for the first time in 2001's "Vanilla Sky." (More on that later!) They reunited in 2010 for the action-packed rom-com "Knight and Day," which performed decently at the box office in spite of tepid reviews. "In the end, 'Knight and Day' isn't really about much of anything besides having a good time or perhaps the meaning of Tom Cruise-ness in the universe," opined a critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.
No. 29: "The Last Samurai"
Tom Cruise starred as a tortured U.S. Army captain who becomes an honorary samurai in the 2003 war drama "The Last Samurai," which is set in 19th century Japan. The A-list actor scored a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the film, which was a huge hit at the box office in spite of mixed reviews from critics. In the years since it debuted, viewers have started to take an even harsher stance on "The Last Samurai" for being a classic example of the "white savior" cinematic trope, which is why it ranks so low on this list in spite of Tom's stellar performance.
No. 28: "All the Right Moves"
Tom Cruise starred in "All the Right Moves" as Stef, a high school football star who butts heads with his haranguing coach. A critic for The New York Times described the 1983 sports drama as "a well-made but sugar-coated working-class fable about a football star" — which wasn't exactly a glowing review!
No. 27: "Days of Thunder"
The NASCAR drama "Days of Thunder" was not one of Tom Cruise's best — although it was one of three films to star Tom and now-ex Nicole Kidman. In the film from "Top Gun" director Tony Scott, Tom played Cole Trickle, an exceptional rookie racer at the height of his career. Film critic Roger Ebert described it as a textbook Tom Cruise movie sans pizazz. He wrote, "Parts of the plot are beginning to wear out their welcome, but the key ingredients are still effective."
No. 26: "Far and Away"
"Far and Away," which debuted in 1992, marked Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's second collaboration. The epic romantic drama directed by Ron Howard tells the story of two Irish immigrants who travel to Oklahoma in the 1890s to build a life for themselves. However, despite being beautifully shot by cinematographer Mikael Salomon, "Far and Away" received mainly negative reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it two stars, writing, "It's depressing that such a lavish and expensive production, starring an important actor like Tom Cruise, could be devoted to such a shallow story."
No. 25: "Valkyrie"
Tom Cruise starred in "Valkyrie" — which is set in Nazi Germany during WWII — as German military officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who joins the German resistance and engineers a plan of action known as Operation Valkyrie to overthrow the government from the inside. The 2008 thriller was met with mixed reviews, scoring a 62% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Opined one critic for Empire Magazine, "A film more concerned with 'how' than 'why' or 'who,' 'Valkyrie' would have benefited from more scrutiny and complexity. Still, once the bomb goes off, the thrills come in spades."
No. 24: "War of the Worlds"
Tom Cruise starred as father of two Ray Ferrier in Steven Spielberg's 2005 adaptation of the H.G. Wells serialized novel "The War of the Worlds," which debuted in 1897. Famed critic Roger Ebert described the sci-fi flick as a "big, clunky movie containing some sensational sights but lacking the zest and joyous energy we expect from Steven Spielberg." Still, it was a massive hit at the box office and scored a 75% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 23: "Oblivion"
The 2013 post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick "Oblivion" is full of extraordinary special effects and visuals but ultimately failed to impress critics, scoring a 53% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet fans showed up in droves to catch Tom Cruise as Jack, one of the last remaining humans on Earth following an alien attack. As he reaches the end of his mission — collecting resources before joining the rest of humanity on another planet — he realizes things aren't as they appear…
No. 22: "American Made"
Tom Cruise starred as real-life former TWA pilot Barry Seal — who had ties to the CIA, the DEA and the Medellín Cartel — in the 2017 Doug Liman-directed biopic "American Made," which also featured Domhnall Gleeson (pictured), Sarah Wright Olsen, Jesse Plemons and Caleb Landry Jones. The action-comedy performed well at the box office and with critics, scoring an 86% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 21: "The Outsiders"
Tom Cruise portrayed a teen greaser in Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 adaptation of the 1967 novel "The Outsiders." Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Diane Lane also starred in the coming-of-age drama, which received mixed reviews when it debuted but is now regarded as a classic.
No. 20: "Eyes Wide Shut"
Tom Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman starred as a wealthy New York City couple who encounter a secret society that engages in sexual rituals in the Stanley Kubrick-directed erotic drama "Eyes Wide Shut," which performed well with critics and at the box office. "A spellbinder: provocatively conceived, gorgeously shot and masterfully executed," wrote a critic for the Chicago Tribune.
No. 19: "Taps"
Tom Cruise scored his first big break when he was cast to play a hotheaded cadet in the 1981 drama "Taps," which centers around a military school and the students who overtake it in an attempt to keep it from permanently closing. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars and compared it to "Lord of the Flies," writing in his official review, "By the film's end, we share their love for their school, we despair at the situation they have gotten themselves into, and we are emotionally involved in the outcome."
No. 18: "The Firm"
Tom Cruise starred as recent Harvard Law School graduate Mitch McDeere, who joins a shady law firm with ties to the mob, in Sydney Pollack's 1993 adaptation of the bestselling John Grisham novel "The Firm." The legal thriller was a huge hit at the box office and with critics. It even scored two Oscar nominations!
No. 17: "Jack Reacher"
Tom Cruise starred as the titular former military police officer in the 2012 action thriller "Jack Reacher," which is based on the 2005 Lee Child novel "One Shot." Although the adaptation performed well at the box office, reviews were mixed. A critic for the New Yorker, for example, called it "a trim thriller with an enviable lack of grandeur." (The movie spawned a 2016 sequel, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," that totally tanked with critics, scoring a 38% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
No. 16: "Vanilla Sky"
Tom Cruise starred as an absurdly wealthy New York City playboy who loses everything after a horrible car accident in the 2001 Cameron Crowe-directed psychological thriller "Vanilla Sky." Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz also headlined the romantic drama, which has an unexpected sci-fi twist and is based on the 1997 Spanish film "Abre los ojos." It performed well at the box office in spite of mostly negative reviews from critics.
No. 15: "Legend"
The extremely divisive 1986 Ridley Scott-directed fantasy film "Legend" had it all: unicorns, Tim Curry as the devil and a sword-wielding Tom Cruise in short shorts fighting the forces of evil to save his true love (Mia Sara's Princess Lili). It tanked with critics and at the box office but developed a loyal cult following over the years.
No. 14: "The Color of Money"
Tom Cruise held his own alongside film legend Paul Newman in "The Color of Money," which is based on a 1984 novel of the same name. He starred as a young pool shark in the 1986 Martin Scorsese-directed drama, which was a huge hit with critics, scoring an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 13: "Collateral"
The 2004 action-thriller "Collateral" follows a taxi driver (Jamie Foxx) whose life takes an unexpected turn after he picks up an assassin played by Tom Cruise. The movie scored an 86% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, where it's been described as a "stylish and compelling noir thriller."
No. 12: "Magnolia"
Tom Cruise scored an Oscar nomination — and won his third Golden Globe — for his performance as a manipulative motivational speaker with a complicated family history in 1999's "Magnolia." Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Thomas Jane and Alfred Molina also starred in the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed ensemble drama, which failed to make an impression at the box office in spite of overwhelmingly positive reviews.
No. 11: "A Few Good Men"
Tom Cruise starred in 1992's "A Few Good Men" as Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a military lawyer defending U.S. Marines charged with killing a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. He scored his third Golden Globe nomination for his work in the legal drama, which was a huge hit at the box office and with critics.
No. 10: "Tropic Thunder"
Tom Cruise was completely unrecognizable as practically sociopathic studio exec Les Grossman in Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder." He predominantly shared scenes with Matthew McConaughey as a Hollywood talent agent in the 2008 satirical action-comedy, which performed well with critics and at the box office. Tom even scored a Golden Globe nomination for his efforts!
No. 9: "Minority Report"
Tom Cruise starred in "Minority Report" — his first collaboration with Steven Spielberg — as a detective in the Washington, D.C., police department's PreCrime unit, which uses advanced technology to end all murder by arresting killers before they've committed a crime. The 2002 sci-fi flick was a huge hit at the box office and with critics, scoring a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 8: "Rain Man"
Tom Cruise delivered one of his best performances ever in "Rain Man." He starred as a self-centered young man who connects with the older brother he never knew existed — an autistic savant with a knack for counting cards (Dustin Hoffman) — after their estranged father dies. The 1988 drama won four Oscars: best picture, best original screenplay, best director and best lead actor for Dustin.
No. 7: "Interview with the Vampire"
Tom Cruise took on the role of Anne Rice antihero Lestat de Lioncourt in the 1994 adaptation of her 1976 novel "Interview with the Vampire," which was a huge hit at the box office in spite of tepid reviews from critics. Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater and a young Kirsten Dunst co-starred in the gothic-horror film, which chronicles a group of vampires and their (undead) lives over the course of 200 years. It's become a cult classic in the nearly three decades since it debuted.
No. 6: "Born on the Fourth of July"
Tom Cruise scored his first Oscar nomination — and won his first Golden Globe — for his performance in the Oliver Stone-directed drama "Born on the Fourth of July." He starred as anti-war activist Ron Kovic in the biopic, which chronicles a 20-year period in the Vietnam vet's life. Critic Roger Ebert gushed of Tom's work in the film, "Nothing Cruise has done will prepare you for what he does in 'Born on the Fourth of July.' His performance is so good that the movie lives through it."
No. 5: "Edge of Tomorrow"
Tom Cruise nailed the action and the humor in 2014's "Edge of Tomorrow." He starred in the sci-fi flick as a U.S. Army publicist who gets stuck in a time loop while fighting an invading alien horde. It was a huge hit with critics and at the box office, scoring an impressive 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
No. 4: "Jerry Maguire"
Show him the money! Tom Cruise scored his second Oscar nomination and won his second Golden Globe for his performance as the titular sports agent who, after a life-changing shift in perspective, starts his own sports management firm from the ground up in 1996's "Jerry Maguire." Cameron Crowe directed the insanely quotable romantic dramedy, which performed well with critics and at the box office.
No. 3: "Risky Business"
"Risky Business" marked Tom Cruise's first big breakthrough in Hollywood. He starred as a high-achieving high school kid who gets involved with a call girl who transforms his house into a brothel while his parents are away on vacation. He scored his first Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the lauded comedy.
No. 2: "Top Gun"
Tom Cruise starred as hotshot fighter pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell — a reckless but exceptionally talented Navy aviator training at an elite flying school — in 1986's "Top Gun." Although the Tony Scott-directed action-drama failed to impress critics when it debuted (it scored a 57% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes), it dominated the box office and went on to develop an extremely passionate fan base. A hotly anticipated sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," is due in May 2022.
No. 1: The "Mission: Impossible" franchise
We're lumping these six films (and counting!) together… Can you believe Tom Cruise has starred as Ethan Hunt in the "Mission: Impossible" film franchise for more than 25 years?! The beloved six-film series — which centers around the fictional Impossible Missions Force and is based on a '60s TV show of the same name — kicked off in 1996 and hasn't slowed down since. Each installment has been a massive hit at the global box office — even if critics haven't always been charmed. (While 2018's "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" scored an impressive 97% fresh rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 2000's "Mission: Impossible 2" earned a 57% fresh rating.) "Mission: Impossible 7" is due in mid-2022, while the eighth installment in the massive film franchise is set to open in theaters in the summer of 2023. We can't wait!