Tom Cruise has been thrust back into the spotlight of movie stardom this month with the release of Top Gun: Maverick, which has been a huge success with audiences and critics alike. Maverick has received acclaim as one of the best of the recent trend of “legacy sequels,” and much of that has to do with Cruise’s electric performance as the titular character of Maverick.
Cruise’s peak as a movie star came in the 1980s and 1990s, but recently, his career features a mix of spectacle-driven action blockbusters and dramatic bravura that has kept reminding audiences that he is one of the biggest stars around. And though recently Cruise has settled into collaborations with artistic partner Christopher McQuarrie, he also has collaborated with more of the best artists in Hollywood.
War Of The Worlds (2005)
Tom Cruise starred in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel War of the Worlds. It was one of the most popular films of its year at the box office and received acclaim at the Academy Awards for its special effects and sound design.
Cruise’s performance was integral to the film as the plot centered around his character’s navigation of an alien attack on Earth. War of the Worlds is his second collaboration with Spielberg and one of Cruise’s most underrated performances, as Spielberg consistently brought out nuanced dramatic performances from the movie star.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Tropic Thunder was Cruise’s return to the comedy world, in a film directed by Ben Stiller starring Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey, and Bill Hader alongside Cruise. Cruise received massive amounts of praise as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his work in the hit movie.
The comedy was a success at the box office and has quickly become a classic despite the several controversial elements in the film. But despite some misunderstandings, its success lies with its sharp social commentary alongside the incredibly funny script from Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen, which has contributed to its lasting legacy.
The Last Samurai (2003)
Edward Zwick’s film action epic that starred Tom Cruise alongside Ken Watanabe was a massive box office success, securing a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Watanabe at the Oscars and nominations for both Cruise and Watanabe at the Golden Globes.
Despite the controversy surrounding the film’s portrayal of the titular samurai, Lord Katsumoto, it was mostly praised for its technical prowess and the performances by the lead actors. And although there continues to be controversy over whether the film succumbs to “white savior” tropes, Letterboxd users rank the film amongst Cruise’s best since 2000.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Tom Cruise’s recent career arc has become almost synonymous with the Mission: Impossible movies and his character Ethan Hunt. Rogue Nation was the fifth installment in the series and the first to be directed by Christopher McQuarrie – Cruise’s frequent collaborator and a producer of Top Gun: Maverick.
Rogue Nation featured a return to the Hitchcockian aura of Brian de Palma’s original Mission: Impossible film, with an epic suspense scene in an opera house. It also has one of the most iconic set pieces in the series, with Cruise hanging off of an airplane mid-flight in the opening scene of the film.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol continued the series’ trend up to that point of choosing a different director for each movie. Brad Bird took the helm for this one, with his legacy of stunning animation direction from The Iron Giant and The Incredibles preceding him.
Bird’s visual sensibilities led to some incredible compositions and fight choreographies in Ghost Protocol, including one of the best modern action set pieces in which Cruise scaled the tallest building in the world. The film also signaled the arrival of Rebecca Ferguson as a movie star, and she has since shot to stardom.
Minority Report (2002)
Tom Cruise’s first collaboration with Steven Spielberg was another science fiction adaptation, this time of a Phillip K. Dick short story of the same name. The film was incredibly popular in theaters and received a huge additional boost from its success on DVD shortly after its release.
The mind-bending science fiction story saw Cruise as a character who is accused of a crime that he has not yet committed and features a unique blend of neo-noir aesthetics with its science fiction. Cruise’s performance, alongside great performances from Collin Farrell and Samantha Morton, make the action movie a must-watch for Tom Cruise fans almost two decades after its release.
Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow was Tom Cruise’s first collaboration with Christopher McQuarrie and has set up a long-lasting partnership, as they have continued to work together almost every year since. It marked Cruise’s return to the alien genre with style, and it is one of the most acclaimed blockbusters of the last decade.
Edge of Tomorrow is one of the most successful reworkings of the Groundhog Day plotline, as it sees Tom Cruise’s character stuck in a time loop of trying to take down aliens. The film was also a movie star turn for Emily Blunt, launching her to a career as a leading actress.
Tom Cruise continued his run of working with some of the best Hollywood directors with Collateral, this time working with the acclaimed Michael Mann. Cruise starred as a hitman alongside Jamie Foxx, cast as the cab driver Cruise uses as a getaway driver, in one of his most exciting films.
Foxx received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role, and the film was a huge success at the box office. It was a villainous turn for the usually leading man Cruise that he has rarely returned to since in his career, and his dyed-grey-haired assassin alone makes the film worth the watch.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Many fans think that Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the most recent installment in the series, is the best film in the franchise. It remains by far the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career, grossing almost $800 million worldwide.
Fallout contains some of the most jaw-dropping stunts Tom Cruise has ever put to screen, with a BASE jumping scene and a scene where Cruise operated IMAX cameras while flying a helicopter. There are two more Mission: Impossible movies already announced, with the seventh set to release next year.
Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun Maverick is Tom Cruise’s most recent film and it has released to incredible critical acclaim and box office success. Cruise has returned to the screen as his iconic titular character while continuing his trend of performing gravity-defying set-pieces without a stunt double.
Movie fans have praised Maverick alongside Blade Runner 2049 as the best of the “legacy sequels” that serve as both a reboot and a sequel to their iconic source material. Cruise’s gravitas as a performer is a huge reason for that, and his movie stardom is almost untouchable even as he approaches the age of 60.