Tom Cruise's Greatest Action Movies

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Distribution
May 19th, 2014

Throughout his career, Tom Cruise has shown versatility in front of the camera. He's received critical praise for his dramatic roles, and he became famous as a romantic heartthrob. Cruise's most successful movies, though, have been in the action and thriller genres. Cruise throws himself into these roles with intensity and raw physicality, often doing his own stunts. Working with some of the best action movie directors in the industry, Cruise has established himself as a genuine action star, playing some of the genre's most iconic roles. The following is a list of Cruise's best action movies.

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10. "Mission: Impossible 2"

The second film in the blockbuster franchise is bigger and more action-packed than the first. Cruise once again plays Ethan Hunt, and he's even more confident in the role than before. Director John Woo gives the series his own signature style, with lots of elegant and sophisticated action. A highlight of the film is Cruise's chemistry with Thandie Newton, who plays a mysterious and dangerous thief.


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9. "Knight and Day"

Tom Cruise has a long history of acting in romance and action movies. "Knight and Day" combines these genres with entertaining and funny results. Cruise and co-star Cameron Diaz show off their chemistry on-screen with witty dialogue as they race through intense chase scenes and explosion-heavy action.


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8. "Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol"

The fourth film in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise is directed by Brad Bird, who's more famous for his animated films, such as Pixar hits "Ratatouille" and "The Incredibles." The result is a more nuanced action film than its predecessors, but not lacking in the franchise's signature action and intrigue. Cruise still brings an intensity and physical prowess to the role of Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt.


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7. "Collateral"

Cruise plays a contract killer in this thriller, directed by action movie virtuoso Michael Mann. In a cast that includes Jaime Foxx and Jada Pinkett Smith, Cruise stands out as a scene-stealing villain. "Collateral" is one of the most critically acclaimed films of Cruise's career, and it brought Cruise praise for his dark portrayal of a dangerous character.


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6. "Jack Reacher"

"Jack Reacher" may be the most entertaining action thriller of Cruise's career. The film features stunning action, including a brilliant chase scene, but it's Cruise's delivery of the sharp dialogue that really pulls the movie together.


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5. "Top Gun"

Cruise's role as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in this action drama is perhaps the most iconic of his career. Along with a lot of drama and romance, "Top Gun" also features some impressive high-velocity action. Featuring a classic 1980s soundtrack, "Top Gun" still entertains audiences and remains one of the movies most closely associated with Tom Cruise.


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4. "Mission: Impossible"

The first film in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise is flawlessly directed, with iconic action set-pieces and a complex plot. Cruise is excellent as Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt, a role he would perfect in subsequent "Mission: Impossible" films. It's a great example of how Cruise throws himself into an action role to create realistic and thrilling scenes. 


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3. "Legend"

This lush, romantic film from 1985 is still one of the best and most visually arresting fantasy films ever made. Teaming up with director Ridley Scott, Cruise plays a young hero who must fight evil and save his true love, played by Mia Sara. Even with gorgeous visuals and an over-the-top villain, a young Tom Cruise stands out as a commanding presence in this film.


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2. "Mission: Impossible III"

The third film in Tom Cruise's most successful film series is directed by J.J. Abrams, whose signature action style breathes new life into the series. Cruise once again plays secret agent Ethan Hunt, whose retirement is put on hold as he's drawn back into the world of espionage and intrigue. "Mission: Impossible III" is a rare third movie in a series that actually improves on its predecessors. The complex espionage story holds together well, and the action is well-scripted and visually stunning. 


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1. "Minority Report"

"Minority Report" is a stylish and suspenseful science fiction movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Cruise plays the head of the "PreCrime" division of the police department, which uses the psychic powers of special "precogs" to apprehend criminals before they can commit crime. The expressive film noir style and complex plot are a perfect fit for Cruise, who handles the complex plot and streamlined action with ease. 

This list is an impressive body of work by any action star's standards. With a combination of serious acting skills and an intense and physical approach to filming scenes, Tom Cruise is one of the most exciting stars in the genre.