The best Tom Cruise action films – What makes Tom run?

Given the kind of movies Tom Cruise is best known for, it’s a little amazing to realize that he didn’t become an action star until the mid-1990s. Sure, he had made Top Gun (1986), which showcases thrilling aerial combat sequences, but for the first 15 years of his career, the actor appeared primarily in dramas — Taps, All the Right Moves, The Color of Money, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, Days of Thunderand Far and Awayamong others. For the most part, he wasn’t engaged in hand-to-hand combat, death-defying stunts, saving the world from charismatic adversaries, or what he has become most famous for onscreen: Running.

Best Tom Cruise action films

But the 1990s saw Hollywood pivot hard toward action movies and suddenly every top male star, regardless of what kind of films they typically appeared in, was expected to make them. Thus Cruise joined the likes of Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Keanu Reeves, Will Smith, Wesley Snipes, and many others. Since then, Cruise has become primarily an action star, with his more dramatic roles relegated to the past (the last of his three Oscar nominations was in 2000 for Magnolia). As we celebrate the recent release of Top Gun: Maverick and await the upcoming two-part Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoningwe break down the actor’s action highlights into three main categories: Sci-fi action, crime thrillers, and, of course, Mission: Impossible movies.

tom cruise runs.
Paramount

Sci-fi action

Cruise didn’t make a science fiction film for the first two decades of his career, then made five of them between 2001 and 2014. The first, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky (2001), reunited Cruise with his Jerry Maguire director for the remake of the 1997 Spanish film Open your eyes (Open Your Eyes). Though the movie had sci-fi elements, it was more of a psychological thriller. His next four sci-fi outings after that — Minority Report (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Oblivion (2013), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) — were all bona fide big-budget action epics.

tom cruise in minority report.

The most critically successful was Steven Spielberg’s Minority Reportwith Roger Ebert naming it the best movie of 2002, among other raves. Cruise stars as Chief John Anderton, a detective at Pre-rime, a unit that uses “precogs” (humans with special abilities to see the future) to determine who is guilty of future murders. Anderton is a faithful believer in the infallibility of the process until he himself is accused of murdering someone he’s never even met. This leads to his flight from the authorities as he tries to unravel the conspiracy that has targeted him.

The film features some of the most inspired set pieces in the Spielberg canon, including a thrilling jetpack chase and a sequence in which robot surveillance spiders flood a tenement, marauding all over people’s privacy as they search for Anderton. But the movie’s success is due to more than its superior action, special effects, and world-building. Spielberg also explores compelling Orwellian themes about how easily fascism can creep into a society.

tom cruise and dakota fanning in war of the worlds.

After the success of Minority Report, Cruise and Spielberg reteamed for War of the Worlds (2005), released during a time when the star’s usual bulletproof publicity started taking a hit. The famous “dancing on Oprah’s couch” incident, during which Cruise proclaimed his love for