For over three decades, Tom Cruise has been entertaining us with his acting, charisma, increasingly wild stunts, and of course, his infamous panicked running.
So rather than do the usual ranking of all of Cruise’s movies based on Metacritic or Rotten Tomato scores, I’m going to rank his movies using the only metric that really matters: his running.
Naturally, this rules out all movies that feature no running (sorry Magnolia and Tropic Thunder) and any non-lead roles. Since the guy’s been in over 40 movies, I’m also going to keep things simple and limit the list down to the top 20. And remember, this isn’t a ranking based on the quality of the movies; this is purely on the strength of Cruise’s running.
And before anyone gets mad, Mission: Impossible – Fallout was not considered because I sadly haven’t seen it (yet) but you can be damn sure I’ll update this list once I do.
20. Rain Man (1988)
There isn’t much running in Rain Man, but that one scene in which Cruise frantically searches for Dustin Hoffman is pretty damn tense which is why this manages to just sneak onto the list.
19. The Last Samurai (2003)
Cruise stands out amongst the crowd as the only Caucasian man running amongst an army of Japanese men, but the lack of sustained sprinting and the equally impressive sprinted from the others pushes The Last Samurai down the list.
18. The Mummy (2017)
The movie itself is absolutely dreadful and it is only the running that helps prevent it from being an unwatchable mess. It plays like a slightly tired retread of old Tom Cruise running tropes, like sprinting on roof tops and away from the baddies, but at least there’s a LOT of it.
17. Knight And Day (2010)
The beach sprint was pretty average, but the sustained roof top run was surprisingly good and featured a bit more variance than you would expect from something that’s been done many times. The arm swinging and quick feet shuffles are top notch here.
16. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Vanilla Sky makes the list purely based on Cruise’s long sprint down the empty city street. The quick cuts and his pained expression makes the run incredibly tense with a dash of the surreal.
15. Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
The sheer variance in running environments is what pushes this film onto the list. Cruise runs as part of a training camp, he runs in the rain, and he even runs around on a sandy battlefield. What’s more, he manages to run well in each setting, proving that the man is just a pure sprinting machine.
14. Jerry Maguire (1996)
That airport run is probably the most memorable non-action Tom Cruise sprint ever so there’s no way I could leave it off the list. It’s sustained, tense, and ultimately a little heartwarming in the end.
13. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
It’s Tom Cruise running, jumping, and doing ridiculous stuff as usual. In SLOW MOTION!
12. Risky Business (1983)
There’s some running through the school halls, but I’m also going to bend the rules a bit for the iconic underpants dance scene since I simply have to mention it. This might also be the first Tom Cruise movie in which he does more than physical running – he’s also “running” away from his responsibilities and growing up. Eh? Ehhhhh?
11. All The Right Moves (1983)
The actual movie itself is pretty meh, but the running is top notch and varied. Cruise shows off his athletic ability on the football pitch, he sprints after his girlfriend, he dodges traffic, and there’s even a bit of him running up stairs. It’s like they made the movie with the premise “Tom Cruise running, but in high school!”
10. Collateral (2004)
Cruise brings his sprinting A-game here, but his portrayal as a ruthless mercenary makes his running much more menacing than anything he’s ever showcased. It’s akin to having the T-1000 chasing after you.
9. War Of The Worlds (2005)
The whole film is dark and frantic, which makes some of Cruise’s running scenes a little hard to see. But when we get a clear visual, it is something else. That scene where he runs from the Tripod makes for some seriously tense watching, even if the logic of a short man managing to escape a giant alien creature pushes the suspension of disbelief a bit too far.
8. Oblivion (2013)
Cruise doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of his running, but the stunning scenery and cinematography helps elevate his usual sprinting game to something special. It also features what I think is the first scene of Cruise running on a treadmill for exercise as opposed to panicked chasing or frantic escaping which is refreshing.
7. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Things kick off with that epic sprint onto the giant aircraft and is sustained through nearly the whole film. The barefoot sprint through the prison and the chase through the streets of London are also some great moments.
6. Mission: Impossible (1996)
It’s far from the most distance Cruise has run in a film, but that brilliant sequence in which he uses that explosive gum to blow a hole in the massive fish tank before escaping his captors on foot elevates this up the list. Never mind that “suspended in mid-air” scene, this is the one that I remember most from the movie.
5. The Firm (1993)
This has to be the most running ever seen in a legal drama. Seriously. From chasing his wife down the street and frantically rushing through the lobby of a hotel to several sprints through traffic, Cruise must’ve portrayed the quickest and fittest lawyer ever seen on screen.
4. Mission: Impossible III (2006)
There’s definitely a heap of running to and from places (and a heap of lens flares), but it’s the frantic sprinting during that epic action scene on the bridge that really sells it. Also a shoutout to the jumping-off-the-building scene, and the long take of Cruise sprinting through the crowded streets of Shanghai. It’s almost enough to offset the lens flares.
3. Minority Report (2002)
As an experienced police officer who goes on the run as a fugitive, the running is frantic and constant. The arm swinging is totally on point and it also helps that Steven Spielberg is at the helm to help make Cruise’s sprinting even more cinematic than it already is.
2. Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
The addition of a mech-suit definitely adds a new element to Cruise’s usual running style, but the character arc in which he goes from “useless at everything, even running” to “badass at everything, including running” makes this film one of his best.
1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
THE definitive Tom Cruise running movie. He runs while dressed as a Russian, he runs from explosions, he runs after a train, and he runs through a sandstorm. Hell, he even runs down the side of the world’s tallest tower.
In terms of sprinting like a headless chicken with his arms swinging like a windmill, Cruise has peaked in Ghost Protocol. Let’s see if Fallout is able to match it.