No one has made a better case to be Hollywood’s most enduring movie star over the past four decades than Tom Cruise. Top Gun: Maverick, which opens May 27, offers a perfect bookend to his career, tapping into an overarching narrative that stretches back to his early success with the original Top Gun, which made him a household name and fully realized his magnetic screen presence.
In the years since, Cruise has remained at the forefront of the cultural conversation, thanks to a virtually unrivaled string of hits. More than just about anybody from his generation of actors, Cruise has created a body of work that’s notable for its consistent quality, versatility, and his fierce commitment to pushing his own limits.
To commemorate the opening of Top Gun: Maverick, The A.V. Club set out to rank Cruise’s 20 best movies, a considerable challenge for a performer with at least 56 credits under his belt since 1981.