The Opposite of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’: 9 Tom Cruise Movies With the Worst Opening Weekends

Tom Cruise is back in familiar territory with Top Gun: Maverick: Atop the box office standings. Cruise took some undeserved criticism for making the sequel to his 1986 hit, but a huge opening weekend for Maverick (at $134 million in North America, per Variety, it’s the best of his career) proves he knows exactly what audiences want. The well-reviewed Maverick is the latest of several Cruise movies to cash in at the box office, but we’re looking at the other side of the coin. These are the nine Cruise movies with the worst opening weekends.

A few notes: We considered starring roles only or parts in ensemble movies once he was established as a star (so no Outsiders). Films with limited releases for opening weekend weren’t considered (so no Magnolia or Born on the Fourth of July). All figures are adjusted to 2022 dollars using an online inflation calculator. All figures courtesy of IMDb.

Tom Cruise attends the Japanese premiere of 'Top Gun: Maverick' in May 2022. 'Maverick' started strong with a record-breaking opening weekend, but not all Cruise movies are so lucky.
Tom Cruise | Ken Ishii/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

9. ‘American Made’: $19.7 million

  • Release Date: Sept. 29, 2017

A Tom Cruise movie where he plays a pilot? It seems like a bankable premise, but American Made is a little different than the Top Gun movies. Instead of a fighter pilot flying high-powered Navy jets, Cruise plays a small-time commercial pilot who goes to work for the CIA. It’s based on a true story surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal, but audiences didn’t go for it. 

It’s among the higher-rated Cruise movies on IMDb, but American Made opened to just over $16 million in 2017 (nearly $20 million in 2022), one of the worst Cruise openings in years at the time.

8. ‘Jack Reacher’: $19.1 million

  • Release Date: Dec. 21, 2012

Jack Reacher had all the makings of a slam-dunk Cruise movie. Cruise plays a former army criminal investigator looking to get to the bottom of a sniper attack. There’s no lack of action or intrigue in the movie, but the same couldn’t be said about the box office. Though it cruised into nine figures at the worldwide box office, this Cruise movie opened slow with just over $15 million at the time (a little over $19 million adjusted). Cruise got the last laugh, though. 

The author of the Jack Reacher books once said Cruise was too old for action movies. He followed up with Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation in succession after Jack Reacher, and all of them made more than $250 million at the box office.

7. ‘Rock of Ages’: $18.1 million

  • Release Date: June 15, 2012

Movie fans know and love Cruise for his tough-as-nails heroes in his action movies, so this is quite a departure: A comedic musical in which Cruise plays a legendary tattooed rock star descending on a small club to play a benefit concert. His fans didn’t quite go for it. The movie started slow and grossed less than $60 million (less than $75 million adjusted).

6. ‘Rain Man’: $17.1 million

  • Release Date: Dec. 16, 1988

Rain Man is one of the highest-rated Tom Cruise movies on IMDb, and he acted alongside Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman in the film, but the movie started slow at the box office. It opened with just over $7 million the first weekend ($17.1 million adjusted), but the movie brought in more than $354 million at the end of its theatrical run, which is more than $867 million in 2022 value.

5. ‘The Color of Money’: $16.7 million

  • Release Date: Oct. 17, 1986

Cruise starred in three movies in 1986. The Color of Money was the third to hit theaters, but the combined star power of Cruise, Paul Newman, and director Martin Scorcese couldn’t prevent a modest $6.3 million opening weekend, which translates to $16.7 million in 2022 dollars. At least Cruise learned an unforgettable lesson about wardrobe selection from Newman during the shoot.

4. ‘Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol’: $16.4 million

  • Release Date: Dec. 21, 2011

The Cruise movie that featured one of his craziest stunts — traversing the side of the Burj Khalifa more than 1,500 feet in the air — had a modest opening in late 2011. But the slow start was just a blip on the radar. The fourth Mission: Impossible movie made nearly $695 million worldwide, translating to nearly $895 million in 2022 dollars.

3. ‘Risky Business’: $12.4 million

  • Release Date: Aug. 5, 1983

Sliding across the floor in his underwear as his character Joel lip syncs to Bob Seger stands out as one of the most iconic scenes of any Cruise movie. Yet the instantly-recognizable scene didn’t translate to a huge box-office opening. It started with $4.2 million its first weekend (or $12.4 million adjusted), but it became the highest-grossing Cruise movie at the time as it made more than $63 million in 1983.

2. ‘Legend’: $11.4 million

  • Release Date: April 18, 1986

Legend played across Europe and South America in late 1985, but its U.S. release didn’t come until April 1986. The fantasy film in which Cruise plays one of the few human characters barely cracked $11 million upon its debut, but at least only a few people remembered: Top Gun hit theaters a month later and brought in more than $21 million its first weekend (adjusted for 2022).

1. ‘Lions for Lambs’: $9.3 million

  • Release Date: Nov. 9, 2007

Technically, the 1982 comedy Losin’ It was Cruise’s first starring role, but the low-budget comedy flick wasn’t set up for any kind of box-office success. The Robert Redford-directed drama Lions for Lambs was, so it’s here at the top of the list of Cruise movies with the worst opening weekends. Cruise, Redford, and Meryl Streep headline, but the combined star power didn’t translate to overwhelming box-office success; it made a little over $90 million in total (adjusted for 2022).

Adding insult to injury? Lions for Lambs is also one of the worst-reviewed Tom Cruise movies of all time.

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