Most Hollywood actors rely on stunt doubles for action sequences—not because they're unwilling or incapable of doing their own stunts, but because it all comes down to a matter of risk versus reward.
When an actor suffers an injury while doing their own stunts, it halts production and filming can't continue until they've recovered. Furthermore, some injuries could result in permanent damage or disfiguration that ends the actor's career for good.
All actors pay for insurance against this risk, but insurance premiums are much higher for those who perform their own stunts. So, for most actors, it just isn't worth doing their own stunts.
Of course, Tom Cruise isn't like other Hollywood actors. Since the start of his career, Cruise has insisted on always performing his own stunts. When you see him as the lead man in stunt-heavy films like Mission: Impossible, you can't help but be impressed.
Here are our picks for the most impressive stunts that Tom Cruise has pulled off throughout his career in Hollywood.
7. Incredible G-Force Training (Top Gun: Maverick)
In Top Gun: Maverick (2022), Tom Cruise returns as Maverick, the renegade pilot who operates by his own set of rules—a description that aptly applies to Tom Cruise's own non-CGI approach to action.
Along with his fellow actors, Tom Cruise suited up in his fighter jet and actually experienced 1,600 pounds of crushing g-force pressure.
The idea was that they should all act while experiencing what pilots in their situation would truly be experiencing—and Cruise was more than happy to do it. To think that this is at the bottom of our list!
6. Free Fall Plane Crash (The Mummy)
Though the Dark Universe by Universal Pictures may have flopped, the franchise did leave us with one great stunt to admire.
The Mummy (2017) follows Nick Morton, a United States Army Sergeant who must survive the second coming of Ahmanet.
But before that, Tom Cruise first had to survive the free fall of an Airbus A310, and he insisted that they do this free fall sequence without CGI.
So, with the help of Novespace, a company that specializes in zero-gravity flights, they managed to shoot this impressive scene. It's just a shame that the rest of The Mummy fell apart at the seams.
5. Holding His Breath for 6 Minutes (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)
In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), Ethan Hunt has to swim underwater to retrieve a computer chip from a high-tech safe. Standard fare for the international super-spy.
But while most actors would rely on filmmaking trickery to make it look like they're underwater, Tom Cruise took it a step further—by hiring a team of diving experts to train him on holding his breath.
Yep, you heard that right. For this sequence, Cruise actually held his breath for an impressive six minutes. On top of that, just before this scene, he dove approximately 120 feet on his own. What a madman.
4. Climbing Mountains and Jumping Cliffs (Mission: Impossible 2)
The opening to John Woo's Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) shows us that Ethan Hunt is a real thrill seeker, someone who pursues dangerous situations simply for the fun of it—much like Tom Cruise.
Production originally coordinated with a stunt climber for these sequences, but Cruise ended up doing all of the shots himself. And, of course, the idea came from Cruise himself.
This cliff was 2,000 feet tall and Cruise didn't even bat an eye. With nothing but a safety rope and a harness, he performed a 15-foot jump from one cliff face to another.
Even with safety gear, most people would balk at the thought of standing anywhere that high up, let alone leaping.
Director John Woo himself would later talk about his panic sweats during filming, revealing just how scared the rest of the crew was.
3. Rooftop Chase (Mission: Impossible – Fallout)
If the previous stunts didn't convince you that Tom Cruise is insanely dedicated to his craft, this one surely will!
In this chase scene from Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), Ethan Hunt must jump between buildings to catch a villain who's escaping.
Once again, the average Joe Actor would never do this on their own, but Tom Cruise did. He threw himself across one gap, only to land poorly on the other side and break his ankle.
Here's the truly impressive bit: instead of calling for a timeout, Cruise stood back up and hobbled on. It really makes you think. How much of Cruise's performance is acting? Does he believe he's Ethan Hunt?
Despite breaking his ankle in this scene, Cruise then proceeded to perform over 100 skydives just a few months later. It's clear that the man has never allowed age to be a factor in his death-defying antics.
2. Hanging On to a Plane Mid-Flight (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)
Following up on his stunts from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), Tom Cruise cranked it up in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015).
We already talked about his underwater breath-holding sequence earlier on this list, but there's an even more impressive stunt to behold.
As the rag-tag IMF team tries to prevent a shipment of arms, they're stuck trying to stop a plane from taking off. When all else fails, Ethan Hunt is ready to step in and save the day.
For this scene, Cruise hangs on to the side of the plane as it takes off the runway. You read that right: he's literally hanging on to the plane as it climbs hundreds and hundreds of feet into the air.
And yet, somehow, this isn't even the wildest stunt he's ever done...
1. Climbing the Burj Khalifa (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol)
If you're a fan of action movies who hasn't yet seen Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2012), then you owe it to yourself to go watch it, pronto.
This movie features the most insane Hollywood movie stunt ever put to film, with Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khajifa—the world's tallest building with a height of 1,700 feet.
Not only that, but he then proceeds to run down it?! And then launch himself from the building into a suspended arc with the grace of an acrobat, ending with a crash through a window.
As of this writing, Tom Cruise is 60 years old but still has no intention of stopping, with two more Mission: Impossible movies currently in production. As a fan of action movies, I'm glad to hear it.