Christopher McQuarrie has been a major creative voice in Hollywood for three decades; after winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Usual Suspects, he spent the next few decades fine-tuning and writing some of the best blockbusters of their era. McQuarrie’s partnership with Tom Cruise has led to many successful collaborations, affirming to everyone that Cruise is still the greatest movie star in the world. However, Cruise’s track of success wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the excellent material that McQuarrie has given him to work with.
McQuarrie made his directorial debut in 2000 with the low budget crime thriller The Way of the Gun, which starred Ryan Phillippe, Juliette Lewis, Benicio del Toro, and James Caan. While it wasn’t an immediate hit, it proved that McQuarrie was just as capable of a filmmaker as he was as a writer. He kicked off another franchise for Cruise when he directed Jack Reacher, and the two united once more for the fifth and sixth installments in the Mission: Impossible series. Anticipation is high for their next collaboration on Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning- Part and Part 2. Here are the best movies written by Christopher McQuarrie, ranked.
8 The Tourist
The Tourist was a fascinating anomaly; audiences weren’t quite sure if it was intended to be a straightforward action thriller in the vein of an Alfred Hitchcock classic, or a straight-up parody of the genre. In reality, the film exists somewhere in between, and McQuarrie skillfully adds an equal amount of suspense and humor. The excellent chemistry between Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for McQuarrie’s script.
Valkyrie dissects the powerful true story of the plot of Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (Cruise) to lead the German military leaders to assassinate Adold Hitler during the height of World War II. It’s a complex story that involves a lot of different political parties and historical figures, but McQuarrie is able to narrow it down into a tight, electrifying thriller. It’s notable that he pays so much respect to these brave heroes who sadly weren’t successful in their scheme.
6 Jack Reacher
Jack Reacher was a new action franchise for Cruise, but McQuarrie ensured that it wouldn’t just be a Mission: Impossible ripoff. Rather than incorporating outrageous stunts and humor, McQuarrie turned Jack Reacher into a gritty noir with a compelling mystery element. His importance to the series is evident; McQuarrie did not return for the disappointing 2016 sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which didn’t have the same precision as its predecessor.
5 Edge of Tomorrow
Sometimes, a film’s premise is as simple as “Aliens meets Groundhog Day.” Edge of Tomorrow is one of the rare completely original science fiction movies that harkened back to the best Amblin films of the 1980s, but didn’t feel repetitive. McQuarrie handled the difficult task of explaining time travel in a simple way, and created a fascinating new type of character for Cruise. Major William Cage is a cowardly deserter, but over the course of the film he learns the importance of courage and sacrifice.
4 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
The Mission: Impossible saga is only successful because it manages to keep outdoing itself, and McQuarrie set precedent for itself when he wrote and directed Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. While it seemed like the series would never be able to top its previous stunts, McQuarrie silenced any doubters in the first few minutes when Ethan Hunt latched on to an accelerating plane. McQuarrie also deserves credit for delivering one of the most iconic villains in the Mission: Impossible saga with the viscous criminal mastermind Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).
3 Top Gun: Maverick
It seemed like a sequel to Top Gun would never happen, and the film was pushed back multiple times due to COVID-19 related concerns. While it seemed doom to fail, Top Gun: Maverick ended up becoming a sensation on a level that no one could have imagined. Poignantly tying in nostalgia for the original film, Top Gun: Maverick delivered some of the most thrilling aerial combat sequences in cinematic history. The film’s box office success became a sensation in its own right, as Top Gun: Maverick became one of the few films since 2020 to gross over $1 billion worldwide. The great director Steven Spielberg hailed it as the film that “might have saved theatrical distribution.”
2 Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Mission: Impossible – Fallout was a supremely satisfying continuation of the series that proved to be the emotional installment yet. Not only did the film give more insight on Ethan’s desire to never let an innocent person die, but it boosted the characters of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) by giving them standout scenes of their own. John Lark (Henry Cavill) was a compelling new villain that threatened Ethan’s physicality, and McQuarrie brought back Lane for an even more sinister role. Between motorcycle chases, helicopter battles, fistfights, and zero gravity freefalls, Mission: Impossible – Fallout delivered nonstop thrills for the entirety of its 147-minute running time. It didn’t feel like McQuarrie had wasted a single second.
1 The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects remains one of the greatest crime thrillers of all-time, and the film’s brilliance is all due to the riveting mystery that McQuarrie created. The film’s final moments easily rank alongside The Sixth Sense, The Empire Strikes Back, Psycho, Parasite, and Primal Fear in any discussion about the most shocking plot twist ever. While some films offer nothing more than a surprising conclusion, McQuarrie paid so much attention to the details that The Usual Suspects is just as exciting after multiple viewing as it was in the first place.
The dark sense-of-humor kept the audience engaged as they desperately tried to narrow down who the real culprit was. While it’s been endlessly imitated and often parodied, McQuarrie’s work on The Usual Suspects has stood the test of time.