I don’t usually like to complain about subjective lists, but I get a strong feeling that the authors either haven’t watched all these movies, or haven’t watched them very closely (not surprisingly, since they’re ranking every Tom Cruise movie ever made).
But, if you think Cocktail is a bad movie, then I don’t think you get what makes Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise. He’s not Daniel-Day Lewis. It’s precisely that he makes being a bartender sound like being the Dalai Lama, and that he can sell you on it, that makes him a great actor (and makes it, in my opinion, a great movie, or at least one that I love).
Even if you don’t look at that, it’s not about being a bartender, it’s about making something of yourself. He comes back from the army and has no choice but to become a bartender, even though he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. He hides out as a bartender, until he gets his stuff together (prompted by falling in love and having a kid), and eventually makes it. Call it hokey if you want, but I think it’s a worthy story.
Either way, this seems to equate his best movies with his most serious movies + the Mission Impossible series.
For me, peak Cruise was Top Gun, Cocktail, Days of Thunder, etc… That’s when Cruise was the most unadulteratedly Cruise.