Had Jerry Maguire been an investor instead of a fictional sports agent, he might have become famous for yelling, "Show me the cash flow!"

Earnings come and go, and the green-eyeshade types can legally manipulate it to mask a company's true operations. Yet its ability to generate cash -- what comes in the register and goes out the door -- remains the preeminent indicator of company's worth. In short, cash is king.

Below, we'll look at companies that have proven themselves prodigious generators of free cash flow (FCF) -- the amount of money a company has left over that it could potentially pay to its investors. We'll find companies that have generated compounded free cash flow growth rates exceeding 25% annually over the past five years, then pair them with the opinions of the more than 140,000 members of the Motley Fool CAPS investor intelligence community, to see which ones might have the best chance of outperforming the market.

Company

Levered FCF
5-Yr CAGR, %

CAPS Rating 
(out of 5)

Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS)

69.3%

****

McMoRan Exploration (NYSE:MMR)

68.5%

*****

Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA)

41%

****

Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO)

39.5%

****

Tellabs (NASDAQ:TLAB)

41.1%

***

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; Motley Fool CAPS.
CAGR = Compounded annual growth rate.

Generating copious amounts of cash doesn't make a company an automatic buy. But having looked at Enron's cash flows instead of its earnings would have saved many investors a lot of grief. Warren Buffett understands that the value of a company today is calculated by its discounted future cash flows, so use this list as a jumping-off point to dig deeper into the piles of cash.

Ka-ching!
In addition to artery-hardening bacon cheeseburgers at Carl's Jr. and Hardees, you'll be able to accelerate into the fast lane for a coronary by getting heart-racing energy drinks there, too. Hansen Natural signed agreements with the burger joints owned by CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR) to have its Monster Energy beverage available in the chain's 3,000 restaurants.

Hansen has long been a rocket stock of monstrous proportions but its ability to generate the kind of growth needed to meet analyst expectations doesn't appear to be sinking to the bottom of the black lagoon anytime soon. A 20-year distribution deal signed with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and its top bottler last year to put the pulse-raising drinks on the shelves in Western Europe should allow it to give Red Bull -- which owns 75% to 80% of the market there -- heart palpitations.

It's the reason CAPS member gsp524 feels his blood pumping to Hansen's beat:

Great numbers! No Debt!

Distributed now by Coke and Bud. Maybe Coke will get them into India and China. Just opened for business in Mexico, Canada, U,K,, France, Spain, Australia, and other European countries. Looking for a deal in South America.

All this should start adding sales and profit gains. Their only competition in Europe is Red Bull. Having tasted Red Bull (reminds me of cough medicine), I'll bet people of Europe will give Monster a try. Monster Java is very good!

The check is in the mail
Video game hardware, software, and accessories tumbled 29% in July, making it the fifth consecutive month in which sales have fallen. There's little wonder then why some analysts aren't expecting much out of Take-Two Interactive: It's going up against scorching Grand Theft Auto IV sales from last year. Highly rated CAPS All-Star member 00100 feels differently:

Upthumb. Excellent cash flow. Very low debt ratio. but negative margins. Trying to turn things around. High growth industry. Takeover candidate. Barrons negative on video game market across the board. Wedbush is postive. TTWO warned of delays and lowered guidance in July.

And why not? The steepest drops the industry recorded were in the hardware sector (down 37%) not videogames, no doubt as gamers await price cuts for systems and the large numbers of titles expected to debut this month.

Follow the money
What's your view? While these stocks have left a trail of dollars, it pays to start your own research on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made all from a stock's CAPS page. Why not head over to the completely free CAPS service and let us hear what you've got to say about these or any other stocks that you think will continue to be rolling in the dough.

Hansen Natural and Take-Two Interactive Software are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection and a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.