Why Tom Cruise is the Greatest Movie Star of ALL-TIME

Chris Tilly

Tom Cruise has done some weird stuff. Scientology. That couch jump. The Mummy. But through it all he’s remained the main man. A star with good looks, bags of talent, terrific taste in movies, and serious sustainability. Making him quite possibly the greatest movie star of all-time. For the following reasons.

Acting Chops

Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia.

Tom Cruise can act. Really act. There are movie stars that get by on charisma. Or muscles. Or via jokes. But Cruise is a performer who delivers mind-blowing performances time after time after time.

Having debuted in ensemble flicks Taps and The Outsiders, he flashed that trademark grin in teen movies Risky Business and All the Right Moves. Became a superstar via Top Gun. Then went toe-to-toe with two of the all-time greats, holding his own opposite Paul Newman in The Color of Money, and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

Though he’s received just three Academy Award nominations, with not a win to his name, Cruise continues to challenge himself, delivering unforgettable performances in the likes of Magnolia, Collateral, Jerry Maguire, and Born on the Fourth of July. In between the many blockbusters…

Those Frigging Stunts

When he isn’t ACTING, Tom Cruise is risking life and limb for your viewing pleasure. Via the likes of Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Knight and Day, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, and The Mummy.

But they are mere starters when it comes to Cruise action. With Mission: Impossible being the main course. They kicked off with that iconic sequence that suspends Ethan Hunt from the ceiling of CIA headquarters, followed by the character jumping from a train onto a helicopter. Then flying back onto that train when said helicopter explodes.

But the latter was a CG-heavy sequence. And Tom Cruise stopped doing CG sequences. Meaning that Mission: Impossibles 2-6 are filled with some of the greatest stunts in the history of cinema. Performed by the biggest star on the planet.

The guy leapt out of a plane in the most spectacular HALO jump ever attempted on film. Clung onto the side of an Airbus while it was taking off. Held his breathe underwater for six minutes. And scaled the bloody Burj Khalifa! The movie greats looked terrific in a suit (as does Cruise). And frequently act their co-stars off the screen (as does Cruise). But none of them climbed a mountain in Utah using only their bare hands.

“Tom is taking you places you would never or could never go,” Rogue Nation/Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie told Rolling Stone. “He’s allowing us to film things in a way they’ve never been done before. In some cases they’ll never be done again.”


Cruise in Top Gun.

Tom Cruise has stuck around. Pumping out hit after hit, in the process becoming the biggest movie star on the planet. For longer than anyone in history. And there’s science to this. Kind of.

From 1932 onwards, the Quigley Publishing Company asked American film exhibitors to select the Top 10 Moneymaking Movie Stars of each year. Rock Hudson dominated the 1950s. Robert Redford was all over the 1970s. And Burt Reynolds was huge in the early ’80s.

But no one comes close to the dominance of Tom Cruise, the exhibitors charting him a whopping 20 times, and placing the guy at No.1 on a record eight occasions, in 1986, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2005. Quigley stopped doing the list in 2013. But you know what? Cruise would have featured had they kept going. Probably five times.

As an actor, his films have grossed nearly $4bn, while as a producer he’s overseen many, many more hits. And with Top Gun 2 heading into production, those numbers are only going to rise.

The Cruise Factor

This is a tricky one. Because an actor can have all the above traits, without being Tom Cruise. The man is a superhero without ever having played one. Yet somehow manages to be relatable. Bad press bounces off him like the bullets in the Mission: Impossible movies. That grin could power the national grid. He frequently feels the need for speed, and when Cruise runs, it’s poetry in motion. He turned being cocky into an art-form, yet somehow remains likeable. He’s even managed to poke fun at himself, via his memorable turn as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder.

Cruise is good at press. Spends hours with his fans on the red-carpet. And brings a professionalism to the film set that means everyone else has to up their game or find a new job. At a time when movie stars have been replaced by comic book characters and IPs, Cruise stands alone; the superstar’s superstar.

And it isn’t quite the X Factor. Rather, it’s the Cruise Factor. Something he was born with. Something he’s developed. And something he’s mastered. Tom Cruise has been at the top for 30 years. And with his star always in the ascendancy, the smart money’s on him being there for 30 more.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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