When audiences think of Tom Cruise, for some people, their mind instantly goes to Mission: Impossible or Top Gun. For some, they think of his commitment to doing his own stunts and upping the ante with each next action film he does. For others, they think of Cruise’s work with notable directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick. Part of what makes Cruise one of the great movie stars is this wide range of instant reactions to his name.
Cruise will be 60 years old this summer and with Top Gun: Maverick releasing next week, he is going to be one of the stars of the summer, a title he’s held many times over the last few decades. Many, myself included, consider Cruise to be the last true movie star. Movie stars feel fleeting and given how the most popular actors tend to be in superhero franchises, it is impressive how Cruise has remained a movie star over the last few decades while not appearing in a superhero film. While actors like Chris Hemsworth, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya or Ryan Reynolds are household names, they’re not movie stars in the same sense as Cruise.
Cruise is not only an actor someone in their forties to fifties has a core movie memory of with maybe Risky Business or Jerry Maguire, but also an actor younger audiences are seeing in the latest Mission: Impossible or Edge of Tomorrow (LIVE! DIE! REPEAT!) to see what crazy stunt he has up his sleeve next. While franchise superhero films dominate the box office, so do most Cruise movies. While he does have some box office blips (The Mummy does exist as much as we try to forget), he has an incredible amount of hits at the theater. At the time of writing this, Cruise’s films have grossed over $4 billion in North America and over $10.1 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing box office stars of all time.
A reason Cruise seems to be so successful is his commitment to theaters. While times are changing with streaming services, Cruise is dedicated to keeping his films in theaters and made to be seen on the big screen. While his COVID production call went viral, and there should be a conversation about the on-set behavior reported, he did do the work to produce and star in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One, the next installment in his franchise dating back to 1996.
Going hand in hand with the commitment to theaters could be Cruise’s lack of television projects. While many big stars, including Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, and Michael Keaton, are doing miniseries on prestige networks or streaming services, Cruise is consistently only appearing in big-screen projects. Subconsciously, this keeps Cruise as a movie exclusive actor, which is becoming harder and harder to be these days. Actors are diving into the ability to tell a story over six to ten hours in a miniseries versus a mid-budget film that could end up exclusively on streaming anyway. Cruise continues to not only star in films, but specifically, films that are made for a theater viewing.
While there is a conversation to be had regarding stunts at the Oscars, Cruise could easily slide back into the Oscar conversation if the right project was lined up. Cruise has the filmography and talent to prove he is capable of being in the Oscar conversation again. We see all the time the industry and Academy decide “it is time” to reward an actor with a pop culture presence behind them and spend the award season crowning them, examples including Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. If Cruise had an Oscar buzz film, I believe the industry would crown him next. Personally, I would love to see him in a Safdies Brothers or a Bong Joon-Ho film. Our friends at Awards Watch were asked on their podcast recently who they’d like to see him work with, their panel suggested Christopher Nolan and Jane Campion. Any of these would be incredible to add to his filmography and legacy.
While Cruise has a complicated relationship with fame, as you cannot discuss him without mentioning his relationship with Scientology, I do think he scrapes by the discourse with most of us because he is so well-loved. While I’d love to see an Oprah sit down round two discussing Scientology, I wouldn’t put any money down. At the end of the day, Cruise loves movies, he loves making them and he continually puts out impressive work elevating the industry.