Tom Cruise is in the midst of maybe the biggest week of his career, with Top Gun: Maverick hitting screens worldwide to rave reviews, and the Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning trailer receiving more than seven million views in just a few hours, a powerful one-two punch that proves he’s the “Greatest Of All Time.”
Top Gun turned Cruise into a celluloid icon back in 1986, and nearly 40 years later he remains as popular as ever, with “legasequel” Top Gun: Maverick forecast to generate the biggest box office numbers of Cruise’s career.
A conservative estimate is $100 million in the first few days, while The Hollywood Reporter thinks the opening weekend gross will be more than $125 million. It isn’t just the financial numbers that are good either, with Top Gun: Maverick currently sitting at a whopping 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This would make it a good week for any movie star, but then Paramount went and dropped the first trailer for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. The teaser wowed audiences with spectacular stunts and action, as well as the return of a classic character. And the trailer’s numbers have been huge, suggesting Cruise has another mega-hit on his hands when the film arrives in 2023.
How Tom Cruise remains Top Gun
All of which means Tom Cruise’s star is shining brighter than ever. But what makes this achievement truly remarkable is his longevity. Cruise kicked off his career with supporting roles in the likes of Taps and The Outsiders in the early 1980s. He then found fame in raunchy comedy Risky Business before becoming the hottest star on the planet thanks to Top Gun. Cruise was just 24, and had the world at his feet.
By making smart strategic choices, he’s since managed to stay at the top for longer than any actor in history. Cruise has worked with directing greats like Martin Scorsese on The Color of Money, Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut, and Paul Thomas Anderson on Magnolia. He’s dabbled in grown-up blockbusters through A Few Good Men, The Firm, and Jerry Maguire. And he’s made crowd-pleasing popcorn movies like Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Edge of Tomorrow.
Other actors have had a go at unseating him along the way. Will Smith was huge during his “Mr Fourth of July” period thanks to Independence Day and Men in Black. Robert Downey Jr. became the best-paid star in the world through Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. Dwayne Johnson seems unstoppable right now, and is about to release his first superhero movie in the shape of Black Adam. But to stay at the summit for four decades is a unique feat that’s unlikely to be repeated.
Why Mission Impossible is the key
Cruise achieved this by making hit after hit, but there have been flops along the way, which is where the Mission: Impossible movies come in. Based on a 1960s spy series, the first film was a smash, but Mission: Impossible II was less well received, and could have been the end of the line. But Cruise persevered, hiring new directors, introducing new cast members, and performing increasingly death-defying stunts to keep the franchise fresh. The result is box office that’s grown exponentially.
The success of the Mission: Impossible movies has also meant Cruise could quickly bounce back from failure, so when Rock of Ages and Oblivion did just modest business, he made Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Then when The Mummy and American Made underperformed, he returned with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. So a flop didn’t matter, as thanks to Mission: Impossible, he was never far from a hit.
With Dead Reckoning Parts One and Two following the Top Gun sequel, he might even be removing those failures from his résumée altogether, making Tom Cruise more bankable than ever, and turning him into the undisputed GOAT.
Top Gun: Maverick hits UK cinemas today (May 25) before soaring onto US screens May 27.