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Who’s the Biggest Movie Star of All-Time?

Over the course of cinema history, there has been a select few of individuals that have captivated the most artistic of movie fans as well as general audiences.  But which movie star is the best to ever step in front of a camera?  To break it down, a few stipulations must be in play:

  1. Box office success
  2. Critical acclaim
  3. Person always plays a version of themselves (a movie star is larger than life, you can’t help but see that person beneath the character that they play)
  4. Long stretch of success
  5. The actor continues to hold some type of cultural impact, no matter the changes to society

With these ideas in mind, let’s see who’s in the running:

The People Who “Lost their Way”

These are the ladies and gentlemen that were once on top of the world, but have since fallen off, becoming a shell of their former selves in their current form:

All of these A-listers were huge in either the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s.  They graced us with their charisma, becoming larger than life.  However, in one way or another, these individuals have been less than stellar in the most recent decade.  Have they had moments of brilliance?  Sure!  But as an overall picture, their current work does not compare in the slightest.  To hold the monicure of “best movie star ever,” longevity in tandem with brilliance is needed.

The “Up-and-comers”

This group of performers has all the potential in the world.  They’re younger, bolder, and even sexier.  However, their youth is also their biggest downfall:

Note that the term “youth” here is pretty fluid.  Leo and The Rock are in their mid-40’s while JLaw is still in her 20’s.  For whatever reason, all of these actors have one of the core item missing from their resume and need more time to accomplish it.  Unlike the other groups, these actors still have some time to become the greatest movie star.  Up-and-comers, we’ll reconvene in ten years.

The “Veterans”

Theses guys and gals are titans in the industry.  They paved the road for the rest of the actors on this list, allowing them to thrive.  All the while, they built personas that were larger than life:

  • Cary Grant
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Clint Eastwood
  • John Wayne
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Joan Crawford
  • Jimmy Stewart

However, and as near-sided as this sounds, these titans are hardly in the stream of consciousness of the film industry these days.  Let’s face it, people these days don’t even have the attention span to watch an entire Snapchat story, let alone remember an actor from the 40’s.  There’s certainly a place for these performers in the discussion, but, for lack of a better term, they’re dated.

And the Winner is…

Scientology aside, Cruise has been at the forefront of Hollywood for quite some time.  He has almost always chosen scripts that accent his talents, providing very enjoyable films that do well all over the world.  His performances are always fully committed, almost forcing you to believe him.  He has the perfect blend of longevity, acclaim, money, impact, and, let’s face it, he’s always Tom Cruise.  From Risky Business in 1983 to his most recent film, American Made, Cruise has continued to impress.

He is still at the forefront of the most prominent action films in the industry, and he shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

Cruise is also one of the hardest workers in Hollywood today.  He always has a new project that he is heavily involved in.  As he’s said in interviews, he wants to make films that earn money from audiences, not just take it.

In fact, when you search “movie stars” on Google, you get the following results:

Google never lies!

If that weren’t enough, no one can run like Tom.  Look at him go!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society.

36 Responses

  1. Though I generally agree with you Nick, I’m gonna have to disagree about Tom Cruise. While I believe he’s a good actor with many great performances over the past 30+ years, I think he’s far from being the greatest actor ever. That’s a very tough call, given so many variables to consider over a span of nearly 100 years of filmmaking, but if I had to choose five, I’d say Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Anthony Hopkins and Cate Blanchette, in no particular order.

  2. domholder says:

    In the last 5 years alone Hanks has been in Captain Phillips, Saving Mr Banks, Sully, Bridge of Spies. Yes Larry Crowne and the completely unnecessary Ladykillers remake were not great but I think he is still very much up there.
    I like Tom Cruise but all he does is play action figures these days, which is a shame as anyone who has seen him in Magnolia, Jerry Maguire, even Tropic Thunder shows fine action chops.
    If we’re talking most iconic movie stars then i guess you are looking at people like Arnie, John Wayne etc.

  3. Andy says:

    I would argue Tom Hanks is still No.1. But man, Jimmy Stewart is a good one, too.

  4. I honestly have been thinking about this question for a long time and while I don’t have an answer, I’ll havta agree to disagree regarding Tom Cruise, lol!

    I agree with previous commenters that Jimmy Stewart is definitely one who should have been mentioned.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Lol who would be your choice?

      • That’s the thing, I could never come to an answer.

        In terms of Bollywood, the actor Amitabh Bachchan would be the best and most famous Bollywood actor ever, no doubt: known all across the world in India, the subcontinent, Russia, Asia, Africa, etc. It’s just because America never caught on to Bollywood, he’s not that well-known here.

        So besides him, I really don’t know. I know at one time, Bing Crosby was said to be one of the top 3 most famous people in the world. But that was like the ’30s/’40s.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Charlie Chaplin might be a good choice!

  5. D.T. Osborn says:

    The largest omission on this list is Jimmy Stewart. His versatility as an actor has very few peers. He masterfully portrayed any character in any genre from thrillers to romance to westerns to comedy, he played them all!

  6. Great post! For sheer longevity and ability to always give 100% in every role then Tom Cruise is the correct choice. Plus, he has been in some great genre films and more artistic character dramas. People say he’s limited as an actor but he’s shown good performance range in films such as: A Few Good Men, Magnolia and Born of the Fourth of July, plus many others. He has a sense of humour too satirising the Hollywood bigwigs in the hilarious comedy Tropic Thunder. He’s obviously been in some cinematic duds but if you have a career of nearly forty years you will drop the ball occasionally. Definitely the top movie star still working today.

    • Nick Kush says:

      He’s also great in American Made too!

    • domholder says:

      I agree with your summation of Tom Cruise but it does seem like a long time since he gave his acting chops a serious work out. The films you listed above are amazing but the most recent is Tropic Thunder which over 10 years ago I think. Granted I haven’t seen American Made but I do wish he would act more rather than Sky diving from the International Space Centre onto a speed boat or something like that…………..actually that’d be pretty cool, anyway the point is the man can act and I wish he did more of that sometimes.

      • I agree. I think he must love doing those action and sci-fi films especially as he gets to do his own stunts. Deep down he must be a big adrenaline junkie.

      • domholder says:

        I wonder if its a case of “I’m going to keep doing these action films whilst i still can” He’s in his mid 50s now and can’t keep hanging onto planes for ever

      • Nick Kush says:

        I think he’s just really good at choosing scripts that accentuate his talents. He knows he can perform in these action movies, so he keeps doing them!

      • Indeed! I’ve compared Cruise to Dorian Gray in the past as he doesn’t appear to age 🙂 You have to admire the fact he’s super-fit though to still do that stunt work!

      • Nick Kush says:

        Absolutely!

      • Nick Kush says:

        When your a “movie star” there’s definitely a quality to it where he plays the same character in many films. People like Arnie or John Wayne play similar characters in every single movie so I’d say Cruise is cut from the same cloth

  7. raistlin0903 says:

    I think three actors that should also be included on the list for people who have lost their way are: Al Pacino, Robert de Niro and Bruce Willis. None of them have really had a good succesful film anymore abd have only appeared in very mediocre ones. A real shame as these three were my favorite all time actors.

  8. For me, the biggest fall from grace has to be Johnny Depp. I used to watch anything he was in. Not anymore.

  9. anne leueen says:

    I was with you until you gave the “winner” slot to Tom Cruise. Is he actually an actor at all? Well maybe he is but he is two of my least favourite actors. Nonetheless I did enjoy this post.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think his personal persona clouds the judgement of a lot of people, and probably deservedly so. But all his films and performance are mostly fun and harmless! Plus all his movies make a loooooot of money.

      • anne leueen says:

        HaHa yes. I find him so annoying in interviews that it has influenced me in my opinion of him. But he is a professional and carries off all of the film characters. So I should just get over it I guess.

      • Nick Kush says:

        I give him a ton of credit because everything you hear from reporters and other actors is that he’s beyond nice to everyone. I guess he just keeps his looniness to himself! lol

      • domholder says:

        I agree with this. Lets be honest none of us know him or ever likely to get to know him, all we see is the public persona. I’ve read that he has said some controversial things based on his faith but I’ve also read that he is the ultimate professional and that people love working with him. I let the work do the talking personally.

    • I agree with your assessment of Tom Cruise.

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