It may be hard to believe in 2018, but Tom Cruise only really became an action movie star after 2000 following the release of Mission: Impossible 2. While Top Gun and Days of Thunder were certainly thrilling films, each with their own particular need for speed, they were the exceptions in a pre-2000 filmography that was more focused on dramas such as The Firm, A Few Good Men and Rain Man or comedies like Risky Business. Even the original Mission: Impossible didn’t really kick the action phase into full gear as it was followed by Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut and other dramas.
Since 2000, though, the actor has focused on the action genre, only sprinkling in the occasional drama and saving comedy for a handful of cameos. His tendency to run away from things in those action movies has given rise to a number of videos, memes and GIFs bringing together all the times he’s had to run from sandstorms, collapsing buildings, explosions and other threats.
The trailers for recent releases like The Mummy, Edge of Tomorrow, American Made have all made sure to include heavy doses of the actor’s physicality. If you look at the posters for those same movies, though, you see he’s just…kind of there. He might be walking toward the camera or something, but he’s largely in some kind of static pose.
The message from the studio marketers seems to be that his mere presence, usually larger than all the other elements on the one-sheet, should be enough to attract the audience. Let’s look at the one-sheets for Cruise’s output since 2000, when he ran around the corner onto Action Blvd. and see whether they feature a man in motion or if we just see him standing there.
- Vanilla Sky: Cruise looks pensive and slightly confused here, which makes sense given the reality-bending nature of the story. Verdict: Not Running.
- Minority Report: This predated the “Tom Cruise running” phenomenon and not only does show him in motion but even features the tagline “Everyone runs.” Verdict: Running.
- The Last Samurai: Technically he’s moving here, but it’s only because the horse he’s riding is running. Verdict: Running.
- Collateral: One of his more passive appearances, here he’s not only completely still he’s actually sitting down, taking a load off. Verdict: Not Running.
- War of the Worlds: An aberration where Cruise is almost completely absent from the poster campaign, likely because this was *immediately* after his whole “jumping on Oprah’s couch” incident and lots of negative stories about his involvement with Scientology. Verdict: Disqualified.
- Mission: Impossible III: Mostly the posters here had him looking serious and determined, not necessarily moving about. Verdict: Not Running.
- Lions For Lambs: A rare foray back into straight drama, I’m not sure many of the actors moved in the movie itself, much less on the poster. Verdict: Not Running.
- Valkyrie: A movie about plots and schemes and political maneuvering doesn’t lend itself to a very dynamic campaign, at least not in print. Verdict: Not Running.
- Knight & Day: Meshing comedy and action, Cruise shows up on the theatrical poster in motion, but oddly as a silhouette. Verdict: Running.
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: For a movie whose key action sequence on the outside of a Dubai skyscraper was so key to the marketing, two of the three theatrical posters (the exception being the IMAX version) show Cruise just walking along. Verdict: Not Running.
- Rock of Ages: No, but he should have run away from whoever asked him to wear that jacket. Verdict: Not Running.
- Jack Reacher: Once again, we’re supposed to imply his action chops because he’s holding a gun and looking serious. Verdict: Not Running.
- Oblivion: Not only is he walking, but he’s far from the camera, reflecting the desire to sell the movie as a sci-fi spectacle more than anything. Verdict: Not Running.
- Edge of Tomorrow: Surprisingly, this movie was sold with a minimum of Running Tom Cruise, including on the posters, where he and Emily Blunt are largely just observing the chaos around them, not doing anything about it. Verdict: Not Running.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Once again the IMAX poster is the only one that doesn’t feature a passive Cruise, this time largely shown as the big head in the background. Verdict: Not Running.
- Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: Ironic title since the marketers *did* go back to the same concept of Cruise standing there with a gun. Verdict: Not Running.
- The Mummy: The most action Cruise is shown engaging in on the posters here is dangling from a rope while exploring a tomb. Verdict: Not Running.
- American Made: I’m not even sure this is an intentional choice, as the photo of a smiling, relaxed Cruise used here may have just been taken on a random Saturday. Verdict: Not Running.
So there you have it: The posters – or at least most of the posters – for 14 out of Cruise’s 18 movies since 2000 feature little to no action. Take that, internet.
That’s more than a little surprising given not only how action-oriented the movies themselves are but how much Cruise’s physicality is used as part of the publicity campaign for many of these titles. Especially in the last five years or so, official featurettes and media interviews will touch on how willing the actor was to do his own stunts and how complicated and involved those stunts usually were. As he gets closer and closer to 60, he wants to keep positioning himself as ready and able to jump out of planes, run across bridges and engage in elaborate sequences, which makes sense, it’s just not a message that’s been communicated on the posters much at all.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.