How Famous Is Tom Cruise, Really?

Tom Cruise The Mummy
The Mummy | Universal Pictures
The Mummy | Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise is very famous. Even though his new movie, the spectacularly ill-advised reboot of The Mummy, disappointed critics and bombed in the US, nothing is going to change this simple fact: He's Tom Cruise, star of Mission: Impossible, Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, and The m-f'n Firm. There's no denying that he's still one of the biggest movie stars on the planet.

But how famous is he in the scope of human history?

Analyzing Cruise's fame isn't so much about comparing it to his fellow aging heartthrobs like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, or Johnny Depp. No, it's about comparing him to actors from different eras, musicians who dabbled in acting, politicians, religious figures, and fictional cartoons -- the real icons of today's society. And it's about acquiring cold hard data through an advanced research method I like to call "Googling" and using researched intel to create new, statistical models that show how he stacks up against the competition. Let the science begin.

Paul Newman The Color of Money
The Color of Money | Touchstone Pictures

Tom Cruise vs. Paul Newman

Why compare them? In 1986, Tom Cruise and Paul Newman starred in the 1986 pool drama The Color of Money, which was a sequel to Newman's Oscar-nominated 1961 film The Hustler. Sharing the screen with Newman was a big deal for Cruise: Fresh off the blockbuster success of Top Gun, it was the first movie where the young star costarred with an older legend, a move that would serve him well in subsequent movies like Rain Man and A Few Good Men. Like Cruise, Newman was an actor who had a long career that balanced flashy blockbusters, like the Towering Inferno, with more human-scaled films, like The Verdict. (Though it's worth noting Paul Newman will always be cooler by virtue of being in Cool Hand Luke and never starring in The Last Samurai.)

The stat: Box office, baby. If we were comparing Oscar nominations, Newman would wipe the floor with Cruise with 10 nominations and one win to three nominations and zero wins. Analyzing box office numbers across eras can be tricky because of inflation and other economic factors, but also there were simply better records for this material during Cruise's era, meaning there were a couple unfortunate reporting gaps when trying to calculate Newman's numbers. I'm going to call this stat "BO," which, in case you're not in The Biz, stands for box office.

How does it add up: With the help of the Mission: Impossible series, War of the Worlds, and early hits like Top Gun, Cruise has a nice domestic haul of $3,645,898,921. (And that's not counting Cruise cameos in comedies like Tropic Thunder and Austin Powers in Goldmember.) But Paul Newman is a fighter. He had a long career that was buttressed by two big hits towards the end, Road to Perdition and Cars, giving him an impressive total of $1,447,363,561.

Tom Cruise
BO score: 3,645,898,921

Paul Newman
BO score: 1,447,363,561

Who is more famous: Sorry, Fast Eddie. The kid with his name on his shirt wins this round. 

Frank Sinatra
The Manchurian Candidate | United Artists

Tom Cruise vs. Frank Sinatra

Why compare them? If we really want to get a sense of the scale of Cruise's fame, it's worth comparing him not just across eras, but across mediums. Not only did Frank Sinatra act in films like The Manchurian Candidate and From Here to Eternity, but he was also a singer, Rat Pack member, and fedora-wearer. Cruise sang in Rock of Ages, but, unlike Bruce Willis or Eddie Murphy, he's never pursued a second career as a musician (though he has been known to wear hats in weird situations).

The stat: Let's keep this simple (and ahistorical). Cruise obviously had a better box office track record and Sinatra clearly sold more albums, had more hit singles, and inspired more scenes in The Godfather. What's the great equalizer? A stat I made up for this article called "GAP," which is Google search results + Amazon search results + Plus something else. In this situation, the "Plus something else" is the number of Google results you get for "Celebrity Name + Fedora." Like Sinatra, we're doing this my way.

How does it add up: Let's start with Cruise.

Tom Cruise
Google search results: 57,400,000
Amazon search results: 14,317
Plus something else: 873,000
GAP score: 58,287,317

Frank Sinatra
Google search results: 22,300,000
Amazon search results: 28,155
Plus something else: 532,000
GAP score: 22,860,155

(Side note: I honestly can't believe Cruise had a better "Celebrity Name + Fedora" number. What an upset.)

Who is more famous: Sorry, Ol' Blue Eyes. Tommy Green Eyes wins this round.

Barack Obama
Marc Nozell/Flickr

Tom Cruise vs. Barack Obama

Why compare them? One was the President of the United States. The other played a Republican senator with presidential aspirations in the little-seen Robert Redford drama Lions for Lambs. Both have name recognition across the globe. They're almost the same age and often travel to foreign lands. Only one of them was in Eyes Wide Shut -- unless a pre-Senator Obama played one of those guys in the cloaks and masks at the orgy.  

The stat: This one's tough. How can we figure out if a world leader is more or less famous than a Hollywood leading man who travels the world performing his own stunts? I've cooked up a custom stat I like to call the MAV which combines Movie credits on IMDB, Amazon search results, and Various Other Things, which in this case means "Google Results + Oscar Nominations + Grammy Nominations + Nobel Prize Wins."

How does it add up: Since he played Maverick in Top Gun, let's calculate Cruise's MAV first. (Also, please note that I'm counting all credits on IMDB -- not just movies.)

Tom Cruise
Movie credits on IMDB: 598
Amazon search results: 14,317
Various other things: 57,400,000 + 3 + 0 +0 = 57,400,003
MAV score: 57,414,918

Barack Obama
Movie credits on IMDB: 673 (thank you, documentary film)
Amazon search results: 32,299
Various other things: 147,000,000 + 0 + 2 + 1 = 147,000,003
MAV score: 147,032,975

Who is more famous: Sorry, Maverick. Barack Obama, aka the Iceman, wins this round.

Jesus Christ Last Temptation
The Last Temptation of Christ | Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise vs. Jesus

Why compare them? To some, Tom Cruise is a deity. He is a major movie star, but also a vocal spokesperson for Scientology, a totally normal and not at all strange religion loved by celebrities. Jesus Christ was also a vocal spokesperson for his religion and, like Cruise, he was persecuted for voicing his beliefs on Oprah or whatever the first-century equivalent of Oprah was.

The stat: How do you compare the fame of a historical and religious figure to the guy who was in the Ridley Scott movie Legend? It's a challenge that theologians have wrestled with for years. I've come up with an answer by using a stat I liked to call GOD That's Google search results + Online social presence, determined by the number of Twitter and Facebook fans you have, x Disciples, which is determined by the number of disciples you had.

How does it add up: As always, Cruise goes first.

Tom Cruise
Google search results: 57,400,000
Online social presence: Twitter 6,270,000 Twitter followers + 11,662,124 Facebook fans = 17,932,124
Disciples: 1 (David Miscavige)
Tom Cruise GOD score: 75,332,124

Jesus Christ
Google search results: 886,000,000
Online social presence: 664,000 Twitter followers + 1,375,611 Facebook fans = 2,039,611
Disciples: 12
Jesus GOD score: 10,656,475,332

Who is more famous: Sorry, TC. You still can't beat JC.

Bugs Bunny
Space Jam | Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise vs. Bugs Bunny

Why compare them? In the last 10 years, Cruise has become more and more like a cartoon character: He repels off tall buildings, flings cars through the air, and tumbles around in zero gravity. (Also, he does not seem to be aging, much like a cartoon character.) Plus they're big-screen stars -- who can forget Space Jam?

The stat: Unfortunately, cartoons are not real, so many of our traditional methods of measurement go out the window. Luckily, I've made up a state I'm going to call ACME. You can find an individual's ACME through the following formula: Amazon search results + Carrot search results (Google search results for "Celebrity name + Carrot"), Movies on IMDB, and Ear search results (Google search results for "Celebrity name + Ears"). This is a very useful stat.

How does it add up: Humans before animals, so Tom Cruise goes first.

Tom Cruise
Amazon search results:14,743
Carrot search results: 533,000
Movies on IMDB: 598
Ear search results: 738,000
Tom Cruise ACME score: 1,286,341

Bugs Bunny
Amazon search results: 16,153
Carrot search results: 758,000
Movies on IMDB: 245
Ear search results: 1,340,000
Bugs Bunny ACME score: 2,114,398

Who is more famous: Sorry, Ethan Hunt -- Bugs Bunny reigns supreme.

There you have it: Tom Cruise is more famous than Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra but less famous than Barack Obama, Jesus, and Bugs Bunny. And as Porky Pig, a cartoon character who is statistically less famous than Tom Cruise would say, that's all, folks.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.