Skip to main content

Tom Cruise 'to beat' Will Smith as highest-ever paid movie star for a single film

Tom Cruise in the cockpit in Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise stands to make a LOT of money from Top Gun: Maverick (Image credit: Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films)

Tom Cruise could well be on track to become the highest-ever paid actor for a single movie for his part in Top Gun: Maverick.

Currently, Will Smith holds the record for the biggest payday for a single movie. His performance-based pay saw the actor reportedly taking home $100 million for reprising his role as Agent J in Men In Black 3 (source: THR (opens in new tab)).

Thanks to the huge success of Top Gun: Maverick, action star Tom Cruise could well be set to break Will Smith's record. The Top Gun sequel has now surged past Mission: Impossible - Fallout to become the highest-grossing movie in Tom Cruise's career. 

At the time of writing, the high-octane sequel has now raked in more than $1.1 billion worldwide (via BoxOfficeMojo (opens in new tab)), and the Hollywood legend is expected to reap the rewards from Maverick's box office success.

According to Puck News (opens in new tab), Tom Cruise could earn upwards of $90 million from the sequel. Puck reports that Cruise was paid $12.5 million upfront to make the Top Gun sequel, but the backend part of his deal allows Tom Cruise to take home ten percent of the movie's total first-dollar. Current estimates suggest the star stands to make an additional $55 million if the film manages to reach the $1.3 billion mark.

Tom Cruise is also expected to profit from escalators in the film which are often based on specific "breakpoint" thresholds that occur in a movie's revenue streams and which would see his percentage of the film's earnings rise. Since the movie's already reached the $1 billion mark, it's safe to assume at least a few of those so-called 'breakpoint' thresholds must have been reached by now.

Aside from box office takings, Puck states Cruise will also profit from "his cut of home video, pay TV, streaming and all the other revenue streams forever". As if that wasn't impressive enough, Puck alleges that Cruise stands to get an even better offer if Paramount decides to greenlight a third Top Gun movie.

To date, Cruise's raked in the most money for Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Forbes (opens in new tab)estimated he earned $75 million for the movie.

Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters worldwide, and is expected to be made available to stream on Paramount Plus

Martin Shore
Martin Shore

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.