I have a confession. This post originally started with a different question: who is the greatest current action movie star? The only criteria was that they had to be American, which means Charlize Theron, Scott Adkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jason Statham were exempt. But that still left Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Scarlett Johansson, Dave Bautista, Will Smith, and Bruce Willis, among others. Those are some A-list actors, but also an uninspiring group of action movie stars, whether because they’re past their prime (Willis, Schwarzenegger) or too dependent on one franchise (Johnson), or thought of as superheroes rather action stars (Johansson). And I wasn’t ready to give it to Jurassic World‘s Chris Pratt, either. No offense, Andy Dwyer.
Besides, I eventually realized this is a two-person contest: Keanu Reeves or Tom Cruise. They both [extremely “went to film school” voice] kick ass and have been doing so for decades. In fact, before we begin, let’s go through every movie in both actor’s filmographies that can be considered in the “action” genre.
Reeves: Point Break, Speed, Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction, The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Constantine, Street Kings, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Man of Tai Chi, 47 Ronin, John Wick, Keanu (kind of!), John Wick: Chapter 2, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Cruise: Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible III, Tropic Thunder (this is Cruise’s Keanu), Knight and Day, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Mummy, American Made, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout
These are the only movies I’m considering. No Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for Reeves, no Jerry Maguire for Cruise (Keanu would obviously win). I’m also not taking into account the personal lives for both men (again, it would be Keanu in a landslide). This is just about Tom Cruise: Action Movie Star vs. Keanu Reeves: Action Movie Star as determined through six separate categories, and now I’m suddenly upset that they’ve never appeared in the same film. Reeves in Mission: Impossible 6 makes more sense than Cruise in John Wick 4, but… I’m stalling because I don’t want to choose; they’re both awesome. But to quote another famous action movie, there can only be one.
Looking at the list above, Cruise has only turned two films into franchises: Mission: Impossible and Jack Reacher (that list is about to grow with Top Gun: Maverick and Edge of 2morrow, assuming it actually gets made). The latter is way more fun than its given credit for, but Cruise’s signature franchise is obviously Mission: Impossible. Reeves also has two series under consideration: The Matrix and John Wick. I’m tempted to go with John Wick, but I know that’s recency bias talking: The Matrix is one of the most influential movies of all-time. But unfortunately, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions also exist. I can give a half-hearted defense to the inspired messiness of Reloaded, which is genuinely thrilling at times, but not Revolutions. I have my limits, and my limit is this evil laugh. So, if it comes down to Mission: Impossible or The Matrix (MATRIX: IMPOSSIBLE), the winner is the Mission: Impossible movies, which continue to improve. Fallout is the sixth film in the franchise, and the best. Imagine how many cake orgasms would have been in the sixth Matrix movie.