You Could Buy a Decade's Supply of Coffee with the Money Tom Cruise Makes for Just 1 Word in His Movies

You Could Buy a Decade's Supply of Coffee with the Money Tom Cruise Makes for Just 1 Word in His Movies
Image credit: Legion-Media

It could be pretty expensive coffee, too.


  • Tom Cruise is the highest-paid actor in the world.
  • Back in 2005, he started giving up a high paycheque in exchange for a cut of his movies’ profits.
  • Cruise's average pay per word of dialogue is mind-boggling.

Tom Cruise is one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world, thanks to his starring roles in the Mission Impossible franchise, the Top Gun franchise, and the Jack Reacher franchise. And then there’s all the famous movies that aren’t franchises: Jerry MaGuire, Rain Man, Eyes Wide Shut, and Tropic Thunder to name just a few.

It’s hard to say definitively who the top-paid actor in Hollywood is – do you go by their single biggest paycheque? The sum of all their paycheques combined? Their average paycheque?

One of the ways to calculate the most expensive actors in Hollywood is to calculate according to how much they get paid per line of dialogue. Using this metric, Tom Cruise is by far the highest paid member of his profession.

Why So Much Money?

Yes, Cruise is a massive star and a household name. But part of the reason he does so well is that he often makes a deal to take a cut of his movies’ profits rather than a flat paycheque.

Cruise first made it big with the 1983 film Risky Business, playing a hotheaded teenager who starts running a brothel while his parents are away. Cruise earned a reported $75,000 for that role – pretty good money for an actor who was only 19 when the film was shot! His paycheques only grew from there, ballooning to $2 million for Top Gun in 1986.

By the time Cruise was being courted for 2005’s sci-fi spectacular War of the Worlds, he was averaging $20 million per movie. However, he was one of the first actors in Hollywood to realize that he could take a risk by trading that guaranteed cheque for a cut of the film’s profits. Cruise made that deal on War of the Worlds, and the gamble paid off. Once the box office dust had settled, he walked away with $100 million.

He Never Slowed Down

Most of us would consider retiring after earning a nine-figure salary, but Cruise was just getting started. In 2012 he was listed as Forbes’ highest-paid actor in the world, mostly because of the success of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Once again, Cruise took a cut of the box office and raked in $58 million on top of his $12 million up-front paycheque.

There have been seven Mission Impossible movies released so far, with an eighth due out in 2025. With his up-front cheques and his box office cuts all put together, Cruise has made at least $285 million on the series… and that doesn’t include residuals and royalties over the years.

The amazing thing is that Tom Cruise managed to accomplish all of this while battling some pretty bad press. Around the time that Ghost Protocol was released, he was getting raked over the coals for his involvement in Scientology and divorce from Katie Holmes.

But while weird news and couch-jumping might have sunk another actor’s career, Cruise was too popular and too intertwined in major franchises to be ignored. His career has never slowed down, and the money just kept coming.

How Much Does He Make Per Line?

According to Casumo, Tom Cruise currently makes about $7,000 for every word he speaks in a movie. Another way of calculating it puts the actor at $205,609 for every ten seconds you see him onscreen.

So the next time someone makes a joke about how most actors are paying their bills by being baristas, remember: one word of dialogue from Cruise earns him enough to buy you coffee for the next decade.