It pays to be an action star. Tom Cruise reportedly could rake in $100 million for his recent “Top Gun: Maverick” military drama. With a box office haul of $1.4 billion worldwide, Cruise will pocket most of that salary from ticket sales.
But Cruise, like any other actor, likes to stretch his acting chops and do something different occasionally, even if the paycheck doesn’t write in six figures. And he did that in the 2001 psychological thriller, “Vanilla Sky.” In it, he plays a decidedly un-action-like figure who is put in cryonic suspension after a terrible accident.
Other well-known action stars have veered into fresh cinematic territory and found critical acclaim and box office success. Beefy Gerard Butler starred in the tearjerker, “Dear Frankie.” Vin Diesel parked his car to play a stockbroker in 2000’s “Boiler Room.” Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor, went back to college in the horror flick “The Cabin in the Woods,” released in 2011.
To identify the best non-action movies by America’s top action stars, 24/7 Tempo scored movies by indexing average ratings from Amazon’s online movie database IMDb, and audience and Tomatometer scores from online movie reviews website Rotten Tomatoes. We considered data for the more than 22,000 movies with more than 5,000 reviews on IMDb as of August 2022. Are they among the most popular action stars of all time?
Some action stars lent their name and voice to documentaries, as former 007 Pierce Brosnan did in the 2009 feature “Oceans.” A long-time environmentalist, Brosnan narrated the film about saving ocean wildlife. Several played historic figures, like Jackie Chan in “1911,’ a 2011 film about China’s revolution. Russell Crowe played real-life Depression Era boxer James J. Braddock in 2005’s “Cinderella Man.”
The non-action role doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. Bruce Willis revived his sagging career with a relatively small part in 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.” Slipping into another genre gives an action star a chance to play against type. Good guy Denzel Washington played a bad guy in 2007’s “American Gangster.” On the other hand, these are the worst non-action movies from Hollywood’s top action stars.
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