Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatness of Tom Hanks

This morning I remarked on Tom Hanks's impressive streak of 12 of 14 movies going over the $100M mark from 1993 to 2002. It turns out that his streak is even more impressive when you adjust for inflation. How much of a difference does it make? Toy Story's 1995 gross of $190M is actually $280M in 2005 terms.

Anyway, when you adjust the numbers, Hanks has actually by 14 of 17 movies over the $100M mark from 1992 until today. Has any other actor put together a streak that comes even close?

Clint Eastwood is a giant, durable movie star, but look at his adjusted numbers and you see that even during his high point, he only put together 6 or 9 movies that went over $100M. Heck, he only has 14 movies over the $100M mark in his entire career, and he's been around since 1967.

Tom Cruise is a super-gigantic movie star with great numbers. Since 1986, he's put 16 of 20 over the $100M (adjusted). That's a rate equivalent to Hanks. But for my money, Hanks's streak is more impressive because of the movies he did. A lot of Cruise movie's are hits no matter who stars in them. (Also, Hanks's next three projects all look like they have a good chance to join the $100M club.)

Sylvestor Stallone was the biggest star on the planet once. At his height he put 6 of 11 movies over $100M (adjusted). Ditto Robert Redford who also put 6 of 11 movies over the adjusted $100M mark.

Watching Bossom Buddies, who would have thought that we were seeing the birth of our generation's biggest star?

Update: A commenter suggests Harrison Ford, the star who's my personal favorite. I accosted him at a party once, but that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say that he's more gracious than anyone could possibly expect. And that voice isn't made in the mixing room.

But what about his inflation adjusted run? Beginning in 1980 with Empire and going through 1994's Clear and Present Danger, Ford put 11 of 15 movies over the $100M mark.


Colin Samuels said...

I believe that Clark Gable appeared in only one money-losing film in his entire career; during his "King of Hollywood" years during the 30's and 40's, he had a long string of very profitable films. I'm not certain how much his most profitable movies would have made in present-day dollars, though.

Anonymous said...

Tom Hanks is "our generation's greatest star" only by the metric of filthy, filthy lucre.

Anybody with any trace of aesthetic appreciation knows that the true genuis of our time--our Olivier, our Brando--is Peter Scolari.

Crank said...

I don't have the adjusted figures but Harrison Ford had a good run from Star Wars through Clear and Present Danger, granting that the Star Wars movies would have drawn the big bucks with a different Han Solo.

arrScott said...

I'd love to see an inflation-adjusted chart for Bogart. What about Mel Gibson (11 over $100 mil, non-adjusted), Russel Crowe (who with adjustment probably has four over $100 mil and might be in the midst of a Harrison Ford-like run) and George Clooney (six over $100 mil, unadjusted, since '97).

Re Harrison Ford, I think it's best to think of him as Hanks' predecessor, not his competitor. And I'm not so sure Star Wars becomes the culture-changing phenomenon it does, or even a profitable three-movie franchise in the early 1980s, without Harrison Ford. Imagine a Mark Hamill-quality actor as Han Solo, and you're left with nothing much besides Darth Vader and the special effects to keep people watching. The same goes, but moreso, for the Indiana Jones movies. There is no greater heterosexual male fan of Tom Sellick than I, but there is no way Sellick as Indy becomes the enduring cultural icon (and box-office manna) that Harrison's Indy did.

But what about quality? Stalone once made the insightful differentiation between actors and performers in Hollywood. Sadly, Stalone himself ain't much of an actor (at least not outside of a very small range). Ditto for Cruise, who does two very limited kinds of characters very very well. Eastwood has become so iconic a presence that it's easy to overlook just what a great actor he really is. Ditto Ford, who during the 1980s and early 1990s surprised pretty much everyone with how well he could disappear into characters as diverse as John Book, Henry Turner, and Indy.

Which leaves Hanks, who much to my desire to conclude otherwise has shown perhaps the greatest range of authentic acting performance of anyone else on the list. To put his talent in perspective: While watching Forrest Gump for the first time, I didn't even notice what a terrible movie it is. Hanks was that good. He's at his peak playing a certain range of character best described as "Guys You'd Expect Jimmy Stewart to Play," but he can disappear into other roles with apparent ease.

Steven Den Beste said...

I wouldn't be surprised if, adjusted for inflation, John Wayne has an even better record.

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