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Movie Phenomenon: The Side of Tom Cruise’s Head

Movie Phenomenon: The Side of Tom Cruise’s Head

Something that has been nagging at me for a number of years is the way in which movie posters, especially DVD box covers, tend to be almost exactly the same. There’s a random shot of the main character in a pose never seen in the actual film coupled with too many words and lots of color. They’re uninspired, but that’s almost to be expected. However, if we turn to look at the movies of a particular Hollywood A-lister, the results become much more troubling.

See if you notice anything similar about the following movie posters:

Jerry Maguire, 1996

Minority Report, 2002

Collateral, 2004

If you look very closely, you might be able to see it. Closer. Closer. Have you guessed? They all feature Tom Cruise and only Tom Cruise and they all feature the same side of his head. Now, I don’t like to disparage anyone, certainly not someone as handsome and successful as Mr. Cruise, but don’t you find it a little weird that marketing companies have chosen that specific attribute to showcase? It certainly seems to be a selling point, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Is his proboscis somehow better than anyone else’s? Does its power show box office results in ways other actors’ do not? It seems like nary a piece of marketing can exist without, in some fashion, accentuating Tom Cruise’s – Oh, I’ll just say it – his distinctive nose.

Look at the following poster for Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut:


Most of Cruise’s whole self is cut off by the picture frame. While this image comes from a particularly risque scene in the film, in poster form our eye is drawn to two things: Nicole Kidman’s eye, which looks at us and is clearly wide open (or shut) and Tom Cruise’s nose, essentially engulfing the nose of his costar and former wife. The marketing here wants us to know that this movie is sexy, this movie is shocking, this movie stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and this movie has Tom Cruise’s nose at the forefront.

Occasionally, the poster will allow the other side of Tom Cruise’s head to be slightly more visible, but he’s always turning his head a bit so that we make sure we still get, if not the full effect, the overall impact of his olfactory organ.

War of the Worlds, 2005


Vanilla Sky, 2001


Who do they think they’re kidding?!? It’s as clear as day! Nobody has to look over their shoulder that much. It’s a shameless attempt by the marketing of these films to show us what they think we want to see. But do we want to see it? I don’t understand! Someone tell me!

The most blatantly copy-catty poster designs are for the Mission Impossible movies. That series is really notable for having a distinctly different director for each outing, making the premise and Cruise’s character in general the only constants and as malleable as the respective maestro’s own mind. The posters reflect the different takes on the source material, with one very prominent factor remaining almost unchanged. Please, see if you notice.

Mission: Impossible, dir. Brian De Palma, 1996


Mission: Impossible II, dir. John Woo, 2000


Mission: Impossible III, dir. J.J. Abrams, 2006


Now I know what you’re going to say; that third one really screws up your theory, Kyle. It’s not the same at all. Well, allow me to change one thing real fast in order to prove the insidiousness:


I know.

They may as well have used the same picture in all three posters and just used Photoshop to make it fit the tone of the film. Mission: Impossible III breaks new ground by having Cruise face the OTHER way. It only took ten years.

With the fourth film in the series, though, the marketers shake things up in a way these posters never have before, taking things in a whole new direction…

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, dir. Brad Bird, 2011


…and that direction is FORWARD. While this may seem incredibly drastic, it was done for one, very practical reason: Ghost Protocoling. In order to go Ghost Protocol, one must have their hood up; everyone knows this. If they’d wanted to do the time-tested poster style, we’d get all hood and only the tip of his nose, and that’s just not enough nose for the studios. But, just look at his eyes in that poster – he’s angry, and likely he’s angry at having to look at the camera.

This didn’t become a trend, though, and the studios knew they had to bring his head back around. For last year’s exceptionally good sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow, we return to the old ways, and this time poor Emily Blunt is dragged into it.

Edge of Tomorrow, dir. Doug Liman, 2014


I’m no closer to getting to the bottom of this conspiracy, but now I’ve at least shared it with you, dear readers, and perhaps, even if I am silenced, my work will live on. Tom Cruise. Nose. It’s a real thing.

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  1. Fartbooty says:

    Do his butt next

  2. Fartbooty says:

    Next do his butt

  3. Joefeesh says:

    I don’t even recognise him in the one where he’s looking at the camera. It’s all about the nooooose! He was great on the nerdist podcast a while back. Respect for the nose.. I mean Tom Cruise. 

  4. d says:

    where is top gun cocktail rain man?

  5. Kelan says:

    It’s because they are hiding the infamous Tom Cruise MIDDLE TOOTH (dum dum duuuummm)!!! Seriously, Google Tom Cruise middle tooth, and you could see why poster artists are trying desperately to avoid that giant distraction!

  6. JUS7IAN says:

    Proboscis is the wrong word even in a joke sense.  You’re just a bad writer.  I always get sucked into an idea with my open mind but then everything you write turns into some kind of long winded bad joke.

  7. me says:

    so where do you want him to look , left right,forward ,what would be the point of the back of his head,actually i remember  the bourne poster.

    • JUS7IAN says:

      People are always talking shit about Tom because of his religious beliefs but other than that he is actually one of the best actors around.

    • JUS7IAN says:

      What about Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Valkyrie, Interview with the Vampire or Rain Man, The Color of Money, Days of Thunder & The Last Samurai?  Just to name a few.

  8. Evan` says:

    Please tell me you don’t get paid to write something like this. 

  9. Andrrew says:

    It’s the same deal with “Days of Thunder”…

  10. Snackpants says:

    You should do a piece on Nic Cage movie posters with fire on them.

  11. TRAVIS says:

    You missed Jack Reacher. There’s another front-facer

  12. cl says:

    What about Jack Reacher? Straight on in that one no hood or head wear of any sort…

  13. MJB says:

    I like the premise on my articles like i like my asparagus.


  14. C says:

    It is because his teeth are misaligned… Seriously, look at his teeth – one of this front teeth is in the center…

    • T says:

      It’s true, his teeth are not lined up with the center of his face. If you’re looking at the picture, the center of his smile is off to the right.