Tom Cruise’s Massive Sci-Fi Blockbuster Is Killing It On Streaming

Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds is now streaming on HBO Max, where it is currently the 7th most popular film.

By Phillip Moyer | Updated

War of the Worlds

Tom Cruise is known for a lot of things: the Mission Impossible spy film series, the Top Gun movies, and his role in A Few Good Men, to name a few. His effects-heavy 2005 blockbuster War of the Worlds, however, fell off the radar soon after it was released. Now, streaming tracking site FlixPatrol shows the film making something of a comeback on HBO Max.

The movie was just released on HBO Max this February, explaining the film’s sudden rise to seventh place on the site’s United States rankings. The film left Netflix in August 2022, so there were six months when nobody could access the movie in the United States on any subscription streaming platform. The Tom Cruise film only arrived on Netflix in May 2022, when it received a similar surge in popularity — showing that there’s a benefit to films hopping around steaming platforms.

The movie is an adaptation of the 1898 book of the same name by H. G. Wells, detailing an alien invasion of Earth using tall tripodal war machines. The film generally follows the plot of the book, though it does so in the modern era, with the humans using modern technology to try to fight the aliens instead of late-19th-century artillery. It uses Tom Cruise’s everyman character, Ray Ferrier, to show the destruction and futility of the fight.

There had been several adaptations of War of the Worlds before Tom Cruise starred in the 2005 version. This includes a 1953 film and multiple direct-to-video films that were also released in 2005 to take advantage of Cruise’s movies. The most famous adaptation was the 1938 Orson Welles radio drama that convinced some listeners that they were hearing a newscast instead of a fictional story, causing panic in some areas. 

tom cruise
War of the Worlds

Tom Cruise’s take on War of the Worlds was fairly well-received when it was released, earning more than $600 million on a $132 million budget and generally positive (though not enthusiastic) reviews. There were complaints about some elements of the film’s plot, including the unexpectedly-positive ending that didn’t seem earned. While part of this comes from the original book’s plot, the fact that everyone Ray Ferrier loves gets through the apocalyptic war unscathed was almost enough to take viewers out of the entire experience.

After the film came and went from theaters, it almost disappeared from the public consciousness. Tom Cruise went on to star in Mission Impossible III the next year and continued appearing in many more well-remembered films in the years since, including Tropic Thunder and Edge of Tomorrow

It’s not unusual for good films to fade into obscurity, and it especially makes sense in the case of War of the Worlds, which went up against plenty of high-profile films that same year. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were also released in 2005, as were Batman Begins and The 40-year-old Virgin. Tom Cruise’s star power helped bring people into the theaters, but it didn’t help keep the film in the audience’s minds after they left.