Obviously there are more than seven movie stars. There are even more than seven movie stars in some families. What we are talking about here is archetypes.
Since cinema began, each generation has returned to the same seven types of movie star – and the closer a star fits the archetype, the more success they will have. And by success we mean the brutal Hollywood criterion of massive ticket sales. If, having achieved success, they then deviate from type, they will generally have less success until they go back to what they are good at. This isn't remotely a new theory, by the way. There are loads more character archetypes out there – the Wizard and the Orphan for example – but these are the ones that ultimately get the all-important bums on the seats.
If a star can straddle more than one type – Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) being two good examples – they are pretty much guaranteed megastardom for at least a decade. And if they can really act too, then, well, they are set for life.
So here are the seven archetypes and some of the actors who have worn the mantle over the years.
Good looking – or at least magnetic – he is motivated broadly by self-interest and isn't someone you would want to settle down with. He can play both a charismatic anti-hero and the alluring villain.
Classic: Jack Nicholson (The Departed). You wouldn't trust him with your pin number, but he is certainly the guy to take the fight to The Man.
Now: Having brilliantly transitioned from The Boy Next Door, Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street) is the current archetypal rogue front runner, with Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) coming up hard on the outside.
The Girl Next Door
Fresh-faced and adorable, she will find lots of things funny but lacks complicated emotions. Not intentionally sexy, but unignorably attractive.
Classic: Meg Ryan (Sleepless In Seattle), Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary).
Now: While Jennifer Lawrence can do it, Emma Stone (The Help) is certainly the one. We are surprised she doesn't actually live next door.
The Invulnerable Machine
A one-man army, he is the guy you send in to get the job done, especially if it involves mass killings. Emotions would get in the way of his weaponry. Bullets don't do any lasting harm to him and he never dies.
Classic: Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry), John Wayne (The Searchers), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator).
Now: Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas), picking up the reins from Bruce Willis (Die Hard) and Will Smith (I Am Legend). But we're pretty sure Chris Pratt could do it too.
The Sex Bomb
The female equivalent of The Rogue – her motives are mysterious but she smoulders like a fuse. The fuse of a bomb that would shower you with sex – if you can get within 20 yards of her in the first place.
Classic: Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep), Angelina Jolie (Maleficent).
Now: Scarlett Johannson (Lucy), Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street). But Jennifer Lawrence can do it too – albeit reluctantly.
The Boy Scout
A likeable, basically sexless everyman who you could enjoy sharing a beer with. When they get into scrapes, it is their moral strength that sees them through.
Then: James Stewart (Rear Window).
Now: Still Tom Hanks (The Da Vinci Code), amazingly, though Matt Damon (The Martian) has got it too and, yes, Chris Pratt did it in Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), where he was The Boy Next Door pretending to be The Rogue.
The only category that can apply to either sex. The Clown has to be more than just a comedian, because any of the other categories can be funny (except maybe The Sex Bomb). He or she uses physical comedy to express a kind of barely contained anarchy.
Classic: Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor), Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop), Jim Carrey (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Mike Myers (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me).
Now: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Kevin Hart (Ride Along). But Chris Pratt can do it too.
The Perfect Gent
Also known as vanilla fantasy guy. Looks good in a tux, doesn't do bad things. Quick witted. Has a youthful variant in The Pretty Boy, but people pay to see The Pretty Boy in magazines rather than the cinema.
Classic: Cary Grant (North By Northwest)
Now: George Clooney (Ocean's Eleven), giving way to Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager). Ryan Gosling (Drive) could own this category too.
The Complex Female Action Hero
As the 21st century continues apace, we are seeing a new category emerge – The Complex Female Action Hero. Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) are the pioneers here, though it looks like Scarlett Johansson really wants to fight her natural Sex Bomb to take this category too.