The Mission Impossible star received the accolade from his Jack Reacher co-star Rosamund Pike at the 2014 Empire Awards in London on Sunday.
"I feel really fortunate, because it was my dream to be able to make films and I've had an incredible time so far," he said.
"I've spent an incredible part of my life in studios and sound booths and on sets all over the world, (and) so many people I've learned from... I do know it takes an incredible amount of endurance, hard work and a little bit of luck - maybe a lot of luck," he continued.
The 51-year-old added: "Thank you to the audiences for watching. I made the movies for you."
Veteran star Arnold Schwarzenegger was also honoured at the ceremony as he was presented with an Action Hero of a Lifetime award.
While walking the red carpet the 66-year-old revealed he had hit the gym before arriving at the bash.
"The first thing I did was to work out, and then the second thing I did was to have some good British desserts, so that I gained the weight back after working out," he said.
In his acceptance speech, he admitted being stubborn was behind his success.
Never take no for an answer. So thank you, and I'll be back.
"My advice is never take no for an answer. I was told I'd never get into bodybuilding. I was told I'd never make it in the movie business.
"They said I was too big, they said it wouldn't work with my accent. I never listened to them, and I went on to have a successful career.
"So never take no for an answer. So thank you, and I'll be back," he added, using his trademark line from The Terminator.
Coleraine actor James Nesbitt hosted the awards ceremony, which was attended by a number of famous faces, including Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Emma Thompson and Steve Coogan.
Actor Simon Pegg was given the Empire Hero award, thanked his long-time friends and co-stars: Jessica Hynes, Edgar Wright and his "husband" Nick Frost.
He said: "It feels like an uphill struggle sometimes to be taken seriously when you write comedy. Maybe it's because I'm needy, but this is an award I've been desperate to get since I was a kid."
Captain Phillips film-maker Paul Greengrass received the Inspiration award, while Scottish star McAvoy accepted the best actor award for his portrayal of troubled Bruce Robertson in Filth.
"I haven't come up with a speech but I love you all," he said.
This is an award I've been desperate to get since I was a kid."
His X-Men: Days Of Future Past co-star Hugh Jackman was given the Icon award by Oscar-winning director Darren Aronofsky.
"Getting an award that has the word 'icon' on it in a room with Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emma Thompson is ridiculous. But thank you," he said.
Michael Fassbender won the best supporting actor for his role in Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave.
Sally Hawkins dedicated her best supporting actress award to her mother. She was presented with the award for her performance in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine by Richard E Grant.
"I'm just one face out of many who made this film possible," she said.
"I couldn't be here without an incredible cast and crew, and I really struck gold with this film. So thank you to dearest Woody and dear Cate (Blanchett) and last but not least, thank you to my family for helping me be able to do what I wanted to do - and Happy Mother's Day. For Mrs Hawkins."
Other winners chosen by the film magazine included Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which won best comedy, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug took home best sci-fi fantasy, The Conjuring was awarded best horror and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was voted best thriller.
Gravity scooped two awards - best director for Alfonso Cuaron and the prestigious best film accolade.
Aidan Turner was chosen as best Male Newcomer for his performance in The Hobbit films, while Margot Robbie won best Female Newcomer for her role in Martin Scorsese's Wolf In Wall Street.
Full list of winners:
- Legend of our Lifetime - Tom Cruise
- Action Hero of a Lifetime - Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Empire Hero - Simon Pegg
- Best Male Newcomer - Aidan Turner
- Best Female Newcomer - Margot Robbie
- Best Horror - The Conjuring
- Best Comedy - Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
- Best Thriller - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy - The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
- Best Supporting Actor - Michael Fassbender
- Best Supporting Actress - Sally Hawkins
- Best British Film - The World's End
- Best Actress - Emma Thompson
- Best Actor - James McAvoy
- Best Director - Alfonso Cuaron
- Best Film - Gravity