Actors earn large sums of money nowadays. This is compared to the days when viewers were drawn to a film solely because of its starring star. Years ago, if a film had a certain actor's name connected to it, it was nearly guaranteed to be a hit. For instance, remember when Jim Carrey's $20 million compensation for The Cable Guy made headlines? What a difference a generation can make.
Nowadays, Hollywood's highest-paid actors can demand enormous sums for their services, and, strangely enough, they usually receive them. A-lister payments have consistently increased per output since the turn of the millennium, with more emphasis placed on star power and revenue sources exploding.
This can be attributed to the vast amount of streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon among others. Film actor incomes have risen dramatically as a result of the advent of streaming platforms. One reason for this is that streaming companies have to compensate their stars with large upfront payments.
This is because they can't provide backend arrangements where stars can earn more than their base income dependent on box office performance like traditional theatrical studios do.
Streaming firms' influence is growing at a rapid pace. Netflix is poised to spend more than $17 billion on casting this year alone. This is way more than any other studio spends on Hollywood's leading men and women.
According to reports, Apple TV+ is proposing to pay more than $30 million for Reynolds' role in A Christmas Carol. In turn, Amazon is paying Bollywood star Akshay Kumar $10 million for a role in a new TV series.
Some actors have managed to bring home nine-figure salaries from a single-acting gig. These films usually gross the highest ratings and the actors normally get nominated for various awards such as the Oscars.
10. Adam Sandler: $62.5 Million - The Ridiculous Six
Terry Crews, Luke Wilson, Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia and Rob Schneider, also appeared in this 2015 western comedy. According to Forbes, Adam Sandler inked a four-movie agreement with Netflix worth an estimated $250 million in 2017.
This equates to $62.5 million per film, and he was considered the highest paid actor of his time. The first film in the deal, The Ridiculous Six, received a 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the millions are a great consolation prize for the negative feedback.
9. Harrison Ford: $65 Million - Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
Harrison Ford was already semi-retired when he was approached to star in the fourth episode of the Indiana Jones film series released in 2008. The film studio practically made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
According to Forbes, Paramount agreed to split almost all the picture's earnings among Ford, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. This is after the studio recouped its production and advertising expenditures. This transaction increased Ford's wealth by $65 million.
8. Johnny Depp: $68 Million - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp made a fortune playing the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. He says that he didn't even have to work hard for it! According to a 24/7 Wall Street investigation, Johnny Depp only spoke 661 words in the picture, making him one of the highest-paid performers for talking the least.
7. Sandra Bullock: $70 Million - Gravity
Sandra Bullock signed a deal with Warner Bros. for her role as astronaut Ryan Stone in Gravity. It included a $20 million upfront payment, 15% of the studio's share of box office gross and 15% of the studio's share of film rental gross, and a percentage of TV. It also included ancillary revenue, according to The Hollywood Reporter. All of this amounted to a salary of at least $70 million.
6. Tom Cruise: $75 Million - Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Despite the fact that Mission: Impossible 3 was a (relative) box office flop, Tom Cruise was paid a lot of money to return to the franchise for the fourth chapter, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. According to Forbes. Cruise's profits from the film propelled him to the ninth highest-paid celebrity on Forbes' Celebrity 100 list in 2012.
5. Robert Downey Jr.: $75 Million - Avengers: Infinity War
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robert Downey Jr. “negotiated a unique compensation agreement with Marvel studio president Kevin Feige that resulted in large payouts for the actor over the years.”
Downey earns backside from all the Avengers films as part of his contract to play Iron Man. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he made at least $75 million on the 2018 film Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed more than $2 billion.
4. Keanu Reeves: $83 Million - The Matrix
Keanu Reeves has made approximately $250 million from the three Matrix films. This equates to approximately $83 million for each picture. Reeves was paid $15 million upfront for each film, plus a percentage of the profits.
3. Johnny Depp: $90 Million - Pirates of the Caribbean
According to Forbes, Disney paid Johnny Depp a stunning $90 million to star in each of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. With five films in the franchise, that amounts to a $450 million payday.
2. Will Smith: $100 Million - Men in Black 3
Will Smith was paid nine figures to dress up for the third instalment of the iconic Men in Black series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smith received $100 million from the film, which grossed $624 million at the box office.
1. Bruce Willis: $115 Million - The Sixth Sense
Bruce Willis can be said to be the highest paid actor of all time for his role as Dr. Malcolm Crowe. When he agreed to star in The Sixth Sense, the actor secured an unusually lucrative contract for himself.
In addition to a $20 million compensation, he negotiated 17% of the film's global box office earnings as well as additional rights to home videos. These calculations add up to a $115 million payoff for Willis from just a single film.
Highest Paid Actors 2021
Now let's discuss the highest paid actor of 2021. This year, British actor Daniel Craig is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, thanks to a stunning box office success that has sparked a global film obsession.
1. Daniel Craig: $100 Million
Rian Johnson's whodunnit, starring Craig as private detective Benoit Blanc, grossed big bucks for Lionsgate when it debuted in 2019 and earned Johnson an Oscar nomination for best screenwriting. Following the enormous success of Rian Johnson's Knives Out (2019), starring Daniel Craig, Netflix has apparently purchased the rights to the film and turned it into a franchise.
Knives Out 2 and Knives Out 3 are expected to be sequels to the film. According to estimates, Craig will walk away with more than $100 million when the films are finished, with the potential for even more if Netflix decides they want more sequels. This makes him the highest paid actor this year.
2. Dwayne Johnson: $50 Million
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is a constant A-lister when it comes to being the highest paid actor in 2020, but he's dropped to second place this year. He is undisputedly a very talented actor.
He has starred in the HBO series Ballers, for which he was paid $700,000 each episode, and the Jumanji franchises (for which he was paid $23 million upfront). Not to mention his portrayal of the demigod Maui in Moana.
He was also the highest paid actor in 2020 as reported by Forbes. Johnson is collaborating with Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw screenwriter Chris Morgan on a holiday-themed action-adventure film for Amazon, with a 2023 holiday premiere planned.
That's a nice raise from the $22 million he earned for Netflix's Red Notice, the action film in which he'll star alongside Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds.
3. Will Smith: $40 Million
Will Smith's new film named King Richard has generated Oscar speculation, but it's not the only boost for the actor. He has been one of the highest paid actor of all time.
His portrayal as Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena, earned him a whopping $40 million, placing him third among this year's highest-earning actors. It was released in theatres on November 19, with a concurrent month-long streaming release on HBO Max.
4. Denzel Washington: $40 Million
Denzel Washington is arguably the most consistent man in Hollywood, and he has the bank account to prove it. The two-time Academy Award winner, producer, and the director is bolstering his bank account with important assignments.
Washington's decades-long box-office clout, like Smith's, has resulted in him earning some sizable sums. This was also true of his 2021 performance as a troubled detective in The Little Things, which was released in theatres and simultaneously on HBO Max for a month.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio: $30 Million
Leonardo DiCaprio is another well-respected name in the industry. The actor will be back to his best in 2021 with DiCaprio and co-star Jennifer Lawrence are making a lot of money for the upcoming sci-fi film Don't Look Up.
The two take on the roles of astronomers attempting to warn the world that a comet is on its way to destroying the Earth. For the role, DiCaprio received one of his highest-paying roles to date. Thanks to a mix of signing money and back-end predictions, the leading man was able to earn a stunning $30 million.
6. Mark Wahlberg: $30 Million
Mark Wahlberg, who was born in Boston, began his Hollywood career as a rapper/singer. He's made a name for himself as a successful actor and producer. Wahlberg's 1995 rookie film The Basketball Diaries earned him only $60,000 at the box office.
Mark Wahlberg's Spenser Confidential was a surprise hit. The action/comedy was far from Oscar-worthy, but it was at the right place at the right time. With 85 million views in its first 28 days, his starring role in this action-comedy made it one of the most-watched original Netflix titles of all time.
7. Ryan Reynolds: $27 Million
Ryan Reynolds is a Vancouver-born Canadian actor, film producer, and screenwriter. He is now best known as the face of Deadpool, the Marvel superhero with a sense of humour.
Reynolds earned $27 million for Michael Bay's Netflix action film Six Underground, about six billionaires who become vigilantes. Other projects this year include Free Guy which made $2.2 million on its first opening night.
8. Jennifer Lawrence: $25 Million
The film Don't Look Up must have had a massive budget! Jennifer Lawrence earned $25 million in addition to her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio's $30 million compensation. Lawrence maintains her position as the highest-paid actress in 2021, continuing a string of good years in front of the camera.
9. Julia Roberts: $25 Million
Julia Roberts is expected to make a lot of money in the coming months after agreeing to star in the family drama Leave the World Behind.
The film, based on the upcoming Rumaan Alam novel, will premiere on Netflix and will also include the iconic Denzel Washington. Roberts plays the wife of the family who rented the house, while Washington plays the owner.
10. Sandra Bullock: $20 Million
Bullock's career has risen steadily since her breakout roles in Speed, While You Were Sleeping, and A Time to Kill in the 1990s, leading to top-billing roles in the 2000s 28 Days and Miss Congeniality. From 2002 to 2004, she was also the executive producer of the popular television series George Lopez.
We're not saying her latest film The Lost City of D is ridiculous, but it's probably not on our radar. Sandra Bullock's new film follows a reclusive romance novelist who becomes entangled in an abduction attempt while on a book tour with her cover model, landing them both in a vicious jungle.
Sure, it's not a blockbuster, but it earned Sandra Bullock $20 million and placed her tenth on the highest paid actor list of 2021.
11. Ryan Gosling: $20 Million
The Grey Man, which was first reported to be one of the most costly Netflix films ever produced, sees Ryan Gosling return to his sci-fi thriller best. The Blade Runner 2049 actor joined the Anthony and Joe Russo picture earlier this year, earning compensation of $20 million.
In this Netflix thriller, Gosling will play a CIA operative turned fugitive, with Chris Evans playing the CIA agent tasked with tracking him down. According to Deadline, it was the most expensive Netflix film ever as of July 2020, with an overall budget of more than $200 million.
12. Chris Hemsworth: $20 Million
Thor: Love and Thunder, Taika Waititi's follow-up to the blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok, is likely to be one of the year's biggest cinematic premieres. Understandably, actor Chris Hemsworth is asking for a large salary.
Although the amount was smaller than Avenger's co-star Robert Downey Jr.'s remuneration for Endgame, Hemsworth's $20 million salary is still enough to enter the list of top-earning actors in 2021.
13. Brad Pitt: $20 Million
Brad Pitt is set to join fellow A-lister Sandra Bullock in Bullet Train in 2021, which will add to his fortune. The Oscar winner joined the cast of the upcoming action thriller early this year and will lead an all-star cast on a frenetic trip.
14. Michael B. Jordan: $15 Million
Without Remorse was one of the most popular films on Amazon Prime Video, and it earned lead actor Michael B. Jordan a lot of money. Jordan got a stunning $15 million for his part as an elite Navy SEAL seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, according to Variety.
15. Tom Cruise: $13 Million
Cruise may be at the bottom of this list, but that's only because he works on blockbusters that are destined for theatres, and if they do well at the box office, he gets a cut of the profits.
According to reports, Cruise is one of the few actors who earns a living on both sides of the frame. Not only is Cruise expected to make a fortune through back-end box office sharing in the impending Top Gun: Maverick sequel, but he's also agreed to an initial payment plan.
16. Keanu Reeves: $12-$14 Million
While it isn't the $30 million he received for the original film, Keanu Reeves' Matrix Resurrections hasn't gone unnoticed. Everyone's favourite flawless actor is expected to earn between $12 and $14 million for his performance in the long-awaited sequel to the hit sci-fi franchise.
17. Chris Pine: $11.5 Million
With parts in Star Trek and Wonder Woman, you could be forgiven for believing that chiselled actor Chris Pine is an unwitting nerd. Whatever the case, Pine's bank account is brimming with cash, with the actor poised to earn $11.5 million for his role in the cinematic adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
18. Robert Pattinson: $3 Million
Although it was one of the most anticipated pictures of the decade, Robert Pattinson's The Batman has already delivered. According to Variety, Pattinson got $3 million for his portrayal as the anguished Bruce Wayne, which is a pittance compared to some of his A-list peers.
With box-office attendance expected to be significant, that figure could skyrocket once the superhero film is released. Pattinson starts off with a paycheque in the single digits in this latest look at The Dark Knight. If he continues to play the role, he is most likely to end up one of the highest paid actor of all time.