Some of history’s top-grossing actors ground out big returns slowly over the course of long careers. Others scored huge hits with recurring roles in franchises early on. Regardless, the actors and actresses who bring home the big bucks are all but guaranteed fame and fortune in return.
Last updated: Oct. 22, 2020
50. Christoper Lee
The late Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee starred in a number of blockbuster franchise films including “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” His films have grossed a total of $3.4 billion over the course of his lifetime.
49. Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson sneaks into the top 40 with a box-office total of $3.4 billion. After more than two decades in the business, his 40-plus films boast average showings of $69 million.
48. Robert De Niro
After more than 40 years and more than 80 films that include “The Godfather,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas,” Robert De Niro can claim a lifetime box-office gross of $3.43 billion.
47. Robbie Coltrane
Comedian Robbie Coltrane might be best known as Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” films, but he also starred in two James Bond movies. His movies have grossed an average of $84 million each for a lifetime total of $3.46 billion at the domestic box office.
46. Lupita Nyong'o
As one of the stars of “Black Panther” — which is one of the top-grossing films of all time with a lifetime gross of $1.35 billion worldwide — it should be no surprise that Lupita Nyong’o made it onto this ranking. Her films have grossed a total of $3.47 billion.
45. James Earl Jones
A star of both the stage and screen, James Earl Jones has starred in a number of notable films that have brought his lifetime box-office gross to $3.48 billion. Among his acting credits are the movies “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Lion King,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.”
44. Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd’s films have grossed $3.48 billion, with his average gross per film at nearly $76 million. He has over 120 acting credits and has starred in such hits as “Ant-Man,” “I Love You Man” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
43. Stellan Skarsgard
Although his top box-office hits include critical darlings and nine-digit powerhouses like “Good Will Hunting” and “Angels & Demons,” Stellan Skarsgard’s biggest films come from the “Avengers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises. In all, his movies have grossed $3.48 billion.
42. Robin Williams
The late Robin Williams claims box-office receipts of $3.51 billion thanks to blockbusters like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” the “Night at the Museum” franchise and voice work for animated films like “Aladdin” and “Happy Feet.”
41. Michael Caine
Although over 170 acting roles dot Michael Caine’s long and prestigious resume, much of his $3.54 billion total box-office gross can be attributed to the “Batman” trilogy, along with nine-digit showings from films like “Inception,” “Cars 2” and “Interstellar.”
40. Alan Rickman
Acting great Alan Rickman, who died in 2016, racked up a total box-office gross of $3.55 billion in his lifetime. His memorable films include “Die Hard,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” and “Galaxy Quest.”
39. Jeremy Renner
Although Jeremy Renner has earned critical acclaim for roles in “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town,” franchise films are his bread and butter. Much of Renner’s $3.58 billion domestic gross comes from parts in series like “The Avengers,” “Captain America” and “Mission: Impossible.”
38. Bruce Willis
With $3.6 billion in domestic box-office earnings, Bruce Willis counts an ’80s movie — “Look Who’s Talking” — and two ’90s movies — “Armageddon” and “The Sixth Sense” — among his highest-grossing movies. The iconic “Die Hard” series, the blockbuster “Expendables” franchise and critical favorites like “Pulp Fiction” only sweeten the pot — and his net worth.
37. Eddie Murphy
Few actors have had a better or longer run than funnyman Eddie Murphy, whose films average nearly $99 million each for a total of $3.76 billion. His high-grossing films include early hits, like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Coming to America,” groundbreaking ’90s performances in “Dr. Dolittle” and “The Nutty Professor,” and voice work for the blockbuster “Shrek” franchise.
36. Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen movies have earned a total of $3.82 billion ? thanks in part to the success of 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which boasts a lifetime worldwide gross of $1.26 billion. He also has landed unforgettable roles in the “Lord of the Rings,” “Hobbit” and “X-Men” franchises, giving him a stunning $89 million per-film average.
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35. Anthony Mackie
The “Avengers” and “Captain America” franchises have catapulted Anthony Mackie to become one of the top-grossing actors of all time. His movies have earned an average of $89 million a pop in box offices for a total of $3.9 billion domestically.
34. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson’s role in “The Hunger Games” franchise has added to the tally of his highest-earning films. From “No Country for Old Men” and “Natural Born Killers” to “White Men Can’t Jump” and “The Thin Red Line,” Harrelson claims a long string of successful films that have brought his total box-office earnings to $3.96 billion.
33. Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo has starred in two of the top five highest-grossing films of all time: “Avengers: Endgame,” which is the No. 1 highest-grossing film with nearly $2.8 billion in worldwide box-office earnings, and “Avengers: Infinity War,” which is the No. 5 highest-grossing film with $2.05 billion in worldwide box-office earnings. All in all, his domestic box-office gross totals $3.97 billion.
32. Will Smith
Will Smith can be relied on for an impressive $126 million average box-office gross thanks to blockbusters like “Independence Day,” “Men in Black,” “I Am Legend” and “Aladdin” — all of which grossed more than $200 million. In total, his 32 movies are responsible for $4.02 billion in box-office receipts.
31. J.K. Simmons
J.K. Simmons has starred in a healthy mix of indie and big-budget films, with notable roles in “Whiplash,” “Juno,” “La La Land” and the “Spider-Man” franchise. His film “Spider-Man: Far From Home” boasts a worldwide box-office gross of $1.13 billion, and in total, his films have grossed $4.04 billion domestically.
30. Hugo Weaving
Starring in “The Lord of the Rings” films has helped place Hugo Weaving on this ranking. His 32 films have grossed an average of $128 million each, for a total gross of $4.09 billion.
29. Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett owes the lion’s share of her $4.11 billion resume to the “Lord of the Rings,” “Hobbit” and “Thor” films, which have all been major moneymakers. She also claims a handful of nonfranchise films that grossed nine figures each.
28. Matt Damon
Matt Damon’s top-grossing movies represent three decades of the versatile actor’s work, including “Good Will Hunting” and “Saving Private Ryan” in the 1990s, the “Bourne” franchise in the 2000s and “The Martian” in the 2010s — all of which posted nine-digit box-office receipts. In all, his efforts have earned $4.12 billion.
27. Dwayne Johnson
The man known as “The Rock” averages nine figures per film ? over $118 million each, which isn?t bad for a crossover actor who?s a wrestler by trade. Thanks to the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, as well as blockbusters like “Moana” and “San Andreas,” Dwayne Johnson’s movies have earned $4.14 billion.
26. Benedict Cumberbatch
Although he’s starred in plenty of Oscar fodder — “1917,” “The Imitation Game,” “August: Osage County,” etc. — Benedict Cumberbatch hasn’t shied away from big-budget blockbusters too. As Doctor Strange in the “Avengers” films, he’s helped to rack up big money in the box office. His movies have grossed a total of $4.14 billion in the U.S. and Canada.
25. Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman’s $4.2 billion box-office haul is impressive, even for a veteran actor with 50 films under his belt.
24. Paul Bettany
Voicing JARVIS in the original “Iron Man” film turned out to be a lucrative role for Paul Bettany. He reprised the voice role for “Iron Man 2,” “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers”– all of which earned over a half-billion dollars at the worldwide box office. His movies have grossed a total of $4.27 billion domestically.
23. Frank Oz
You might not recognize Frank Oz’s face but you probably recognize his voice. He’s voiced a number of Muppets, including Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy, and he has voiced Yoda in some of the “Star Wars” movies. His highest-earning movie, “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” grossed $1.33 billion worldwide. Overall, his films have brought in $4.28 billion at the domestic box office.
22. Johnny Depp
A longtime fan favorite, Johnny Depp has been a reliable hitmaker since he first appeared in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” in 1984. The biggest source of his $4.3 billion box-office total, however, comes from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and “Alice in Wonderland,” which are among the top-grossing films of all time.
21. Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle’s most critically acclaimed works — including “Hotel Rwanda,” “Boogie Nights” and “Crash” — earned low- to mid-eight-figure box-office receipts. But his movies have brought in $4.33 billion in total.
If you’re wondering how that’s possible, note that Cheadle starred in three movies that pulled in more than $400 million each domestically — “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” — between the years 2015 and 2019.
20. Idris Elba
Idris Elba’s movies have earned $4.38 billion. As it stands, his biggest movie is “Avengers: Infinity War” — which earned $2.05 billion worldwide and $679 million domestically — though “The Jungle Book (2016)” and “Zootopia” are no slouches, either.
19. Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci has credits dating back to the 1980s, but his roles in modern mega-franchises are the source of most of his $4.39 billion box-office total. He struck gold in the “Transformers,” “The Hunger Games” and Marvel Cinematic Universe series, as well as 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
18. Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks’ movies have earned nearly $4.44 billion. Thanks to “The Hunger Games” franchise and several other blockbusters, her films score an average of $91 million apiece.
17. Tom Cruise
For the last few decades, Tom Cruise has been one of Hollywood’s hit machines, with classics like “Top Gun,” “A Few Good Men” and “Rain Man” among his starring roles. The biggest source of his $4.45 billion total haul and $101 million per-movie average, however, is the incredible success of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.
16. Chris Pratt
Chris Pratt has starred in three of the top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time: “Avengers: Endgame,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Jurassic World.” With an average gross of $171 million per movie, Pratt’s films have grossed a total of $4.45 billion.
15. Chris Hemsworth
“The Avengers” and its spin-off “Thor” franchises have made Australian actor Chris Hemsworth one of the highest-grossing movie stars of all time. His films have brought in a total of $4.51 billion at the domestic box office.
14. Chris Evans
It pays to be Captain America. Thanks to Chris Evans’ blockbuster movie role, he’s grossed an average of $153 million per film for a domestic box-office total gross of nearly $4.58 billion.
13. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel’s biggest movies include the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Fast and the Furious” franchises. In total, the action star’s movies have grossed nearly $4.59 billion.
12. Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana had a starring role in “Avatar,” the second-biggest movie of all time. That, along with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, helped her over 30-strong film resume gross almost $4.6 billion.
11. Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson’s more than six dozen movies have hauled in roughly $4.72 billion. Although several of his movies didn’t break six figures, Neeson’s roles in the “Star Wars” films balance the scales in the actor’s favor.
10. Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwenyth Paltrow gained fame in the ’90s with films that included “Emma,” “Sliding Doors” and “Shakespeare in Love,” but it’s the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” films that have added the most to her net worth. Her role as Pepper Potts in the highly successful franchises has allowed her to claim a total gross of $4.47 billion at the domestic box office.
9. Bradley Cooper
A quirky breakout role in 2005’s “Wedding Crashers” launched Bradley Cooper into a decade-plus run that included critical and commercial smashes like “The Hangover” movies, “American Sniper,” “American Hustle” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise. In all, his movies have brought home nearly $4.93 billion, with an impressive average of more than $140 million per film. No wonder his net worth is sky-high these days.
8. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman’s legendary resume includes critically acclaimed titles like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Lean on Me.” His $5.13 billion box-office total, however, has a lot to do with his role in the franchise blockbuster “Dark Knight” and its sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
7. Harrison Ford
Many of the actors on this list with a nine-figure average per movie have a relatively short resume — but not Harrison Ford. He boasts $108 million per film for a total of $5.4 billion, thanks to a nearly unprecedented run that includes the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, as well as critical and commercial hits like “The Fugitive,” “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Games.”
6. Scarlett Johansson
The silver screen’s Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson has a long, impressive resume dating back more than two decades. Her $5.4 billion in box-office receipts, however, has largely been accumulated over the last few years. Her roles in “The Jungle Book,” “Sing” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise earned more than $200 million each.
5. Anthony Daniels
Although his resume lists just 15 films, Anthony Daniels claims $5.57 billion in total box-office dollars and a staggering per-film average of $371 million. Why? Because of his 15 movies, most of them contain the words “Star Wars.”
4. Tom Hanks
Arguably the most versatile actor in history, Tom Hanks evolved from silly and lighthearted fare like “Splash” and “The Money Pit” to iconic game-changers like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Cast Away.” His $5.57 billion cumulative box-office earnings — as well as his multimillion-dollar net worth — have been boosted by the success of animated series like “Toy Story,” but also come from critical darlings like “Forrest Gump.”
3. Andy Serkis
Andy Serkis lays claim to a portfolio of films that has earned $5.68 billion. The “Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Star Wars” franchises have done the bulk of the heavy lifting for Serkis, whose films average an imposing $189 million each.
2. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. broke out with ’80s cult classics like “Less Than Zero” and “Weird Science” — but his massive $5.97 billion box-office returns can largely be credited to his career’s second act. His role as Iron Man, as well as the success of the “Sherlock Holmes” franchise, make him one of history’s highest-grossing actors — as well as one of the richest.
1. Samuel L. Jackson
Although he is not the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson — whose 112-film-strong resume includes “Pulp Fiction” and “A Time to Kill” — is the only actor who can claim gross receipts greater than $10 billion thanks to his roles in film franchises that include “The Avengers” and “Star Wars.”
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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.
All data was gathered from domestic box-office information published by IMDBPro and is accurate as of April 14, 2020.