We all know actors make loads of money for their hard work, especially those that are lucky enough to star in summer blockbuster movies. But even if your estimates are way up there, you will still be blown away by just how much money the top 12 highest paid actors of all time made for their roles in cult movies!
(Small caveat: this list considers the highest payment for a single movie and does not account for how much actors in the 60-80s made when accounted for inflation.)
Keanu Reeves holds the record for the highest one-time payment for a single movie. For his depiction of Neo in the Matrix Reloaded, Keanu made a whooping $126,000,000. That is (by far) the highest paycheck an actor has ever received from a single movie. However, it’s common knowledge that Keanu Reeves is Hollywood’s altruist and good guy. He gave away nearly $80 million of his paycheck to pay the costume designers and CGI specialist on the set because he believed that the movie’s success was as much due to their hard work than his (if not more). Furthermore, after the trilogy was over, he bought every member of the stunt crew a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
So, not only is Keanu the highest-paid actor, he also seems to be the nicest.
Will Smith was paid $100 million for his role in the third Men in Black movie. That’s 1/6th of the movies gross profit! Back in those days, Will Smith was at the absolute peak of his career. He had cult classics like Fresh Prince, Independence Day, Pursuit of Happiness, and Hitch under his belt. Men in Black 3 is (arguably) the move that marked a pivot in his acting career trajectory, but it didn’t stop him from getting paid and being the second highest-paid actor in Hollywood.
Robert Downey Jr
You knew he was going to be on this list. Robert Downey Jr is a personal favorite of mine, and I’ll never stop gushing about how he’s the absolute best actor to be chosen for the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man and Avengers. So, not only was he the first actor to play an Avenger in a movie, he’s also the highest paid! For his role in Infinity War he made a whooping $75,000,000!
Fun fact: RDJ made $15m for his work on Spider-Man: Homecoming, which means he made $5m every day he had to work on the set of that movie. Not bad. How do I get that job?
Johnny Depp made $55m for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. His cult depiction of Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow) was the foundation for the success of the Pirates series of movies. However, both fans and critics alike consider it to be one of the worst movies in the series.
The movie’s production budget was over $410 million, and a large portion of this was just for paying staff and actors. And, I guess, an eight of that cost was just Mr. Johnny Depp.
Tom Hanks made $40 million for his Oscar-winning role of Forrest Gump. Considering the post-release profits of the movie, this role brought Tom Hanks over $70 million. Tom Hanks was quite popular before Forest, but after this movie his career skyrocketed! He played in several cult romantic comedies (You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless In Seattle), stared in Toy Story, and some film classics like Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile.
There’s a lot to be said about how Robert Downey Jris Tony Stark, but that doesn’t compare to the way Tom Cruise is Ethan Hunt. While I can see somebody someday replacing RDJ as Tony, as soon as Tom Cruise is out of the Mission Impossible series, the series will come to an end. In fact it could be argued that the character of Ethan Hunt is based on Tom Cruise’s personality. Anyway, Mr. Cruise made $28 million for his last Mission Impossible movie, a $3 million raise from his role in the previous installment.
Matt Damon made $25 million for his role in the hit movie The Martian. While it’s the peak of his career money-wise, it’s by far not his best role. Remember, Matt Damon played Jason Bourne (arguably a better spy than James Bond), he acted in the cult classic Good Will Hunting, and he’s won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for his movie Argo!
It says a lot that of 12 people on this list of highest-paid actors there is only one actress. The disparity in paychecks for acting roles is staggering. Sandra Bullock is the only woman on this list with $20 million for her role Dr. Ryan Stone in Gravity. Her deal also included 15% of the box office revenue, which meant that her total payment for this movie was around $70 million.
Another Avenger! Can you believe that when Chris Hemsworth was first cast as Thor people called him a “nobody” and questioned Marvel’s casting choice? Where are those people now that Chris Hemsworth is making $15m and $20m for Infinity War and Endgame respectively?!
Even though he was the First Avenger, he’s not the Highest Paid Avenger. Like Christ Hemsworth, Captain America here also made $15 and $20m for his role in Infinity War and Endgame.
I am, honestly, surprised that Harrison Ford is not higher up on this list. Other than, say, Keanu Reeves, I can’t think of another actor that has been the star of so many different blockbuster movies. He’s Han Solo, he’s Indiana Jones, he’s Deckard from Blade Runner! And yet, he’s 11th on this list with his paycheck of $15,000,000 for his role in the last Star Wars movie.
Bruce Willis made $14 million for his role in the famous movie The Sixth Sense. Again, I’m very surprised to find that his highest-paying role is this mysterious movie with a mind-blowing twist and not, say, his role in Die Hard.