How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time

Gone were the days when theaters would get packed simply because a certain filmstar was associated with a movie. In today’s Netflix culture, the characters, the storyline, and the franchise matters much more than the leads. Due to this contemporary shift in movie culture, fat paychecks are a luxury that not many actors enjoy today.

But some well-known names still manage to pocket huge pays for certain iconic roles. Whether the credit goes to the franchise or their acting finesse, several million bucks certainly go to their bank accounts. Are you wondering who are the highest-paid actors of all time and what special roles they played? Find out in this interesting read.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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Harrison Ford in 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'

At the brink of retirement in 2008, Harrison Ford once again dusts off his famous fedora in the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series. The actor plays the role of the adventurous archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones who’s once again called into action in the backdrop of a Soviet plot.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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In a pre-production deal, the film distributor Paramount agreed to split the film's profits after recovering the production and promotional costs between the actor, the director, and the producer.

Thus, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ford ended up making quite a fortune from the movie. Reportedly, this movie was the most financially successful Indiana Jones movie, which made Ford about $65 million richer. Now that’s what we call a solid retirement plan!


Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense”

Bruce Willis was the cynosure for the American psychological thriller ‘The Sixth Sense,’ and his name contributed significantly to its success. The film earned a whopping $672.8 million on the box office worldwide. Bruce played the role of a child psychologist (eventually, a ghost) in the movie.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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But what’s more brow-raising about the role is the $115 million paycheck it earned Bruce. Although the actor’s actual salary was $20 million, he also negotiated an additional 17% cut in the global box office earnings.

Wait, did you think that’s a lot? Bruce also bagged the additional rights to the home video sales of the movie. That’s how his earnings added up to the huge sum for a single movie.


Emma Stone as Mia in “La La Land”

This dreamy memoir to Hollywood life couldn’t have been any less of a dream for any actor, seeing the fat paycheck Emma Stone got for the movie.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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She plays Mia, a struggling actress and huge musical fanatic trying to make it in Hollywood. The role earned Emma a good $26 million which also landed her on Forbe’s list of the world’s highest-paid actresses in 2016.

Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in 'Alice in Wonderland

Depp played the role of infamous ‘Mad Hatter’ in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010 and its sequel in 2016. However, the original movie proved to be more profitable for the actor in terms of earnings. The Mad Hatter is the cranky mayor of Wonderland who leads the resistance against Iracebeth in the movie.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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According to 24/7 Wallstreet, the actor spoke just 661 words in the entire movie, but his name still had a huge impact on the earnings. As per The Telegraph, the Pirates of the Caribbean fame actor earned about $68 million from the movie.

The amount seems fair when we look at the huge collection the film made at the box office, closing at $334 million.

Also Read: Here's Some of the Roles that Big Actors Regret Doing

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in “Gravity”

A sci-fi marvel directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity kept us all on the edge of our seats right till the credits rolled. Credits go to the applaud-worthy cinematography, but more so to the gripping act that Sandra Bullock graced the camera with.

Sandra plays the brave astronaut Ryan Stone in the film who gets stranded in space without a spaceship and her way back home. The actress got a well-deserved deal with Warner Bros for this movie. Along with a $20 million base fee, Sandra got 15% off Warner Bros’ share in the box office gross and film rental gross.

Apart from that, Bullock also got some percentage of the film's ancillary and TV revenue as per The Hollywood Reporter. It’s not surprising that all the amount added up to $70 million. This role made Sandra one of the few highest-paid actresses in the entire world.

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception”

For Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio struck one of Hollywood's rarest movie deals. In this movie, Leo plays a thief who steals corporate and political secrets from influential people by infiltrating their dreams.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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If we go by the Sources, the actor got himself a rare ‘First-Gross Dollar’ deal for the movie. In regular backend deals, actors get profit shares after a movie has reached its break-even. But in the “First Gross Dollar” arrangement, Leo would get a cut in each ticket sold regardless of whether the film crosses break even.

This type of deal is not common in Hollywood, even for the biggest stars. It earned Leonardo at least a hefty $50 million from this single act. The movie made a good $828 million worldwide, so it seems like a fair share.

Robert Downey Jr. as ‘Iron Man’ in “The Avengers”

No doubt that Avengers is the most loved franchise of all time that works a charm without being heavily dependent on a single lead. But the Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. also has quite an individual fanbase.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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RDJ’s popularity and contribution to the Avengers series are so substantial that he could strike a surprising back-end deal with Marvel Studios. Reportedly, the actor receives a cut in all of the Avengers movies for portraying Iron Man.

Sources claim that RDJ made roughly $75 million “Avengers: Infinity War.” The figure is not that surprising when you see the massive box office gross of $2 billion. RDJ has a long-term contract with the studio, so his earnings in the next few films are likely to be bigger.

Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump in "Forrest Gump"

The 1994 American rom-com Forrest Gump still manages to make the audience swoon with its feel-good aesthetics. It’s also one of the most successful movies Tom Hanks has played the lead in.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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In this eponymous film, Tom plays the role of Forrest Gump, a slow-witted man who recounts the early decades of his life in the midst of historical settings. The film became the fastest grossing Paramount film and surpassed $250 million within 66 days. In total, the movie went on to make $1 billion worldwide, thus leading to a huge success.

Tom Hanks also paid his due for the film in the form of shares in the profit. Sources claim that the actor made a good $62.5 million for starring in the film. The movie continues to generate significant revenue from streaming service Netflix.

Tom Cruise as Ethan in "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol"

The third installment of the Mission: Impossible series was a disappointment for box office numbers. However, Paramount still intended on doing a fourth installment, for which the MI star Tom Cruise was called back. And the latter made quite a fortune out of the movie because of the weight his name carried.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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Tom returns as the IMF agent Ethan Hunt on a mission to clear his organization's name off a terrorist attack accusation by catching real culprits. Reportedly, the actor made was paid a huge sum of $75 million for his role in the movie.

It’s almost half of the budget of the film, which shows just how dependent the franchise was on Tom Cruise.

Will Smith as Agent J in "Men in Black 3"

Danny Elfman’s American sci-fi action-comedy Men in Black 3 has a huge fanbase around the world. Part of the credit goes to the Hitch star Will Smith who graced the movie's first three installments.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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As the sources told The Hollywood Reporter, Smith was paid a hefty sum of $100 million for the movie. MIB 3 sees the return of Agent J (played by Smith), who travels back in time to save his friend Agent K from assassination at the hands of an alien.

The third MIB installment was a big success on the box office, grossing at $624 million.

Keanu Reeves as Neo in "The Matrix" trilogy

Keanu Reeves is inarguably one of the most loved movie stars of our time. The John Wick fame actor became popular after his role in the iconic sci-fi action film “Matrix.” Matrix made us question everything ‘real,’ except for one thing- Keanu’s paycheck for the trilogy.

How these Actors Got the Highest Paying Movie Roles of All Time
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According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor earned a total sum of $250 million for the three ‘Matrix’ movies. It amounts to an average of about $83 million for each movie.

Reeves plays a computer hacker Neo in the movie who discovers some shocking truth about the world we deem real. The actor got a base pay of $15 million for each film and an additional cut in the box office's gross earnings.


Movie fandoms are not going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are the huge paychecks that actors milk out of 2-hour screentime. Whether from the on-spot ticket sales or some backend deals, big bucks roll in for iconic movie roles. The figures are likely to increase in the coming years as the entertainment industry expands.

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