A List Actors & Their Biggest Paydays


Jim Carrey and Julia Roberts broke down doors when it came to actors earning the big bucks for movie projects, but ever since Carrey earned $20 million for The Cable Guy in ’95 and Roberts earned $20 million for Erin Brockovich in ’99, the salaries of major actors have only gotten bigger and better.

In this article we take a look at the biggest salaries ever received for movies.

And it’s not the greatest news if you’re a woman.

Keanu Reeves

Movie: The Matrix: Reloaded / The Matrix: Revolutions

Salary: $256 Million Dollars

It’s often claimed Keanu Reeves took home around $150 million for the final two movies in The Matrix trilogy, but a source tells us that it was almost a hundred million more than that with Reeves getting $15 million per movie and an additional 15% of the total gross. Reeves allegedly donated a huge chunk of his total takings, which makes him an ageless vampire and a philanthropist.

Bruce Willis

Movie: The Sixth Sense

Salary: $100 Million Dollars

Loving the M. Night Shyamalan script, Willis took a huge pay cut to star in the iconic thriller, agreeing a salary of $10 million (down from his usual 20) and a share in the gross, which evidently is how you make the big money as a Hollywood actor. The gamble paid off and Willis received almost exactly $100 million dollars when all was done.

Tom Cruise

Movie: War of the Worlds

Salary: $100 Million Dollars

Tom Cruise is one of the most successful actors in the world in part due to the lucrative Mission: Impossible franchise, but it was actually thanks to his decision not to take any salary for Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War of the Worlds and just a percentage of the gross, that saw the actor earn his biggest payday of a stunning $100 million dollars.

Mission: Impossible 2 & 3 come close, however, with Cruise receiving a mouth-watering $75 million to star in each.

Will Smith

Movie: Men In Black 3

Salary: $100 Million Dollars

The only black actor on our list, Will Smith, on a lukewarm run at the box office, signed up for the third instalment of Men In Black for a reported $20 million dollars and a stake in the home video earnings as well as a percentage of the gross. End result? $100 million dollars. It wasn’t all good, though. MIB3’s production was so notoriously bad and the gross disappointing for the studio that a sequel is unlikely to ever happen.

Sandra Bullock

Movie: Gravity

Salary: $70 Million Dollars +

One of only two women to make the list, Sandra Bullock made one of the best deals in Hollywood history, signing up for the science-fiction disaster film Gravity for a huge lump sump payment of $20 million dollars and 15% of the gross of the movie. That resulted in Sandy walking away with her biggest payday for a movie ever with $70 million dollars.

And that figure doesn’t include the share of the DVDs and TV revenues Bullock apparently also received a share in.

Harrison Ford

Movie: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Salary: $65 Million Dollars

Forbes claim Paramount agreed to split most of the profits between Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford, which results in the latter making a nice $65 million off his last outing as the adventurer.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Movie: Inception

Salary: $59 Million

Vanity Fair claims DiCaprio bypassed a salary and just took points in Christopher Nolan’s convoluted blockbuster. Another smart decision by a smart actor who was $59 million dollars richer by the end of it.

Jack Nicholson

Movie: Batman

Salary: $56 Million Dollars

You would think Jack’s biggest payday might be something like Anger Management or As Good As It Gets, but after agreeing to a pay cut of $6 million dollars (down from 10) and  a share of the gross (damn smart), Nicholson earned more than anyone else in the movie, including the titular actor and director Tim Burton. That $56 million remains the biggest payday for Jack and also a superhero film.

Johnny Depp

Movie: Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides

Salary: $55 Million Dollars

With Orlando Bloom and Keira Kightley departing the franchise, Disney resorted to paying Johnny Depp an upfront $35 million dollars to star in the fourth instalment of the pirates franchise, as well as agreeing a small percentage of the gross.

Robert Downey Jr.

Movie: The Avengers

Salary: $55 Million Dollars

Not only did Robert Downey Jr. get above the title and top billing, Downey also earned more than everybody in the superhero ensemble combined with an insane $50 million payday for the Joss Whedon movie. Not bad for an actor once on the lowest rung of Hollywood.

Cameron Diaz

Movie: Bad Teacher

Salary: $42 Million Dollars

It was Diaz’s last hit movie before her abrupt retirement and like Bullock, Diaz signed up for a salary and a big share in the overall gross. The Mask actress received $1 million upfront and ended up walking home with $42 million when the movie grossed over $200 million at the box office. Not bad for a movie that the critics hated.

Tom Hanks

Movie: Forest Gump

Salary: $40 Million Dollars

During one of the greatest and most successful runs of any actor ever, Hanks parlayed that into a starring role in the now iconic Forest Gump and – like director Robert Zemeckis – instead of taking a salary took profit participation. The director and star both made $40 million dollars.

The author of the book, however, only received a small upfront salary and his percentage points in the movie resulting in nothing as the studio claimed. See: Hollywood Accounting.


14 thoughts on “A List Actors & Their Biggest Paydays

  1. Dang. We live in a world where Cameron Diaz made more off of Bad Teacher than Tom Hanks did off of Forrest Gump. That’s really something.


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