Top 29 Highest-Paid Movie Roles Ever

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Leonardo DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” AppleTV+
  • Many actors no longer receive the same payment as before, but a few are still able to secure massive contracts.
  • and Apple, along with other streaming and tech companies, spend millions of dollars.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio allegedly received a payment of $30 million for his role in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Actors don't make as much money nowadays as they used to when people would go see a movie mainly because of the main actor.

In the past, if a particular actor's name was linked to a , it practically ensured its triumph. During the 1990s, Will , Tom Cruise, and Jim Carrey received enormous paychecks due to their ability to draw in audiences.

For example, Carrey received a rare payment of $20 million in 1996 for his role in “The Cable Guy”. This was because it was anticipated that he would attract a large audience during the opening weekend.

Nowadays, franchises hold more appeal for audiences than individual stars. Take the Cinematic Universe, for example, which has been incredibly successful at the box office over the past decade. It's worth mentioning that Robert Downey Jr., who portrayed Iron , also benefited greatly from these films.

However, there are still a few actors who have the power and influence to negotiate massive contracts, especially Smith, Cruise, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Streaming services like Netflix and Apple are not hesitant to spend millions of dollars, which has become evident with the increasing popularity of these platforms. Actors in streaming movies often receive substantial paychecks due to a streaming back-end buyout, which compensates for potential losses at the box office.

Insider listed the -earning movie roles in history, with actors making over $25 million. Smith, DiCaprio, Cruise, and Tom Hanks are among those who made the list more than once.

29. Emma Stone in “La La Land”

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Emma Stone as Mia in “La La Land” Summit Entertainment

$26 million

Source: Forbes

Stone was the highest-paid actress in 2017, earning $26 million mainly from her award-winning performance in “La La Land.”

28. Ryan Reynolds in “Six Underground”

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Ryan Reynolds as One/Magnet S. Johnson. Christian Black/Netflix

$27 million

Source: Variety

Reynolds earned $27 million for starring in the Netflix action film directed by Michael Bay, which revolves around six billionaires transforming into vigilantes.

27. Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. Warner Bros.

$29 million

Source: Slate

Schwarzenegger made a promise to return for a third Terminator film, but with certain conditions. One of these conditions was a “pay or play” fee of $29.25 million, which he would still receive even if the movie didn't end up being made.

26. Brad Pitt in an untitled “Formula One” movie

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Brad Pitt. Gregg DeGuire /

$30 million

Source: Variety

Variety stated that Pitt got a large sum of money from Apple for his role as a former Formula 1 driver making a comeback in .

25. Leonardo DiCaprio in “Don't Look Up.”

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Randall Mindy. Netflix

$30 million 

Source: Variety

DiCaprio was paid $30 million for his part in the -studded film “Don't Look Up” by Netflix and director Adam McKay. The movie also includes a streaming back-end buyout.

24. Mark Wahlberg as Spenser in “Spenser Confidential”

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Mark Wahlberg as Spenser. Netflix

$30 million 

Source: Variety

Wahlberg was paid $30 million for starring in Netflix's action comedy “Spenser Confidential.” The movie became one of Netflix's most popular films, with 85 million households watching it within the first month of its release. Netflix considers a view if an account watches at least two minutes of the movie.

23. Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon”

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart. Apple TV+

$30 million 

SourceVariety

DiCaprio is set to receive a hefty sum of money for his role in Martin Scorsese's newest movie. In this film, he portrays a character who conspires with his uncle to steal his wife's family wealth by eliminating each member through murder.

22. Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”

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Jim Carrey as Carl Allen. Warner Movies On Demand/Youtube

$30 million

Source: Forbes

Carrey allegedly swapped his salary for “Yes Man” with a share in the film, and it turned out to be a profitable decision.

21. Will Smith in “Emancipation”

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Will Smith as Peter. Apple

$35 million

SourceVariety

Apple is proving that it has no fear in spending millions of dollars on actors who star in its films. They recently paid $35 million to Smith for his role in the drama “Emancipation.”

20. Will Smith in “King Richard”

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Will Smith in “King Richard.” Warner Bros.

$40 million 

Source: Variety

Smith got $40 million for playing Richard Williams in a movie about Venus and Serena Williams. He also gets a bonus if the movie does well in theaters and on HBO Max.

19. Denzel Washington in “The Little Things”

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Denzel Washington as Joe Deacon. Warner Bros.

$40 million 

Source: Variety

Washington secured a $40 million deal for “The Little Things” after receiving a back-end payment when the film was released on HBO Max simultaneously with its theatrical debut.

18. Tom Hanks in “Saving Private Ryan”

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Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller. Paramount Pictures

$40 million

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Hanks made agreements to be paid after acting in movies, receiving a share of the box-office profits. He earned over $40 million for “Saving Private Ryan,” but it wasn't his most profitable deal.

17. Cameron Diaz in “Bad Teacher”

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Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth Halsey ‘Bad Teacher'/Sony Pictures

$42 million

Source: Yahoo Finance

Diaz received $1 million upfront for “Bad Teacher,” but ended up making over $40 million from the movie due to a share of the box-office profits. This deal is considered one of the most iconic in Hollywood.

16. Margot Robbie in “Barbie”

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Margot Robbie as Barbie. Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

$50 million 

Source: Variety

Robbie earned $12.5 million for her leading role in the popular movie of 2023. However, with her producer credit and box-office bonuses, her total earnings reached around $50 million, as reported by Variety.

15. Dwayne Johnson in “Red One”

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Dwayne Johnson. Axelle Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

$50 million 

Source: Variety

Amazon Studios emerged victorious in a fierce bidding war for the upcoming holiday action film “Red One,” securing it by paying Johnson a staggering $50 million. As part of the deal, Johnson will also receive a substantial sum from the movie's streaming revenue.

14. Daniel Craig in the “Knives Out” sequels

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Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc. Lionsgate

$100 million ($50 million per movie)

SourceThe Hollywood Reporter

Netflix secured the rights to produce two follow-up movies to “Knives Out” for $469 million, with actor Daniel Craig potentially making over $100 million for his role in the sequels, as reported by THR.

The initial installment of “Knives Out,” distributed by Lionsgate, achieved great success at the box office, earning over $300 million globally from a budget of $40 million.

13. Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception”

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb. Warner Bros

$50 million

Source: Forbes

DiCaprio made over $50 million from the box office for “Inception” in 2010. He also earned money from home video and TV sales. Forbes reported that he took a lower salary due to the movie being risky, but he and Nolan shared first dollar gross points.

12. Jack Nicholson in “Batman”

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Jack Nicholson as The Joker. AP Photo / Warner Bros.

$50 million

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Despite receiving an initial payment of $6 million for his portrayal of the villainous Joker in the 1989 “Batman” movie, Nicholson allegedly negotiated a profitable agreement that involved a share of the box-office profits and merchandise sales from its subsequent films, even though he did not make an appearance in them.

11. Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

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Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. 

$55 million

Source: Forbes

In 2010, Forbes stated that the movie “On Stranger Tides,” which was released in 2011 as the fourth installment of the “Pirates” series, was one of the most costly films ever produced. The production expenses exceeded $410 million, with a significant portion allocated to staff and actor payments. Notably, Johnny Depp earned a staggering $55 million for his role in the movie.

In 2011, Depp confessed to being paid too much for the “Pirates” films, earning a total of over $300 million.

10. Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”

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Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. Paramount

$60 million

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Tom Hanks chose to receive performance-based pay for the successful movie “Forrest Gump,” earning around $60 million.

9. Adam Sandler in his Netflix movies

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Adam Sandler in “Murder Mystery.” Netflix

$250 million for four movies ($62.5 million per movie)

Source: Forbes

In 2014, Sandler made an agreement with Netflix for four movies, each valued at $62.5 million, totaling $250 million. Forbes reported that the deal was renewed in 2017 and 2020.

8. Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

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Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Paramount via YouTube screengrab

$65 million

Source: Forbes

Paramount made a deal to share the profits of the fourth “Indiana Jones” movie with Ford, Spielberg, and Lucas.

7. Johnny Depp in “Alice in Wonderland”

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Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter. Disney via YouTube

$68 million

Source: The Telegraph

The Telegraph reported that Depp made 50 million pounds from “Alice in Wonderland,” which is around $68 million in the US.

6. Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”

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Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

$70 million

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Bullock received a staggering $20 million as an initial payment for “Gravity.” However, her agreement also entitled her to 15% of the movie's box office earnings, resulting in a minimum of $70 million for her.

5. Robert Downey Jr. in “Avengers: Infinity War”

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Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Marvel

$75 million

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Downey became the top-earning actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by securing a deal that granted him a share of the profits. This deal earned him a staggering $75 million for his role in “Avengers: Infinity War” in 2018. Additionally, he received a hefty $50 million for his appearance in the first “Avengers” movie back in 2012, as reported by GQ.

4. Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”

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Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. Paramount

$75 million

Source: Forbes

Cruise made $75 million from the fourth “Mission: Impossible” film, “Ghost Protocol,” helping him become the highest-earning actor on Forbes' list in 2012.

3. Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix” trilogy

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Keanu Reeves as Neo. Warner Bros.

$250 million ($83.3 million per movie)

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Keanu Reeves earned a total of $250 million for his roles in the three “Matrix” movies.

2. Will Smith in “Men in Black 3”

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Will Smith as Agent J. Sony Pictures / Wilson Webb

$100 million

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Will Smith earned $100 million from the third “Men in Black” movie, which made a total of $624 million.

1. Tom Cruise as Pete ‘Maverick' Mitchell in “Top Gun: Maverick”

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Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Paramount

$100 million+

SourceVariety

Tom Cruise accepted $13 million initially for “Maverick” but is expected to make over $100 million from box office and home-entertainment sales. The film made close to $1.5 billion globally.

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