Movie Roles That Paid Actors Next-Level Money

It’s no secret that A-list movie stars earn huge paydays for their biggest roles. From Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides haul to another actor blasting past $100 million for one role, it’s good to be in blockbusters. This is how much money the biggest stars in Hollywood made from their biggest roles!

Arnold Schwarzenegger – $29 Million For T3: Rise Of The Machines

arnold in terminator 3
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

It took a lot of money to convince action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger to return for his third Terminator outing. Arnold signed a massive “pay or play” contract that guaranteed him a $29 million payday whether or not T3: Rise of the Machines was made.

Thankfully, the movie was made and released in 2003. It went on to make $433 million worldwide, a number that may have helped convince Arnold to return for even more sequels.

Jim Carrey – $30 Million For Yes Man

jim carrey in yes man
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

When Jim Carrey signed his deal to play Carl in the 2008 comedy Yes Man, he refused to take an upfront salary. Instead, he negotiated his pay to equal 36.2% of the film’s total profits.

After Yes Man was a box office hit, raking in $223 million worldwide, Carrey ended up with a payday of $30 million. Despite the success, critics weren’t kind, calling Carrey the only bright spot in the otherwise laugh-free comedy.

Robert Downey Jr. – $75 Million For Avengers: Infinity War

robert downy jr in avengers infinity war
Marvel/Disney
Marvel/Disney

Being the actor that kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s hardly surprising to see how much Robert Downey Jr. was paid for Avengers: Infinity War. Thanks to his back-end deal with Marvel, his final paycheck came in at an estimated $75 million.

Even more stunning, Downey Jr. was reportedly paid $50 million for the original Avengers movie. Over the course of a decade, the star actor made over $400 million from his work playing Tony Stark.

Keanu Reeves – $250 Million For The Matrix Trilogy

keanu reeves in the matrix
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

The Matrix Trilogy is one of the most successful science fiction trilogies of all time. The movies are so popular, that more are actually on the way! Focusing on the original trilogy for now, star Keanu Reeves banked $250 million for playing Neo.

Divided by three films, that means Reeves was paid roughly $83 million per movie. The movies were so giving to Reeves, that he started giving back. The actor took $75 million of his earnings and gave it to the visual effects and costume teams.

Daniel Craig – $100 Million For Knives Out 2 and Knives Out 3

daniel craig in knives out
Lionsgate/Netflix
Lionsgate/Netflix

When a film is a hit, a movie studio will do anything to get a sequel made. Even if Knives Out was originally intended to be a stand-alone film, the massively successful murder mystery made too much money and won too many awards.

The face of the new franchise, Daniel Craig, is turning quite the profit for his role. For Knives Out’s two reported sequels, the actor is being paid $100 million. Considering Netflix paid over $400 million for the rights to the sequels, that sum of money isn’t surprising.

Ryan Reynolds – $27 Million For 6 Underground

ryan reynolds in 6 underground
Netflix
Netflix

After cementing his name as a superstar with the Deadpool franchise, is it really surprising to learn that Ryan Reynolds earned a hefty $27 million to star in 6 Underground? The Michael Bay-directed film was produced by Netflix and followed six billionaires who become vigilantes.

The movie was a hit for the platform but didn’t find the same love with critics that it did with viewers. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 37 percent rotten rating which the critical consensus, “6 Underground is loud, frenetic, and finally preposterous — which is either bad news or a hearty recommendation, depending how one feels about the movies of Michael Bay.”

Leonardo DiCaprio – $50 Million For Inception

leonardo dicaprio in inception
Legendary Pictures/Warner Brothers
Legendary Pictures/Warner Brothers

Inception came out in 2010 and was a major hit at the box office. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie starred Leonardo DiCaprio, who earned $50 million just from the theatrical profits.

When you add in home video, television, and eventual streaming sales that number goes even higher. Like others on this list, DiCaprio earned such a high payday because of how his contract was structured. Because the movie was seen as a risk to make, he took less money upfront while earning a portion of the profits.

Johnny Depp – $68 Million For Alice In Wonderland

johnny depp in alice in wonderland
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Worldwide, Alice in Wonderland earned over $1 billion at the box office. Directed by Tim Burton and starring Mia Wasikowska as the title character, Johnny Depp was brought on board to play the iconic Mad Hatter.

Once receipts were counted, Depp tallied a payday of nearly $70 million. He was worth every penny, too, as Depp took the role as a chance to add depth and humanity to the mostly surface-level character from the books.

Will Smith – $35 Million For Bright 2

will smith in bright
Netflix
Netflix

In 2017, Netflix released Bright, a genre mashup about police officers in a Los Angeles where fantasy creatures like orcs exist. Will Smith anchored the film, and after it became one of the most-watched ever for the streamer, a sequel was announced.

While details of the sequel have been limited, it has been reported that Smith will be taking in a $35 million paycheck for reprising his role for the first film.

Tom Hanks – $60 Million For Forrest Gump

tom hanks in forrest gump
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

One of the biggest hits of the ’90s also supplied one of the highest paychecks of all-time to its leading actor. Playing the title role in Forrest Gump netted Tom Hanks a reported $60 million on top of all the other accolades.

The high price comes from, you guessed it, the structure of Hank’s contract. He negotiated performance-based pay, and perform the movie did, earning $683 million worldwide against a $55 million budget.

Adam Sandler – $250 Million For Overall Netflix Deal

adam sandler in murder mystery
Netflix
Netflix

In 2014, Adam Sandler signed a deal like no one had ever seen before. The funnyman teamed up with Netflix, signing a $250 million overall contract that would pay him roughly $62.5 million per movie.

In 2017, happy with the results from movies like The Ridiculous 6, Netflix re-upped with Sandler through 2021. Before that second deal ended, they tripled down with the star. By the time he is done with the streaming service, Sandler will have made 12 movies for it.

Will Smith – $100 Million For Men In Black 3

will smith in men in black 3
Columbia/Sony Pictures
Columbia/Sony Pictures

Coming out a decade after Men in Black II, the third film in the franchise had to move mountains to bring back star Will Smith. Taking a portion of the profits, Smith ended up walking away with $100 million for returning to one of his most iconic roles.

Men in Black 3 made $624 million worldwide on a $215 million budget. That means, thanks to the deal Smith signed, he took home just under one-sixth of the movie’s total earnings!

Harison Ford – $65 Million For Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

harrison ford as indiana jones
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The fourth film in the Indiana Jones franchise took a long time to get into production. Before making it, the original team of Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg all needed to be convinced returning to the franchise was worth it.

Ford was in semi-retirement at the time, and he may have been the hardest star to convince to come back. When all the dust settled, the trio worked out a deal to split the film’s earning. From that, Ford took home an estimated $65 million.

Sandra Bullock – $70 Million For Gravity

sandra bullock gravity
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Gravity came out in 2013 and didn’t just earn star Sandra Bullock her second Academy Award nomination. She also walked away with a $70 million payday, thanks to a generous contract that saw her get paid $20 million upfront while also taking home 15 percent of its box office gross.

While taking box office may seem like a risk (what happens when the movie bombs?), as we’ve seen, it can be very lucrative. Gravity earned $723 million worldwide, adding $50 million to Bullock’s already impressive payday.

Tom Cruise – $75 Million For Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

tom cruise in mission impossible ghost protocol
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, came out in 1996. Since that first film was released, a slew of sequels have been made. The fourth film in the franchise, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was one of the biggest, and paid its lead actor handsomely for his services.

Tom Cruise earned $75 million for playing Ethan Hunt for the fourth time in 2011. As of December 2020, it was reported that Cruise had made $285 million overall for his work on the franchise.

Tom Hanks – $40 Million For Saving Private Ryan

tom hanks in saving private ryan
Dreamworks Pictures/Paramount Pictures
Dreamworks Pictures/Paramount Pictures

Can you imagine watching Saving Private Ryan without Tom Hanks starring? The iconic war film was directed by Steven Spielberg and had an all-star cast led by the legendary actor, who didn’t take money upfront for his role.

Instead, Hanks banked on the film being a hit and negotiated his pay as a portion of the profit. Thanks to nearly $500 million in worldwide box office revenue, Hanks took home $40 million for Saving Private Ryan.

Emma Stone – $26 Million For La La Land

emma stone in la la land
Summit Entertainment
Summit Entertainment

In 2017, Emma Stone didn’t just win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in La La Land, she also banked $26 million. The musical was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year and won multiple awards.

In La La Land Stone plays a struggling actress who meets a struggling musician, and it’s love at first sight. Proving her portrayal was worth every penny, the movie went on to make $448 million worldwide.

Cameron Diaz – $42 Million For Bad Teacher

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Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When Bad Teacher was being made, actress Cameron Diaz was paid $1 million to help produce the film. She also signed a back-end deal to star in the film that wound up netting her $42 million.

In Hollywood, the deal she negotiated has become the thing legends are made out of. On a $20 million budget, the film took in $216 million worldwide. Taking such a small cut upfront ended up paying big time for the now-retired Diaz.

Johnny Depp – $55 Million For Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

johnny depp in pirates of the caribbean
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Johnny Depp is synonymous with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. He netted an Oscar nomination for playing Jack Sparrow in the first film, then stashed away a $55 million treasure for reprising the role in On Stranger Tides.

The movie, which was the fourth in the franchise, was one of the most expensive films ever made, with a reported budget of $410 million. After the movie came out, Depp admitted he was overpaid not just for the fourth film, but for the entire franchise.

Jack Nicholson – $50 Million For Batman (1989)

jack nicholson in batman as the joker
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

When Jack Nicholson was cast as the Joker in Batman in the late ’80s, he took a pay cut from his usual 10 million salary. By taking the cut, he negotiated earnings from toy sales of action figures that resembled him, among other things.

Batman earned $250 million in the United States and nearly $500 million worldwide. Toy sales were through the roof, and Nicholson took home at payday in the neighborhood of $50 million, an unheard-of sum for an actor at the time.

Leonardo DiCaprio – $30 Million For Don’t Look Up

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Netflix
Netflix

One of the most in demand actors around, it’s no surprise that Leonardo DiCaprio can pull in big pay days for any genre of film. In 2021, he was paid $30 million to star in Netflix’s Don’t Look Up.

The movie, directed by Adam McKay, sees DiCaprio play Randall Mindy, one of many characters navigating life and works while an asteroid hurtles towards the Earth.

Mark Wahlberg – $30 Million For Spenser Confidential

spenser1-mediumSquareAt3X
Netflix
Netflix

Netflix spares no expense when it comes to building out their library of original movies. Mark Wahlberg was paid $30 million to star in Spenser Confidential, a big action movie that can only be seen on the streaming service.

Wahlberg is one of the biggest draws in the world, so backing up the Brinks truck wasn’t a tough decision.

Will Smith – $40 Million For King Richard

king-richard_lllVMp
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

How many nominations will it take for Will Smith to finally win an Oscar? If buzz about his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard is accurate, than the answer is three.

Smith was paid $40 million to play the father of Venus and Serena Williams in the movie that will hit theaters and HBO Max on the same day.

Denzel Washington – $40 Million For The Little Things

the-little-things_MSS5QV
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Denzel Washington’s pay day was anything but small for The Little Things. The actor was paid a back end buyout for his role after the movie was released in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on the same day.

Directed by John Lee Hancock, The Little Things is set in 1990s Los Angeles and sees Washington’s character attempt to solve a murder.

Dwayne Johnson – $50 Million For Red One

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Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Dwayne Johnson joins the streaming movie revolution with Red One after Amazon Studios won the film in a bidding war. Johnson is taking home $50 million for his role after a back-end buyout.

The movie is described as, “a whole new universe to explore within the holiday genre” and could become a franchise if it’s successful.

Bruce Willis – $115 Million For The Sixth Sense

the-sixth-sense_59d66d02
Walt Disney
Walt Disney

It pays to have negotiating power in Hollywood. Up front, Bruce Willis was only paid $14 million for the leading role in The Sixth Sense. I his contract, he also negotiation for 17 percent of the films revenue.

With box office, home video sales, rentals, and other avenues, Willis ended up earning another $100 million for one of his most iconic roles.

Brad Pitt – $30 Million For Ocean’s Eleven

oceans-eleven_ExJc9k
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

There are high expectations anytime a classic is remade. When Brad Pitt signed onto Ocean Eleven, a remake of Frank Sinatra classic, expectations could not have been higher.

To make sure Pitt was all in on his performance, he was paid $30 million. The movie become a huge hit, spawning multiple sequels.

Robert Downey Jr. – $40 Million For Captain America: Civil War

captain-america-civil-war_giZeIb
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t paid like he was a secondary character in Captain America: Civil War. The third Captain America movie earned the actor a $40 million payday.

Kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been nothing short of life changing for the actor who, at one point before becoming Iron Man, looked like he would never act again.

Leonardo DiCaprio – $40 Million For Titanic

titanic_432b65eb
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

When you star in one of the highest grossing movies of all-time, you’re probably taking home a hefty salary. Leonardo DiCaprio may not have been paid as much upfront for Titanic, but including backend, he has earned over $40 million.

The movie was a box office smash and nearly swept the Oscars when it came out in 1997.

Mel Gibson – $30 Million For Lethal Weapon 4

lethal-weapon-4_e2e92f46
Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Coming out six years after Lethal Weapon 3, Lethal Weapon 4 reunited Mel Gibson with Danny Glover in one of the biggest action movies of the year.

Gibson was paid $10 million up front to return as Riggs and earned another $20 million thanks to the films $285 million global box office take.