We have a rough idea about what A-list Hollywood talent earn, usually substantiated by the occasional headline, rumours turned blog post, and even pub chat somewhere in the mix. But what exactly do the top dogs bring home? Here’s what we discovered about the highest-paid movie roles of all time (as of: December 2020).
1. Bruce Willis: The Sixth Sense (1999) – US$115 million
The heftiest paydays on this list were a direct result of tight negotiations. In the late 90s, Bruce Willis had enough bargaining power to secure US$14 million upfront and 17% of the films global box office take, as well as home video sales and so forth, hence the jaw-dropping US$115 million.
2. Will Smith: Men in Black 3 (2012) – US$100 million
Generally speaking, once you hit the third instalment of a blockbuster trilogy, the franchise’s key ingredients become very apparent. And what is Men in Black without the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith? Saving the world once again on the big screen saw Big Willy cash in approximately US$100 million. Not a bad effort, indeed.
3. Johnny Depp: Pirates of the Caribbean series (2003-2017) – US$90 million per film [averaged]
On the subject of blockbuster franchises, we arrive at the matter of Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean. According to Forbes, the currently embroiled actor earned a total of US$450 million across all five films, which averaged out to US$90 million a pop. Of course, somehow, he found a way to blow it all. Good decisions aren’t Jack Sparrow’s strong suit.
4. Keanu Reeves: The Matrix series (1999-2003) – US$83 million per film [averaged]
Similar to Mr Depp, perennial nice guy Keanu Reeves received a total package of US$250 million for The Matrix trilogy, as per The Hollywood Reporter – US$15 million upfront per film on top of a % from the box office take. This averaged out to about US$83 million for each instalment.
5. Robert Downey Jr: Avengers Endgame (2018) – US$75 million
No one truly anticipated the goliath Marvel films would become or even the possibility of a Marvel Cinematic Universe, for that matter. Robert Downey Jr, however, had a good feeling off the back of Iron Man in 2008.
Negotiating an incredibly lucrative – and largely unspecified – deal with President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, the man behind Tony Stark raked it in through the backend. And for his character’s swan song in Avengers: Endgame, Downey Jr copped a cool US$75 million (which is also what he received for Avengers: Infinity War).
6. Tom Cruise: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) – US$75 million
Without fail, Tom Cruise consistently draws in an audience, especially as IMF operative Ethan Hunt. The fourth instalment of the long-running Mission: Impossible series directed a casual US$75 million his way.
7. Sandra Bullock: Gravity (2013) – US$70 million
As alluded to by co-star George Clooney, the main cast of Gravity sacrificed some salary in exchange for a cut of the box office revenue. While there are some conflicting assertations regarding the salary-to-% ratio, The Hollywood Reported maintains Sandra Bullock was compensated with US$20 million upfront and 15% of the box office take. All in all, this was a US$70 million payday.
8. Johnny Depp: Alice in Wonderland (2010) – US$68 million
Returning in the #8 spot, Johnny Depp made a killing for bringing the iconic Mad Hatter to life. I think we can all agree US$68 million for his CGI-laden efforts isn’t too shabby.
9. Harrison Ford: Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – US$65 million
It took a lot to lure the old silver fox out of semi-retirement. Reprising his action-heavy role as Dr Indiana Jones in his mid-60s, Harrison Ford secured an undisclosed percentage of the film’s earnings after production and marketing costs were recovered (in contrast to the majority of this list which entailed a share of the gross). The percentage apparently amounted to US$65 million.
10. Adam Sandler: The Ridiculous Six (2015) – US$62.5 million
Before you get ready to torch the Sandman, consider this – if you had the chance to convince studios to pay you a shit ton of money to goof around with your mates on what is essentially an all-expense holiday, you’d snap up the opportunity in a heartbeat.
In 2017, Adam Sandler signed a four-picture deal with Netflix reportedly valued at US$250 million, the first of which was The Ridiculous Six. Breaking it down into four chunks, that comes to an estimated US$62.5 million. Not bad for a flick that’s rated 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Now that you’ve read all about the highest-paid movie roles, check out the 10 richest Australians in 2020.