The 30 Highest-Grossing Actors in Hollywood

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers (2012).
Marvel Studios

Earlier this summer, Avengers: Endgame surpassed James Cameron's Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time worldwide. Which begs the question: Who are the highest-grossing actors? Of the A-listers with the highest box office grosses in America, 18 of them have been—and/or continue to be—part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But plenty of non-superhero stalwarts also made the cut.

The Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings franchises are also well-represented on this list, comprising a total of six spots ... with a little bit of crossover (Andy Serkis is in both franchises). But Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Woody Harrelson have all managed to do well outside comic book franchises. Unfortunately, the list is extremely male-dominated, with only three women landing in the top 30, but it's always changing. As of this moment, here are Hollywood's top-grossing actors.

1. Samuel L. Jackson

Box office total: $7,106,460,118 (totals are domestic grosses, not worldwide)

Biggest movie: The Avengers (2012)

Getting in on the ground floor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has paid off for Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s not the only major franchise that’s contributed to his top spot on this list: Star Wars, The Incredibles, and Jurassic Park helped secure his position, too. Not only is he the most bankable movie star ($13.3 billion worldwide), he’s also “the most influential actor of all time,” according to an algorithm-based study published in the journal Applied Network Science. Plus, Jackson has starred in more movies than anyone on the list—120 and counting.

2. Robert Downey Jr.

Box office total: $5,818,750,378

Biggest movie: The Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Downey Jr. has had one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history, going from indie actor to playing Iron Man in several Marvel films. He's also one of the highest paid actors on this list; Downey raked in $75 million for Avengers: Endgame alone.

3. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson and Danai Gurira in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Marvel Studios

Box office total: $5,244,119,075

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Four-time Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson is one of only two women to make it into one of the top 10 spots of this list. Like Jackson and Downey, her involvement in the MCU has helped her films gross billions of dollars worldwide. Next year she’ll headline a Black Widow film.

4. Harrison Ford

Box office total: $5,121,747,600

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Whereas the MCU folks are new to billion-dollar franchises, Harrison Ford has been acting in record-breaking films for decades, and in a variety of franchises: Blade Runner, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. However, The Force Awakens was the first time he starred in a film that grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.

5. Tom Hanks

Box office total: $5,038,685,542

Biggest movie: Toy Story 4 (2019)

Tom Hanks hasn’t starred in Star Wars or a superhero movie (unless you count Mr. Rogers as a superhero), yet he’s made Disney a lot of money by lending his voice to four Toy Story films, including this year’s Toy Story 4, which grossed $1 billion worldwide.

6. Bradley Cooper

Box office total: $4,803,758,514

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

It seems unlikely for Cooper to appear in the top 10, but voicing The Guardians of the Galaxy's Rocket Raccoon for the MCU; directing/acting/producing/composing A Star Is Born; and starring in the $300 million-grossing American Sniper increased the seven-time Oscar nominee's bankability.

7. Morgan Freeman

Box office total: $4,624,290,253

Biggest movie: The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight grossed a whooping $535 million domestically, making it the most profitable of the Christian Bale Batman series. Plus, Freeman has voiced God, which in itself is worthy.

8. Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle during the panel discussion at the FYC Red Carpet Event For Showtimes' "Black Monday" at Saban Media Center on May 14, 2019 in North Hollywood, California
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Box office total: $4,422,654,260

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Don Cheadle mostly benefits from being a part of the MCU, but he also starred in the lucrative Ocean’s franchise.

9. Andy Serkis

Box office total: $4,357,712,246

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Andy Serkis has been in some of the most successful movies of all time, including Black Panther, The Force Awakens, the rebooted Planet of the Apes films, and The Lord of Rings trilogy. Sometimes he appears in corporeal form, other times it’s only his voice and/or body movements that make it on to the screen. With appearances in four major franchises—and a hilarious role in 13 Going on 30—Serkis almost has Jackson beat.

10. Zoe Saldana

Box office total: $4,193,566,592

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Zoe Saldana benefits from being part of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek franchises, as well as Avatar, which used to be the highest-grossing film until Endgame unseated it.

11. Chris Pratt

Box office total: $4,145,406,026

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In 2014, Andy Dwyer/Star Lord broke out in a big way. Since starring in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt has made his bread and butter through the MCU, two Jurassic Worlds, and lending his voice to two LEGO movies.

12. Anthony Daniels

Box office total: $4,040,875,544

Biggest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Anthony Daniels owes his entire film career to playing C-3PO in every Star Wars movie, including 2017’s The Last Jedi and the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker. Daniels has voiced C-3PO in The LEGO Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet, too.

13. Chris Evans

Box office total: $4,019,809,829

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Chris Evans, the second Chris on this list, is most famous for his role as Captain America—though playing the Human Torch in two Fantastic Four movies helped him secure a top spot on this list.

14. Chris Hemsworth


Disney/Marvel Studios

Box office total: $4,018,762,362

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth’s lucrative career has been been largely situated in the MCU.

15. Tom Cruise

Box office total: $3,997,627,920

Biggest movie: War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise has been a Hollywood A-lister since before some of the younger members of the MCU were even born. His movies range from the Mission: Impossible franchise to standalone hits like Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, The Firm, Rain Man, Top Gun, and War of the Worlds. It grossed $234,280,354—only $14 million more than 2018’s Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Next year, Cruise will try to move up the list with a Top Gun sequel.

16. Idris Elba

Box office total: $3,848,550,304

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

In addition to Idris Elba’s role in the MCU, he has increased his box office tally with hits like Hobbs and Shaw, and Star Trek Beyond as well as voice work in The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Zootopia.

17. Johnny Depp

Box office total: $3,846,802,966

Biggest movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Johnny Depp starred in all five Pirates of the Caribbean movies—including the $1 billion-worldwide grosser Dead Man’s Chest. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald have kept his star status afloat.

18. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy speaks onstage during the LA Tastemaker event for Comedians in Cars at The Paley Center for Media on July 17, 2019 in Beverly Hills City
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Box office total: $3,811,107,808

Biggest movie: Shrek 2 (2004)

Though Eddie Murphy hasn’t had a blockbuster his since voicing Donkey in 2010’s Shrek Forever After, he maintains a big box office draw from older fare like Beverly Hills Cop (1984); the Dr. Doolittle and The Nutty Professor movies; Dreamgirls (2006); and three more Shrek films. Next year’s Coming to America sequel should boost his box office totals, too.

19. Stanley Tucci

Box office total: $3,778,184,471

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Yes, Stanley Tucci had a tiny part in the MCU—he portrayed Abraham Erskine in Captain America: The First Avenger—but his most impressive box office grosses come from starring in a couple of Transformers movies, the live-action Beauty and the Beast, and The Hunger Games series, which has grossed more than $2 billion worldwide.

20. Mark Ruffalo

Box office total: $3,764,716,234

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Mark Ruffalo has earned three (and counting) Oscar nominations for smaller roles in The Kids Are All Right (2010), Foxcatcher (2014), and Spotlight (2015). But playing the Hulk has helped him smash the box office.

21. Ian McKellen

Box office total: $3,654,414,482

Biggest movie: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Ian McKellen has been a franchise staple for nearly 20 years, beginning with 2000’s X-Men. A combination of X-Men films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy has made him one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. If that weren’t enough, two The Hobbit films, The Da Vinci Code, and 2017's Beauty and the Beast propelled him to big box office totals.

22. Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch of Marvel Studios' 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel in Hall H on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Box office total: $3,585,440,897

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit, voicing the titular character in 2018’s The Grinch, and playing Doctor Strange in the MCU have enabled Benedict Cumberbatch to make a dent in the worldwide box office.

23. Dwayne Johnson

Box office total: $3,564,845,910

Biggest movie: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

The Rock’s roles in the Fast and the Furious series—including 2019’s spinoff, Hobbs and Shaw—broke some box office records, but his parts in Jumanji (it almost grossed $1 billion worldwide) and voicing Maui in Moana have also contributed a lot of money to his worldwide box office total. In December, he’ll star in a Jumanji sequel—Jumanji: The Next Level.

24. Will Smith

Box office total: $3,559,520,435

Biggest movie: Aladdin (2019)

With early successes like Independence Day, the Bad Boys franchise (another is on the way), and three Men in Black movies, Will Smith became one of the biggest stars in the world. Though he’s been a movie star for more than 25 years, this year’s live-action Aladdin is his biggest hit to date.

25. Jeremy Renner

Box office total: $3,547,806,066

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Jeremy Renner has the MCU, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and American Hustle to thank for his place on this list. The Hurt Locker, which is one of his most acclaimed movies, is also one of his lowest-grossing films.

26. Josh Brolin

Box office total: $3,528,495,148

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In the past couple of years, veteran actor Josh Brolin has experienced a late-career resurgence. Not only did he play Thanos in three Avengers films, but he also appeared in Deadpool 2. In 2018 alone, Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War grossed almost $3 billion total worldwide. Not a bad year.

27. Cate Blanchett

Actress Cate Blanchett attends The Austin Film Society and Australian International Screen Forum "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" private dinner at Lincoln Ristorante on August 11, 2019 in New York City
Lars Niki/Getty Images for Austin Film Society

Box office total: $3,497,073,561

Biggest movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

In the early aughts, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett proved that she could be a valuable franchise asset with her role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2017, she entered the MCU with Thor: Raganok. She made smart money choices with The Hobbit movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cinderella, and Ocean’s 8.

28. Vin Diesel

Box office total: $3,493,342,043

Biggest movie: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Vin Diesel voiced Guardians of the Galaxy's Groot in the MCU, though the animated character barely had any dialogue except to say “I am Groot.” But his starring role in seven Fast and the Furious movies is what made his stardom balloon. More Fast and the Furious films are planned, and Diesel has a part in the upcoming Avatar sequels, too.

29. Woody Harrelson

Box office total: $3,479,339,743

Biggest movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

In 2012, Woody Harrelson starred in the first of four Hunger Games films. Their high grosses, especially 2013’s Catching Fire, solidified his place as a fantastic character actor who could also carry a major franchise. In 2018, he continued his blockbuster streak and starred in Star Wars spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Venom.

30. Anthony Mackie

Box office total: $3,451,128,814

Biggest movie: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Anthony Mackie has the MCU to thank for his place on the 30th spot on this list.

Box office totals courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

The Most Successful Entertainment Production in History Might Just Surprise You

Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Last year, Marvel Studios capped off an unprecedented run of success with Avengers: Endgame, a movie promoted as the culmination of over 10 years of storytelling. The film made $2.8 billion, unseating 2009’s Avatar and knocking 1997’s Titanic down to third place. With nearly $3 billion in ticket sales, you would think Endgame would count as the most successful entertainment production of all time—be it a single movie, book, album, or video game.

It isn’t.

While it earned a staggering amount of money, Endgame is hobbled by the fact that theatrical runs last just a few weeks or months. To really roll in the dough, it helps to have a combination of high ticket prices and a show that runs almost in perpetuity. That’s why it’s another Disney production, the Broadway adaption of The Lion King, that can make a credible claim to being the most financially rewarding entertainment effort of all time. Since debuting in 1997, the stage show has grossed $9.1 billion. (The 1994 film, 2019 live action remake, and merchandising aren’t included in that total. If they were, the number rises to $11.6 billion.)

A theater sign for 'The Lion King' is pictured in New York City in March 2003
Mario Tama, Getty Images

The musical, adapted by Julie Taymor, follows the story of the animated original, with lion cub Simba learning to accept his role as king of the Serengeti Plains. It’s estimated the show has been mounted 25 times globally in nine different languages, with more than 100 million people purchasing a ticket to see it.

Does that make Endgame a distant second? Not quite. Another long-running musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, has grossed more than $6 billion since its 1988 debut. The 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto 5 cleared $6 billion in 2018. And if one were to account for inflation, 1939’s Gone with the Wind made $3.44 billion.

The Lion King does have one asterisk, however. If inflation is taken into consideration, then 1978’s arcade classic Space Invaders comes out the winner. The popular coin-op game—which was later ported over to the Atari 2600—was a smash hit. By 1983, it had made $3.8 billion. Accounting for inflation, it earned $13.9 billion. What’s even more impressive is that unlike big-ticket movies and stage shows, Space Invaders did it one quarter at a time.

20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now

A still from Netflix's The Devil Next Door (2019).
A still from Netflix's The Devil Next Door (2019).
Netflix

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.

1. Making a Murderer (2015-)

One of the major true crime phenomenons of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling. Three years after the docuseries became a surprise hit for Netflix, it returned for a second season in 2018.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. The Staircase (2004-2018)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife, Kathleen, had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was The StaircaseJean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. And Netflix's addition of new episodes in 2018 led to a resurgence in interest in this mind-boggling case (with armchair detectives even positing that an owl was the real killer).

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. Flint Town (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix

4. The Jinx (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. The first was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO Now and Hulu

5. Wild Wild Country (2018)

What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. Wormwood (2017)

Documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. Five Came Back (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. The Devil Next Door (2019)

In 1980s Cleveland, John Demjanjuk was living a quiet life as a grandfather and auto worker. Suddenly, he was being extradited to Israel over accusations he was once notorious Nazi concentration camp monster Ivan the Terrible. As Demjanjuk mounts a defense, the trial captivates a country—but was he really the monster? This riveting series will have you guessing until the very end.

Where to watch it: Netflix

9. Ugly Delicious (2018-)

David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. Evil Genius (2018)

At approximately 2:20 p.m. on August 28, 2003, Brian Wells—a pizza deliveryman—walked into a PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania, and handed a note to a teller demanding $250,000 in cash. Wells had a bomb, which was strapped to his body via a metal neck collar, and a loaded shotgun that was fashioned to look like a walking cane. Approximately 12 minutes later, Wells strolled out of the bank with $8702 in cash, then made his way to the McDonald’s next door, where he retrieved a detailed note that told him where to go and what to do next. Within 15 minutes, Wells would be arrested. At 3:18 p.m.—less than an hour after he first entered the bank—the bomb locked around Wells’s neck detonated as police watched (and waited for the bomb squad), killing the 46-year-old in broad daylight. The bizarre incident was just the beginning of Evil Genius, which documents the peculiar case that would eventually entangle a range of unusual suspects, including Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, and has had armchair detectives—and the FBI—questioning whether Wells was in on the bank robbery, or a genuine victim, for more than a decade.

Where to watch it: Netflix

11. The Confession Tapes (2019)

A spare room. One or two detectives. A weary suspect. That's the set-up for this series that lets archival footage of police interrogations tell its own arresting stories.

Where to watch it: Netflix

12. Our Planet (2019)

Be amazed at the sensational vistas and eclectic wildlife with this beautifully-photographed trek through some of nature's most astounding sights—and the environmental perils that affect them. David Attenborough narrates.

Where to watch it: Netflix

13. The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009)

The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Theodore Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. The Innocent Man (2018)

After two brutal murders in 1980s Oklahoma, four men are convicted of the crimes. All of them maintain their innocence, causing observers to question whether they were guilty or themselves victims of police coercion. This drama is based on John Grisham's 2006 book of the same name; Grisham executive produces.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. Last Chance U (2016-)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. Later seasons switch focus to a team out of Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. Vice (2013-)

The series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens. The first six seasons are available on HBO, with a seventh airing on Showtime in 2020.

Where to watch it: HBO Go

17. Chef's Table (2015-)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. There's no shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. The Toys That Made Us (2017-)

Who knew the origin of classic toy lines could be so dramatic? This series puts the spotlight on the creative friction that led to some of the most iconic playthings of the 20th century, from Transformers to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Where to watch it: Netflix

19. The Eighties (2016)

CNN's series highlighting the pop culture of the neon-colored decade boasts familiar talking heads like Tom Hanks and enough nostalgia to keep you afloat for weeks. The network's The Seventies and The Nineties are also available.

Where to watch it: Netflix

20. Bobby Kennedy for President (2018)

This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix

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