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The 20 Highest-Grossing Actors by Movie Genre

Ellen Gutoskey
Samuel L. Jackson at the 2019 premiere of 'Spider-Man: Far From Home.'
Samuel L. Jackson at the 2019 premiere of 'Spider-Man: Far From Home.' / Frazer Harrison/GettyImages
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Marvel has demonstrated time and again that it can rake in huge box office profits. So it’s no surprise that its heroes are some of the highest-grossing actors across the action genre.

In fact, according to a new study from Uswitch, all five of the genre’s highest-grossing actors hail from the MCU. Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Nick Fury in a number of MCU blockbusters, is at the top of the list. The worldwide box office stats from action movies featuring him total nearly $19 billion. Below him are Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), and Chris Evans (Captain America).

Over in horror corner, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reign supreme. The pair stars as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring series, and each has a number of other horror credits to their name. Farmiga’s include 2009’s Orphan and 2007’s Joshua; while Wilson has kept busy with the Insidious series and standalone films like 2019’s In the Tall Grass. (Musical theater fans wondering if Wilson will ever get back to Broadway can rest assured that he’s hoping to at some point.)

It’s also hardly a shocker that Julia Roberts took the top spot for romance with a tidy $1.24 billion in box office earnings. Pretty Woman (1990), Runaway Bride (1999), and Notting Hill (1999) are some of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time. 

Ben Stiller, who came in fifth place for both romance and comedy, was the only actor to make two lists. His $3.22 billion in comedy movie revenue wasn’t quite enough to edge out the $3.94 billion that landed Bill Hader in first place. Though the SNL alum has appeared in plenty of live-action comedies, from Superbad (2007) to Trainwreck (2015), it’s probably his voice work in animated offerings like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and Inside Out (2015) that helped nudge him into the top spot.

If you’re wondering why you don’t see any Old Hollywood stars in the breakdown below, it’s because Uswitch only included living actors in the analysis. (Anyone who didn’t have at least 10 feature roles on their IMDb page was also excluded.) Find out other takeaways from the study here.

Action

  1. Samuel L. Jackson // $18.93 billion
  2. Robert Downey Jr. // $10.45 billion
  3. Zoe Saldana // $8.37 billion
  4. Elizabeth Olsen // $5.73 billion
  5. Chris Evans // $5.23 billion

Comedy

  1. Bill Hader // $3.94 billion
  2. Eddie Murphy // $3.65 billion
  3. Steve Carell // $3.28 billion
  4. Bonnie Hunt // $3.23 billion
  5. Ben Stiller // $3.22 billion

Horror

  1. Patrick Wilson // $636.8 million
  2. Vera Farmiga // $479.5 million
  3. James McAvoy // $466.7 million
  4. Emily Blunt // $410.1 million
  5. Michelle Pfeiffer // $381.8 million

Romance

  1. Julia Roberts // $1.24 billion
  2. Meryl Streep // $1.04 billion
  3. Bradley Cooper // $1.02 billion
  4. Owen Wilson // $1.01 billion
  5. Ben Stiller // $995.4 million
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