It should come as no surprise that the number one goal of major movie studios is to turn a profit. While smaller studios will sometimes produce passion projects more for the sake of art than money-making, the major studios (e.g. 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, etc.) are far more concerned with the bottom line. They want to make the next Avengers ($623 million at the domestic box office on a $220 million budget), not the next Fantastic Four ($56 million on a $120 million budget). They want the next Hunger Games ($408 million on a $78 million budget), not the next John Carter ($73 million on a $250 million budget).
Fear of the dreaded box office flop drives major studios to do everything in their power to ensure their films are hits. This includes producing films with established fan bases (like movie adaptations of popular books or sequels to blockbuster hits) and casting Hollywood’s most bankable stars with proven box office track records. Then once the talent is under contract, studios sign them on for one sequel after another, which results in the same actors appearing in blockbuster hits again and again, year after year. For this list, blockbuster hit is defined as any film that grossed more that $150 million at the domestic box office, films in which the actor appeared only in a cameo or bit part were omitted, and actors with the same number of hits were ranked by their overall box office gross.
That being said, here are 16 Actors Who’ve Starred In The Most Blockbuster Hits
16. Cate Blanchett (7)
Perhaps better known for her award-winning performances than her blockbuster appeal, Cate Blanchett earns a spot on the list mostly due to her appearances in two separate box-office-smashing franchises. Her role as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings series accounted for four of her blockbuster hits (The Two Towers and The Desolation of Smaug don’t count toward her total due to her small role in each), and she also made an appearance as Colonel-Doctor Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Rounding out her list of blockbuster performances are her roles as Lady Tremaine in 2015’s live-action Cinderella remake and Valka in How to Train Your Dragon 2, and she is attached to two more potential monster earners in the very near future. 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, in which she’ll play Hela, is all-but guaranteed to add to her hit total, and Ocean’s Eight (a female-led spin-off of the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy) has the potential to be a big hit as well.
15. Helena Bonham Carter (7)
Helena Bonham Carter’s inclusion in the list may come as a surprise to fans more familiar with her quirky performances than her appearances in blockbuster hits, yet here she is with seven in total. This ties her with Blanchett for the most hits of all time amongst actresses and places her third in box office gross among Hollywood’s leading ladies (where she trails only Scarlett Johansson and Cameron Diaz).
In addition to her roles in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and 2001’s Planet of the Apes, Bonham Carter also played the role of Bellatrix Lestrange in four Harry Potter films (though her role in Order of the Phoenix was too small to add to the list) and the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella alongside Blanchett. She nearly had two more blockbusters to her name in The Lone Ranger and Alice Through the Looking Glass, but both performed far below expectations at the box office. On the horizon is another appearance alongside Blanchett in next year’s Ocean’s Eight.
14. Andy Serkis (7)
Anyone who has watched a film in the last fifteen years featuring a prominent, motion-captured performance has seen (or rather, not seen) Andy Serkis at work. He brought Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings series and pulled double-duty in 2005’s King Kong, where he played both Lumpy the Cook and the titular ape). Then he followed that up with an incredible performance as Caesar in both Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and an appearance as Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
His face may be relatively unknown to general audiences, but his performances have been top-notch for the better part of two decades, and there will be plenty more to come. With confirmed appearances in Cars 3, War of the Planet of the Apes, and Star Wars: Episode VIII, all slated for 2017 releases, it’s safe to assume Serkis will have three more blockbuster hits to add to his filmography by the end of next year.
13. Matt Damon (7)
Matt Damon’s inclusion on this list should come to the surprise of no one, as he’s been one of Hollywood’s top leading men for the last two decades. Excluding his brief performance in 2014’s Interstellar, Damon has seven blockbuster hits to his name. His role as Jason Bourne accounts for three of the seven (with The Bourne Identity just missing the cut), with the other four coming in the form of True Grit, Ocean’s Eleven, Saving Private Ryan, and The Martian.
While some actors on this list appeared in blockbuster hits that made use of terrific ensemble casts (e.g. Lord of the Rings), Damon is front and center in the Bourne movies, and deserves immense credit for the series’ box office success. Anyone who disagrees need only look at the franchise’s lone entry without Damon, The Bourne Legacy. With Jeremy Renner in the starring role, the film underperformed compared to Damon’s outings, and the future Renner-led sequels were scrapped in favor of a Damon return in 2016’s Jason Bourne. Damon will star in next year’s The Great Wall, which will likely add another hit to his total.
12. Michael Caine (7)
Like Helena Bonham Carter (whose films with director Tim Burton account for four of her blockbuster hits), Michael Caine has found much of his blockbuster success working with one particular director. In Caine’s case, that director is Christopher Nolan. While the actor does have two non-Nolan hits in his filmography (Cars 2 and Austin Powers in Goldmember), his biggest hits so far have come with Nolan in the director’s chair. Caine first collaborated with Nolan in Batman Begins, in which he played the role of the titular hero’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth. He would reprise the role in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and also play significant parts in Nolan’s standalone hits Inception and Interstellar.
Considering the fact that five of his seven biggest hits have come in the last decade, the fact that Caine is now 83 years old has little effect on his future blockbuster potential. While he is not currently attached to Cars 3 or Nolan’s next film, Dunkirk, there is no telling in which projects the two-time Academy Award winning actor will appear in the years to come. If he can manage to mix another Nolan film in there somewhere, odds are high that it will be another hit.
11. Samuel L. Jackson (7)
There’s no surprise here. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, and has been for quite some time. He has played significant roles in two hit franchises and made a small appearance in a third (1993’s Jurassic Park, which does not factor in to his total). He played Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels (though his appearances in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Episode II – Attack of the Clones were too small to include in his total) and Nick Fury in seven Marvel Cinematic Universe films (with his appearances in Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger counted only as cameos).
Jackson’s other blockbuster hits are The Incredibles and Django Unchained, and there is a good chance his total hits double digits in the years to come. He is slated to appear in next year’s XXX: Return of Xander Cage and Kong: Skull Island, both of which have great potential for box office success. Appearances in future MCU films are also likely, so odds are that Jackson will be shooting up
10. Tommy Lee Jones (8)
Tommy Lee Jones may not seem like your typical box office juggernaut, but his filmography would certainly prove otherwise. The Academy Award-winning actor has appeared eight blockbusters hits that have spanned four different blockbuster franchises in his career. In addition to the Men in Black trilogy, Jones has also appeared in one entry in each of the Batman, Marvel, and Bourne franchises. First came his turn as Two-Face in 1995’s Batman Forever. He followed that up as Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger, and most recently as Robert Dewey in Jason Bourne.
Rounding out his list of box office hits are The Fugitive and Lincoln, the former of which got him his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The only film the 70-year-old actor has slated for release in 2017 thus far is Villa Capri, so there is no clear indicator as to how many more blockbuster hits are in his future. Considering his penchant for appearing in franchise one-offs, however, surely he has a few more up his sleeve.
9. Orlando Bloom (8)
Very few actors have hit the box office jackpot quite like Orlando Bloom, who appeared in two blockbuster franchises and eight blockbuster hits in a span of just thirteen years. First came his role as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2001 and 2002. He would then pull double-duty in 2003, appearing in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King before concluding the initial Pirates trilogy with Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End in 2006 and 2007.
He followed that up by reprising his character of Legolas in 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and 2014’s The Battle of the Five Armies, and is slated to return to the Pirates franchise with Will Turner set to appear in next year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. If the film is a success, it’s sure to spawn sequels, which means even more hits for Bloom to add to his filmography.
8. Ben Stiller (8)
Ben Stiller is another actor that may not seem like a big box office draw at first glance, but upon further review, he proves to be just that. Though he began acting in the late ’80s, it wasn’t until the late ’90s that Stiller caught fire at the box office, and he’s been a hot ticket ever since. Beginning with 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, he would star in a string of eight blockbusters in just fourteen years. First came Meet the Parents and its sequel, Meet the Fockers (Stiller’s highest-grossing film to date). Stiller then followed those up with franchise-starters Night at the Museum and Madagascar, each of which would spawn trilogies of their own.
Stiller has since finished off his franchises with Little Fockers, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, respectively. And while the former two are most likely done for good, the latter was the highest-grossing entry in the franchise so far, which means another sequel — and hit — remains a possibility.
7. Robert Downey Jr. (8)
Eight years ago, Robert Downey Jr. would have been nowhere near cracking this list. At the time, the actor was in the midst of a career renaissance, but still hadn’t had a single blockbuster hit to his name. Then came his star-making performance as Tony Stark in Iron Man, and the rest is history. Since then, Downey has starred in eight blockbuster hits in eight years, is now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
In addition to the trilogy of Iron Man solo films, Downey has also appeared in both Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War. He also played the titular character in the two Sherlock Holmes films, and has a third in development. He is signed on to appear in both Avengers: Infinity War and the as-of-yet untitled sequel. Depending on the length of his rumored appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming, that could be four more hits to add to his total in the next three years. Beyond that, things are unclear. Based on everything we know about Marvel Phase 4, Downey’s presence beyond Phase 3 is far from guaranteed.
6. Gary Oldman (9)
While Tommy Lee Jones’ presence in four different blockbuster franchises is impressive, it comes up short in comparison to Gary Oldman, who has five under his belt. Oldman has nine blockbuster hits in his filmography, eight of which have come from five different hit franchises. The only standalone hit to his name thus far is 1997’s Air Force One. The majority of the rest come from his roles as Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and James Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. He also played the roles of Mason Verger in 2001’s Hannibal, Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2, and appeared most recently as Dreyfus in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
With both the Harry Potter and Dark Knight series completed, and his characters killed off in both Hannibal and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it is difficult to tell how many more blockbuster hits Oldman has in his future. His next film, The Space Between Us, just changed its release date to shift away from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which may help its box office, but far from guarantees blockbuster success. Beyond that, Oldman has little in development, so his total may remain at nine for the foreseeable future.
5. Tom Cruise (9)
Any list of blockbuster stars would be incomplete without Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood’s most famous actors who has starred in massive hits for the better part of three decades. But while many entries on this list can attribute their box office success to appearances in multiple franchises, Cruise only has one to his name thus far. While the Mission Impossible films do account for four of his biggest hits to date, standalone films make up the rest.
Cruise’s long line of blockbuster hits began in the ’80s with films like Top Gun and Rain Man, and continued into the ’90s with The Firm, the aforementioned Mission Impossible and Jerry Maguire. Since then, Cruise has starred in War of the Worlds (his biggest hit to date), four more Mission Impossible entries (three of which were massive hits), and has a few more potential hits lined up for the future. First will be 2017’s The Mummy, which will serve as a reboot for the franchise, followed by Mission Impossible 6 somewhere down the line. If those films succeed as projected, they will push Cruise’s total to eleven, and there’s no telling how much higher he’ll climb after that.
4. Will Smith (10)
Like Tom Cruise before him, Will Smith is an actor who has enjoyed immense box office success without relying too heavily on blockbuster franchises. While he did appear in the Men in Black trilogy and this year’s Suicide Squad, the other six blockbuster hits to his name are standalone films in which Smith himself was the main draw.
Following the success of Independence Day in 1996 and the aforementioned Men in Black, Smith would enjoy a string of five straight blockbuster hits with Shark Tale, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend, and Hancock, each of which crushed the box office from 2004-2008. Since then, Smith has had a few hits and misses, but his most recent film (Suicide Squad) is his biggest hit to date. He is currently set to star in 2017’s Bright, a science fiction fantasy film to be directed by Squad helmer David Ayer. Considering the film’s $90 million budget, there’s a good chance Smith gets his eleventh blockbuster hit next year.
3. Tom Hanks (10)
While Tom Cruise and Will Smith have made careers out of starring in blockbuster action films, Tom Hanks has gone a more dramatic route that has earned him two Academy Awards for Best Actor and ten blockbuster hits so far. His inclusion in this list is made all the more astounding by the fact that Toy Story is the only blockbuster franchise in which he has appeared. The other seven are simply excellent films that audiences turned out to see in droves.
In addition to the Toy Story trilogy, Hanks has appeared in blockbuster hits Catch Me If You Can, Apollo 13, The Polar Express, Saving Private Ryan, The Da Vinci Code, Cast Away, and Forrest Gump. He will reprise his role as Woody in 2019’s Toy Story 4 (which will surely be his eleventh blockbuster hit), but beyond that, he doesn’t appear to have any more blockbusters on the horizon. There’s no telling for sure though, since Hanks has a penchant for turning seemingly ordinary films into blockbuster hits. He could easily do the same for a few more of his outings in the future.
2. Sir Ian McKellen (11)
The near-antithesis to Tom Hanks, Sir Ian McKellen is a terrific actor who seems to only appear in blockbuster hits when they are part of a franchise. Luckily for him, his roles as Gandalf and Magneto in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men franchises have resulted in ten massive blockbuster hits in his career. From 2000 to 2006, McKellen starred in six entries for the two franchises, in addition to 2006’s The Da Vince Code alongside Hanks. He would then fade away from the blockbuster limelight for a few years before returning in 2012’s The Hobbit (which launched another trilogy) and 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
McKellen doesn’t have any live-action films slated for the near future, but will provide the voices for Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and Horatio P. Huntington in Animal Crackers, each of which is out next year. Considering the performances of recent Disney live-action remakes like Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast will surely crush the box office and give him his twelfth hit.
1. Harrison Ford (11)
Of course the man who portrayed both Han Solo and Indiana Jones not only tops the list of most blockbuster hits of all time, but is the highest-grossing actor of all time as well. Those two roles alone account for eight blockbuster hits in two of the most successful franchises in the history of film. Ford’s cocky-yet-lovable Han Solo was one of the standout characters in the original Star Wars trilogy before becoming the emotional center of The Force Awakens (the highest grossing movie of all time), and his turn as adventurer Indiana Jones would launch three blockbuster sequels of its own.
Ford’s other blockbuster hits came in the form of The Fugitive, Air Force One, and What Lies Beneath, and while he may be entering the twilight of his career, he appears to have a few more blockbuster hits in him still. While his time in the Star Wars series has clearly reached its end, he will reprise his role as Rick Deckard in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, and will star once again as Indiana Jones in another sequel planned for 2019. For now, he is king of the blockbuster film and seems more than ready to defend his crown.
Were you able to guess all sixteen actors on our list? Were there any other actors that you expected to make the cut? Let us know in the comments.
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