Just over a month ago, Forbes released its list of the highest paid celebrities in the world between June 2015 and June 2016. There were musicians, athletes, comedians, actors and actresses, as well as some multimedia threats. We’ve sifted out all 16 actors and actresses (some of whom fall into that versatile “multimedia threat” category) who appeared on the Forbes list for a countdown of mega-millionaires.
It’s an interesting mix that definitely shows there’s a gender gap (just four women appear, although Taylor Swift is the top-earning celebrity overall, at an insane $170 million in the past year). But, while it’s mostly American, there are four thespians on the list born outside of the U.S.A., two of whom aren’t even particularly well known in Western pop culture. And, at the risk of sounding click-baity, No. 1 just might surprise you.
Here are the 16 Highest Paid Actors Of 2016.
16 BRAD PITT: $31.5 MILLION
We’re guessing a dozen or so years ago, when he was starring in Troy, Oceans Twelve and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Brad Pitt would’ve been closer to the top of this list. But it’s still impressive that he’s on this list at all, considering he hasn’t headlined a big blockbuster since 2013’s World War Z. He spent a chunk of last year likely working for peanuts in a film his wife, Angelina Jolie, directed called By the Sea, which embarrassingly earned about $500,000 on a $10 million budget. And then there was his supporting role in The Big Short.
So where did that $31.5 million come from? Well, while he wasn’t the star of The Big Short, he did produce it, and the movie made over $133 million worldwide on a $28 million budget thanks in large part to its Best Picture nomination. On top of that, he made a couple bucks as a producer selling the Afghanistan war satire War Machine to Netflix, scheduled to stream later this year. He’s starring in that one as well, plus another wartime flick, Allied, coming out in November.
15 AKSHAY KUMAR: $31.5 MILLION
Akshay Kumar is living proof that you don’t have to be a Hollywood star to bring home massive bags of cash; being a Bollywood star will suffice. Bollywood, of course, is a loose term for Hindi language productions made in India, where there’s a built-in audience of over a billion. The 48-year-old actor is a talented martial artist and is known for his action films. In fact, he’s almost the Brad Pitt of India, married to a former award-winning actress over there named Twinkle Khanna, who herself (like Jolie) is the daughter of actors.
In 2008 he was named the “sexiest man alive” by the Indian version of People and in between a super-active lifestyle (charity work, kickboxing, swimming, basketball, parkour), he tends to churn out four or five films a year. The more you work, the more money you make, right? Plus, he has banked a lot through endorsements over the years, hawking everything from Levis to whiskey, LG electronics to a tea company.
14 MELISSA MCCARTHY: $33 MILLION
Before busting out in 2011’s Bridesmaids in a standout supporting role, pretty much all Melissa McCarthy did was quietly excel in supporting roles, playing friends of the main characters in Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who? But her Bridesmaids role, as Megan, was far from quiet. She showed how hilariously and cluelessly obnoxious she could be and it made her a star. After that her first starring role was in Identity Thief (2013), and she helped it earn nearly $174 million.
She’s now clearly getting paid for her box-office clout. She reportedly took home $14 million for this summer’s Ghostbusters alone and this past year she starred in the comedy The Boss and was still getting paid handsomely for her now-cancelled sitcom, Mike & Molly. Plus, before she was an actress, she was passionate about fashion, and has since parlayed her on-screen success into a clothing line called Seven7, which offers stylish fashions for plus-size women.
13 SHAH RUKH KHAN: $33 MILLION
A couple items back we suggested Akshay Kumar could be the Brad Pitt of Bollywood. But Shah Rukh Khan could be the Tom Cruise, just a little step ahead in terms of superstardom. After all, Khan is nicknamed the “King of Bollywood.” While Kumar is more of an action star, Khan has done it all: starring in romantic comedies and action thrillers, playing villains, and getting rave reviews in dramas like My Name is Khan in 2010, playing a man with Asperger syndrome – a role we’d label Oscar bait on this side of the pond.
On top of his superstardom in India as an actor, he’s also become a shrewd businessman. In fact, he made his $33 million despite only appearing in two films released in the last year. He also co-founded a successful production company in 2002 called Red Chillies Entertainment, co-owns an Indian Premier League cricket team called the Kolkata Knight Riders and he’s been known to endorse many products.
12 ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: $33 MILLION
When you’re Iron Man, you get the big bucks. What more can we say, really? In fact, you most likely get paid more than the lead actor of the title character in Captain America: Civil War. We can only speculate, because salary numbers haven’t been released, but we do know that for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Robert Downey Jr. made $40 million and Captain America himself, Chris Evans made “just” $6.9 million.
Civil War was the only film last year’s highest paid actor ($80 million) starred in over the past year, so the bulk of his income came from that blockbuster. So, enter the endorsement to round things off. RDJ has signed a $12 million deal to be the face of HTC smartphones. Next year could thrust him back towards the top spot, though. He’ll surely get paid handsomely for an appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming and there’s Sherlock Holmes 3 in the works as well, where he, of course, plays the title master sleuth.
11 VIN DIESEL: $35 MILLION
The man who’s synonymous with the Fast and Furious franchise has done pretty well for himself. And it’s that soon-to-be eight-film franchise, with Fast 8 currently filming, that he has largely to thank for his riches. When he came on as a producer for the fourth flick, Fast and Furious, in 2009, he helped turn around what was a sagging series, and he’s been riding their success to the bank ever since. In fact, the ninth and 10th installments have already been announced.
But when you’re an action star of Diesel’s caliber, just one franchise won’t cut it. He also got paid over the past year for his voice acting role as tree dude Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which, like Fast 8, will hit theaters next year. But that’s not all he’s slated to star in next year. He’ll also return to his xXx character, Xander Cage, in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. That’s how you make $35: by being really busy. And really famous.
10 JENNIFER LOPEZ: $39.5 MILLION
It’s got to be hard to maintain your humble status as “Jenny from the block,” as her song goes, when you’ve pocketed nearly $40 million in the past year alone. You’ve got to admit, J-Lo is versatile, starting her career off as a Fly Girl dancer on In Living Color and moving on to become not just a movie star, but a star of both reality and scripted TV, plus a wildly successful singer. When you’ve got all that going on at such a high level, it’s almost surprising she’s not higher on this list.
Let’s look back at exactly what she’s done in the past year. Her judging gig on the final season of American Idol reportedly brought home $17.5 million alone. The 47-year-old Bronx native also starred in the NBC crime drama Shades of Blue, which was renewed for a second season. Then there was her voice work as the saber-tooth tiger Shira in Ice Age: Collision Course, her Vegas song and dance show, her fragrance line, and various endorsement deals. We’re exhausted just writing about it.
9 SOFIA VERGARA: $43 MILLION
For us, this was the most surprising entertainer on the list, and she cracked the top 10. On the surface, most of us know Sofia Vergara as Gloria, the fiery Colombian trophy wife on the uber-popular ABC sitcom Modern Family. She’s great on the show, but she couldn’t possibly make $43 million in one calendar year from a sitcom, could she, even if it is the number two sitcom on TV?
Well, she and the other main cast members reportedly worked out a new deal for the coming eighth season that will bring in $350,000 each per episode, plus a cut of the back end. Assuming 22 episodes, that’ll come to $7.7 million for the season before the back-end bonus. Clearly, even with this raise it won’t get her to $43 million. So, of course, it’s endorsements with the likes of Cover Girl, Head & Shoulders and others, plus her own talent management company, that brings home the bacon.
8 BEN AFFLECK: $43 MILLION
Ben Affleck is the second of three actors on this list who made part of their millions from playing a superhero. The 44-year-old two-time Oscar winner (neither for acting) made his controversial debut as Batman this year in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and that alone will pad the old wallet. Of course, he also cameo'd as Bats in this summer’s Suicide Squad and will parlay his somewhat surprising success in the role into directing a new solo Batman movie in the not-too-distant future, plus two Justice League movies, in 2017 and 2019.
Despite all of his past success, Forbes says that his Batman payday, which includes not just his salary, but a back-end deal, has resulted in Affleck’s most lucrative year to date. Also contributing is his starring role in the crime thriller The Accountant, which is slated for release in October. Just imagine the power couple he and J-Lo, number 10 on this list, would be if they hadn’t split up years ago.
7 JENNIFER LAWRENCE: $46 MILLION
And, following the Caped Crusader, we have the third and final superhero actor on this list. Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), of course, plays Raven/Mystique in the X-Men franchise, appearing in X-Men: Apocalypse earlier this year to contribute a good chunk to her 2015-16 fortune.
J-Law’s starring role in huge franchises like that, plus The Hunger Games, which finished up last year with Mockingjay – Part 2, plus seemingly annual Oscar-caliber roles in more serious films, have made the 27-year-old (who coincidentally shares an August 15 birthday with Affleck) the highest-paid actress in the world. She reportedly made a whopping $20 million alone for her role in this December’s sci-fi adventure Passengers, about a troubled space journey, co-starring Chris Pratt. And yet she’s still all the way down at number seven on this list. It’s no wonder that she’s been so vocal about Hollywood’s wage gap.
6 JOHNNY DEPP: $48 MILLION
Just a year ago, Forbes ranked Johnny Depp the most overpaid actor in Hollywood, with lackluster films like Transcendence and Mortdecai making just $1.20 for every $1.00 he was paid for them. This past year has only been slightly different. At least he has the Alice in Wonderland sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass under his belt, where he reprised his role as the Mad Hatter. While it failed to really catch on on this side of the pond, it’s grossed over $212 million at the foreign box office, for a total of about $290 million.
So the bulk of his massive earnings for this past year come from two big sequels: the second go-round of Alice and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The return of Captain Jack Sparrow is slated to hit theaters on May 26, 2017, but has already finished filming. He could wind up making more on the back end of both films – that is, unless his recent troubles with domestic violence accusations catch up with him and his box-office prowess.
5 TOM CRUISE: $53 MILLION
Even at age 54, Tom Cruise can’t stop starring in blockbuster movies. So that’s why he takes home the big bucks. Way back in 1996 he stumbled upon a major cash cow with the first Mission: Impossible movie. With a sixth installment with Cruise blowing stuff up and doing crazy stunts currently in pre-production, when it’s released it’ll quickly bring the franchise’s global take to over $3 billion.
The diminutive superstar, of course, produces those movies as well, so part of his earnings over the past year included back end from the fifth M:I film, last year’s, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Also included here is his salary from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, another sequel, which you can see in theaters starting October 21, 2016. It’ll come as a surprise to no one that he’ll most likely wind up high on this list again next year, as he stars in a new take on The Mummy and a new thriller in American Made. And if Top Gun 2 ever gets off the ground he’ll probably make a good $100 million for that when all is said and done.
4 MATT DAMON: $55 MILLION
We can imagine old Boston buddies, and Good Will Hunting co-stars/co-writers, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon getting together over coffee. Damon pulls this list up on his phone or iPad and taunts, “Suck on that, Batman!” That’s right, Damon out-earned his pal and didn’t even have to wedge himself into a superhero suit. Damon has a cool $10 million on Affleck, number eight on this list, over the past year.
A return to the character Jason Bourne in, well, Jason Bourne, this year, as both lead actor and producer, will go a long way. His salary alone for that sequel is believed to be around $25 million, which amounted to $1 million for every line he uttered in the movie. On top of that, coming out later this year is the period mystery/thriller/action flick The Great Wall, which takes place during the building of The Great Wall of China.
3 JACKIE CHAN: $61 MILLION
Speaking of China… that’s right, even though Jackie Chan’s days as a bankable headlining Hollywood star (his last Rush Hour movie was released in 2007) appear to be behind him, he’s still way up on this list making mega millions. How? Back home in China, that’s how. Just as India has its thriving Bollywood scene, China has a big film industry of its own.
In the past year alone, the 62-year-old martial arts dynamo voiced a character in Monkey King: Hero is Back, starred in a couple of Chinese/American productions in Skiptrace with Johnny Knoxville and Dragon Blade with John Cusack, plus he voiced Monkey in Kung Fu Panda 3 on this side of the Pacific. But that’s not all. He has three Chinese films in post-production and three more currently filming (two of the latter are animated). But he’s not done over here, as he’s expected to reprise the role of Mr. Han in Karate Kid 2, he’ll be the voice of Sensei Wu in next year’s The Lego Ninjago Movie, and there may even be a Rush Hour 4 in the coming years.
2 DWAYNE JOHNSON: $64.5 MILLION
We can smell what The Rock is cooking - it’s the ex-professional wrestler’s sizzling-hot acting career. Sure, Dwayne Johnson was incredibly funny and charismatic during his WWE days, with the People’s Eyebrow and the People’s Elbow. But who would’ve thought when he made his film debut as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns back in 2000 that 16 years later he’d be the highest paid "pure actor" in Hollywood?
Of course, he’s been busy stirring up controversy on the Fast 8 set lately, a film he’s surely getting a healthy eight figures for. He also starred in the blockbuster disaster movie San Andreas last year. Then there’s still the occasional WWE paycheck, having appeared in this year’s WrestleMania. Plus, he’s a star on the small screen, too, with his HBO comedy Ballers, where he stars as an ex-NFL player who’s become a financial manager, and which was recently renewed for a third season.
1 KEVIN HART: $87.5 MILLION
You see what we mean when we say Dwayne Johnson is the highest paid “pure actor” on this list. But we still think Kevin Hart does enough acting to count as an actor, despite a large chunk of his income streaming in from his wildly successful career as a stand-up comedian. While most top comics make their dough in soft-seat theaters and clubs, Hart is so popular he can sell out stadiums and arenas with his act.
Still, like we said, the 37-year-old Philadelphia native has definitely padded his bank account with his on-screen roles. As a testament to his burgeoning acting career, he starred this year for the first time in a sequel to one of his movies, Ride Along 2, with Ice Cube. More recently, he teamed up with the number two guy on this list, Johnson, to co-headline yet another action-comedy, Central Intelligence, which has grossed over $200 million worldwide. And, finally, he made his voice acting debut this year as a cranky bunny in The Secret Life of Pets.