15 Most Insanely Overpaid Actors, Ranked

While we know that the lifestyles of the rich and the famous isn’t all champagne and caviar, it can sometimes be frustrating to see the glitterati strut around Hollywood with their gold-plated iPhones.

However while the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Mila Kunis pull in the performances and the punters, there are some actors out there who just aren’t what they used to be. Whether it be the unraveling of a mummy, that sinking feeling on the high seas, or a suicide (squad) mission to failure, there are those who hardly represent good value for money. Whether it be Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, or even Julia Roberts, what’s in a name anymore?

Every year, Forbes compiles a list of Hollywood’s most overpaid actors and ranks the winners and losers based on their ROI. The criteria takes each actor’s last three films (apart from animations) and calculate their salary against the production costs and box office takings. In this era of superhero superstars, other films seem to be struggling, and it appears to be taking its actors with it

While once a big name could secure you instant success, savvy audiences have clocked on to this Hollywood scheme. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the box office from both 2015 and 2016 to find the 15 Most Insanely Overpaid Actors.

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Tom Cruise in The Mummy
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15 Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise in The Mummy

Kicking things off, it seems like a mission “impossible” to escape the continuing price tag of Tom Cruise. The pint-sized actor still commands top dollar for starring roles in his films. While Cruise’s past successes have included the likes of Top Gun and Rain Man, his career in more recent years has shown a fair few missteps.

Making the list of overpaid actors in 2015, Cruise’s inclusion is down to the likes of Oblivion, Jack Reacher, and Edge of Tomorrow. While all films managed to make double their budgets, oversized costs have dented Cruise’s box-office performance. Particularly with the likes of Edge, many fans seem confused what they were even going to watch.

Cruise may still be one of the best-known faces in Hollywood, but is he still the Oscar-worthy contender he used to be? Although Cruise escaped the overpaid list for 2016, he will surely be re-entering this year. Given the recent tanking of Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, expect Cruise to soar up the rankings for 2017.

14 Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper to direct A Star is Born with Lady Gaga

It is easy to see why Bradley Cooper is one of the highest-paid actors out there, and those baby blues and chiseled jaw have cemented him as a Hollywood heartthrob. However, it seems that looks alone just don’t give you the value for money that they used to.

Going from a minor role in Sex and the City and then starring in Wet Hot American Summer and Alias, Cooper has secured major parts in the likes of Limitless, The Hangover series, and an elusive place in the record-breaking MCU. Although Cooper’s place in Guardians of the Galaxy has “rocketed” him to the top of the box office, his recent roles elsewhere have damaged his street cred somewhat. 

Even the all-star cast of Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro couldn’t save the comedy-drama Joy from being a lackluster affair. However, it was the slamming reviews and whitewashing controversy of Aloha that hurt Cooper’s chances even further.

Don’t worry, with Rocket Racoon blasting off once more in Avengers: Infinity War, Cooper can surely go home and count his dollars in peace when he drops off the list.

13 Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt in Fury (2014)

Sometimes, even being a superstar like Brad Pitt can be the “pits.” The Fight Club and Se7en lead can’t simply rely on his credentials as (the former) Mr. Angelina Jolie to bring home the bacon. The inclusion of Pitt in any film was always going to carry a large paycheck, and it is thanks to the likes of World War Z that he reaches the No. 13 spot.

Unfortunately, an eclectic career of great roles and big hitters like Inglourious Basterds don’t balance out over-priced action films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith or ensembles like The Counselor. Pitt may have taken less money for his part in Ridley Scott’s thriller, but with a much smaller slice of the box office pie, he still wasn’t a great investment.

However, it is perhaps Pitt's part of golden couple "Brangelina" that made him most expensive. Nabbing the pair was always sure to come with a hefty withdrawal from the bank, but not necessarily the return.

Who knows though, perhaps if Pitt had pipped Josh Brolin to playing Cable it would be a different story, but for the time being, he remains in the overpaid club.

12 Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts Money Monster

The fiery Julia Roberts is part of cinema’s ‘90s boom alongside the likes of Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, and Meg Ryan. However, nabbing the unenviable honor of being the only woman to make this list, Julia Roberts won’t be too happy to find herself in twelfth place. 

Breaking into the rom-com world with parts in Pretty Woman and Notting Hill, Roberts was once up there with Cruise as big business for any movie. Roberts may have won a golden statue for her part in Erin Brockovich, but maybe she should stick to what she knows best with rom-coms clearly being her forte. It is poor returns from films Money Monster and Mother’s Day that land her as the lone female on this list.

We can’t necessarily see Roberts' place as the only woman as a good thing, since her wages still represent the massive pay gap between male and female actors in Hollywood.

11 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo Dicaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street

The man, the meme, the legend! Is Leonardo DiCaprio really worth those dollar signs in his eyes? A relatively unknown actor found fame thanks to his part as the titular Romeo in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, however, it was as Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s Titanic that he became a household name.

Since then, there has been no stopping DiCaprio from taking over cinema. Though it costs a small fortune to nab DiCaprio, at least his films also come with something that money can’t buy - rave reviews.

With some of his best work being movies like The Departed, it is relatively hard to find a bad film where Leo has a role. Most directors would be lucky to have him join their movie and everyone knows it.

Leo finally nabbed himself a well-deserved Oscar for The Revenant, but it was also this film that puts him firmly on the list of overpaid actors. 

10 Christian Bale

With stellar performances in the likes of American Psycho and The Machinist, Christian Bale’s intense performances have made him a star on the rise since the noughties. However, it is was his casting as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that sent Bale's stock - and his salary - through the roof.

Sadly, since hanging up the cape and cowl, parts of Bale’s career have been anything but a superhero success. Even before Nolan’s final entry in the trilogy, Bale was in trouble thanks to that explosive rant on the set of Terminator Salvation. However, it was the least of his worries, and the Arnie-less entry to the Terminator franchise was something of a short circuit.

More recently, Bale is still no cheap choice, and Exodus: Gods and Kings cost an eye-watering $140 million with a mediocre return. Unfortunately, it is 2013’s Out of the Furnace which drags him up the list - does anyone actually remember this film? Making only $15 million against a $22 million budget Out of the Furnace confirmed that Bale is struggling to live up to his Batman days.

9 Mark Wahlberg

Marky Mark sure has the swagger of a substantial superstar, and presumably the bank balance to match. Riding on success from the likes of The Departed and The Fighter, Wahlberg made a name for himself as a serious actor in Tinseltown.

Sadly, his recent movies like Daddy’s Home, Ted 2, and The Gambler were hardly Walk of Fame material. In particular, The Gambler only made around $34 million domestically against a budget of $25 million. Thankfully, Wahlberg’s success behind the camera is easier to measure, while his producing work on shows like Boardwalk Empire and Ballers will see him laughing all the way to the bank.

Admittedly, 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction will have helped Wahlberg’s standing by breaking the $1 billion mark. The critical acclaim and success of Deepwater Horizon will also help the talented tough guy, However, as Wahlberg replaced Shia LaBeouf as the de facto lead of the Transformers series, the box office bombing of this year’s The Last Knight should knock him down a peg or two for the 2017 ranking.

8 Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson Taken

How many times can one man take on the world on his own? Well, if you are the Northern Irish national treasure that is Liam Neeson, apparently quite a lot!

From playing Qui-Gon Jinn to Aslan, Ra’s al Ghul to the titular monster from A Monster Calls, Neeson has seemingly done it all. Sadly, it appears playing a gruff government agent in retirement just doesn’t cut it like it used to.

2008’s Taken was lauded as a great addition to the action genre, but by the time we rounded off the trilogy in 2014, some viewers weren’t quite as “taken” with Neeson as they used to be. That being said Taken 3 still netted an impressive $326.5 million against $48 million - it was elsewhere that Neeson didn’t quite live up to his salary expectations.

Walk Among the Tombstones and Run All Night may not have had huge budgets over $50 million, but Neeson’s salary alone would’ve been one of the biggest expenses for both movies.

7 Adam Sandler

Adam Sandler in Just Go With It

There are two types of people in the world: those who love Adam Sandler movies, and those who can’t stand them. While Sandler topped the list of most overpaid actors in both 2013 and 2014, he is faring slightly better these days. 

At times, it can be hard enough to find a “good” Adam Sandler movie, but long gone are the days of Happy Gilmore and 50 First Dates. Instead, Sandler is confined to stinkers like That's My Boy and the truly abysmal Jack and Jill, while 2016 saw missteps with Grown Ups 2(who asked for the sequel?). Despite this, it was definitely Wreck it Ralph rip-off Pixels that was “Game Over” for Sandler.

A lucrative deal with Netflix may help Sandler’s standing somewhat, but with The Ridiculous 6 and The Do-Over already failing to impress, let’s not get our hopes up too much.

6 George Clooney

George Clooney in Hail, Caesar!

Dr. Doug Ross to the ER please, because it looks like George Clooney’s career could use some serious CPR.

As the leading Danny Ocean in the crime caper Ocean's films, what has Clooney been up to recently? Fans of the Coen brothers may have enjoyed Clooney's part in their zany Hail, Caesar!, but coupled with the aforementioned Money Monster, neither film did as well as they could’ve. Nevertheless, it is Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland which sends Clooney into sixth place. The sci-fi mystery failed to impress and struggled to barely scrape past its astronomical budget of $190 million.

While Clooney may have finally shed his rubber-nipple days as possibly the worst Batman, will his career ever fully recover? Although Clooney won’t be appearing among the all-star cast, let’s hope that his next directorial effort with this year’s Suburbicon can reignite our hopes in in the Hollywood heartthrob.

5 Will Ferrell

While the intelligent improviser may be loved by his fans, that still doesn't make up for the fact that Will Ferrell’s last three films have all scored under 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps he should’ve just made Elf 2 instead?

It looks like sequels just aren’t Ferrell's thing, with both Anchorman 2 and Zoolander 2 unable to cash in on the cult following of their originals. In particular, Zoolander 2 was a dud that simply wasn’t worth the 15 year wait from its original. We also don’t imagine that having Ferrell return as Jacobim Mugatu was that cost effective, which can’t be a good sign for a possible Step Brothers 2

As one of the most-successful SNL alumni out there, there is no denying that Ferrell has done well for himself. The “Frat Pack” continue to dominate the comedy genre, but could their time be running out? Ferrell is known to earn up to $20 million for films with a budget of less than $50 million - sorry, but those figures just don’t add up.

4 Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington J Jonah Jameson Spider-Man

As a staple on this kind of list for many years, what is it about Denzel Washington that makes him so darn expensive? Reaching critical acclaim with the likes of Malcolm X, Glory, and Training Day, Washington seems to favor more serious movies and doesn't really spend too much time grabbing roles in those big box office blockbusters.

Washington is clearly an accomplished actor and a favorite of the industry, but away from his best movies, the returns are always average. Undoubtedly, having two Academy Awards on your mantlepiece means that you can ask for a little more in your pay-packet than those who don’t have a little gold man.

Recently, the mixed reviews for the Magnificent Seven remake won’t have helped Denzel, and getting him on board would’ve surely cost a pretty penny. Elsewhere Flight did extremely well on a tiny budget, but a lot of those dollars will have gone to the man himself. Then, when we look to more middle-of-the-road films like 2 Guns and The Equalizer, we can start to see where the problem might be.

3 Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum in Magic Mike

You only need to say two words to see why Channing Tatum might steal 3rd place on a list of overpaid actors - Jupiter Ascending

Moving from 7th to take the bronze for 2016, Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike XXL hit couldn’t help escape the gravitational pull of Jupiter. The upcoming Kingsman: The Golden Circle might help his standing, but alongside stars like Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges, the casting budget on that one looks to be huge. Also, with Tatum receiving second-billing alongside Taron Egerton, he is sure to be taking home a big slice of that apple pie.

We still don’t really know where Fox stands on their Gambit movie, but the superhero studio must be shelling out some serious money to keep Tatum hanging on for that particular carrot. Thankfully, the only thing keeping Channing from the gold medal is his role as Greg Jenko in the Jump Street series.

2 Will Smith

Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion

Coming a very long way from kicking it in Bel Air, Will Smith still means big business for any movie. While Men In Black 3 was huge for Smith, other entries like After Earth and Focus failed to make it big. Elsewhere, Concussion evaded an Oscar nod and also failed to be a knockout.

Although the Men in Black series seems to be at an end (for now), Smith still has plenty to keep him occupied in his advancing years. Also, we can't imagine that casting Smith alongside the likes of Margot Robbie and Jared Leto for Suicide Squad would've been cheap. Smith still commands some big box office credentials, but that also brings the salary with it

Now that Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin has also bottled Smith as its Genie, it could be make or break. Sure, Ritchie’s King Arthur bombed, but just look at how Disney’s Beauty and the Beast did. Rising from 5th place in 2015, Smith only just misses out on the top spot.

1 Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

So here we have it! Topping the list in both 2015 and 2016, Johnny Depp is officially the most overpaid actor in Hollywood. With some rather public personal troubles of late, things certainly aren’t going well for Captain Jack Sparrow in personal and business life.

Speaking of which, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise may rest on Depp’s shoulders, but with On Stranger Tides being the most expensive film ever made, we imagine Depp contributed to that somewhat. However, it was the commercial failure of Alice Through the Looking Glass that sees Depp retain the top spot - bagging just $77m compared to the original’s $334m, it is easy to see what went wrong.

Other mixed-bag movies like Transcendence, Mordecai, and The Lone Ranger saw him steadily climb the list, so is he really worth the eight-figures that he regularly demands for his movies?

Sure, there were parts in Black Mass and Fantastic Beasts, but even that latter was mired in controversy after his contentious divorce from ex-wife Amber Heard. With three of Depp’s most recent movies returning just $2.80 for every $1, Johnny isn’t exactly a sound investment as of late.


What do you think of Hollywood's most overpaid actors? Sound off in the comments below!

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