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Who Are the World’s Highest-Paid Actors This Year?

By Orgesta Tolaj


22 March 2024

Highest-paid actors

© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

The entertainment industry is known for its high salaries and flashy lifestyles. Each year, Forbes releases a list of the highest-paid actors, giving us a glimpse into the financial success of our favorite Hollywood stars. Curious to know who made the cut this year? Keep reading to find out who are the world’s highest-paid actors in 2023.

Margot or Cilian? Are They the Highest-Paid Actors This Year?

In 2023, the film industry saw the dominance of two major releases, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” which were released on the same day in July. These films not only dominated the box office but also garnered critical acclaim, sparking discussions in essays and op-eds. At the Oscars, “Oppenheimer” is predicted to sweep major categories including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture. Despite the success of these blockbusters, other entertainment options thrived throughout the year, with Netflix’s engagement report indicating significant time spent watching Adam Sandler movies.

Who Is the Highest-Paid Actor This Year?

Since signing a $250 million four-picture deal with Netflix in 2014, Adam Sandler, now 57, has been prolific, starring in eight movies for the streaming giant and producing more through his Happy Madison production company. Additionally, the majority of his comedy catalog is now licensed to Netflix. In the first half of 2023 alone, Netflix subscribers spent over 500 million hours watching Sandler’s movies.

Highest-paid actors
© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

Netflix has expressed unwavering support for Sandler, exemplified by co-CEO Ted Sarandos stating, “There’s no such thing as too much Sandler.” Sandler enjoys creative freedom under his lucrative contract, which includes filming in exotic locations for projects like “Murder Mystery 2” with Jennifer Aniston. In 2023, Sandler released three films, including one starring his wife and daughters, along with an animated feature. Combined with numerous stand-up comedy shows, Sandler earned an estimated $73 million, making him the highest-paid actor of the year by a significant margin.

What About Other Highest-Paid Actors?

Besides Adam Sandler’s accomplishments, these actors are close to the first place:

Second Place – Margot Robbie ($78 Million Gross)

“Barbie” became a cultural phenomenon last July, grossing $1.45 billion worldwide along with significant revenue from licensing and partnerships. Margot Robbie, both the producer and star of the film, earned approximately 12.5% of back-end profits, estimated by Forbes to exceed $60 million. Her production company, LuckyChap, gained prominence with the success of “Barbie” and the previous year’s satire “Saltburn.” Robbie solidified her relationship with Warner Bros. by signing an exclusive first-look deal with the studio, which produced “Barbie.”

Highest-paid actors
© Warner Bros.

Third Place – Tom Cruise ($53 Million Gross)

At 61, Tom Cruise defies conventional wisdom in both his daring stunt work and his approach to compensation. He remains one of the last actors to secure a “first-dollar gross” deal, earning a percentage of box office and other revenues from the day of release, regardless of the studio’s profit recovery. In 2023, he capitalized on the latest “Mission: Impossible” installment and continued to earn from streaming and on-demand profits for “Top Gun: Maverick” from 2022. Despite industry changes, studios remain eager to collaborate with Cruise, as evidenced by his new development deal with Warner Bros. signed in January.

Highest-paid actors
© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

Fourth Place – Ryan Gosling ($50 Million Gross)

Despite playing the role of Ken, Ryan Gosling’s supporting performance in the year’s top film earned him an Oscar nomination and one of the most significant paychecks of his career. Additionally, his power ballad from the movie, “I’m Just Ken,” has garnered over 100 million streams on Spotify, further contributing to his success.

Highest-paid actors
© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

Fifth Place – Matt Damon ($50 Million Gross)

There’s considerable anticipation within Hollywood for the success of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Artists Equity studio, which aims to empower crew members and other behind-the-scenes talent by allowing them to share in the profits of their projects. Their debut film, “Air,” starring Damon and directed by Affleck, was sold to Amazon for an estimated $130 million before production even began—far exceeding the movie’s budget and ensuring ample profits to distribute. Additionally, Affleck, aged 53, opted for a modest $4 million salary for his supporting role in “Oppenheimer,” significantly lower than his usual rate, in exchange for a stake in the film’s substantial profits.

matt damon
© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

Where Does the Money Lie?

Starring in a hit theatrical movie remains Hollywood’s ultimate prize, unlike Netflix’s upfront payment model. Successful theatrical releases can generate continuous revenue, providing actors with profit participation and indefinite earning potential. For instance, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s leads in “Barbie,” rank highly on the top earners list due to box office, VOD, and initial streaming earnings, with their total compensation likely to surpass initial estimates. Margot Robbie’s success stands out, being the youngest on the list at 33, while most others are over 52, benefitting from residuals and established salary precedents. This means top stars can expect their earnings to match or exceed those of their previous projects.

There Are Still Challenges

The entrenched salary structures in Hollywood pose challenges for younger actors and actors of color to break into the top tier. In 2023, only one actor of color, Denzel Washington, made it to the top 10 earners list. Factors contributing to this disparity include the absence of major releases from perennial highest-paid Black actors like Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, and Samuel L. Jackson, who focused on other ventures or worked predominantly on streaming platforms with capped potential upside. Additionally, blockbuster movies featuring Black, Asian, and Hispanic actors remain scarce, further limiting opportunities for diverse representation at the highest earning levels.

What Is Next for 2024?

The 2024 ranking of highest-paid actors is expected to see significant changes, reflecting the evolving release calendar. While Margot Robbie, Tom Cruise, and Leonardo DiCaprio move on to new projects, the upcoming theatrical slate features anticipated releases like Will Smith in “Bad Boys 4,” Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” and Ryan Reynolds in “Deadpool 3.” Additionally, young talents from “Dune 2” such as Zendaya, Austin Butler, and Anya Taylor-Joy will be leading multiple films. Furthermore, blockbuster TV shows like “Yellowstone,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Bear” will contribute to the earnings mix, adding further diversity to the rankings.

Did any of your favorites make it to this year’s highest-paid actors list?

You might also want to read: These Are the World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!