7 Actors Who Made Millions from a Role
Thu, April 22, 2021

7 Actors Who Made Millions from a Role

Keanu Reeves as Neo from the sci-fi trilogy "The Matrix" earned $250 million dollars, combined. / Photo credit by Sudhee via Flickr



Producing and marketing a movie is always just half the battle when orchestrating a successful release. There’s work to be done in terms of developing the story or writing a script to fully imbibe life into a film. If movies do exceptionally well, actors are usually given a sizable amount of money for its success. 

Sometimes they are paid beforehand, but the most common practice is paying actors for a day’s work, something that is outlined by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Interested in knowing which actors got a major paycheck? Here are the top 10 actors who got paid big-time after their involvement in some of the most memorable movies. 

Keanu Reeves, “Neo,” The Matrix trilogy, $250 million (combined)

“The Matrix” is perhaps the most memorable movie of the generation. Set in an alternative reality, “The Matrix” took every possible science fiction trope they could get their hands on and incorporate it into a movie that would stand the test of time. Sure, there’s a lot to be said about the animation but, back then, that didn’t matter. Reeves, who played “Neo” in the three films, cashed in a total of $250 million. 

Will Smith, “Agent J,” Men in Black 3, $100 million

Though the movie has very divisive comments, it was still very much enjoyed. Coming away from “Men in Black 3,” Will Smith, who played Agent J in all three movies, garnered $100 million. According to reviews, the story wasn’t as strong in the second or third. The common consensus seems to be that the buddy cop plus sci-fi schtick came to an abrupt lull in the third movie, which was only marginally salvaged by Josh Brolin playing Agent K’s younger self in 1969. 

Tom Cruise, “Ethan Hunt,” Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, $75 million


Everyone who’s ever watched enough action movies in their lives probably knows who Tom Cruise is. In “Ghost Protocol,” the fourth part in the Mission: Impossible franchise, the franchise that cemented his career as an action movie actor, Cruise reportedly earned $75 million for his role as Ethan Hunt.  

As reported by Worldation, a website offering news on culture, entertainment, food, health, and other things, Cruise even made some $70 million for the second and third movies. 

Sandra Bullock, “Dr. Ryan Stone,” Gravity, $70 million

Sandra Bullock, known for her roles in “Speed” (1994), “The Proposal” (2009), and just last year’s “Ocean’s 8” and the Netflix movie “Bird Box,” made so much money on “Gravity,” too. According to business news website Business Insider, the deal that Bullock got for the movie was 15% of the box office revenue, which led her to bag $70 million. 

Johnny Depp, “Mad Hatter,” Alice in Wonderland, $68 million


Depp starred in the live-action fairytale fantasy film "Alice in Wonderland," in which he earned 50 million pounds. / Photo credit by matsubokkuri via Wikimedia Commons

Despite all the legal problems that Depp has got himself into, his gothic movies are undoubtedly very memorable for those of us who grew up appreciating his appreciation for taking roles under filmmaker Tim Burton, whose craft lay in almost arthouse-quality movies about darker topics.

Burton and Depp partnered up once again for the live-action “Alice in Wonderland” movie, from which Depp made $68 million. 

Harrison Ford, “Indiana Jones,” Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, $65 million

The infamous story for his role in this fourth film was that Paramount “split a large portion of the film’s earnings between him, director Steven Spielberg, and producer George Lucas.” Technically, the movie had already thrown in the towel, but since his character was well-loved, people were only so glad he was back. Ford took home $65 million from this project. 

Outside of Indiana Jones, Ford seems to be doing pretty well for himself. So far, he has done 43 films and has amassed at least 5 billion from his career as an actor, making him the fourth highest-grossing actor, according to British-based entertainment, television, and film website, Digital Spy. 

Tom Hanks, “Forrest Gump,” Forrest Gump, $60 million


Who could forget our favorite simpleton, Forrest? No one, that’s who. The man who ran a marathon because he wanted to run, went home because he didn't want to run anymore, invented the smiley along the way, and just generally gave us all the good vibes, Hanks’ performance as Forrest Gump did not go unnoticed. After doing Forrest Gump, Hanks got $60 million.  

Special Mention, Sitcom: Jerry Seinfeld as Himself, “Seinfeld,” almost $1.5 million/episode

Playing his own neurotic self in what is essentially his own sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld made millions when “Seinfeld” began to wrap up. The story, according to Worldation, is that Seinfeld was already thinking that it was about time that “Seinfeld” came to an end. Because of that, he’d gotten paid by NBC an eye-popping $1.5 million per episode just to keep it going through to season 10.