Top 10 Most Successful Actors at the Box Office

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A good movie will transport you into a separate time or era with an intriguing story, everlasting characters, and imaginative plot development.  It could have a happy, sad, romantic, or action packed theme.  As a whole, the world population adores the character actors who star in these stories.  People can personally relate to certain movie characters and individual actors.  In the history of cinema, billions of dollars has been grossed in movie theatres and rental stores worldwide.  Certain actors have made their mark on the industry becoming the most successful at the box office.  I have compiled a list of the most successful actors in world history, according to money made on films they have starred in.

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10. Robin Williams

U.S. Gross – $3,177,675,199
Worldwide Gross – $5,749,935,745

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Robin Williams is a storied comedic actor who rose to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy.  He quickly became an international celebrity and movie star in the 1980’s.  Williams is a bit of a goofy character, but is a great actor and can also tackle dramatic roles.  He has won six Golden Globes and three Grammy Awards in his career.  Robin William’s average film gross is $59,956,136 million dollars per movie.  Be sure to look out for his 2010 release Old Dogs.  In March of 2009 Williams had successful heart surgery to replace his aortic valve.  He has a tour planned and still travels the world performing his stand up comedy act.

Most Successful Films:

  1. Night at the Museum – $574,480,841
  2. Aladdin – $504,050,219
  3. Mrs. Doubtfire – $441,286,195
  4. Happy Feet – $385,000,317

9. Will Smith

U.S. Gross – $2,542,908,988
Worldwide Gross – $5,771,022,176

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Will Smith is widely regarded as the most successful actor making films today.  His movies have an amazing average gross of $127,145,449 million dollars, which is the highest among lead actors.  He is the only actor in history to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in domestic box office sales.  Will Smith has also had eight consecutive films open at the #1 spot.  Unlike some individuals on this list, Smith has not earned movie credit for small roles or voice work.  In the future, he will be starring in the blockbuster Time Share and will also be making a prequel to I Am Legend.

Most Successful Films:

  1. Independence Day – $817,400,878
  2. Hancock – $624,346,274
  3. Men in Black – $587,790,539
  4. I Am Legend – $585,055,701

8. Morgan Freeman

U.S. Gross – $3,138,301,600
Worldwide Gross – $5,851,042,996

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Morgan Freeman is one of the greatest character actors of all time.  He is rarely the leading man in films, but his role always stands out and is vital to the movies success.  He has one of the most dominant and recognizable voices in Hollywood.  He has starred in around sixty productions, which have an average gross of $64,046,971 million dollars.  Freeman has many upcoming films he is contributing to, including Invictus, The Last Full Measure, and The Maiden Heist.

Most Successful Films:

  1. The Dark Knight – $1,000,245,358
  2. The War of the Worlds (Narrator) – $591,745,532
  3. Bruce Almighty – $485,004,995
  4. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – $390,500,000

7. Eddie Murphy

U.S. Gross – $3,470,799,901
Worldwide Gross – $6,211,397,821

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Eddie Murphy is undoubtedly the most successful comedic actor of all time.  His films have an average gross of $99,165,711 million dollars.  Eddie Murphy began his career as an edgy comedian and performance actor.  Lately, he has turned to children’s films and continues to entertain billions of people worldwide.  Murphy has three films set to be released in the last half of 2009.  They are Beverly Hills Cop IV, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and A Thousand Words.  Shrek Forever After will be out in the middle of 2010.

Most Successful Films:

  1. Shrek 2 – $919,838,758
  2. Shrek the Third – $798,958,162
  3. Beverly Hills Cop – $316,300,000
  4. Coming to America – $288,800,000

6. Bruce Willis

U.S. Gross – $3,045,317,743
Worldwide Gross – $ 6,432,992,990

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Bruce Willis is a true action hero.  He has appeared in over sixty films and usually plays the title role in his movies.  Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany and his father was an American soldier.  He moved to Penns Grove, New Jersey when he was two years old, after his father was discharged from the military.  To date, his films have an average gross of $51,615,555 million dollars per movie.  He truly has a unique acting style and makes intense, edge of your seat, entertaining cinema.  Watch out for his role alongside Tracy Morgan in Kevin Smith’s newest comedy A Couple of Dicks, which will be out in January of 2010.

Most Successful Films:

  1. The Sixth Sense – $672,806,292
  2. Armageddon – $554,600,000
  3. Live Free or Die Hard – $383,531,464
  4. Over the Hedge- $336,002,981

5. Tom Cruise

U.S. Gross – $3,274,294,878
Worldwide Gross – $6,642,337,497

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Tom Cruise is a true international celebrity.  He is cherished in Japan, Europe, and other areas of the world much more then many actors on the list.  This is because he often travels and visits many different countries.  Cruise is widely considered one of the most powerful celebrities in the world.  His films have an average gross of $96,302,791 million dollars.  He will be starring in the blockbuster Motorcade in 2010.

Most Successful Films:

  1. The War of the Worlds – $591,745,532
  2. Mission Impossible 2 – $546,209,889
  3. The Last Samurai – $456,810,575
  4. Rain Man – $412,800,000

4. Orlando Bloom

U.S. Gross – $2,390,308,637
Worldwide Gross – $6,554,217,251

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Orlando Bloom is an English actor and the youngest member of this prestigious group of men.  He landed main roles in two of the biggest trilogies of all time, playing Legolas in The Lord of the Rings and Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean.  Orlando Bloom has an amazing average film gross of $183,869,895 million dollars per movie.  Bloom’s first main title role was in the 2005 release Kingdom of Heaven, which was a profitable hit making $211,398,413 million dollars worldwide.  Orlando Bloom is extremely popular in various areas of Europe and England.  He has an international draw that is matched by very few.  Some of his upcoming roles include appearances in the movies Sympathy for Delicious and Main Street.



Most Successful Films:

  1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – $1,133,027,325
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $1,065,659,812
  3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – $926,284,377
  4. Troy – $497,398,577

3. Harrison Ford

U.S. Gross – $3,630,449,689
Worldwide Gross – $6,657,454,464

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In the past, Harrison Ford was highest grossing actor in the world, but has recently fallen to number three.  You have to keep in mind that Ford was popular during the 1970’s and 80’s when box-office sales were not as extravagant.  This article does not measure inflation scales.  A high majority of the most financially successful films in history have come in the last twenty years.  At one point in history, each of the top five box office hits of all time included one of Harrison Ford’s roles.  His films have an average gross of $98,120,262 million dollars.  Ford will be starring in the film Crowley, which will be out at the end of the year.

Most Successful Films:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – $797,900,000
  2. Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – $786,558,765
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – $534,171,960
  4. The Fugitive – $368,900,000

2. Tom Hanks

U.S. Gross – $3,985,186,565
World Gross – $8,007,367,700

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Tom Hanks is the most successful lead actor in cinema history with his films grossing over $8 billion dollars worldwide.  He is averaging a gross of $94,885,394 million dollars per film.  Tom Hanks has starred in over 50 movies and 19 of them made over $100 million dollars at the worldwide box office.  Although, he does have the animated features Cars and The Simpson Movie on his resume, which he only had minor voice roles in.  In 2010, Hanks will be starring in Disney’s A Christmas Carol and Toy Story 3.

Most Successful Films:

  1. The Da Vinci Code – $757,236,138
  2. Forrest Gump – $679,400,525
  3. Saving Private Ryan – $481,635,085
  4. Cast Away – $427,230,516

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1. Samuel L Jackson

U.S. Gross – $4,458,983,764
Worldwide Gross – $8,640,150,950

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Samuel L Jackson is the world’s highest grossing actor and his movies have made over $8.5 billion dollars worldwide.  Samuel is different from many actors on this list and has played smaller character roles in many blockbuster films.  You may argue that he doesn’t deserve the top spot over leading actors who have appeared in fewer films.  Although, Samuel L Jackson has been the busiest man in Hollywood for the last twenty years and should be commemorated for appearing in so many famous motion pictures, over 70 productions in all.  Movies that he has appeared in have an average gross of $57,166,459 million dollars.  As you would expect, Samuel L Jackson will be appearing in some upcoming features, including Iron Man 2, Quantum Quest: Cassini Space Odyssey, and Blown.  He is well aware of his sales record and is continuously trying to land roles in the year’s biggest blockbuster hits.

Most Successful Films:

  1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – $924,288,297
  2. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – $848,998,877
  3. The Incredibles – $635,564,642
  4. Iron Man – $582,313,199

Honorable Mentions:

Frank Welker

U.S. Gross – $4,954,899,301
Worldwide Gross – $9,282,114,860

Frank Welker is the most famous voice actor in Hollywood.  Over the last 40 years he has provided voice work and special effects for over seventy films and television series.  I have added him as an honorable mention because he is not a screen actor, but Frank is listed as number one on the list of the All Time Top 100 Stars at the Box Office, which is generated by total revenue in films he participated in.  The average gross for a film that Frank Welker was involved with is $55,054,437.

Most Successful Films

  1. Independence Day (Vocal Effects) – $817,400,878
  2. The Lion King (Additional Voice) – $783,839,505
  3. Aladdin (Abu the Monkey) – $504,050,219
  4. Beauty and the Beast (Footstool) – $403,476,931

Can’t Forget the Ensemble Actors:

When creating this list, one of the criteria was that the actor played a leading role in a portion of their featured films.  There is a small list of actors who are not officially leading men, but have starred in some of the biggest grossing movies in history.  Many of these men contributed to the widely successful Harry Potter series, but in order to get to the level of multi-billion dollars sales, an actor must have numerous popular roles.  Here is a short list of some of the actors that deserve recognition.

John Ratzenberger

Worldwide Sales – $6,475,185,574
Notable Voice Actor – Ratatouille, Cars, WALL-E, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc, also Cliff Clavin on Cheers.

Alan Rickman

Worldwide Sales – $5,974,545,031
Notable Films – Harry Potter Series, Robin Hood, Die Hard

James Earl Jones

Worldwide Sales – $5,952,493,986
Notable Films – Voice of Darth Vader, The Lion King, Coming to America

Ian McKellen

Worldwide Gross – $5,862,463,679
Notable Films – Lord of the Rings Series, Da Vinci Code, X-Men

Gary Oldman

Worldwide Sales – $5,761,120,790
Notable Films – Harry Potter Series, The Dark Knight, Hannibal


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144 Comments

  1. I would have never guessed Samuel Jackson for #1. I was thinking Harrison Ford all the way. Of course, if you count for inflation, he probably would be #1.

    Consider he was in two of the biggest trilogies of all time, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Yeah, that's right, I don't count the fourth Indiana movie.

    • What about Christopher Lee? He was in 2 of the Star Wars prequels and all 3 Lord of The Rings movies plus 263 other movies?

      • Chris Lee is 3rd by my calculations. Starring in films that grossed about $7.4 billion total.

    • what about hugo weaving he was in all three lords of the rings, all three transformers, all three matrixs

    • These are weird statistics. I wish they did a serious list. Tom Cruise is the face of Mission Impossible, Tom Hanks is Forrest Gump, Ford is Indiana Jones. Actors who barely make an obscure role and who, if you take them out of the picture, the picture is still what it was, should not be counted in such a list.

  2. Denzel hasn't been in enough blockbusters. This list isn't about acting quality, although there are quality actors on this list, it is about pure dollars.

  3. Denzel doesn't have any massively successful movie franchises. You probably notice that most actors on the list have been involved with successful sequels and trilogies. It was the same thing with Leonardo Dicaprio, although he did star in Titanic, which has made more money then any movie in history. If you are interested:

    Denzel Washington

    U.S. Gross – $1,656,302,416

    Worldwide Gross – $2,689,845,503

    13 Movies Grossed between – $100 million and $265 million. American Gangster was best selling film to date.

  4. A most successful actress list would be interesting. In researching this list I was surprised to see that no females were in the top 10, but some were close. The number one selling actress is Cameron Diaz.

  5. Denzel has not been part of a hugely successful movie franchises or animated features. As you probably noticed most of the actors on this list have starred in widely lucrative sequels and trilogies. To date Denzel Washington's films have a worldwide gross of $2,690,023,442 billion dollars. He has 13 different movies that have grossed between $100 million and $250 million. His most successful film being American Gangster.

  6. Roberto Ilutor on

    This is ridiculous. Samuel Jackson's role in Iron Man is minimal. You guys should get your act together. I'm really disappointed in your site.

      • While making a list of “Honorable Mentions,” put Jackson there. He does NOT deserve to have $500 million on his account for a role that MUCH MUCH MUCH smaller than Gary Oldman’s in “Harry Potter.”

        Besides, no one goes to see a movie just because Samuel L. Jackson is in it, which you can say about Cruise, Hanks and Ford.

  7. If you look in the Guinness Book of World Records under, Actor who has made the most money at the Box Office, you will see Samuel L Jackson. Many actors on this list landed small roles in blockbusters, such as Samuel L in Iron Man, although he will be in Iron Man 2 more. Tom Hanks is credited for small voice roles in The Simpson movie and Cars, which combined to gross $1 billion worldwide. Even without Iron Man on Samuel's resume he still dominates other actors on this list. I determined Samuel a leading actor and could not leave him off the list.

  8. Well these people have made a lot of impact in the entertainment sector i think they should be honored for this

  9. Roberto Ilutor on

    No. I c what you mean. But I don't know if you guys should really consider cameos, because thats pretty much all it is. But it's all good.

  10. I expected to see Gene Hackman in here somewhere… I would consider him the busiest actor in movies history…

  11. Good call, Hackman is one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, but surprisingly he has not been in too many multi-million dollar blockbusters. Overall his films have earned a worldwide gross of $3,051,416,816 billion dollars. His top grossing movies are Superman ($300,200,000), The Firm ($270,340,892), and Enemy of the State ($250,649,836).

  12. Unfortunately, more recent actors are going to have better dollars because of inflation. I would like to see a more fair number such as ticket sales. Those numbers would be inflated as much.

    • That’s not a bad idea, but you’re forgetting the rise in internet piracy which has affected ticket sales. It seems like it’s impossible to create a truly sterile criterion to base this list on.

  13. What about Hugo Weaving? Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Matrix Trilogy, V for Vendetta, Transformers 1 & 2 (voice of Megatron).

  14. This is, by far, one of the dumbest rankings I have ever seen. I can't believe you are all making a big deal of this. Ranking the success of actors based solely upon the box office success of the movies in which they acted, regardless, for the most part, of their involvement in the movies, is absolutely ridiculous. First, each actor cannot necessarily take full credit for the total gross of each of his/her movies. As has been pointed out, Samuel L. Jackson's roles in many, if not most, of his movies are supporting roles. Did people flock to the box office to buy a ticket to see Iron Man or the Star Wars films because Samuel L. Jackson was playing a secondary role in it? I think not. Second, as has also been pointed out, this list obviously favors more recent actors because of ticket price inflation. So, according to this absurd list, earlier actors such as Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn or Jimmy Stewart are not successful, despite their long careers, hundreds of movies and critical acclaim. See the stupidity?

  15. Nice list, but I was dissapointed in seeing the great Tom Hanks beaten by Sam Jackson.

    Besides, why didn't you count The Simpsons or Cars? You counted Iron Man, and Sam only appeared for 10 seconds, at the most. If you counted that, surely Tom's other work should also be recognized….

  16. What about Robbie Coltrane? Between all the Harry Potter movies, Desperaux, 2 Bond movies, Ocean's Twelve, Van Helsing, From Hell, etc, he is clocking in at 7.1B. Definitely should be on the honorable mention list

  17. I also think it's interesting that if you did this list for the women, Emma Watson would beat out Glenn Close, Meryll Streep and Julia Roberts

  18. where is universal superstar ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER and where is john travolta, etc.,

    This is absolutely fake….

  19. where is john cusack? he’s very famous……he almost have over 100 movies and all of them are grerat!!!!!!!!!!

  20. People people

    Number 1 ROBERT DE NIRO

    Number 2 SYLVESTER STALLONE

    Number 3(why not someone from comedy,they are really good) JIM CARREY

    Your list are good,but my is better 🙂 🙂 🙂

    barararahahahahah

    • Because, as the author of this article defends Samuel L. Jackson, he says no to Frank Welker because he didn’t actually star in a film. He was the voice-over, and he is not a star, maybe because he is some little white guy.. I don’t know.

      I do know that this list is flawed from top to bottom leaving the most obvious #1 ranking Frank Welker out.

  21. Im sorry but this is a farce. Where is Daniel Ratcliffe ? , surely you must consider the lead character in Harry Potter films to be considered (after all you included Samuel Jacksons 5 sec iron man apperance) and these have grossed over $7bil and counting

      • um what do you mean his films arent a hit worldiwide
        numbers wise his films have a bigger audience of 3 billions people in asia, the usa, the uk the rest of europe his films are more international

        and have an audience at least 3 times if not more – larger than any hollywood actor…..

        • the combined gross of his 70 movies is below 300 million $ (u can check it on wikipedia) and FYI more gross means more people come to see the movie and also johnny depp is highest grossing actor in history considering him in the leading role ,total gross of his movie exceeds 8 billion $ worldwide