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. Harrison Ford is the real blockbuster king inflation or not…he’s the lead actor in his movies…he’s not busy doing movies but if he made one it gross millions. thats a mark of true blockbuster star. Samuel Jackson doesnt really choose his films or characters…he just accept roles to said that he is the highest grossing hollywood actor…character that very forgetable and silly

  2. This list is absolute nonsense…. “one of the criteria was that the actor played a leading role in a portion of their featured films” – why have this criteria? I can understand the asian industry being omitted as the films do not reach a worldwide audience nor qualify for Oscars unless played in LA but Gandalf, Magneto, Legolas, Will Turner, Dracula, Sirius Black, Jim Gordon are pretty fundamental characters in movie history as those actors should be considered. Especially if Jackson is going to get included for Invisibles, Kill Bill, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. Jesus even Star Wars character was hardly on screen.

    It clearly shows McKellen, Rickman, etc having been in films that grossed major – some of whom were higher than Oldman, Williams and Smith.

    It seems to me the criteria has been put together to ensure it is full of Hollywood based pretty boys.

    Pointless and meaningless article.

    And breathe…

  3. where is Johney Depp…???..he is a real talented ruler in film industry….his name should be there instead of that Samuel L Jackson….

  4. where is shahrukh khan in the top listedâ?¦ he is one of the best movie star in world.. great actor forever and Shahrukh Khan is most popular in the world.

      • Sorry, this seems only like an America-Wide. Otherwise, after adjusting for Net Worth, Shahrukh Khan should be right at the top as his net worth is higher than any of these Hollywood stars.

  5. where is shahrukh khan name i have seen his movies a lot he is great and popular all around the world

  6. Interesting list, but it seems to me the actor should be in the movie for more than a cameo. Morgan Freeman is a significant character in almost all of his movies. Jackson is significant in quite a few, but as others have mentioned, in Iron Man, he’s on screen for less than two minutes.

    Of course, the person who SHOULD be listed as the top box office king using these criteria, for US and European films is Sheb Wooley. He did the Wilhelm scream in 1951, which has been used in all the Lucas and Spielberg movies:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_scream

  7. The problem here is the title of the list. It is misleading. This is not a list of the most successful actors at the box office. If so, it is akin to ranking the most successful caterer as the one whose movies catered grossed the most money at the box office. That certainly would not equate to the caterer being the most successful caterer in the movie industry. Rather, the caterer merely worked on the set. No one went to these movies because Samuel L. Jackson was in them. He is most always a supporting actor in the vast majority of his films and in many of his over 70 films his part was even less substantial. Quite simply, if you would change the title of the list to reflect what it really denotes, which is: What actor’s film portfolio has grossed the highest revenue to date? Because that is much more accurate. Though voice-over actors are actors too! Good try though and thanks!

  8. All Time Super Heroes….

    1. Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins

    2. Al Pacino and Marlon Brando

    3. Denzel Washington and Robert Pattinson

    4. Robert Di Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio

    5. Daniel Radcliffe and Tobey Maguire

    6. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law

    7. Jhonney Depp and Orlando Bloom

    8. Keanu Reeves and Jim Carry

    9. Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson

    10. Harrison Ford and Russel Crowe

  9. This list is ridiculous. Where is Nicolas Cage?. He has been one the most successful actors over time. And Samuel Jackson……….this is insane. I believe inflation should have been taken into account when gross earnings are taken to reflect truly into how much real earnings were taken in

  10. It’s not about popular movies or how many you are in, it’s about acting. Congratulations to Samuel.

    • No. It’s about the amount of money the movies made that the actors were in. Samuel has been in several top grossing movies including the Star Wars movies, Pulp Fiction and the Incredibles. It’s not about acting ability it’s about being in big selling movies. Although, I think Samuel is also a great actor.

  11. I find it interesting that 4 of the top 10, including #1 are black. It used to be thought that many Americans were prejudice against blacks. Thank God that’s no longer the case, and thank God people can no longer say that American’s are prejudice with any sort of accuracy.

  12. where is shahrukh khan..he is one of the best actors in the world with a huge amount of fan following

  13. Shahrukh Khan is bigger, richer and more popular than any name on that list. He has made over 50 blockbuster movies and has a fan following in billions. The man is simply a phenomenon!

  14. Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Sam Worthington are already in the TRILLIONS. This article needs to consult box office mojo.

  15. everybody seems to miss out Hugo Weaving. he has a grand total of $7.75 billion, from all 3 installments in the Matrix, Lord Of The Rings & Transformers trilogies, Captain America, and V For Vendetta. plus he has all 3 Hobbit films coming up

  16. SHAHRUKH KHAN,the biggest,and the most popular actor having billions of fan followers is missing here,,,

  17. oh, and I lloked it up, and Johnny Depp is worth way more than sharukh kahn. Depp has earned over $200 million from just Pirates.. already, and is reportedly being paid up to $100 million for the fifth installment. and once The Hobbit movies are all out, Hugo Weaving will most likely destroy everyone else on this list.

  18. 1) being a voice in a movie doesn’t count
    2) if you aren’t the lead or minimum main supporting cast in the movie it doesn’t count

    Eddie Murphy off the list, Jackson off the list (star wars? Not even 3rd or 4th supporting. Incredibles? What 3rd supporting voice? Ironman …. So what’s the minimum? 5 minutes screen time. Oh wait I see….Narrator! What else was on his list. avengers? Wait where are the song writers, grips, camera men. And you compare this to an actor who carried a film with a volleyball as his supporting actor.

    This is stupid. Comparing apples, oranges, to cartoon characters, to voice overs.