Skip To Content

    11 Actors Who Made Over $20 Million For Just One Movie, And 11 Who Were Stupidly Underpaid

    Hilary Swank was paid so little for Boys Don't Cry that she wasn't even eligible for health insurance: "I made $3,000. For insurance, you have to make $5,000, so I didn't even know that I didn't have health insurance."

    1. Underpaid: Michelle Williams

    close up of Michelle

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michelle was paid $625,000 for her performance in All the Money in the World which earned her a Golden Globes nomination. In comparison, her costar Mark Wahlberg made $5 million — nearly ten times her pay.

    michelle's character on the phone

    Even worse, she was paid less than $1,000 for reshoots while Mark's compensation was increased by $1.5 million. After the story went viral, Mark donated the $1.5 million to the Time's Up campaign.

    close up of Mark

    In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, Michelle responded to Mark's donation. "Today isn’t about me. My fellow actresses stood by me and stood up for me, my activist friends taught me to use my voice, and the most powerful men in charge, they listened and they acted. If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice."

    close up of Michelle

    2. Made millions: Leonardo DiCaprio

    close up of Leo

    According to Forbes, the actor agreed to a lower-than-normal salary for Inception. This allowed him to negotiate for a first-dollar gross arrangement, meaning that he got a cut of the box office earnings before the studio even made its production and advertising costs back yet.

    Leo in Inception

    Due to the structure of his contract, he made about $40 million in additional earnings, bringing his total compensation to $50 million.

    leo's characters holding a gun as he sits down

    3. Underpaid: Taraji P. Henson

    close up fo Taraji

    During an interview on The Real, the actor opened up about her salary for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She was paid $150,000 for the role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After paying taxes and her team, she was left with about $30,000 — the same cost as her son's tuition.

    Taraji saying she's gotta get another check

    On the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast, Taraji revealed that she initially asked for $500,000, but the studio shut that down and offered her $100,000 instead. They settled on $150,000, but she pointed out her costars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett made way more. "I’m not saying they shouldn’t have paid Cate and Brad what they deserved," she said. "They deserved that because when this comes out, people are coming because of Brad, and they’re going to discover me. I’m bringing a certain amount to the seat, too, and I felt like what I was asking at that time in my career was fair."

    Taraji in the movie

    4. Made millions: Robert Downey Jr.

    close up of Robert

    The actor was paid a $20 million salary for Avengers: Endgame, where we said goodbye to our beloved Iron Man. According to Forbes, Robert made an additional $55 million due to the back-end profits he negotiated in his contract — a total of $75 million.

    close up of Robert as Iron Man

    5. Underpaid: Oprah

    close up of Oprah

    Back in the beginning of her career, the TV host was severely underpaid for her work in The Color Purple. According to Insider, she was paid just $35,000 for playing Sofia. Her performance went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

    close up of Oprah's character

    6. Made millions: Tom Cruise

    close up of Tom

    According to Variety, the actor accepted a smaller-than-usual salary of about $13 million for Top Gun: Maverick. That way, he could negotiate for a larger percentage of first-dollar gross. Considering the film made over $1.3 billion in theaters, Tom's total compensation for the film is estimated at $100 million.

    tom's character flying a jet

    7. Underpaid: Jonah Hill

    close up of jonah smiling

    The actor was paid just $60,000 for his work in The Wolf of Wall Street, which took seven months to shoot. In comparison, Leonardo DiCaprio made $10 million.

    jonah and leo's charcter grabbing each other's necks and smiling

    Jonah accepted the Screen Actor Guild's minimum rate in order to work with director Martin Scorsese. "They gave me the lowest amount of money possible, that was their offer," he revealed on The Howard Stern Show. "I said, 'I will sign the paper tonight. Fax me the papers tonight.'" His performance went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

    jonah's character smiling on the phone

    8. Made millions: Will Smith

    close up of Will

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor reportedly made $40 million for producing and starring in King Richard, where he played the father of Serena and Venus Williams.

    Will on the tennis court

    When the movie pivoted last-minute so it was available both in theaters and on HBO Max, Will personally wrote checks to his costars to help make up the compensation they lost.

    close up of Will

    9. Underpaid: Priyanka Chopra

    close up of Priyanka

    The actor told Insider that she once costarred in a Bollywood movie where she was paid significantly less than her male counterpart. "A producer-director said to me, 'Well, you know how it is in these big tentpole movies with the big boys. This is the budget for the girl, and we can't move beyond that,' which was a measly 5% of what [the male lead] was getting."

    close up of Priyanka

    10. Made millions: Sandra Bullock

    Sandra smiling

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was reportedly paid a $20 million salary for the space epic, Gravity. She also earned 15% of first-dollar gross — meaning that she got a cut of the box office earnings, DVD sales, etc. – for a total of around $70 million.

    close up of Sandra's character

    11. Underpaid: Viola Davis

    close up of Viola

    During a Women in the World interview, the actor opened up about the struggles she faces as a Black woman in the entertainment industry. While she didn't share her pay for specific roles, she expressed frustration that she wasn't compensated on par with even white women, let alone white men.

    Viola's speech about being underpaid as a Black woman

    12. Made millions: Harrison Ford

    close up of Harrison

    According to Men's Health, the actor made $65 million for his work in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Apparently, Harrison was semi-retired when Paramount made him an offer he couldn't resist: a large share of the movie's profits between him, director Steven Spielberg, and franchise creator George Lucas.


    13. Underpaid: Hilary Swank

    close up of HIlary

    On Chelsea Handler's Netflix talk show, Chelsea, the actor revealed that she was only paid $3,000 for her work in Boys Don't Cry. Her performance won an Oscar for Best Actress.

    Hilary's character in the movie

    "I made $3,000. In order to have health insurance, you have to make $5,000," she shared. "So I didn't even know that I didn't have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled. They said, 'That's $160.' I went, 'Um, did you try my insurance?' They said, 'Mmm-hmm.' I had an Academy Award, no health insurance."

    Hilary's character lying in bed

    14. Made millions: Bruce Willis

    close up of Bruce

    The actor reportedly made over $100 million for his work in The Sixth Sense. Apparently, he was paid about $14 million upfront, and then negotiated for a large percentage of profits on the backend.

    close up of Bruce's character

    15. Underpaid: Barkhad Abdi

    close up of Barkhad

    According to the New Yorker, the actor was only paid $65,000 for his role in Captain Phillips, which earned him Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. After production ended, he returned to selling cell phones in a Minneapolis mall. While promoting the movie in LA, he lived in the hotel the studio put him up in and wore loaner clothes.

    Barkhad's character on a small boat

    16. Made millions: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

    close up of Dwayne

    According to Variety, the actor was paid $22.5 million for playing the lead role in the upcoming DC film, Black Adam. He will also be paid millions more for producing the film and promoting it on his social media.

    close up of Dwayne's character ready to fight

    17. Underpaid: Natalie Portman

    close up of Natalie

    In 2017, the actor told Marie Claire UK that costar Ashton Kutcher was paid three times more than her for the rom-com No Strings Attached. "I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with 'quotes' in Hollywood," she said. "His [quote] was three times higher than mine so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy."

    Natalie's character leaning in for a kiss from Ashton's character

    18. Made millions: Daniel Craig

    close up of Daniel

    According to GQ, the actor was paid $25 million for No Time To Die, his fifth and final installment as James Bond. Last year, he told Candis Magazine that he plans to donate much of his fortune rather than leave it all for his children. "I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation. I think inheritance is quite distasteful. My philosophy is get rid of it or give it away before you go. Isn’t there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you’ve failed?"

    Daniel's character in a car

    19. Underpaid: Octavia Spencer

    close up of Octavia

    The actor has spoken up about being underpaid numerous times. During a 2018 Sundance Film Festival panel, Octavia recalled a phone call with Jessica Chastain, who was pushing for pay equity between men and women. Octavia informed her that women of color make far less than white women, so they need to be brought into the conversation, too.

    jessica and octavia hugging

    With a comedy project involving both actors on the horizon, Jessica proposed the two tie themselves in negotiations to ensure they got a better deal together. Octavia ended up with a salary five times higher than she would have originally gotten.

    Jessica and Octavia at an event

    In a later tweet, Octavia wrote, "I don't know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me, and am eternally grateful."

    @akstanwyck this is correct except I should clarify that I am making 5x my salary bc Jessica stood with me. I don’t know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me, and am eternally grateful.

    Octavia Spencer / Twitter: @octaviaspencer

    20. Made millions: Angelina Jolie

    close up of Angelina

    According to Time, the actor made $33 million for playing the lead in Maleficent. Forbes named her the highest-paid female actor of 2013.

    Angelina as Maleficent

    21. Underpaid: Jeff Daniels

    close up of Jeff

    The actor was paid just $50,000 for his work in the '90s comedy, Dumb and Dumber. In comparison, costar Jim Carrey made $7 million.

    Jeff and Jim Carrey in the movie

    22. Made millions: Tom Hanks

    close up of Tom

    During a 2020 interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, the actor revealed that he and director Robert Zemeckis paid for some scenes out of their own pockets while filming Forrest Gump. When Paramount said it was too expensive to film the iconic scene of Forrest running across the country, the director asked Tom to split the cost with him.

    Forest Gump running

    "He said, 'Well, this run is going to cost X amount of dollars.' And it wasn’t cheap," Tom recalled. "And I said, 'Okay.' He said, 'You and I are going to split that amount, and we’re going to give it back [to Paramount]. We’ll give you the money back, but you guys [Paramount] are going to have to share the profits a little bit more.' Which the studio said, 'Fabulous, great. Okay.' And it was good for us, too."

    Forest running into mississippi

    Tom ended up making about $65 million from the movie. He also won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor.

    Forest Gump sitting on a bench

    Can you think of any other actors who were severely underpaid or made millions for just one movie? LMK in the comments below!