Adam Sandler isn’t the star movie studio executives call when looking for an actor who can deliver boffo box office results. The former Saturday Night Live funnyman peaked in 1998 when he sold $240 million worth of tickets at the domestic box office. Since then he’s been trending downward: Last year Sandler’s only movie to hit theaters was Uncut Gems, a critics’ darling that brought in only $51 million; Sandler earned just about $5 million. No matter: He still landed at No. 9 on the annual Forbes ranking of highest-paid actors. The secret? Netflix. The streaming giant paid Sandler $31 million—75% of what he made all year—as part of his four-film, $250 million deal signed in 2014. Netflix users have streamed more than 2 billion hours of the funnyman, which led to a fresh deal signed in January reportedly worth even more than the first.
1. Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (born July 3, 1962), known professionally as Tom Cruise, is an American actor and producer. One of the world's highest-paid actors, he has received various accolades, including an Honorary Palme d'Or and three Golden Globe Awards, in addition to nominations for three Academy Awards. His films have grossed over $4 billion in North America and over $11.1 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing box office stars of all time.
The cruise began acting in the early 1980s and made his breakthrough with leading roles in the comedy film Risky Business (1983) and action film Top Gun (1986). Critical acclaim came with his roles in the dramas The Color of Money (1986), Rain Man (1988), and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). For his portrayal of Ron Kovic in the latter, he won a Golden Globe Award and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. As a leading Hollywood star in the 1990s, he starred in several commercially successful films, including the drama A Few Good Men (1992), the thriller The Firm (1993), the horror film Interview with the Vampire (1994), and the romance Jerry Maguire (1996). For the latter, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and received his second Academy Award nomination. Cruise's performance as a motivational speaker in the drama Magnolia (1999) earned him another Golden Globe Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
2. Robert De Niro
Robert Anthony De Niro Jr. born August 17, 1943) is an American actor and producer. He is particularly known for his nine collaborations with filmmaker Martin Scorsese and is the recipient of various accolades, including two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2009, De Niro received the Kennedy Center Honor and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama in 2016.
Born in Manhattan in New York City, De Niro studied acting at HB Studio, Stella Adler Conservatory, and Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. His first major role was in Greetings (1968), and he gained early recognition with his role as a baseball player in the sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). De Niro's first collaboration with Scorsese was Mean Streets (1973), where he played small-time NYC crook "Johnny Boy". Stardom followed with his role as young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's crime epic The Godfather Part II (1974), which won De Niro the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. For his portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976), and a soldier in the Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter (1978), he earned two nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
3. Adam Sandler
Adam Richard Sandler (born September 9, 1966) is an American actor, comedian, film producer, and writer. He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995, before going on to star in numerous Hollywood films, which have combined to earn more than $4 billion at the box office. Sandler had an estimated net worth of $420 million in 2021 and signed a further three-movie deal with Netflix worth over $350 million.
Sandler's comedic roles include Billy Madison (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), The Waterboy (1998), The Wedding Singer (1998), Big Daddy (1999), Mr. Deeds (2002), 50 First Dates (2004), The Longest Yard (2005), Click (2006), Grown Ups (2010), Just Go with It (2011), Grown Ups 2 (2013), Blended (2014), Murder Mystery (2019) and Hubie Halloween (2020). He also voiced Davey, Whitey, and Eleanore in Eight Crazy Nights (2002) and Dracula in the first three films of the Hotel Transylvania franchise (2012–2018).
4. Jackie Chan
Fang Shilong (born 7 April 1954), known professionally in English as Jackie Chan and in Chinese as Cheng Long 成龍 (Sing4 Lung4 in Jyutping, lit. "becoming the dragon", is a Hong Kong actor, filmmaker, martial artist, and stuntman known for his slapstick acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, and innovative stunts, which he typically performs himself. Chan has been acting since the early 1960s, performing in more than 150 films. He is one of the most popular action film stars of all time.
Chan is one of the most recognizable and influential film personalities, with a widespread global following in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. He has received fame stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Chan has been referenced in various pop songs, cartoons, films, and video games. He is an operatically trained vocalist and is also a Cantopop and Mandopop star, having released a number of music albums and sung many of the theme songs for the films in which he has starred. He is also a globally known philanthropist and has been named one of the top 10 most charitable celebrities by Forbes magazine. In 2004, film scholar Andrew Willis stated that Chan was perhaps the "most recognized film star in the world." In 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $350 million, and as of 2016, he was the second-highest-paid actor in the world.
5. Jerry Seinfeld
Jerome Allen Seinfeld born April 29, 1954) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He is best known for playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld, which he created and wrote with Larry David. The show aired on NBC from 1989 until 1998, becoming one of the most acclaimed and popular sitcoms of all time. As a stand-up comedian, Seinfeld specializes in observational comedy. In 2004, Comedy Central named him the 12th-greatest stand-up comedian of all time.
Seinfeld produced, co-wrote, and starred in the 2007 film Bee Movie, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. In 2010, he premiered a reality series called The Marriage Ref, which aired for two seasons on NBC. Seinfeld is the creator and host of the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012–2019). He is married to author and philanthropist Jessica Seinfeld, with whom he has three children. Seinfeld has received twenty Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his work on Seinfeld and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee as well as four Grammy Award nominations for his comedy albums.
6. Mark Wahlberg
Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg (born June 5, 1971), former stage name Marky Mark, is an American actor, businessman, and former rapper. He has received multiple accolades, including a BAFTA Award, and nominations for two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, nine Primetime Emmy Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Wahlberg was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1971. In the 1990s, Wahlberg was a member of the music group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, with whom he released the albums Music for the People (1991) and You Gotta Belief (1992). Wahlberg made his screen debut in Renaissance Man (1994) and had his first starring role in Fear (1996). He received critical praise for his performance as porn actor Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights (1997). In the early 2000s, he ventured into big-budget action movies, such as The Perfect Storm (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001), and The Italian Job (2003). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing a police officer in the crime drama The Departed (2006). He was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for the sports drama biopic The Fighter (2010), in which he starred as Micky Ward.
7. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert John Downey Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor and producer. His career has been characterized by critical and popular success in his youth, followed by a period of substance abuse and legal troubles, before a resurgence of commercial success later in his career. In 2008, Downey was named by Time magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world, and from 2013 to 2015, he was listed by Forbes as Hollywood's highest-paid actor.
At the age of 5, he made his acting debut in his father Robert Downey Sr.'s film Pound in 1970. He subsequently worked with the Brat Pack in the teen films Weird Science (1985) and Less than Zero (1987). In 1992, Downey portrayed the title character in the biopic Chaplin, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won a BAFTA Award. Following a stint at the Corcoran Substance Abuse Treatment Facility on drug charges, he joined the TV series Ally McBeal, for which he won a Golden Globe Award. He was fired from the show in the wake of drug charges in 2000 and 2001. He stayed in a court-ordered drug treatment program and has maintained his sobriety since 2003.
8. Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Douglas Johnson (born May 2, 1972), also known by his ring name The Rock, is an American actor, producer, businessman, and former professional wrestler. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, he was integral to the development and success of the WWE during the Attitude Era, an industry boom period in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Johnson wrestled for WWF/E for eight years prior to pursuing an acting career and during his wrestling career. His films have grossed over $3.5 billion in North America and over $10.5 billion worldwide, making him one of the world's highest-grossing and highest-paid actors.
Prior to his emergence as a top-grossing actor beginning in the 2010s, Johnson was an athlete. At Freedom High School in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley, he ultimately emerged as a standout on the school's football and wrestling teams, which competed in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, a conference known for producing top professional and Olympic athletes. He credits his high school football coach with helping inspire transformational changes in his life, which before entering sports in 11th grade had been characterized by fights and petty crimes as a high-school teenager. His football capabilities at Freedom High School led him to be ranked as one of the top ten defensive tackle high-school prospects in the nation, drawing the attention of several NCAA Division I college football programs.
9. George Clooney
George Timothy Clooney (born May 6, 1961) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is the recipient of numerous accolades, including a British Academy Film Award, four Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Academy Awards, one for his acting and the other as a producer. In 2018, he was the recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award.
Clooney started his career in television, gaining wide recognition in his role as Dr. Doug Ross on the NBC medical drama ER from 1994 to 1999, for which he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. During this time he would also attract a variety of leading roles in films, with his breakthrough role in From Dusk till Dawn (1996). He continued starring in films such as the superhero film Batman & Robin (1997), Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998), David O. Russell's Three Kings, and the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).
10. Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry (born Emmitt Perry Jr., September 13, 1969) is an American actor, filmmaker, and playwright. He is the creator and performer of the Madea character, a tough elderly woman. Perry's films vary in style from orthodox filmmaking techniques to filmed productions of live stage plays. Many of his stage-play films have been subsequently adapted as feature films.
Perry wrote and produced many stage plays during the 1990s and early 2000s. He also developed series, most notably Tyler Perry's House of Payne, which ran for eight seasons on TBS from 2006 to 2012. In 2011, Forbes listed him as the highest-paid man in entertainment, earning US$130 million between May 2010 and May 2011. In 2012, Perry struck an exclusive multi-year partnership with Oprah Winfrey and her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The partnership was largely for the sake of bringing scripted television to OWN, based on Perry's previous success in this area. Perry has created multiple scripted series for the network, The Haves and the Have Nots crime drama being it's most successful. The Haves and the Have Nots gave OWN some of its highest ratings during its 8-year series run, the program was hailed as "one of OWN's biggest success stories with its weekly dose of soapy fun, filled with the typical betrayals, affairs, and manipulations.