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Movie stars make a lot of money. This isn’t exactly news. However, when movies bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, it’s difficult to say that they’re not worth it. Even a seven figure income becomes a mere fraction when the revenue of a film is a number with nine figures.
Still, not every movie is a hit, or even a big enough hit to justify some of these salaries. Forbes has done the math on their Celebrity 100 list and has calculated the 10 most overpaid actors in Hollywood. They’ve reviewed the operating budgets, income, and salary for each of these actors' last three films and have come up with a return on investment figure which, in many cases, is less than optimal.
10. Tom Cruise
Return on Investment: $13.60 for every $1 paid
There’s a misconception that Tom Cruise’s box office strength has been on the waning in recent years. It’s not really true, as all of the recent films in this calculation, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow and Jack Reacher, have all at least made double their money back. Still, they’re all a long way from blockbusters like War of the Words, which grossed over $200 million, or his Oscar caliber work in movies like Jerry Maguire or Rain Man that had a fraction of the budgets.
9. Ben Affleck
Return on Investment: $12.30 for every $1 paid
While Ben Affleck is on the verge of big budget blockbuster stardom, his last few movies have been much smaller. His last film Gone Girl and his Oscar winning Argo are actually two of his biggest box office successes but in between he starred in the underwhelming Runner Runner which no doubt dropped his numbers significantly.
8. Brad Pitt
Return on Investment: $12 for every $1 paid
World War Z which counted toward this calculation because 12 Years a Slave never hit Forbes’ 2,000 screen threshold is actually Pitt’s biggest movie in pure box office take. However, it’s unlikely Pitt took significantly less money for his role in The Counselor which, while still profitable, was a much smaller movie.
7. Channing Tatum
Return on Investment: $10.80 for every $1 paid
Two words: Jupiter Ascending. Unfortunately for Tatum his hit Magic Mike XXL came out too late to be counted toward this list. That means that Jupiter and the also barely profitable White House Down make up the bulk of his numbers. Only the massive hit 22 Jump Street keeps him from being lower on the list.
6. Christian Bale
Return on Investment: $9.20 for every $1 paid
Christian Bale drops us below the $10 mark. Following The Dark Knight movies Bale’s stock certainly went up, making him an expensive choice for your lead actor. While Exodus: Gods and Kings had a decent box office showing, it made barely more money than American Hustle, and with three times the budget. Add in the performance of Out of the Furnace, which was a movie you forgot existed, (and the box office numbers confirm that) and Bale is far from the most profitable star in Hollywood.
5. Will Smith
Return on Investment: $8.60 for every $1 paid
One of Will Smith’s last three films, MiB 3 is actually his third highest grossing movie ever worldwide. While the domestic totals for the franchise have been dropping, they’ve been more than made up for in other countries. Still, After Earth was not nearly as successful and while the relatively modest Focus was successful, Smith’s own salary is likely a much larger portion of the smaller movie, making him that much more responsible for every dollar the movie brings in.
4. Liam Neeson
Return on Investment: $7.20 for every $1 paid
Liam Neeson has been doing so many of these "one man against the world" movies that you have to assume that he’s being paid a ton of money to keep making them. Based on that, he’s not bringing in the cash the way others are. While the third film in the Taken series still did well, the two movies trying to ride on that series coat tales A Walk Among the Tombstones and Run All Night did not do nearly as well. None of these films had budgets above $50 million. Neeson’s paycheck may have been the single most expensive part of the movies.
3. Will Ferrell
Return on Investment: $6.80 for every $1 paid
With Will Ferrell we’re now bringing in less than half of the income at the bottom of this list. It’s actually a little surprising to see Ferrell here, as traditional comedies tend to all have modest budgets. All of Ferrell’s films, like Get Hard, Anchorman 2 and The Campaign made decent money. But, Farrell is one of the top comedians in movies, and as such, can command big paychecks. He’s been known to earn $20 million paydays, which is insane for films with $50 million budgets.
2. Denzel Washington
Return on Investment: $6.50 for every $1 paid
Denzel has won two Academy Awards in his time, and when that happens it has an impact on the bottom line. Washington can demand big money, so his movies need to be incredibly successful for his profit margin to look good. His movies do well, but not that well. While Flight did really well on a very small budget, Washington was still a big part of that small budget, so his profit margin is still small. His follow ups, 2 Guns and The Equalizer, were not smash hits either.
1. Johnny Depp
Return on Investment: $1.20 for every $1 paid
Well, at least Johnny Depp doesn’t lose you money. It may be hard to believe that Johnny Depp, of all people, would top this dubious list, until you look at his recent films. His current feature Black Mass is doing well, but it’s too new to be on the list. Instead, we’re looking at Transcendence, which barely broke even, and the unequivocal bomb Mordecai.The only successful film here is the musical Into the Woods. Everybody else here at least made money, if not much. Hopefully, the upcoming Through the Looking Glass will get Depp back on track.