The 10 Most Valuable Actors of All Time

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
In Hollywood, there are actors, there are movie stars, and then there are the special few who can "open" a film -- superstars whose involvement can be more important than the director, the script, or any other aspect of the production. These rare beings are so powerful at the box office that studios will pay them tens of millions of dollars a picture. Johnny Depp, for example, just signed a contract to make a fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick, and there is speculation in the press that he could earn as much as $95 million to reprise his role as Capt. Jack Sparrow. That's about 9 percent of the more than $1 billion the last "Pirates" movie grossed worldwide.

So, which actors' continued popularity has been responsible for the most billions of dollars in ticket sales? Based on a review of films' gross box office sales, adjusted for ticket price inflation, from online movie data resource Box Office Mojo, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 most valuable actors of all time.

In order to make the list, an actor needed to star in multiple diverse hits, not just a single powerful franchise. For example, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, who starred in all eight installments of the extremely successful Harry Potter series, are both among the top 20 actors based on the gross ticket sales of their films. However, they've only appeared in five other unexceptional movies between them. At this point, they could still be considered one-franchise wonders.

By contrast, nearly all the actors who made this list have starred in several high-grossing franchises.

Of course, success at the box office is not the same as success with the critics. While half of those who made the list are Oscar winners, as a group, they've received little favor from the award-bestowing cognescenti. Considering that they have 401 films among them, their mere seven acting Oscars does feel a bit scant.

But who needs an Academy Award when you can single-handedly turn a film from B-list to blockbuster? These are the 10 most valuable actors of all time.

Methodology: To identify the most valuable actors of all time, 24/7 Wall St. ranked nearly 700 leading actors in Box Office Mojo's database. Actors ranked higher if they starred in more films, if the films they starred in averaged high ticket sales, and if they had among the highest combined box office gross adjusted for ticket price inflation. This last component was weighted more heavily. All film gross numbers are based on U.S. ticket sales only, and, unless otherwise noted, are adjusted for ticket price inflation, as calculated by Box Office Mojo. Awards, such as Oscar wins and nominations, came from the Internet Movie Database .

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Chris Walczyk

It's funny how Jack Nicholson has a net worth of 400 million (that's roughly around 150 million more than just about every actor on this list), yet he still didn't make the cut.

January 31 2014 at 3:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Where are stars like Spencer Tracy?

February 22 2013 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I will never forget how surperb Dustin Hoffman was in \"Death of a Salesman.\"

February 22 2013 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This list only accounts for the increased earning power of actors today relative to those from past decades. Let's see a list of the "Most Valuable" baseball players. The list would include only players who played in the last 20 years. No Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, etc.

February 22 2013 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda Howard

i dont know who did this poll but u left out a few john wayne,paul newman,steve mcqueen

February 22 2013 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Denzel Washington????

February 22 2013 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mary's comment


February 22 2013 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Clint ,empty chair ,Eastwood made mostly juvenile movies.

February 22 2013 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No Robert DeNiro?!?!?!?

February 22 2013 at 7:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Gve me a brake! According to who? Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Robert Denero, Spencer Tracy, These Stars they mention might have made a great deal of money, because they are paid a great deal more then the stars of the forties and fifties and so on. Those older stars made 20 pictures a year, these so called Stars make 40 pictures in a life time. How can you compare Clark Gable with Clint Eastwood? Pleeze!

February 22 2013 at 4:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Where are the pre-60s stars? Where is Bogart, Brando,Wayne,Gable, Stewart, Fonda, Tracy? This isno true list if you leave them off.

February 22 2013 at 3:37 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply