Hollywood's Best Actors & Actresses For The Buck
No. 1: Anne HathawayFor the sake of our return-on-investment list, being a woman in Hollywood is a good thing. They tend to earn than male actors, less so when their films hit, they offer a good return. Hathaway lands at the top of our list thanks to Alice in Wonderland, which earned $1 billion at the global box office. One of her smaller films, Bride Wars, was a modest hit, bringing in $115 million, but her ranking benefits from the film's low budget and her low salary. For every dollar Hathaway was paid, her films earned an average of $64.
No. 3 (tie): Jennifer AnistonAniston earns a spot on our list this year despite the perception that her films haven't been performing well. Two of the films we counted this year, The Bounty Hunter and He's Just Not That Into You, performed well at the box office, making her a decent return on investment (despite Love Happens, which brought in only $36 million). For every dollar Aniston was paid, her films earned an average of $21.
No. 3 (tie): Meryl StreepThe actress proves again and again that age and gender do not determine box-office draw. Mamma Mia earned $610 million at the global box office; It's Complicated brought in $220 million. If Streep is able to leverage her box office success to get salaries closer to those of her male peers, she'll likely work her way off of our list. For every dollar Streep was paid, her films earned an average of $21
No. 5: Sarah Jessica ParkerWhen it comes to Sex and the City movies, Sarah Jessica Parker is a great investment. In other movies, not so much. Her 2009 film Did You Hear About the Morgans earned an anemic $85 million at the global box office. Compare that with her two Sex and the City movies, which have earned a combined $705 million. For every dollar Parker was paid, her films earned an average of $17.
No. 6: Angelina JolieWhen Jolie stars in action films like Wanted, she brings in big box office for the studios. She recently proved her action-star prowess again with Salt, which earned $290 million at the global box office (but which came out too late to be considered in our calculations for this list). Her smaller prestige pics don't perform as well, though. A Mighty Heart earned only $19 million at the box office worldwide. For every dollar Jolie was paid, her films earned an average of $14.
No. 7 (tie): Kate HudsonHudson has become the go-to actress for a certain brand of romantic comedy. Films like Bride Wars and Fool's Gold don't cost too much to make, and Hudson earns a reasonable salary, so she's a good return on investment. Next up for the actress: a comedy about cancer, called A Little Bit of Heaven. For every dollar she was paid, her films earned an average of $13.
No. 7 (tie): Cameron DiazDiaz rakes in millions of dollars as the voice of Princess Fiona in the Shrek movies. That franchise has earned $3 billion at the global box office. But her live-action films--the ones that count for this list--haven't performed as well. Still, thanks to the comedy What Happens in Vegas, she squeaks onto our Top 10 list. For every dollar Diaz was paid, her films earned an average of $13.
No. 9: Reese WitherspoonWitherspoon hasn't been seen on screen since 2008's Four Christmases, but that film was the kind of sweet-spot romantic comedy the actress should keep aiming for. It brought in $162 million at the box office, making up for flops like Rendition. Her latest film, How Do You Know, looks likely to be another of her popular romantic comedies, and could help improve her return-on-investment number. For every dollar Witherspoon was paid, her films earned an average of $12.
No. 10: Nicole KidmanKidman might not be seen as much of a movie star in the U.S. these days, but her films perform well internationally. The Golden Compass earned only $70 million here but $300 million abroad; Australia tripled its domestic take overseas. But both of these films were also expensive productions. To boost her standing on our list she'd need to take a pay cut and appear in some moderately budgeted films. For every dollar Kidman was paid, her films earned an average of $11.
LaBeouf tops our list for the second year in a row thanks to his relatively low-paid work in high-earning films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the second Transformers movie. As his box office grows so will his quote, which means it will be harder for him to stay at the top of our list unless his films earn proportionally more money.
The Harry Potter movies are the kind of high-budget films that would usually hurt an actor on this list unless he was earning under $10 million total. But Radcliffe lands in third place because the films earn so much money. The entire franchise has so far brought in $5.4 billion at the global box office making his growing salary seem like a drop in the bucket.
Robert Downey Jr.$33
It wasn't so long ago that Downey was a Hollywood pariah because of his drug and alcohol problems. That helped shrink his quote when he started his comeback in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Since then he's starred in some of the highest-grossing films of the past few years, including Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man 2 while his payday has stayed relatively low.
Depp is the rare actor on our list who earns more than almost every actor in Hollywood but still manages to offer a good return on investment. That's because his films do phenomenally. Alice in Wonderland has earned $1 billion. Public Enemies brought in $215 million. As long as he continues to be a major draw overseas and his films keep performing, Depp will continue to get one of the highest paydays in Hollywood.
Cage makes our list mostly thanks to the 2009 film Knowing, which earned a healthy $184 million on an estimated budget of $50 million. The budget was able to stay low because the producers went with Cage over someone who would have cost much more like Will Smith or Johnny Depp.