In Hollywood, an actor is only as valuable as his or her return on investment. If a studio pumps millions of dollars into a movie, you can bet that they’re going to hire a bankable star in hopes of quadrupling what they’ve dished out at the box office. Actors can build a lengthy career starring in successful films - but all it takes is one or two flops for studio executives to start thinking twice before offering them their next role. Add a few more failures onto that number, and they’re pretty much deemed untouchable. That chain of events is usually how most actors’ careers end, but given that there are always exceptions to the rule - we’ve compiled a list of ten of the most overpaid actors in Hollywood who are still being offered roles today.
The majority of these actors were once wildly popular and contributed to significant box office hits at some point in their careers before signing on to star in flops. As such, they charge exorbitant fees to appear in movies and won’t settle for less than what they think they deserve. The studios, remembering the actor’s past successes, convince themselves that paying them millions of dollars could be justified eventually if the film becomes a hit and grosses billions of dollars worldwide. But more often than not, the movie earns just four or five times what the studios have paid the actor - and that’s not taking into account the cost of production.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most overpaid actors of all time. Some of the movies they’ve starred in have been deemed so unpopular that the financing studio has earned absolutely nothing on what was produced!
10 Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy and Hollywood have a tumultuous relationship. His career has been equal part hit and miss - the actor has starred in huge successes like Beverly Hills Cop and The Nutty Professor franchises as well as Shrek, but he’s also acted in movies like A Thousand Words and Norbit. 2002’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash was one of the most expensive flops of all time, earning just $7 million in the box office! For every $1 Eddie Murphy has charged, his films have earned just $2.70. Combining his earnings with an at times questionable personality, it’s safe to say that Hollywood has kept Murphy at arm’s length as of late.
9 Will Ferrell
There was a point in time when Ferrell held the title as Hollywood’s most overpaid actor, which has since been passed on to Drew Barrymore. Much like the other actors on this list, Ferrell’s career has had some significant highlights (Elf, Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights) followed by several disappointing failures. He’s appeared in more than a few movies which haven’t even hit the $10 million dollar mark, like Casa De Mi Padre, Everything Must Go and Winter Passing. For each $1 he charges, his films gross just $3.50.
8 Reese Witherspoon
It may surprise you to see Reese Witherspoon’s name on this list. While most of us know her for her unforgettable roles in Legally Blonde, Walk The Line and Sweet Home Alabama, there are also several movies she’s starred in that have been complete flops commercially. Inherent Vice, The Good Lie and The Importance of Being Earnest brought in less than $10 million each and contributed to her name appearing here. For every $1 Witherspoon charges, her movies earn just $3.55. Lately, she’s gone into producing and seems to have had more success there with her film Gone Girl being a huge success.
7 Denzel Washington
The problem with Denzel Washington isn’t that his movies are flops, but that he charges astronomically high fees to star in them. He’s had too many hits to list, including The Pelican Brief, American Gangster, Training Day and Man on Fire. But when the movies are costing upwards of $100 million to make and Washington is charging $12 million to star in them, he ends up earning studios only $4.25 for every dollar he makes. That being said, he hasn’t been in a single movie in the past fifteen years that hasn’t earned at least $50 million, so there’s something to celebrate about that.
6 Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is yet another example of an actor who has starred in some truly amazing movies yet has also been a part of some downright flops. Surprisingly, studios keep hiring him to be in movies, even though he earns them just $4.40 for every dollar he charges. He recently acted in Trespass, which earned a shocking $16,000 only throughout its opening weekend. Other notable failures include Joe, Stolen, Deadfall and Trapped in Paradise.
5 Adam Sandler
There’s no doubt that Adam Sandler has starred in some legendary movies including Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy and Punch Drunk Love. But it seems that for every one of his hits, there’s also been a miss. On average, Sandler’s movies bring in just $5.20 for every $1 he’s paid. Jack & Jill and That’s My Boy were notable box office failures and he starred in several movies in 2015 that we hardly even heard about - including Pixels, The Cobbler, Top Five and Blended. It looks like the former cinematic funnyman has lost a bit of his charm over the past few years.
4 Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn is the least overpaid actors of our round-up, $5.20 for every $1 charged. He’s starred in some of the greatest comedic classics of the past decade including Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers and The Breakup. Over the past few years however, he’s made some questionable acting choices with titles like Lay the Favorite, A Case of You and Unfinished Business. 2011’s The Dilemma earned just $50 million and had a budget of the same amount, contributing to his status as one of today’s most overpaid actors. We’re hoping his next film digs him out of the hole.
3 Johnny Depp
There’s no middle ground with Johnny Depp. His films are either massive box office successes or spectacular failures. The Pirates of the Caribbean series has earned billions of dollars over the course of time and Depp’s portrayals have also contributed to hits like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That being said, he’s also starred in some major busts that far outweigh the titles mentioned above. The Ninth Gate, From Hell and The Rum Diary are just a few of the dozens of Depp movies that haven’t even broken the $100 million mark. For every $1 Johnny Depp makes, the combination of his films have earned just $4.10.
2 Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller rose to prominence in the early 2000s with huge hits like Zoolander and Meet the Parents. For a couple of years, he was Hollywood’s leading comedic actor and his star didn’t appear to be dimming anytime soon. While he’s enjoyed a pretty fruitful career and has acted in movies every year since then, most of his recent titles have been complete flops. Tower Heist and The Watch were both pretty spectacular failures, with The Watch grossing just $35 million. While his movies have made billions of dollars combined, Stiller is still one of Hollywood’s most overpaid actors with every $1 paid to him earning just $4.80 in the box office.
1 Drew Barrymore
Oh, Drew Barrymore. She was the original child star and 90s darling, starring in classics like E.T., Never Been Kissed, The Wedding Singer and Charlie’s Angels. There was a point in time when you couldn’t go a few months without hearing about another movie she was in, but that period has long since passed. She is currently ranked as the most overpaid actress in Hollywood, bringing in just $0.40 for each dollar she charges. Recent titles such as Going The Distance, Everybody’s Fine and Whip It have contributed to her demise - but hopefully we’ll get to see a comeback soon.