In the world of celebrity, superstar doesn’t quite cut it when describing these public figures. Instead, these are 18 of the last legends standing. Sadly, we’ve lost a lot of legendary icons in just the first half of this decade alone. What constitutes a living legend? A number of things. World renown. Unmatched record breaking, history making achievements. A practically flawless reputation. And most importantly, still breathing. What all of these living legends share in common is that they’ve all excelled to unimaginable heights of magnificence, with feats so great, generations long after their passing will be influenced.
For diversity sake, this list compiles together all types of legends in their respective fields, from movie stars and film producers, to television personalities, to musicians of different genres, to songwriters who’ve penned the greatest hits of the past few decades. Their level of excellence is inspiring and hard to accomplish, collecting countless accolades, and acquiring absolutely staggering net worths along the way; all of which combined, amounts to roughly $12 billion. In fact, everyone on this list is so unfathomably wealthy, that 80% of the list dwarfs Sidney Poitier’s substantial $25 million net worth, placing him at number 18. Some fairly young, some old; all legendary. Here are 18 of the richest legendary figures still alive today.
18. Sidney Poitier, Actor – $25 million
Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier made history as the first ever black actor to win the highly coveted award Best Actor in 1964, at a time when lead roles for blacks were practically non-existent. When the actor first arrived to the United States from his native Caribbean, he was frequently discouraged from acting by directors who advised him that his thick Caribbean accent was a hindrance, and he would only ever be a dishwasher the rest of his life. Sidney asserts that this was actually what fueled him to become the great he is beheld as today. In 1967, when he starred in the classic In The Heat Of The Night as a detective, the actor bravely suggested to director Norman Jewison that the original script, which called for his character to be slapped across the face by a white business owner, be changed to have Sidney’s character return the violent gesture without hesitation. The scene was regarded as one of the most revolutionary acts committed to film. Today, the now 88 year old best selling author and retired legend is worth an estimated $25 million.
17. Daniel Day-Lewis, Actor $40 million
There are movie stars, and then there are actors. Daniel Day-Lewis is among the finest actors that film has to offer. The British talent is the first ever in Academy Award history to win Best Actor three times for his outstanding performances in My Left Foot: The Christy Brown Story, There Will Be Blood, and Lincoln. His work in There Will Be Blood alone earned him 23 award wins. A keen sense of self-perception, the thespian is known for being highly selective with his roles, turning down numerous lead offers in films such as: The English Patient, Terminator Salvation, and Solaris. Daniel’s instincts have proven to be infallible, as the actor is consistently critically acclaimed and praised by his peers in most of his roles. It’s said that his decision making for role selection relies solely on his love for his craft, and not just a paycheck, which explains his modest (in comparison to the rest of the list) estimated $40 million net worth.
16. Meryl Streep, Actress- $45 million
Actress Meryl Streep holds the record for most Academy Award nominations, at an impossible 19; of which the icon has only won 3. Conversely making her the actress with the most Academy Award losses. In addition to her Oscar record, Meryl also holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations, with an astonishing 29 as of this year. During the 1970’s, Meryl reportedly received a letter from Hollywood great Bette Davis, expressing her admiration for the young rising star, and her belief that Meryl would one day succeed her as the premier American actress. The Kramer Vs Kramer star is among one of only six women to receive the AFI Lifetime Achievement award. Unlike most women in Hollywood, the legend has very obviously chosen to age gracefully, and has managed to remain a frequently working actress, landing acclaimed lead roles well into her 60’s. Meryl has an estimated net worth of $45 million.
15. Diane Warren, Songwriter – $60 million
Legendary songwriter Diane Warren is behind a plethora of greatest hits released over the past three decades. Her catalog is infinite and boasts of classics such as: Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion, I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing – Aerosmith, Unbreak My Heart – Toni Braxton, How Do I Live – LeAnn Rimes, and countless more. Diane has been nominated for 7 Oscars, 5 Golden Globes, and 12 Grammys. To the surprise of many fans around the world, Diane has admitted to oftentimes needing to persuade many artists to record certain songs which they didn’t like at first, that would actually end up becoming one of the biggest hits of the artist’s career. LeAnn Rimes is an example, who reportedly had to be persuaded by Diane to finally record How Do I Live, which went on to become a number one 3x platinum selling record.
14. Robert De Niro, Actor – $150 million
Actor extraordinaire Robert De Niro is thought of as one of the greatest of all time. The two time Oscar winner was ranked number 1 on Empire magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Living Actors (Gods Among Us) in 2004. To date, Robert has accumulated a total of 50 award wins, and 64 overall nominations. The method actor’s fierce dedication to his roles have caused him to push himself to extremes, once gaining 60lbs to play a boxer in Raging Bull. Robert is known for his unwavering commitment to his roles and refusal to break character, so much so that Cybill Shephard, who starred along side him in Taxi Driver, felt he was such an overbearing presence while filming, even while cameras weren’t rolling; due to the sociopath character he was channeling. Reportedly paid $20 million + per film, Robert is worth an estimated $150 million.
13. Samuel L. Jackson, Actor $170 million
Movie star Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for a play in college after his speech therapist suggested he do so to help subside his speech impediment. The suggestion led him to discover his true calling, acting. After many years of battling drug addiction, and struggling to make a name for himself in the film industry, he finally landed what would become his big break and one of his most memorable roles in the classic, Pulp Fiction. Unlike most of the legends on the list, Samuel got a much later start, and didn’t land his big break until the age of 45, which speaks to his immense talents to have been able to reach legendary status just 20 years in. The Oscar Nominee, who’s known for playing unusually likeable villainous characters, has accumulated a total of 30 awards and 59 nominations. With a reported annual salary of $24.4 million, Samuel is worth an estimated $170 million.
12. Denzel Washington, Actor – $190 million
The gifted Denzel Washington has been credited with helping to expand the range of dramatic roles given to African American actors. To avoid typecasting, the two time Academy Award winner is very picky when it comes to role selection, once turning down the opportunity to play Dr. Martin Luther King, shortly after his Oscar nominated role in Malcolm X. In addition to his two Oscar wins, the actor has won a total of 39 prestigious awards and has accumulated an astounding 91 overall nominations. Controversy arose when Denzel opted out of kissing his co-star Kelly Lynch, in the 1995 film Virtuosity, due to his belief that the movie’s predominantly white male audience would not respond well to a romantic kiss between a black man and white woman. The versatile actor has excelled in anywhere from dramas, to action thrillers and is worth an estimated $190 million.
11. Diana Ross, Singer – $250 million
Lead singer of The Supremes, Diana Ross has had 18 #1 hits, released over 67 albums over the course of the past 6 decades, and sold over 100 million records worldwide. Billboard named the singer’s timeless classic Endless Love, as the greatest duet of all time featuring Lionel Richie. The icon was also named Entertainer of the Century by Billboard in 1976. Diana has only starred in 5 movies and was nominated for an Oscar for her first film role as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings The Blues, frequently stating in interviews that she’s had no acting training whatsoever. Diana is credited with paving the way for young R&B performers like Beyonce and Kelly Rowland. Many of the big female musicians of today cite her as one of their influences. In 1981, Diana was the first singer to sign a $20 million record deal, the most lucrative in the music industry at the time. Now in her 70’s the music legend is worth an estimated $250 million.
10. Barbra Streisand, Singer, Actress – $340 million
Singer, Songwriter, Actress and film producer, Barbra Streisand has been awarded 2 Oscars, 8 Grammys, and a total of 40 more prestigious accolades. The actress was awarded an Oscar for her very first role ever in the movie Funny Girl. According to the RIAA, Barbra holds the record for the most top ten albums of any woman, with a total of 33. The singer has released over 100 albums throughout her 6 decade career, 14 of which have gone multi-platinum. Barbra possesses one of the widest and most recognizable vocal ranges of any female in the industry. With strength and control, Barbra can go from soft and sensuous, to loud and powerful. The singer’s trademark is her ability to hold difficult notes for long periods of time. New York Times music critic, Stephen Holden has accurately described her as being “able to convey a primal human longing in a beautiful sound.” Barbra has an estimated net worth of $340 million.
9. Clint Eastwood, Actor – $375 million
Screen legend and film director, Clint Eastwood is regarded by many other living legends and superstars as being one of their main influences. Daniel Day-Lewis, also featured on this list, cites Clint as his biggest inspiration for becoming an actor, admitting that while growing up in Europe, he would watch American films and convince himself he was Clint Eastwood. Many of Clint’s movie lines go on to become classic one liners, and are often parodied in other movies including, “Go ahead, make my day.” … “Opinions are like a**holes. everybody has one,” and several more. The 4 time Oscar winner has won an astounding 151 prestigious accolades in total. The Dirty Harry actor was the oldest person to win Best Director at the Academy awards at age 74. Now in his 80’s, with one of the longest and most thriving careers in the industry, Clint is one of the most accomplished legends living, estimated to be worth $375 million.
8. Mariah Carey, Singer – $535 million
Songstress Mariah Carey is best known for her impossible five octave vocal range that includes her signature whistle register and vocal runs. The singer/songwriter has won 5 Grammys, 19 World Music Awards, 11 American Music awards, 31 Billboard Music Awards and many more. Mariah’s presence within the music industry for the past 2 decades has had a significant impact on pop music, and many female artists that have followed the diva. The Diva is also credited with having brought hip hop into the mainstream culture by popularizing rap as a feature on pop songs. Many believe Mariah pioneered a sub genre of sorts because of these duets, referred to as “thug-love”. Recognized as one of the best selling artists of all time, with more than 200 million records sold worldwide, Mariah is worth an estimated $535 million.
7. Jay Z, Rapper – $550 million
Hip Hop icon and mogul Jay-Z is one of the best selling rappers of all time with over 100 million in record sales. Jay-Z has one of the most inspiring stories in music, having risen out of the dark depths of poverty, and beaten the odds to become the highly regarded hip hop figure he is today. The rapper often mentions that he has never written down a single verse, and instead records his songs in the studio purely by memory. No other rapper is known to do this. The rapper has accumulated 19 Grammys throughout his career. Most of Jay-Z’s songs are about his early years of being forced to sell drugs to make a decent living. The rapper frequently mentions narrowly escaping life in prison thanks to being presented with a sudden musical opportunity that derailed his illegal business ventures. Today he and wife Beyonce are regarded as music royalty, and have a combined net worth of over $1 billion.
6. Celine Dion, Singer – $630 million
Celine Dion, along side powerhouse vocalists like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, are regarded for having heavily influenced modern female singers thanks to their revival of the power ballad. Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson, believes the three to have the greatest voices of the modern era. Celine is also credited with having revitalized the music scene in Vegas, thanks to the tremendous success of her 5 year residency. Many artists have since followed suit, including Britney Spears and Shania Twain. The Grammy winner is seen as the greatest singer of her generation according to fellow legend and listee, Diane Warren. Celine cites another fellow legend and listee Barbra Streisand, as her idol. With over 220 album sales worldwide, Celine has an estimated net worth of $630 million.
5. Madonna, Singer – $700 million
Pop pioneer Madonna is regarded as one of the earliest controversial artists who made it possible for women to be provocative and unapologetic. Many of today’s most talked about pop stars have followed Madonna’s lead as far as raunchy self expression, including Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. Billboard holds Madonna as the most successful solo artist in the history of the American singles chart, behind only a group – The Beatles. Guinness World Records recognizes the pop star as the highest selling female artist of all time, with more than 300 million records sold. Madonna struggled during her early years to try and establish a name for herself in the industry, and maintains that her sheer determination, bold attitude and her refusal to take no for an answer, may have given her a reputation as a b****, but are also the main reasons for her success. Today the 56 year old is worth an incredible $700 million.
4. Paul McCartney, Singer – $700 million
Sir Paul McCartney, best known as 1/4 of the biggest group in the world The Beatles, is regarded as one of the most successful composers and performers of all time, having sold over 100 million records to date. The # 1 single Yesterday, written by Paul, is the most covered song in music history. The former Beatle has accumulated 21 Grammy awards throughout his long and thriving career. Much controversy arose when it was discovered that the late Michael Jackson acquired The Beatles publishing catalog, after receiving advice from Paul just a few years earlier. Advice Paul later regretted sharing with the pop star. Had Paul been able to snag The Beatles’ publishing rights before Michael, his net worth would likely be billions more than his current $700 million.
3. James Cameron, Film Maker – $700 million
Producer, Director and Screenwriter, James Cameron has created the two highest grossing films of all time: Avatar and Titanic, two films that became instant classics. In 2010, James was named by Vanity Fair as Hollywood’s highest earner, pulling in $257 million that year. In total, James’ films have grossed an unprecedented $6 billion. A three time Oscar winner, James opens up in interviews about his past; working as a truck driver for many years trying to figure out his true calling on earth, and being extremely frustrated before finally discovering his purpose in the film industry. The visionary accredits his accomplishments to hard work as opposed to inherent talent. James has accumulated an estimated net worth of $700 million.
2. Oprah Winfrey, Media Proprietor $3 billion
Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey is believed to be the most powerful and influential woman in the entire world. During Oprah’s reign as the Queen of all Media with a successful run of 25 seasons, every book recommended by the television host’s book club was practically guaranteed to become a best seller, giving Oprah the midas touch. Another highly inspirational story on the list, Oprah overcame the biggest hurdle in her life which was having been born into extreme poverty, using will and determination to become a self made billionaire. Known as one of the most generous philanthropists, Oprah has given away upwards of $400 million to educational causes over the years. After building an empire from nothing, Oprah will long be remembered for her contributions to pop culture.
1. Steven Spielberg, Film Producer – $3.5 billion
Recognized as the most commercially successful film maker in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg has won a total of 173 prestigious awards, including 3 Academy Awards. With a career that spans over 4 decades, Steven has created many of the most revered films in cinematic history, including Jaws, E.T.: Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and a plethora of others. The film maker continues to be one of the most respected visionaries in the industry. The wealthiest producer in Hollywood, Steven has a staggering net worth of $3.5 billion.
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