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20 Highest-Earning Leo DiCaprio Roles (That Helped Fund His Lavish Lifestyle)

Without a doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio is the most prolific actor of his generation. He’s like the Clark Gable of Generation X, or the Jack Nicholson of the new millennium. Not only has Leo received much critical acclaim, like winning an Academy Award for The Revenant, he has also dominated the box office, and overflowed his bank account, many times over.

To give you a better idea of his wealth, let’s just throw some numbers out there. Forbes estimates that DiCaprio has earned over $440M of personal income from his 25 feature films, which is actually a meagre sum compared to the income of his movies. Statistic Brain estimates that Leo’s features have grossed over $2.3 billion in the USA alone, and $5.9 billion internationally. And the kicker is, unlike top earners, like Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp or Tom Cruise, Leo has never done a sequel.

After reading this list, everyone will not only learn how much money DiCaprio makes per film, but they will also get a sense of what  makes the actor tick. You’ll see what projects he chooses and how he manages to stay on top of his game. He has joined an elite club of actors who make $25 million per role. And sometimes, for Leo, that’s only the half of it.

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20 Catch Me If You Can - $20M

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Around $20 million seems to be the average for Leo. Like we mentioned in the intro, he’s made about $440 million in 25 films, which averages to just under $18m apiece. Here’s an awesome movie that combines three of Leo’s favorites: true stories, stories that are set in the past, and movies with top talent. Leo worked closely alongside none other than Tom Hanks for this one, and Amy Adams. The director was none other than Steven Spielberg. Then there’s the real con-man himself, Frank Abagnale Jr., who Leo played, met, and befriended. This is one of the most watchable films on the list, and the whole family will love it. It’s the classic cat and mouse tale of a cop and a crook.

19 The Great Gatsby - $20M

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Everybody was really excited about this classic literary remake, and it may have met some expectations, but not all. Leo teamed up with his good buddy Tobey Maguire, and the visionary director Baz Luhrmann. Baz directed Leo years before, in Romeo + Juliet. Meanwhile, Tobey and Leo have been going to the same auditions since Growing Pains. Too bad Leo said “old sport” one too many times and, aside from costumes and production design, the Academy Awards turned a blind eye. This demonstrates again how Leo likes working alongside a small number of friends. He also prefers the classics to the comics.

18 Django Unchained - $1M

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If you’re noticing the income on this one, you may be stunned. Yes, that’s merely one million dollars. Peanuts, for Leo right? In this film, Leo’s role wasn’t the lead, but it was short and sweet. Calvin Candie was a ruthless man, a character that Leo rarely gets to play. Plus he got the chance with Quentin Tarantino, a relationship that worked, since he and Leo have teamed up again in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The Django role also paid off in grit. The grit it took to play Candie, is a similar grit used to play Glass, in The Revenant. Both characters are also from the past, which Leo often prefers.

17 J Edgar - $2M

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$2 million for Leo in 2011? That’s so low. So why would he bother? Well, for one, Leo does like to play characters who were real people. He especially loves those important people in history who we all have heard of, but know little about. Secondly, Leo likes to work with legends. And why not? He has the box office power, and can get his hands on any script he wants. The director for this film was Hollywood legend, Clint Eastwood. Who wouldn’t want to work for Clint? The Leo/Clint relationship was not the best, though, because it was never repeated, something Leo often does with directors that he really likes.

16 Inception - $59M

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Leo cut a pretty sweet deal on this film, and on top of his $26 million just for acting, he also took a cut of the proceeds. The psychological thriller was a huge hit, and Leo ended up with nearly $60 million in his wallet. That’s an amazing sum! Add in the critical success, and the huge following of the film, and here you have one of Leo’s most successful projects to date. He was working for the genius writer/director Christopher Nolan, who more recently blew military films away with Dunkirk. The common thread between Inception and Dunkirk was Tom Hardy. Leo approves. He worked with Tom twice, in The Revenant and Inception.

15 Blood Diamond - $20M

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Leo made a pretty good buck on this film, even though his character wasn’t very likeable. He ended up being a good guy in the end, but throughout the entire film, Danny Archer was a pretty flat character. And Leo had to do a South-African accent. And if Leo has a weakness, it’s arguably his accents. Leo was just coming off of The Departed, where he used a Boston accent that earned much criticism. Djimon Hounsou, as Vandy, stole the show in Blood Diamond, and Leo seemed like the supporting actor. Maybe that fact upset Leo, because he never worked with the film’s director, Edward Zwick, again.

14 The Departed - $20M

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Here’s another film that scored Leo another $20 million. And talk about working with talent. Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon also starred. This film marks another collaboration with Martin Scorsese. Marty won best director for this film, which surprisingly is his only Oscar. Leo and Marty have done so many films together, and there are two more in the works. The pair even made a 15-minute short called The Audition, where Leo competes against De Niro for a role. Robert De Niro was once Marty’s top guy, until Leo took over.

13 The Aviator - $20M

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“Show me the blueprints! Show me the blueprints!” If you’ve seen this film you may remember those lines, because Leo says them about a thousand times. He plays the legendary aviator, publisher, inventor and filmmaker, Howard Hughes. You may also remember the film as being a very long one, at 2 hours and 50 minutes. Playing the aviator was a dream of Leo’s for a while, but he had to wait to get older to be believable in the role. Here’s yet another Leo/Scorsese project, which got some love at the Oscars, but no wins.

12 Gangs of New York $10M

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Gangs of New York is an underrated film, with some remarkable performances. Daniel Day Lewis plays a seedy character in 1860s New York City. Leo befriends him, with hopes of getting close enough to take him out. It’s an interesting script, with some surprise twists. This is yet another Scorsese flick. The film received ten Oscar nominations, and didn’t win any. Just like in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Leo took a pay cut to meet the film’s budget.

11 The Beach - $20M

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There was a film called The Man in The Iron Mask, which came after Titanic, but that really wasn’t after the same audience. So many fans consider The Beach as Leo’s Titanic follow-up. And what a box office flop it was. It marked Leo’s biggest pay date so far, and set him in a trajectory for massive wealth and fame, but the film itself did not do well. Directed by the talented Danny Boyle, the movie left many in the audience bored. Leo’s wage took nearly half of the $50 million budget, and the supporting actors didn’t really stand out. It was a learning process for Boyle, who won an Oscar years later with Slumdog Millionaire.

10 The Basketball Diaries - $1M

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Leo first met Mark Wahlberg in this gritty 1995 film, and then worked with him again in The Departed. At first the pair did not get along. Wahlberg may have had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but the two were supposed to play best friends. The director, Scott Kalvert, who had directed several Marky Mark music videos, took the two rising stars out to dinner, and the sparks still weren’t there. Then when they finally read a scene together onset, the mutual admiration finally happened. Later Wahlberg’s career skyrocketed after playing the lead in Boogie Nights, a role that Leo had turned down.

9 Titanic - $2.5M

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Whether he likes to admit it or not, Titanic is by far the biggest hit of Leo’s career. The 1997 film grossed over $600 million and still stands as one of the most loved films in cinematic history. Everybody on earth has seen this movie at least twice. Actually one of the most interesting dynamics about the film was knowing all along how things would go, but the answer was... when? Director, James Cameron, went on to win a ton of Oscars with Avatar too, but he has not worked with Leo again.

8 The Quick and the Dead - $150K

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Leo was quite young for this film, and while the cheesy Western flopped in the box office, one costar did know talent when she saw it. In fact, the money Leo earned for this film means so much more because it was not paid by the studio, but by said cast mate. According to IMDb, Sharon Stone paid Leo’s wage because she saw so much potential in the young actor. A similar story holds true for This Boy’s Life also. Hundreds of kids auditioned for the role, but it was Robert De Niro himself who said, “Get the blonde kid. He’s good.”

7 Celebrity - $1M

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In this instance, Leo was a huge star. Titanic just dominated the world, and Woody Allen asked Leo to do a little part in his film. And little it was. In fact, if you do the math, although Leo was only compensated a supposed $1 million, it was like getting paid $100,000 per minute. Leo only appears in the film for a grand total of 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Many believed he should have been in the film longer than that. His performance was the only part of the film that wasn’t totally lackluster. When Leo showed up on screen the film dripped with energy.

6 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - $10M

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This is Leo’s latest role, and one in which he teams up again with acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino and DiCaprio collaborated on Django Unchained, which featured one of Leo’s most unlikeable characters. For their next venture the two Hollywood stars are making a film about the Manson family. Leo plays Rick Dalton, the out of work Western actor and stuntman, who becomes connected to Sharon Tate. Tate is played by Margot Robbie, which marks another reunion. Robbie had her breakout role in Wolf of Wall Street. When Leo finds friends in Hollywood, he keeps them close.

5 Revolutionary Road - $5M

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We’re back to Leo’s favorite conditions for a role. It’s a period piece in the not too distant past. And it’s a very realistic drama, with no sci-fi nonsense anywhere near. Plus, you have the wonderful co-star, Kate Winslet. Lovesick Titanic fans have been desperately trying to reunite this couple on film for years. When Revolutionary Road came out, those fans rejoiced, and then they realized the details. For one, the movie was definitely not a happy one. And two, Winslet’s husband at the time, Sam Raimi, was the director. And Sam couldn’t even handle the obvious chemistry. The director actually watched his actors from a monitor in the other room if any affection was involved in their scenes.

4 Romeo + Juliet - $40K

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This film came out in 1996, when Leo’s career was blossoming, after his Oscar nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The scripts were surely beginning to pour in. But a Shakespeare movie? Really? Who would want to watch that? Well, with Claire Danes, and director Baz Luhrmann, this movie was very well-loved. Of course the studio heads at the time had no way of predicting that, so they paid all the actors scale, union minimum, about $40,000 for a lead. Danes later said that there was such strong chemistry between her and Leo, that she had to avoid the actor. There are a couple scenes in this flick when the pair just glances at each other and it's electric.

3 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape - $75K

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Here’s another film that came early on Leo’s career, and while it didn’t pay off much for his wallet, it paid out a ton for his reputation as a rising actor. Leo blew people away with his intensely nuanced performance as the mentally-challenged little brother of Johnny Depp. His performance was so riveting that he stole the show, and his part became much bigger than initially planned. Depp and DiCaprio seemed to work off each other so well, it’s surprising they haven’t collaborated since.

2 The Revenant - $29M

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The Revenant marked a long awaited Academy Award win for Leo, who had previously been nominated for four Oscars. So what set The Revenant apart? Well, for one, he had an excellent co-star to work with. Tom Hardy expertly played a villain, who Leo fights in the end. However, the most famous scene in the film is when Leo fights a bear with his bare hands. The story is based on real life hunter, fur trader and pioneer, Hugh Glass. Many of the roles that Leo likes are non-fiction based.

1 The Wolf of Wall Street - $25M

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Here’s yet another film about a real person, whose biography spawned a highly successful film. Jordan Belfort was a man who found unprecedented success in the 1980s by selling junk stocks to the masses. Leo met Belfort and they hung out, in order for Leo to get a better feel for the character. And the research paid off, in one of the most electric films on this list. Even though the characters are crooks, they are having a blast, partying on yachts and having raucous board meetings. Jonah Hill was cast as Leo’s right hand man. Hill didn’t take in anything close for income. To help nab the role, he actually worked for scale, $60,000, which is the minimum the actor’s union allows. Leo signed on for $10 million, but made more since he was also a producer.

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