In the past fifteen years, superhero movies have become a gigantic pillar of the movie industry. With the incredible grossing power of these films, studios have felt comfortable giving them ever-expanding budgets. While a lot of this money goes towards special effects and other items which make these films “super”, the price of the actors who portray these iconic heroes can also take up quite a bit of space. As such, this list will count down the 15 Highest Paid Superhero Actors.
To make this list, the actor must have had an important acting role in a superhero-based film and must have made enough from a single film to be placed within the top fifteen actors.
As you see some of the gigantic paychecks these actors received, you’ll begin to release the lucrative nature of dawning the cape and a pair of tights.
15 Chris Evans - $6.9 Million
Some of you may be surprised to see Chris Evans start off this list, not because he shouldn’t be paid within the top fifteen superhero actors, but because he should actually be higher on this list. At this point in time, the Avengers series is the pinnacle of superhero films.
Therefore, as the leader of the Avengers (and a primary part of every Avengers film), wouldn’t you expect Evans to be placed higher than 15?
As you’ll see from the rest of this list, a huge determining factor is the star power of the actor when he was cast in his superhero role, however, it’s not like Evans was totally unknown prior to becoming Captain America. This is definitely one of the weirdest entries on our list.
14 Ryan Reynolds - $9 million
You’ll find out pretty early from this list that there isn’t a direct correlation between higher actor paychecks and good superhero performances. While Ryan Reynolds performance in the widely denounced Green Lantern film wasn’t terrible, it’s hard to argue that it was worthy of a $9 million dollar paycheck.
To be fair, it’s probably a good thing Reynolds got such a heavy payday from this film since it (and another terrible film, R.I.P.D.) almost ended his entire career.
Reynolds would, of course, resurrect his acting career (and his superhero legacy) with a film which graces our list a little later. Perhaps with his recent success, Reynolds can worm his way into another hefty paycheck playing Green Lantern in one of the upcoming Justice League films.
13 George Clooney - $10 million
Speaking of actors who were paid a lot to be in terrible movies, who can forget George Clooney’s single chance to portray the Dark Knight in Warner Bros. Batman and Robin.
Even with how bad Clooney’s performance was, the sad fact is that it was far from being the worst part of this film. You know how in movies end credits they list the major contributors as well as a lot of people who did little jobs throughout the film?
Well in the case of this movie, 90% of all those people listed (both big and small) did a terrible job of putting the film together. As such, Clooney’s $10 million dollar paycheck was just part of the large cost which went into making this abomination of a film.
12 Ben Affleck - $12.5 million
Long before Ben Affleck was cast to be the latest installation of Batman, he faced harsh critique for his performance as Daredevil in the 2003 film.
Despite the film's box office failure, Affleck made over 12 million for his role in this film. Considering the star-studded nature of the film (both Colin Farrell and Jennifer Garner were also in this film), and the fact that Daredevil was released fairly early in the current superhero movie craze, it is surprising that Affleck was guaranteed such a huge paycheck, regardless of the film’s success.
I would guess that Affleck (and his agent) were able to cash in on the monumental success of Good Will Hunting (1997) to earn his pay raise. I’d be curious to see how much his value went down in Hollywood after the overall failure of Daredevil.
11 Ryan Reynolds - $13.8 million
I was glad to see Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool paycheck make this list because there is such a cool story behind the making of this film. You may see the $13.8 million dollars paycheck number and think that this was a very generous payment for an actor who was dead in the water following the flop of some of his other action movies (discussed above).
However, Reynolds (a bonafide Hollywood star) was initially paid a mere $2.7 million for his role at Deadpool. Not only that but at one point Reynolds had to pay the Deadpool writers salary in order to keep the film afloat.
This gamble would eventually pay off, as the gigantic success of the film (and a very beneficial royalty clause) allowed Reynolds to raise his overall gains from Deadpool to 13.8 million.
10 Halle Berry - $14 million
We’re currently in the midst of an uptick in women superheroes in film and TV, thanks in no part to the 2004 Catwoman film, starring Halle Berry. The film's writing didn’t do it any favors, but Berry’s performance as the hero/villain left a lot to be desired. Despite this, she earned a cool $14 million for this DC film.
As we have talked about with other entries, this pay rate was likely due to the star power Berry already had prior to being signed to the film. With movies like Swordfish (2001) and X-men (in which her portrayal of Storm was much superior to hers as Catwoman), Berry was already an established name.
Producers likely felt comfortable paying her so much in the belief that her star power would translate into box office views. Obviously, things didn’t really work out that way.
9 Henry Cavill - $14 million
For decades now the Superman franchise has been the bread and butter of the DC universe. Despite the lack of compelling storylines (how compelling can you make a story about a man who is practically invincible), there have been a plethora of Superman movies and programs, with a handful of actors playing the hero of Metropolis.
Henry Cavill (from Tudors’ fame) plays Superman in the current installment and has experienced moderate success with the character. Cavill’s most notable paycheck to date, however, was given to him for the franchise’s first film, Man of Steel.
This is surprising due to the mage-blockbuster status of the subsequent Batman vs. Superman film, but perhaps Cavill’s paycheck had to be lowered to accommodate fellow superhero, Ben Affleck.
8 Tobey Maguire - $15 million
Going into this list, I imagined that those actors associated with superhero franchises would get paid progressively more as the franchises progressed; due to the increasing popularity and notoriety of the films.
While this hypothesis was largely unfounded, the original Spiderman trilogy (starring Tobey Maguire) did meet these expectations. This is somewhat funny in this case, as the third (and final) film in this franchise is largely regarded to be the worst. Due to weaker writing (and an amazingly awkward Jazz step scene with Peter Parker), this film just didn’t have the same emotion that the first two installments of the franchise did.
This didn’t stop Maguire from bringing in around 15 million dollars for his work. Maguire is still widely regarded as the best Spiderman (at least so far), so in my opinion, he was worthy of this rather hefty paycheck.
7 Hugh Jackman-$20 million
A little-known secret of the superhero movie industry is the rigorous schedule that these actors must undergo. The stars of these movies are often signed to multi-movie deals, and the rigors of the training and filming schedule often keep them from pursuing other avenues.
No other actor has endured the requirements of this job with more grace than Hugh Jackman. No matter what he does for the rest of his career (and I’m under the impression that he’s actually a very skilled actor), Jackman will forever be remembered for his role as Wolverine.
The media severely let me down this year, as I was unaware until after I had already seen the film that the recent Logan movie was the last time that Jackman would play the iconic character. Talk about a shellshock leaving the theater.
6 Scarlett Johansson - $20 million
Remember when Chris Evans (aka the leader of the Avengers and arguably the main character of every Avengers film) started off this list making a mere $6.9 million from the first Avengers film?
Well, apparently Scarlett Johansson, who plays Black Widow (who is easily a secondary character in the franchise) got paid a whopping $20 million for her role in the second Avengers, Age of Ultron.
If I was Evans I would seriously consider firing my agent and hiring the one that represents Johansson. If I had to guess, I would say that this pay discrepancy is the result of Johansson being the much bigger star at the start of the Avengers filming, but for it to continue into the second film is nonsensical to me.
5 Channing Tatum - $27 million
With the plethora of superhero movies currently being filmed or scheduled, I was surprised to see Channing Tatum’s reported pay role for Gambit be the only upcoming movie paycheck to make our list.
Let’s start with the obvious, $27 million is a lot of money. This is especially true when the actor involved has never played the character he’s being paid for, and in fact has never been in a superhero movie ever.
With that being said, however, Channing Tatum is arguably one of the biggest stars in the world right now. Everyone on the planet knows who he is, and the producers of Gambit are banking on this fact leading to their film's success.
I would advise them to look towards such films as Green Lantern, and Batman and Robin to see how this plan of action can go horribly wrong.
4 Christian Bale - $30 million
I don’t think the portrayals of any superhero are more widely discussed than those are of Batman. Whether it be Adam West, Michael Keaton, or Christian Bale (if anyone you know thinks George Clooney is the best Batman you should stop being their friend), everyone has their own favorite Batman.
For me, the best Batman ever was the fairly recent inception, Christian Bale. Because of that (and the relative success of the first film of the franchise, Batman Begins), I was not surprised to see Christian Bales paycheck for the second film, the Dark Knight, make our list.
This film is a total masterpiece, which is evidence by the fact that Bale earned $10 million from the film’s producers, while he made an additional $20 million as a result of his royalty deal from the films.
3 Robert Downey Jr. - $40 million
If Chris Evans is reading this list, at this point he should be really pissed off. Marvel Studios recently released Captain America Civil War, in which Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) face off against each other to determine the future of the Avengers. Cap essentially wins this battle, but the actor that represents him clearly lost the payroll battle.
I understand that RDJ has serious acting chops, and was an established Hollywood star long before he became Iron Man, but there’s no feasible reason why he should have been paid almost 10x as much as the guy across from him was.
RDJ has repeatedly stated his intention to absolve himself of the Iron Man character, but perhaps it is this monumental paycheck which keeps him coming back.
2 Marlon Brando - $55 million
I consider myself a bit of a superhero nerd, but I’ll admit that I had no idea that Marlon Brando was in one of the original crop of Superman movies. Brando is, of course, a Hollywood icon; starring in such films as Julius Caesar and The Godfather.
Superman was one of his later roles, in which he was paid a $3.7 million salary and over 10% of the films total gross for a mere 13 days of filming.
This amounted to a total of $55 million which is a huge amount for an actor to get paid now (as you can see from his high placement on this list) and was an even greater amount in 1978 when Superman was filmed.
1 Jack Nicholson - $100 million
At least Brando was the “star” of his film, which is more than we can say for the final entry on our list. It is not odd that Jack Nicholson (who is an incredibly talented actor) was paid so much money for his role in 1989’s Batman.
What is odd is that Nicholson was paid so much to be the villain of the movie and not the hero. Nicholson plays Batman’s infamous nemesis the Joker in this film (Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker in this film was unparalleled for many years until the casting of Heath Ledger for the recent trilogy), and actually got paid substantially more than Michael Keaton did to play Batman.
This creates a weird paradox where the highest paid superhero actor of all time actually got paid to be a villain.
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