Every other month there’s a new superhero movie, and a new box-office record to break. But while the studios are making billions of dollars, how much of that money makes it onto the stars’ paychecks? We’ve ranked the highest earning superheroes and supervillains in Hollywood: it’s DC vs. Marvel and good vs. evil – who will win out in the end?
25. Tom Hiddleston (Loki in The Avengers)
Poor Tom Hiddleston. First he gets bumped from the shortlist to play the God of Thunder himself, Thor, to being cast as his evilly impish little brother, Loki. Then, while those pesky superheroes are ruining his plot to enslave all Earthlings, and getting multi-million dollar paydays, Loki is stuck in what looks like a very itchy black wig while making a lot less.
Let is be said that Hiddleston gives his performance as Loki his absolute best — and every Marvel movie he appears in is all the better for it, but apparently being the main antagonist in The Avengers isn’t enough to earn more than $160,000. Compared to some of the other villains on our list, Hiddleston really got the short end of the stick.
24. Christopher Reeve (Superman in Superman, Superman II)
In all this superhero fanaticism that’s swept Hollywood over the last decade, it really must be noted that the superhero movies of today owe a great debt to Christopher Reeve and his legendary performance as Superman in the 1978 film and its subsequent sequel. The role elevated Reeve to a Hollywood icon for the ages — and rightly so.
Reeve’s performance as the Man of Steel earned him rave reviews. Superman was hugely successful both critically and financially, and the sequel, filmed in tandem, was immediately put into the final stages for a rapid release. For his work on both films as the titular hero, Reeve was paid $250,000 – not bad for 1978! But that number pales in comparison to what another actor on set was putting in the bank.
23. Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman)
A feminist icon from the very moment she first appeared in DC Comics in 1941, Gal Gadot had some very big (and red) boots to fill when she was cast as Wonder Woman. Rising to the occasion, Gadot strapped on Wonder Woman’s armored suit and became the superhero DC (and we) needed.
Signed by Zack Snyder (DC Comics’ go-to guy/Man of Steel and Justice League director) to a three-picture contract, Gadot was reportedly paid $300,000 for her first outing as Amazonian warrior princess Diana Prince. Sure, when you compare it to a lot of the superhero salaries it seems small, but given the success of Wonder Woman, and all the praise heaped on Gadot in particular, a pay raise for the sequel is a certainty.
22. Henry Cavill (Superman in Man of Steel)
For that excellent kiss curl alone (the proper name for the classic Clark Kent/Superman hairstyle) Henry Cavill was perfect for the part of Superman in the 2013 reboot Man of Steel. While many felt that Cavill delivered a darker take on the iconic character than the spandex-wearing Supermen before him, he was definitely successful enough to launch the DC superhero film franchise fresh for the new millenium.
Despite some rumors spreading throughout the press that Cavill was paid $14 million for Man of Steel while Gadot only got $300,000 for Wonder Woman, we’re setting the record straight – all DC superheroes see the same (or similar) paychecks for their first outings in spandex.
21. Tom Holland (Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming)
So many fine young men have stepped into Spider-Man’s red spandex. First, there was the wildly popular Tobey Maguire trilogy, in which Maguire memorably wore eyeliner and did a dance through the streets of Manhattan. Then there was the Andrew Garfield iteration of the web-slinger, and finally, the youngest, and easily most exuberant Spider-Man, Tom Holland.
It’s impossible not to fall into Tom Holland’s web, his youthful energy and endearing earnestness have made him one of the more popular Avengers in the MCU. For his first time slipping into that red and blue spandex bodystocking that is Spider-Man’s suit, Holland made a hefty $500,000 — not bad for a 21-year old!
20. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man in Ant-Man)
Audiences first fell for Paul Rudd as Cher Horowitz’s love interest in Clueless, Josh, and have loved him ever since. Still, everyone seemed surprised when Marvel announced Rudd’s casting as the newest superhero to score a stand-alone film, Ant-Man. Bringing his trademark charm, Rudd readily proved the naysayers wrong.
As a successful comedic star you’d think Rudd might have gotten a little more than some of the newer actors to step into a superhero role (please see the previous entry, Tom Holland), but just like his fellow Avengers, Rudd received $300,000 upfront for the role of Ant-Man/Scott Lang. Luckily, thanks to some sneaky contract clauses, that number turned into $1,500,000 from back end profits.
19. Chris Pratt (Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy)
Does any movie in the Marvel Universe have a better soundtrack than 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy? Stacked with some sweet 60s and 70s tunes, Guardians of the Galaxy was a lot goofier than some of the Marvel movies that came before it. Apparently audiences are all for a few good gags because Guardians of the Galaxy became the third-highest grossing film for the Marvel franchise.
Guardians of the Galaxy owed a lot of its success to surprise comedic actor turned action-star Chris Pratt’s pitch perfect performance as Star-Lord/Peter Quill. Pratt’s payday was in line with his fellow Avengers starting salaries, making approximately $300,000 upfront, and ending up with $1,500,000 million in his pocket thanks to back-end profits.
18. Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther in Black Panther)
If you looked into buying tickets to the fantastical nation of Wakanda the minute you walked out of Black Panther, you’re not alone — international hotel booking sites reported that searches for the fictional country shot to 620%. Lead by an agile Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther earned every bit of praise.
Clearly the folks over at Marvel had a lot of faith in Boseman and Black Panther, because his starting salary was somewhere between $2 – 3,000,000. That’s one whole zero more than most superheroes see – but Boseman was obviously a good bet. Now cross your arms and say it with us, “Wakanda Forever!”
17. Brie Larson (Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel)
Not ones to be outdone by DC, Marvel finally gave everyone a female superhero movie of their own with Captain Marvel. Lead by Academy Award winner Brie Larson, the folks over at the studio couldn’t exactly pay her the same sort of salary they’d been shelling out for most of their superhero newbies — this actress came with a cadre of impressive credentials.
Earning the most for a superhero solo debut, Brie Larson is reported to have gotten $5,000,000 upfront and presumably more from share profits or a similar back-end deal. With such a high starting salary, it stands to reason that Larson could become the highest paid superhero when her sequel comes sometime in 2022.
16. Jared Leto (The Joker in Suicide Squad)
There’s a theory out there that every actor who takes on the role of The Joker comes out of it cursed – forever haunted by the “The Clown Prince of Crime.” Apparently Jared Leto can handle the crazy, because after playing the Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad, he’s set to reprise the role in a number of sequels.
A known method actor, Leto stayed in character the entire time on set, famously sending his co-star Margot Robbie a gift of a live rat as a joke from the Joker. All that dedication paid off when Leto’s portrayal was widely praised, and of course, when that paycheck for $7,000,000 hit his bank account.
But, Leto’s not laughing last — there’s another Joker who leaves Leto’s payday looking like pennies.
15. Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern in Green Lantern)
It’s hard to hate on Green Lantern when it was the grounds for one of the greatest romances in recent Hollywood history, bringing together co-stars Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Then again, it does hold a 26% Rotten rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. And of course, that much-criticized animated supersuit certainly didn’t help matters.
With his star rapidly rising, Ryan Reynolds seemed like a low-risk casting to headline his own superhero movie. Reynolds was paid $9,000,000 and met his future wife, but the hit his career took after the film flopped was significant. Would studios ever again see Reynolds as deserving of a seven-figure salary?
14. Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange)
We wonder if Benedict Cumberbatch negotiated part of his pay around how well the London native could pull off an American accent, or perhaps he used the conversation rate from GBP to USD to his advantage, because as far as first time superhero salaries go, Cumberbatch’s paycheck was pretty high compared to his fellow caped and spandexed superhumans.
Already an accomplished actor, Cumberbatch is rumored to have received £2,500,000, which converts to just under $4,000,000 upfront to play sorcerer and surgeon Doctor Strange. With the sequel set to be released in 2021, it looks like Doctor Strange 2 will see Cumberbatch receiving a significant raise of $5,000,000 or more, for a total take-home just shy of $10,000,000.
13. George Clooney (Batman in Batman and Robin)
For a while the steady stream of actors to step into the role of Batman was really reminiscent of the way in which James Bond consistently changed for every decade — there was Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney. Clooney’s take on the Caped Crusader in the 1997 film Batman & Robin was widely panned, but it still served as an important turning point in his career.
While Clooney has recently taken the blame for Batman & Robin’s poor performance, is he really to blame, or was it the oddly anatomically correct “batsuit”? While Clooney was getting his career back on track after all the post-movie mockery, the $10,000,000 salary he received certainly cushioned the blow.
12. Anne Hathaway (Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises)
Living in the shadow of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992) must be incredibly intimidating, but Anne Hathaway really rose to the occasion. Slinking into Catwoman’s black nylon catsuit, Hathaway went toe-to-toe with the worst of Gotham, never smudging even a bit of Selina Kyle’s signature red lipstick.
To fully prepare to put on Catwoman’s famously unforgiving (for how revealingly snug it is) outfit Hathaway followed a strict vegan diet. Follow that with extensive martial arts training for the physically demanding role, and for the preparatory work Hathaway put in, a $10,000,000 payday (against a more than $1 billion box-office total) seems pretty fair.
11. Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool in Deadpool)
Ryan Reynolds is back! Did anyone think he’d see his career revived and reputation restored after the box-office bomb that was Green Lantern? Actually, not only did he bounce back, but he blew it out of the water, and with another superhero role no less. Deadpool was a years-in-the-making passion project for Reynolds, and his persistence really paid off.
Taking a serious pay cut in order to see Deadpool actually get made, Reynolds even paid the script’s writers out of his own pocket. Earning only $2,700,000 upfront — which is still a lot of money we know, but compare that to his Green Lantern salary — with a clever royalty clause and profit shares in his contract, his total take home from the first film is estimated to have been $13,800,000. That sass-mouthing mercenary Deadpool seriously saved Ryan Reynolds career.
10. Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye in Avengers:Endgame)
We would like to say upfront that we’re not valuing any member of the Avengers over another. With that disclaimer out of the way, we’d also like say we were pretty surprised to hear how much Jeremy Renner was paid to play Hawkeye in The Avengers.
Starting out with $500,000 upfront, through back-end profits Renner received somewhere between $1,500,000-2,000,000. For Avengers: Age of Ultron, Renner’s salary jumped up to $6,100,000. Even after skipping out on the next Avengers movie, Hawkeye was back for the final installment, and his salary skyrocketed to $15,000,000. For a character that doesn’t even have his own standalone film, that’s an impressive payday.
9. Mark Ruffalo (Hulk in Avengers: Endgame)
A lot of credit ought to go to Mark Ruffalo for the leap of faith he took signing on to play the Hulk – it certainly wasn’t without risk. After Eric Bana and Edward Norton had tried to bring the big lug to the big screen in a stand-alone film, only to be brought down at the box-office, but Ruffalo bravely agreed to jump on board.
Turns out the third time really is the charm in the case of the Hulk, who has become a beloved member of the Avengers. Including back-end deals, Ruffalo raked in $2,000,000-3,000,000 for the role, and quintupled his paycheck for Avengers: Endgame, at $15,000,000, hulking over more than half the superheroes on our list.
8. Chris Hemsworth (Thor in Avengers: Endgame)
There’s something about Chris Hemsworth’s line delivery that makes his Thor movies feel like equal parts comedy and action movie. But while we now know how capable Hemsworth is of blending genres, when he was first cast for the first Thor, he was still pretty unknown in Hollywood.
Without a whole history of leading roles on his resume, Hemsworth’s initial salary was the least of every superhero in the Marvel Universe, coming in at $200,000. But, by the time the Norse Demigod was helping save the world from Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, he was seeing a supersized $15,000,000 upfront, and who knows how much more from share profits.
7. Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame)
She’s been the token female in every Avengers movie (before Captain Marvel joined the fold, that is), first appearing briefly in Iron Man 2 and then taking on a whole lot of action in another seven Marvel Universe movies. Needless to say, Scarlett Johansson has been working overtime but finally, Black Widow is getting her own origin movie!
Having proven herself countless times already, the actress is on track to be the highest paid superhero for a first solo outing. Having more than earned her $15,000,000 salary for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Endgame, Johansson’s upfront pay will be the same. But, with rumors of even more thanks to her producing the film as well, we’d estimate something along the lines of $20,000,000 at the end of the day.
6. Chris Evans (Captain America in Avengers: Endgame)
There is no way of calculating which Chris is the best of the superhero movie Chrises (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt or Chris Pine), but in terms of which Chris came first, perhaps paving the way for future Chrises, then credit goes to Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Starting out at approximately $300,000 for his first film, Evans had to prove himself after the flop that was The Fantastic Four. But, by the time he starred in his last stand-alone Captain America movie Captain America: Civil War, he had earned a significant bump in salary, to $15,000,000. A number that was repeated for his last showing in Avengers: Endgame. We salute you Cap’, thank you for your service.
5. Marlon Brando (Jor-El in Superman)
For all those who may have forgotten, or maybe have never known, which we assume is many people, we will now give you a moment to recover from reeling over the reveal that Marlon Brando was in a superhero movie. Not only did Marlon Brando play Jor-El, father of Superman, but Brando is one of the best paid superhero movie stars of all time.
Allow us to explain: contracted to a total of twelve days of filming (20 minutes screentime), Brando was paid more than anyone could fathom for the 70s – $3,700,000. Add in a clause that says he gets 11.75% of the films total gross, and that comes out to $19,000,000. Adjust that for inflation and Brando would be way higher on this list, with a total take-home of $55,000,000!
4. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in X-Men Origins)
With only a few places left before we reach number one you must have been wondering if we’d forgotten Wolverine, but don’t worry, the brooding but beloved mutant made the list. While Hugh Jackman’s sideburns certainly deserved at least half of the attention he got as Wolverine, his exceptional acting chops were really what won audiences over.
Once the first few X-Men movies smashed through the box-office with each sequel, and largely thanks to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, it made sense to give him his own spin-off. Sadly, the reviews for X-Men Origins:Wolverine weren’t super, but Hugh Jackman’s salary certainly was, coming in at approximately $20,000,000.
3. Christian Bale (Batman in The Dark Knight)
You can tell a lot about a person based on who they answer when asked which of the actors to play Batman was their favorite. Are you a fan of Michael Keaton’s Caped Crusader? Maybe even Adam West? What about Christian Bale, who lead the Dark Knight trilogy to bring in billions of dollars? One thing’s for sure, whether or not he’s your favorite, he was the best paid Batman to date.
Although he made about as much as the least successful Batman, George Clooney (see no. 13 on our list), Christian Bale banked a few million more thanks to a clever clause in his contract. After receiving royalties, Bale made $30,000,000 for The Dark Knight.
But if Batman’s not in the top two of our list, which superhero (or maybe a supervillain) takes the the top spot?
2. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame)
Believe it or not, Robert Downey Jr. is not number one on this list. Not that we’re saying coming in second on a list of the highest earners is shabby at all. When Marvel first brought in Robert Downey Jr. to play Iron Man on the big screen, they were cautiously optimistic about the star, who had only recently rehabilitated his reputation in Hollywood.
After getting a handsome but not outrageous $500,000 for his first Marvel movie, RDJ has gone on to make a fortune off the superhero franchise. Another zero was added to his salary for starring in the Avengers movies, before he landed on his biggest payday yet, an estimated $75,000,000 for Avengers: Endgame.
So, who could possibly surpass Iron Man as the highest paid superhero movie star? A supervillain perhaps…?
1. Jack Nicholson (Joker in Batman)
The Joker laughs last! And he’s laughing all the way to the bank. Jack Nicholson, whose manic Clown Prince of Crime has stood as the touchstone for every actor to take on the part since 1989, is our number one. See, before agreeing to star as the antagonist in Tim Burton’s Batman, Nicholson had some contract stipulations.
Nicholson had to be the top billed actor, even above Michael Keaton, aka the Batman of Batman. And although he agreed to be paid less than his usual $10,000,000 payday, the $6,000,000 he received upfront were pennies compared to the share profits he signed on to receive for every Batman film in the franchise, even though he wasn’t in any of the sequels. Today, Nicholson’s total take-home has hit just shy of $100,000,000.
With Batman being rebooted over at DC, could Robert Pattinson knock someone off our list? We’ve done some extensive superhero salary research to find out!
Robert Pattinson as Batman?
The internet is in an uproar as DC has been teasing who will be filling Ben Affleck’s black bat-boots – Robert Pattinson. While studios often have a penchant for casting lesser known stars for superhero roles, since they are often cheaper, Pattinson is pretty well known.
Having commanded a $25,000,000 for the last two Twilight movies, Pattinson’s salary starting a new franchise might look a little different. Knowing that DC superheroes Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot were both paid somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000, but given Pattinson’s more extensive resume, we suspect he might see a salary of $500,000-$1,000,000 for his debut as Batman.
We’re excited to see what he does with the role!
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