From Tom Cruise to Dwayne Johnson, these are the highest-paid actors in 2023.
You know how the old adage goes, “You’ve got to spend money to make money”? Apparently, Hollywood has been sipping on that wisdom like it’s a mid-afternoon kale smoothie. And why wouldn’t they? The endgame has always been ‘box office gold’, and for that, they’re willing to shell out some serious dollars.
Welcome to the glitzy world of Hollywood’s biggest money makers. We’re here to spill the tea (or should I say, the dollar bills) on the crème de la crème of the acting world: the highest-paid actors of 2023. These screen legends aren’t just raking in the dough; they’re swimming in it, Scrooge McDuck-style. So, grab your popcorn, sit back, and prepare to be dazzled by the outrageous fortunes of these showbiz powerhouses.
But let’s not forget, behind all the glitz and glamour lies undeniable talent. These actors didn’t just stumble upon their colossal paychecks; they’ve honed their craft, captured our hearts, and made us laugh, cry, and gasp in awe. Quickly then, the top 10 highest-paid actors of 2023 — men who’ve been laughing all the way to the bank, one blockbuster at a time.
Highest-Paid Actors (2023)
1. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise, Hollywood’s resident daredevil, doesn’t just earn his hefty paycheck, he literally jumps, runs, and hangs off planes for it. Who could forget the iconic building leap in ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ that broke his ankle, which he finished in true Cruise style?
With the release of Top Gun: Maverick in theaters worldwide in 2022, Tom Cruise has once again proved he’s the undisputable king of Hollywood. It became the highest-grossing film of 2022 thanks to the charisma and talent Cruise brought to the role of Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. It’s justified then that Cruise was paid a whopping $100 million for the film, earning him the status of the highest-paid actor.
His reputation as an action star has been solidified by roles in movies like Top Gun (1986) and the Mission Impossible series (1996–2016). But very few people remember some of his serious roles as an actor with depth and substance in films like Rain Man (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Magnolia (1999).
2. Will Smith
2022 was a significant year for Will Smith. He won three major awards — the Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Award as Best Actor. His portrayal of Richard Williams in the biographical sports drama King Richard (2021) was a rare accomplishment. It’s proof of his ability to pull off any role with proficiency.
The second highest-paid actor this year, he has multiple awards under his belt. For his upcoming show Emancipation on Apple TV+, Will Smith was paid a staggering $35 million.
From the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ to the prince of Hollywood’s highest earners, Smith’s journey is as compelling as his performances.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t just go for the Oscar, he goes for the paycheck too. The Titanic star has been a constant high earner in Hollywood. The actor teams up with Martin Scorsese in the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon, slated for an October release. The actor has been paid $30 million.
DiCaprio’s journey as an actor, from a television commercial to blockbuster movies, exemplifies how conviction and grit can pay off. From Arnold Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (for which he nabbed an Oscar nomination in 1994) to Dr. Randall Mindy in Don’t Look Up (2021), he gets into the skin of any character with ease. He won his first and long-due Academy Award for Best Actor for The Revenant (2015).
Trivia alert: Leo turned down the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. We’ll leave you to ponder that what-if!
4. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is one of few actors who has dabbled across genres with zeal and sensitivity. His production house, Plan B Entertainment, has helmed movies that won and were nominated for various reputed awards. For playing a stuntman Cliff Booth in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Pitt will be collaborating with Joseph Kosinski of Top Gun: Maverick fame for a film on formula one racing. The film is untitled at this moment. Brad Pitt been paid a whopping $30 million for the project.
5. Dwayne Johnson
Who could have imagined that a professional wrestler with the moniker ‘The Rock’ would become a famous star in Hollywood? Dwayne Johnson’s bold decision to act in films catapulted him to success and fame. He also has his name carved on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star. However, Dwayne Johnson is best known for his role in The Fast and the Furious franchise.
For playing the titular role in the film Black Adam (2020), Dwayne Johnson was paid $22.5 million. He also co-produced the film. His rigorous effort to promote the film on social media is also the reason for its global success, grossing a total of $166.8 million at the box office worldwide.
The Rock continues his reign atop the fiscal mountain, amassing a vast fortune from his movie roles and numerous endorsement deals. Fun fact: Did you know that this former wrestler’s breakthrough movie was The Scorpion King (2002), which netted him a then record-breaking $5.5 million? Fast forward to 2023, and he’s eclipsing that figure like a total champ.
6. Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds
Will Ferrell has consistently opted for comedy roles in films since his debut as an uncredited cameo of a Newscaster in Criminal Hearts (1996). He’s among the few American comedy actors who’ve done good business at the box office since the mid-1990s. They are known as Frat Pack.
Ryan Reynolds, on the other hand, began his career working in teen comedies. His claim to fame is his titular role in the Deadpool Franchise. His performance in Deadpool (2016) earned him a Golden Globe Awards nomination.
Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds were paired together in Spirited. The duo was paid $20 million each.
7. Chris Hemsworth
Hemsworth gained popularity in 2011 as he became a member of the MCU. Later in his career, he would receive unprecedented success playing Thor. It seems Thor’s hammer isn’t just good for saving the universe. Hemsworth, thanks to his role as the God of Thunder and his other ventures, is seventh on our list.
Chris Hemsworth worked in television for a good length of his career to hone his skill as an actor. His first appearance was in the opening scenes of Star Trek (2009). He played the role of George Kirk in a special appearance. 2021 proved to be crucial for his career. For his performance as Tyler Rake in the Netflix action thriller Extraction, he was lauded by critics and viewers alike. Now for the film’s sequel, he’s been paid $20 million.
A bit of trivia for you: Hemsworth almost lost the Thor role to his younger brother, Liam. Well, there’s a family dinner conversation!
8. Vin Diesel
Diesel, the deep-voiced action star known for ‘Fast & Furious’, makes the cut, proving that there is indeed big money in playing with fast cars and huge explosions.
Mark Sinclair, popularly known as Vin Diesel, made his debut playing the character of Orderly in his first American drama, Awakenings (1990). However, his name didn’t appear in the credits. He also briefly appeared as a soldier in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998). His humble beginnings would eventually lead him to become one of the most popular action movie stars globally.
Diesel earned fame as an action hero by starring in two movie franchises: the Fast and the Furious and The Chronicles of Riddick. For the next installment of The Fast and the Furious, titled Fast X, Diesel is being paid $20 million.
Trivia Time: He’s also a successful producer and once broke a YouTube record for the most viewed video in 24 hours for his song Feel Like I Do.
9. Tom Hardy
An alumnus of Drama Centre London, Tom Hardy made his debut as a soldier in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001). He’s worked with some of the most acclaimed filmmakers of world cinema, including Nicolas Winding Refn, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and Christopher Nolan. His performances have earned him nominations at various reputed award functions.
His portrayal of a man caught in the turmoil of emotional upheaval in the psychological drama Locke (2013) won him critical acclaim. But he became globally popular for playing the role of both Eddie Brock and the titular role in the Marvel franchise Venom (2018) and its sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), respectively. For the third instalment in the Venom 3 series, Tom Hardy been paid $20 million.
10. Joaquin Phoenix
Rounding up our list is Joaquin Phoenix, who, after his acclaimed role in Joker, has seen a significant upswing in his paychecks.
Like his contemporaries, Phoenix too began his career in television. He made his debut as Frankie in the TV movie Kids Don’t Tell (1985). [Fun fact: Phoenix went by the name Leaf in his early career to fit in with his nature-named siblings]. However, it was his role as the dictator Commodus in Gladiator (2000) that made him a known face globally. Since then, he’s had the chance to work with niche directors like PT Anderson, Lyne Ramsay, and Spike Jonze, among others.
In 2020, he won the Oscar for Best Actor for playing Arthur Fleck in Joker (2019). It created history by becoming the first R-rated film to gross over $1 billion at the box office. For the sequel, Joker: Folie à Deux, Phoenix will be paid $20 million.
Guess, Joaquin is now laughing ‘leaf-fully’ to the bank!
There you have it, the top 10 actors who’ve been flexing their box-office muscle and keeping their accountants on their toes in 2023. These actors have a knack for turning roles into gold mines, and it’s no surprise their bank accounts are as glamorous as their red-carpet appearances. Remember, though, the real treasure is their performances, even if they do come with a price tag.
All the above figures are according to Insider.
FTII alumnus and freelance writer. My articles have appeared in Scroll.in, The Hindu, Livemint.com, The Quint, The Tribune, Upperstall, among other publications.