The 10 Most Valuable Actors of All Time

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In Hollywood, there are actors, there are movie stars, and then there are the special few who can "open" a film -- superstars whose involvement can be more important than the director, the script, or any other aspect of the production. These rare beings are so powerful at the box office that studios will pay them tens of millions of dollars a picture. Johnny Depp, for example, just signed a contract to make a fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick, and there is speculation in the press that he could earn as much as $95 million to reprise his role as Capt. Jack Sparrow. That's about 9 percent of the more than $1 billion the last "Pirates" movie grossed worldwide.

So, which actors' continued popularity has been responsible for the most billions of dollars in ticket sales? Based on a review of films' gross box office sales, adjusted for ticket price inflation, from online movie data resource Box Office Mojo, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 most valuable actors of all time.

In order to make the list, an actor needed to star in multiple diverse hits, not just a single powerful franchise. For example, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, who starred in all eight installments of the extremely successful Harry Potter series, are both among the top 20 actors based on the gross ticket sales of their films. However, they've only appeared in five other unexceptional movies between them. At this point, they could still be considered one-franchise wonders.

By contrast, nearly all the actors who made this list have starred in several high-grossing franchises.

Of course, success at the box office is not the same as success with the critics. While half of those who made the list are Oscar winners, as a group, they've received little favor from the award-bestowing cognescenti. Considering that they have 401 films among them, their mere seven acting Oscars does feel a bit scant.

But who needs an Academy Award when you can single-handedly turn a film from B-list to blockbuster? These are the 10 most valuable actors of all time.

The 10 Most Valuable Actors of All Time
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The 10 Most Valuable Actors of All Time

Total film gross: $4.3 billion
Average film gross: $99.7 million
Films: 43
Top grossing film: "Grease"
Acting Oscars: 0

After starting his career on the TV show "Welcome Back, Kotter," John Travolta's film career took off in the late 1970s with starring roles in "Saturday Night Fever," which earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor, and "Grease." Adjusted for inflation, these remain the two highest grossing films of Travolta's career. Since then, Travolta has starred in blockbusters in several different genres, including comedies such as "Look Who's Talking" and more-violent films such as cult film "Pulp Fiction" and "Face/Off."

But not all films Travolta has starred in have been successful. In 2000, Travolta's "Battlefield Earth" was released to universally negative reviews, didn't make back its production budget, and was named by the Razzies as the "Worst Movie of the Decade" in 2010.

Total film gross: $4.3 billion
Average film gross: $93.3 million
Films: 46
Top grossing film: "Every Which Way But Loose"
Acting Oscars: 0

Clint Eastwood has been a well-known actor for the past 45 years: His first film -- "A Fistful of Dollars" -- was released in early 1967. His highest grossing film, the 1978 blockbuster "Every Which Way But Loose," brought in more than $283 million in current dollars. Other films starring Eastwood that have earned more than $150 million include "Dirty Harry," "The Enforcer" and, more recently, "Gran Torino." Eastwood also has been a successful director, winning a best director Oscar for "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby," both of which also won Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture of the Year. But he has yet to win an Oscar for his acting.

Total film gross: $4.5 billion
Average film gross: $95.8 million
Films: 47
Top grossing film: "The Dark Knight"
Acting Oscars: 1

Morgan Freeman was first nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the 1987 film "Street Smart." Over the course of his career, Freeman has been an Academy Award nominee five times, winning once, in 2005, for his supporting role in "Million Dollar Baby." Freeman has also starred in a number of major box office hits, including the "Batman" trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan -- one of the most successful franchises of all time -- and the comedy "Bruce Almighty." Freeman may be best-known for his voice, and has served as a first- or third-person narrator in a number of movies, including "The Shawshank Redemption" and "March of the Penguins."

Total film gross: $4.5 billion
Average film gross: $122.9 million
Films: 37
Top grossing film: "Thunderball"
Acting Oscars: 1

Sean Connery is one of six actors who have played the role of Ian Fleming's James Bond. Between 1963 and 1983, Connery played the secret agent in seven films. Adjusted for  inflation, two of these movies -- "Goldfinger" in 1964 and "Thunderball" in 1965 -- each earned more than $500 million. Connery also has starred in a number of successful action movies, including "The Untouchables," for which he earned his only Oscar, "The Rock" and "The Hunt for Red October." Connery is currently retired as an actor. His last film, released in 2003, was "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman," based on the comic book by Alan Moore.

Total film gross: $4.6 billion
Average film gross: $117.5 million
Films: 39
Top grossing film: "The Graduate"
Acting Oscars: 2

Although Dustin Hoffman has appeared in nearly 40 movies, his first, 1967's "The Graduate," remains his highest grossing film (adjusted for inflation). For his performance in the movie, Hoffman received the first of his seven Oscar nominations. He went on to win his first Academy Award for his leading performance in the 1979 drama "Kramer vs. Kramer" and his second Oscar for his role in "Rain Man," in which he starred alongside Tom Cruise. In all, one-third of Hoffman's films have grossed at least $100 million, ranging from political drama "All the President's Men" to the comedy "Tootsie."

Total film gross: $5 billion
Average film gross: $153 million
Films: 33
Top grossing film: "Top Gun"
Acting Oscars: 0

Tom Cruise is one of just a handful of actors to have grossed more than $5 billion in inflation-adjusted ticket sales. At 23, Cruise starred in "Top Gun," a film that went on to gross $370 million. Other movies starring Cruise that grossed more than $300 million include "Rain Man" and the first two "Mission Impossible" movies. Cruise has never won an Academy Award, but has been nominated three times for his roles in "Born on the Fourth of July," "Jerry Maguire" and "Magnolia." Cruise has also been nominated for seven Golden Globes, winning three.

Total film gross: $4.8 billion
Average film gross: $108.4 million
Films: 44
Top grossing film: "Mrs. Doubtfire"
Acting Oscars: 1

After starring on the TV series "Mork and Mindy," Robin Williams began his film career with the title role in "Popeye" in 1980, the first of his 16 films that would gross more than $100 million in inflation-adjusted ticket sales. Among Williams' smash hits were comedies such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Flubber," as well as dramas such as "Dead Poets Society" and "Good Will Hunting," which earned Williams his only Oscar to date. Williams has also lent his voice to two of the highest grossing animated movies of all time, "Aladdin" and "Happy Feet."

Total film gross: $5.9 billion
Average film gross: $154.6 million
Films: 38
Top grossing film: "Shrek 2"
Acting Oscars: 0

Eddie Murphy, a comedian whose acting career took off at age 19 after he joined "Saturday Night Live," has become one of the most successful comedians of his generation. He has been in 11 films that grossed more than $200 million each in inflation-adjusted dollars, ranging from "Mulan" to "The Nutty Professor." His two highest grossing films, "Shrek 2" and "Beverly Hills Cop," grossed more than a half-billion dollars each. Despite his success, Murphy has never won an Academy Award, although he won a Golden Globe in 2006 for his role in "Dreamgirls."

On the flip side, Murphy "won" a Razzie in 2010 for worst actor of the decade, a honor bestowed upon him for his leading roles  in such busts as "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" and "Norbit."

Total film gross: $7.4 billion
Average film gross: $218.3 million
Films: 34
Top grossing film: "Star Wars"
Acting Oscars: 0

Harrison Ford is best known as Han Solo from the original "Star Wars" trilogy, which grossed nearly $2.9 billion after adjusting for ticket price inflation, and as the adventurous archaeologist of the "Indiana Jones" franchise, which grossed more than $1.8 billion. Beyond those, Ford starred in numerous blockbuster action films and thrillers, including 1985's "Witness," for which he received his only Oscar nomination, 1993's "The Fugitive," and 1997's "Air Force One."

Following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012 and the announcement that new films would be made for the franchise, rumors have circulated that Ford may be open to reprising his role as Han Solo in future "Star Wars" movies.

Total film gross: $6.2 billion
Average film gross: $155.4 million
Films: 40
Top grossing film: "Forrest Gump"
Acting Oscars: 2

Since his film career began in 1984, movies starring Hanks have grossed, on average, more than $155 million apiece in inflation-adjusted ticket sales -- and many have grossed significantly higher. Hanks' highest grossing film was "Forrest Gump," with an adjusted total of more than $611 million. Other Hanks films that grossed more than $300 million include "Saving Private Ryan," "Cast Away" and all three "Toy Story" movies. Hanks has been nominated for five Academy Awards and has won two best actor Oscars: for "Philadelphia" in 1994, and for "Forrest Gump" in 1995.


Methodology: To identify the most valuable actors of all time, 24/7 Wall St. ranked nearly 700 leading actors in Box Office Mojo's database. Actors ranked higher if they starred in more films, if the films they starred in averaged high ticket sales, and if they had among the highest combined box office gross adjusted for ticket price inflation. This last component was weighted more heavily. All film gross numbers are based on U.S. ticket sales only, and, unless otherwise noted, are adjusted for ticket price inflation, as calculated by Box Office Mojo. Awards, such as Oscar wins and nominations, came from the Internet Movie Database .
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