Film Forward

They’re The Top-Earning Male And Female Actors In Hollywood, But There’s A Big Difference In Their Paychecks

The numbers don't lie.

We already knew Hollywood has a wage gap issue, but seeing data spelling it out is quite eye-opening. Forbes just released the list of the top-earning actors and actresses for 2017 and, while the top man, Mark Wahlberg, made a whopping $68 million, you'll have to go down to No. 15 to find the top woman, Emma Stone, who made $26 million.


This means that the highest-earning female in Hollywood is making about one and a half times less than the male counterpart. While it should be rewarding being at the top of your field — and the amount of money here is absolutely nothing to scoff at — it still isn't one thing: fair.

Here's a look at the top actors and actresses, which Forbes notes are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo, and IMDb in addition to interviews with industry insiders. The totals are before tax (and prior to paying agents, managers, and lawyers) from June 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017.


Mark Wahlberg, $68 million
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, $65 million
Vin Diesel, $54.5 million
Adam Sandler, $50.5 million
Jackie Chan, $49 million
Robert Downey Jr., $48 million
Tom Cruise, $43 million
Shah Rukh Khan, $38 million
Salman Khan, $37 million
Akshay Kumar, $35.5 million


Emma Stone, $26 million
Jennifer Aniston, $25.5 million
Jennifer Lawrence, $24 million
Melissa McCarthy, $18 million
Mila Kunis, $15.5 million
Emma Watson, $14 million
Charlize Theron, $14 million
Cate Blanchett, $12 million
Julia Roberts, $12 million
Amy Adams, $11.5 million

As Forbes points out, the men here amassed a cumulative $488.5 million as opposed to the women having accumulated $172.5 million together — nearly a third as much. There were only three actresses to surpass $20 million compared to 16 actors.

The reporter for the story, Natalie Robehmed, surmises that "this pay disparity is due, in part, to roles: There are simply fewer main female characters in the superhero movies and blockbusters that pay the sizeable backend profits that result in leading men's large paydays, or the franchise sequels that permit aggressive negotiation for future installments."

This is an interesting point given that in the entire top 30 actors and actresses combined, there are 10 of which are involved in current Marvel franchises. Of those 10, Lawrence is the only woman (X-Men). We have Diesel (Guardians of the Galaxy), Downey Jr. (Ironman himself), along with seven other men not making the cut — we're looking at you: Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, and Mark Ruffalo. Avengers, assemble — indeed!

On top of the wage gap issue it's important to point out that, despite women getting paid less, there's more diversity with the men. There are no actresses of color in the top 10 but, for the men, there are three Bollywood actors (both Khans and Kumar), a Chinese American actor (Chan), and two others who are ethnically diverse (Johnson and Diesel). It's clear that, while actresses on a whole are getting the shorter straw in regards to fellow actors, actresses of color are the ones being completely left out.

Hopefully seeing these numbers will get the ball rolling so that actresses can make the same as their actor counterparts.

Cover image via Debby Wong / Shutterstock | Tinseltown / Shutterstock

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.


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