New Study Suggests Hollywood’s A-List Is Vastly Overpaid

Steven Spielberg
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Steven Spielberg generates the most revenue in Hollywood, says a new survey, that also suggests Hollywood’s highest-paid actors aren’t worth as much as they getting paid.

The Numbers Bankability Index, put out by, says it “estimates how much someone adds in value to the film industry each year based on analysis of the Hollywood Creative Graph™, a network of over 65,000 thousand people with over 2.5 million connections that represent all the films they have worked on together.”

According to their list, Spielberg is on top, generating $27.4 million in box-office revenues and video rentals a year. Samuel L. Jackson came in second with $24.4 million, Johnny Depp in third at $24.3 million ($10.5 million) and Tom Cruise at $24 million.

Robert Downey Jr., who topped Forbes’ highest-paid actor list after taking in an estimated $75 million in 2013, only placed ninth, generating $20.6 million a year for his movies.

Channing Tatum, Hugh Jackman, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson — all of whom ranked high on Forbes’ list — went unranked in the Numbers Bankability Index.

Bruce Nash, head researcher at, told USA Today that the Index examines Hollywood as if it were a single sales firm. Spielberg, he said, would be the top salesman, who is “driving the bottom line more than anyone else, so he would be the top employee. We understand that big names command huge salaries and drive business. We wanted to look at everybody in the industry as if it were one giant, corporate body.”

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  1. EK says:

    The numbers make no sense!

  2. Bruce Nash says:

    Bruce Nash here from Nash Information Services, the company that compiles the The Numbers Bankability Index.

    A few notes:

    1. This is a measure of annual contribution, so it favors people (like Samuel L. Jackson) who appear in a lot of movies. He’s well down the list for value/movie, which can be found on our web site

    2. The fundamental question we aim to answer is, “what would this person be worth to an average movie?” Not, “what would you pay Robert Downey, Jr. to play Tony Stark?” So the headline is really making an apples to oranges comparison.

    3. The Worldwide Index quoted in the article is based on performance in the past 10 years. That gives actors who have risen to prominence in the past 3-5 years a disadvantage. (We have other indexes that measure more recent performance.)

    I’ll be happy to answer any other questions.

  3. Joe Smart says:

    The fact that Samuel L Jackson is second on the bankability list is all you need to know to see that their methodology is highly flawed. When Jackson isn’t a supporting player in the Marvel films he’s the lead in movies that go straight to video like Meeting Evil, The Samaritan and Arena. Samuel L Jackson hasn’t been a lead in a theatrical film since The Spirit and Soul Men, both from 2008, both of which bombed. But he’s second on the bankability list and Robert Downey Jr who stars in The Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes and Avengers films places ninth? How do people who publish obviously idiotic studies like this even get paid or get publicity for their shoddy work?

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