While directors sometimes have a strong idea of who should play a particular part in their films (Woody Allen created the character of Annie Hall with Diane Keaton in mind, for instance), an actor’s bankability has always been a major factor when casting the major roles in a movie. Producers and studio executives often place their thumb on the scale of casting decisions, then.
To determine the most bankable actors in terms of potential domestic box office earning power, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from industry site Opus Data, a product of Nash Information Services. Actors were ranked based on the amount they are forecasted to add to the average non-franchise film at the domestic box office as of October 2022. The estimated added value is a component of the Numbers Bankability Index, and is based on past box office performance.
Data on each actor’s age and on inflation-adjusted domestic box office used to determine an actors’ highest-grossing film also came from Opus Data. To determine an actor’s highest-rated film, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on user scores on IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and audience and critics’ Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, weighting all measures equally. Only films for which an actor was listed among the top-four billed actors on IMDb were included.
What studios are concerned about is what the industry calls “box office poison.” That term gained prominence in 1938 when the Hollywood Reporter ran an advertisement from the Independent Theatre Owners Association complaining about highly paid stars “whose appeal was negligible” and whose films were not hits. The advert cited Hollywood legends Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, and Joan Crawford as examples. (These are some A-list actors’ biggest box office flops.)
Box office poison doesn’t appear to be an issue with those on our list, who can potentially add anywhere from $6.8 million to $18.0 million to a future non-franchise film’s domestic ticket sales.
Though many of the actors here have appeared in some of the industry’s most profitable movie franchises, such as Marvel Comics Universe’s X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Avengers; action franchises like Star Wars and The Hunger Games; and animation series such as Despicable Me and Kung Fu Panda, they have proved their bankability in non-franchise films such as “Perfect Storm,” “Minority Report,” and “Saving Private Ryan.”
Of the 50 actors on this list, all but five are male – including the top seven. The highest female actor is Scarlett Johansson, who has appeared in the The Avengers franchise films, but also in such acclaimed non-franchise features as “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story.” (Here’s a list of the biggest Scarlett Johansson movies, ranked from worst to best.)
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