Over the past decade or so, movies have made more money than ever in theaters as box office numbers climbed consistently and records were set. Despite that, it’s still pretty rare to see something pass the $1 billion mark. There are franchises known for hitting that mark but it still doesn’t happen all that often.
Even rarer is to find an actor who has shown up in multiple $1 billion films. It obviously occurs in those popular franchises, as stars like Dwayne Johnson and Robert Downey Jr. have appeared in the Fast & Furious and MCU series in several $1 billion hits. However, some actors have done it across more than one franchise or even did so with a standalone film.
Updated on January 20th, 2022, by Kevin Pantoja: Following a rough 2020, movie theaters returned with a vengeance in 2021 and into 2022. More blockbusters have neared the $1 billion mark, while Spider-Man: No Way Home actually managed to do so. With it, some new actors joined the club of having multiple billion-dollar films under their belt. Even so, there were more than just the original ten actors to have pulled off the feat as well, across multiple genres.
There was a time when Orlando Bloom was one of the highest-grossing actors of all-time despite having far fewer credits to his name than the others in the same category. That’s because two of his franchises produced films that made it to the $1 billion mark and had several that finished just shy.
There was his role as the charismatic and lovable archer Legolas in The Lord of the Rings series. The final installment, The Return of the King ($1.142B) was the one to hit a billion. Elsewhere, he played Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($1.066B).
It’s not often that someone can make the move from a career in music to a successful run on the big screen. However, Tyrese Gibson has mostly pulled that off. He made waves as Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Robert Epps in the Transformers franchise.
The third entry in that series, Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.123B) was the biggest of them all but Tyrese was already part of a franchise that was about to break out. He debuted in 2 Fast 2 Furious and returned in Fast Five and coming back again ever since. The movies got bigger than anyone expected, with Furious 7 ($1.515B) and Fate of the Furious ($1.236B) reaching the mark.
Although she might not be the first name you think of when you consider box office stars, Alfre Woodward is a well-respected and versatile actor of this generation. She got her first taste of the billion-dollar mark with a small appearance as Miriam Sharpe in Captain America: Civil War. ($1.153B)
Shockingly, she had another MCU role as Mariah Stokes in Netflix’s Luke Cage. However, it was when Woodard lent her voice to the 2019 remake of The Lion King ($1.662B) as Simba’s mother Sarabi that she reached the mark again.
His combination of acting and singing skills has made Josh Gad one of the most impressive performers in Hollywood in recent memory. He nearly reached the billion-dollar club with a part in the Ice Age franchise but got there in 2013 thanks to his voice work as the lovable Olaf in Frozen ($1.281B).
The next time that he found himself in a movie that reached the impressive mark was in 2017. He took on the coveted role of LeFou, Gaston’s loyal buddy in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast ($1.264B). He joined some fellow cast mates from that movie as multi-blockbuster actors.
The extremely talented Djimon Honsou is one of those actors who kind of seems to pop up everywhere. From Gladiator to Blood Diamond, he’s seemingly done in all. He’s even appeared in multiple MCU films and played two different characters in the DCEU.
In the former, Honsou plays Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel ($1.128B), while in the latter, he played the wizard Shazam in Shazam! and the Fisherman King in Aquaman ($1.148B). To add to it, Honsou also appeared in Furious 7 as Mose Jakande.
James Earl Jones
There aren’t many voices in the world more famous and iconic than that of James Earl Jones. So, it totally lines up that his movies to surpass $1 billion come from franchises where he voices two of the most legendary characters in cinema history.
In 1994, Jones voiced Mufasa in the original The Lion King ($1.063B), which reached the mark after a handful of re-releases. He also voiced the role again in the 2019 remake. Meanwhile, though he debuted as Darth Vader in 1977’s original Star Wars, he didn’t get to voice him in a billion-dollar film until 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($1.056B).
Naomie Harris actually made her debut as Tia Dalma in Dead Man’s Chest, which was the first one to make it to the $1 billion mark. Harris reprised the role in the sequel, though that just barely missed grossing as much.
The other film for her to make it to this marker is another of the biggest franchises in history, James Bond. However, Harris took part in the only entry to surpass $1 billion, which was Skyfall ($1.108B). In it, she took over the memorable role of Miss Moneypenny, which she reprised in Spectre and No Time To Die.
Many people tend to forget that Vin Diesel has two of the most famous roles in all of history. Obviously, he is most known as Dominic Toretto, the central character in the Fast & Furious franchise. It’s the rare series to get better and more popular in later years, with Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious being massive hits.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Diesel also voices the character of Groot. While both Guardians of the Galaxy movies fell short of the $1 billion mark, the character was a key part in Avengers: Infinity War ($2.048B). Diesel is also reportedly set to join the Avatar sequels and the first one set box office records.
It’s difficult to mention Vin Diesel and the entire Fast & Furious franchise without bringing up Michelle Rodriguez. As Letty Ortiz, Rodriguez is one of the original and most pivotal characters in the series. Like Diesel, she was a key character in both Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious.
Rodriguez has made an entire career out of playing some of the toughest females ever put on the big screen. It worked to make her a star with Fast & Furious but then also landed her a role in Avatar ($2.798B) as Captain Trudy Chacon, which was for a time the biggest movie in history.
Samuel L. Jackson
There aren’t many actors with more prominent roles than Samuel L. Jackson. The obvious part that grossed a ton is as Nick Fury in the MCU, first cracking $1 billion with The Avengers ($1.518B) and most recently doing it with Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1.131B).
It could be argued that the other biggest film franchise in pop culture history alongside the MCU is Star Wars. Jackson famously played Jedi Mace Windu in the prequels, with The Phantom Menace ($1.027B) being the biggest hit. Technically, his voice was also heard in The Rise of Skywalker ($1.074B). On top of that, Jackson also reprised his voice role as Frozone in Incredibles 2 ($1.243B).
Sterling K. Brown
In recent years, Sterling K. Brown has become one of the top actors in the world. That has mostly been the case due to award-winning work in television shows like This is Us and The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. However, he has also been in two massive movies.
First, he showed up in some fantastic scenes in Black Panther ($1.347B) as N’Jobu, uncle to T’Challa and father to N’Jadaka/Killmonger. The following year, Brown had a voice role as Mattias, a leader of Arendelle soldiers in Frozen II ($1.450B).
The first entry into Emma Watson’s filmography was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($1.006B), so you know she was set for greatness. Technically, it reached that mark after re-releases but the final entry in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, grossed the most money of the franchise ($1.342B).
Being in such a blockbuster series at a young age allowed Watson to be picky with later roles. She could choose passion projects over ones purely for money. While Watson did do that, she added another huge hit to her resume with her role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast ($1.264B).
It was in 2013 that Lupita Nyong’o became a star thanks to an Oscar-winning turn in 12 Years a Slave. Since then, her career has only been on the upswing. She has had other stellar performances in films like Us and also joined two of the biggest franchises in history.
To start, there was her appearance in 2015’s highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2.068B) as Maz Kanata. Even though they were in smaller cameos, she played Maz Kanata again in the two sequels, which both hit the billion-dollar marker. She also played the heroic Nakia in Black Panther ($1.347B).
One common trend that will be found on this list is actors who have the MCU as one of their big hits. Interestingly, that’s not the case for Luke Evans. His franchise is different, first appearing in Fast & Furious 6 before joining Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious which both surpassed the mark. He played the villainous Owen Shaw.
He actually is one of the rare actors to appear across three different billion-dollar hits. Evans portrayed Bard the Bowman in the extended cut of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($1.017B) and Girion, Lord of Dale in other entries. He then took on the role of Gaston in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast ($1.264B).
Although Luke Evans has more franchise/one-off appearances in billion-dollar movies, Zoe Saldana tops the list for legitimately starring in the two biggest films of all-time. They weren’t just small roles either. In Avatar ($2.789B), she played Neytiri, one of the two most important characters.
Of course, she is also Gamora of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. Gamora was a central part of Avengers: Infinity War ($2.048B) and her return in Avengers: Endgame ($2.797B) was a highlight in the biggest movie ever. That’s three of the five highest-grossing films in history. Saldana was also in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie but didn’t return when it became a billion-dollar success.
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