FORBES – Chris Evans is a superhero at the box office–and the bottom line. The 34-year-old Captain America star is this year’s best actor for the buck: For every $1 Evans was paid for his recent films, they returned an average $181.80.
Evans leads this year’s ranking of Hollywood’s best investments ahead of Mila Kunis ($87.30 return for every $1 paid) and the world’s second-highest-paid actress Scarlett Johansson ($84.90 return for every $1 paid). The expensive Jupiter Ascending did little to dent Kunis’ returns from Ted and Oz The Great and Powerful, making her the second-best actor for the money.
Four of the top five best actors for the buck are women, illustrating Tinseltown’s gender pay disparity. Female leads are often paid less than their male counterparts but can offer remarkable returns. Take Johansson, for example: Her last three major films grossed a combined $2.58 billion while her aggregate compensation probably hovered around 1% of that, FORBES estimates. These ticket booth triumphs ensure she ranks third on this year’s list, though her rising fees may make her ineligible in the future.
To compile our rundown of Hollywood’s Best Actors For The Buck, we used earnings estimates from our Celebrity 100 list. We looked at the last three films each actor starred in before June 2015 (the end of our Celebrity 100 scoring period). We did not include animated films, movies where the actor appeared in a very small role, or movies that were released on fewer than 2,000 screens.
We then deducted the estimated production budget from the global box office for each film (using numbers from Box Office Mojo and other sources) to come up with a limited definition of each movie’s operating income. We added together the estimated total compensation for each star on the three movies and the operating income from each movie and then divided to come up with the final return on investment number.
Marvel has been accused of being tight fisted when it comes to paying actors not named Robert Downey Jr. That explains Evans’ phenomenal returns: movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossed $714 million globally when Evans likely received a sub-$10 million paycheck, FORBES estimates.
This discrepancy between box office billions and relatively paltry pay for actors who sign on to multiple-movie deals means Marvel stars often reap great returns for the studio. Fittingly, Evans is joined on the Best Actors For The Buck ranking by fellow Avengers Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor. For every $1 Hemsworth is paid, he returns an estimated $42.10.
Emma Stone, last year’s Best Actor For The Buck, saw her ROI impacted by the poor box office performance of Aloha–it grossed just $26.2 million on a $37 million budget. Still, thanks to past hits such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 she boasts a return of $54 for ever $1 she was paid to round out the top five.
Surprisingly, Stone offers a worse return than Gwyneth Paltrow, who ranks at No. 4 on this year’s list. Though Mortdecai did nothing to boost’s Paltrow’s ratios, the $1.2 billion gross of Iron Man 3–for which she was likely paid single digit millions–drives her inclusion. She returned an estimated $82.90 for every $1 she was paid.
Best actors for the buck list 2015
1. Chris Evans ($181.80 per $1)
2. Mila Kunis ($87.30 per $1)
3. Scarlett Johansson ($84.90 per $1)
4. Gwyneth Paltrow ($82.90 per $1)
5. Emma Stone ($54.00 per $1)
6. Chris Hemsworth ($42.10 per $1)
7. Vin Diesel ($40.30 per $1)
8. Jennifer Lawrence ($39.10 per $1)
9. Mark Wahlberg ($37.90 per $1)
10. Dwayne Johnson ($28.10 per $1)