Highest-Grossing Actresses of All Time
Hollywood has been a male-dominated industry, but that’s changing. A study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that female characters accounted for 31 percent of lead characters in the top 100-grossing films in 2018, a historical high.
But only a handful of actresses appeared on our list of the highest-grossing movie stars of all time. So we decided to take a look at the highest-grossing female movie stars of all time.
21. Jennifer Lawrence
Worldwide gross: $6.02 billion
Note: We used BoxOfficeMojo and looked at worldwide box office totals to rank each star. Numbers are from May 2021 and will change in the future as these actresses are destined to make more box-office hits.
Bottom Line: Jennifer Lawrence
As one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence can command quite a hefty paycheck — she can make around $15 million for big-budget flicks like "Red Sparrow" — and she has the box-office earnings to back up her worth.
Lawrence’s "Hunger Games" franchise earned $2.96 billion worldwide, with other films like the current "X-Men" franchise, "American Hustle" and "Silver Linings Playbook" contributing to her worldwide grosses.
In Their Own Words: Jennifer Lawrence
"I never play characters that are like me because I’m a boring person. I wouldn’t want to see me in a movie."
20. Evangeline Lilly
Worldwide gross: $6.12 billion
Bottom Line: Evangeline Lilly
Evangeline Lilly started out as Kate Austen in the TV series "Lost," which made her famous. She went on to appear in "Real Steel" and landed a role as the elf Tauriel in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."
But her recent work as Hope van Dyne/the Wasp is her most famous and highest-grossing role. She appeared in "Ant-Man," "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and "Avengers: Endgame."
In Their Own Words: Evangeline Lilly
"I'm very proud of being a woman, and as a woman, I don't even like the word 'feminism' because when I hear that word, I associate it with women trying to pretend to be men, and I'm not interested in trying to pretend to be a man. I don't want to embrace manhood. I want to embrace my womanhood."
19. Tilda Swinton
Worldwide gross: $6.2 billion
Bottom Line: Tilda Swinton
One of the most versatile actresses around, Tilda Swinton has appeared in at least 60 movies.
Her top earner is "Avengers: Endgame," with "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Doctor Strange," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Constantine" and "Vanilla Sky" being Swinton’s other top-grossing films.
In Their Own Words: Tilda Swinton
"There is something insane about a lack of doubt. Doubt — to me, anyway — is what makes you human, and without doubt, even the righteous lose their grip, not only on reality but also on their humanity."
18. Julia Roberts
Worldwide gross: $6.4 billion
Bottom Line: Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts has appeared in over 45 films, and the movie that made her famous, "Pretty Woman," is still her highest grossing.
The 1990 classic earned $463 million worldwide and made Roberts a household name.
Her other mega-hits include "Ocean’s Eleven," "Ocean’s Twelve," "Notting Hill," "Runaway Bride" and "Hook."
In Their Own Words: Julia Roberts
"The older you get, the more fragile you understand life to be. I think that's good motivation for getting out of bed joyfully each day."
17. Angelina Jolie
Worldwide gross: $6.41 billion
Bottom Line: Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie has started doing more producing and directing, but she isn't done with acting.
Jolie donned the black horns once again in "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil," which grossed over $490 million. She also was in "Kung Fu Panda 3" as the voice of Tigress. And the "Kung Fu Panda" series raked in a lot of cash worldwide, reaching $1.8 billion in ticket sales.
Aside from that franchise, Jolie’s highest-grossing movie is "Maleficent," which grossed $758.5 million worldwide, and then 2005’s "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," where she and Brad Pitt played with guns while members of "Team Aniston" scowled.
In Their Own Words: Angelina Jolie
"Without pain, there would be no suffering. Without suffering, we would never learn from our mistakes. To make it right, pain and suffering is the key to all windows. Without it, there is no way of life."
16. Kristen Wiig
Worldwide gross: $6.8 billion
Bottom Line: Kristen Wiig
Kristen Wiig made her way from a "Saturday Night Live" cast member in 2005 to one of the most recognizable female celebrities on the planet, even when she’s not on camera.
Wiig’s voice acting abilities have landed her roles in some hugely popular movies like the "Despicable Me" films, which earned more than $2 billion at the box office.
She also voiced Ruffnut in all three "How to Train Your Dragon" movies, which earned over $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office.
In Their Own Words: Kristen Wiig
"People sometimes get a little extra criticism when they try something that they don't normally do, but I think that's just a natural thing for artists. It's like, 'Okay, I did that, and now I want to try this.'"
15. Anne Hathaway
Worldwide gross: $6.83 billion
Bottom Line: Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway’s biggest hit is "The Dark Knight Rises," wherein she played Selina Kyle (otherwise known as Catwoman), which earned $1.08 billion worldwide.
She played the White Queen in both "Alice in Wonderland" and "Alice Through the Looking Glass," two films that made over $1.3 billion at the box office.
The New Yorker also picked up roles in big hits such as "Rio," "Rio 2," "Interstellar," 2012’s "Les Miserables" and "The Devil Wears Prada."
In Their Own Words: Anne Hathaway
"I've always believed in people's capacity for goodness. I still believe that people are good. What I'm not so trusting about anymore is their relationship to their own goodness."
14. Letitia Wright
Worldwide gross: $6.86 billion
Bottom Line: Letitia Wright
She’s only 27 years old and has appeared in nine movies, but Letitia Wright’s movies have earned billions at the box office, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
She starred as Shuri in "Black Panther," "Avengers: Endgame" and "Avengers: Infinity War," which accounted for the bulk of her movie grosses, and also as Reb in "Ready Player One," a nostalgic CGI-fest that earned $1.32 billion worldwide.
In Their Own Words: Letitia Wright
"My aim is just to remain as humble and as godly as I can be."
13. Cameron Diaz
Worldwide gross: $7.1 billion
Bottom Line: Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz has been churning out hits ever since her big-screen debut with "The Mask," which grossed $351.6 million around the world (it remains her sixth highest-grossing film).
Four years later, she made the classic comedy "There’s Something About Mary," which grossed nearly $370 million worldwide, and a few years later, she voiced Princess Fiona in "Shrek" and its three main sequels, which grossed about $3 billion worldwide (not counting "Puss in Boots").
A fifth "Shrek" movie is in the works.
In Their Own Words: Cameron Diaz
"I love physical kinds of comedy and getting down and dirty and doing stunts. When I was growing up, I was always getting into fights with guys and usually punching out boys my age because I was a lot bigger and tougher. So I'm naturally accustomed to putting myself into the headspace of a girl who can take care of herself."
12. Natalie Portman
Worldwide gross: $7.39 billion
Bottom Line: Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman had a small role in the MCU as Jane Foster in "Thor," and "Thor: The Dark World," and she did manage to nab the $2.76 billion in worldwide earnings from "Avengers: Endgame" thanks to her brief appearance (although she likely wasn’t paid for it — it was all unused footage from the previous films).
Portman’s other biggest hits were the “Star Wars” prequels, which grossed $2.5 billion, and “Black Swan,” which made $329.4 million.
In Their Own Words: Natalie Portman
"It's always strange being a kid on the set, because you're treated like an equal when you're working. But then when you break, the other actors go back to their trailers to take naps and drink beer, and I have to, like, go do school."
11. Elizabeth Banks
Worldwide gross: $7.4 billion
Bottom Line: Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks' broad range of comedic acting has landed her numerous roles in popular films. Her highest-grossing movies are the four "Hunger Games" movies, where she played District 12 escort Effie Trinket. She voiced Wyldstyle in "The Lego Movie" and its sequel, which grossed nearly $660 million worldwide and were her next top-grossing movies.
The "Pitch Perfect" trilogy made over $588 million worldwide, and she has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Seabiscuit."
Banks also played Bosley in the 2019 "Charlie’s Angels" reboot and directed it. With a budget of $48 million, it made $73 million.
In Their Own Words: Elizabeth Banks
"I'm lucky to have worked with great actors, my whole career."
10. Lupita Nyong'o
Worldwide gross: $7.45 billion
Bottom Line: Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong'o has only appeared in 12 films, and almost all of them were commercial successes.
One that wasn’t — "Queen of Katwe" — was a limited-release indie film.
She appeared in "Black Panther," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "12 Years a Slave" and "Us," and she lent her voice to 2016’s "The Jungle Book."
In Their Own Words: Lupita Nyong'o
"It's only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you're not expressing the utmost of your human experience."
9. Elizabeth Olsen
Worldwide gross: $7.97 billion
Bottom Line: Elizabeth Olsen
Elizabeth Olsen’s role as Scarlet Witch in four MCU movies earned her a top-10 spot on this list. She also starred in the 2014 "Godzilla" reboot, which earned over $529 million.
While there is no Scarlet Witch standalone movie in the works, Olsen starred in the popular streaming series called "WandaVision," which featured Scarlet Witch and her lover, Vision.
The show appeared on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+.
In Their Own Words: Elizabeth Olsen
"I believe that you are only in control of so much. So whatever you are not in control of you can't worry about."
8. Karen Gillan
Worldwide gross: $8.6 billion
Bottom Line: Karen Gillan
After an impressive run as Amy Pond alongside the 11th doctor in BBC’s "Doctor Who," Karen Gillan’s role as a Hollywood star took off.
She appeared as Nebula in both "Guardians of the Galaxy" films, "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame."
She co-starred alongside Dwayne Johnson in "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," which earned $962 million worldwide, and the sequel, "Jumanji: The Next Level," hit the $800 million mark.
In Their Own Words: Karen Gillan
"I have no sense of being famous — you're just working. And then you'll have a random day in London when you'll do some press and it creeps into your awareness that this goes out — that what you do every day goes out to televisions right across the country."
7. Michelle Rodriguez
Worldwide gross: $8.7 billion
Bottom Line: Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez’s tough girl persona has landed her roles in blockbuster films.
She has appeared in five "The Fast and the Furious" movies, which earned over $4 billion worldwide.
In "Avatar," she played Trudy Chacon, and she also starred in "Turbo," "S.W.A.T." and "Resident Evil: Retribution."
In Their Own Words: Michelle Rodriguez
"I would like to see a fierce Fantasia mixed with Blade Runner, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars all in one. That's the kind of movies I want to make."
6. Emma Watson
Worldwide gross: $9.68 billion
Bottom Line: Emma Watson
Emma Watson has only made 19 films so far, but half of them were mega-blockbusters. Her role as Hermione Granger in eight "Harry Potter" films grossed over $7.7 billion worldwide, while starring role as Belle in the 2017 "Beauty and the Beast" film made over $1.2 billion.
She played Meg March in "Little Women," which debuted in 2019 and only grossed $216.6 million.
Not that she needs the cash. Watson reportedly earned $60 million for her role in the "Harry Potter" films.
In Their Own Words: Emma Watson
"Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong."
5. Helena Bonham Carter
Worldwide gross: $9.9 billion
Bottom Line: Helena Bonham Carter
Helena Bonham Carter has made over 60 movies, from cult classics to blockbuster hits. Her highest-grossing features include her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in three "Harry Potter" films, 2010’s "Alice in Wonderland," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," 2015’s "Cinderella" and the 2001 "Planet of the Apes."
Another dozen of her successful movies include "Big Fish," "Ocean’s 8," "Dark Shadows" and "Fight Club." She also appeared as Princess Margaret in Netflix’s "The Crown."
In Their Own Words: Helena Bonham Carter
"I'm definitely a bit of Peter Pan, reluctant to grow up. ... Part of me would prefer not to have any responsibility whatsoever."
4. Gwyneth Paltrow
Worldwide gross: $11.6 billion
Bottom Line: Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow was one of the first movie stars to hop on the multibillion-dollar MCU train. She first appeared as Pepper Potts in the 2008 "Iron Man."
She acted in six additional MCU movies, all of which were her highest-grossing films.
But "Se7en," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Shallow Hal" were also big hits at the box office and contributed to her worldwide earnings.
In Their Own Words: Gwyneth Paltrow
"When you're so out there in the public eye, people are constantly criticizing every aspect about you."
3. Cate Blanchett
Worldwide gross: $11.7 billion
Bottom Line: Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is the third highest-grossing actress in the world, thanks to her part as Galadriel in the blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" trilogies.
She also starred in the critically panned but commercially successful "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which earned over $786 million worldwide.
And she had a role in the MCU, too, as Hela in "Thor: Ragnarok."
In Their Own Words: Cate Blanchett
"It was only when I realized how actors have the power to move people that I decided to pursue acting as a career."
2. Zoe Saldana
Worldwide gross: $12.1 billion
Bottom Line: Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana’s role as Gamora in four MCU movies contributed over $6 billion to her movie grosses, but a decade earlier, she starred in the highest-grossing movie of all time — "Avatar."
That film brought in over $2.78 billion at the worldwide box office, while the newest "Star Trek" films, in which she played Nyota Uhura, grossed over $1 billion.
In Their Own Words: Zoe Saldana
"I'm very accepting with my age. It's like notches on your belt: experience, wisdom, and a different kind of beauty. There comes a day when you've become comfortable in your skin."
1. Scarlett Johansson
Worldwide gross: $14.4 billion
Bottom Line: Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson isn’t just the world’s highest-grossing female movie star. She’s also the world’s highest-paid actress.
Forbes estimates that Johansson made $40.5 million for one year’s worth of work from 2017 to 2018, and her role in "Avengers: Endgame" increased that amount for her 2019 earnings to $56 million.
At the box office, Johansson has been appearing in films since her 1994 debut in the comedy "North" (she was 10 years old), and has appeared in over 40 movies.
In total, those films have raked in over $14.3 billion at the box office, and her upcoming stand-alone Black Widow film is likely to earn her hundreds of millions more.