With there still being a large gender pay gap in Hollywood, it’s crucial to note the women who are bridging the historic void between them and their male counterparts. Whilst there is room for significant improvement, the highest-paid roles for women show that things are improving. Indeed, the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Emma Watson are incrementally changing the status quo.
The highest-paid movie role for a woman is Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanova – Black Widow – in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Irrespective of her lawsuit against the MCU parent company, Disney – a pay dispute settled in October 2021 – in her nine films for Marvel, she had earned $75million. This was then boosted to $95million, after making a cool $20million from 2021’s Black Widow.
Deadline Hollywood reported that after the lawsuit was settled, Johansson would receive over $40million from Disney, taking her profits for Black Widow to more than $115million.
The second highest-paid female movie role comes from Sandra Bullock, an actor who has starred in her fair share of blockbusters. However, her performance as Dr. Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 sci-fi, Gravity, trumps all her other paychecks considerably. She earned over $70million for her work in the hit film. Remarkably, she received a $20million upfront payment from Warner Bros., with 15% of the “first-dollar gross”. For every dollar the studio made for Gravity, 15% went to Bullock before production or marketing costs were even deducted.
The third famous face on the list is Emma Watson. Whilst she’s also starred in her share of successful titles, her role as Hermione Granger in the eight Harry Potter movies earned her $60million. This fact is made even more astounding when you note that Watson was just 21 when the final instalment, 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, was shot.
Fourth, and perhaps the most surprising name on this list, is Cameron Diaz, the 1990s it-girl who quit acting in 2015. For her performance as unscrupulous teacher Elizabeth Halsey in the 2011 comedy Bad Teacher, Diaz earned $42million. While initially making only $1million, a contract stipulation ensured that she received a cut from the movie’s broader profits. With it taking over $216.2million at the box office, this was a canny move, lining her coffers before bowing out of Hollywood four years later.
Following Diaz, in the fifth spot is Angelina Jolie. Her role in 2010’s Salt might have produced $20 million, but her part of Thena in Marvel’s 2021 hit Eternals earned $35.5million, making the latter Jolie’s biggest paycheque to date. Next is Emma Stone as Mia Dolan in Damien Chazelle’s 2016 musical La La Land, which saw her take home $26million due to ‘back end’ deals – income paid from profits after distribution.
Closing out the list is Jennifer Lawrence, who is also no stranger to a meaty paycheck. Notably, she earned $20million as Dominika Egorova in 2018’s Red Sparrow. However, this was topped three years later when she received $25million for Kate Dibiasky in the 2021 Netflix satire Don’t Look Up.
Whilst it might seem an unfathomable amount to the majority of us, her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio was still paid $5million more for his work on the flick, displaying that the pay gap still lives. “It doesn’t matter how much I do,” Lawrence painfully told Vogue in 2022: “I’m still not going to get paid as much as that guy because of my vagina?”.
The highest-paid female movie roles of all time:
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanova/Black Widow (MCU, $115million)
Sandra Bullock – Dr. Ryan Stone (Gravity, $70million)
Emma Watson – Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, $60million)
Cameron Diaz – Elizabeth Halsey (Bad Teacher, $42million)
Angelina Jolie – Thena (Eternals, $35.5million)
Emma Stone – Mia Dolan (La La Land, $26million)
Jennifer Lawrence – Kate Dibiasky (Don’t Look Up, $25million)