Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara tops our new ranking of the world’s highest paid actresses with $43 million, as the TV star led a surge of small-screen paydays that eclipsed those in the movie business. Hollywood veteran Angelina Jolie ($35 million) and Red Notice star Gal Gadot ($31 million) come in second and third on the list.
Most American movie theaters have been dark since late March, leading major studios to postpone big-budget releases, including the female-led Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984. Since many movie stars earn large bonuses based on box-office performance, the lack of new theatrical releases has made room at the top of the pay scale for TV icons like Vergara, Grey’s Anatomy’sEllen Pompeo (No. 8; $19 million) and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss (No. 9; $16 million) who capitalized on lucrative salaries from traditional television and streaming services, where the bulk of the pay comes upfront. Another TV-star, Viola Davis (No. 10; $15.5 million) makes the list for the first time with star roles in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder and the upcoming Netflix film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
In all, the ten highest-paid actresses earned a combined $254 million in the 12 months leading up to June, down 20% from last year. All but two—Angelina Jolie and Emily Blunt (No. 6; $22.5 million)—made the bulk of their earnings from television and streaming. Those who made most of their money from traditional films earned an aggregate of $58 million this year, down from $136.5 million in 2019.
“A film produced for a global streaming service can and will likely be seen by tens of millions of people,” says Hollywood attorney Tom Ara. “In the world of theatrical releases, that type of success could potentially translate into billions of dollars of revenues garnering the talent large box office bonuses and back-end profits.”
Vergara had her biggest TV haul ever from her gig playing Gloria on ABC’s Modern Family, for which she earned $500,000 per episode, and her new job as a TV talent judge on America’s Got Talent, which pays her at least $10 million each season. She padded that income with a series of endorsement and licensing deals.
Blunt is a newcomer to the top ten after negotiating big paydays for the upcoming film Jungle Cruise and A Quiet Place 2. Meryl Streep returns after an eight-year absence from the ranking; she landed two streaming jobs, which included an eight-figure check from Netflix for a role in Ryan Murphy’s upcoming musical, The Prom.
Proof the apple cart is upset: Scarlett Johansson, who topped last year’s list with earnings of $56 million doesn’t even make the top ten. Last year she made about $35 million off the backend for her role as Marvel’s Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame. Next year she should be helped by her share of profits from the pandemic-delayed sequel Black Widow. But this year her earnings are down by more than $40 million, leaving her off the list entirely.
While Hollywood may be moving closer to gender pay equity, there is still a ways to go. The ten highest-paid male actors collected $545.5 million this year, almost double that of their female peers.
1. Sofia Vergara: $43 million
Vergara concluded her run on ABC’s Modern Family and began her tenure as a judge on America’s Got Talent. She pads those earnings with endorsement and licensing deals, including a line of jeans at Walmart and furniture at Rooms To Go.
2. Angelina Jolie: $35.5 million
One of the few actresses on the list to pocket nearly all of her money from traditional films, Jolie’s biggest paycheck comes from her starring role in The Eternals, the upcoming Marvel movie that has a $200 million budget.
3. Gal Gadot: $31.5 million
With Wonder Woman 1984on ice, Gadot turned to Netflix, collecting $20 million for her role in Red Notice. It’s a steep price, insiders say, but a tiny part of the streamer’s $17 billion content budget.
4. Melissa McCarthy: $25 million
The comedic actress stars in two streaming films directed by husband Ben Falcone—one on HBO Max and one on Netflix—and hosts NBC’s Little Big Shots. Next year: her role as Ursula in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
5. Meryl Streep: $24 million
The screen legend joined director Steven Soderbergh for the comedy Let Them All Talk, which was sold to HBO Max for $33 million. Streep’s cut of the action: at least $5 million. The rest came from The Prom and last year’s Little Women.
6. Emily Blunt: $22.5 million
The first A Quiet Place grossed $341 million on a $17 million budget, and Blunt negotiated an eight-figure upfront salary on the sequel, due out next year. Her role in Jungle Cruise will earn her a check in the high seven figures.
7. Nicole Kidman: $22 million
Kidman will join Streep in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom on Netflix, which will pay her an eight-figure upfront salary. She will earn about $1 million per episode for her upcoming miniseries on HBO, The Undoing.
8. Ellen Pompeo: $19 million
After a contract renegotiation in 2017, Pompeo is earning about $550,000 per episode for her starring role on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. She reportedly adds about $6 million a year from her share of syndication profits.
9. Elisabeth Moss: $16 million
Hulu paid her $1 million per episode to star in the dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale. She shared in the profits of Invisible Man, a surprise hit that cost just $7 million and grossed $134.3 million.
10. Viola Davis: $15.5 million
Davis makes the list for the first time thanks to seven-figure checks from her roles as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder and Ma Rainey in Netflix’s film adaption of the August Wilson play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers (generally 10%, 15% and 5% respectively) are not deducted.