5 of the Highest-Ever Paid Movie Roles For Women

In case you’ve been under a rock, Scarlett Johansson has been in the news. Her effort to get paid what she’s worth in a particularly nasty court battle with Disney and Marvel has brought the topic to the forefront of the industry. While women in Hollywood may not make as much as their male peers yet, they’re known for raking in impressive numbers. From Cameron Diaz to Jennifer Lawrence, here are five of the most lucrative-ever movie roles for women. 

Cameron Diaz earned $42 million for a 2011 comedy

Cameron Diaz in black outfit
Cameron Diaz | Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Cameron Diaz commanded attention from the moment she stepped on the scene with her breakout role in 1994’s The Mask, opposite Jim Carrey. But by the time 2011 rolled around for the beloved rom-com star, she was commanding a lot more than attention. 

Per The Hollywood Reporter, she wound up pocketing a legendary $42 million for her role as Elizabeth Halsey in Bad Teacher. She starred opposite Justin Timberlake in the raunchy high school comedy, and although talk of a sequel materialized, to this day, it’s never happened. A worldwide box office total of $216.2 million against an initial $20 million budget proved Diaz’s power as a marquis name. 

She also starred in Charlie’s Angels (2000,) The Other Woman (2014,) Shrek (2001,) and There’s Something About Mary (1998). 

Scarlett Johansson is challenging her $20 million paycheck for ‘Black Widow’

By the time Emma Watson reached a roughly $15 million payday for the 2017 live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, she’d already proven her worth. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Watson earned a jaw-dropping $60 million combined over eight Harry Potter movies. 

Since Beauty and the Beast wound up making $1.263 billion worldwide, the $15 million paycheck for the role of Belle was undoubtedly worth it to Disney. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out so well for the juggernaut studio. In July 2021, Scarlett Johansson filed a bombshell lawsuit against Disney, claiming that they shortchanged her up to 50 million by simultaneously releasing Black Widow on Disney+ as well as in theaters. Johansson claims that her contract was based on physical box office performance. 

While it may not have been as much as she anticipated, her base pay of $20 million for the title role is impressive. According to Yahoo! Finance, Johansson has raked in a whopping $75 million for appearances she’s made in nine Marvel films, including The Avengers franchise. 

Johansson was named the highest-paid female actor in Hollywood in 2018. But at $40 million that year, she still earned nearly $200 million less than the highest-paid actor for the same period, George Clooney. 

Emma Stone waltzed away with $26 million for ‘La La Land’

According to Forbes, Emma Stone banked 26 million for one single role — Mia in La La Land. In short order, she exceeded expectations by helping pull in $448.9 million for the film overall and handily winning Best Actress at the 2017 Academy Awards. 

Since then, she’s earned 8 million upfront for Disney’s Cruella, but The Daily Mail reports that the upcoming sequel could earn her up to $50 million. 

Finally, Jennifer Lawrence appeared to have hit a career-high with her $20 million paycheck for 2018’s Red Sparrow. But according to Screen Rant, the Mother! star outdid that with a $25 million payday for Don’t Look Up, an upcoming dark comedy from Netflix. 

While she didn’t quite make as much as Leonardo DiCaprio for the same film (he’s reported to have earned $30 million,) these impressive paydays prove that women in Hollywood will continue pushing forward until they’ve reached — or exceeded — the paydays of their male counterparts. 

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