We all know celebrities get paid insane amounts for what they do. Whether they are athletes, actors, musicians or just randomly famous, it is shocking to learn how much some of them pull in. Every year, Forbes ranks their incomes from ticket sales, endorsement deals, merchandising and more. Read on as we count down the top paid stars, I guarantee some of them will surprise you.
#21 Taylor Swift – $320 M
Tay Tay is as good a businesswoman as she is performer. Her deal with Universal Music Group gives her ownership of all her master records, proceeds from when the company one day sells its $1 billion stake in Spotify. The $266.1 million grossed in her Reputation Stadium Tour is the highest in US history.
#20 Robert Downey Jr. – $81 M
With massive checks for Avengers: Infinity War and The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, plus $15 million for a small role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Robert Downey, Jr. is on his way to Tony Stark status.
#19 Katy Perry – $83 M
Forbes called Katy “one of the hardest-working names on the list,” as she made 80 stops on her Witness: The Tour, grossing more than $1 million for each. Meanwhile, she judges other aspiring singers on ABC’s American Idol.
#18 Rush Limbaugh – $84.5M
With a monthly audience of 25 million on more than 650 stations, the conservative talkshow host is the most listened to radio host. Limbaugh’s subscription platform Rush 24/7 and mobile app add to his earnings.
#17 LeBron James – $85.5M
Four-time NBA MVP King James became the youngest player to reach 30,000 career points and broke Michael Jordan’s record for number of double-digit point games last season.
#16 James Patterson – $86 M
America’s highest-paid author, James Patterson published more than 20 books in the last year. Though his 2018 was impressive, he is bound to eclipse it this year with the success of his newest novel, The President Is Missing, a political thriller co-written with Bill Clinton.
#15 Ellen DeGeneres – $87.5 M
Ellen has made history time and again, most recently for the record $20 million she was paid for her stand-up special on Netflix, the highest of any woman. She also earns from endorsement deals, producer salaries, and of course, her eponymous daytime TV show.
#13 Howard Stern – $90 M
Shock jock Howard Stern is on the third year of his SiriusXM contract worth eight-figures. The satellite radio’s new video service features highlights from Stern’s 30-year-plus video library.
#13 Neymar – $90 M
In August 2017, Brazilian superstar Neymar’s contract is worth a total cash outlay of more than $600 million. The 26-year-old works off the pitch with global sponsors Nike, Red Bull, Gillette, McDonalds and Beats by Dre.
#12 Conor McGregor – $99 M
The UFC’s biggest star scored his biggest payday to date when he faced Floyd Mayweather in a 2017 boxing match. McGregor banked an estimated $85 million for the fight, which had 4.3 million PPV buys and generated more than $550 million in revenue. He also has deals with Burger King, Beats by Dre, Monster Energy, David August, BSN, Anheuser-Busch, HiSmile and Betsafe, a residency deal with the Wynn Las Vegas, suite of digital products that add to his take-home.
#11 Bruno Mars – $100 M
The pop superstar won six Grammies, including a sweep of the three major categories last year, and his 24K Magic World Tour grossed a quarter-billion dollars.
#10 Cristiano Ronaldo – $108 M
Global soccer icon Christiano Ronaldo had yet another monster season, earning his fifth Champions League title and fifth Ballon d’Or, a prize awarded to the world’s best player. With a stable of endorsement deals and his own growing CR7 line of branded clothing, Ronaldo cracks the top 10.
#9 Ed Sheeran – $110 M
At 27, Sheeran is the highest-earning solo musician on the list. He boasts billions of streams of his songs and stadium-packing shows. He also made TV cameos on Game of Thrones and The Simpsons.
#8 Lionel Messi – $111 M
Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi was the 2017-18 season’s top scoring player in the Top 5 European Leagues with 45 goals in all competitions. His annual salary and bonus exceeds $80 million, making him the highest-paid for his work on the pitch, not to mention his endorsements for Gatorade, Pepsi, Ooredoo, Huawei, Hawkers and a lifelong deal with Adidas.
#7 Coldplay – $115.5M
Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams Tour earned them more than half a billion dollars in its two-year, five-continent run. That puts the band third to only U2’s 360 Tour and The Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang Tour on the all-time list.
#6 U2 – $118M
The immortal Irish rockers had quite a year. Touring for the 30th anniversary of the Joshua Tree album, the band attracted 2.7 million concertgoers and grossed $316 million. U2 also released its 14th studio album, Songs of Experience, in December.
#5 Dwayne Johnson – $124 M
The Rock earned the highest ever take home from acting since Forbes started keeping records. He received giant upfront paychecks and a cut of profits on blockbusters including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. His huge social following also gives him negotiation ammo for an extra seven figures atop his standard contract for promotion.
#4 Judy Sheindlin – $147 M
Judge Judy is certainly a household name but may surprise you to know she is one of the top 5 paid celebrities. She makes $47 million a year for hosting her show, which has aired for 22 seasons and has a viewership of 10 million a day, and sold the rights to the library for $100 million.
#3 Kylie Jenner – $166.5 M
Celebrity-turned-mogul Kylie Jenner is, at 21, the youngest self-made billionaire ever. Of course, self made means something different when you start out with $250k to invest, but Kylie masterfully leverages her social media following to build her own fortune. Her makeup brand Kylie Cosmetics pulled in $360 million in 2018.
#2 George Clooney – $239 M
Although Forbes lists him in the actor category, that isn’t what won Clooney the second spot. The star cofounded tequila company Casamigos with pals Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, and last year, sold it to British liquor giant Diageo for $700 million. The sale gives Clooney the best annual take-home of any actor in history.
#1 Floyd Mayweather – $285 M
The top spot goes to boxer Floyd Mayweather, whose August 2017 fight versus Conor McGregor in Las Vegas generated more than $550 million in revenue, with Money Mayweather earning $275 million as the “A” side of the bout and for his role as promoter.