The folks over at Vulture, who clearly have far more time on their hands than my sorry ass, just released a massive list of Hollywood’s “100 Most Valuable Stars” for 2013. “Most Valuable” could mean a lot of things, but if you’re interested in the whys and wherefores of how they assembled the list, you can read about their methodology right here. Suffice to say they considered factors such as box office, awards won, critic scores, twitter mentions, and more. And it turns out that science fiction is pretty well represented on the list. Of the top 10 stars, half of them appeared in sci-fi movies in 2013. (While we don’t usually cover straight-up superhero movies here at GFR, we’re still counting Iron Man 3 as sci-fi in this case ‘cause otherwise that’s splitting hairs pretty fine.) When you factor in upcoming projects as well, Hollywood’s sci-fi future is positively packed.
You can hit up Vulture to see the full list, but we’re going to take a closer look at how this year’s science fiction films have fared for them, as well as what’s on the horizon. Let’s check out the top 10!
1. Robert Downey Jr.
While Iron Man 3 was controversial for stepping outside the usual superhero-movie template, it still made mad cash, bringing in $1.2 billion worldwide. As for Downey, he’s so damn good at playing Tony Stark that I’d happily keep buying tickets to watch him in the role well into his golden years. That may be more than we should expect, but he’s definitely got more Stark in his future, set to return for The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. Prior to landing the Iron Man role, Downey didn’t have much sci-fi on his resume: he was in the 2006 Philip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly and he had a role in John Hughes classic Weird Science.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leo earned his slot on the list for this year’s The Great Gatsby, but only a few years back he was playing the lead in Christopher Nolan’s trippy mind-heist flick Inception, which earned $817 million worldwide. He’s no sci-fi veteran to be sure, but that may change in the years to come, especially if you factor in projects he’s producing. He’s attached or rumored to be attached to Joseph Kosinski’s Twilight Zone movie, the time travel TV series The Shining Girls, a new take on The Island of Dr. Moreau, and an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’ Brave New World.
3. Jennifer Lawrence
Of the top three, Lawrence is the one whose wagon is hitched to science fiction in a major way for the foreseeable future. As the lead of the Hunger Games franchise, she’s got the one-two punch of science fiction and “based on a popular young adult book series” to work with, in addition to the whole being talented and down-to-earth thing. The first Hunger Games movie hunted down $693 million worldwide, and Catching Fire is on track to do even better when it opens next month. And there are still two more to go after that! Just give her all the money now and be done with it. She’s also got the looking-quite-awesome X-Men: Days of Future Past due next summer.
4. Sandra Bullock
While Sandra Bullock isn’t a name you would have associated with science fiction in the past, that changed in a big way with the release of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Since releasing on October 4th, it’s retained the top box office slot for three weeks, trouncing newer flicks such as Captain Phillips, Carrie, and Escape Plan. Honestly, I am seriously flabbergasted. While I expected Gravity to be amazing, I didn’t foresee it being the sort of movie that would connect that well with general audiences at all. I guess you can’t underestimate the appeal of spectacle done well. And let’s not forget the sci-fi nugget hiding in Bullock’s back catalog: Demolition Man, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary.
5. Brad Pitt
Speaking of surprises, who the hell saw World War Z coming? The early trailers didn’t look great and the general buzz was largely negative in the months leading up to it, but then a wave of early reviews skewed more favorably and suddenly the zombpocalypse flick’s fortunes had changed. Changed to the tune of half a billion dollars worldwide, making it Pitt’s most successful movie to date. And it wasn’t a bad flick at all, even though it veered well away from the Max Brooks book that inspired it. Needless to say, a World War Z sequel is in the works. Pitt is also rumored to be involved with the adaptation of Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide, but we’ll always love him for his entertainingly batshit performance as Jeffrey Goines in Twelve Monkeys.
6. Will Smith
Well, they can’t all be winners. In spite of his high ranking on the list, Smith’s only 2013 flick was the M. Night Shyamalan dud After Earth. It was savaged by the critics and, although it took in $245 million worldwide, with a budget of around $130 million that wasn’t enough to count it in the “win” category. This is one that was easy to see coming. The trailers looked stilted and awful, Smith seemed to have been drained of all his charm, and it was directed by Shyamalan, who has been on a truly staggering losing streak since, if we’re being charitable, The Village. I’m sure Smith will recover in true Big Willy style. Even though he supposedly won’t be a part of the Independence Day sequel, he can always crank out another Men in Black movie; MIB3 earned $625 million in spite of arriving a full decade after the previous film in the franchise.
7. Christian Bale
The man who was Batman occupies slot #7, but there just isn’t much sci-fi on his plate at this point. I award him some consolation points for 2002’s Equilibrium, even though his overly shouty version of John Connor in Terminator Salvation is best left forgotten. Oooh, and 1,000 steampunk/Tesla points for The Prestige! Moving on…
8. Denzel Washington
Man, we were on such a nice streak there. Sadly, Denzel may still be a dynamite talent and a box office draw, but of late he’s not so much with the sci-fi. Then again, the genre hasn’t been terribly kind to him over the years, so we can’t really blame him. His last two SF flicks were 2010’s The Book of Eli and 2006’s Deja Vu, neither of which set the box office on fire. Before that you have to go back to Virtuosity, and I think we can all agree that nobody wants it to come to that.
9. Tom Hanks
Also not a frequenter of science fiction, Tom Hanks still earns major cred for lending his cachet to Tom Twyker and the Wachowskis’ ambitious Cloud Atlas last year. And one of his roles was arguably the weirdest role in the weirdest sub-section of a weird-ass movie, so kudos to one of the biggest movie stars in the world for not being afraid to step out of the safe zone. Plus, he was doing Gravity before Gravity was doing Gravity, back when Apollo 13 hit in 1995 (And let’s not forget the excellent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries.) Still not convinced of his sci-fi bonafides? Hanks is making a Major Matt Mason movie, based on the 1960s line of astronaut toys. That’s so awesomely geeky I almost want to go yank Hanks’ underwear up over his head and shove him inside a locker. But, like, in a good way.
10. Johnny Depp
His star fell a bit this summer with the disappointing performance of Disney’s The Lone Ranger, but fear not: science fiction is riding to his rescue, astride a white steed called Transcendence. Depp is playing the lead in the much-anticipated 2014 flick which marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer. After much secrecy, the official plot synopsis was released over the summer: Depp will play Will Caster, a scientist who has his consciousness uploaded onto the Internet. “Once there, is it really Will who is interacting with humanity in order to make things better, or a darker sinister clone bent on the termination of the world as we know it?” I’ve got no idea, but Transcendence is one of the most-anticipated science fiction movies on the horizon, so Depp should be in good shape. As long as nobody mentions The Astronaut’s Wife…