This year’s group of Oscar nominees is the least overtly star-studded one in a while. A veritable who’s who of Cumberbatches, Cotillards and Redmaynes, there’s nary a Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock in the bunch. But while it’s true that the nominees aren’t all household names, it doesn’t mean that they don’t earn their keep.
Many of this year’s Oscar-nominated performers have appeared in some of the highest-grossing movies of all time, although you may not have realized that when you saw them at the multiplex. Also, since quite of few of them starred in animated films, they didn’t really “appear” at all, so you can be forgiven for not noticing them.
What follows is a list of the performers nominated for Academy Awards this year whose three highest-grossing movies have earned the most money at the box office. Using data from Box Office Mojo, we ran down the nominees and tabulated their domestic box office totals and adjusted them for inflation. Movies in which the actors had only minor roles or walk-on cameos were not included.
Mark Ruffalo: $906 million
“Foxcatcher” is a true crime drama that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and has appeared on many year-end top 10 lists. The acting in particular has been given high praise, with much of it going to Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, then you didn’t get to the theater during the summer of 2012, when he played the Incredible Hulk’s less angry alter-ego Bruce Banner in “Marvel’s The Avengers.” The highest-grossing movie of the year, it raked in $637 million. Combined with 2004’s “Collateral” ($135 million) and 2010’s “Shutter Island” ($134 million) he earned a fully Hulked-out $906 million total.
Bradley Cooper: $956 million
No other Oscar-nominated American film this year was as controversial as “American Sniper.” The story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the movie is an adaptation of his autobiography, and it stars Bradley Cooper, the man People dubbed 2011’s sexiest man alive, as Kyle.
Cooper has been nominated for Best Actor for his performance, but he’s better known for such escapist fare as 2009’s “The Hangover” ($308 million) and 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” ($342 million) in which he provides the voice of an animated raccoon. Those box office totals combine with the $306 million that “American Sniper” has earned as of Feb. 16 for a combined total of $956 million. Expect that figure to go up significantly if “American Sniper” wins the Best Picture Oscar for which it’s nominated.
Julianne Moore: $992 million
“Still Alice” is an adaptation of a 2007 novel about an accomplished linguistics professor struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Julianne Moore earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the film.
The top three movies in which Moore has starred brought her box office total to $992 million. These are 2001’s “Hannibal” ($242 million), 2014’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” ($336 million) and 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” ($414 million).
Steve Carell: $994 million
Steve Carell stars in “Foxcatcher” alongside Mark Ruffalo. The actor is better known for starring in such comedies as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” but he has been recognized for more dramatic work in the past, so his Best Actor Oscar nomination isn’t a total surprise.
With the exception of 2003’s “Bruce Almighty,” which earned $334 million, Carell has achieved a career total of $994 million at the box office thanks to voiceover work. His disembodied voice reached its commercial apex with 2010’s “Despicable Me” ($271 million) and 2013’s “Despicable Me 2” ($389 million).
J.K. Simmons: $1.1 billion
“Whiplash” is the story of a jazz drummer attending a prestigious New York conservatory. It features J.K. Simmons as a cantankerous jerk of a conductor, and the performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
J.K. Simmons has made a nice living portraying crotchety malcontents. He portrayed newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Spider-Man 3.” Those three films alone grossed $404 million, $374 million and $337 million respectively, and combine to give him a box office total of $1.1 billion.
Michael Keaton: $1.3 billion
Best Actor nominee Michael Keaton is more than qualified to play the lead in “Birdman,” the story of an actor who once played a superhero in a blockbuster franchise. He is best known for appearing in 1989’s “Batman,” which took in $523 million in box office receipts and 1992’s “Batman Returns” ($326 million), but he has held a much lower profile ever since.
Keaton’s three highest-grossing movies comprise a total of $1.3 billion in domestic box office receipts, and include the two “Batman” films. The third is 2010’s “Toy Story 3,” an animated sequel which took in $433 million and featured the actor providing the voice of a morally ambiguous Ken doll.
Keira Knightley: $1.3 billion
“The Imitation Game” is based on the true story of Alan Turing, who worked as a code breaker for Britain during World War II. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role and Keira Knightley in an Oscar-nominated supporting role.
The three highest-grossing films in which Knightley has appeared are all part of the same franchise – 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” These three movies earned $536 million, $420 million and $373 million, respectively, for a total haul of $1.3 billion.
Robert Duvall: $1.4 billion
“The Judge” is a courtroom drama that features Robert Duvall in a role that earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He tops this list with a total box office haul of $1.4 billion, thanks entirely to the miracle of inflation.
Duvall’s three highest-grossing films were all released in the 1970s: 1972’s “The Godfather,” 1970’s “M.A.S.H.” and 1979’s “Apocalypse Now.” After adjusting to 2015 dollars, these three films took in $655 million, $446 million and $267 million, respectively, at the domestic box office, for a grand total of $1.4 billion.