Top Movie Stars of the 1950s

Who were the Top Movie Stars of the 1950s statistically?  This page will attempt to answer that question.  Our main source of information was our Ultimate Movie Ranking (UMR) pages that covered movie stars that made movies in the 1950s. So far we have box office grosses on 1,455 movies made between 1950 and 1959.  Granted this is far from all the movies made during that time frame….but it does cover most of the major movie releases in that decade.

We have included four lists of information.  List one looks at the Top 15 stars by adjusted domestic box office (the Top Star might surprise you).  List two looks at the Top 15 stars by highest average rating per movie according to critics and audiences.   List three looks at the Top 15 Stars by highest average UMR score per movie.  List four shows our entire table of all the stars we looked at while complying these lists.

Top 15 Adjusted Domestic Box Office Leaders 1950 – 1959

  1. Charlton Heston $3,925.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  2. James Stewart $3,854.90 million in adjusted domestic gross
  3. William Holden  $3,433.10 million in adjusted domestic gross
  4. Rock Hudson  $3,233.70 million in adjusted domestic gross
  5. Dean Martin $3,195.20 million in adjusted domestic gross
  6. Jerry Lewis $3,191.10 million in adjusted domestic gross
  7. Frank Sinatra $3,172.40 million in adjusted domestic gross
  8. Burt Lancaster $3,170.80 million in adjusted domestic gross
  9. Deborah Kerr $3,015.10 million in adjusted domestic gross
  10. Tony Curtis $3,004.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  11. John Wayne $2,824.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  12. Elizabeth Taylor $2,681.00 million in adjusted domestic gross
  13. James Mason $2,576.60 million in adjusted domestic gross
  14. Marilyn Monroe $2,568.50 million in adjusted domestic gross
  15. Glenn Ford $2,516.70 million in adjusted domestic gross

Top 15 Average Critic/Audience Rating Leaders 1950 – 1959

  1. Marlon Brando 76.60% critic and audience voting
  2. Grace Kelly 76.40% critic and audience voting
  3. James Stewart  75.80% critic and audience voting
  4. Ingrid Bergman  73.50% critic and audience voting
  5. Marilyn Monroe  73.10% critic and audience voting
  6. Audrey Hepburn  72.90% critic and audience voting
  7. Thelma Ritter  72.80% critic and audience voting
  8. Humphrey Bogart  71.80% critic and audience voting
  9. Cary Grant  71.40% critic and audience voting
  10. Fred Astaire  70.70% critic and audience voting
  11. William Holden  69.90% critic and audience voting
  12. Lauren Bacall  69.60% critic and audience voting
  13. Shirley MacLaine  69.30% critic and audience voting
  14. Jack Lemmon  69.10% critic and audience voting
  15. Spencer Tracy  68.80% critic and audience voting

Top 15 Average UMR Score Per Movie 1950-1959

  1. Marlon Brando 66.92
  2. Grace Kelly 63.30
  3. James Stewart 58.32
  4. Yul Brynner 58.27
  5. Danny Kaye56.61
  6. Elizabeth Taylor 55.84
  7. Frank Sinatra 55.54
  8. Dean Martin  54.53
  9. William Holden 54.49
  10. Montgomery Clift  54.29
  11. Thelma Ritter  53.92
  12. Burt Lancaster 53.56
  13. Jerry Lewis  53.48
  14. Humphrey Bogart  53.28
  15. Cary Grant  52.95

Cary Grant in 1959’s North by Northwest

Top Movie Stars 1950-1959 Main Table

The really cool thing about this table is that it is “user-sortable”. Rank the movies anyway you want.

  • Sort by actor or actress
  • Sort by movies made between 1950 and 1959
  • Sort by average adjusted domestic box office per movie
  • Sort by total adjusted domestic box office from 1950 to 1959
  • Sort by how many Oscar® nominations and how many Oscar® wins each performers’ movies earned
  • Sort by average Ultimate Movie Rankings (UMR) Score.  UMR puts box office, reviews and awards into a mathematical equation and gives each movie a score.
 ActorMoviesAdj. B.O. Avg. (mil)B.O. Adj Total (mil)Avg ReviewOscar Noms / WinsAvg UMR Score
Charlton Heston21$ 186.9$3925.7065.5 %030 / 1545.65
James Stewart22$ 175.2$3854.9075.8 %031 / 0558.32
William Holden23$ 149.3$3433.1069.9 %065 / 2154.49
Rock Hudson28$ 115.5$3233.7066.1 %022 / 0346.54
Dean Martin20$ 159.8$3195.2064.1 %011 / 0054.53
Jerry Lewis20$ 159.6$3191.1061.6 %000 / 0053.48
Frank Sinatra18$ 176.2$3172.4067.1 %034 / 0955.54
Burt Lancaster21$ 151.0$3170.8068.0 %038 / 1453.56
Deborah Kerr20$ 150.8$3015.1068.5 %056 / 1852.07
Tony Curtis30$ 100.1$3004.0064.8 %016 / 0343.41
John Wayne19$ 148.7$2824.5065.0 %015 / 0352.67
Elizabeth Taylor15$ 178.7$2681.0066.7 %034 / 0755.84
James Mason24$ 107.4$2576.6068.4 %024 / 0346.59
Marilyn Monroe20$ 128.4$2568.5073.1 %029 / 0752.26
Glenn Ford32$ 78.6$2516.7064.5 %013 / 0142.09
Susan Hayward19$ 131.7$2503.1062.1 %024 / 0350.49
Doris Day22$ 112.9$2483.1066.7 %020 / 0448.88
Kirk Douglas23$ 101.9$2343.2068.5 %023 / 0847.19
Victor Mature27$ 86.6$2338.9057.5 %008 / 0238.43
Ernest Borgnine20$ 114.6$2292.0068.1 %025 / 1248.04
Lee Marvin22$ 103.5$2277.2066.6 %012 / 0044.28
Yul Brynner8$ 284.4$2274.8069.4 %020 / 0758.27
Grace Kelly11$ 206.6$2272.8076.4 %028 / 0863.30
Robert Taylor23$ 97.6$2244.6060.3 %016 / 0041.35
Bing Crosby12$ 183.6$2203.6063.1 %014 / 0351.34
Alan Ladd23$ 94.9$2183.4055.4 %007 / 0240.22
Vincent Price13$ 166.8$2168.1066.8 %007 / 0144.05
Thelma Ritter16$ 135.1$2161.5072.8 %039 / 0953.92
Marlon Brando11$ 192.6$2118.5076.6 %054 / 1866.92
Gary Cooper19$ 108.6$2063.8066.5 %015 / 0448.36
Robert Mitchum25$ 82.2$2055.5060.5 %004 / 0140.48
Gregory Peck18$ 113.6$2044.1067.9 %022 / 0548.39
Van Johnson29$ 69.2$2006.3061.9 %013 / 0138.68
Humphrey Bogart15$ 133.5$2002.1071.8 %020 / 0353.28
Ava Gardner14$ 137.8$1929.7062.5 %012 / 0149.72
Richard Widmark26$ 72.8$1892.4063.7 %009 / 0241.35
Cary Grant13$ 145.6$1892.4071.4 %014 / 0152.95
Lana Turner15$ 125.2$1878.5056.0 %020 / 0542.36
Debbie Reynolds20$ 88.4$1768.1062.9 %009 / 0043.64
Fred MacMurray20$ 87.6$1752.0057.3 %008 / 0037.66
Van Heflin18$ 95.7$1722.5065.7 %008 / 0143.13
Edward G. Robinson13$ 131.5$1709.9063.0 %007 / 0139.43
Virginia Mayo24$ 70.5$1692.7055.8 %005 / 0036.92
Tyrone Power15$ 110.4$1655.5061.5 %012 / 0146.37
Natalie Wood18$ 91.6$1647.9060.1 %012 / 0042.71
Clark Gable14$ 116.8$1634.7062.0 %004 / 0047.27
Charles Bronson12$ 133.0$1595.9064.5 %002 / 0047.83
Donna Reed17$ 92.8$1577.3061.7 %013 / 0841.35
Robert Ryan24$ 65.5$1571.5067.6 %005 / 0041.73
Montgomery Clift9$ 173.5$1561.6067.2 %030 / 1454.29
Clifton Webb14$ 111.2$1557.2063.9 %005 / 0346.86
Bob Hope14$ 109.1$1526.7062.0 %002 / 0046.10
Lee Van Cleef21$ 76.2$1524.9062.6 %012 / 0441.66
James Cagney14$ 107.7$1508.0065.2 %013 / 0245.76
David Niven14$ 106.2$1486.9061.7 %019 / 0743.79
Jack Lemmon12$ 122.2$1466.9069.1 %013 / 0248.18
Anthony Quinn23$ 63.7$1464.1063.0 %015 / 0340.50
Danny Kaye8$ 179.2$1433.8074.3 %014 / 0056.61
Randolph Scott26$ 54.2$1408.7061.0 %000 / 0037.09
Audie Murphy24$ 58.3$1399.1063.4 %000 / 0038.25
Arlene Dahl18$ 72.9$1311.5058.9 %004 / 0038.88
Maureen O'Hara18$ 71.2$1280.7061.6 %007 / 0240.15
Shirley MacLaine9$ 141.9$1276.9069.3 %017 / 0550.54
Gene Kelly15$ 84.0$1260.6065.1 %019 / 0744.73
Gene Tierney13$ 93.2$1211.6063.5 %005 / 0144.39
Barbara Stanwyck22$ 54.9$1206.8064.1 %007 / 0138.65
Walter Pidgeon17$ 68.9$1172.0061.9 %013 / 0540.33
Shelley Winters19$ 61.6$1170.0067.4 %021 / 0942.58
Lauren Bacall10$ 114.7$1146.7069.6 %005 / 0248.82
Audrey Hepburn11$ 103.8$1142.0072.9 %033 / 0552.58
Spencer Tracy12$ 94.8$1137.8068.8 %014 / 0348.94
Paul Newman10$ 113.8$1137.5063.5 %014 / 0246.53
Joan Fontaine14$ 80.6$1129.0061.4 %006 / 0040.77
Fred Astaire9$ 115.5$1039.4070.7 %014 / 0052.09
Errol Flynn17$ 60.0$1020.6056.8 %000 / 0036.51
Richard Burton9$ 113.4$1020.4062.6 %011 / 0243.02
Sidney Poitier13$ 78.4$1019.2065.0 %018 / 0343.67
Fredric March9$ 110.4$993.4067.3 %011 / 0148.72
Rita Hayworth8$ 123.8$990.0060.1 %013 / 0248.68
Betty Hutton5$ 196.6$983.0064.3 %009 / 0352.38
Ray Milland18$ 54.3$977.2060.8 %001 / 0036.71
Dana Andrews19$ 50.8$964.6059.8 %003 / 0036.01
James Dean3$ 308.8$926.4085.5 %017 / 0278.23
Esther Williams10$ 91.9$918.5057.6 %001 / 0041.81
Henry Fonda8$ 114.6$916.7069.7 %007 / 0145.76
Betty Grable8$ 114.0$912.3064.5 %002 / 0045.55
Walter Brennan10$90.0$899.8074.7 %004 / 0042.71
Jennifer Jones10$ 89.8$897.9063.4 %012 / 0344.86
Joel McCrea19$ 46.3$880.6059.4 %000 / 0035.15
Peter Lorre9$ 96.3$866.6063.1 %003 / 0241.15
Katharine Hepburn7$ 122.5$857.8076.3 %012 / 0157.08
Dick Powell12$ 69.4$833.3061.1 %009 / 0640.19
Rosalind Russell5$ 166.2$831.1062.7 %012 / 0250.69
Joan Crawford12$ 67.0$803.8066.7 %010 / 0042.42
Kathryn Grayson8$ 97.9$783.3062.0 %004 / 0043.45
Mickey Rooney12$ 64.0$768.3059.7 %005 / 0137.88
William Powell4$ 190.3$761.3073.9 %004 / 0150.70
Red Skelton10$75.4$754.2058.9 %001 / 0037.97
Orson Welles16$ 46.6$745.5066.6 %001 / 0037.92
Ginger Rogers13$ 56.3$731.8056.6 %002 / 0035.00
Sophia Loren8$ 90.4$723.2054.9 %002 / 0039.73
Charles Laughton8$ 89.3$714.7073.4 %010 / 0049.29
Donald Crisp9$ 78.3$704.8064.7 %000 / 0042.04
Anthony Perkins10$ 69.5$694.5062.8 %009 / 0041.25
James Garner6$ 111.6$669.7067.0 %010 / 0443.71
Marjorie Main8$ 83.1$665.1069.0 %000 / 0045.23
Mario Lanza7$ 93.5$654.4060.5 %005 / 0142.86
Dorothy Lamour2$ 320.4$640.7064.8 %005 / 0259.92
Ingrid Bergman9$ 71.2$640.4073.5 %003 / 0146.59
Bud Abbott11$ 57.9$636.7058.8 %000 / 0036.62
Paul Henreid14$ 40.8$570.8051.3 %000 / 0030.42
Ronald Reagan13$ 43.6$567.2055.0 %001 / 0032.05
Elvis Presley4$ 139.7$558.9069.4 %000 / 0054.26
Bette Davis10$ 53.5$534.9060.4 %016 / 0638.15
Olivia de Havilland 6$ 89.0$533.8060.6 %006 / 0039.54
Walter Matthau10$ 52.7$527.2066.9 %000 / 0039.61
Linda Darnell13$ 39.6$514.8059.3 %001 / 0034.04
Anne Bancroft5$ 89.9$449.6066.0 %000 / 0043.85
Judy Garland2$ 219.8$439.5079.8 %006 / 0066.77
Lucille Ball3$ 138.2$414.7067.8 %000 / 0053.31
Myrna Loy4$ 100.9$403.4061.4 %001 / 0043.73
Ray Harryhausen5$ 78.4$392.2070.8 %000 / 0045.01
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44 thoughts on “Top Movie Stars of the 1950s

  1. Hi

    If I had to pick 2 stars from the 50’s it would have to be Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Although he only made a few movies, his impact is still with us. Monroe is just iconic. Of course there’s always Doris Day.
    Heston has the advantage of a couple of epics under his belt. Last Saturday I watched The Naked Jungle where he fights off an invasion of solider ants, definitely worth watching. He’s the only real legend I met face to face. He was playing in Sir Thomas Moore in A Man For All Seasons in London. Coming out of the theatre he was surrounded by a huge crowd. He was very charming and patient and signed everyone’s autograph. A true gentleman .

    1. The Stars that epitomize the 50’s most to me are the following:

      Actresses: Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor (with all but Marilyn well holding on into the next decade)

      Actors: Marlon Brando, James Dean and Rock Hudson.

      The greatest “Survivor” to me would be Lana Turner, with a short period of box office flops but a string of big hits late in the decade. Male Stars of the 40’s and even 30’s seemed to be much less affected by the advent of middle age, while only the great Kate had a constantly successful career at the box office among older female stars (as compared to her contemporaries Davis, Stanwyck and Crawford)- although some of them would rise again in the next decade.

      As the only german here (I guess) I miss Marlene Dietrich. While she only appeared in 7 movies during the decade, she had a Hitchcock and one big box office hit to her credit- plus a featured part in the classic Touch of Evil. Just saying…;)

      1. Bonsoir again Lupino,

        for Marlene Dietrich don’t forget the classic Rancho Notorious de Fritz Lang
        it is considered like a big classic film but i agree with you for touch evil, a very small part but so great for her statue and you are right to say;

  2. HI JOHN [PHIL & WORK HORSE ALSO TO SEE]
    1 A few weeks back I opined that Cooper deserved to be included in the Top 8 stars on a list which I posted – and you savaged me. I recently welcomed Phil’s calculations which I thought rightly showed Cooper doing well in two ranking polls related to the 1950s and just as you did in the Loy/Crawford debates you and the Work Horse ganged up and banged on my cage. Yet I had thought that Coop was one of your own very top idols.

    2 Nonetheless in the words of the song – I “Stand by YOUR man!” Bruce’s main 50s stats chart ranks him at No 30 above stars like Greg, contemporaries of Coop such as Grant and Bogie and even stars coming into their own in the 50s such as Big Bob Mitchum and popular Young Guns like Paul Newman [and even Bruce’s “sexy” Thelma!] Indeed Coop is just one slot below Brando and Marlon [although turning our less movies than Gary] would probably be acknowledged by most historians and journalists as massive IN THE ROUND throughout the 1950s.

    3 Also the average of Coop’s 50s movies was over $100 million dollars which Cogerson sees as a good benchmark figure for a gross. Salaries are also a token of status and achievement and I gather Gary continued to be paid highly throughout the 1950s. According to The Consumer Price Index of the US Bureau of Labour Stats Gary picked up 49.4 million in today’s dollars and that was big money in those days when salaries were still tightly controlled. On top of that to get Coop in Vera Cruz Burt gave him 10% of the film’s huge gross and Coop also shared in the profits of High Noon. In a Lt Columbo TV episode I’m in middle of watching Forrest Tucker has just said to a con man trying to induce him to invest money to become famous “I’d rather hold onto my wallet than my name!”

    4 Most journalists treat the Quigley polls as if they were something that Steve’s mate brought down from the mountains along with the 10C but – and “Somebody should be taking a note of THIS!” – I agree with you that Quigley must be treated with caution. Doris like Cary owned those polls from the late fifties well into the 60s and Doris is probably one of my all-time Top 4 female stars along with Joan, Babs Streisand and the woman you know as the Forgotten Lady but there is no doubt that the Quigley surveys flattered Doris’ actual box office performance fine though it was and which a usual Bruce has put in proper context

    5 However did it ever occur to you and the Work Horse that that the older Coop may have attracted a whole new fan base that might have eluded the younger Cooper? As you know I personally thought the early Cooper was often wooden and at times pretentious and even laughable on occasions but I regard the 1950s Gary with his years of experience as being as entertaining as any actor who ever lived and I was especially enthralled with his finely etched performances as ‘losers’ in Ten North Frederick and Court Martial of Billy Mitchell [aka One Man Mutiny.] He would certainly be in my Top 30 all-time faves.

    6. And I wasn’t alone in that respect. I remember my father, a great movie buff and Wayne idolater, returning from the cinema one evening in 1954 and telling me he had enjoyed the show and my asking him what he had seen. “Vera Cruz,” he said to which I replied “With Burt Lancaster in fine form I understand,” and he responded “Yes but Gary Cooper – superb!”

    7. I have thus come to the conclusion that you have an OCD where I am concerned so that every time I say “White” your automatic pilot barks back “Black!”. I don’t mind and in fact it’s good for my ego to be repeatedly challenged by someone who usually gets it wrong! In fact I am sure that when all those Loy/Crawford arguments were going on other fans of Myrna on this site [if there are any] were saying to themselves of you and the Work Horse “I do wish that those two guys weren’t on our side.”

  3. HI BRUCE 1 Thanks for your multiple replies to my comments about your 1950s page and for the Quigley link. We have both now written at length about the 50s page and I will give the decade a rest for a while after I add the following few comments in the matter:

    THE DUKE Here’s what you said to me on the subject of JW in para 5 of your 14 May post at 11.15am “5. I think you [Bob] and John are underestimating the power of the Duke….11th for the decade is pretty impressive…especially when he never really had a massive box office hit….he got his totals from solid movie after solid movie”.

    Now here is the statement from me in para 5 of my 13 May post at 1.15 am that you are possibly referring to: “However in terms of popularity longevity AND consistency on top of sheer box office volume the Duke is probably the Daddy of Them All at least among classic era stars notwithstanding his relatively low 50s impact.” The key word is “relatively” and I was simply saying that The Duke’s 1950’s box office performance was low compared with the MASSIVELY HIGH STANDARDS THAT HE SET OVERALL – ie I am used to him being top or almost at the top – but I also was making it clear that my being disappointed at my idol’s 11th placing did not nullify his status as possibly the Greatest at the Classic eara box office. If for example Monty Clift had appeared in that 11th spot I would have hailed it as a great achievement in Monty’s case.
    MUMBLES: It is interesting and almost a bit uncanny that that you kept referring to his 1950s films as “events” because here is what famed film historian David Shipman said when describing Bud’s decline in the 1960s “It had come to the point where a Brando film was no longer an event.”

    2 I see that a lady has offered to edit your site for you. I know that she could be one of the spammers that Flora honoured in poetry but I was hoping you would attempt to capitalise on the offer as I saw it as a chance for Raw Mind in Eden to be changed at long last!

    3 I note also that there has been further academic success in the Work Horse household. Excellent news and I am now sorry that I didn’t keep until this week when it would be even more relevant Paul Newman’s Absence of Malice observation about “a lot of smart people” in the room. Please pass on my congratulations once again and tell W o C that I am hoping she can now rest on her laurels long enough to make our site dynamic – or has that been more of a temporary cash-flow problem than a W o C time scarcity issue?

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