6. Mel Gibson - The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
Mad Mel was one of the most popular movie stars in the world during the 90s and regularly commanded a fee north of $20 million per movie. In fact, his $30 million salary for Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998 was the highest ever paid to an actor for a single project at the time. However, his biggest success came as the producer, writer and director of The Passion of the Christ, which was as controversial as it was successful. The subject matter meant that no major studio was willing to finance the movie, so Gibson funded the $45 million budget and marketing costs out of his own pocket through his Icon Productions company, and also self-distributed the movie after public criticism of the project alienated any potential backers. However, as the old saying goes; controversy creates cash. The movie took a massive $83.8 million in its opening weekend, and ultimately became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time at the domestic box office, closing with over $370 million. Worldwide, the movie grossed $611.9 million despite blistering criticism from some quarters. Greeted by a wildly polarizing critical reception (which was to be expected given the content), the movie is estimated to have earned Gibson well over $300 million. Whatever you make of the movie (I've never seen it), this passion/vanity project (delete where applicable) was a financial gamble that paid off. Regardless of what you make of Mel Gibson the man, he sure knows how to make a buck or two.