In this article:
- In real life, becoming wildly rich can be very hard for those of us who aren’t nepotism babies. But in fiction, anyone can be a billionaire — or, in the case of the richest movie character below, a trillionaire.
- The list of the big screen’s richest fictional characters is an interesting one, containing the undead, a young criminal, real and mythical non-human creatures, some war profiteers, and one monarch.
- Looking at the who’s who of movie VIPs is a fascinating exercise in thinking about how our culture imagines obscene amounts of wealth, and how one might earn it.
When we think of big-screen VIPs, one of the names we often think about is Tony Stark — and rightly so.
Iron Man is richer than Richie Rich, Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt, and even Batman. Plus, it was his film that kicked off the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe a couple of decades ago, so he’s a little hard to forget.
In Iron Man Vol 4. #7, however, it was revealed that Tony Stark’s net worth made him only the 36th richest man in the world. For those of us who aren’t born into insane amounts of wealth, that’s a little hard to imagine. After all, his house is huge, and we see him drive plenty of expensive cars across the MCU movies. Thinking about how much wealthier a person can get can be a little dizzying.
The thing about fiction though is that the limits are pretty much non-existent when it comes to the blessings a character might receive. Some are given unique powers or interesting storylines, and sometimes those powers and storylines come with wildly deep pockets.
So if you’re curious about the richest characters on the big screen, here are seven high net worth characters that you should know.
Iron Man / Tony Stark
Net Worth: $12.4 Billion
Tony Stark is a lot of things: He is an industrialist, a genius inventor, and before becoming more of a family man, he was a playboy. But his wealth can be traced back to the fact that he comes from a family of war profiteers.
Upon his parents’ untimely death at the hands of Hydra, Tony inherited a hefty inheritance and the leadership of Stark Industries, a defense company that manufactures weapons and other military technologies. It takes heavy inspiration from a real-life company called Lockheed Martin Corporation, the largest defense contractor in the world.
In the first Iron Man movie, Tony gets abducted during a weapons demonstration in Afghanistan. Upon seeing firsthand the destruction his wealth is built on, he fights his way back home and announces the end of weapons manufacturing in Stark Industries.
While that movie ended well, the rest of Tony’s journey throughout the MCU movies is a dive into the morally gray nature of his character, and how he’s a lot more than that charming, billionaire genius with a sense of humor (albeit one that bends towards arrogance) that people make him out to be.
Artemis Fowl II
Net Worth: $13.5 Billion
Okay, so the 2020 movie based on the well-loved novel of the same name is terrible. It really, truly is criminally bad. And what a waste that is of good source material.
The book series has been described by author Eoin Colfer as like “Diehard, with fairies,” and its main character, Artemis Fowl II, is a twelve-year-old genius born into a criminal family with an Interpol record that’s the size of a small library.
Prior to the events of the novel and film, his father Artemis Fowl I had attempted to transform the family business into a legitimate enterprise — that is, establishing new shipping trade routes to Russia. However, he was attacked en-route and disappeared, leaving his wife devastated and the family significantly poorer.
It is these events that motivate young Artemis Fowl II to take on the leadership of a crumbling criminal empire and to use his brain power — which is said to have the highest IQ in Europe — to execute complicated plans. Many of these plans involve stealing valuable and sometimes magical artifacts, helping him surpass Tony Stark’s already considerable wealth.
Oliver Warbucks (From Little Orphan Annie)
Net Worth: $36.2 Billion
A frequent figure in Forbes’ list of the richest fictional characters, Oliver Warbucks isn’t a name many of us are familiar with these days. But he did appear in a 1932 film called Little Orphan Annie and again in 1982’s musical drama Annie. His story is explored a bit more in the comic strip of the same name, which ran for an impressive 86 years before ending in 2010 and served as the films’ source material.
Oliver grew up poor. His father died when he was a baby and his mother was left with little other than “gumption.” He went on to study engineering and joined the Freemasons, but it was in World Wars I and II that he was able to make his fortune as a defense contractor. And with US military spending the way it is, it’s easy to see how Oliver was able to amass that much wealth.
In the comic strips and films, however, we see the titular Annie inspire Oliver to become more of a philanthropist.
Carlisle Cullen (From Twilight)
Net Worth: $46 Billion
When you’re investing, compound interest is often said to be your best friend — and this is all the more true if you happen to be an immortal vampire.
Born in the 1640s, Carlisle Cullen was the son of an Anglican pastor who led hunts for vampires, werewolves, and witches in an effort to rid the world of evil, or so they believed. Carlisle pointed out that they often made mistakes and killed regular people, and so his heart wasn’t in the effort when he eventually took on his father’s role in the raids.
He did manage to find a coven of vampires in London, though, and in the chaos, he was bitten and became a vampire. By the time of the events of Twilight, he was around 365 years old and had established several lifetimes’ worth of a medical practice to earn from. He also made some choice investments back in 1670, which definitely doesn’t hurt.
Smaug (From The Hobbit)
Net Worth: $54.1 Billion
In the realm of fantasy, vampires aren’t the only ones that get to be rich. Dragons can amass wealth, too.
Considered as the last “great” dragon of Middle-earth as well as one of cinema’s best dragons, Smaug lives alone with a pile of treasure on Lonely Mountain. It’s not clear what exactly he plans to use his riches for, but he guards them nevertheless — sleeping on top of ornaments, weapons, and valuable items he stole from dwarves. He even has diamonds and other hard stones embedded into his belly, which he knew was the only weakness in his otherwise terrifying body.
The estimated worth of these treasures is a whopping $54.1 billion, and they were hoarded at the cost of an entire town and the displacement of its people.
When Smaug is eventually killed, this evil carries on as different groups fight over who should own the treasure he used to guard.
Scrooge McDuck (From Disney’s DuckTales)
Net Worth: $65.4 Billion
And now we go from a fearsome dragon to a cartoon duck, which sounds silly, but even sillier is the difference in their net worth: A jump of $11.3 billion.
Ducktales’ Scrooge McDuck has an insane amount of wealth. His net worth is over five times as big as Tony Stark’s, which, for the longest time, assured him of the top spot in lists like this. He’s also, unsurprisingly, known as the richest duck in the world.
Though he was originally designed to appear just once in Disney’s comics as a side character to the more central character of Donald Duck, the filthy rich uncle figure of Scrooge proved to be so popular he became a regular character in different DuckTales media, including 1990’s DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. His own comic book series, Uncle Scrooge, is still running 70 years on.
Scrooge credits his success to being “smarter than the smarties, tougher than the toughies, and making it square.”
In the Donald Duck Universe, he is portrayed as an industrialist, an oil tycoon, and the owner of mining companies, and was initially made out to be a greedy miser like his namesake, A Christmas Carol’s Ebenezer Scrooge. More recently, however, he’s been portrayed as simply an explorer and adventurer, but he’s still very rich and thrifty. Illustrators often show him swimming in pools of money.
Black Panther / T’Challa
Net Worth: $90.7 Trillion
Unseating Scrooge McDuck with the release of Black Panther in 2018 is T’Challa. The sole person on this list whose net worth has reached the trillions — over 7,000 times Tony Stark’s net worth — the Wakandan King isn’t just the richest superhero. He’s also the wealthiest fictional movie character of all time, with a net worth bigger than the rest of the characters on this list combined.
And get this: His net worth is bigger than the entire world’s GDP, which was estimated at $84.71 trillion back in 2020.
T’Challa’s net worth is due to his status as the monarch of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, which happens to possess the world’s reserves of a metal called Vibranium. This material is so strong that it forms Captain America’s shield, and it’s not exactly cheap.
Wakanda is said to be home to 10,000 tons of Vibranium, which costs a staggering $10,000 per gram. You do the math, and it’s easy to see how T’Challa quickly and easily surpassed the likes of Scrooge McDuck.
A Final Two Cents
Lists like this are all in good fun, but it’s also worth using to think about what money means for us, and what we’re willing to do for it.
Taken together, this list is home to some war profiteers, non-human hoarders, people born into ill-gotten wealth, a literal king, and a member of the undead. All are men, several like suits, and most of the human characters are white.
Though many of them either die (as in the case of Smaug) or make a change for the better (like Artemis Fowl, Oliver Warbucks, and Tony Stark), following the money still makes for an interesting exercise.
In Iron Man Vol 4. #7, for example, Tony says, “Think about it, Nick. What if war was obsolete? What if terrorism and crime, famine and disease were obsolete? Where would we be?”
This, I think, is especially important to think about today, in a time when millions of dollars — just crumbs for people on this list, but life-changing if redirected to actual social services — are poured into lobbying for things like war and non-renewable energy.