There are several ways to determine an actor's success over the course of a decade. You can count how many Oscars, Golden Globes, and other awards the actor has won. You can tally the gross box office revenue of all the actor's movies. If known, you can also look at the budgets of an actor's films and see how far they exceeded their mark.
When I think of how box office or commercially successful an actor is, I like to keep it simple. So, for the purposes of determining the most bankable actors of the '80s, we'll simply rank the actors according to where their movies finished in the Top 10 each year throughout the decade. A #1 movie is worth 10 points, #2 movie is worth 9 points, and so forth to the #10 movie worth 1 point. One final stipulation in this ranking is including only actors who appeared in at least two different films that aren't franchises. So, for the likes of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Ralph Macchio and Paul Hogan, we'll leave them off this list to showcase a little diversity in an actor's box office success.
Starting in reverse order, here are the 10 Most Box Office Actors of the '80s:
#10 Michael Douglas (16 points)
Michael Douglas' most successful '80s film role was as Dan Gallagher in Fatal Attraction (1987), the 2nd best revenue generator of that year. He also had success in the Romancing the Stone franchise as Jack T. Colton.
#7-tied Bill Murray (19 points)
Bill Murray biggest box office success came as playing Perter Venkman in both Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989). His role as Pvt. John Winger also helped Stripes become the 5th most popular movie of 1981.
#7-tied Michael J. Fox (Tied, 19 points)
Michael J. Fox is best known for playing Marty McFly in the #1 film of 1985 Back to the Future. It was also his role as Brantley Foster and Carlton Whitfield in Secret of My Success (1987) that made him eligible for this list.
#7-tied Dustin Hoffman (Tied, 19 points)
Two major roles were enough to put Dustin Hoffman on this list. His role as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels in 1982's Tootsie pushed the film to #2 at the box office. He also earned his second Academy award and the #1 film of 1988 in Rain Man portraying autistic savant Raymond Babbit, whose brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) takes advantage him by counting cards at blackjack tables.
#6 Steve Guttenberg (20 points)
Steven Guttenberg's first major box office success came in 1984 as Sgt. Mahoney in Police Academy. The 1985 film Cocoon further solidified his commercial success and led into the #1 film of 1987 Three Men and a Baby.
#5 Dan Aykroyd (22 points)
Like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd biggest box office success is with the Ghostbusters franchise. But beyond his role as Ray Stantz, it was his roles in The Blues Brothers (1980), Trading Places (1983), and Spies Like Us (1985) that proves he was one of the most box office actors of the entire decade.
#4 Tom Cruise (23 points)
Tom Cruise's roles in the aforementioned Rain Man and Top Gun (1986) were two that ascended him to the top of the box office. Adding in Risky Business (1983) and Cocktail (1988) makes him one of the biggest draws for moviegoers in the '80s.
#3 Sylvester Stallone (24 points)
Two characters made Sylvester Stallone one of the most bankable actors of the '80s. The continuing sagas of Rocky Balboa and John Rambo propelled Sly to eventually hold both the #2 and #3 movies of 1985.
#2 Eddie Murphy (40 points)
Eddie Murphy delivered a string of box office hits throughout the '80s beginning with 48 Hrs. in 1982. His role as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop would launch him to the very top in 1984 which also delivered a successful sequel in 1987. The Golden Child (1986) and Coming To America (1988) further identified Murphy with box office gold.
#1 Harrison Ford (50 points)
According to our ranking system, the most worthy box office actor of the '80s is Harrison Ford. Thanks to his roles in two Star Wars films and three Indiana Jones films, Ford became the most sought-after leading man. Beyond his larger-than-life roles, he also turned the small film Witness into box office gold in 1985.
So, there are the Most Box Office Actors of the '80s according to our ranking system. Honorable mentions include Danny DeVito (15) Michael Keaton (13), Clint Eastwood (12), Dolly Parton (11), and Burt Reynolds (11).