Hollywood is a smaller social microcosm for the outside world. Within Hollywood, there is a social hierarchy that doesn’t apply to those outside of the entertainment industry. As with most social ranking systems, actor rating systems are based on money. There is no truly defined list of actors that can be defined as “A-list” or “B-list”, the phrase is more a figure of speech for the amount of fame attached to their name.
In 1997, an entertainment journalist named James Ulmer created a point system rating to calculate a stars value to film production. This list constantly changes as actors positions fluctuate constantly.
“A-list” actors are exceptionally successful, their notoriety extends beyond the silver screen, and their name guarantees a box office hit. Some “A-list” actors include: Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, and Johnny Depp. The “A-list” actors are usually made up of male actors as with more high earning positions.
“B-list” actors are usually television actors or less successful movie stars. Some “B-list” actors include: Nicholas Cage, Katherine Heigl, David Morse, Samantha Morton, and Pierce Brosnan. “B-list” actors usually never headline a film by themselves; this means the supporting actors are usually fairly notable too. A “C-list” actor is a character actor that’s known by face and not by name. They are usually still good actors, but they receive less notoriety than an A or B-list actor. “D-list” actors are the lowest on the celebrity hierarchy; they appear on celebrity game shows and reality television.