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The Best-Paid Celebrities

In Hollywood, younger is usually better. Teen stars get magazine covers, they get into the best parties and they are endlessly speculated about in tabloids. But they're not richer. When it comes to the dough no one can defeat Oprah.

entertainment Updated: Sep 18, 2009 17:47 IST

In Hollywood, younger is usually better. Teen stars get magazine covers, they get into the best parties and they are endlessly speculated about in tabloids. But they're not richer.

Just look at our list of the 15 highest-paid celebrities. As a group they earned $1.6 billion between June 2008 and 2009. Only one, Beyonce Knowles in sixth place with $87 million, is under 40. (Tyler Perry turns 40 on Sept. 14.) The top five are all over 50.

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The oldsters on our list have used their time wisely to build up mini empires that can withstand setbacks like global recessions. Leading the pack (as always) is Oprah Winfrey. The doyenne of daytime talk has used her power and influence to grow not only her own TV show but also a slew of shows from her protégés like Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil (who ranks ninth on our list with $80 million). She also has developed a successful magazine and her own radio station on XM satellite radio. Also in the works: her own television network in a partnership with Discovery Networks. Between June 2008 and June 2009, Winfrey earned $275 million.

To compile the list of Hollywood's top 15 best-paid celebrities, we looked at the top earning producers, actors, writers, musicians and talking heads in the industry. We then talked to managers, agents and other Hollywood insiders to come up with estimates on their earnings between June 2008 and June 2009. For the sake of this list we did not include musicians who perform as a group. So although Coldplay earned $70 million during our time frame, Chris Martin does not make the list.

Coming in second behind Winfrey is George Lucas with $170 million. The Star Wars creator always earns big thanks to his deal with toy maker Hasbro ( HAS - news - people ). Back in the ‘70s, Lucas was prescient enough to hold onto the merchandising rights for Star Wars. The toys are still some of Hasbro's best-sellers.

But this year was particularly good for Lucas thanks to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which he wrote and produced with Steven Spielberg (who ranks third on our list with $150 million). The pair made an unusual deal with Viacom's ( VIA - news - people ) Paramount studios, which distributed the film. Once Paramount made its production money back Lucas, Spielberg and actor Harrison Ford (who comes in 15th on our list with $65 million) split a significant share of the profits. The film earned $787 million at the worldwide box office helping all three men rank among Hollywood's richest.

Madonna ranks third on our list with $110 million. Despite turning 51 this year the Material Girl's Hard Candy tour was the year's top grossing. It brought in $280 million from 58 shows in 17 countries. While younger stars suffer public nervous breakdowns over personal scandals, Madonna thrived this year despite her very public divorce from Guy Ritchie and a tabloid-reported romance with baseball player Alex Rodriguez.

Rounding out the top five is Celine Dion. The Canadian singer earned $100 million thanks to her Taking Chances tour, which was the second highest grossing tour of 2008 after Madonna.