From Jay Gatsby to Bruce Wayne and even Christian Grey, you’re probably familiar with the extremely wealthy and successful movie characters that grace the silver screen.
But not all movie characters are born rich. This motley crew of cinematic creations all graduated from the school of hard knocks — and only some of them passed the course with flying colors.
Click through to see which characters started out poor, and then compare them to the richest movie characters.
Movie: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
When we first meet Charlie Bucket, he’s just barely getting by as a paperboy, a job the Boston Globe said in 2016 was plagued by “long hours, little pay [and] no vacation.”
Things are so tight that Charlie has to scrounge change out of the sewer just to buy a candy bar. Lucky for him, that bar holds the prize-winning Golden Ticket that eventually makes him the heir to Willy Wonka’s chocolaty empire.
He has to see a few kids meet their sugary fates along the way, but hey — that’s a better way to become CEO than angel-stage fundraising.
Movie: “The Hunger Games” series
When your movie is called “The Hunger Games,” you know those characters are eating struggle sandwiches.
In a dystopian future where the poor are forced to compete in televised battles for survival, Katniss’ family are coal miners in District 12, where she occasionally rummages through the garbage for scraps. Kat eventually opts for a career in those Hunger Games, and while the decision does bring her fame, the constant threat of televised murder is a definite drawback.
With CNN Money reporting the richest 1 percent of families already control 38.6 percent of all of America’s wealth in 2017, let’s hope Katniss’ path doesn’t become a viable job option for the rest of us anytime soon.
Movie: “Pretty Woman”
Julia Roberts’ iconic urban Cinderella turns to one of the world’s most ancient professions in the 1990 classic that firmly established the “hooker with a heart of gold” trope. Her Vivian Ward is at least pretty good at monetizing, though.
She first hustles Richard Gere’s super-rich character for $20 just to give him directions. But before the bargain is done, she cuts a deal to stick around for six days, netting $3,000 to buy a new wardrobe. That’s over $5,800 in today’s money.
Of course, by the time the duo rides off into the sunset, it’s pretty clear that Viv probably won’t have to walk the streets of Hollywood anymore.
Billy Ray Valentine
Movie: “Trading Places”
You could say that Billy Ray Valentine, Eddie Murphy’s character in 1983’s “Trading Places,” makes a living as a con artist. But that would be a gross oversimplification.
When the story begins, Billy panhandles, posing as a blind and legless Vietnam veteran, all while hiding his very-existent legs inside a homemade skateboard contraption. He ends up telling the cops he was with the “special unit battalion’s commando airborne tactic’s specialist tactics unit battalion” in ‘Nam, so maybe it’s not the best hustle.
But you’ve got to pay the bills somehow before swapping places with a filthy rich commodities broker and taking your hustle game to the next level.
Movie: “Star Wars” series
Think about it: When we first met Han Solo in 1977, he was asking 10,000 credits to fly farm boys and space wizards across the galaxy in his junker spaceship. The guy’s in so much debt, he can’t even walk out of a bar without bill collectors threatening his life.
Han owes Jabba the Hutt so much money by the time “Return of the Jedi” rolls around, Jabba keeps him frozen in carbonite just to spite him. He probably knows that he wouldn’t get his cash even if he thawed Solo out.
When we finally see Han again 40 years later in “The Force Awakens,” he’s managed to get the Millennium Falcon repossessed and is smuggling tentacled slime creatures just to make ends meet. Han may have made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, but the man is just not good with credits.
Actors vs. Their Characters: See How Rich ‘The Force Awakens’ Cast Is
Movie: “Maid in Manhattan”
It’s all in the title here. Jennifer Lopez’s Marisa Ventura is a single mom just trying to get by as a maid in, uh, Manhattan.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, maids and housekeepers made a mean hourly wage of $11.46 in 2016 — at the time of the movie’s 2002 release, that would only be about $8.41 worth of buying power.
And if you’ve ever bought coffee in Manhattan, you know that’s not enough to live large. It’s not even enough to live medium.
Movie: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Before Dev Patel’s Jamal Malik could get to the “millionaire” part of Danny Boyle’s 2008 Oscar winner, he really had to trudge through that “slumdog” bit.
Born in the slums and left motherless after the Bombay riots, a local gangster trains Jamal and his brother to become tricky street beggars. When the bros escape his grasp, they survive as train-car hobos, pickpockets, phony tour guides and even shoe thieves before Jamal grows up to become a call center worker.
Whew. No one’s ever earned the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” grand prize harder than Jamal Malik.
Movie: “Lady and the Tramp”
Sometimes, the answer to the question, “What’s in a name?” is “Everything.”
That’s right — the title character of this 1955 Disney classic totally makes his living as a professional canine tramp. He skims scraps from Tony’s Italian restaurant (where he even scores a free meal for his spaghetti date with Lady), outruns dog catchers and picks locks with his nose. Tramp’s way of living it up is “footloose and collar-free,” and even when he settles down with Lady to start a family, he’s basically mooching off the goodwill of his adoptive family.
Truly, it’s a dog’s life for this guy.
Movie: “Fight Club”
“I got this dress at a thrift store for one dollar. It’s a bridesmaid’s dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that is Marla Singer’s deal-hunting advice for frugal shoppers in 1999’s cult classic “Fight Club,” from the book by Chuck Palahniuk: Wait until someone doesn’t love something anymore, and then buy it cheap.
Marla, like main character Tyler Durden, seems to be perpetually unemployed. She attends support groups as an impostor just for funsies, but when Tyler starts squatting at an abandoned house, she squats with him. So, professional squatter, then?
Movie: “Taxi Driver”
If she hadn’t fallen for Tyler Durden, Marla and Travis Bickle would have made the ’70s best anarchist power couple.
Today, the BLS reports that taxi drivers make a median pay rate of $24,300 per year, or about $5,737 at the time of the film’s 1976 release. But money’s not too much of a concern for Travis Bickle — he’s more into assassinating politicians and saving underage prostitutes than material things.
Avoid These Mistakes: 50 Weird Ways People Go Broke
Movie: “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Based on a true story, 2006’s Will Smith-led “The Pursuit of Happyness” tells an all-too-real tale of homelessness. When poor investments, a divorce and a storm of bad debt coalesce, salesperson and family man Chris Gardner finds himself on the streets with his 5-year-old son (played in the movie by Jaden Smith).
Despite mostly living at the BART station, Chris works out a system to sell bone scanners — the investment that initially cost him just about all of his money — over the phone. A combination of sales success, smarts and dogged determination eventually lands him a pension fund management position, despite his secret homelessness.
In reality, Gardner went on to own an investment firm and become a motivational speaker valued at $60 million by 2016.
Officially, Will Munney is retired. By 1881, he’s a widower with two kids, working as a pig farmer with a pen full of sick pigs. William Munney is a really bad pig farmer.
But once upon a time, William Munney was a really good assassin. To feed his family, the Clint Eastwood character goes on one last job to net a $1,000 bounty with his best friend and former partner, Morgan Freeman’s Ned Logan — even though, according to Will, he “ain’t like that no more.”
We won’t spoil the movie for you, but here’s the basic moral of the story: You probably shouldn’t kill people for money.
If Aladdin passed out resumes in Agrabah, his employment history would boil down to “street urchin.”
At the start of the movie, his petty crimes have landed him (and his pet monkey) in jail, agreeing to perform architectural raids for creepy old men. And seeing as that old man was the evil Jafar in disguise, we’re guessing Aladdin wouldn’t even have been paid properly if he didn’t happen to stumble upon a magic genie-bearing lamp for himself.
Discover: The 9 Richest Superheroes and Villains
Movie: “Mad Max” series
Whether he’s portrayed by Mel Gibson or Tom Hardy, the “Mad Max” series’ stoic hero might have the worst job on this list: He’s a full-time scavenger and mercenary in the post-apocalyptic Australian future.
Formerly a cop, Max’s wasteland living is not glamorous. Though he owns a single prized possession — a car believed to be the last of the V8s — 1981’s “The Road Warrior” sees him eating dog food and going on semi-truck suicide missions in exchange for a few cans of fuel. Within two minutes of 2015’s “Fury Road” starting, Max snacks on raw lizards right off the ground.
And the worst part? His day is all downhill from there. Five minutes in, he’s lost his car. And they probably don’t even have insurance after the apocalypse.
Whether she’s played onscreen by Mitzi Green, Aileen Quinn, Alicia Morton or Quvenzhané Wallis, the comic book character originally known as “Little Orphan Annie” is the ultimate Dickensian orphan kid and the ultimate rags-to-riches story.
In the 1982 movie, Annie stays true to her comic roots and gets by as an orphan under the tyrannical care of Miss Hannigan, until Daddy Warbucks adopts her to improve his PR look.
But regardless of the rich guy’s name or his initially selfish motives, Annie always ends up enriching her billionaire foster dad’s life by teaching him you can’t buy love.
Movie: “Harry Potter” series
On J.K. Rowling’s official Pottermore site, the Weasleys are described as a “beloved wizarding family known for their red hair, misfortunes with money and good hearts.”
Patriarch Arthur holds down a government job, while mom Molly stays at home to take care of seven kids, including Harry Potter’s best friend Ron. Throughout the saga, Ron is draped in hand-me-downs and even has to use a broken wand for an entire year due to the family’s strained budget.
But all’s well that ends well. Ron and his sister Ginny end up married to two of the wizarding world’s biggest heroes while the other Weasley kids go on to become successful business owners and adventurers, proving that it’s those “good hearts” that really count in the end.