An A-list celebrity is a movie star who is very well known and who is usually considered extremely bankable by the movie industry. Some actors and actress who have this status include people like Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Nicole Kidman. Movie fans will note the number of appearances that these stars make in films, and they are often paid top dollar for film appearances. Such actors are usually the highest paid and most likely to be offered plum roles. The list can change, however, as the popularity of a star rises and falls.
One way to assess whether a person is an A-list celebrity is through a method called the Ulmer Scale, developed by James Ulmer. This scale takes many factors into account and is a complex matrix for determining hottest stars. Some of the considerations weighed include the ratio of film success to failures, the way the celebrity may be perceived by others (as easy or difficult to work with), and the flexibility of acting talent.
Most people don’t need the Ulmer Scale to spot an A-list celebrity. These are usually actors and actresses who are best known and beloved by the public, and who create a certain aura and excitement. Entertainment media tends to stick with these stars and attempt to report even the smallest details about them. Many of these actors and actresses work hard to guard their privacy, and perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this type of stardom is inability to go anywhere without being recognized or harassed by the paparazzi.
Some actors are considered B-list celebrities instead. These people usually work frequently and are often well known by the public, but they don’t command the highest salaries or attract the biggest audiences. Popular television actors can fall into this category, and there are many well-known character actors and actresses that seem to be always working. James Earl Jones might be a good example of a B-list celebrity: a man with a distinguished acting career and many professional accolades, but who is generally not treated with the same type of reverence as A-listers.
Sometimes, the term "A-list celebrity" can apply to people who are not actors. It might also include the most famous musicians, and occasionally, the term is applied to anyone who is very well known in the media. In such a case, those with high profiles and a lot of wealth might be considered part of this group. Celebutantes, like Paris Hilton, may be A-listers because of the media coverage they generate.