We all know celebrities are making bank. Yet what about after they die? Which celebs still rake in loads of moolah even after they pass away? This is a list of the 10 top-earning dead celebrities, as of July 2015. You may even guess a lot of the figures who are on this list. From musical masters to kings and queens of the big screen, these people have defied the odds and continue to make lots and lots of money beyond their deaths.
The individuals on this list are not hindered by gender, either. Many of them came into the public eye in the 1960s, which seemed to be a golden decade for pop culture. Yet there are celebs here who were shining brightly through the 50s and the 70s, 80s, and beyond. Their deaths were a mixed bag of tragic, sudden, and peaceful passings and shook the earth to its core. We never like to lose one of our greats, whether it be a reggae artist singing for world peace and free love, or a rock and roll master with hips of steel.
We hope you enjoy reading this list of dead top-earners. The honors extend beyond media entertainers; this list includes a cartoonist and an author whose characters are still adored by young and old alike.
T10. Bruce Lee – $9 million
Bruce Lee may have had a short life (he died at just age 32), but he paved the way for Asian-Americans in United States pop culture. Lee shot to fame in films such as Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon. He also worked as not only an actor, but a martial arts instructor and filmmaker. He has received various posthumous awards, including the Founders Award and a 7-foot tall statue. Even after his death in 1973, Bruce Lee still ranks as a top-earning dead celeb making $7 million this year and his work in those classic films is still admired.
T10. Steve McQueen – $9 million per year
He was an international sex symbol and dominated the big screen. He starred in many beloved films including Bullitt, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Papillon. He was also a race car driver, and was the inspiration in the naming of character Lightning McQueen in the animated film Cars. Even though he died in 1980 at the age of 50, he is still earning about $9 million. He smashed the box office in the 1960s and 70s, but it seems that he is still hot! Despite his popularity among movie-goers, Steven was rumored to be quite a fighter with directors and producers.
T10. Theodor Geisel – $9 million
Dr. Seuss (also known as Theodor Geisel) rivals Steve McQueen as a top-earning dead celeb, raking in $9 million. Geisel made himself a star that sat atop childrens’ bookshelves with best-sellers such as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop. His books and characters have been adapted into a number of movies: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who...and Geisel has received awards such as the Academy Award, Emmy Award, Peabody Award, and Pulitzer Prize. By the time he died in 1991 he had penned 44 books.
9. Bettie Page – $10 million
Bette Page pulls in $10 million even after her death in 2008. She was a model who inspired the iconic 1950s pin-up girl, a style that is still popular today. She had the ideal appearance of these sexy models with her black hair, blue eyes and curvaceous body. She was a model for Playboy and won over the hearts of men everywhere. With her playfully innocent grin she was the ideal model and went through three husbands during her lifetime. In a strange turn of events, she ended up teaming up with Billy Graham and became an evangelical Christian.
8. Albert Einstein – $11 million
The young Albert Einstein was an inquisitive little boy with a passion for science and music. As we can see from his $11 million posthumous earnings, those interests have carried him very far. Einstein is touted as a genius for his theories on relativity and his insightful quotes on life. His famous equation e=mc2 is still highly regarded. We can thank his equations and research for many of life’s modern conveniences, as well as our appreciation for the simple things in life, such as imagination. After all, it was Einstein who said that “Knowledge is limited [but] imagination encircles the world.”
7. John Lennon – $12 million
How could John Lennon not be on this list? Earning $12 million, he continues to be a star in his own right. As one of the Beatles, he made a name for himself from a young age and even after his death, he will never be completely dead. He was tragically shot in 1980, but spent the majority of his life singing his way into the world’s heart. He is the songwriter for 25 hits that reached number one on the US Hot 100 chart and has raked in over 14 million sales for his solo album. He is considered to be the 5th-greatest singer of all time, according to Rolling Stone.
6. Marilyn Monroe – $15 million
At a whopping $15 million, Marilyn Monroe is definitely worthy of a spot on this list. Who can forget her flowing white dress, red lips, and perfectly curled blonde hair? She died way back in 1962, but she continues to be a huge commercial success and one of America’s sweethearts. She proved to be not only sexy, but smart, and she is a pop culture icon that shall never fade. Her unforgettable scene in The Seven Year Itch left an imprint that only got deeper with time. Besides being a super film star, she was a humanitarian and beloved female. She was a star full of beauty, intellect, wit, and charm.
5. Bob Marley – $20 million
Bob Marley earns $20 million after his death back in 1981 and he is known all around the world. His music and attitude seeped into mainstream society and permeated various cultures around the world. He is a true pop culture legend and he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously in 1994. He advocated social change and liberation, free love and peace among people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. His music continues to be a powerful testament to his dream of justice and social understanding. We just can’t listen to Bob Marley and feel angry.
4. Elizabeth Taylor – $25 million
$25 million is what Elizabeth Taylor earns after her passing in 2011. She was starlet from a young age and continued to be a powerhouse celebrity well into her adult life. She is famous all over the world and was an iconic actress in some of the most admired films in cinematic history, such as National Velvet, Father of the Bride, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She was loved for her stunning violet eyes, her acting chops, and her extremely high sense of fashion. She was also quite the character, with 8 marriages and loads of spotlight on her private life. She also did humanitarian work for noble causes.
3. Charles Schulz – $40 million
The creator of the much-loved comic strip, Peanuts, Charles Schulz brings in $40 million posthumously. He died 15 years ago, but his beloved characters and their misfit adventures continue to carve a place in readers’ hearts. He created Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy, and of course, Snoopy, that mischievous beagle. His characters can be seen on everything from coffee mugs to underwear, and his comic strip has been adapted into television specials, books, and movies. Who does not love the Charlie Brown Christmas special? Of course, we all love watching the Snoopy balloon float by in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2. Elvis Presley – $55 million
Need we say more? It’s Elvis Presley! This iconic man was a hip-swiveling machine and raked in loads of adoring fans and cash during his lifetime. He continues to see huge success, earning $55 million even after his death in 1977. Sure, as he aged he got a bit chunky (must have been the peanut butter and banana sandwiches with bacon) but he was a star singer who changed the music scene in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He is still known as The King of Rock and Roll and people flock each year to his home in Graceland. If he were still alive, we are sure he would say “Thank you very much.”
1. Michael Jackson – $140 million
It’s Michael Jackson! The King of Pop continues to bring home the bacon, earning an eye-popping, earth-shattering $140 million. Although he went from a musical prodigy to wacko-Jacko, Michael Jackson continues to have an outpouring of support and fans from around the world. His hits include Thriller and Billie Jean, and he has influenced hundreds of artists throughout the years. He still continues to earn awards even though he died in 2009. His scuffles with the courts and his questionable shenanigans overtook much of his last years of life, but he remains a musical genius with awesome dance moves.