13 Top Earning Famous Dead Celebrities Making Millions From the Grave
Some say death is not the end, and that’s definitely the case for certain celebs who continue to make millions after their demise.
13. James Dean: $8.5m
Brooding heartthrob James Dean kicks off Forbes’ list of the 13th highest-earning dead celebrities from 2015. Dean, who rose to eternal fame for his role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause, died at the age of 24 in a car crash one month before the film’s release in 1955. However, 60 years later, his lucrative legacy lives on. Dean made $8.5m over the past year, largely from the use of his iconic image, such as on a Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt.
12. Steve McQueen: $9m
Once the highest-paid film star in the world, the so-called King of Cool is still raking it in 35 years after his death. His estate made $9m over the past year from the use of McQueen in adverts for Barbour and Tag Heuer, among others.
11. Theodor Geisel: $9.5m
Better known as Dr Seuss, Theodor Geisel made $9.5m in 2015 despite dying in 1991. The man behind Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat continues to generate revenues from book sales and royalties from film adaptations of his tales, such as the 2012 version of The Lorax.
10. Bettie Page: $10m
The ultimate pin-up girl died in 2008 but is still making millions of dollars a year, mostly from sales of Bettie Page-inspired clothing lines, including 50s-style dresses, swimwear and lingerie.
9. Paul Walker: $10.5m
The Fast and the Furious actor died in a car crash two years ago but made $10.5m in the year to October after the seventh instalment of the blockbuster franchise made $1.5bn at the global box office.
8. Albert Einstein: $11m
The first-born entrant on the list, Albert Einstein lived from 1879 to 1955. In 2015 his estate, the rights to which are owned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, made $11m from sales of merchandise, including mugs, posters and bobblehead dolls.
7. John Lennon: $12m
It’s been 35 years since the iconic Beatle was killed by four bullets in his back, but John Lennon made $12m over the past year from continued plays and sales of his music.
6. Marilyn Monroe: $17m
The actress and model born as Norma Jeane Mortenson died from an overdose at the age of 36 in 1962 but she remains one of the most iconic women of the 20th century. Monroe made $17m in the past year, according to Forbes, driven by sales of her Macy’s clothing label and lingerie line.
5. Elizabeth Taylor: $20m
The highest-ranking woman on the list, Elizabeth Taylor made $20m over the past year, four years after her death. The film star, who famously asked for a dress “the colour of money” when posing for her Life magazine cover in 1948, has several popular perfumes that continue to bring in cash. Taylor’s most lucrative posthumous year was 2012, when the auction of her jewellery collection contributed to earnings of $210m.
4. Bob Marley: $21m
Bob Marley’s dying words were reportedly “money can’t buy life”… but it can continue after death. The reggae giant, who died in 1981, still makes money from music sales. His estate also owns House of Marley, the environmentally-friendly charity-conscious speaker maker, and the Marley Beverage company.
3. Charles Schulz: $40m
Best known as the creator of the Peanuts comics, Charles Schulz made $40m in the past year from the continuing appeal of Charle Brown and friends. Next year looks to be even better with the release of The Peanuts Movie.
2. Elvis Presley: $55m
Elvis left the building in 1977 at the age of 42, but the King is still raking in the bucks as fans flock to his former home and resting place, Graceland. Presley made $55m in the past year, helped by the release of the album Elvis Presley Forever.
1. Michael Jackson: $140m
The King of Pop beats the King of Rock’n’Roll to remain the highest-earning dead celebrity on this year’s Forbes list, making $140m in the year to October. It was the year that the Thriller star appeared in hologram form at the Billboard Music Awards, while his second posthumous album, Xscape, debuted in second place on the charts. Since Jackon’s death in 2009, his estate has generated more than $1bn.