Life isn’t fair, and a lot of people who strive for success don’t always make the cut. In a sadistically funny twist of fate, some celebrities do find the fame they work so hard for, but only posthumously. Here are some celebrities who became famous after their deaths.

1. Herman Melville – Author of Moby Dick.

One of the most famous novels of all time, and a staple in the annals of American literature, this book’s writer barely got any recognition for the book. When he passed away in 1891, he didn’t have much money or fame, and the book only got noticed in the 1920s.

Boston Review

2. James Dean 

The legendary star of Rebel Without A Cause tragically died in a car accident when he was 24. The film came out a month after his death and made him a household name, even bagging him a posthumous Best Actor Academy nomination.

Irish Times

3. Jack Kirby – Co-created several Marvel characters.

Along with Stan Lee, he created many iconic Marvel characters like Iron Man and The Hulk. However, since his position was that of ‘work for hire’ he wasn’t given the credit he deserved. He died in 1994, but it was only from 2014 that his estate reached a deal with Marvel that ensured he got credit for every creation.


4. Philip K. Dick – Writer of Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner.

These books were all turned into major motion pictures, but when they were released as books, they failed to garner much attention except among intense sci-fi fans. Living in poverty, many of his novels and short stories were out of print, and tragically, he died just before the Blade Runner film released. 

Scraps from Lot

5. Franz Kafka

One of the most influential and widely-read writers of the 20th Century, Kafka actually had little conviction in his writing ability, and considered burning his books as they received little recognition. He died in 1924 at the age of 40, while his books only gained popularity after World War 2. 

Inspiring Galley

6. Vincent Van Gogh

One of the greatest painters of all time, this earless genius died in 1890, penniless and alone. His most famous works were completed only months before he died, and by the time they became famous, he was long gone. 


7. Jane Austen 

Austen wrote some of the staple books of English literature (Pride and Prejudice), books that are part and parcel of any syllabus even today. When she was alive however, she was barely known about, and didn’t enjoy much popularity until many decades after her death in 1817. Scholarly study of her work only began in the 1940s.


8. Stieg Larsson – Author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Larsson’s story is truly not to be envied – he died of a heart attack in 2004. In 2005, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published, going on to sell a million copies on Amazon and becoming a major motion picture as well, even winning an Oscar. He posthumously won several awards and critical acclaim. 


9. H.P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft is a common name now, well known for his horror fiction and for the creation of the tentacled Cthulhu. But while he was alive, he barely made ends meet, with his writings only being published in a few pulp magazines. Since his death from cancer in 1937, his work has influenced games, books, movies, and even bands (Metallica).  

Den of Geek

10. Robert Johnson – One of the forefathers of blues music.

The lore around Johnson is wide-ranging and complex, with many claiming he made a deal with the devil to play guitar like he did. However, for all his celebrity now, Johnson was not famous and alive at the same time. He died in 1938, but his record King of the Delta Blues Singers only released in 1961, becoming one of the most influential albums of all time.

Long reads

Well, at least their genius got to bless us with some beautiful art, even if we couldn’t show our appreciation.