Top 10 People Who Became Famous After Their Death

This is a list about people who were unknown or little known to the world in their lifetime, and suddenly, they become famous after their death, usually because of their literature and other work.

Wow, this is probably one of the lists I have written the most. I have worked on this for a few hours, and I hope you'll enjoy it.

Make sure this is about lesser-known or ordinary people, so yeah, not to be confused with Top 10 Musicians Who Became More Famous After They Died. And now, here we go...
The Top Ten
1 Vincent van Gogh Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art... read more

Ah yes, Vincent van Gogh. Such a wonderful painter. Perhaps even some of the AI art I made on Midjourney was in the style of Van Gogh, which I created for fun. So, let's get to the story.

Van Gogh was born into an upper-middle-class family and was usually introverted as a child. He began drawing at a young age and worked as an art dealer, often traveling to places like Japan, which inspired his art.

However, Van Gogh suffered from depression, psychosis, and delusions during his lifetime. You probably heard the story that he cut his ear during an argument. It was also claimed that he sold only one painting: The Red Vineyard.

In 1890, he shot himself in the head and died two days later. But Van Gogh's paintings rose to fame with critical and commercial success, especially in the late 20th century. During his lifetime, he painted over 2,100 works, nearly half of which are oil paintings, all in the public domain.

His most famous paintings today are Wheatfields with Crows, his self-portrait, Café Terrace at Night, Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, and especially the iconic Starry Night. Van Gogh remains one of the most famous and influential artists of all time.

2 Anne Frank Annelies Marie Frank was a German-born diarist. Anne for short. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands... read more

Since her death, Anne Frank became one of the most notable Jewish victims during the Holocaust, if not the most notable.

Anne was born in 1929 and lived in Germany until she was five years old. Her family then moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, when Adolf Hitler gained control over Germany. Life was fine until the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940.

In 1941, Anne and her family lost their German citizenship and officially became stateless. In 1942, they started hiding in concealed rooms (now known as the Anne Frank House) behind a bookcase in the building where Otto Frank, Anne's father, worked.

During their isolation, Anne began writing in a diary she received on her 13th birthday. In 1944, they were caught by German officials and sent to concentration camps. Anne and her sister, Margot, died in early 1945 from typhus at the age of 16.

When WWII ended, Otto was the only survivor of the family. He found that Anne's diary had been kept by Miep Gies, their secretary. On her father's wishes, Anne's diary was released in 1947 as "The Diary of a Young Girl". It received critical acclaim, was translated into 70 languages (including English in 1952), and produced in various forms.

3 James Dean James Byron Dean was an American actor. He is a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark.

Today, many people, especially those who deeply enjoy movies, know about this cool guy. His name is James Dean, and he was an American actor.

In high school, he was a popular student, played on the baseball and basketball teams, studied drama, had exceptional grades, and competed in public speaking.

Dean's story might sound like the most popular among others on the list, but there's more to it. After graduating from Fairmount High School, Dean started his acting career with his first television appearance in a Pepsi-Cola commercial in 1950. He also had some minor roles shortly after the commercial.

Before he took off, he appeared in many anthology television series, including Lux Video Theatre. His first major role was as a teen searching for his own identity in the movie East of Eden, which did well at the box office.

The tragic part of his story begins on September 30, 1955. Dean had an interest in auto racing and desired to have a career in it. He participated in a race event with one of his racing cars named "Little Bastard". Soon, the car reached an uncontrollable speed and crashed. Dean was severely injured and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Dean's death was reported via radio and television, resulting in his increased fame. When Rebel Without a Cause hit theaters, it was a critical and commercial hit, and he became the first actor to be posthumously nominated for Best Actor. Another movie Dean was in was Giant, along with Elizabeth Taylor, which also did well.

Dean became a cultural icon in the 1950s, classic Hollywood, and teen rebellion. He is ranked as one of the greatest actors of all time. Just imagine how much fame Dean would've had if he were alive today at 91. He could have surpassed Marlon Brando, which would be remarkable.

4 Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American... read more

Ah yes, Edgar Allan Poe... a writer and poet, and I have studied some of his works in English class at school. He is credited with inventing the detective fiction genre, as well as being a significant contributor to science fiction. He had to earn a living by writing alone, which resulted in a difficult life and career.

When he published The Raven in 1845, it was featured in the New York Evening Mirror with instant success, but not enough financial success. Soon after Poe's wife died, he died under mysterious circumstances in 1849. There have been claims that his death was linked to diseases, alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide.

Many of Poe's works have gone on to influence literature around the world, with countless remakes and acclaim. Poe became one of the most important writers and poets, period.

5 Robert Johnson Robert Leroy Johnson was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians... read more

Robert Johnson was an American blues musician and songwriter who made a series of recordings in 1936 and 1937. His songwriting talent, guitar licks, and singing inspired many artists.

He was a traveling performer who played on street corners and in juke joints. He had very little commercial success and recognition during his lifetime and participated in only two recording sessions. In one of his songs, he claimed to have sold his soul to the devil to achieve musical success.

Johnson died at the age of 27 of unknown causes, with no autopsy performed, and his death was not widely reported. He remained unknown until 1961 when musicologist Alan Lomax, who owned the masters recorded in Mississippi in 1941, released a series called King of the Delta Blues. This exposed Johnson to a public audience. The sequel in 1970 and the Complete Recordings in 1990 further increased his posthumous fame, showing that Johnson made 41 songs in his lifetime.

Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Robert Plant have cited Johnson as one of their influences. Clapton, in particular, wrote "Crossroads" with his former band Cream, based on Johnson's "Cross Road Blues".

Outside his recordings, very little was known about his life, with only three verified pictures and three tombstones (because his grave location is unknown), making him one of the most mysterious people to emerge. His life has been reorganized and documented several times. He remains a mystery, so we'll never know everything about him.

6 Nick Drake Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician, known for his acoustic guitar-based songs. A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, his work has posthumously achieved wider notice and recognition.

Nick Drake was an English songwriter known for his acoustic guitar folk songs. Signed to Island Records as a University of Cambridge student in 1969, he recorded three albums: Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1971), and Pink Moon (1972). However, none of them sold more than 5,000 copies during his lifetime.

His reluctance to give interviews and perform live made him lack commercial success. There is no footage of Drake, only photographs and a home movie from his childhood. In 1974, he died from a drug overdose, which remains unclear whether it was an accident or suicide.

He would go on to reach posthumous fame, with artists like Kate Bush, Robert Walker, Peter Buck of R.E.M., and Robert Smith of The Cure citing his influence in their music, achieving both critical and commercial success.

7 Chris McCandless

Chris McCandless was an American explorer who had a nomadic lifestyle growing up. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, he traveled across North America and hitchhiked to Alaska in 1992. He documented the trip and took photographs, including self-portraits on undeveloped film, during this journey. However, due to his hitchhiking, he needed a few jobs to support himself with food and necessities.

In September 1992, a group of hunters found McCandless' body, who had died two weeks previously. Near the time of his death, he took a self-portrait while holding a written note that said, "I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!" Since his death, the abandoned Bus 142, where McCandless found shelter, became a popular location for hikers.

His documents developed into a non-fiction book titled "Into the Wild," which spawned a 2005 movie. You can check it out on Paramount+.

8 Jeff Buckley Jeffrey Scott "Jeff" Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997) raised as Scott "Scottie" Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist... read more

You may know him for his song "Hallelujah." Jeff Buckley was an American singer-songwriter known for his alternative, folk-rock, and jazz-rock songs. He only released one album during his lifetime, Grace, which did not sell well and received little attention.

In the following three years, Buckley and his band toured internationally to promote the album, with even a live concert recorded in 1995 released on DVD. In 1997, Buckley moved to Memphis, Tennessee to work on his second album, My Sweetheart the Drunk, while performing solo gigs. However, when his band was about to arrive, Buckley died from accidental drowning, and his body was found a week later.

His album Grace resurfaced with critical acclaim, then went on to inspire artists like Muse and Adele.

9 Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole translation: "The Fearless Eyed"; May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997, also called Bruddah Iz, was an American musician, entertainer and Hawaiian sovereignty activist.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Hawaiian musician, singer, songwriter, and activist. Although not well-known outside Hawaii during his lifetime, he lived a happy life. Israel is known for his ukulele playing and song medleys, especially "Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World."

In 1997, he died from respiratory failure at the Queen's Medical Center. After his death, he became more famous due to his legacy, with a bronze statue of him at Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu, where hundreds have paid respects to the singer. His signature song has been played in countless movies and TV shows, its YouTube video has over a billion views, and it has spent 185 weeks at the top of the Billboard World Digital Songs Chart, making it the longest-leading number-one hit.

Pay tribute to this man and his beautiful music.

10 George Floyd

When he was alive, he was only known by residents of Minneapolis, but after his murder...

The Contenders
11 Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei, was an Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician who played a major role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance.
12 Oscar Wilde Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is remembered for his epigrams, his novel... read more
13 Ed Wood

Some of you may have heard of this guy. His name is Ed Wood, and he was an American filmmaker, actor, and novelist. People credit him as "the worst movie director of all time".

In the 1950s, he directed science fiction, crime, and horror films, including Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls, and The Sinister Urge. The most infamous one among them is Plan 9 from Outer Space.

His work is known for its campy style, technical errors, bad directing, poor stock footage, strange stories, and messy dialogue. In later years, he started working on material that we won't discuss here.

Wood died at the age of 54 in 1978 after a history of alcoholism. His work remained obscure until a film critic's book, The Golden Turkey Awards, posthumously "awarded" Wood the title of "The Worst Director of All Time," which revived public interest in him and his work.

He wrote over 80 novels in his lifetime, and many of his movies are in the public domain due to copyright renewal failure. His legacy includes a Tim Burton movie starring Johnny Depp based on Ed Wood. Though he remains known as the worst director, his movies have an appealing campiness.

14 Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an African American minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through... read more
15 Canserbero
16 Emily Dickinson Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet . Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts .

Although part of a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation .

While Dickinson was a prolific... read more
17 Grigori Rasputin Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man who befriended the family of Tsar Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, and gained considerable influence in late imperial Russia.
18 Nostradamus Michel de Nostredame, usually Latinised as Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become widely famous.
19 Otis Redding Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout.
20 Olivia Penpraze
21 Amanda Todd
22 John Wilkes Booth John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.
23 H.P. Lovecraft Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. Virtually unknown and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century... read more
24 Juice WRLD Jarad Anthony Higgins (December 2, 1998 – December 8, 2019), known professionally as Juice Wrld (pronounced "juice world"; stylized as Juice WRLD), was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He is considered to be a leading figure in the emo-rap and SoundCloud rap genres which garnered mainstream... read more
25 MohBad
BAdd New Item