J.R.R. Tolkien -- $7 million
If you saw any of the three Lord of the Rings movies, you paid Tolkien, even though the fantasy novel genius hasn't been around since 1973. Producer Peter Jackson paid handsomely for rights to make the silver screen version of the trilogy and, financially, it was worth it -- the movies are among the highest grossing films of all time. Aside from the novels themselves, which continue to sell well in bookstores around the world, the movie version of the tale brought DVDs, toys, clothes, collectibles, and box sets.