For many people, celebrities and actors are a big part of their lives, and everyone has their favorites. It can be shocking, then, to learn that someone you admired and whose movies you loved has passed away long before their time. No one can live forever, but sometimes, passing on is very unexpected.
To remember the legacy they left behind, let’s take a look at some of the actors and actresses who had unfinished business or lost their lives before they should have. Some of them suffered from mental illnesses, some died in freak accidents, and others lost their fight with cancer and other diseases.
These are the actors and actresses who died too young. They are still missed by many, but their impact on the world is undeniable.
Many hearts broke the day that Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger passed away. The Australian native starred in several movies from the late 1990s through the early 2000s, including 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, and Monster Ball. In 2008, at the age of 28 years old, he was found unconscious by his housekeeper….
After failed attempts at reviving him, he was pronounced dead at his apartment. Toxicology reports confirmed that the star died accidentally of a mixture of prescribed medications.
Aaliyah’s life, music, and movies are still being celebrated, despite her losing her life nearly twenty years ago. Although she was a more successful artist than actress, her performance in The Queen of The Damned stunned audiences around the world. Her untimely death just after shooting a scene for a music video was just as surprising….
The star was 22 when she lost her life after boarding a flight to the Bahamas. Shortly after take-off, the plane crashed landed on the runway of the airport. No one survived.
Paul Walker became everyone’s favorite street-racing cop, Brian O’Conner, in the Fast & Furious franchise and was scheduled to appear in at least 3 more films before his death. In a twisted joke, Paul died in the very same way that he made most of his money: by being in a very fast car. The vehicle crashed into a lamp post and caught on fire….
As it turns out, the actor was not the one driving at the time of his death; his friend, Roger Rodas, was the driver and also lost his life in the accident. Paul died from a combination of the burns and the trauma of the accident.
Robin Williams and the many movies he’s starred in (Jumanji, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting) will forever be remembered by his fans as some of the best movies in Hollywood. The star, who suffered from a range of mental illnesses (depression, paranoia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, anxiety, and more), committed suicide while still at the height of his career.
Toxicology reports stated that there were no drugs in the actor’s system at the time of his death; the final ruling was death by asphyxia.
Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36. Born in poverty, Norma Jean Mortenson made herself into a star, but it all ended at the height of her fame. On August 4, 1962, she was found dead in her bed by her housekeeper. Her toxicology reports stated that she had died by acute barbiturate poisoning and that her body had dosages of drugs that were several times the lethal limit.
She will forever be known as one of the greatest symbols of the ’50s and ’60s, and to this day, she continues to be a popular cultural icon.
The legendary Bruce Lee made a name for himself as one of the most influential martial artists of all time after starring in a string of films in the early 1970s. In May of 1973, he complained about having a series of seizures and headaches that forced him to seek medical assistance. On the day of his death, he had a headache and received a painkiller from a friend before lying down….
The martial arts star would never wake up again, despite numerous efforts at resuscitation. It was revealed that Bruce died because of his sensitivity to the aspirin he was given the night he died.
Luke Perry enjoyed a long, successful career in TV and film before his untimely death in March of 2019. He became a teen idol after starring in Beverly Hills, 90210. At the time of his death, Perry was on a break from starring in The CW’s Riverdale. On February 27th, Luke was at his home when he suddenly suffered a massive stroke….
He was placed on life support and another stroke followed. His family removed him from life support after his medical team advised them to, and he died on March 4th.
Bernie Mac was one of the best comedians of his time, but he was suffering from inflammation in his body’s tissues during his last three years alive. The disease, sarcoidosis, would often attack his lungs. After being hospitalized in 2008, doctors were unable to treat him successfully, and he went into cardiac arrest a week later. He passed in the early hours of August 9th….
He had several films that were released posthumously, including Soul Men, Old Dogs, and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. A television special showing a tribute to the actor was aired on the day of his funeral.
Actor River Phoenix was the brother of Joaquin Phoenix, a man we’ve come to know and love in movies like Walk the Line and more recently, Joker. River lost his life to drug-induced heart failure on October 31st, 1993. He had been partying with some friends at Johnny Depp’s nightclub, The Viper Room, before being rushed to the hospital….
His toxicology reports showed high amounts of cocaine and morphine, among a few other drugs in smaller doses. His mother published an open letter about his death 9 days later.
Acting icon James Dean died before he turned 25 in a car accident. The actor became a huge racing fan and hoped to take part in the Indy 500 one day. He died in October of 1955 after slamming into a Ford Tudor and sustaining many serious injuries, the most serious of which was a broken neck….
He is one of the few actors who has been nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award posthumously; he became the very first to achieve this. During his short life, he starred in films such as Rebel Without a Cause.
Patrick Swayze’s name was on everyone’s lips after he starred in the iconic Dirty Dancing movie alongside Jennifer Grey. The years following, he would keep appearing on screens and even on TV too. But the dancing and acting star was plagued by health issues, namely his difficult battle with pancreatic cancer….
He seemed to be responding well to treatment, even removing a part of his stomach for his health, but was given weeks to live in July of 2008. He managed to defy the odds and lived another year before losing his fight on September 14th, 2009.
Disney’s Cameron Boyce died in July of 2019 because of a seizure. It was a known medical condition of the actor’s and something he was receiving treatment for. Cameron, who was 20, starred in the Disney comedy series Jessie, the Descendants movies, as well as the movies Grown Ups and Mirrors….
The seizure happened in the star’s sleep, and the official reason for his passing was said to be epilepsy. The star was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family.
Gary Coleman became an icon because of his roles as Arnold Jackson in the hit show Diff’rent Strokes. The star appeared in movies after the show’s last episode but suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2010, at the age of 42. Afterward, he fell into a coma and was eventually removed from life support….
Not much is known about the star’s health prior to his death except that he suffered from kidney disease. It was also revealed that he suffered more than one seizure before being admitted to the hospital.
Anton Yelchin is most known for his performance as Chekov in the Star Trek reboot. The star, whose career was just getting started, lost his life in a freak accident in the driveway of his home. Anton was standing behind his vehicle when it rolled down his driveway and trapped him between it and his gate. His death was listed as “blunt traumatic asphyxia….”
After his death, his parents planned to sue the manufacturers of the vehicle that killed their son after it came to light that a series of roll-away accidents had occurred. The parties settled out of court.
Cory Monteith rose to fame when he landed the role of Finn Hudson on Glee. Unfortunately, his prior history with drugs came back to haunt him in 2013. He went to rehab in April of that year but succumbed in July, when he accidentally overdosed on heroin and alcohol. He was found dead in a hotel room in Vancouver….
Following his death, there was a tribute to him at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. The actor was also featured in the “In Memoriam” portion of the 56th Grammy Awards.
Christopher Reeve will forever be known as one of the first people to play Superman. Unfortunately, those superpowers didn’t save him from a life of health problems, including asthma, alopecia, and allergies. In the early 2000s, he suffered from a series of infections that doctors say started in his bone marrow….
He went into cardiac arrest after receiving an antibiotic for his infection. On October 10th, 2004, eighteen hours after falling into a coma, he died.
Michael Clarke Duncan
You may remember Michael Clarke Duncan’s face from his amazing performance in The Green Mile alongside Tom Hanks. Fans surely did, especially when news of his sudden death hit the media. Michael suffered a heart attack in September of 2012 and died despite CPR attempts made by his then-girlfriend and hospital staff….
Almost every memorial held for him featured his infamous line from The Green Mile, “Heaven. I’m in Heaven.” Sadly, drama followed after his death when his longtime girlfriend Omarosa was accused of changing his will.
Brittany Murphy is an actress that the world lost way too soon. She lost her life on December 20th, 2009 as a result of pneumonia, secondary to multiple drug intoxication and iron-deficiency anemia. She had been transported from her home after collapsing in the bathroom after her heart had stopped….
Before her death, she made appearances in Freeway, Girl Interrupted, and A View from the Bridge. Let’s not forget her breakout role in the 1995 Clueless. She was only 32 when she died.
Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee, lost his life tragically when he was just 28 years old. Before the fateful day, the star had already made appearances in a few movies and TV shows. It was an art he started practicing at the age of thirteen, just five years after his dad had died. One day, Brandon was filming on the set of The Crow when he was shot.
Members of the props crew had placed what appeared to be dummy bullets into the gun. When it was fired, the bullet fired like a regular one would and hit Brandon in his abdomen. Unfortunately, the injury was fatal.
Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith was a model and reality TV star whose life wasn’t nearly as glamorous as it appeared to be. She rose to fame after becoming Playmate of the Year in 1993. But her life was plagued by court cases, alleged addictions, multiple publicized and scandalous relationships, a personality disorder, and the death of a child.
And in February of 2007, she was found dead in her hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Her toxicology reports stated that she died of accidental combined drug intoxication.
Farrah Fawcett was one of the most popular actresses of her time and had a career that spanned almost forty years. She was an icon and inspired the hairstyle still known today as the “Farrah.” She won five Emmy Awards and was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards, among other things….
In fact, she was still working at the age of 62 until her death. She was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006 and continued to fight until 2009, even trying alternative treatments to get rid of the disease.
Maid in Manhattan, The Parent Trap, and The White Countess are just a few movies that actress Natasha Richardson starred in. She died tragically in 2009 after an accident she had while skiing. The actress fell and hit her head but appeared to be fine after. It was not until later when she got a severe headache that she sought medical help….
Unfortunately, the fall resulted in a brain injury that was ultimately fatal. She was married to fellow actor Liam Neeson at the time of her death and was 45 years old. She left two children behind.
Carrie Fisher’s career was long and successful despite her struggles with substance abuse and mental illness. The star overcame a great deal and was still acting in movies and on television when she died. While on a plane, she stopped breathing and was placed on a ventilator when the flight landed….
She died four days later at the hospital. Coroners determined that she died because of cardiac arrest; there were drugs in her system at the time. Her last film was released in 2019, after her death.
Lee Thompson Young
Lee Thompson Young frequented the Disney channel as “The Famous Jett Jackson,” a teen secret agent. He even landed a role on television on the show Friday Night Lights and then Rizzoli & Isles (on TNT) years after. But he suffered from chronic depression (and bipolar disorder), and his career wasn’t enough to keep those struggles away….
On August 19th, 2013, he was found dead at his LA apartment with a gunshot wound to the head. It was ruled a suicide. A three-hour memorial was held for him, followed by the launch of a foundation (in his name) to remove the stigma of mental illness.
James Gandolfini’s face appeared on TV screens around the world as mob boss Tony Soprano. He was still working on projects at the time of his shocking death. While in Italy, vacationing with his family, he was found unconscious on his bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead at the hospital….
The autopsy confirmed that he passed from a heart attack. Numerous organizations, actors, directors, and even politicians including Broadway and John McCain honored the actor after his death.
Brad Renfro’s name was on everybody’s lips from the time he starred in The Client at the young age of 11. He went on to star in more than 20 films after that. Unfortunately, his troubles with the law started at 15, when he was arrested for drug possession; it would soon become a pattern over the next decade….
And in 2008, when he was just 25, he lost his battle with addiction and died of a heroin overdose. His death brought about the need for protecting child actors in Hollywood.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman won numerous awards for his amazing acting skills, and at 46 years old, he had a lot left in him. That is, until his accidental death. On February 2nd, 2014, the actor was found dead in his apartment. He died due to acute mixed drug intoxication, which included a mixture of popular drugs….
After his death, Broadway dimmed their lights for one minute and the LAByrinth Theatre held a candle-light vigil. Actress Cate Blanchett also dedicated her BAFTA trophy to him.
The death of Johnny Lewis was one that stumped fans all over the world. The actor and an 81-year-old woman, Catherine Davis, were found dead in said woman’s driveway; he would soon be accused of killing her. Although he had a history of drug abuse, at the time of the incident, his system was clean….
He also killed Davis’s cat. After he committed the murders, it is assumed that he accidentally fell off Catherine Davis’s roof and died. No one is certain, though.
Television personality, actor, and comedian Ryan Dunn was best known for being one of MTV’s reality show heroes, where he and the rest of the cast performed stunts that should not have been attempted by anyone. Viewers often questioned the safety of the things that they were doing, and some people expected that something would have gone wrong while filming, but they were wrong….
On July 20th, 2011, Dunn and one of the assistant producers, Zachary Hartwell, were killed when Dunn’s vehicle veered off the road. It struck a tree and almost immediately burst into flames.
Canadian actor Corey Haim became a household name after starring in The Lost Boys alongside Corey Feldman. Together, “The Two Coreys” starred in a total of seven films together, solidifying their spots as some of the most famous actors in the 1980s. Later on in his career, Corey struggled with drug addiction, and it was thought to be the cause of his untimely death in 2010 until an autopsy was conducted….
After he was pronounced dead, police discovered over 500 prescription pills at his residence. However, the coroner ruled that his death was due to pneumonia caused by water in the lungs and an enlarged heart.
Carl Switzer was once a famous child actor who is best known for the role of Alfalfa in the series Our Gang from the 1930s to the 1940s, and for the dance scene in It’s a Wonderful Life. Because of his prominent role as Alfalfa, Switzer found it difficult to land meaningful roles, so he became a dog trainer….
After settling a repayment for a lost dog that Switzer was supposed to train, the actor thought that the owner (Moses Stiltz) should repay him the reward fee. According to Stilz, they got into a fight, and after Switzer pulled out a hunting knife, Stilz shot and killed him.
Actress Heather O’Rourke, who is best known for starring as Carol Anne Freeling (the little girl who says “They’re heeeere!” in Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist) had a bright future ahead of her before she died at the age of twelve. Early in 1987, she was brought to several doctors after suffering from several digestive system illness symptoms. She was brought to several doctors early on in 1987, but a misdiagnosis of giardiasis led to the wrong treatment….
Her symptoms persisted, and in January 1988, she began to vomit and later suffered a cardiac arrest while on the way to the hospital. She died after having surgery to repair acute bowel obstruction caused by congenital stenosis (abnormal narrowing of the intestines).
Jean Harlow was only 26 years old when she died but was also one of the biggest movie stars in the world, surpassing Joan Crawford, who held the top spot. Nicknamed (the original) “Blonde Bombshell,” she appeared in several films, including Red-Headed Woman, Dinner at Eight, Reckless, and Suzy in the 1930s.
In January 1937, while traveling to Washington DC, she contracted influenza but was thought to have recovered in time for the Academy Awards in early March. Just a few days later, production of her upcoming film was halted when she developed sepsis after multiple wisdom tooth extraction, but again she recovered….
In May, she fell ill again, and the rollercoaster ride continued until June. By the time they learned what she was suffering from (kidney failure, not an inflamed gallbladder), she was already in the final stages.
Film and television actress Jayne Mansfield was a Playboy Playmate before becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest sex symbols. Beyond her acting career, she was well known for having several wardrobe malfunctions and for allegedly being involved with both Robert and John F. Kennedy. On the evening of June 28th, Mansfield, her driver Ronnie Harrison, and her attorney Sam Brody, as well as her three children, crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer.
The trailer had been shrouded by fog. The adults in the front died immediately, but the children survived with minor injuries.
Welsh actor Andy Whitfield was an up and coming actor after landing the lead role in Starz’ Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but unfortunately, it would not last very long. After successfully filming only 13 episodes of the hit show, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which delayed the production of the show’s second season….
By June 2010, he was declared cancer-free, but a routine medical check in September showed that he had relapsed. He abandoned the role, which was later given to Liam McIntyre. He lost his battle to cancer in September 2011, just 18 months after he was diagnosed.
Best known for playing the role of Justine Phillips on The Cosby Show and then Myra Monkhouse on Family Matters, Michelle Thomas was landing role after role on family sitcoms. She led a very healthy lifestyle, having never smoked or drunk a day in her life, as well as adopting a vegan diet, so her cancer diagnosis, especially at such a young age, took many by surprise….
In August 1997, she was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer and underwent surgery to remove the lemon-sized tumor. In October 1998, she underwent a second surgery after another cancerous growth was found. Just a few days before Christmas, she died surrounded by her family and friends.
British child actor Matthew Garber became an overnight star after starring as Michael Banks in Disney’s 1964 Mary Poppins. Just a year later, he was back on screen, this time in Disney’s The Gnome Mobile, again alongside Karen Dotrice. Little did we know that it would have been his last film….
In 1976 after spending time in India, he unknowingly contracted hepatitis. By the time it was discovered, it had already begun to affect his pancreas. On June 13th, 1977, Garber died of hemorrhagic necrotizing pancreatitis.
Christopher Farley, who you probably know for being a cast member on Saturday Night Live as well as starring in Cone Heads and Beverly Hills Ninjas passed away in December 1997, at the age of 33. For much of his life, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, which caused his suspension from SNL on several occasions….
It is reported that he sought treatment for his problems on 15 separate occasions. He was found by his brother on December 18th. His autopsy revealed that he died from a combination of illicit substances.
Hailed as one of Hollywood’s most promising newcomers, Sharon Tate started out with small television roles before earning Golden Globe Award nominations for her acting chops. She would later marry Roman Polanski, a director she met while starring in one of his films. On August 8th, 1969, just two weeks before she was to give birth, she and three friends – Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski – passed away.
They were murdered by Charles Manson’s family. The coroner’s report noted that she had been stabbed 16 times. She was 26 years old.
Before Natalie was 25, she had already received three Oscar nominations, making her one of the best actors of her time. Not only did she star in Miracle on 34th Street, but her resume also included Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story, and Gypsy. There are several unknown circumstances surrounding Natalie’s death.
What we do know is that she drowned, but no one, including her husband, knows how it happened. When her body was found, there were several bruises on her body and arms, as well as an abrasion on her left cheek.