Paul Walker (1973-2013)
The California native was a fixture on the silver screen throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Walker’s first notable role came on the television program Throb. From there, he starred in cult classics Pleasantville and Varsity Blues. However, Walker’s major breakthrough came in The Fast and the Furious franchise. This grew Walker from a known actor into a budding star. Tragically enough, Walker was killed whilst driving his vehicle. He was en route to a charity event at the time of the crash. Walker was 40 years old at the time of his passing.
Robin Williams (1951-2014)
Robin Williams was an acting savant for upwards of 40 years. His breadth as a thespian was simply fantastic — as he could play a comedic giant just as easily as he could a serious role. Williams had a penchant for impressions which is simply unparalleled today. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Good Will Hunting. A few of his other triumphs included Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, The Birdcage, Jumanji, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and Aladdin. Williams passed away in 2014 at the age of 63.
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Bernie Mac (1957-2008)
Bernie Mac (real name Bernard McCullogh) enjoyed a lengthy career — primarily in the realm of comedy. He began his career doing stand-up, though he eventually garnered his own critically acclaimed show (The Bernie Mac Show). From there, Mac began a full transition into the world of film. Notable roles were included in Bad Santa, Transformers, Friday, and Charlie’s Angels. Mac passed at the age of 50 due to complications of pneumonia.
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Chris Farley (1964-1997)
Speaking of comedic giants, Chris Farley was one of the greatest physical actors we’ve ever seen. Despite being considerably overweight, he was also wildly athletic for a man of his stature. Tommy Boy is a legitimate cult classic. However, Farley first garnered notoriety for his role on Saturday Night Live. He stole the show with countless skits — including playing motivational speaker Matt Foley. Farley died at 33 years of age due to a drug overdose.
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Patrick Swayze (1952-2009)
At one point or another, every middle-aged woman probably had a crush on Patrick Swayze. Throughout the ’80s, he was one of the biggest heartthrobs in the acting world. Roles in Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, and Ghost made him a global star. Swayze’s impressive physique and bursting bravado made him exceptionally popular. However, Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008. A year later, he passed at the age of 57.
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Brittany Murphy (1977-2009)
Murphy sadly passed before her career could really get going. Effervescent and bright, Murphy first gained notoriety for her role as Tai in Clueless. She later featured in other popular films throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Girl, Interrupted, Just Married). As her career progressed, Murphy began delving further into dramatic roles. Two perfect examples of this premise include spots in 8 Mile and Sin City. She unfortunately passed away due to complications of pneumonia. She was 32 years old.
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James Gandolfini (1961-2013)
James Gandolfini was a powerful actor. With minimal lines, Gandolfini exuded emotion with a simple glance. His body language also gave off elements of true authority. While he did star in a number of quality productions, Gandolfini’s claim to fame was his role as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos. The role alone illustrated Gandolfini’s depth as an actor. He was able to hit all corners of the human psyche whilst also delicately plucking at the emotional heartstrings. Gandolfini died of a heart attack at the age of 51.
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Natasha Richardson (1963-2009)
Coming from an acting family, Richardson had a long history of being in film. She’s most known for her role in the hit Disney classic The Parent Trap. She steadily acted throughout the 2000s. During this time, she was also married to fellow actor Liam Neeson. Whilst taking a ski lesson, Richardson accidentally hit her head upon falling to the ground. After being rushed to the the hospital, she sadly passed at the age of 45.
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Bruce Lee (1940-1973)
Bruce Lee was one of the first action movie stars. Along the same lines, he still remains as one of the coolest to ever execute a roundhouse kick — or even ‘take out’ the bad guy in an exciting fight scene. Lee was transcendent from the standpoint of helping to give a platform for fellow Asian/Asian-American actors to showcase their talents within the mainstream media. Fist of Fury, Enter the Dragon, and The Way of the Dragon are three of his most noteworthy films. Lee suddenly passed from an allergic reaction to prescription medication. He was 32 years old.
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Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962)
Marilyn Monroe (real name Norma Mortenson) remains as one of the biggest sex symbols over the last 100 years. Her grace, aura, and sultry personality helped in shaping her reputation. Monroe’s films routinely grossed tens of millions of dollars. Before the age of big-budget filmmaking, she was the original ‘A-List’ actor. Her interests also included being involved in high-profile relationships (Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, John F. Kennedy). At the age of 36, Monroe passed away due to a drug overdose.
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Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)
Philip Seymour Hoffman routinely tested his acting fortitude. He’d accept the roles of characters placed in all sorts of genres/environments. These often would be atypical — though Hoffman shined brilliantly as a versatile actor. For instance, he starred brilliantly in as a priest (Doubt) whom may or may not be doing some highly inappropriate things to a boy from the church. Hoffman played a tornado chaser (Twister), an eclectic music writer (Almost Famous), a baseball manager (Moneyball), Truman Capote (Capote), and even as a cult leader (The Master). A 46-year-old Hoffman died in 2014 due to a drug overdose.
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James Dean (1931-1955)
James Dean redefined what it meant to be ‘cool’ on screen. Despite dying in 1955, he still remains a cultural icon for his boyish good looks and his relatability as an angst-ridden teen. Rebel Without a Cause remains as a seminal film for the genre of teenage life. Even in the present time, Dean’s portrayal on screen resonates with so many of us. Though he died due to a car crash at age 24, Dean’s ability as an actor cannot be underappreciated. He was on the precipice of truly developing into an elite thespian.
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John Belushi (1949-1982)
Animal House is widely considered to be a true triumph within the realm of comedy. Without question, the person responsible for the film’s brilliance is John Belushi. During this time, Belushi had taken Saturday Night Live by storm with a wacky yet controlled energy. He simply popped off the screen whenever being tasked with making someone laugh. Chris Farley idolized Belushi — and was heavily influenced by Belushi’s ability to get a laugh. Unfortunately, Belushi passed away at the age of 33 due to a drug overdose.
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Heath Ledger (1979-2008)
As far as going out with a bang, Ledger did just that. Before his sudden passing (at the age of 28), the Australian participated in a brilliant portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Ledger captivated audiences all over the world with a truly dynamic performance. Upon passing, he did win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Prior to this role, Ledger was most known for 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, Brokeback Mountain, Ned Kelly, and Lords of Dogtown.
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Cory Monteith (1982-2013)
Cory Monteith didn’t have a long acting career. However, he was an integral member of the hit show Glee. Playing lead actor Finn Hudson, he soon cultivated a real-life relationship with co-star Lea Michele. The Canadian actor had noteworthy issues with substance abuse. Despite help from the cast and crew, Monteith succumbed via a drug overdose.
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Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)
From a young age, Anton Yelchin has been in the spotlight. The Russian-born actor had multiple cameos on noteworthy shows (ER, Without a Trace, Curb Your Enthusiasm, NYPD Blue) before expanding into film. With an airy voice and strong facial construction, Yelchin had began to gain a ton of traction once appearing as the lead in Charlie Bartlett (alongside Robert Downey Jr.). A recurring role in the new Star Trek film series was cut tragically short by a freak accident at his home. Yelchin passed away at the age of 27.
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Gary Coleman (1968-2010)
At one time, Chicago native Gary Coleman was the ‘it’ child when it came to sitcom television. He starred for many years on the hit show Diff’rent Strokes. The catchphrase “What’chu talkin’ bout Willis” became a household phrase for many throughout the ’80s. While Coleman did appear in a multitude of television shows and films, his career essentially revolved around this one show. Battling health problems for most of his life, Coleman sadly passed away in 2010 at the age of 42.
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Sharon Tate (1943-1969)
Sharon Tate’s death might be the most gristly of anyone on this list. During her prime, the 26-year-old was a burgeoning star in the industry. Tate was transitioning quite nicely from being a print model into an actress. Sadly, all of the promise was for naught in the end. One evening in 1969, Tate — along with three friends — were brutally murdered by members of Charles Manson’s cult. At the time, Tate was eight months pregnant — and married to famed director Roman Polanski.
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Natalie Wood (1938-1981)
Natalie Wood was what many would call a starlet. She accrued three Oscar nominations before the age of 25. She had acted since she was a child — first gaining notoriety from the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street. Wood also starred in West Side Story during her early 20’s. Everything had set up nicely for Wood to have an exceptionally long acting career. However, this was suddenly snatched from her during a weekend trip to Catalina (an island off the coast of California). No one quite knows what happened — though Wood was found having drowned in the ocean. She was 43 years of age.
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John Candy (1950-1994)
Lovable and funny, John Candy was a true staple throughout the ’80s film scene. Many of his noteworthy efforts came amidst the quirky genre of family-friendly dramas. Uncle Buck, Summer Rental, Cool Runnings, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles were three of Candy’s defining films. Even without meeting him, the audience could still get a sense of how truly likable he was. In 1994, Candy passed away from a heart attack during the filming of a movie entitled Wagons East! He was 43 years old at the time of his passing.
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Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
Before the wave of superhero movies swept across Hollywood, it was Christopher Reeve holding the torch as the original Superman. The New York actor portrayed the character immensely well — as he paired charisma with good looks and uncanny comedic timing. When riding his horse, Reeve got tangled in the reins before suffering a paralyzing injury. For the remainder of his life, Reeve championed the cause for those suffering from spinal cord injuries. Nine years after becoming paralyzed, Reeve passed away at the age of 52.
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River Phoenix (1970-1993)
River Phoenix was the major heartthrob during the late ’80s/early 1990s. Stand by Me brought him fully into the limelight. His ability to evoke a natural character on-screen made him incredibly compelling. A staunch environmentalist, Phoenix spoke routinely at rallies in order to save both natural habitats as well as the environment. Simply put, his trajectory was skyrocketing through the roof. One night at the famed Viper Room in West Hollywood, California, Phoenix — who was with RHCP drummer Flea and brother Joaquin — began having a seizure outside the venue. Ultimately, Phoenix passed away at the age of 23 due to a drug overdose.
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Jean Harlow (1911-1937)
Throughout the 1930s, Jean Harlow got her footing as a icon within the entertainment industry. She starred in a number of films — and all the while had taken on the real persona as a sex symbol. In fact the ‘blonde bombshell’ nickname was largely attributed to Harlow during her heyday. A number of somewhat bizarre physical ailments had sidelined Harlow from acting. Unfortunately, her condition got worse — and ultimately led to her passing in 1937. At only 26 years of age, Harlow passed from what was medically deemed as kidney failure.
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Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967)
After Harlow’s death, Jayne Mansfield assumed the role as the next sexualized actress during the ’50s and the ’60s. She — like Harlow — went full bore into the realm of acting. Mansfield lived an eclectic and colorful life. Aside from rumored high-profile trysts, she was a considerably good actress. In 1967, Mansfield was involved in a deadly car crash. Crazily enough, three of her children survived the crash. One of those kids turned out to be longtime actress Mariska Hargitay.
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Corey Haim (1971-2010)
Corey Haim made his name primarily for being a child actor during the ’80s. He sparkled in the coming-of-age film, Lucas. He also spent time alongside Corey Feldman in a number of films — including The Lost Boys and License to Drive. Haim’s career stalled throughout the ’90s, and this coincided with substance abuse issues. It appeared as if he was back on track. With the help of Feldman, the two even had their own (brief) reality show. However, Haim ultimately passed away in 2010 of a suspected drug overdose at the age of 38.
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Brad Renfro (1982-2008)
Much like Haim, Renfro was a child actor. After being raised in a tough environment, the Tennessee native broke onto the scene with the 1993 smash-hit The Client. Many were expecting his acting career to take off in a big way. The talent unfortunately was not realized. Renfro suffered from drug addiction. At the age of 25 years old, he was found dead in his apartment. The suspected cause of his passing was related to a drug overdose.
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