Who out there doesn’t love a good love story? While it seems that Hollywood produces more drama, broken marriages and affairs than average – often leaving us feeling cynical about love and marriage – there are a few Hollywood love stories that stand the test of time. And there are others that don’t end in divorce, but rather end in tragedy and heartbreak.
It’s never easy losing someone you love, especially when they pass away well before their time. We might like to think that celebrities are protected from everything painful in the world – after all, they live seemingly perfect lives, with money, fame, and everything we could ever want. But all the money in the world can’t help when personal tragedy strikes.
Which celebrity love stories are the most heartbreaking and painful, so romantic and devastating that they’d be worthy of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel? Keep reading to find out. After reading this, you’ll probably want to hold your loved one just a little bit tighter.
16. Natascha McElhone and Dr. Martin Hirigoyen Kelly
Natascha McElhone is best known for films such as The Truman Show and Solaris, as well as her role on the series Californication. She was married to Dr. Martin Hirigoyen Kelly, and they had two sons and a third on the way when their relationship was tragically torn asunder.
McElhone came home to find her husband hunched over in his home one fateful day in 2008. He was rushed to the hospital, but he did not survive. The cause was revealed to be dilated cardiomyopathy. Their third son, Rex, was born five months after his father’s death, and McElhone wrote letters to her dead husband, talking about daily life and writing about how their young sons dealt with the loss of their father. Those letters were compiled into a book titled After You: Letters of Love, Loss, to a Husband and Father.
15. Lea Michele and Cory Monteith
Glee fans fell in love with on-screen couple Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry, and sparks seemed to be flying off-screen for the couple as well. The two stars met on the show, and quickly became a practically inseparable couple, often posting photos of themselves together on Instagram, on trips and cuddling together. All these photos show them smiling and looking very much in love. Michele has said countless times that with Monteith, she felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
This idyllic life was torn apart when Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room soon after he had finished a stint in rehab. The cause of death was ruled an overdose of heroin mixed with alcohol. He was only 31 years old.
14. Pierce Brosnan and Cassandra Harris
James Bond and a former Bond girl found love and happiness in the real world, when Pierce Brosnan and Cassandra Harris were married in 1980. Brosnan adopted his wife’s two children and raised them as his own, and the couple eventually had a child of their own as well. But tragedy struck when Harris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Brosnan was by her side through eight operations, chemotherapy and holistic therapies, none of which worked. She passed away in 1991, at the age of 43. Brosnan said that even after her death, he would sit in the garden she loved and talk to her. Tragedy struck again for Brosnan when Charlotte, Cassandra’s daughter that he adopted as his own, passed away from the same disease that not only killed her mother, but her grandmother as well.
13. John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Opinions around John and Yoko vary. For most hardcore Beatles fans, the common opinion is that Yoko’s arrival heralded the end of John’s association with the mega-popular band. And while that opinion isn’t entirely unmerited, the Beatles were having difficulties long before John and Yoko met.
She was a successful avant-garde artist in her own right, and she met John at one of her shows. Their meeting led John to stray away from the more mainstream music the Beatles were creating and into more experimental, creative endeavors of his own. Their relationship certainly wasn’t without its difficulties, but there was no doubting John’s love for Yoko, and her love for him. It was a relationship destined for tragedy, however. Obsessed fan Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon outside of the Dakota apartment building in New York City in December 1980 – a death that is still mourned by many around the world today – and he left behind Yoko and one son, Sean Lennon.
12. L’Wren Scott and Mick Jagger
Fashion designer L’Wren Scott and Mick Jagger seemed like an odd couple. Maybe it was the five-inch height difference, but anywhere they went, all eyes were on them. The two were very much in love, however, and Mick Jagger called Scott his “lover and best friend”. Together for over a decade, the two clicked almost immediately when they met in 2001. At Jagger’s 60th birthday party in 2003, they danced the night away. They supported one another, celebrated each other’s successes and, according to friends, had everything in common. They were the type of couple who laughed at the same things and simply felt like they were meant to be together.
However, in 2014, Scott took her own life. She texted her assistant to be at her condo at a certain time, and her assistant found Scott hanging from a doorway by a scarf. Apparently the fashion mogul’s business was millions of dollars in debt, likely causing her some stress, but no one will really know what led her to suicide.
11. John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck
For comedian John Ritter and actress wife Amy Yasbeck, September was always a busy month. There was their daughter, Stella’s birthday, Amy’s birthday, John’s birthday and their wedding anniversary. Little did they know, on September 11, 2003 – their daughter’s birthday – they’d also suffer a tragedy like no other.
That morning, they were celebrating their daughter’s fifth birthday but by that evening, Ritter would be in the hospital where he’d die on the operating table from an aneurysm. His wife said the last words they said to each other as he was being wheeled back was “I love you.”
10. Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack
Hollywood darling Brittany Murphy and the relatively unsuccessful aspiring screenwriter Simon Monjack seemed like an odd couple, but that didn’t stop the two from secretly getting married. But just three years after their marriage was made public, both Murphy and Monjack were found dead in their homes, their deaths just five months apart and both rather sudden.
The questions behind their death remain – both were ruled as natural causes, with no criminal intent. Murphy was said to have died from complications of pneumonia, anemia and a combination of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Monjack is said to have died from a heart condition. However, Murphy’s father isn’t so sure and later sent his daughter’s hair and other samples to an independent lab for testing. He says that the results show heavy metal poisoning and argues that both were killed.
9. Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi
Being together for 34 years is something to celebrate, especially in Hollywood where fleeting romances are the norm these days. Patrick Swayze was only 20 years old when he first laid eyes on Lisa Niemi, who was 16 at the time. He said he was smitten from the moment he saw her, and he remained that way until the day he died.
Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009. Lisa Niemi found love once again, but was conflicted initially when boyfriend Albert DePrisco asked her to marry him. Niemi said she dreamt of her deceased husband about a month before her wedding, and felt it was his way of giving her his blessing, encouraging her to move on.
8. Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson
Hollywood royalty Natasha Richardson and Irish lad Liam Neeson met while performing in the Broadway revival of Anna Christie, and they were married in 1994. In 2009, Richardson and one of their sons were on a winter vacation in Quebec when Natasha fell on a beginner’s ski slope.
At first, it appeared her injuries were minor and she refused medical care, thinking she was just fine. In fact, she talked to her husband on the phone after the fact, telling him “Oh darling, I’ve taken a tumble in the snow.” While it seemed minor at first, unfortunately the damage was more severe than first thought – Richardson was suffering from a head injury. Later on, she did indeed go to the hospital, but by that time, it was too late. She passed away from blunt trauma to the head. With some head injuries, it’s not uncommon for patients to experience periods of lucidity where they can walk and talk, but time is of the essence and in this case, Richardson’s declining medical care may have meant the difference between life and death for her.
Neeson has talked about his wife’s death, saying that his last words to her were “You’ve banged your head. It’s– I don’t know if you can hear me, but that’s– this is what’s gone down. And we’re bringing ya back to New York. All your family and friends will come.” The two had a pact that if either one were ever in a vegetative state that they’d pull the plug, and he honored his wife’s wishes by doing just that. Years later, he says he still can’t believe she’s gone, saying that he often hears the front door opening and expects to hear her voice.
7. Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
On the surface, they seemed to be the perfect couple who had it all. They were both young, beautiful movie stars, wealthy beyond our imagination, and with a daughter they both doted upon. Ledger and Williams met on the set of 2005’s Brokeback Mountain – he played a gay cowboy living in the closet, and she played his emotionally distraught wife – and the pair fell in love.
It wasn’t long after the film wrapped up that Williams announced she was pregnant with their daughter, Matilda, and the pair built a home for themselves in Brooklyn. They seemed to be the picture of perfect domestic bliss. But by early 2006, things had changed with the couple and Ledger spent much of his time partying, attempting to cope with depression, and trying to deal with his drug-fueled demons. Though Williams and Ledger split, it has been reported that it wasn’t because they fell out of love, but because Williams couldn’t deal with Ledger’s increasingly distant and erratic behavior.
Ledger’s battle with his demons was ultimately lost in January 2008 when he was found unconscious by his housekeeper. He was pronounced dead just half an hour later. His death left Williams – who was working in Sweden at the time – and their daughter devastated, but he lives on in his daughter, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her father.
6. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
Legendary musician Johnny Cash was a temperamental and volatile personality – to say the least. Cash grew up working the fields of his family farm from a very young age, lived through the Great Depression – a fact that influenced many of his songs – and the brutal, tragic death of an older brother he’d been very close to. He was a crossover star – a country music man who appealed to a mainstream rock crowd – in a time when that sort of thing just didn’t happen. Cash also had a debilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol. He was erratic and grew ever more volatile as his addiction deepened.
But in July 1956, while playing at the Grand Old Opry, Cash met a young singer named June Carter. Carter, the wife of a fellow country musician, had toured with Elvis Presley and was a big fan of Cash’s. It turned out that Cash had also been a fan of Carter’s, ever since hearing her work with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. It was kismet, you might say. Later that year, Carter divorced her husband, and went on tour with the then-married Cash, joining him onstage for duets on classic songs like “Jackson.”
In 1986, twelve years after their chance meeting backstage and after years of on-off struggles and near-misses, Johnny Cash and June Carter married. And despite Johnny’s spiraling, drug fueled, sometimes out of control behavior, they remained married until June’s death – due to complications from a heart procedure – in May 2003. The Man in Black followed his beloved June less than four months later, with some saying he died of a broken heart.
5. Petra Nemcova and Simon Atlee
Petra Nemcova, former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, and boyfriend Simon Atlee were vacationing in Thailand on December 26th, 2004, a day that would be remembered for one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. That morning, a giant wave hit the coastline and the surge pulled the couple from their cozy beach bungalow.
Nemcova could hear Simon yelling her name, but the current pulled them apart. The rush of the wave shattered her pelvis in four different spots, disabling her legs, and she could only flail around in the water with her arms. She nearly drowned at one point, but managed to hold on to a partially submerged palm tree as people were swept away. She was helpless, and could only hold on and pray for help. After hanging onto the tree for eight hours, two men eventually saved her, but boyfriend Atlee was initially not found.
Nemcova had to leave Thailand without knowing for sure whether the love of her life was alive and needing help, or if he’d perished. Later, however, his body was identified, and he was confirmed dead. Like many who lose those they love, Nemcova wrote to him for months after the ordeal. All things considered, Nemcova can at least consider herself lucky to be alive – in total, over 200,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami.
4. Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski
Before Roman Polanski was allegedly involved in the violation an underage girl, he was married to actress Sharon Tate. Their marriage was far from perfect – Polanski was known to cheat on Tate, although it’s been said that “few men have adored a woman as much as he adored Sharon.” Whatever the intricacies of their relationship, Tate’s end was one of the most disturbing and tragic in Hollywood history.
She was one of the victims of the gruesome Charles Manson “family” murders in 1969. Tate was two weeks from giving birth to their son when she and four others were found murdered in her and Polanski’s home. Polanski wasn’t home at the time, but he was due back soon for the birth of their child. Tate had been stabbed sixteen times and five of the wounds proved fatal.
3. Steve and Terri Irwin
Steve Irwin, AKA the Crocodile Hunter, was one of the most popular and endearing figures on television. His insane exploits with some of the world’s deadliest creatures, along with his zany personality, lust for life, and passion for educating people about these exotic animals, won him millions of fans around the world.
His wife Terri, also an animal lover, helped Steve create not just the persona, but the completely unconventional television shows that made them so popular. A chance meeting with Steve while she was touring wildlife rehab facilities in Australia led to a whirlwind romance and a marriage in 1992, just eight short months after they’d met. They remained married and in love, having two children – Bindi and Robert – and building their life in Steve’s native Australia, until tragedy struck in September 2006.
While filming an underwater documentary at the Great Barrier Reef, Steve sustained fatal injuries to his chest and heart after being stabbed by the tail of a short-tail stingray – the barb from the ray’s tail pierced Irwin’s heart. Following his death, Terri has continued her conservation work.
2. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard formed the It couple during Hollywood’s golden era in the 1930s. Lombard was tall, blonde, stunning and one of the highest paid actresses of the time. Gable, best known for playing the dreamy Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, was nicknamed the King for his superior on-screen presence.
Their relationship was rare indeed, and everyone believed it was the real thing. When Lombard and Gable fought, she’d often send a peace offering of live doves to make-up. After the two were married, they settled in the then-rural Encino, California where they lived among horses, chickens, and other critters. While the two never had children, they created a life together – until fate intervened. Lombard was finishing up a tour to sell war bonds when her plane, a twin-engine DC-3, crashed into a mountain, killing her and everyone else on board.
Gable had to be restrained from climbing the mountain and attempting to rescue or recover his beloved wife. When her body was recovered, he sobbed, “Oh, God! I don’t want to go back to an empty house.” He eventually went back, and lived out the rest of his life at their Encino home. He remarried twice but after his death in 1961, his wife buried him next to his lost love, Carole Lombard.
1. Christopher and Dana Reeve
Christopher Reeve was already a famous movie star when he walked into a cabaret and saw Dana for the first time. He later said that he’d fallen in love the moment he saw her. The couple married in April 1992. It was a love story for the ages, but one that ended in one of the most tragically heartbreaking ways possible.
Reeve learned to ride horses for his role in the film Anna Karenina in 1985. He became so enamored with riding that he began practicing in his own time and taking part in equestrian events. During an event in Virginia in May 1995, Reeve’s horse stopped short of a jump, sending the actor flying forward where he landed on his head, shattering two of his vertebrae, leaving him paralysed.
Through it all, though, his beloved Dana stood by his side, helping him in any way she could. Reeve continued to work, speaking publicly about a range of different issues. His recovery was one of Hollywood’s most inspirational stories that moved many people. But years after his fall, an adverse reaction to an antibiotic Reeve was given to treat an infection caused him to fall into a coma. He died of cardiac arrest in October 2004.
His beloved wife Dana, whose own story was a source of inspiration for many, was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2005 and died in March 2006.