One of the hardest things that anyone must come to terms with is mortality. The hour glass that is our life continues to drain, with or without our consciousness that the sands of our time will eventually run out. Our awareness of an eventual end, however, seems evident in our struggle to achieve some form of immortality; we all hope that a part of us will live on forever.
For celebrities, that struggle typically ends with the achievement of being remembered by generations upon generations long after their death. They will live on in the movies and music that they created throughout their career, and in the many iconic photos taken of them throughout their lifetime.
For many A-listers, the cameras go off whenever they leave their home. Given how common it is for their photo to be taken, the public probably never considers that a celebrity’s next photograph could be their last. Yet, some celebrities have been infamously captured weeks or just deaths before their untimely deaths, giving new weight to an apparently innocuous shot. The following are 20 celebrities who were captured in front of the camera lens one last time before breathing their final breath.
20. Albert Einstein – 4/18/55
Albert Einstein was the genius who brought the world the theory of relativity and E=MC2. At the age of 76, Einstein died in his sleep from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. While the last photo that was taken of him is not of wonderful quality, it captures a moment of the elderly genius’ final days. Einstein knew he was reaching the end of his days, and declined to have any surgery that would have extended his life.
19. James Dean – 9/30/55
James Dean was an iconic actor from the fifties who also drove in races as a side gig. On his way to a race, Dean decided to drive his Porsche under the advice of a friend who recommended that he get his required “break in” miles before the race, rather than towing the car to the intended location.
After attempting to “sidestep” an approaching car, Dean didn’t have enough time and slammed head on into the car, being thrown from the vehicle and breaking his neck among the other fatal injuries. Dead at the young age of 24, Dean’s premature and violent death made him famous in a whole other way.
18. Marilyn Monroe – 8/5/62
Marilyn Monroe was “America’s Sweetheart”; men wanted to be with her and women wanted to be her. She was the envy of Hollywood starlets not only because she was beautiful, but because she was exceptionally talented. However, she had a troubled existence – at the young age of 36, she was found dead in her home from a possible suicide. Shortly before her death, she spent a weekend with Buddy Greco (pictured above) and Frank Sinatra.
17. Jimi Hendrix – 9/18/70
Jimi Hendrix was a musician who changed the face of music forever. He died at the young age of 27 years old. Days before his death, he was tired, sick, and was taking an increasing amount of barbiturates. He was found dead in the apartment of a friend in Notting Hill, London. The autopsy reported that he also had taken eighteen times the amount of sleeping pills that were recommended. He choked on his own vomit and died of asphyxia.
16. Elvis Presley – 8/16/77
Elvis Presley was considered to be “The King of Rock and Roll” and died at the young age of 42 at his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Not long before his death, there were people who were ready to take pictures as the singer drove into his property. In his last photo, you can see the King giving the crowd a wave. Who knew that this would have been the last living visual of Presley as he moved towards his demise. When he died, fourteen different drugs were found in his system, with ten of those drugs being in significant amounts.
15. John Lennon – 12/8/80
The death of Beatles member John Lennon devastated the music world when he was shot by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota (where Lennon lived) in New York City. What made the murder even more bizarre was that Lennon had signed an autograph for Chapman several hours before his death, and someone snapped a photo of the event. Through a series of unfortunate events that led to placing Lennon at the wrong place at the wrong time when he saw Chapman one more time, Lennon wouldn’t live to see December 9th, 1980.
14. Bob Marley – 5/11/81
Bob Marley became a legend in the reggae music scene. He was practically an overnight sensation and toured the world to sold out shows. In July of 1977, it was discovered that he had malignant melanoma under the nail of his toe, but declined to have it amputated and instead, have the nail and nail bed removed. Unfortunately, for several years, the cancer spread throughout his body and he died in Miami, FL. It was stated that the cancer had reached his lungs and brain.
13. Freddie Mercury – 11/24/91
Freddie Mercury was the front man and famous vocalist for the legendary band, Queen. Even though his orientation was a mystery, fans appreciated his music and what the band brought to the table. Mercury seemed to have disappeared from the mainstream music scene, then he shocked the world with the release of the music video, “These Are the Days Of Lives” where he was gaunt, and looked sick. Paparazzi frequented his home during this time. In November, he made a public statement confirming that he had tested positive for AIDS. 24 hours later, he died of bronchopneumonia in his Kensington home.
12. Kurt Cobain – 4/5/94
Kurt Cobain was the front man of the band Nirvana, who tragically shot himself on April 5, 1994. He was found dead in his home in Seattle, Washington three days later. He had checked himself out of rehab before his death, and his wife, Courtney Love, was concerned about his whereabouts and his mental stability, as he was previously suicidal. Before the rehab, the drugs, and the gunshot, Cobain had posed for one final photo shoot. It’s uncomfortable to see the photos from the shoot with the knowledge that he would kill himself soon after.
11. Biggie Smalls – 3/9/97
Biggie Smalls was a famous rapper in the 90’s, also known as “The Notorious B.I.G.”, who was not only talented, but also controversial. He made many enemies both in the music business and in the gang world. On March 9, 1997, he attended the Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles, CA and even took a picture with Puff Daddy (above). After he left the awards ceremony, he was riding in his car as a passenger when another car pulled up and opened fire on the 24 year old rapper.
10. Michael Jackson – 6/25/09
Michael Jackson truly left behind a legacy as the “king of pop” who, for decades, brought the world some of the best music that has ever been known. Even though Jackson wasn’t active in his career at times, his music proved to be everlasting. While in the midst of rehearsing and putting together his anticipated comeback tour, “This Is It”, Jackson died from a mix of prescription drugs while being overseen by a doctor.
The world mourned for him, and believed he had gone much too soon – indeed, just as he was beginning to get his career back on track. The photo above was a rehearsal shot from the comeback tour.
9. Richard Pryor – 12/10/05
Richard Pryor was a famous actor, director, social critic, writer, satirist, and emcee. He made waves with his speeches and stand up acts that helped him move his way up the Hollywood ladder until he eventually became a big name celebrity.
His last public appearance was in July of 2005, and even though he was beginning to suffer health problems, his wife noted that he always had a smile on his face. On December 10th, 2005, he suffered a heart attack from which he wasn’t able to recover. The photo above was his last photo taken with a friend not long before his death.
8. Steve Irwin – 9/4/06
Steve Irwin is best remembered as the legendary “Crocodile Hunter” who was willing to go great lengths just to get close and personal with some of the world’s most dangerous animals. When Irwin died from a stingray barb going through his heart, the jokes were set aside, and people mourned for the loss of the expert and reality star, as he left behind a wife and two children.
Dozens of supposed “last moment” photos have circulated that depict Irwin’s last moment before the stingray got him, but the last confirmed photo of him before death was taken a few days prior.
7. Heath Ledger – 1/22/08
Heath Ledger‘s death struck a chord in Hollywood, particularly because it came at the height of his career and right before his iconic turn in “The Dark Knight”, wherein Ledger played a particularly dark Joker. The last known photo of Ledger that was taken was on the set of the movie, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” directed by Terry Gilliam. Ledger cracks a half smile at photographers while dressed in his costume. He left behind a young daughter, Matilda, and an array of fans that continue to mourn his loss. His legacy lives on forever in his films, and in his daughter.
6. Ryan Dunn – 6/20/11
If there is a lesson in not drinking and getting behind the wheel, the story of Ryan Dunn definitely makes the list. In the photo above, Dunn (far left) seems to be having a great time with his buds. Dunn was dead a few hours later after running off the road and crashing into the woods in his Porsche.
It was noted that he was traveling over 130 miles per hour. His passenger, Zachary Hartwell, died as well. Dunn was famous for being best friends with Bam Margera, and a member of the Jack@SS crew on the show that aired on MTV. While it is unknown whether Dunn was drunk at the time of death, certainly driving over 130 mph in a 55 mph zone showed impaired judgment.
5. Amy Winehouse – 7/23/11
Amy Winehouse was a powerhouse in the music world, who died at the young age of 27 from over-consumption of alcohol. The singer had also been battling with bulimia and drug use, and refused psychiatric help fearing that it would stifle her creativity and ultimately affect her career.
Just hours before she was found dead, she had declared that she didn’t want to die. The week before her death, Winehouse was seen taking a stroll around London with a friend.
4. Steve Jobs – 10/5/11
The death of Steve Jobs rocked both the world of technology and mainstream media. Jobs was the mastermind behind Apple and Macintosh, bringing inventions such as the iPad, iPod, iPhone, iMac, and so much more.
Jobs was suffering from cancer, and based on his final photo it’s clear health had deteriorated as he needed the assistance of a friend to just stand up. His skin is noticeably paler, and his figure and face are gaunt. His legacy lives on forever in his innovative Apple products.
3. Cory Monteith – 7/13/13
“Glee” star Cory Monteith was beloved by fans all over the world. When the seemingly wholesome teen idol first came forward about his drug problem, the world was shocked, but cheered on the actor and singer as he sought help. But then, shortly after he left rehab, the world mourned as he was discovered dead in his hotel room in Vancouver at the young age of 31.
2. Paul Walker – 11/30/13
At the peak of his career with the Fast & Furious franchise, Paul Walker met a tragic end in 2013 as the Porsche he was riding in crashed and burst into flames. Walker and the driver, Roger Rodas, did not survive. The pair were departing from a charity event in Santa Clarita, California at the time, and Walker left behind a young daughter. Walker’s final moments before the car embarked on its tragic journey were snapped as he was pulling away.
1. Robin Williams – 8/11/14
The death of Robin Williams is the most recent and has struck the hearts of his millions of fans. Perhaps the saddest part of Williams’ death was that it was by suicide. Recent autopsy reports indicated that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.
Before Williams died, he attended an art gallery opening by a local artist named Mark Jaeger, who noted that Williams was in good spirits. The gallery opening was on Saturday, and Williams was found dead on the following Monday morning.