There’s no doubt about it: The ’90s decade brought the world some seriously talented actors and musicians that would forever be remembered throughout the following decades. We all felt like we knew a lot of these actors and musicians personally– many of us grew up watching and admiring them. That explains why so many of us were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic and untimely deaths of some of our favorite ’90s celebrities.
Fatal events like car accidents, drug overdoses and serious illnesses took the lives of some of the best actors, musicians and personalities the ’90s had to offer. In some cases, these deaths came so out of the blue, they’re almost hard to believe. It’s crazy to think that some of the deaths listed in this article have yet to be explained. To this day, people are still speculating about the deaths of rappers like Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G, and have yet to truly determine what really happened. While some of these tragic deaths occurred many years ago, the little details and odd coincidences are hard to shake, even today.
While every decade has a long list of famous personalities and talented people that have left the world too soon, we can’t help but feel nostalgic for some of our favorite deceased stars of the ’90s, and are left wondering what amazing things they could have done if they had stuck around just a little bit longer.
While Aaliyah was an extremely successful and respected R&B artist in the ’90s, many of us remember her as a victim of a tragic, untimely death. The singer had just finished making the video for hit single, “Rock the Boat” when she took the plane ride that ended her life. While on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, Aaliyah rode a Cessna 402B along with other Virgin Record employees. Shortly after takeoff, the twin engine plane crashed killing the 22-year old singer and eight other individuals on board. Apparently, the video shoot had wrapped a day early, resulting in Aaliyah getting on the plane that was believed to have been overcrowded. The impact of the plane was so harsh, its passengers’ bodies were left badly burned and disturbingly disfigured. Aaliyah had just released her self-titled album, Aaliyah a month before her horrific death. A true tragedy.
14. Anna Nicole Smith
Actress, model and famous personality, Anna Nicole Smith may have been Playmate of the year in 1993 and possibly one of the most famous gold diggers ever; but she also suffered a truly, tragic death. After fighting for years for the money her wealthy, elderly late husband J. Howard Marshall left behind after he died, Anna Nicole went on to live in the public eye for many more years. Anna starred in her hit reality TV show, The Anna Nicole Show, where we were introduced to her son, Daniel and her other friends and assistants.
Just months after giving birth to her daughter, Anna Nicole’s son, Daniel died suddenly while on a trip in the Bahamas. Daniel had taken a deadly combination of prescription drugs and died right in front of his mother. Anna Nicole was completely broken hearted over the death of her son and many believe that her grief is what ultimately took her life. In February 2007 Anna Nicole was found dead in her hotel room in Hollywood, Florida due to an accidental overdose.
13. James Avery
On the very last day of December in 2013, the world lost the man behind one of our favorite sitcom dads of all time, James Avery. You’ll recognize James as Uncle Phil from the iconic ’90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Over the years, we laughed with James as he portrayed Uncle Phil loosing his mind trying to make sense of Will Smith’s antics. We were also touched by James’ performance on the sitcom as he showed us what a good father figure really looks like. At 68 years old, James died from complications after having open heart surgery in Glendale, CA. After his death, we learned that James suffered from severe coronary heart disease, advanced kidney disease and type-2 Diabetes. James’ ashes were reportedly scattered along the coast of California.
12. Michelle Thomas
Another classic ’90s sitcom we’ll never forget was the cheese-tastic –yet hilarious —Family Matters. While we remember most of the show’s main characters like Steve Urkel, Laura, Harriet and Carl, we forget one of the show’s funniest supporting characters; Myra played by Michelle Thomas. Sadly, Michelle passed away in 1998 after living with an extremely rare form of cancer resulting in an abdominal tumor. After a second cancerous tumor ruptured, she died alongside her family at the young age of 29. The young actress was buried in Montclair, New Jersey.
11. Heath Ledger
It’s hard to believe that at just 28 years old, respected actor Heath Ledger, was found dead on January 2, 2008. Apparently, the actor’s masseuse found him lying on the floor dead in an apartment after he had reportedly taken a mixture of some powerful pills: xycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine. Heath’s death was ruled an “accidental overdose”; however, many speculate that perhaps he actually meant to take the crazy mix of pills. The actor left behind his wife, Michelle Williams and their then 8-year old daughter, Matilda. Many speculate that Heath suffered from sever depression after taking on the role of Batman’s the Joker. Perhaps the actor took the role a little too seriously and became overwhelmed with the dark, sinister persona.
10. Kurt Cobain
If there’s a musician that summed up the grunge scene that defined the ’90s decade, it’s without a doubt Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The whole rock world was turned upside down when they learned of Kurt’s tragic suicide. Kurt was found dead in his Seattle home at the young age of 27. While he was a successful musician and poet, Kurt suffered from sever depression and a dangerous heroin addiction. Many were also surprised to learn that the musician suffered from chronic bronchitis and a very painful stomach condition. On top of all of that, Kurt never was able to handle his sudden fame very well, and had a very hard time coping with the fact that his every move was under public scrutiny. Unfortunately, Kurt decided to take his life by taking a gun to his head in his wife, fellow grunge musician Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.
Since Kurt’s death, many books, documentaries and haunting photos have been released exploring his life and all of his deep, dark struggles. New generations long after the age of Grunge music still admire Nirvana and listen to his soulful music.
9. Brittany Murphy
Brittany Murphy first came on the scene as Tai, the new girl in school in the hit blockbuster, Clueless. The actress went on to star in a handful of popular films like Uptown Girls, Girl Interrupted and 8 Mile. But in December 2009, 32 year old Brittany Murphy was found dead in her home due to complications with pneumonia, anemia and a prescription drug mix. Being that Brittany was only 32 at the time of her death– and the fact that young, seemingly healthy people don’t usually die from the flu– her death caused quite a stir among fans. What was even weirder, was the fact that her husband, Simon Monjack died from the same causes a short five months later. To this day, we’re still wondering if Simon had anything to do with his wife’s untimely death, if more drugs were involved than they made known, or if there was any fowl play.
Since Brittany’s death, it has been revealed that traces of metals were found in Brittany’s system, including the kind used in rat poison. There were also a staggering amount of prescriptions in Simon’s name, leading many to believe he was a pill-popper. Even to this day, we don’t know exactly what caused Brittany’s untimely death.
8. Lee Thompson Young
In the late ’90s, the Disney Channel was a major entertainment hub for kids and tweens alike. We loved watching Lee Thompson Young star in The Famous Jett Jackson as he struggled to live a normal life while fighting his life in the public eye. As an adult, the actor starred in various shows like Scrubs, Smallville and most recently, Rizzoli and Isles. Sadly, in August of 2013, Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his North Hollywood home after he committed suicide. After he didn’t show up for his shoot on Rizolli and Isles, co-workers became concerned and sent over someone to check on him, where they discovered his body. Lee Thompson Young was only 29 years old.
7. Phil Hartman
The ’90s brought us some of the best comedians of our time– and many of them came from the great Saturday Night Live. Actor, Phil Hartman shined on the famous sketch comedy show from the late ’80s into the ’90s and later served as a star on the hit show, News Radio. Unfortunately, one of the things we remember most about Phil Hartman was his extremely sad, brutal death. In 1998, Phil was murdered by his wife Brynn in Encino, California. His wife allegedly shot him in his sleep after the couple had a fight the previous evening. Apparently, Brynn had been struggling with a drug addiction and was intoxicated when she shot her husband. After the attack, Brynn drove to a friend’s house and confessed what she had done.
6. Tupac Shakur
It’s hard to remember the ’90s decade without thinking about the music of rapper and poet, Tupac Shakur. The entire music community was shaken when the rapper was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 7, 1996. Tupac and friend Suge Knight, were stopped at a red light when a white Cadillac pulled up to their car and started shooting at them. Tupac was shot numerous times– including taking a shot to one of his lungs. After being shot, Tupac was taken to the hospital where he eventually passed away. After much speculation and varying theories, the murder of Tupac Shakur is still a mystery.
Many believe Tupac was shot by a Southside Crips gang-member, Orlando Anderson due to the fact that Tupac had attacked him in the past. Many suspect that his arch nemesis at the time, rapper Notorious B.I.G., was behind his murder, but there has yet to be proof. Both suspects were also shot and killed soon after Tupac’s death.
5. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes
Many would argue that the ’90s brought us some of the best hip-hop music around. One of the decade’s most popular hip-hop groups was no doubt TLC. The group featured the talented singers, Chili, T-Boz; and gifted rapper, Left Eye. Tragically, in April, 2002, the famous rapper and songwriter was killed in a fatal car accident in La Ceiba Honduras. After swerving to the side of the road to avoid a truck, Left Eye faced oncoming traffic, causing her to swerve again. The car rolled several times before landing in a ditch. Left Eye was killed immediately due to bad neck injuries and head trauma. Surprisingly, she was the only person involved in the accident that lost her life. After her death, Left Eye’s family started the Lisa Lopes foundation, which helps raise money for troubled youth. In 2012, the foundation started doing an annual music festival in the rapper’s honor, called “Left Eye Music Fest”.
4. Chris Farley
Along with Phil Hartman, Chris Farley was one of Saturday Night Live’s star players in the ’90s. Who could forget his insanely funny characters and ridiculous physical comedy bits? While Chris Farley appeared happy and jovial on the small screen and in movies, the comedian battled inner demons that were with him until the day he died. On October 18, 1997, Chris Farley was found dead in his Chicago apartment by his brother. Chris died from an overdose of cocaine and morphine after years of drug and alcohol abuse. Apparently, the actor had sought treatment for his obesity and drug use 17 times throughout the course of his life. Many fans and friends of the actor were surprised to learn of Chris’ dark double life since he always appeared so happy and in good spirits. 500 of Chris’ friends, family and fans attended his funeral in his hometown, Madison, WI.
3. Notorious B.I.G.
Aside from Tupac Shakur, the murder of Notorious B.I.G. is one of the most well known tragedies in hip-hop’s — and music in general’s– history. Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.) was killed in a drive-by shooting on the streets of Los Angeles, CA in March of 1997. After leaving an event in LA, the rapper was shot four times from a man in a black Chevrolet Impala SS stopped alongside him at a red light. Apparently, only one of the gunshots Notorious B.I.G. suffered from was fatal; the other three wouldn’t have killed him.
Many believe that Biggie’s death was connected to that of his enemy’s, Tupac Shakur due to their extreme similarity. While many speculate that this was an attempt to get back at the rapper for killing Tupac just six months earlier, the mystery still remains unsolved.
2. Paul Walker
With his most famous years just teetering on the edge of the ’90s, Paul Walker blew up on the movie screen at the turn of the century. We watched the handsome actor start out in teen flicks like Varsity Blues and She’s All That— but it wasn’t until his debut in the Fast and Furious franchise that we really began to notice the actor. Paul played Brian O’Connor in six The Fast and Furious films and quickly became a fan favorite.
Sadly, Paul died in a car accident on his way to a charity event, Reach Out Worldwide, an event to help those effected by Typhoon Haiyan. Paul lived much of his life trying to help others, and it was pretty ironic that he died trying to do just that. The actor was only 40 years old when his car burst into flames on the road.
1. Selena Quintanilla-Perez
Having been one of the top Latina artists of the ’90s and best selling Latin artist of the decade (according to Billboard Magazine) the entire music world was completely in shock to learn of Selena‘s untimely death. At the young age of 23, the talented singer was shot dead by the leader of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar. Apparently, Saldivar was in charge of handling the money Selena was making off of her boutique, and was believed to be embezzling the money. Word got back to Saldivar that she would be fired for her mismanagement, which is likely to have led to her shooting Selena.
After Selena’s tragic death, her first English-speaking album, Dreaming of You was released and became an instant hit. In 1997, Jennifer Lopez portrayed the beloved singer in the film, Selena, which received much praise.