Hollywood is known for its glitz, its glamour, and for the superstars that it places on a pedestal for the world to behold. Sadly, though, Hollywood and the movie stars that are synonymous with it has a mixed bag when it comes to its past, and so many of those who have wowed on the silver screen have ultimately suffered a tragic demise.
Death is something that awaits us all, and being a huge film star is something that cannot stop the grim reaper, yet given the depth and breadth of the touch of so many movie stars, so many people across the globe are touched and saddened when one of Hollywood’s big names take their final breath.
Over the decades, some of the movies’ biggest names have passed away suddenly, others have battled illnesses, others have battled controversy, and others have ended up on the wrong end of a bad decision, but this article is designed to look at the final moments of some of the most shocking, tragic deaths seen in Hollywood history.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the final chilling pictures of 15 Hollywood icons before their sad demise.
15. James Gandolfini
Little did anyone know that tragedy was just around the corner when James Gandolfini took a vacation to Rome, Italy back in 2013, but that was sadly to be the case as Gandolfini would never make it home from the trip.
While on vacation, the iconic Sopranos actor suffered a massive heart attack that would prove to be fatal. At the age of 51, Gandolfini passed away on June 19th, 2013, as the entertainment world mourned the loss of one of TV’s most recognisable and beloved faces.
14. Heath Ledger
Ledger’s turn as the nefarious Joker in The Dark Knight is the stuff of legend, but it was that role that really saw the Australian actor suffer for his craft.
So intense did he get into the character of the Clown Prince of Crime, he struggled to relax his mind and to get to sleep at night. As a result, he ended up taking medication to help him sleep, which was something that continued after The Dark Knight had wrapped and was even present to a lesser extent before that gig.
Ledger was found dead on January 22nd, 2008 after an accidental overdose of certain prescribed medication.
At the time of his passing, the talented Aussie was filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and the last recorded photo of him was taken on the set of that film just days before his tragic passing.
13. Chris Farley
Energetic, eccentric and boisterous funnyman Chris Farley was known for his heavy partying ways, and this last recorded photo is certainly an ominous indicator of what tragic fate lay head for the burly comedian.
Farley died of a heroin overdose in December 1997 aged just 33. The last known photo of the comic was of his passed out after giving in to his vices.
According to some reports, this final photo of the Saturday Night Live star was taken on the very night he passed away, while others say this was a week or two before his death. Either way, it’s sad to see that this is the final lasting image we have of such a talented individual who brought so many laughs to so many people.
12. Elvis Presley
Regardless of what music and what musical artists have come and gone over the decades, Elvis Presley really was and is The King.
Presley still remains an engaging, attention-monopolizing presence even when his work is listened to and watched to this very day. Elvis was a game changer, a revolutionary, and hands-down one of the worthiest musical artists to have the “legend” tag placed on them.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll would pass away from a massive heart attack at the age of 42 on August 16, 1977, with his heavy partying days and drug excesses taking their toll on Presley.
11. River Phoenix
When it comes to River Phoenix, ultimately and unfortunately he’ll always go down as one of Hollywood’s greatest tragedies.
Having mesmerized us all in Stand by Me, the following years saw Phoenix regularly compared to one of Hollywood’s hot young stars of yesteryear, James Dean. And like Dean, River would sadly pass away far, far too early.
At the age of just 23, River Phoenix died outside friend Johnny Depp’s Viper Room club following a drug overdose. Even more upsetting was that his younger siblings, Joaquin and Rain, plus girlfriend Samantha Mathis had come out to see him, and all had to witness his sad death – including sister Rain giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
10. Robin Williams
To this day, it’s still shocking to many long-standing fans that Robin Williams is no longer with us. The ridiculously talented and charismatic comedian and actor took his own life on August 11st, 2014 at the age of 63.
Williams had been a longtime sufferer of anxiety and depression, and that, along with recently being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, is the believed reasoning for his choice to end his life.
This last photograph of Williams was taken just a few days before he hanged himself. As is so often the case, despite what we may see on the outside, the suicide of Robin Williams is yet another example of how we never really know how someone is feeling or what thoughts are going through their mind.
9. Paul Walker
It seems like only a matter of months ago that Paul Walker was killed after the Porsche Carrera GT he was a passenger in collided with a lamp post. In actual fact, the tragic accident took place back on November 30th, 2013 – nearly 3 and a half years ago!
The last known picture of Walker shows him in the vehicle in question as it leaves a charity event that the actor had put on. Sadly, tragedy was just around the corner, and Walker and driver Roger Rodas were killed shortly after leaving the event.
8. Philip Seymour Hoffman
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman back in February 2014 was one that hit a whole lot of people with the force of a hefty punch to the gut. The Oscar winner died of “acute mixed drug intoxication”, which was made even more tragic by the fact that Hoffman had stayed clean and sober for 23 years up until just 2013. Revered as one of the very finest acting talents of his generation, it came as a huge blow to many when we all heard the news of his passing.
The above image is taken from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival that was held in Park City, Utah merely a fortnight before Hoffman’s body was found in his apartment by his friend, screenwriter David Bar Katz. He was just 46 years of age.
7. Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman is one of those people who literally nobody has ever had anything bad to say about him. An actor’s actor, Rickman is rightly revered as one of the very finest talents of his generation, and it really does feel like his passing happened only a matter of weeks ago. In reality, his death was over a year ago now.
Regardless of the ridiculous amount of talent Rickman had, cancer doesn’t discriminate, and the Englishman succumbed to the disease on January 14th, 2016. He was 69 years of age at the time, and had been battling colon cancer.
In this final recorded picture of the much-missed Alan Rickman, he was pictured attending a press event at the end of 2015 for the Hangman play that was showing in London. What makes this one so chilling, as like so many featured in this article, is the happy face we see regardless of what tragedy was around the corner.
6. Errol Flynn
During the early years of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Errol Flynn was one of the hottest movie stars on the planet.
Most famously known for playing Robin Hood, the Tasmanian-born actor quickly became famous for his womanizing and hard-drinking ways, building himself up a reputation as quite the party animal.
Flynn would die on October 14th, 1959 at the age of 50 due to a heart attack, and one of the last recorded pictures of him was the above one; showing him alongside his partner at the time, Beverly Aadland. To the masses, it was said that Aadland was 22 years of age by that point, yet in reality she was just 17-years-old.
5. Patrick Swayze
While some deaths are huge shocks that come out of nowhere, others are ones that we know are coming but we just don’t know when. And the sad passing of Patrick Swayze falls into the latter category there.
It was well known that the Dirty Dancing legend was battling cancer – pancreatic cancer, to be precise – and that horrible disease would take Swayze’s life on September 14th, 2009. He was 57 years of age.
Right up until his death, Swayze had done his best to remain as active as he possibly could, and this last-known photo of the actor was taken during a trip to the store that he took just a week before he would pass away. Swayze had voluntarily left hospital three weeks prior to his death, with his wish to be to see out his final days in the familiar surroundings of his own home.
4. Brittany Murphy
At the time of her passing at the age of just 32 back in December 2009, Brittany Murphy was a favourite of many moviegoers. With no scandals or any reputation of someone who took things to the excess when it came her celebrity, Murphy was essentially a ‘girl next door’ type to many.
The cause of her death was a mixture of pneumonia and anemia, and this bright young talent was taken far, far too soon. In fact, the initial cause of death was tied to severe toxic mold in the home Murphy shared with her husband, Simon Monjack – who also died a matter of months later.
Ultimately, Brittany’s death was attributed to the aforementioned pneumonia and anemia, and this last recorded photo shows the actress to be looking a tad worryingly thin ahead just a week prior to her sudden and shocking passing.
3. Marilyn Monroe
Poor Marilyn Monroe. Once the darling of Hollywood, her star had begun to dim by the time she died in 1962.
Worried about aging – she was only 36 at the time of her death – and dealing with the rejection that came with being someone’s ‘bit on the side’ during various affairs with other major names, Marilyn had taken to abusing drink and drugs in the final years of her life.
In this last known photo of Monroe, she is seen with one of her close friends, pianist Buddy Greco. Enjoying herself in familiar company, Marilyn’s happiness would be short-lived and she’d be found dead mere days later.
2. Sharon Tate
The tragic death of Sharon Tate, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger on August 8th, 1969 is one of the most infamous in Hollywood history. Victims of Charles Manson and his “family”, the group’s tragic and brutal murders were huge news at the time, and still remain a hot topic to this very day.
Where rising actress Tate was concerned, even more tragic about her death was that she was pregnant at the time. Heavily pregnant, in fact, with her reportedly just a matter of weeks from giving birth. In one of the last known pictures of Sharon, she’s shown with her husband Roman Polanski as they enjoy some time together with their unborn child.
1. James Dean
In this picture, believed to be the very last one of James Dean, there’s a particular sense of poignant tragedy for the vehicle pictured would be the vehicle in which Dean actually died.
The smoldering Dean, one of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood at the time, would be involved in a fatal car accident on September 30, 1955. He was just 24 years of age.
The young actor was on his way to partake in a racing event in Salinas, California when tragedy struck. As a Ford Tudor was turning in front of his Porsche 550 Spyder, Dean couldn’t stop in time and ended up ploughing his car into the Ford.
Spinning across the highway, Dean would suffer several fatal injuries including a broken neck.
The last picture of Dean was of him with his beloved Spyder – which he dubbed “The Little Bastard” – as he was about to set off on what would prove to be his final road trip.