17 Celebrities Who Tragically Died Young (PHOTOS)

Laura Anastasia | Mar 19, 2016 Celebrities

Watching Cory Monteith on Glee reruns is bittersweet. He was amazingly talented as jock-turned-nice-guy Finn, but he also left us much too soon. Monteith died of an overdose at age 31 in 2013. He and other notable actors, including Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, and more, passed away tragically young, leaving lives cut short and promising careers unfulfilled. 

Here is a look at Monteith and other talented actors who died before their time. 


Image via 2010 Phil Ramey/RameyPix/Corbis

  • Heath Ledger


    Image via ©2006 Phil Ramey/RameyPix/Corbis

    The Aussie actor had us swooning with 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to star in hits including Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, for which he posthumously won an Academy Award. Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2008 at age 28. He left behind a 2-year-old daughter. 

  • Brittany Murphy


    Image via Kurt Krieger/Corbis

    Murphy won our hearts as rough-around-the-edges Tai in 1995's Clueless, and then starred in hits including Girl, Interrupted; 8 Mile; and Sin City. The actress died of acute pneumonia and severe anemia in 2009 at age 32. Her husband died five months later. Murphy's father claims the actress was poisoned

  • Cory Monteith


    Image via ©2010 Phil Ramey/RameyPix/Corbis

    Monteith was beloved by fans for playing good guy Finn on Glee. The Canadian actor overdosed in July 2013 at age 31 -- just a few months after Monteith receiving treatment at a substance addiction facility

  • River Phoenix


    Image via Frank Trapper/Corbis

    Phoenix started acting at age 10, making popular movies including Stand By Me and Running on Empty (with costar Martha Plimpton, pictured), for which he received an Oscar nomination. The actor overdosed in 1993 at age 23. 

    More from The Stir: 19 Celebrities Who Died Of Alcohol & Drug Overdoses (PHOTOS)

  • Dana Plato


    Image via Bettmann/Corbis

    Plato rose to fame as a teen on TV's Diff'rent Strokes in the late 1970s. She was cut from the show when she got pregnant and her acting career never recovered. The actress struggled for many years with drug addiction before overdosing in 1999 at age 34. 

  • Sharon Tate


    Image via CinemaPhoto/Corbis

    The stunning actress starred in films including 1967 hit Valley of the Dolls, but Tate's promising career was overshadowed by her brutal death at age 26. Followers of cult leader Charles Manson murdered Tate in her rental home while she was eight months pregnant with husband Roman Polanski's baby. 

  • Jonathan Brandis


    Image via Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

    The child actor achieved teen heartthrob status in the early 1990s with movies including 1992's Ladybugs and TV series SeaQuest 2032. His popularity waned after SeaQuest ended in 1996. Brandis reportedly hanged himself in 2003 at age 27. 

  • Skye McCole Bartusiak


    Image via Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA/Corbis

    Bartusiak hit the big screen as a child, acting in The Cider House Rules, The Patriot, and Don't Say at Word all before she turned 10. The actress suffered from epileptic seizures and died of an accidental overdose in 2014 at age 21. 

    More from The Stir: 5 Remedies for Sunburn in Kids

  • Lee Thompson Young

    Image via Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press/Corbis

    The enigmatic Young won the lead role in Disney Channel's The Famous Jett Jackson in 1998 as a teen. He went on to act in multiple movies, including 2004's Friday Night Lights, and TV shows, including 2010's Rizzoli & Isles. Young suffered from bipolar disorder and shot himself in 2013 at age 29.  

  • John Belushi


    Image via Corbis

    The comedic legend was one of the original cast members on Saturday Night Live. Belushi, pictured with SNL castmate Gilda Radner, also stole the show in 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House and was one of the Blues Brothers. He died of a drug overdose in 1982 at 33 years old. 

  • Brad Renfro


    Image via Kurt Krieger/Corbis

    Renfro's career started as a pre-teen with mega-hit The Client in 1994. He went on to star in Sleepers, Apt Pupil, and Ghost World, among other films, but fell into trouble with drugs, alcohol, and run-ins with police. Renfro died of a reported drug overdose in 2007 at age 25. 

  • Bruce Lee


    Image via Golden Harvest Company/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

    The martial arts expert and actor fought his way to fame in the '60s and early '70s with hits including TV series The Green Hornet and movies Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon. Lee died suddenly of a brain edema in 1973 at age 32. Some fans insist, however, that he was the victim of a curse or that he was murdered. 

    More from The Stir: In Memoriam: 23 Beloved Celebrities Who Passed Away in 2015

  • Chris Farley


    Image via John Spellman/Retna Ltd./Corbis

    Farley found fame on Saturday Night Live after joining the cast in 1990, and later scored big with movies including Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and Beverly Hills Ninja. He struggled with addiction and overdosed in 1997 at age 33.

  • Freddie Prinze


    Image via Corbis

    Prinze got his start doing comedy and won a lead role on TV hit Chico and the Man in 1974. Despite his growing fame, the star struggled with drug addiction and a troubled marriage. He shot himself in 1977 at age 22, leaving behind his wife and his infant son, Freddie Prinze Jr. 

  • Brandon Lee


    Image via Sygma/Corbis

    Lee followed in his father Bruce Lee's footsteps, starring in action films including 1991's Showdown in Little Tokyo. The young actor died while filming The Crow in 1993, when a prop gun shot at him accidentally held a real bullet. Lee was 28. The movie was completed and released after his death.

  • James Dean


    Image via Bettmann/Corbis

    Dean filmed East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant, and more before dying tragically in a car crash in 1955 at age 24. The actor was nominated posthumously for two Academy Awards and has since become a film icon. 

    More from The Stir: Leonardo DiCaprio Makes Shocking Drug Confession

  • Jean Harlow


    Image via Bettmann/Corbis

    "The Blonde Bombshell" was America's sex symbol in the 1930s. Harlow made hit after hit, including Hell's Angels and Platinum Blonde, and costarred with Clark Gable in six movies. She died from swelling in her brain after being hospitalized with uremic poisoning in 1937 at age 26. 

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