Everybody loves a good action movie. With such huge action blockbusters that come out every year, it’s no surprise that the actors of these massive movies have become some of the most recognisable and famous faces on the planet. Actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis have been shooting guns, crashing cars and blowing things up on screen for decades.
But with that, comes an undeniable sense of invincibility. This makes it even more shocking, not only when an action star passes away, but when they die young under tragic circumstances. Whether the action star is killed in a violent on set accident, succumbs to an untimely illness, or accidentally overdoses on drugs, the unfortunate result is the same. It is a tragic loss. Join us as we take a look at the action movie stars who died tragically young.
James Dean died with just a handful of movie credits
At just 24 years old, James Dean was killed in a tragic auto wreck in 1955. The Hollywood actor had starred in fewer than ten movies but was without a doubt poised for greatness. Since his early demise, Dean’s legend has only grown through the years. There is still some mystery around the circumstances of the accident in which Dean was killed. Some people believe that his 1955 Porsche 550 was cursed.
What is certain is that Dean was driving on a California State Route when another vehicle turned in front of him with short notice. Dean was unable to stop or steer away to avoid the car in time. Dean struck the other vehicle at speed. His passenger, Rolf Wütherich, a German Porsche mechanic was badly injured in the accident but survived. Dean was not so lucky, and died almost instantly.
Bruce Lee was died from cerebral edema at just 32
He was an actor and martial arts legend who was only 32 years old when he died. Bruce Lee without a doubt accomplished more in his 32 years than most people do in three times as much. Lee’s sudden death was made more shocking and sorrowful with the lost potential of those years that were taken from him. Lee died on July 20th, 1973, just a month before the release of his most popular movie, Enter the Dragon. Lee’s final film was so ahead of its time, that it is often labeled the greatest martial arts film ever made.
Lee’s sudden death was caused by a brain edema, a severe swelling of the brain. It is believed that he was likely suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion. The effects of which were then magnified by a painkiller that he took to relieve the symptoms of a severe headache. The medicine contained aspirin and the tranquilizer meprobamate. To this day there are many theories of foul play in Lee’s death, but there’s no evidence to support this. Without question, Bruce Lee’s death was a tragedy, but a medically rational one.
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Vic Morrow was killed by a helicopter crashing into him on set
Vic Morrow may not be well known by younger audiences today, but he was an action star of his day in Hollywood. Morrow was known for playing men of few words and definitive actions. He is most notably recognised for his performance on the World War II action-drama series Combat. Morrow’s career began to drop during the 1970s, but in the early 1980s he was about to make his comeback. He was cast in a starring role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, based on the popular television series.
The movie was lined up with four superstar directors who would each direct a quarter of the movie, which were divided into episodic sections. The directors were John Landis, George Miller, Joe Dante, and Steven Spielberg. Morrow’s segment of the film was set in Vietnam and directed by Landis. On the very last day that Morrow was scheduled to be filming, he was killed in a freak accident where a helicopter crashed down onto him during the shoot. He was carrying two children at the time. All three were killed.
Christopher Reeve lived nine years as a quadriplegic after a tragic accident
Forever known as the classic Superman, Christopher Reeve achieved fame by his mid 20s thanks to landing the role of one of the most famous characters of the modern era. Reeve portrayed the Man of Steel in four movies and gained worldwide recognition. He’s looked at by many Superman fans around the world as the greatest Superman adaptation. On May 27th, 1995, Reeve suffered a harrowing accident that left him a quadriplegic
The actor severely damaged his spine after falling from a horse. Reeve became known for his tireless work to help others similarly afflicted following the injury. He and his wife, Dana, started the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which later merged with the American Paralysis Association to form the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. The goal of the foundation was to fund research for the development of new treatments and cures for paralysis.
Reeve lived for nine years after his accident, but tragically succumbed to heart failure in 2004 at the age of 52.
River Phoenix died of an overdose just as greatness was within his grasp
The early death of River Phoenix at the young age of 23, is a true tragedy. Phoenix died of a drug overdose and collapsed on the street in front of the storied Viper Room in West Hollywood, California, on Halloween 1993. Phoenix’s potential as a charismatic and skilled actor seemed unlimited as he played a young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for his performance in the 1988 movie Running on Empty. He was without a doubt one of the most promising young actors of his time.
While Phoenix had a troubled childhood, he also gained a reputation as a clean-living young man. But it was the stress and pressures of his career and the Hollywood culture that guided him towards using cocaine and heroin. According to the coroner’s report into his death, there was evidence of him taking morphine, cocaine, Valium, marijuana, and cold medication.
Eric Fleming drowned in a Peruvian river while still in production
In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Rawhide was one of the most beloved television series of its day. Eric Fleming was one of the most beloved stars of the show, as he played Gil Favor. The show also featured legendary Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood. Fleming looked to become an even bigger star on both the silver screen and the little screen, if his life and career weren’t cut short by a tragic accident. In September of 1966, Fleming was killed while filming a motion picture in Peru. He was swept away by a river while on a shoot and drowned in the water. His body was recovered three days later.
Rock Hudson was one of the first celebrities to die from AIDS
Rock Hudson was a bonafide Hollywood icon who starred in multiple major movies. Hudson was wealthy, well-liked and famous. But Hudson’s entire life can be looked at as a rather tragic affair. This is because he lived as a closeted gay man off screen while portraying straight men on film.
Hudson’s death was certainly tragic at the age of 59. He died due to complications of AIDS in 1985. This was at a time when the disease was highly misunderstood and simply labeled a gay plague. But with the news of Hudson, an international icon, having AIDS. Worldwide attention was brought upon the disease and this helped change public perceptions. Hudson passed away within a few months of revealing his condition. Most tragically, he never got the chance to live more than a short period as an openly gay man.
Heath Ledger had the performance of his career before he overdosed
Heath Ledger will always be known as the actor who died just as his career achieved its full potential. Ledger had achieved overwhelming critical acclaim for his role in Brokeback Mountain and before the release of The Dark Knight, everyone was hearing the rumours of his outstanding and career-defining performance as the Joker. The rumours weren’t inaccurate, and he earned an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his representation of the classic Batman villain. But it was sadly a posthumous honor.
Despite Ledger’s growing success, he was apparently living a life of private torment. In his last days he was apparently plagued by insomnia and in desperate need of sleep. Ledger was also suffering emotional turmoil after his breakup with Michelle Williams, with whom he had a young daughter. In an apparent attempt to escape his troubles, Ledger had taken a cocktail of drugs in the hours before his death. His autopsy found that he died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.
Fast and Furious star, Paul Walker died in a car crash
The tragic loss of Paul Walker sent shockwaves through Hollywood and his fans around the world. On screen, Walker played Brian O’Conner in the Fast and the Furious saga. With the movies being centered on fast cars and daring stunts, being killed in a car accident was an eerie way for the star to lose his life at 40 years of age.
On the night of the accident, Walker is thought to have been driving somewhere between 80 and 93 miles per hour when he lost control of his heavily modified Porsche Carrera GT. He collided into a lamppost and a number of trees. Walker, along with his passenger, friend, Roger Rodas, is thought to have died almost instantly after the crash.
Which tragic story of these movie stars who died did you find most shocking? Are there any that we missed?
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