Stars Who Tragically Died Before 30

Any death is tragic and heartbreaking to a person's family and friends; however, when a star dies before the tender age of 30, it hits harder than most. For many of them, they seemingly had a long road of success still ahead of them — but fate stepped in and changed the course of their route. There's already a long list of stars who died at age 27 — an infamous club for all the wrong reasons — but there's also a number of people who didn't reach that milestone or passed just afterward.

For someone like Brandon Lee, the circumstances of his death became tied to the legacy of the film he was working on at the time. There's an argument to be made that it popularized Alex Proyas' "The Crow" even more due to the sad theme of the film, while serving as a final tribute to not only the character Eric Draven but also Lee himself. Similarly, musicians such as Randy Rhoads and Cliff Burton died at an extremely young age, but their contributions to their respective bands have become the stuff of legend in the heavy metal genre.

It's never easy to look back on death, especially when it involves people who departed way too soon. Nonetheless, see this as a reminder that time is promised to no one and life has an unexpected expiry date, so cherish every single second.

Heath Ledger

Australian actor Heath Ledger rose through the Hollywood ranks after a star-making performance in 1999's "10 Things I Hate About You." He ascended to the next level after his Oscar-nominated role in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," where he and Jake Gyllenhaal play two cowboys grappling with their true feelings for each other. However, it was his part as the maniacal Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" that cemented his legacy in showbiz. Despite the uproar at his initial casting, he put a smile on everyone's face and earned himself an Academy Award for his stellar performance. The Oscar was awarded posthumously, though, since Ledger died several months before "The Dark Knight" was released.

Masseuse Diana Wolozin arrived at the Lower Manhattan apartment that Ledger was staying at on January 22, 2008. After waiting a while for him to respond, Wolozin went into his room, seeing him lying on his bed (presumably asleep), and set up the massage table. Wolozin tried to wake him, but Ledger was unresponsive. The masseuse proceeded to call Ledger's friend Mary-Kate Olsen and 9-1-1. Both Wolozin and medical personnel tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead. According to the New York City medical examiner's office's statement (via CNN): "Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine." He was 28 years old.


Swedish electronic musician Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, established himself as one of the hottest DJs in EDM in the 2010s. From touring the major cities to even collaborating on the official song for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Avicii didn't only light up the dance floors but also delighted an audience around the globe. In 2016, he surprisingly announced his retirement from touring. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he elaborated on his reasons for doing so, saying that he did it for his own health. "The scene was not for me," he added. "It was not the shows and not the music. It was always the other stuff surrounding it that never came naturally to me."

On April 20, 2018, Avicii died. No tragic details about Avicii's death were immediately provided, except that he was in Oman when it happened. His family issued a statement (via Billboard) a few days later, celebrating his life and achievements but also discussing the person behind the music. Part of the letter read: "He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace. Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight." Avicii was 28.

Brad Renfro

As a child actor, Brad Renfro quickly announced himself on the scene in Joel Schumacher's "The Client." For the role of Mark Sway, the filmmakers wanted a young star who could embody the tougher aspects of the troubled character and found it in the then-untrained actor, who dazzled everyone from audition to final cut. Renfro's outstanding performance in the 1994 thriller kickstarted his journey in Hollywood, leading to him appearing in notable films such as "Sleepers" and "Apt Pupil."

His career stuttered as he became a teenager, finding himself on the wrong end of the law for several arrests and high-profile drug-related issues. Then, on the morning of January 15, 2008, at Renfro's Los Angeles apartment, his friends found him not breathing and called for medical assistance. Renfro was pronounced dead a short while later; he was just 25. According to Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey (via the Los Angeles Times), Renfro died from "acute heroin/morphine intoxication"; however, it was ruled an accidental death.

Brandon Lee

The son of martial arts and acting legend Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee followed in his famous father's footsteps by going into film. Lee made a name for himself in action films like 1991's "Showdown in Little Tokyo" and 1992's "Rapid Fire." The role of Eric Draven in 1994's "The Crow" offered him something different — the opportunity to flex his acting muscles as a comic book character in a tragic tale about death, vengeance, and rebirth. However, an on-set accident ended up costing him his life at the age of 28 on March 31, 1993.

The stunt was nothing out of the ordinary in an action scene. Lee' walked into a room with a grocery bag and co-star Michael Massee, who plays Funboy in the movie, fired blanks from a distance at Lee with his .44-caliber gun. In the grocery bag, Lee carried a special effects device that he would detonate for added effect. Lee also dropped to the floor, as called for in the scene, but he didn't get up. The crew members rushed over to check on Lee and noticed he was bleeding, so they called for an ambulance immediately. However, Lee died in hospital later.

The truth about Brandon Lee's death was that the prop gun had been improperly loaded, which the police attributed to negligence. A broken metal tip from a dummy bullet had remained in the chamber, so when Massee fired the gun at Lee, it ended up piercing the actor's body.

Randy Rhoads

After being ejected from Black Sabbath in 1979, Ozzy Osbourne bounced back in dramatic fashion with his own solo band. His albums "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madmen" became must-listen records for any heavy metal fan, largely thanks to legendary tracks such as "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley." A major reason for this successful era can be attributed to guitarist Randy Rhoads' genius riffs and shredding solos. The former Quiet Riot co-founder brought an edge to Osbourne's music and the pair appeared to be destined for even more greatness down the line.

However, Rhoads' burgeoning career ended on March 19, 1982, after he died in a plane crash at the age of 25. Rhoads, Rachel Youngblood, and Andrew Aycock took a plane from a nearby hangar on a joy ride. Aycock, who was a bus driver for the band and had an expired pilot license, flew the plane, but he ended up hitting the tour bus and losing control of the aircraft. Subsequently, the plane hit a tree then crashed into a house, killing Rhoads, Youngblood, and Aycock. To read more about the incident, check out the tragic story of Randy Rhoads' death.

Ian Curtis

Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" remains the English band's biggest song; however, it's also a tough listen for anyone associated with the group. Especially since it was released only a month after vocalist Ian Curtis died by suicide on May 18, 1980.

In 2011, Joy Division bassist Peter Hook opened up about the tumultuous period to The Guardian. Hook explained how his former bandmate attempted suicide on two prior occasions, while adding "Ian was very ill with epilepsy" and experienced several blackouts during their sessions for the album "Closer." The bassist discussed how Curtis chose to remain reserved around his bandmates about what he was going through and pretended like everything was fine. At the same time, Hook criticized their manager and record label for pushing Curtis to perform and record even when he was clearly unable to.

Revisiting the fateful day in which Curtis died, Hook wrote: "I heard what happened when I got a call from a policeman. It was horrible. Mind-numbing shock, and it's very difficult to live with as a memory. I can remember it like it was yesterday." Curtis was 23 years old.

Hana Kimura

A second-generation joshi professional wrestler, Hana Kimura wrestled for a number of promotions, most notably World Wonder Ring Stardom. In 2019, Kimura joined the reality show "Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020"; however, an on-air incident with a male cast member resulted in her being cyberbullied by viewers of the show.

In May 2020, Kimura took to social media to post about the level of vitriol she received and how it was affecting her. In a now-deleted post (via BBC), she wrote: "I don't want to be a human anymore. It was a life I wanted to be loved." On May 23, 2020, Kimura died by suicide at the age of 22. Her death sent shockwaves through the wrestling world and renowned superstars such as Charlotte Flair, Jamie Hayter, and Natalya Neidhart all sent out heartful messages about Kimura.

After Kimura's death, her mother, Kyoko, embarked on efforts to bring those who sent abuse to her daughter to justice. Subsequently, several individuals have been identified and fined for their social media posts.

The Notorious B.I.G.

Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G., ascended to the top of the rap game in no time whatsoever. As one of the central figures of the East Coast hip-hop scene, he made a name for himself through his infectious and unforgettable tunes, such as "Juicy" and "Mo Money Mo Problems." However, at the age of 24, Wallace was killed in a drive-by shooting.

On March 9, 1997, Wallace and his entourage were stopped at a right light when another vehicle approached. The driver of the other vehicle pulled a gun and shot Wallace four times. Wallace's friends rushed him to hospital where he went into surgery, but he was pronounced dead not too long afterward. According to the autopsy report, three of the four shots fired weren't deemed fatal; however, one bullet did significant damage.

Despite the eyewitnesses and the overwhelming evidence gathered throughout the years, the case of Wallace's murder remains unsolved. However, there are various allegations about who did it and who may have been involved.

Jimmy Sullivan

Infusing the sounds of the past with the present, Avenged Sevenfold created a style of hard-hitting music that catapulted them to the forefront of the rock and metal scene. Undoubtedly, one of the core reasons for the Californian band's success was Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan. More than just a drummer who kept everyone in time, Sullivan contributed to the group's creative process — often being considered by his own bandmates as the most talented among them.

By 2009, hot off the success of their 2007 self-titled album that debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, Avenged Sevenfold galloped onward and upward to new frontiers on the global music stage. Tragedy befell them on December 28, 2009, when news broke that Sullivan had died at the age of 28. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Orange County deputy coroner Mitchell Sigal explained the details found in Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan's autopsy report. Sigal said that Sullivan's death was accidental and due to "acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol."

Avenged Sevenfold honored their late drummer by dedicating the 2010 album, "Nightmare," specifically the single "So Far Away," to him.

Cliff Burton

Bassist Cliff Burton was a part of Metallica in the heavy metal band's most crucial era as the group released three thrashing albums — "Kill 'Em All," "Ride the Lightning," and "Master of Puppets" — that set them on the wild path to superstardom. On a European tour to promote the highly acclaimed "Master of Puppets," tragedy struck as Burton died at the age of 24.

On September 27, 1986, the band drove through Sweden on the way to the next stop on their tour; however, their driver lost control of the bus as it slipped off the road and rolled. Burton was flung out of the window as the bus toppled onto him, killing him instantly. Speaking about the ordeal on VH1's "Behind the Music" (via Classic Rock), Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett discussed the harrowing moment when he knew Burton was gone. "I heard everyone screaming except for Cliff, and I thought: 'Oh my God, something's wrong,'" Hammett said. "I turned around and saw Cliff's legs sticking out from underneath the bus."

Sharon Tate

Arguably, Sharon Tate's murder remains one of the most high-profile killings that shocked Hollywood to the core. Tate and four other individuals were murdered in her Los Angeles home on August 9, 1969, by members of the infamous Manson Family. According to Los Angeles County coroner Dr. Thomas T. Noguchi (via The New York Times), the 26-year-old Tate was stabbed repeatedly, slashed, and hanged by the perpetrators. Dr. Noguchi added: "My opinion was — and my opinion is still the same — that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds front and back penetrating the heart and lungs and causing massive hemorrhaging."

Before her murder, Tate's star had started to burn brighter in Hollywood, thanks to performances in films such as "Valley of the Dolls" and "The Fearless Vampire Killers." The latter film was directed by Roman Polanski, who Tate married in 1968 and was pregnant with their child at the time of her murder. Despite her talent, she's often remembered more for the tragic events surrounding her death than her on-screen abilities.


In the entertainment industry, Aaliyah could be considered something of a double threat. Not only was she a talented singer boasting memorable singles such as "Try Again" and "More Than a Woman," but she was also a rising star in cinema. Action fans remember her for her appearance in the Jet Li-starring "Romeo Must Die," while horror aficionados recall her scintillating performance as the seductive vampire Akasha in "Queen of the Damned" (which also features one of the greatest nu metal-inspired soundtracks of all time).

What's remarkable is how she achieved all of this by the young age of 22. More eerily, it appears as if Aaliyah predicted her own death. On August 25, 2001, the entertainer and several others took a chartered plane from the Bahamas to Florida. However, the aircraft crashed and the passengers on board died — including Aaliyah. An investigation conducted after the crash found the plane to be 700 pounds over its regulation weight.

According to Dr. Giovander Raju (via Billboard), who conducted the autopsy on Aaliyah, the singer experienced burns and trauma to her head. "Aaliyah went into such a state of shock, even if she had survived the crash, recovery would have been near impossible," Dr. Raju added.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, or is struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: