The most tragic celebrity deaths of the past decade

If you're reading this, you've survived yet another decade on planet Earth. Sadly, the same can't be said about some of your favorite entertainers. As you may have noticed, the 2010s have been particularly rough for celebrities, and chances are at least one of your morning internet browsing sessions has delivered the terrible news that a famous face you used to look up to has suffered an untimely, tragic fate. 

It's virtually impossible for one article to pay homage to every single celebrity who has succumbed to the inevitability of mortality over the last 10 years. Thus, we omit with heavy hearts the famous figures who died peacefully after long and eventful lives (sorry, Sir Christopher Lee). Instead, we'll focus on the true gut punches — the famous deaths that came out of the blue, or were otherwise devastating enough to drop the world (or at least social media) to its knees. Let's take a look at the most tragic celebrity deaths of the past decade.

Gary Coleman wanted no fake friends at his funeral

Gary Coleman was one of the far too many former child stars who met tragic fates. According to the BBC, the Diff'rent Strokes star struggled with health issues throughout his life, and after his hit show ended in 1985, personal and professional troubles joined the fray. Coleman's diminutive 4'8" height, which was caused by a condition called nephritis, drew constant ridicule from the media, and he was involved in a number of legal troubles that ranged from suing his parents over mismanagement to being charged with disorderly conduct and reckless driving.  

In 2010, Coleman unexpectedly perished at just 42-years-old, having suffered a brain hemorrhage in his Utah home. The BBC tells us that the actor's will reflected the difficulties he suffered in his personal life: It specifically forbade a funeral service, and his wake was only for people who had zero financial ties to him and who could "look each other in the eyes and say they really cared personally for Gary Coleman." The actor may have had a point — after all, his estate soon became a subject of dispute between his ex-girlfriend and his ex-wife, both of whom claimed to be the "legal administrator."

Amy Winehouse's voice was silenced too soon

In 2011, singer Amy Winehouse joined the long list of stars who strangely died at age 27. The Grammy-winning singer was, as the Guardian attests, a known addict who regularly used drugs and indulged in periodical binge drinking. Winehouse was aware that she had problems, but according to the Independent she had been struggling with her host of addictions and bulimia largely by herself, as she was "genuinely unwilling" to take any advice from doctors. She even refused psychiatric help for fear that it would influence her creativity. 

Unfortunately, Winehouse ultimately proved unable to tackle her demons, and she was found lying dead in her London home on July 23, 2011. An inquest eventually ruled her death a "misadventure" in the form of alcohol poisoning. Winehouse had downed enough booze that her blood alcohol content was "more than five times the legal drink-drive limit," a statement backed by the two empty vodka bottles lying beside her bed. Still, tragic and self-inflicted as the singer's fate may have been, we can be quite certain that her death was not a voluntary one. In fact, before she perished, she had specifically told her doctor that she didn't want to die.

Michael Clarke Duncan was larger than life

Whether he was wowing audiences as the gentle John Coffey in The Green Mile or smacking Ben Affleck around in Daredevil, Michael Clarke Duncan was an entertaining, talented actor who seemed destined for the kind of greatness that would match his hulking physical stature. Unfortunately, this wasn't meant to be. As the Independent and USA Today reported, Duncan's booming voice and kindly smile stopped bringing joy to everyone in 2012. He suffered a heart attack in July of that year, and his health never bounced back. In September, he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was on life support. He was only 54.

Unfortunately, for a man who projected such a warm and positive image in life, Duncan's death was marred by estate-related unpleasantness. According to the Daily Beast, several of the late actor's friends and family members claimed that his fiancée, Omarosa Manigault of The Apprentice fame, and later Donald Trump's political aide, had "manipulated" the weakened Duncan to make her the main beneficiary in his will. Duncan's family and Omarosa have had bitter arguments about the latter's role in the late actor's life, and the various ways she allegedly exploited him for personal and professional gain. While Omarosa has vehemently denied all accusations, members of the family said in 2018 that they were still quite distraught about her role in the ordeal. 

Whitney Houston's life was no fairy tale

On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston died. According to Biography, the 48-year-old music legend was found lifeless in a L.A. hotel bathtub, and while the coroner's report described her death as an accidental drowning, it also revealed she had been suffering from "effects of heart disease" and had cocaine in her system. The legendary diva's death uncovered a whole host of less than flattering aspects of her life, as ABC News reports the contents of Houston's hotel room included drug paraphernalia, alcohol, cigarettes, and a "plethora of prescription medication bottles." The singer's struggle with addiction was well-known, so these revelations were perhaps less intimate than the things the coroner's report revealed about the diva herself: Apart from the fact Houston had breast implants, the report also recorded that by that point in life, the singer wore a wig and dentures. 

Although Houston's death has been deemed accidental, the case still has its mysteries. Houston's driver's license was mysteriously missing from her wallet, and the coroner noted many of her pill bottles had been removed from their bag and placed on a table. At least one forensic pathologist has also challenged the official report, pointing out the water in the tub had been far too hot for Houston to comfortably bathe in it. As a morbid addition to these "we may never know" aspects of the tragedy, Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina died an eerily similar bathtub death almost exactly three years later. 

Paul Walker's death was painfully ironic

With the exception of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Paul Walker starred in every single Fast and the Furious movie until his untimely demise, which came in a manner that eerily reflected his career. As the Guardian tells us, the 40-year-old actor died in a car crash on November 30, 2013, although he wasn't driving the vehicle himself. He was a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT driven by his friend, Roger Rodas, who lost control of the car, which spun and crashed at over 100 mph, bursting into flames and nearly splitting in half. According to the Los Angeles Times, Walker and Rodas were attending a car-themed charity event and decided to take the Porsche out for a spin, only for the horrified people at the event to hear a loud bang and see the smoke from the accident rise in the distance. 

Walker's cause of death was "combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries," and as Business Insider tells us, the incident sent massive shockwaves through Hollywood, and especially among the famously close-knit Fast and the Furious cast. News 24 writes that Walker's most notable co-star, Vin Diesel, was particularly distraught about his friend's passing. Diesel has admitted that he struggled with Walker's death for years, and that making Fast 8 – the first movie in the franchise that was shot entirely after Walker's demise — was "a very dark place" for him. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a once-in-a-generation talent

A look at Philip Seymour Hoffman's IMDb page reveals an actor who was equally at home starring in huge blockbusters as he was carrying small art-house films and critically acclaimed biopics. Few others could deliver an Academy Award-winning performance as the titular character of Capote, then go on to fight Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III. Hoffman's willingness to embrace all sorts of roles and his invariably nuanced performances constantly grew his reputation, and there's no telling what he could have achieved in the field of cinema. 

Unfortunately, the reason there's no telling it is that he is no longer with us. As CNN reports, Hoffman's lifeless body was found in his New York home on February 2, 2014. He had a syringe in his arm, and the police found almost 50 envelopes full of suspected drugs in the apartment. Hoffman's cause of death was "acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine." He was 46-years-old. 

NME reports that in 2017, Hoffman's partner Mimi O'Donnell elaborated on the actor's longtime struggle with addiction, and revealed that Hoffman had first been in rehab in his early 20s. After a long period of sobriety, he relapsed, and despite their efforts to get him clean he kept falling back in the habit ... until it killed him.

Robin Williams was a national treasure

On August 11, 2014, the unimaginable happened: As the Hollywood Reporter reports, Robin Williams died by his own hand. The 63-year-old actor and entertainer hanged himself in an empty bedroom of his house, and a toxicology report revealed "antidepressants, caffeine, and Parkinson's drugs" in his system. As E! Online reports, Williams' death was a huge blow for his loved ones but also for ... well, everyone. In public, Williams projected a cheerful image, and despite his declining career remained an entertainment legend with more classic roles under his belt than almost anyone. 

However, things were different behind closed doors. Williams suffered from severe depression, and had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a deteriorating condition similar to Parkinson's. To put his predicament in perspective, his wife, Susan Schneider, later said that Williams' depression was "one of let's call it 50 symptoms, and it was a small one." Another one was quite possibly the dreadful realization that his condition would slowly destroy the most valuable tools of his trade: His voice, his movements, his sharp mind. One of Williams' doctors summed up the awful situation: "Robin was very aware that he was losing his mind and there was nothing he could do about it." What an incredibly sad fate for a man who spent his life bringing joy and happiness in the world. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

David Bowie sang himself off this stage

It's not unheard of that a rock star shuffles off this mortal coil near the end of his seventh decade. As Rolling Stone notes, Motörhead's legendary frontman Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister died in 2015, just a few days after making it past the 70-year line. What makes David Bowie different, though, is how unexpected his passing was. While Lemmy had been growing visibly weaker and frailer for years, the Thin White Duke maintained an elegant silence, unleashed one last album upon us, and died before the world could even sing its praises for him.

As the Guardian reports, Bowie succumbed to cancer on January 10, 2016, mere days after releasing the sublime Blackstar and turning 69. Since he was at the beginning of an album cycle and had chosen to keep his condition secret, this came as a complete surprise to almost everyone. Blackstar is a powerful album and the music video of its lead single "Lazarus" features a tortured-looking Bowie on a hospital bed delivering lyrics like "Look up here, I'm in heaven," so many people naturally assumed the Starman knew he was crafting his swan song and deliberately waved us goodbye from the stars. However, it appears this may have been a case of life imitating art, not the other way around. The director of the "Lazarus" video has revealed Bowie found out his cancer was terminal just months before his death, and the song and the video concept both existed by then.

Alan Rickman was a good guy

As you might remember, the year 2016 claimed a truly astounding number of beloved famous folks, and its opening salvo came from both barrels: On January 14, just four days after the world lost David Bowie, it was Alan Rickman's time to go. As the Guardian tells us, the 69-year-old actor wasn't exactly young when 2016 took him away from us via pancreatic cancer. However, Rickman's place on this list is well-deserved, both because he was a relative late bloomer — his breakout role was Hans Gruber in Die Hard, when he was already 41 — and because he left us at the absolute top of his game and fame, thanks to his prominent role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Also, because he decided not to disclose his condition publicly, so, as with David Bowie, the news came completely out of the blue. 

As a collection of coworker and celebrity comments by the Telegraph attests, the real Rickman was a far cry from the smug, grouchy characters he so deftly portrayed. Colleagues like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Thompson, and Sir Ian McKellen showered him with praise, and people close to him revealed that the actor's unexpected passing was surprisingly sudden for himself, as well. Though Rickman got a peaceful sendoff surrounded by friends and loved ones, just weeks earlier he had been completely unaware that his health situation was so severe.  

Prince is what it sounds like when doves cry

On April 21, 2016, Prince Rogers Nelson became the latest victim of the year 2016's mission to destroy all that was good in the world. According to History, the seven-time Grammy winner died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl in his Paisley Park home. The word on the street was the 57-year-old suffered from chronic hip pain for years, and developed a nasty opioid addiction from the medication he took to deal with the situation. 

Of course, as with everything Prince, the story has more layers, and not all of them are frills and purple velvet. The Guardian writes Prince's hip pains may have been a result of his acrobatic, high-heeled stage routines. His religious nature also meant he was "remarkably clean-living," so the whole prescription pill addiction thing was quite possibly an aberration rather than the norm for him. 

Despite all the Prince-worthy strangeness surrounding the artist's demise, few can dispute his legacy. His death brought an outpouring of love and sorrow, and even President Barack Obama released a statement honoring Prince's life and work. However, he died without a will, which left his estate in a state of confusion and turmoil. Though some of the problems have been resolved, Variety notes his six sibling-heirs remain "at odds with each other" even in 2019.

Anton Yelchin joined the 27 Club

Out of all the sad fates in this article, Anton Yelchin's is among the saddest, despite a complete lack of long-suffered personal tragedies, drug mishaps, or deadly diseases. The Star Trek and Green Room actor was only 27 when he died, and his death wasn't a typical "27 Club" one, either: As LA Times and Film Industry Network tell us, all it took was a badly designed Jeep Grand Cherokee 2015 and a brick mailbox. On June 19, 2016, Yelchin got out of the car and went to the mailbox when the Jeep unexpectedly rolled down the driveway in reverse and fatally pinned him against the brick mailbox pillar. According to CBC News, that's where he remained until hours later, when his friends became worried when he didn't show up at a rehearsal and came looking for him. Reportedly, the engine was still running.

Of course, this was not a case where a bloodthirsty ghost car finally got the better of the actor. Rather, the reason behind the tragic accident seems to be bad engineering: The gear shifting of this particular Grand Cherokee model was designed in a counter-intuitive way that might cause it to roll away despite supposedly being placed in park. The issue allegedly caused over 40 injuries, and just months before Yelchin's tragic demise, the company had voluntarily recalled 1.1 million vehicles due to this exact problem. 

George Michael was so much more than the embarrassing headlines

What does a year as bent on killing celebrities as 2016 get you for Christmas? That's right, another dead celebrity. On December 25, 2016, it was George Michael who stepped into the great beyond while everyone with a shred of decency tried to avoid any "Last Christmas" jokes. According to Biography, the 53-year-old musician was in a fairly good place both personally and career-wise when he died in his sleep of heart and liver disease, but he had seen his share of scandals: In 1998, a "lewd conduct" arrest at a public men's toilet made headlines, and he subsequently came out as gay. Later in his career, he landed in hot water with the law for illegal drugs. 

It was not until after his death that another side of the man born as Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou started revealing itself to the public. After Michael's death, numerous people and charities came forward, telling stories about the countless anonymous acts of goodwill that the artist had performed over the years. Too late, the world discovered that all these years, Michael had given away much of his time and possessions to help those in need, giving waitresses massive tips so they can pay off their nursing school debt, volunteering at homeless shelters, and donating literal millions to various charities. As the founder of the Childline organization put it: "No one outside the charity knew how much he gave to the nation's most vulnerable children."

Carrie Fisher was more than her most famous role

Oh no, not Princess Leia! Alas, the year 2016 saw Carrie Fisher depart our plane of existence at 60 years of age. According to the Guardian, on December 23 the actress started feeling "unwell" in a plane, the cause of which Biography tells us was a "massive" heart attack. The Guardian reports she died in the hospital on December 27 from sleep apnea (a condition where the air doesn't properly reach your lungs when you're unconscious or asleep) and "a combination of other factors." 

Fisher also had cocaine and trace amounts of other drugs in her system, though it's not clear whether this contributed to her death. Besides, her family pointed out this wasn't news — Fisher was quite open about the fact she had struggled with mental illness and addiction from a young age. She started smoking marijuana at 13, and her cocaine use extended way back to the days of shooting The Empire Strikes Back. At 24, she received a bipolar disorder diagnosis, and was treated with "electroshock therapy and medication."

So, yeah, not an easy life. Yet, Fisher persevered and flourished, and she was far more than "just" a space princess. Apart from her acting career, Fisher was a prolific author and a screenwriter who specialized in "script doctoring," and had a hand revising major movie scripts from Outbreak to Sister Act. Oh, and she was also a bona fide icon and a hero to millions. She will be missed.

Avicii found no happiness in fame

On April 20, 2018, Avicii was no more. As Forbes notes, depending on your age that means either nothing or absolutely everything to you, but rest assured Avicii (real name Tim Bergling) was as big a name as many others on this list. In just a few years, the Swedish superstar DJ and producer became one of the most famous people in the music scene, and amassed a fortune of an estimated $50 million. However, the riches and adoration of the masses did little to make the artist happy, especially as he said that he was never really motivated by financial gain. 

Eventually, Avicii's fame sent him in a downward spiral of depression and anxiety, and he descended into alcoholism. As Consequence of Sound tells us, this brought its own set of troubles: His heavy drinking contributed to an acute pancreatitis, and he had to undergo surgery where his appendix and gallbladder were removed. By 2016, his assorted issues caused him to quit touring, and his family says he subsequently found it hard to find a "balance in life." Tragically, he ultimately decided to end his own life during a vacation to Oman. He was only 28-years-old.   

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Dolores O'Riordan had everything to live for

It's likely that Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of Cranberries (them of "Zombie" fame), didn't intend to die. As Rolling Stone tells us, her band was just planning to release the 25th anniversary version of their first album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? As the BBC reports, she was staying at London's Park Lane Hilton hotel to record some stuff before a tour. It would be unfair to speculate on which of these happy events (or perhaps some other, less happy one) prompted her to have a nice bath and a drink. 

Regardless of the reason, the aftermath was a tragedy: On January 15, 2018, the 46-year-old O'Riordan was found drowned in the hotel bathtub, with an empty bottle of champagne and several mini-bottles scattered about. An inquest also discovered prescription medicine, but she only had "therapeutic" amounts of those in her blood. Her blood alcohol levels, on the other hand, were "more than four times over the legal driving limit."

It later transpired that O'Riordan was bipolar and prone to occasional bouts of binge-drinking. However, she had recently spoken to a psychiatrist, who found her "in high spirits," and there was no evidence of self-harm. As such, her death was ruled a "tragic accident."

Anthony Bourdain was the face of food

In Anthony Bourdain's many, many TV shows, the author/TV personality/celebrity chef came across as a man who loves life. Snarky and curmudgeonly though he might be, he always had a word of comfort to share and a bottomless curiosity for whatever culture (and its cuisine) his travels took him to. As Kevin Daum of Inc. informs us, the man was full of amazingly quotable, well, quotes that made him seem like a well of wisdom. And yet. As Biography tells us, on June 8, 2018, the 61-year-old Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in Kaysersberg, France, in the middle of shooting the latest series of his Parts Unknown TV show. He had committed suicide. 

There are many false facts about Anthony Bourdain's death everyone thinks are true, and while it's become clear the man was far from a happy-go-lucky traveler without a worry in the world, it's possible we'll never find out for certain precisely why he chose to take his own life. So why not focus on the many, many positive things the man taught us during his years in the limelight? As CNN tells us, some kitchen professionals have started doing precisely that by making suicide prevention part of Bourdain's considerable legacy, and several organizations have started initiatives to help service workers in his honor. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Luke Perry was still a heartthrob

For Generation X, Luke Perry was the epitome of youth and vigor. The breakout star of Beverly Hills, 90210 (the 1990s original, not the Beverly Hills, 90210 revival that got canceled), he played teen heartthrob Dylan McKay for much of an entire generation's formative years. On March 4, 2019, Today tells us he returned to teach us a new, much sadder lesson ... by having a fatal stroke at 52 years of age. Gen X isn't young anymore. This kind of thing happens to them now. 

Of course, that's a slightly unfair, Generation X-centric angle on a tragedy that took away a popular actor in his prime. As a peek at his IMDb page proves, Perry has been working steadily ever since 90210 ended (for a handy way to replace his teen idol vibe with never-ending nightmares, check out his turn as Reverend Cloutier in Oz), and was on track to end the decade in a spectacular fashion, with significant roles in both Riverdale and Quentin Tarantino's Once upon a Time ... in Hollywood. There's also the fact that, as Today reports, numerous people remember him as an amazing, kind and humble dude. Colin Hanks, for instance, has shared a story about how Perry used to travel with a couple of balloons in his pockets — just so he could give them to restless kids in planes to help them calm down. So, yeah. 52 was way too young for him to go.