30 Photos Of Famous People Taken Just Before Their Deaths
Everyone can name a celebrity whose death has affected them. From Whitney Houston to Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, and Amy Winehouse, we as a society have always gathered around the passing of famous people who contributed to our cultures and world. What is it, though, that causes us to feel so deeply when people whom we’ve never met pass away?
According to psychologists, it all comes down to the person’s presence in our lives. When we consume a person’s work, be it entertainment, education, or otherwise, it’s easy to feel like we do know them and share a connection. This was first identified in the 1950s when psychologists paid attention to newly emerging trends in television. They called this particular type of one-sided relationship parasocial interaction.
“We also grieve more today over the death of a celebrity because of the narrative,” Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert told SELF magazine. “The constant bombardment of every occurrence and every detail of the life of a celebrity leads us to believe that we have an intimate connection with them.”
This should come as no surprise, really. We all know and live in the media culture of the 2010s. Smartphones and social media help news spread worldwide in the blink of an eye. And it’s important to note that, at the end of the day, celebrities really are like the rest of us in their mortality. While some in the public eye die peacefully after long, happy lives, others deal with demons and addiction while the paparazzi and media document all of their struggles. They aren’t alone. Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose at 46 years old in 2014, and he was among over 8,000 people who met the same fate. When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2015, an estimated 40 million Americans shared his struggle with depression.
Read on for reflections on these celebrities’ lives, accomplishments, and more.
30. Steve Jobs
This is one of the last photos of Apple founder Steve Jobs. He died after a pancreatic tumor spread elsewhere, and he had delayed operations and chemotherapy for nine months after his disease was discovered in 2003. While family and friends plead for him to seek standard cancer treatments, he instead tried to cure himself through alternative medicine.
29. Paul Walker
This is the last known photo of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker. He is pictured here in a Porsche Carrera GT leaving a 2013 charity event. The driver was Walker’s friend, Roger Rodas; the car crashed soon after, killing both men. The vehicle was traveling between 80 and 93 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone.
28. Amy Winehouse
Paparazzi photographers shot this photo of Amy Winehouse in July 2011. The musician is seen here walking outside her London home just about a week before she was found dead by police. She was 27 years old and had been dealing with drug and alcohol addiction for some time at this point.
27. Robin Williams
This is one of the last photos of comedian and actor Robin Williams. He’s pictured here with a fan at a Dairy Queen in Minnesota, in the midst of his rehab stay at an addiction treatment center. Williams, who had struggled with depression and anxiety for his whole life, committed suicide just days after this photo.
26. James Dean
Hollywood icon James Dean is pictured here in September 1955. He’s in the driver’s seat of his Porsche 550 Spyder. The photo was taken shortly before Dean and a friend departed from Los Angeles. The 24-year-old crashed his car on Route 466 later in the day.
25. Aaliyah Haughton
24. Philip Seymour Hoffman
This tintype photograph, taken at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, is one of the last known public appearances of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The actor, who had been struggling with addiction for 23 years, was found dead in his apartment after a heroin overdose two weeks later.
23. Bob Marley
Reggae icon Bob Marley is seen here at 36 years old, weighing only 77 pounds after battling a rare form of skin cancer for four years. He’s pictured on his way to Jamaica after eight months of unsuccessful treatment in Pennsylvania, though he never made it home. His last words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life.”
22. The Challenger Crew
21. James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini, who starred in The Sopranos for nine years, died in Italy in 2013. He was on a vacation with his family at the time and suffered a heart attack at age 51.
“He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth, and his humility,” said a spokesperson with HBO.
20. Marilyn Monroe
This photo shows Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in Nevada with musician Buddy Greco, just days before she was found dead in her home after an overdose of prescription barbiturates. She was only 36 years old in August 1962, and her untimely death is still surrounded by conspiracy theories to this day.
19. Patrick Swayze
This photo shows Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze in his last known public appearance before he died from pancreatic cancer at 57 years old. He had left the hospital voluntarily three weeks before his death to be at home and took this walk to the store just a week later.
18. Freddie Mercury
This photo, taken in the spring of 1991, shows Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the yard of his home in Kensington, London. He died in November 1991 from bronchial pneumonia due to AIDS.
“I felt it correct to keep this information private to date in order to protect the privacy of those around me,” he said in the statement he released just a day before his death.
17. Amelia Earheart
16. Elvis Presley
This is the last known photo of rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley as he returned from an evening out in Memphis in August 1977. He died in his Tennessee home later that night as a result of a heart attack brought on by a combination of 14 prescription drugs.
15. Ryan Dunn
This photo shows 34-year-old Jackass star Ryan Dunn partying in a bar just hours before he crashed his Porsche 911 while driving drunk. The accident set the car on fire and it wasn’t possible to determine in the autopsy whether the crash or the flames caused his death.
14. Jimi Hendrix
This photo is among the last taken of Jimi Hendrix, who died on September 17, 1970. He’s pictured here during his stay at a hotel, where he was enjoying a trip with his girlfriend Monika Danneman. He was 27 years old when he died from an overdose of prescription barbiturates.
13. Cory Monteith
The silhouette of Glee star Cory Monteith is seen here in a final photo of the actor during dinner with his manager and a casting director in Vancouver. His manager posted the photo to Twitter. He was found dead in his hotel room just two days later after a heroin overdose.
12. Richard Pryor
Legendary comedian Richard Pryor, pictured here with Eddie Griffin, died in Los Angeles at 65 years old in 2005. Pryor suffered a heart attack and had battled both multiple sclerosis and heart disease since the 1980s.
“At the end, there was a smile on his face,” said his wife, Jennifer.
11. Tupac Shakur
This photo of Tupac Shakur was taken by UCLA film school student Leonard Jefferson, who saw the iconic musician cruising down the Vegas strip with Suge Knight in the Death Row Records CEO’s black BMW. Shortly after this photo was taken, the rapper was gunned down by unknown assailants.
10. Robert F. Kennedy
Senator Robert F. Kennedy was celebrating victories in the 1968 presidential primaries at a hotel with his family on his last night. He was assassinated by Sirhan B. Sirhan, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian Christan who targeted Kennedy because of his strong support for Israel. Kennedy, who was only 42 years old, died nearly 26 hours after the shooting.
9. John Lennon
8. Steve Irwin
7. River Phoenix
This is the last known photo of actor River Phoenix. He died at 23 years old after overdosing on cocaine and heroin in a Los Angeles nightclub on Halloween in 1993. Phoenix was watching Johnny Depp perform with his band and had been using a range of drugs for some time before the fateful night.
6. Anne Frank
This final photo of Anne Frank was taken in 1942 while she was living with her family in hiding from the Nazis. The family was captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only several weeks before it was liberated by the British.
5. Heath Ledger
This photo of actor Heath Ledger was taken in London while the star was on the set of his latest movie, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ledger was found dead in an apartment in New York City later this day. He had been suffering from a chest infection at the time and accidentally overdosed on prescription medication. He was 28 years old.
4. Chris Farley
Saturday Night Live comedian Chris Farley is seen in this final photo taken in 1997 while the actor was presumably asleep. It wasn’t until later in the evening that the actor overdosed on heroin in his Chicago apartment and died at the age of 33 after four days of bingeing on drugs and alcohol.
3. Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, is seen here being wheeled into a hospital, suffering from severe chest pains. Just a week later, he died at his home after complications from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. Though he had quit smoking 30 years earlier, he cited it as the source of the condition.
2. Whitney Houston
This photo was taken during one of Whitney Houston’s final public appearances, two days before she was found dead in a hotel bathtub after drinking and taking cocaine. Houston reportedly had a premonition in the days before her death; reports claim that she quoted the Bible and spoke of wanting to meet Jesus.
1. Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson are seen here in June 1971 during a vacation in France. The photo was taken by a friend in the small village in which they were staying. Four days later, Morrison was found dead in his Paris hotel room after overdosing on heroin and alcohol.