VOICE OVER: Patrick Mealey
These celebrity deaths shocked the world. For this list, we'll be looking at celebrities whose passings were sudden and unexpected, generating a great deal of mourning as a result. Our countdown of shocking celebrity deaths includes Tupac Shakur, Anthony Bourdain, Chadwick Boseman, and more.
10 Shocking Celebrity Deaths
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re examining 10 Shocking Celebrity Deaths.
For this list, we’ll be looking at celebrities whose passings were sudden and unexpected, generating a great deal of mourning as a result.
Which of these deaths shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments below.
This Australian conservationist was an idol for millions, and despite working with some highly dangerous creatures, it seemed like he was invincible. Unfortunately, Steve Irwin was only human, and his work eventually caught up with him. In September of 2006, Irwin was filming “Ocean's Deadliest” in the Great Barrier Reef when he was fatally stung by a stingray. It was a shock not just because of Irwin’s studious safety measures, but because human deaths from stingrays are incredibly rare. Many people publicly mourned, including prominent celebrities and Australia’s then-Prime Minister John Howard, and his memorial service was viewed by approximately 300 million people.
Tupac is an icon of ‘90s culture, known for his social activism and for popularizing introspective lyrics in hip-hop. His death is also one of the most infamous in the entertainment industry. Tupac was attending a boxing match in Las Vegas on the night of September 7, 1996, and a celebrity attending a sporting event is certainly nothing new. However, the world was left in disbelief when Tupac was shot in a drive-by later that night. He was rushed to the hospital but died six days later. Making Tupac’s death even more unbelievable are the facts that he was only 25 years old and that his shooter has never been officially identified.
By their very nature, overdose deaths come as big surprises. And few ODs were as monumental as Michael Jackson’s. By 2009, Jackson was on the come-up. He was only 50 years old and was planning a comeback residency at London’s O2 Arena called “This Is It.” But on June 25, 2009, the world learned that Jackson had died from a fatal concoction of prescription drugs. His personal physician, a man named Conrad Murray, was found responsible for his death and served two years in prison. The reaction was immediate and immense. The internet itself essentially crashed, Jackson’s music saw an eightyfold increase in sales, and his memorial was viewed by 2.5 billion people.
You never know who is suffering, and that shows in the sudden passing of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. In June 2018, Bourdain was in France filming his travel show “Parts Unknown,” which had been airing for five years. He failed to show up for a scheduled breakfast, so his friend Éric Ripert went to check on him. He found Bourdain dead in his hotel room, having taken his own life. It came as a huge surprise to everyone, including Bourdain’s mother. Not only was he in the middle of filming his show, but there were few signs that Bourdain was struggling. Actress Rose McGowan penned a public letter addressing Bourdain’s death, calling him part of the “‘strong man doesn’t ask for help’ generation.”
Accidents are something that no one can ever predict. Kobe Bryant is one of the most popular basketball players of all time, having played twenty years with the Los Angeles Lakers and winning five championships. He retired in 2016 and later died in a horrific helicopter accident. On the morning of January 26, 2020, Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed when their helicopter slammed into a mountain outside Los Angeles. The outpouring of grief was immediate, with multiple celebrities paying tribute to Bryant at that night’s Grammy Awards. He was also honored at the Oscars, and the first Lakers game since his passing was the second most-watched basketball game ever aired on ESPN.
The death of Robin Williams has to be one of the biggest shockers of the entertainment world, for a variety of reasons. Williams took his own life in August 2014, which itself came as a major surprise. He was such a funny and charming man with seemingly boundless reserves of energy, so few could have predicted such a dreary demise. The reason for his fatal choice was also a huge bombshell. Williams had been suffering from diffuse Lewy body dementia and was experiencing a number of severe symptoms, including memory loss and delusions. He kept these symptoms hidden from the public, so no one had any idea that he was even sick.
Known as both The Tejano Madonna and The Queen of Tejano Music, Selena saw great success in the early 90s, winning Grammy awards and releasing the commercially successful album “Amor Prohibido.” Even though her career was just beginning, Selena was making enormous ripples within the music industry. Unfortunately, both her life and career were cut short on the morning of March 31, 1995. Selena was shot by the president of her own fan club, Yolanda Saldívar, and soon died at a nearby hospital. Her public casket was seen by up to 40,000 fans, and her death made the front page of The New York Times. Selena was only 23 years old when she died.
While he had been acting since the early 2000s, Chadwick Boseman became a household name after playing the titular superhero in “Black Panther.” Despite his relatively late entrance, Boseman became one of the defining performers of the MCU. So the world was left in complete disbelief on August 28, 2020, when it was announced that Boseman had died of cancer at just 43. The star had kept his diagnosis a secret from everyone but his family and a few select close friends, so the general public had no idea that he was suffering. The surprise was compounded by the fact that a healthy-looking Boseman had recently appeared in the climactic “Avengers” films.
Being just 40 years old, it seemed like John Lennon had decades’ worth of music and philosophy to still release. But all that potential was cut short on the night of December 8, 1980, when he was infamously shot and killed by Mark David Chapman. The concept of a celebrity being assassinated is sure to be big news, and this news was made even bigger owing to the fact that it was John Lennon. The public grief was unlike anything seen before. Songs were penned, memorials were erected, public vigils and moments of silence were held, and there were even reports of Beatles fans taking their own lives. It was one of those once-in-a-generation surprises that no one ever forgets.
The famous Australian actor died of a drug overdose on January 22, 2008. A myriad of factors went into Heath Ledger’s death that left people in complete bewilderment. For one thing, Ledger was only 28 years old, and he seemingly had a whole career ahead of him. He was also suffering from a number of health problems that the public had only recently been made aware of, including continued bouts of insomnia. Finally, the death itself came out of nowhere, as he was found unconscious in his SoHo apartment. The autopsy proved that he had died after consuming a large variety of prescription drugs, including multiple depressants called benzodiazepines.