These stars' lives -- and careers -- ended too soon.

Heath Ledger, who died of an accidental drug overdose at 28, isn't the only young actor whose abrupt passing shocked the world.

Names like Natalie Wood, James Dean and Aaliyah evoke not just sorrow, but also wonder at what might have been.

Take a look at our list of young actors whose lives ended in tragedy.




Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Heath Ledger

A housekeeper found the Oscar-nominated 'Brokeback Mountain' star dead in a New York apartment, the apparent victim of an accidental sleeping pill overdose at age 28. He had just completed filming his role as the Joker in the upcoming Batman film 'The Dark Knight.'

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Brad Renfro

Just a week before Ledger's passing, the troubled star of 'The Client' and 'Apt Pupil' was found dead in his home at 25, thought to be the victim of mixing alcohol and Xanax.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Adrienne Shelly

First reported as a suicide, it was later determined that 40-year-old Shelly was in fact killed after an altercation with a contractor who then staged her body to look like she'd hung herself. Her last acting role -- and breakthrough directing project -- was released posthumously: the critical darling 'Waitress.'

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

River Phoenix

The onetime Oscar nominee (for 'Running on Empty') and older brother of Joaquin, River was considered one of Hollywood's top young talents in the '80s and '90s. He died of heart failure brought on by drug use at the age of 23, after fainting outside of L.A. hot spot the Viper Room.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Marilyn Monroe

The Hollywood legend and "rumored Kennedy mistress" died of a drug overdose at 36. After her death, the 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' and 'Seven-Year Itch' star developed an even more devoted following.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Aaliyah

The popular R&B singer and actress was killed at 22 in a plane crash before the release of her second film, 'Queen of the Damned.' At the time, she was attached to star in 'The Matrix: Reloaded' and 'Revolutions.'

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

John Candy

A comedy legend, Candy first made a name for himself in the Canadian comedy show 'SCTV' before breaking through stateside in the Tom Hanks rom-com 'Splash.' He went on to headline such hits as 'Uncle Buck' and 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles.' Candy died of a heart attack at the age of 43.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Judy Garland

Fame wasn't kind to the legendary star of 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'A Star Is Born' and mother to Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft. Long plagued with drug and alcohol problems, Garland met her end by accidental drug overdose, just days after her 47th birthday.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Chris Farley

The breakout 'Saturday Night Live' comic and star of the hit films 'Tommy Boy' and 'Black Sheep' died of an accidental heroin and cocaine overdose at 33.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Carole Lombard

The 'To Be or Not to Be' and 'My Man Godfrey' star perished in a plane crash when she was 33. She was married to screen icon Clark Gable at the time.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Jonathan Brandis

The former teen idol, best known for roles in the films 'Ladybugs' and 'Sidekicks' and the TV show 'SeaQuest DSV,' hung himself at his Los Angeles home in November 2003. He was 27.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Natalie Wood

The thrice-Oscar-nominated actress and star of 'Miracle on 34th Street,' 'West Side Story' and 'Rebel Without a Cause' drowned when she fell off a yacht near Catalina Island at the age of 43. Though mysterious circumstances surrounded her death, it was ruled an accident.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Bruce Lee

The 'Enter the Dragon' star was already a martial arts icon when he died of a cerebral edema at 32. Rumors persisted for years after his passing in 1973 that he had faked his death.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Brandon Lee

Like his legendary father Bruce before him, this martial arts dynamo died too young, accidentally killed by a faulty prop gun on the set of his first major film, 'The Crow,' at age 28.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Jean Harlow

The 'Dinner for Eight' and 'Platinum Blonde' star died at 26 from uremic poisoning. For someone so young, she accomplished a great deal -- three short marriages and roles in 41 films.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

James Dean

The 'Rebel Without a Cause' star was only 24 when the car he was driving crashed, killing him instantly. While he made only three films, his death transformed him from a rising star to an icon.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

John Belushi

The manic 'Animal House' star and 'Saturday Night Live' Not Ready for Prime-Time Player died of a heroin and cocaine overdose when he was 33.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Rebecca Schaeffer

Schaeffer was the rising star of the TV comedy 'My Sister Sam' when she was murdered by a delusional stalker at 21. Her death spurred California laws that helped celebrities protect their private information and made stalking a more serious crime.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Tupac Shakur

The hip-hop master and promising film actor was shot dead in Las Vegas at 25. His murder, cause of much speculation of an East Coast-West Coast rap war, is still unsolved.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Sharon Tate

The 'Valley of the Dolls' star -- and pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski -- was murdered by followers of Charles Manson when she was just 26.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Andy Kaufman

The subversive, often surreal standup comic and 'Taxi' TV star succumbed to lung cancer in 1984 at the age of 35.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Jayne Mansfield

A sex symbol of the '50s and '60s, Mansfield is famous for being the first major actress to appear nude on screen (in 'Promises! Promises!'). She was killed (but not decapitated, contrary to popular belief) in a car accident at 34. Three of her children, including actress Mariska Hargitay, survived the crash.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Chris Penn

Best known for playing a bank robber in 'Reservoir Dogs' and Kevin Bacon's rhythmically challenged pal in 'Footloose,' Sean Penn's younger brother died in 2006 at the age of 40. Though trace amounts of drugs were found in his system, the cause of death was deemed to be an enlarged heart.

Their Careers Ended in Tragedy

Gilda Radner

The groundbreaking comedienne and first actor ever cast on the original 'Saturday Night Live,' Radnor died of ovarian cancer at the age of 43. Her husband Gene Wilder, with whom she starred in 'Hanky Panky,' 'The Woman in Red' and 'Haunted Honeymoon,' was by her side.

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