Today’s world is incredibly image-focused – a quick look through any celebrity Instagram account will make this abundantly clear. But there’s one aspect of that which nobody has any control over – what the last image of them will be. After these 20 celebrities passed away, people pored over the final photographs of them. And they were moving to say the least.
20. Chester Bennington
The frontman of Linkin Park had always been open about his mental health problems, but it still came as a shock when he took his own life. In fact, he’d just been on holiday with his wife and kids, his career was going great, and he had lots to look forward to. But he was found dead on July 20, 2017.
Bennington’s wife Talinda chose to share one of the last photographs ever taken of him. And she explained that although he looked happy in it, he’d obviously been struggling, and no-one had known. In the comments she wrote, “Read tweets and reach out with love and support to those that are having a bad day. #MakeChesterProud.”
19. Christina Grimmie
Christina Grimmie was an up-and-coming new singer in 2016. Yes, she had millions of subscribers on YouTube and had finished third on TV singing competition The Voice. But on June 10 of that year it was all cut short in the most horrible of ways. You see, an obsessed fan murdered Grimmie after a concert of hers in Orlando.
People had naturally been taking photos of the singer at the concert where she was fatally shot. One young woman posted a picture on Instagram and captioned it, “Never would I of thought that not even 5 minutes after we took this picture you would of been shot. #PrayForChristina.” Grimmie herself had been a mere 22 years old.
18. Amy Winehouse
The last concert of singer Amy Winehouse, which took place in June 2011, was slammed by the media. Throughout it all, the singer seemed to be clearly drunk and struggling to remember things. The performance took place in Serbia and even the country’s defence minister called it a disappointment.
But a few weeks later critics may have regretted their words, because Winehouse passed away from alcohol poisoning on July 23. Suddenly her last concert wasn’t something risible, but a saddening demonstration of what addiction looked like. Today, Winehouse is remembered as an immensely talented singer who unfortunately couldn’t overcome her demons.
17. Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball was one of the biggest stars of her era. Indeed, she was an actress, producer and executive all in one, and created shows including I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. She was also the first female to head a production studio, and that studio gave the world Star Trek.
Ball attended the 61st Academy Awards in March, 1989. But she couldn’t have known she had only weeks to live. On April 18 she suffered chest pains and had to have a major operation. But unfortunately, it didn’t save her. A week later on April 26, she had an aortic aneurysm and died. The Oscars was probably the last time a lot of people ever saw her.
16. Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury is still considered one of the greatest rock stars who ever lived. He was the frontman of Queen, and the man behind most of their biggest hits. But he died at a tragically early age. Indeed, he contracted AIDS in 1987, at a time when it was still a death sentence, and lived for only a few more years.
Not long before he died, Mercury recorded footage for Queen’s These Are the Days of Our Lives. In it, ever the showman, he’s wearing make-up to hide the effects AIDS had on his body. But in the end, Mercury only revealed to the world that he had the condition a day before his death on November 24, 1991.
15. Bill Paxton
Actor Bill Paxton was in some of the most beloved films ever made: The Terminator, Aliens, Apollo 13 and Titanic to name just some. But in February 2017 he mentioned in an interview that he had a damaged heart valve. In any case, he couldn’t have known that just weeks later that issue would result in his death.
Earlier in February, Paxton opened up about his bout with rheumatic fever, which caused heart damage, during a podcast with Marc Maron. He contracted the illness when he was in the seventh grade, saying, “I woke up one night — I had been to a hockey game, and I woke up one night and I had a lot of pain in my left wrist.”
14. Muhammad Ali
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali had been ill for some time before his death in 2016. And when he passed away on June 3 the whole world mourned for him. World leaders and sportspeople alike paid tribute, and his name trended on social media for days. But obviously his family were the most affected.
One of Ali’s daughters, Hana, posted a photo on Twitter of the last time she had talked to her dad. She captioned it, “My last photo of my beautiful father…telling him I love him on May 22, 2016.” Underneath the post, many people offered their condolences and their memories of the sporting icon.
13. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was a hugely influential designer and businessman. Yes, he co-founded the company Apple, and also assisted in the runnings of both Pixar and The Walt Disney Company. And he might have done more, but in 2003 he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Eventually, many years later, it would kill him.
Jobs’ last public appearance was at a presentation for the Cupertino City Council on June 7, 2011. There, he talked about his plans to build a new sustainable office complex for Apple. Some of the last footage to ever be made of him was taken there, and it was noted how frail he looked. Just four months later, he was dead.
12. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart, the iconic American pilot, famously disappeared along with her navigator during an attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in 1937. Interestingly, she was such a famous figure that to this day conspiracy theories circulate about what “really” happened to her. However, the likelihood is that she simply died during that last flight.
But before the flight took place, Earhart did a photoshoot to show off the luggage she’d be taking, namely clothes and maps folded into two lightweight cases. Just a couple of months later, her plane disappeared on July 2, 1937. Search efforts lasted until July 19, but they never found her, and no-one ever has.
11. Anton Yelchin
The death of young actor Anton Yelchin came as a terrible shock. You see, the Star Trek star was killed in a freak accident on June 18, 2016. His Jeep Grand Cherokee had rolled down its driveway once Yelchin had got out of it and struck him, trapping him between the car and a brick mailbox. He was only 27.
Yelchin was a talented photographer as well as an actor. Fittingly, his last photo on his Instagram, posted June 17, was a self-portrait. It was a picture of him looking pensively into the camera while standing on Nantasket Beach. After his death, fans flooded the comments section with grieving messages, and they still do.
10. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, one of the most iconic figures in modern-day American history, wasn’t much like the bubbly blondes she played on screen. You see, her personal life was a terrible struggle. Although multiple conspiracy theories surround her 1962 death, the obvious scenario appears to be the most likely one: she committed suicide.
Such was the interest in the life and death of the movie star that photographers were dispatched to photograph Monroe’s dead body. These photos still exist, but so do pictures of Monroe living life before she died. This shot from the film Something’s Got to Give was taken a few months before her suicide. The movie was never finished in the end.
9. Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman starred in big movies such as Die Hard, Galaxy Quest and of course the Harry Potter series. But he kept his personal life very private. In August 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he told only his closest that it was terminal. He died on January 14, 2016.
Rickman’s last major public appearance was at the musical Hamilton. There, in New York, he went backstage and posed with the show’s creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. He would have been battling the cancer at this point – but you’d never have guessed it. After Rickman’s death, Miranda was one of many who paid tribute on Twitter.
8. Cory Monteith
Actor Cory Monteith had his whole life ahead of him. Indeed, he was one of the stars of the smash-hit TV show Glee, and he was starting to branch out into film as well. But tragically he had battled addiction since a very young age. On July 13, 2013 he died from a mixture of alcohol and heroin.
The last known photo of Monteith was taken on July 11 by his manager Elena Kirschner, as the actor dined with her and casting director Maureen Webb. Monteith must have liked the moody picture, because he set it as his profile pic. Even now, multiple years after he passed away, it’s still there.
7. Dolores O’Riordan
Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of The Cranberries, passed away at the age of just 46. On January 15, 2018 she was found unresponsive in her bathtub at London’s Park Lane Hilton hotel. There was a great deal of alcohol in her blood, and the death was ruled a tragic accidental drowning.
Furthermore, the last photo O’Riordan ever posted on social media was a saddening one. It was of her holding her pet cat Gio, and she captioned it, “Bye bye Gio. We’re off to Ireland.” Saddened fans took the tweet to be a sort of goodbye to them as well, leaving messages on the Twitter account about what O’Riordan meant to them.
6. Princess Diana
Photographers featured heavily in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. For she was fleeing from the paparazzi in her car while in Paris on August 31, 1997. However, her driver lost control of the vehicle at high speed. And Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, and the chauffeur Henri Paul were all killed. But their bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones survived.
One photo exists of the events leading up to the crash. In it, Diana’s blonde hair can be seen as she turns around in the backseat. In the front are Trevor Rees-Jones and Henri Paul. The photo was taken by photographer Jacques Langevin, and it was actually presented as evidence at the inquest into the deaths.
5. Steve Irwin
The whole world was shocked when Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin died after being stabbed by a stingray. Although Irwin spent so much time around dangerous animals that he had the nickname of “The Crocodile Hunter”, it was still astounding to his fans that such a larger-than-life figure was suddenly gone.
Because Irwin was filming for a TV show at the time, his last minutes and his death were caught on camera. The footage of the actual moment of impact was examined by cops before later being destroyed, as per his family’s request. But video still exists of the time leading up to the accident, and Irwin can be seen poignantly making the “Okay” sign.
4. James Dean
Many spooky stories surround the death of movie star James Dean. He died in a car crash on September 30, 1955, at the age of only 24. At the time he’d only made three films – Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant – but ironically his early death cemented him as an immortal pop culture icon.
At the time Dean was driving a silver Porsche nicknamed “Little Bastard” and rumors have persisted that the vehicle was cursed. Anyway, he was heading to a racing competition when he was killed, but on the way some photos were taken of him and the car. And to this day, no-one is completely sure what became of the car.
3. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley became the King of Rock ‘n Roll. In his heyday, the world went absolutely wild for him, and he conquered both the music charts and the world of television. But his health deteriorated as time went on. By 1977, people were calling him a parody of his former self.
Yes, Presley’s concerts turned into short, garbled affairs and by March 1977 fans were starting to get angry. This photo, taken that year, shows how different he’d started to look. Indeed, drug abuse and a poor diet were beginning to take their toll. And on August 16, Presley’s girlfriend found him dead on the bathroom floor. He was only 42.
2. The crew of the Challenger
The voyage of the Challenger was to be a landmark moment in American space travel. For the first time a civilian, high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, was going on a space shuttle. Alongside her were pilot Mike Smith, commander Francis Scobee, payload specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialists Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair and Judith Resnik.
Everyone knows what happened to those people. On January 28, 1986 the Challenger exploded less than two minutes after taking off, and all aboard were killed. The last photograph of the crew shows them walking out of the Kennedy Space Center Operations Building to the launchpad, all smiles and waves.
1. President John F. Kennedy
Naturally, multiple photographers were there to cover President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963. That date would, unbeknown to any of them, go down in history. The President was shot and killed as he rode in a motorcade alongside Governor John Connally, Nellie Connally, two agents, and First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
As President Kennedy’s car went down the road, Nellie Connally said “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” and he responded “No, you certainly can’t.” Those transpired to be his last words. Minutes later, as cameras were still going off, Lee Harvey Oswald fired from a building and killed the President. Well, that’s always been the official explanation anyway.