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Child Actors Who Died Young

Child Actors Who Died Young
David Livingston / Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Fame often comes at a high price. Many actors who experienced their first taste of fame at a young age, dazzling us with their talent and potential, ended up on a downward spiral.

With fame waning and drugs at their disposal, many succumbed. That’s not always the case, as some child actors who’ve died young and who left us too soon also battled depression issues or died of natural causes. Tragically, one was murdered.

Whatever the case or the cause, child actors dying young — before they were 40 — is a double tragedy that always saddens fans. Sure, we have their legacy to help us keep their memories alive, but we’re often left wondering what could have been.

Check out our list of child actors who died young and saw their lights dimmed and extinguished way too soon.


River Phoenix

 
 

On Oct. 31, 1993, at the tender age of 23, handsome actor River Phoenix, easily one of the most promising actors of his generation, proven by his movie-carrying turn in 'Stand By Me,' died. He collapsed into convulsions from drug-induced heart failure outside of the Johnny Depp-owned Viper Room in Hollywood. It was surprising, since he was known for his somewhat clean image, being a vegan and the son of hippies, but a cocktail of cocaine and heroin proved fatal. His baby brother Joaquin went on to forge a pretty impressive career of his own.

 
George Rose, Getty Images
George Rose, Getty Images

Lee Thompson Young

 
 

The actor was 29 when he committed suicide in Aug. 2013. He shot to fame as a teen, playing the titular character in 'The Famous Jett Jackson' and also had a role in 'Friday Night Lights.' Young was starring in 'Rizzoli + Isles' when he shot himself. He was reportedly battling bipolar disorder and treating it in somewhat quiet fashion with medication.

 
Lee Thompson Young
TNT

Brad Renfro

 
 

The actor, who starred in 'The Client' after being discovered at the age of 12, died in Jan. 2008. He was just 25 and had a history of drug problems. He died of a heroin overdose, but not before leaving behind a memorable resume littered with films like 'The Apt Pupil' and 'Ghost World,' where he gave excellent performances. He had starred in 21 films when he died, which suggests that he would have had a steady career.

 
Stephen Sugerman, Getty Images
Stephen Sugerman, Getty Images

Corey Haim

 
 

Haim, a serious, poster-the-walls heartthrob in the '80s along with the "other Corey" aka Corey Feldman, died at 38 in March 2010. Tattooed, a bit overweight and battling drug issues, he did not deal well with post-fame life. It's understandable, since he was a major star of films like 'License to Drive,' 'The Lost Boys' and 'Lucas.' He reportedly died of pneumonia, but stared down addiction for much of his life and was a prescription drug abuser around the time of this death.

 
Michael Buckner, Getty Images
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Brittany Murphy

 
 

The adorbs 'Clueless' star was 32 when she died in 2009. The investigations are ongoing, with her father leading the charge about some sort of foul play. However, while she was alive, the doe-eyed Murphy worked steadily and appeared on Broadway before her big break in 'Clueless' came in 1995. She had a healthy post-'Clueless' run before things started breaking down for her, professionally, in the mid-00s. She died of pneumonia, anemia and drug intoxication, the latter likely used to treat her other illnesses.

 
David Livingston, Getty Images
David Livingston, Getty Images

Robert Knox

 
 

The English actor and 'Harry Potter' star – he played Marcus Belby -- died at the tender age of 18 in 2008 in his native country. He was murdered for a noble cause -- defending his little brother. Knox was stabbed outside of a pub while trying to protect his sibling during a fight. He had signed up for further Potter films at the time of his death, and had a busy career prior as a child actor on TV. Tragic beyond belief.

 
YouTube
YouTube

Jonathan Brandis

 
 

The actor died at 27 in Nov. 2003, after memorable turns as a cross-dressing soccer player in 'Ladybugs.' He was a child model and acted in commercials, and at 17, appeared in 'seaQuest DSV,' which was his breakout role and elevated him to teen idol status. He hung himself in Los Angeles. His friends said he was depressed about the decline of his career. He left no note.

 
Albert Ortega, Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Albert Ortega, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Christopher Pettiet

 
 

The actor, who played a likable wiseass in the Christina Applegate-toplined, popular 1991 film 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead' (as shown below), died in April 2000 at 24. He continued to get steady work in film and TV ('The Young Riders' and 'Judging Amy), but not in high profile fashion. He died of an accidental drug overdose in Los Angeles.

 
YouTube
YouTube

Next: See Stars Who Died During Production

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