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33 Child Actors Who Died Young

Child actors who died young include some of the most recognizable names in Hollywood, as well as some who starred on stage and screen many decades ago. All of the actors and actresses listed here were in the business as kids, and sadly, all passed away way too early in their lives. Their causes of death vary from health-related problems, to suicides or accidents, but every child actor listed here was taken from this Earth way too soon.

The untimely death of a star is always a tragedy, and when it comes to child actors who died at a young age, it's especially tragic. This list is, unfortunately, proof positive that no matter how famous you are, you are not immune from pain and sadness in life. The names here on this list are among the most famous people who died young.

Some of the child actors listed here died very young, like Poltergeist star Heather O'Rourke, who passed away in 1988 at the age of 12 during surgery to repair an acute bowel obstruction. Other stars, like River Phoenix, died in their early 20s (in Phoenix's case, he died of drug-induced heart failure). Sometimes drug abuse was involved, sometimes not. Actor Brad Renfro battled addiction demons in the last years of his life. After starring in The Client as a young teen, Renfro died of a heroin overdose in 2008.

Child actors who committed suicide are also included on this list. In August of 2013, for example, former Disney star Lee Thompson Young, who appeared on the show "Famous Jett Jackson" and had a part in the TV crime drama 'Rizzoli & Isles,' took his own life at the age of 29. In November of 2003, 'seaQuest DSV' star Jonathan Brandis committed suicide at the age of 27.

If you're looking for more information about famous celebrities who died young, check out these lists of members of the '27 club' (who died at age 27) and the most depressing celebrity trainwrecks of all time.

33 Child Actors Who Died Young People
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    "Carol Anne" from Poltergeist died in 1988 from complications during surgery to remove an acute bowel obstruction. She was 12 years old.

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    • Age: Died at 13 (1975-1988)
    • Birthplace: Santee, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Poltergeist, Happy Days, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Poltergeist III, CHiPs + 8 more
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    The child and teen star of Stand by Me and Explorers died in 1993 at age 23, after speedballing cocaine and morphine. The scene unfolded in front of The Viper Room, a legendary Sunset Strip music venue, while then-owner Johnny Depp was performing onstage with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers. As news circulated through the club about Phoenix's collapse outside, the show stopped, but he was never revived.

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    • Age: Died at 23 (1970-1993)
    • Birthplace: Madras, Oregon, United States of America
    • Profession: Activist, Guitarist, Environmentalist, Musician, Singer-songwriter + 1 more
    • Credits: Stand by Me, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sneakers, My Own Private Idaho, Explorers + 16 more
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    "Arnold Jackson" from Diff'rent Strokes died of a brain hemorrhage in 2010 at age 42. The former child star had lapsed into a coma in a hospital near his Provo, UT, home and passed away shortly after being take off life support.

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    Photo cred: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com 

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    • Age: Died at 42 (1968-2010)
    • Birthplace: Zion, Illinois, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor, Voice acting
    • Credits: Married... with Children, Diff'rent Strokes, Dirty Work, An American Carol, The Great Buck Howard + 26 more
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    The young star of Jaws: The Revenge and The Land Before Time (voice of "Ducky") died in 1988 at age 10. In a murder-suicide carried out by her father, Judith and her mother were shot, killed, and subsequently set on fire before he shot himself to death in the family's garage.

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    • Age: Died at 10 (1978-1988)
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor, Voice acting
    • Credits: All Dogs Go to Heaven, Jaws: The Revenge, The Land Before Time, Do You Remember Love, Eye of the Tiger + 3 more
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    "Kimberly Drummond" from Diff'rent Strokes died in 1999 at age 35 while visiting her fiancé's mother in Moore, OK. Plato took a lethal dose of Lortab and Valium before laying down for a nap and never woke up. The death was eventually ruled a suicide. 

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    • Age: Died at 35 (1964-1999)
    • Birthplace: Maywood
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Diff'rent Strokes, Exorcist II: The Heretic, High School U.S.A., California Suite, Different Strokes + 3 more
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    The star of The Client died in 2008 at age 25 from a heroin overdose. Renfro's death from acute heroin/morphine intoxication was ruled accidental.

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    Photo cred: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com 

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    • Age: Died at 26 (1982-2008)
    • Birthplace: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Sleepers, Ghost World, Recess, The Jacket, The Client + 19 more
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    Alfalfa from the Our Gang comedies died in 1959 at age 31. Switzer was shot during an altercation with a man he believed owed him money.

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    • Age: Died at 32 (1927-1959)
    • Birthplace: Paris, Illinois, United States of America
    • Profession: Guide, Child Actor, Actor, Breeder
    • Credits: It's a Wonderful Life, The Defiant Ones, Going My Way, The High and the Mighty, State of the Union + 49 more
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    The star of SeaQuest DSV died in 2003 at age 27. Brandis was found alive, but unconscious, hanging from the neck in his home. The friend who happened upon the scene summoned paramedics immediately, but the star of Ladybugs died at Cedars-Sinai hospital the next day.

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    • Age: Died at 27 (1976-2003)
    • Birthplace: Danbury, Connecticut, United States of America
    • Profession: Screenwriter, Actor, Film Director
    • Credits: Fatal Attraction, Oliver & Company, It, Ride with the Devil, Ladybugs + 22 more
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    The teen star of '80s hit films like Lucas, The Lost Boys, and License to Drive turned to drugs when his career slowed. In 2010, he died at age 38, officially from pneumonia - though he notably procured 553 prescription pills from 7 different physicians in the 32 days prior to his death, including 195 Valium, 149 Vicodin, 194 Soma, and 15 Xanax.

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    • Age: Died at 39 (1971-2010)
    • Birthplace: Toronto, Canada
    • Profession: Painter, Musician, Film Producer, Actor
    • Credits: The Lost Boys, Silver Bullet, Lucas, License to Drive, Crank: High Voltage + 39 more
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    Savannah Smiles star Bridgette Andersen died in 1997 at age 21. Her death was ruled an accidental drug overdose.

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    • Age: Died at 22 (1975-1997)
    • Birthplace: Inglewood, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Savannah Smiles, Faerie Tale Theatre, The Parent Trap II, Fever Pitch, Gun Shy + 1 more
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    Bobby Driscoll, who grew up in front of the cameras in Disney films like Song of the South and Treasure Island, died in 1968 at age 31. Driscoll's body was found in a New York tenement and went unidentified at the time of his death. It wasn't until two years later, when his mother began inquiring about his whereabouts, that it was discovered the young actor was buried in an unmarked grave in Potter's Field.

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    • Age: Died at 31 (1937-1968)
    • Birthplace: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor, Voice acting
    • Credits: Peter Pan, Song of the South, Melody Time, Treasure Island, So Dear to My Heart + 11 more
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    Disney child star Lee Thompson Young died in 2013 at age 29. The titular character on Disney's The Famous Jett Jackson, Thompson Young's death by gunshot to the head was ruled a suicide.

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    Photo cred: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com  

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    • Age: Died at 29 (1984-2013)
    • Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America
    • Profession: Screenwriter, Actor
    • Credits: Friday Night Lights, Rizzoli & Isles, Akeelah and the Bee, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Jett Jackson: The Movie + 5 more
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    The Now and Then actress died in 2007 at age 26 of an accidental heroin overdose. 

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    • Age: Died at 26 (1981-2007)
    • Birthplace: Sunnyvale, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Now and Then, The Grave, A Family of Strangers, Ask Darby, The Odyssey
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    The Passions star died in 2002 at age 20. On the same day, his soap opera character was killed off, the diminutive star died of a congenital heart defect at a San Diego hospital.

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    Photo cred: Featureflash / Shutterstock.com 

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    • Age: Died at 20 (1982-2002)
    • Birthplace: Hayward, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, P.T. Barnum
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    The star of Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and The Young Riders died in 2000 at age 24, of an accidental drug overdose.

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    • Age: Died at 24 (1976-2000)
    • Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, The Young Riders, Carried Away, Danger Island
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    The Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince actor died in 2008 at age 18 defending his younger brother from another man wielding a knife. He was stabbed to death in London.

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    • Age: Died at 19 (1989-2008)
    • Birthplace: Kent, United Kingdom
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Scream Bloody Murder
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    Skye McCole Bartusiak died in her sleep at the age of 21, in July 2014. Her death was ultimately ruled an overdose. Said the Harris (Texas) County Institute of Forensic Sciences, "The exact cause of death is an accident due to the combined effects of hydrocodone and difluoroethane with carisoprodol."

    The child star was known for her role as Mel Gibson's daughter in The Patriot.

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    • Age: Died at 22 (1992-2014)
    • Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: The Patriot, 24, The Cider House Rules, Boogeyman, Don't Say a Word + 7 more
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    The Family Matters star (aka Myra Monkhouse) died in 1998 at age 30. The television star succumbed to a rare form of stomach cancer in a New York hospital days before Christmas.

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    • Age: Died at 30 (1968-1998)
    • Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: Family Matters, The Young and the Restless
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    The star of Shoot the Moon, Fallen Angel, and National Lampoon's European Vacation died in 1996 at age 32. Diagnosed in her youth with Type 1 diabetes, Hill slipped into a diabetic coma in May, suffered a massive stroke in June, and died in July.

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    • Age: Died at 32 (1964-1996)
    • Birthplace: Encino, California, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor, Voice acting
    • Credits: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, National Lampoon's European Vacation, Duckman, Goof Troop, Tom and Jerry: The Movie + 20 more
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    The Make Room For Daddy star died in 1990 at age 42. Hamer killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at his home in DeRiddler, LA.

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    • Age: Died at 43 (1947-1990)
    • Birthplace: Tenafly, New Jersey, United States of America
    • Profession: Actor
    • Credits: The Danny Thomas Show, Dance with Me, Henry, Make Room for Granddaddy
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