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.
In June of 2016, 27-year-old Anton Yelchin died at his home in Los Angeles after being struck by his own car. He was standing behind his car when it suddenly rolled backward down his steep driveway and pinned him to his brick mailbox and security gate. Yelchin was best known for playing Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot by JJ Abrams. He also appeared in Alpha Dog, Fright Night, and Charlie Bartlett.
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Profession: Actor, Voice acting
Credits: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fright Night, Terminator Salvation
Also Rankedsee more on Anton Yelchin
"Carol Anne" from Poltergeist died in 1988 from complications during surgery to remove an acute bowel obstruction. She was 12 years old.
Age: Died at 13 (1975-1988)
Birthplace: Santee, California, USA
Credits: Poltergeist, Happy Days, Poltergeist II: The Other Side, Poltergeist III, CHiPs, + more
Also Rankedsee more on Heather O'Rourke
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.
Age: Died at 23 (1970-1993)
Birthplace: Madras, Oregon, United States of America
Profession: Activist, Guitarist, Environmentalist, Musician, Singer-songwriter, + more
Credits: Stand by Me, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, My Own Private Idaho, The Mosquito Coast
#10 on The Greatest '80s Teen Starssee more on River Phoenix
"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.
Age: Died at 42 (1968-2010)
Birthplace: USA, Zion, Illinois
Profession: Actor, Voice acting
Credits: Diff'rent Strokes, The Kid with the 200 I.Q., On the Right Track, The Kid with the Broken Halo
#52 on The Best Short Actorssee more on Gary Coleman