Nostalgia is a tricky thing. A smell, a sound, or an image can spark a memory or feeling that sends you back to a familiar and comfortable place. This same experience is true when you see one of your favorite actors or actresses on-screen. These are the celebrities we grew up with, the ones who hold a place in our hearts, and the ones we carry with us throughout our lives.
Watching one of the last movies made by Hollywood powerhouses like Robin Williams or John Candy can make you smile, cry, and then smile again, all in one sitting. Late performers are among some of those we miss the most, but so are the stars who gave up the craft - for whatever reason. We enjoyed them for years, when all of a sudden they were no longer gracing our screens.
In hindsight, we wish we would have valued these performers' efforts more when we had the chance. Whether we took them for granted, were simply unaware of their brilliance, or were too young to really take them in, they left an undeniable impression. Which ones did the same for you, too?
- Photo: The Green Mile / Warner Bros./Universal14,014 VOTES
Michael Clarke Duncan appeared in movies like Armageddon and The Green Mile, lent his distinct voice to numerous projects, and took roles in a host of TV shows before his sudden death in 2012. The Chicago native had a heart attack on July 13 at the age of 54; he succumbed to complications of the cardiac event on September 3.
Former costar Tom Hanks described Duncan as "a big love of [a] man," while director Michael Bay recalled "his infectious spirit and great belly laugh." After Duncan's passing, his manager, Dan Spilo, recalled fans' reactions to the actor:
He was the only actor I ever knew that more often than not when fans came up to him, of any age or race or gender, they wouldn’t ask for an autograph, they’d want a hug. He had a heart as big as the world.
- Photo: Jumanji / Sony Pictures Releasing23,911 VOTES
As the star of comedies, dramas, thrillers, and animated features, Robin Williams also entertained audiences on TV and during his live performances and appearances. His seemingly boundless energy and his drive to make people laugh brought smiles to the faces of millions who were shocked to hear of passing on August 11, 2014.
Williams took his own life due to declining health after having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. An autopsy revealed Williams actually Lewy body dementia (sometimes called Lewy body disease), a progressive condition that causes impaired mental functions and behavioral changes.
- Photo: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 / Warner Bros.33,436 VOTES
Harry Potter fans continue to mourn the loss of Severus Snape, while older generations miss Alan Rickman after having watched him in movies like Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Sense and Sensibility. Rickman had a long career in theater as well, contributing to the overall loss felt when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016,
On the anniversary of Rickman's passing in 2022, fans honored him by raising their wands to the "perfect Severus Snape."
- Photo: Dirty Dancing / Vestron Pictures43,170 VOTES
Patrick Swayze succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2009 after years of entertaining fans on TV and in movies. The star of Dirty Dancing, Road House, Ghost, and Point Break was - for individuals like Esquire's Danielle Sepulveres and many others - "my first onscreen crush."
After the documentary I Am Patrick Swayze aired in 2019, fans were reminded of how much the actor meant to them. From "blubbering" and "teary" messes to hurting hearts, Swayze's legacy remains strong.
- Photo: Die Hard / 20th Century Fox52,895 VOTES
Bruce Willis announced his retirement from acting in March 2022 after revealing he had been diagnosed with aphasia. His decades-long career included Emmy-winning roles on Moonlighting and Friends, alongside movies such as Die Hard, The Sixth Sense, and The Whole Nine Yards.
In the wake of Willis's retirement, Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian captured a bit of what the actor's fans were feeling:
It’s so sad for all of us that Willis will not take any more movie roles. It’s like seeing a great sports star suddenly getting an injury or a sandwich shop deciding to withdraw one of its tastiest flavours. All we can do is wish all the best to Bruce and his family for a happy retirement.
- Photo: Uncle Buck / Universal Pictures63,214 VOTES
Candy's legacy as an actor was perhaps best expressed by Brianna Benozich from Hollywood Insider in February 2022:
...John Candy is fondly remembered for being America’s uncle, being a figure of positivity and laughter during many childhoods thanks to his vehicles with John Hughes. John Candy and his films were childhood staples for many thanks to his working-class everyman charm and larger-than-life characters.