12 Of The Saddest Celebrity Deaths Of 2016

It’s news to literally nobody that 2016 has been the Grim Reaper’s favorite year when it comes to iconic celebrities. Like… f**k, 2016, what was your deal? Who hurt you? I can’t be the only one who got so freaked out by all the celebrity deaths that I started to actually freak out whenever a celebrity started trending on Twitter. How could you not assume the worst?

Celebrity deaths remind us that we don’t have to know somebody personally to be affected by them. This year, people lost musicians that have helped them get through hard times, actors that literally represented their childhood, and other figures who–in ways big and small–changed the world. Despite what some of your Facebook friends say, you’re allowed to feel sad about the death of someone you haven’t met even though there are “more important” things in the world. It’s possible to feel sad about more than one thing! That said, here are just 12 of 2016’s celebrity deaths that bummed us out the most. There were more, but… let’s not make this post too depressing.

Alan Rickman

Millennials practically grew up with Alan Rickman because he portrayed Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies. He was the man we loved to hate, and loved to hear talk even more. I mean, who doesn't love Rickman's deep, smooth voice? But if youv'e only appreciated him in the Harry Potter series, you're missing out. He's just as fun to watch in movies like Die Hard, Dogma, and Sweeney Todd. Rickman died on January 14 after a battle with terminal cancer. He was 69-years-old.

Christina Grimmie

Christina Grimmie was a singer and YouTuber who was propelled into the spotlight after competing on NBC's The Voice in 2014. Though she finished in third place, she cultivated a large, dedicated fan base. But her promising career was cut short on June 10 when she was shot and killed after performing at a concert in Orlando, Florida. She was only 22-years-old.

Muhammad Ali

Of all the world renowned legends to die, Ali was one of the biggest. The fiery boxer was known for his talent in the boxing ring, sure. But he became one of the most controversial sports figures ever after converting to Islam and speaking out against everything from racial injustice to the horrors of the Vietnam War. His career took a hit, but he stood by his words until the very end. Ultimately, the heavyweight champion became an internationally beloved figure and was lionized as one of the most iconic athletes in modern human history. After years of suffering from Parkinson's, Ali died on June 3 at the age of 74.

David Bowie

How can anyone even sum up David Bowie in a sentence? The absolutely iconic (ICONIC) rock star left behind a rich musical legacy full of classic songs (like “Life on Mars,” "Space Oddity," "Fame," "Under Pressure," and more) and some of the most daring style choice that any celebrity has ever made. He was the king of androgyny, an utter cameleon who transformed personas with every album. And when he wasn't making music, he was responsible for everyone's weird sexual awakening with his role as the Goblin King in Labyrinth . He and his eccentric personality will be missed, truly. There just won't be anyone quite like him ever again. He died of cancer on January 10 at the age of 69.


Whether you listened to Prince’s music or not, you knew who the hell Prince was. That's how iconic he was: You can know who he was without listening to a single one of his songs, and you'd still know he was a big effing deal. Prince was flamboyant, soulful, sexual, and talented AF. I mean, you know you're the s**t when you turn your name into a symbol for a while. He wasn't bogged down by a set genre; Rock, R&B, funk, pop, new wave...he could do it all. Unfortunately, after a series of illnesses, he became another celebrity who died far ahead of his time. On April 21, he died at the age of 57 of an opioid overdose. The circumstances of his death have brought light to opioid addiction in those who suffer from chronic pain and other ailments.

Do yourself a favor and check out Purple Rain tonight, okay? You'll thank me later.

Anton Yelchin

Actor Anton Yelchin's deaths was, by far, one of the most shocking of 2016. Best known for his role as Chekov in the massively popular Star Trek reboot, Yelchin also scored a starring role in much loved indie movie, Like Crazy, and The Last Lovers Left Alive. On June 19, Yelchin died in a freak accident after his car rolled down a steep incline outside of his home, pinning him between the vehicle and a brick pillar. He was only 27-years-old.

Gwen Ifill

You know those deaths that take you so off guard that they just end up leaving you in awe? Yep, that pretty much sums up Gwen Ifill’s passing. If you don’t know who she is, I encourage you to look her up! She was a veteran journalist and Peabody Award recipient who hosted PBS Newshour. Ifill got down to the truth of an issue, no matter how tough or "unsexy" it was, a true feat in our current climate of flash in the pan, pundit-heavy, 24-hours news cycle. She died on November 14 at the age of 16 from breast and endometrial cancer

Harper Lee

It's damn near impossible to graduate high school in the United States without ever reading To Kill A Mockingbird. The landmark, Pulitzer Prize winning novel--told from the perspective of a young Southern girl whose lawyer father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman--is widely considered one of the books you pretty much HAVE to read before you die. Since its release in 1960, Lee kept an incredibly low profile. For the most part, she was a recluse and didn't release another book until 2015. Go Set A Watchman was the sequel of Mockingbird, but its release cause controversy because Lee swore she would never publish another book, but after Watchman's manuscript was discovered by her lawyer, it was published anyway. Whether Lee changed her mind or was manipulated due to elder abuse, we may never know. She died in her sleep on February 19 at the age of 89.

Florence Henderson

For anyone who grew up watching reruns of The Brady Bunch, the death of Florence Henderson kind of hurt. Sure, she was most popular during the era of the cookie cutter mom, but her role DID break the mold because she was one of the earliest actresses to be depicted sleeping in the same bed as her husband. Uh, yes, this was VERY controversial, even in the early ‘70s. Following The Brady Bunch, Henderson spent most of her time as a television personality who appeared on several variety shows. Notably, she was a contestant in the VH1 reality show The Surreal Life back in 2006. Henderson died November 24 at the age of 82 due to heart failure.

Gene Wilder.

Dude…even Willie effing Wonka wasn’t able to escape 2016’s clutches. But if you only know Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, then you need to expand your horizons. Wilder's career was sprawling and his range was wide. Check him out in The Producers (which earned him an Oscar nomination), Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles to get started. Wilder died on August 29 at the age of 83 from Alzheimer's disease related complications.

Leonard Cohen

You know that “Hallelujah” song that everybody and their dad tries to do a faithful cover of, but can’t? Yeah, Leonard Cohen did the original, and his discography is definitely worth checking out beyond it, especially if you’re into folk music with a political slant. Already in poor health thanks to cancer, he died on November 7 at the age of 74 after a fall in his home. He released his final album, You Want It Darker, just three weeks prior.

Doris Roberts

It's safe to say that Everybody Loves Raymond is one of those shows you just know about because its reruns are always on the air. So whether you grew up watching the show, or you stumbled upon it while channel surfing, you'll remember Doris Roberts, who played Raymond's wisecracking mother. Her snarky one-liners were, frankly, the highlight of every episode. She died on April 17 of a stroke at the age of 90.

Which of these celebrity deaths affected you the most? What other celebrity deaths really bummed you out this year? Tell us in the comments.

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • Alanna

    Correction: Gwen Ifill was 61, not 16, at the time of her death.