Five Great Performances From Actors Who Died Way Too Soon

Brandon Lee: The Crow

The Crow may just be the greatest comic book adaptation ever, IMHO.

Alright, people can scoff at me if they want, and people can tell me Brandon Lee has no place on this list next to some of these other powerhouses, but I don’t care. The Crow was handled SO PERFECTLY that the films hasn’t aged. Do you understand that? You can watch Spawn now, or a multitude of other comic book movies from the nineties, and they are laughably bad, with shitty CG and hammy performances. But The Crow has NONE of that. It is as moving a love story as you will ever see (he refuses to die because he can’t rest in peace knowing the love of his love was raped and killed, so he refuses to die until every single one of them pays for what they did. Only THEN can he be with her in the afterlife. That is breathtaking.) And the movie is just all Brandon Lee, really.

If you read The Crow, over and over, like I have, you know how much he nailed it. Even the differences were actually BETTER than the comic in some ways. For example, instead of doing ballet, which is how he copes in the comic, he goes on  the roof and plays electric guitar in the movie. A simple change, but adds to the baddassery of the Crow character. And knowing Lee died making that very film, so in essence, he sort of IS the Crow in the sense that he is dead when we are watching him. And that role would have been downright silly in the wrong hands (guy dressed up all goth style beats up bad guys?) but Brandon Lee delved into the role with the same passion his Father displayed when he would do films, and that is what sold it.

Also, killed on set with a real bullet when the rumor is that your family is cursed? Yeah, that is pretty epic and unforgettable. He died for The Crow, and as The Crow. Think about that for a second.

Heath Ledger: Brokeback Mountain

You guys all thought I was going to say The Dark Knight, but hear me out, please.

Yes, The Joker was one of the greatest villains ever put on film. And it was Ledger, locking himself away for months and becoming that character, that defined him in that franchise. But we have all spoken that role to death by now. If you really wanted hints that he was capable of that, you needed to look no further than Brokeback Mountain.

You watch that movie, and at NO point do you think you are watching Heath Ledger play Ennis. From the voice he adapted for the role, to his physical mannerisms, he BECAME that character. That was what he did for roles. But Brokeback was such a brave story to try to tell, and to tell it such a convincing and heart-breaking fashion only hinted at what Heath Ledger would have been capable had he stuck around a little longer.

The irony is that he, much like Brandon Lee, became so invested in his character, that the character (as well as some poor life choices) led to his death. I will always say it again, though: Heath Ledger is the Joker’s ONE real-life fatality. Makes it all even creepier. But it was his role as Ennis in Brokeback Mountain that really showed us what this young Aussie was capable of, and it is shame we will never know how truly amazing he could have been.

James Dean: Rebel Without A Cause

This was the ultimate cool, hands down. He even died cooler than anyone else on the list.

Listen, I don’t even need to address this, to be honest. It should go unspoken and understood that James Dean was the ultimate badass taken WAY too soon, but just incase it isn’t understood, I included it here. I almost went with East Of Eden based on his performance in that film, but had to go with Rebel because I knew more of you would identify with it. James Dean lived cool, and he died cool. Not to suggest you should go get into a nasty car accident or anything, but if you were as badass as Dean was, it would only add to your legend. Ofcourse, wrapping a station wagon around a pole just doesn’t sound as cool.

All kidding aside, James Dean only acted for a VERY brief time, yet we have never been able to shake him from our subconscious. Now imagine if he survived and continued to act? Imagine the Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando levels of awesome that this man would have achieved? Blows the mind. Speaking of blown minds….

Go to my site. Seriously, I never ask you people for anything. Just do it. I promise it will rock your balls. Or labes. One or the other. We are not gender discriminating at Better Than Bacon.

  • See also: any of John Cazale’s film roles before his death.

  • dagny t

    I disagree on your choice of movies for Heath Ledger. Yes, his performance is strong in ‘Brokeback Mountain’, but I believe one of his strongest performances was as Skip Engblom in ‘Lords of Dogtown’. He not only nailed the SoCal beach drawl perfectly, but also the feckless, outlaw attitude the former surf-shop owner had.
    He’s definitely an essential part of the film.

  • ^ Great call. He was SO not himself in that film, I often forget he was in it, but I agree with you there. But, in the same breath, him as a reckless wild boy doesn’t seem as much of a stretch as gay cowboy, but maybe that’s just me.