Cursed Films Released After an Actor's Death
Many moving parts go into a film's production. From the cast of actors to the camera operators, set designers, audio technicians and other crew members, many key roles are essential, and the loss of any one of them could be devastating to a film's final product. Besides losing a director, the worst upheaval often stems from the unexpected death of a key actor before a movie is completed.
Through technology and recasts — depending on when the death occurred — movies can sometimes still be completed and released posthumously. The bigger question might be whether that’s the best choice, considering some films have seemed downright cursed after the death of a key player. Take a look!
Back in the days of Old Hollywood, producers were in charge of more than just production. They also controlled the ins and outs of the lives of their star actresses. One of the most gut-wrenching examples of this was young Jean Harlow, who died at the age of 26.
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Because he was one of the originators of the romantic comedy genre, audiences usually clamored to score a spot in the theater for Ernst Lubitsch's latest film in the throes of Old Hollywood. However, his 1942 film To Be or Not to Be — released in the months following actress Carole Lombard's death — was not very successful.
Brass Monkey (1948)
Believe it or not, the sensationalism of the tabloid magazine is not a new phenomenon. They have been around since the very beginning of Hollywood, and audiences have almost always been obsessed with the inner workings of the lives of their favorite stars.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
James Dean had barely gotten started when he was tragically killed in a car accident. Appearing in his first major screen role just months before in Elia Kazan's East of Eden, Dean passed away before Rebel Without a Cause could be released.
High Society (1956)
A musical remake of the 1940 smash hit The Philadelphia Story, 1956's High Society had plenty going for it to potentially transcend (or at least divert itself from) the success of its source material. Featuring the great Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, what could go wrong?
The Misfits (1961)
Some actors are certainly a lot harder to work with than others. This is a lesson that Clark Gable knew better than almost anyone. In fact, the troubles he faced trying to get along with Marilyn Monroe during the filming of 1961's The Misfits are often blamed for his death before the film's release.
The Exorcist (1973)
Widely regarded as one of the most cursed movies ever made, it only makes sense that 1973's The Exorcist would be mentioned here. Naturally, this movie would include a posthumous performance from not just one actor, but two: Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
There's simply no better martial artist in cinema than Bruce Lee. This is basically a fact at this point. With nearly four decades between his death and the present day, his legacy is continually honored, and his image still as recognizable today as it was back then.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Based on the success of the television show of the same name, 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie should have gone off without a hitch. Bringing together three of the biggest names in sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking at the time to reproduce three classic episodes, the film was as mysterious and dark as an episode of the series itself.
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)
When you put the word "curse" in the movie's title, it seems like you're more or less asking for trouble to happen. This was the case with 1983's Curse of the Pink Panther, one of two films in the Pink Panther series made in the wake of actor Peter Sellers' death.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
Like The Exorcist, the Poltergeist films have ended up carrying with them a terrifyingly cursed reputation that far exceeds the scares on-screen. For the Poltergeist movies, the deaths of main actors almost seem like a way of life, as commonplace as a director calling "action."
The Exorcist III (1990)
Speak of the devil, The Exorcist III seems to be as cursed as the first entry in the series. A second follow-up to the events of the first film — which remains one of the most highly-praised horror films ever, despite the dips in quality of its sequels — The Exorcist III can't escape the franchise's reputation.
Canadian Bacon (1995)
First and foremost, Michael Moore is a documentary filmmaker. He has tried his hand at acting before and has even attempted stage shows in the past, but at the end of the day, he is always going to be known best for his documentaries. At one point, he even tried doing comedic films.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Like Curse of the Pink Panther in 1983, it's more than likely that the producers of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers sealed their own fate when they decided to include the word "curse" in the title of their film.
The Crow (1994)
Just like his father before him, Bruce Lee's son Brandon tragically passed before the completion of what would be his final film. An aspiring actor who hoped to one day reach the heights of his father, Brandon was robbed of the opportunity in an accidental shooting.
Cult classics don't have to be good. If there was a cult classic rulebook, that would be rule number one. Look at Waterworld, for example. The 1995 Kevin Costner vehicle was almost universally panned and a total flop here in the United States. As it happens, it may have also been cursed.
Lost Highway (1997)
Leave it to David Lynch to create one of the most cursed films of the 1990s. While it features only one posthumous performance, the entirety of Lost Highway radiates an ominous sense of fear that seems to have seeped into the lives of the other actors as well.
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Very loosely based on the third novel in the popular Vampire Chronicles series, 2002's Queen of the Damned was a horror movie destined to be a huge hit. Starring superstar Aaliyah as the titular evil royal, the film was halted when the singer-actress was killed in a plane crash.
For a movie about domestic violence and the harmful effects on the victims as well as their friends and family, it's a horrible twist of fate that writer, director and actor Adrienne Shelly was killed before her film Waitress could be released. When you hear she died from a horrific act of violence, it just makes the death even harder to bear.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
After playing the Joker in Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medications. Many considered his untimely death to be a direct result of the psychological torment he supposedly experienced during the shoot.
The Last Film Festival (2016)
Dennis Hopper is a pillar of the New Hollywood movement. At a time when the moviemaking industry faced plenty of uncertainty — the focus of Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood — Hopper and friends came along and revitalized the process.
Furious 7 (2015)
From the very beginning of the franchise, Paul Walker was the most important character in the Fast & Furious universe. It started with him, dating all the way back to 2001's The Fast and the Furious, but after 2013, the series had to continue on without him.
Wish I Was Here (2014)
At the time, news of Zach Braff's follow-up to his debut film Garden State was quite buzzworthy. Funded largely through Kickstarter, Wish I Was Here had both fans and audiences talking before the movie had even gone into production.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Parts 1 and 2 (2014, 2015)
Was there a greater actor to come out of the last few decades than Philip Seymour Hoffman? It's not likely. Working on a slapstick comedy one day and a gripping drama the next, Hoffman's range often surpassed his colleagues and consistently garnered praise.
Absolutely Anything (2015)
A new movie from the Monty Python boys should have been a smash hit. Judging by the sheer amount of success achieved with earlier films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python's Life of Brian, a brand new collaboration could have allowed the troupe to reach new heights.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Robert Loggia had a long and fascinating career. Born in 1930, the actor enjoyed all kinds of notable Hollywood roles. From An Officer and a Gentleman and Scarface to Big and Independence Day, Loggia was a character actor who refused to play the same character.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Still a relatively up-and-coming talent at the time of this death, Anton Yelchin had just started to begin his slow, steady rise to the A-list. An absolutely fantastic performer, no matter the size of the role, Yelchin was a promising talent, and his death in 2016 still hurts today.
The Circle (2017)
Bill Paxton was a staple of blockbuster filmmaking ever since he first appeared in the first Terminator movie in 1984. From there, he went on to be an essential part of various action franchises like Aliens, Predator 2 and various movies made by James Cameron.
Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi' (2017) and Star Wars - Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Carrie Fisher has always been an integral part of the Star Wars universe. One of the very first characters seen in the first entry, Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope, Fisher was a main character for six of the series' nine films.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Orson Welles was no amateur. He was the man responsible for the movie many consider to be the greatest of all time: 1941's Citizen Kane. Originating as a stage director and moving into the film industry in the wake of the success of his first film, Welles enjoyed a long and successful career.