“Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse,” may have been the motto of a young John Derek in the 1949 movie Knock on Any Door, but not all of popular culture’s most iconic figures went out in a blaze of glory while they were still in their youth. Indeed, some celebrity badasses have lived to a ripe old age before meeting a messy end in a car crash. Yet whatever their age at the time they were killed, for these legendary stars, even death had to be a spectacle â€” everything fading to black at a hundred miles an hour.
10. Cliff Burton
Legendary metal bassist Cliff Burton was most famous for his time spent with Metallica. He appears on this list due to his introduction of epic bass guitar solos to heavy metal and his contribution to badass music â€” Bay Area thrash in this case. Burton was not only a cool guy, but was so respected that after his death in 1986 he was admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Burton died on the road at the age of just 24 when his tour bus skidded off the road and overturned in Sweden, crushing the bassist, who had been thrown from one of the windows. He had just switched bunks with guitarist Kirk Hammett, after winning a game of cards with an Ace of Spades.
9. Albert Camus
It’s not just musicians, actors and sportsmen who can be real badasses; Albert Camus conducted his badassery with a pen. As one of the founders of the existentialist movement, he challenged the intellectual system of the time and promoted radical politics with his philosophical writings and works, such as The Outsider (L’Ã‰tranger), which included some of the most influential literary works of the 20th century. In 1960, Camus died in a car crash with his publisher after accepting a ride at the last minute. He was 46. Following his death, the French author’s train ticket was found in his coat pocket.
8. Alexander Fu
Alexander Fu’s badassery began at a young age, when despite his wealthy background he spent his time fighting in the streets and training in judo and karate. He became a major Hong Kong martial arts movie star in the 1970s and fought his way back from injuries such as a completely shattered leg to continue kicking ass and taking names. He died at the age of 28, on July 7 1983, while traveling with his brother, who crashed the Porsche 911 Targa they were riding into a cement wall. A final symbol of Fu’s badassery was the shrine that was constructed in his old makeup cubicle to appease his ghost, which is believed to haunt his old movie sets.
7. Jayne Mansfield
A surprising entry, maybe, but Jayne Mansfield’s badassery was illustrated by her total willingness to do anything to get ahead, and her complete understanding of the way her natural assets could be used to her advantage. When compared to other movie stars of the 1950s, she once said: “I don’t know why you people [the press] like to compare me to Marilyn or that girl, what’s her name, Kim Novak. Cleavage, of course, helped me a lot to get where I am. I don’t know how they got there.” She famously even used her impressive bust to steal the limelight from Sophia Loren at a party that was held in the Italian star’s honor by leaning over and exposing a nipple. In 1967, the car in which she, her driver, her lover, Sam Brody, and her three children were traveling in rear-ended a truck. The children survived, but the adults in the front were killed instantly. Mansfield was 34.
6. Carlos Arruza
One of the most famous bullfighters of the 20th century, Carlos Arruza began his bullfighting career at the tender age of 14. Regardless of the ethics of his trade, anyone who thinks bullfighters aren’t badasses needs to get up close and personal with an angry bull. Nicknamed “El CiclÃ³n” (“The Cyclone”), Arruza met his end not on the horns of a tormented bull but in a car crash outside of Mexico City in 1966. He was 46.
5. Joe Rollino
Joe Rollino didn’t need recognition from anyone else; in the 1920s he named himself the world’s strongest man. In his peak physical condition, this second generation Italian American was able to move 3,200 pounds (1,500 kg) with his back, and he once managed to lift 450 pounds (200 kg) with his teeth. What’s more, all of these feats of physical strength were performed on a vegetarian diet. He managed to find time in between work-out sessions to become a decorated WWII veteran, hang out with Harry Houdini and act as bodyguard to famous celebs like Greta Garbo, and he was still trucking in 2010 when, at the age of 104, he was hit and killed by a car.
4. Lisa Lopes
When thinking of badasses, not many people’s minds would immediately jump to members of R&B girl groups like TLC. Rapper and singer Lisa Lopes might be the exception, however, if only because of the extremes she went to to deal with her boyfriend, NFL star Andre Rison, during an argument. When angered by Rison, Lopes set fire to his tennis shoes, and the fire spread and destroyed their entire mansion. Notwithstanding, she was also remarkably candid about her abusive background as well her own alcohol issues. Lopes died at the age of 30 after swerving off the road in order to prevent a collision with several other vehicles, causing her car to hit two trees and roll, throwing all the passengers from the windows.
3. Marc Bolan
Legendary frontman of T-Rex, Marc Bolan was one of the central architects of the 1970s glam rock scene. His badassery stems from his successful efforts to start a trend that had the balls to challenge sartorial and behavioral gender norms, challenging society in bold new ways. He died instantly in 1977 â€” just weeks before his 30th birthday â€” when the car he was traveling in sped into a tree in London. The spot was soon turned into a shrine, which is now officially recognized. Tragically, Bolan’s bandmate Steve Currie was killed in another car crash four years after the singer’s accident.
2. Ryan Dunn
Famed for his appearances as a central personality on the MTV show Jackass and subsequent movies, Ryan Dunn was a member of the gross-out, balls-of-steel school of comedy. Though it scarcely needs mentioning, Dunn was a true badass, showing a carefree attitude toward stunts that required a complete absence of fear and even less shame. Just recall the occasion when he surprised a doctor with an X-ray that revealed a toy car had been inserted into his butthole, in a skit in Jackass: The Movie… Dunn’s career â€” and life â€” was of course brought to an abrupt end this year when his Porsche 911 GT3 hit a tree at 140mph. His blood alcohol levels registered at twice the legal limit. He was 34.
1. James Dean
The most iconic of culturally recognizable badasses, James Dean made rebellion cool, even for the mainstream, in his 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause. He was a consummate badass on screen; the personification of teenage angst wearing a leather jacket â€” and the ultimate enigmatic persona. In his private life he had tempestuous affairs with beautiful women, including young Italian actress Pier Angeli, and avoided the US draft by calmly declaring himself a homosexual (he later denied that this was his sexual orientation). On September 30, 1955, Dean died of a broken neck in a head-on collision involving his Porsche 550 Spyder and a Ford coupe, aged just 24.