When the world loses a star, many people are left in mourning.

The more public a figure is, the more impact their passing has on so many people they influenced. This happens every time a famous actor dies.

We go back through their history in cinema and realize just how much they mattered through their small part on the silver screens of theaters and homes.

These people are trendsetters, they have an adoring public, and their deaths are taken personally far beyond the reach of friends and family. 

The more influential a person was, the harder it was to take their death in stride.

Even before the internet and social media, the goings-on of famous people was a significant point of interest for many.

Few captured that exciting mystery more than Steve McQueen, once the highest-paid movie star in the world.

The “King of Cool” was an American actor, playing famous antihero roles and racing expensive cars that made men awe and women swoon.

But like all people, he met his end, in a way more tragic than most would want to know.

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10 /10 Terrence

Steve took on his middle name for most of his life. His birth name was Terrence Stephen McQueen.

He was born in Beech Grove, Indiana. His father, William, was a stunt pilot but left his family after a few months, leaving Steve to his alcoholic mother.

She eventually gave him up to her parents, who later moved in with his grandmother’s brother on a farm out in Missouri.

9 /10 Teenage Delinquent

Steve’s tumultuous youth continued. When he was returned to his mother at age 12, his stepfather beat him frequently, forcing him out of the home.

Eventually, they moved down to Los Angeles, where Steve continued to act like a drifter and a petty criminal.

He even threatened to kill him after one savage beating, which led him to be placed in the California Junior Boys Republic reformatory school. His losses continued from his peers from there.

8 /10 From Boy To Man

Steve went from place to place, either looking for jobs or as a teenage vagrant, until he finally returned to roost and joined the Marines.

All before he was 18. He struggled immensely and was frequently punished early on, but following a long stint in the brig, he shaped up and reformed himself.

He went on to save lives during exercises in the Arctic and served as honor guard to the yacht of President Harry Truman. He was honorably discharged in 1950 and pursued acting.

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7 /10 Race To The Top

McQueen’s acting career began with racing motorcycles to make money, which led him to gain expertise as a stuntman.

He was eventually given a breaking role in science fiction B-movies such as The Blob and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.

He continued until he became more prolifically known for his westerns and his epic team-up with Frank Sinatra in Never So Few.

After The Magnificent Seven, McQueen’s stardom never quite sputtered out – all the way until the year before his death, he was acting as the man every man wished they could be.

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6 /10 Jerk With A Heart Of Gold

His real-life escapades more or less informed McQueen’s persona as an antihero and a loveable jerk.

He frequently littered the private driveway of his friend, James Garner, because he saw how much care was put into it.

He also demanded an excess of items from studios when filming movies, but those were all donated to the Boys Republic school, where he spent some of his teen years. He often went there to talk to the boys and served as their role model.


5 /10 The Last Mile

In McQueen’s last years, he met and married Barbara Minty, a former model, and his third wife.

Along with his flying instructor, she introduced Steve to Evangelical Christianity, to which he converted for peace and solace. This came only a few months before his death march of bad to worse diagnoses.


4 /10 The Rock And Hard Place

Starting around 1978, McQueen developed a persistent cough. He gave up cigarettes and began antibiotic treatments, hoping it was minor at first, but it grew worse over the years.

After filming The Hunter, a biopsy revealed that he had pleural mesothelioma – lung cancer – associated with contact with asbestos.

He blamed asbestos exposure, which may have come from the lining of his stunt driving uniforms, or more likely, from removing asbestos insulation from troop ships when he was in the Marines.

This, among other revelations, led to the renewed concern over decommissioning as much asbestos as possible to prevent sickness.

3 /10 Dr. Kelley

In July of 1980, McQueen traveled to Rosarito Beach in Mexico for more unconventional treatments after receiving a grim diagnosis from US doctors.

He sought out treatment from one William Donald Kelley, a man whose medical license had been revoked years prior and who only ever specialized in orthodontics.

The former dentist, regardless, enlisted several experimental anti-cancer dietary treatments and external applications. McQueen spent $40,000 a month ($126,000 today) for the treatments for three months.

2 /10 Death Of Samuel Sheppard

In October of 1980, McQueen returned to the US claiming to have been cured by his doctor, but his symptoms persisted and worsened.

Desperate for further surgery against the advice of US doctors, he went back down to Mexico under the name Samuel Sheppard and underwent a massive tumor removal surgery from his abdomen.

A nearly five-pound tumor attached to his liver was removed, but he died of a heart attack 12 hours later in his sleep.

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1 /10 The King Of Cool

McQueen’s ashes were spread over the Pacific Ocean. Since then, despite not being around, his image has kept up the title of King of Cool by way of his estate’s agency, allowing him to remain among the top-earning celebrities even after death.

They do this by also limiting the use of his image to keep him exclusive, and therefore, that much more relaxed. He was inducted into multiple halls of fame for Western Actors and Motorcycle Enthusiasts.

As portrayed by Damian Lewis, he was recently a part of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

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