tragedy in hollywood

River Phoenix: A Life in Pictures

Photo: New Line Cinema, Getty and Sony

River Phoenix passed away in the wee hours of October 31, 1993, at the age of 23. On this somber anniversary, Vulture reflects on the loss of the gifted but troubled young actor, and also presents this slideshow filled with photos and videos of a star we’d watched grow up on-camera. Click through to take a stroll through his surprisingly robust but ultimately too-short career.

River’s first taste of massive success came with the 1986 Rob Reiner coming-of-age classic Stand By Me. He plays a troubled teen who sets out on an adventure, along with three friends — played by Corey Feldman (pictured), Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell — to find a dead body.
In this melodrama, River plays a kid uprooted to the jungles of a Central American nation when his offbeat inventor father decides to build an ice factory in the middle of the nowhere. The parents are played by Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/2013 Getty Images
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1987 Ron Galella, Ltd.
Photo: New York Daily News/2013/Daily News L.P. (New York)
Opposite Sidney Poitier, River co-stars as a boy whose parents are suspected of being Soviet sleeper agents.
River was channeling Kurt Cobain before channeling Kurt Cobain was a thing. Photo: George Rose/1988 George Rose
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1988 Ron Galella, Ltd.
River was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as the gifted son of two activists running from the law for their part in a crime committed long ago during an anti-war protest.
River was genuinely thrilled when Kevin Kline edged him out at the awards ceremony. They would co-star in I Love You to Death the following year. Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1989 Ron Galella, Ltd.
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1989 Ron Galella, Ltd.
River co-starred with Martha Plimpton in both Running on Empty and The Mosquito Coast. They also dated in real life. Photo: Frank Trapper/? Corbis. All Rights Reserved.
River attended the Academy Awards ceremony with Plimpton, who would also co-star in Ron Howard’s Parenthood that year with Leaf Phoenix. Photo: Ron Galella/1989 Ron Galella
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1989 Ron Galella, Ltd.
Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./1989 Ron Galella, Ltd.
He played a young Indiana Jones in the threequel’s opening sequence.
Photo: Barry King
The dark comedy co-starred Kevin Kline and Keanu Reeves. Photo: Chestnut Hill Productions†/?1990
Photo: Frank Trapper/? Corbis. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Steve Eichner
Riding with Keanu in the Gus Van Sant indie.
The last River Phoenix movie released before his death, The Thing Called Love was about aspiring country musicians. It co-starred a pre-Speed Sandra Bullock. Photo: ? Corbis. All Rights Reserved.
Fans built this memorial outside the Viper Room shortly after his death on October 31, 1993. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives
R.I.P., River. You are missed. Photo: Nancy R. Schiff/2011 Getty Images
River Phoenix: A Life in Pictures