The BBC News website remembers some of the key international figures who died this year, from footballers to feminists and politicians to performers.
Click on the links below to read more about them.
Lights were dimmed on Broadway in honour of Oscar-winning actress Anne Bancroft when she died in June.
Bancroft, who married comedian Mel Brooks, was one of the most celebrated actresses of the 1960s and 1970s, winning five Academy Award nominations and an Oscar itself for her role in The Miracle Worker.
She was widely known for her role in the film classic The Graduate opposite Dustin Hoffman. But in 1993 she complained that her role as Mrs Robinson in the film had overshadowed her other acting achievements.
Ronnie Barker was one of the most loved and respected British comedy performers of his generation.
He was half of the enormously popular duo The Two Ronnies, famed for their deft wordplay and comic timing. He mastered all forms - sitcom, sketch show and joke-laden monologue direct to camera - both as performer and writer.
Despite his popularity, however, he had retired long before he died at the age of 76 in October.
Saul Bellow, one of the most respected chroniclers of post-war America, died in April aged 89. The Nobel Laureate's books dealt with big issues: Why are we here and what is life for?
Fellow novelist Philip Roth paid tribute to Mr Bellow, saying he was one of two giants of modern American fiction. "The backbone of 20th Century American literature has been provided by two novelists - William Faulkner and Saul Bellow," he said.
Bellow was married five times, and fathered a daughter at the age of 84.
Footballing legend George Best, who died in November after suffering multiple organ failure, will be remembered for his dazzling skill on the pitch, and for his champagne lifestyle away from it.
The 59-year-old's heyday occurred during the "Swinging Sixties", and, with his good looks, he brought a pop-star image to the game for the first time. But the accompanying playboy lifestyle degenerated into alcoholism, bankruptcy, a prison sentence and, eventually, a liver transplant.
Robin Cook, who died in August aged 59, was considered one of the most intelligent and eloquent members of parliament for the UK's Labour Party.
He began on the left of the party but as foreign secretary under Tony Blair dropped his commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament and praised Mr Blair's "Third Way".
In 1996 he delivered a devastating attack on the then Tory government over its conduct in the arms-to-Iraq scandal. In 2003, he turned his ire on his own prime minister in a withering speech as he resigned over the decision to invade Iraq.
Canadian actor James Doohan, who died in July, was one of the best-loved characters in the cult science fiction show Star Trek.
As the frequently flustered spaceship technician Scotty, his plaintive, if somewhat inauthentic, Scottish cry - "I dannae know if she can take any more, Captain!" - rang through the outer edges of the cosmos as Captain James T Kirk urged even more power out of the craft.
His real-life exploits during World War II earned him the title of "the craziest pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force".
In April, self-proclaimed radical feminist author Andrea Dworkin died at her home in Washington, aged 58.
Dworkin dedicated her work to exploring what she considered the subordination of women.
She sparked international debate by arguing that pornography was a violation of women's rights and a precursor to rape. She also helped draft a law in the city of Minneapolis that recognised pornography as sexual discrimination.
Fahd ibn Abdel Aziz al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, died in August, aged 84.
He ascended the throne in 1982 after seven years as crown prince, making him absolute monarch of the world's largest oil-producing country and home of Islam's two holiest sites, the mosques at Mecca and Medina.
He threw the weight of the kingdom behind Arab causes and was heavily involved in regional issues.
His decision in 1990 to invite American forces into Saudi Arabia after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was heavily criticised within the country. Many say it contributed to the rise of Osama Bin Laden, who was born in Saudi Arabia.
In early January 2005, John Garang, leader of the southern Sudanese rebel movement, the SPLA, signed an accord to end the war his forces had been waging against the government in Khartoum for 21 years.
Seven months later, he was dead. He was killed in a helicopter crash shortly after being inaugurated as one of Sudan's two vice-presidents.
His death sparked horrific violence in the capital Khartoum, with many believing it to be a plot to derail the peace process. But no evidence emerged of an assassination.
On 14 February, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated. His motorcade was hit by a massive bomb which killed him and at least nine others, and wounded another 100.
The former prime minister had dominated the country's post-war political and business life, and supporters took to the streets to sing his praises and protest at his death.
Despite denials from Damascus, many suspect that Syria, which has dominated Lebanon since the end of the civil war, was behind the assassination. UN officials have been investigating his death.
Peter Jennings was the face of America's ABC News, both as anchor and correspondent, for more than 40 years, covering events from the Vietnam war to 9/11.
The consummate smooth, unruffled presenter, Jennings was born in Toronto and began his broadcasting career at nine with a Saturday morning radio show. Later, as an anchorman on Canadian Television, he was spotted and signed by the president of ABC, and went on to excel as a stylish and thoughtful foreign correspondent. He later fronted ABC's World News Tonight, turning a long-time underdog into a ratings winner.
Jennings died in August at 67, after announcing in April that he had lung cancer.
JOHN PAUL II
Karol Wojtyla was a little-known Krakow bishop when chosen as Pope in 1978, but rose to become one of the world's best-known faces, who visited over 120 countries in his 27-year reign.
A dynamic and approachable man, he had already earned a reputation as an international fighter for freedom by opposing Communism in Poland. He continued to help ease the path to democracy in the eastern bloc by opening the Vatican's doors to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.
But to his critics, John Paul II was the arch-conservative - an autocrat whose pronouncements on abortion, contraception and women's rights have had an effect on millions of lives.
Pope John Paul II was dogged by ill health in his later years, and died in April at 80.
Ghazi Kanaan was head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon from 1982 to 2002, making him the most powerful figure in Lebanon, according to analysts.
Although he left Lebanon three years previously, he was thought to have maintained his influence in the country until Syria completed the withdrawal of its forces in May 2005 after massive popular protests.
His sudden death at 63 in October prompted much speculation. An official inquiry by Syrian authorities concluded he had committed suicide.
Aslan Maskhadov was a career artillery officer in the Soviet army who rose to become chief of staff of the armed forces of the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
He turned a swiftly mobilised scratch army into a force capable of inflicting a humiliating military defeat on Russia in 1996, and in 1997 was elected president. He initially won the respect of Russian peace negotiators but was unsuccessful at building domestic consensus and Chechnya spiralled out of control.
In recent years he was branded a terrorist by Moscow, and was killed by Russian troops in March, aged 53.
Arthur Miller, who died in February at 89, was America's foremost post-war playwright. His works - intricate musings on the darkness at the heart of the American dream - struck a chord with a whole generation of theatre-goers throughout the world.
Miller was born in 1915. His father owned a garment factory but was ruined by the Great Crash of 1929, and Miller put himself through college with a series of menial jobs. His portrayal of Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman - the little man destroyed by modern life - made him famous overnight.
KR Narayanan, who died in November, was India's president from 1997 to 2002, but the bookish figure was as much an academic and diplomat as he was a national figurehead.
He went from university to journalism to the civil service before becoming a diplomat. It was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who brought the nominally-retired Narayanan into the political sphere.
His rise to the presidency was all the more remarkable as he came from a Dalit - "untouchable" - family. The Dalits, who comprise nearly one-quarter of the Indian population, are often looked down upon and are generally the poorest and least-educated people in the country.
Milton Obote, twice president of Uganda, was one of the last founding fathers of African independence but his periods in power were characterised by violent repression.
He was Uganda's first prime minister in 1962, and went on to seize the presidency, establishing a one-party state. He was ousted by his own army commander, the infamous Idi Amin, in 1971 but returned to the helm in 1980. Obote's attempts to consolidate power led to a campaign of reprisals against opponents and in 1985 a coup forced him into exile.
Obote spent his remaining days in Zambia, though he died while seeking hospital treatment in South Africa, aged 80.
Rosa Parks' refusal, as a black woman, to give up her bus seat to a white man, changed the course of American history.
Parks, who became a civil rights icon, was to have commemorated the 50th anniversary of that event on 1 December, but died in October at the age of 92. She was the first woman to lie in state - an honour usually reserved for presidents.
Her refusal to give up her seat prompted a mass black boycott of buses, organised by Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr. His protest movement brought about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in the US.
Richard Pryor, the comedian whose insights into race relations and modern life made him one of Hollywood's biggest stars, died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in December, aged 65.
At the height of his celebrity, he was a controversial, talented but self-destructive giant of stand-up comedy.
His personal life, littered with drugs, divorces and court convictions, all provided fresh fodder for the comic. He once said: "God made me funny, but the drugs kept me up in my imagination." Audiences were shocked but enthralled by the rage and vulnerability of Pryor's characters.
PRINCE RAINIER III OF MONACO
Prince Rainier III of Monaco, who died in April at 81, developed the small state as a playground for the wealthy and boosted its glamorous image with a fairytale wedding to actress Grace Kelly, which lasted until her death in a 1982 car crash.
Rainier inherited the throne in 1949 after being decorated for his service in World War II. He fended off repeated attempts to curb his absolute powers in the 1950s and 60s, and fostered his country as a tourist-resort tax haven.
During nearly two decades as chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist presided over an increasingly conservative Supreme Court.
It was Chief Justice Rehnquist who presided over the Monica Lewinsky case which led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment by the US Senate.
After President Clinton's acquittal, Rehnquist reflected to senators: "I underwent the sort of culture shock that naturally occurs when one moves from the very structured environment of the Supreme Court, to what I shall call, for the want of a better phrase, the more free-form environment of the Senate.
"I leave you now a wiser, but not a sadder, man."
He died in September.
CARDINAL JAIME SIN
Cardinal Jaime Sin played an important part in the Philippines' transition to democracy following the lengthy dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
He retired in 2003 after nearly 30 years heading the Manila archdiocese.
That period saw him playing key roles in the toppling of both Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001. The cardinal never made any secret about his view that religion had a role in affairs of state.
HUNTER S THOMPSON
Hunter S Thompson, who committed suicide in February aged 67, was an unflinching and acerbic chronicler of US counterculture.
Thompson was considered one of the most important US authors of the 20th Century. As a political journalist, he pioneered "gonzo journalism" - a factual style in which the writer was an essential part of the story - and was an acute observer of American life.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas became a psychedelic classic, telling the story of Thompson's drug-hazed road trip across the western US in search of the American dream.
Simon Wiesenthal, who died in September at 96, was credited with helping to bring more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice in the decades after the genocide of the Jews in World War II.
They included Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, and Franz Stangl, commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor Nazi death camps in Poland.
His work is continued by the US-based centre that bears his name, which campaigns against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.