The BBC News website looks back at some of the personalities who died this year, from bandits to beauty queens, and firefighters to filmmakers.
Paul "Red" Adair, whose exploits fighting oil well fires around the globe made him a household name, died in August, in Texas. He was 89.
He first gained global fame in 1962, when he tackled a fire at a gas field in the Sahara - a feat later retold in the John Wayne film Hellfighters.
The Palestinian leader died in a Paris hospital in November after suffering multiple-organ failure, although the exact cause of his illness and death remains unclear.
His life will be debated for some time to come. To his supporters he was the only man capable of keeping Palestinian hopes alive and at the forefront of global consciousness. To his critics he was an inveterate terrorist who failed his people.
Brando, one of the most influential performers of his generation, died in Los Angeles at the age of 80 in July.
His short-lived marriages, bitter divorces, child custody battles and torrid affairs certainly made the headlines, but they never ultimately overshadowed his remarkable talent.
The founding father of photo-journalism died in France at the age of 95 in August.
His technique, based on waiting until the "decisive moment", then, with a single exposure, creating a photo that was both spontaneous and carefully composed, inspired generations of photographers.
Julia Child, the doyenne of US television cookery shows, died in her sleep at her California home, aged 91, in August.
She was credited with introducing French cuisine to the American public with a series of TV shows and books dating back to the early 1960s.
Nobel prize winner Francis Crick, who helped discover the structure of DNA, died in San Diego, aged 88, in July.
Crick and his American colleague James Watson worked out the "double helix" form of DNA, confirming theories that it carried life's hereditary information, in what was hailed as the most significant scientific discovery since Darwin's theory of evolution.
Fellow academics may have charged that Derrida's "deconstruction theory" - which involved unpicking the way text is put together in order to reveal its hidden meanings - was absurd, but the Algerian-born philosopher without question left a mark on modern thinking.
He died of cancer in October at the age of 74.
THEO VAN GOGH
Theo van Gogh's name was better-known around the world because he shared it with his great-great-grandfather, the brother of artist Vincent van Gogh.
But he made headlines around the world after he was killed in November, apparently by an Islamic militant who was aggrieved by a film he had made about Islamic culture. The murder has fuelled an ardent ongoing debate about multi-culturalism in the Netherlands.
Kadyrov, the Chechen president, was the man the Russian government hoped would bring stability to strife-torn Chechnya.
He was killed in May when a bomb went off in a VIP seating area of Dynamo stadium in Grozny during a ceremony marking victory in World War II.
The editor of the Russian edition of the financial magazine Forbes was shot dead near his office in Moscow in September.
The US citizen, the son of Russian immigrants, was an outspoken critic of Russia's wealthy oligarchs. It remains unclear who carried out the killing.
It was perhaps rather appropriate that no-one - not even members of her family - seemed to be quite sure how old the cosmetics queen actually was when she died of cardiopulmonary arrest at her home in New York in April.
Josephine Esther Mentzer, who left a legacy of lotions, potions and perfumes in a business worth an estimated $10bn, was said to be at "least 95". Most agreed that she had never looked her age.
BBC broadcaster John Peel was Britain's champion of new musical talent for nearly 40 years before he died of a heart attack in October.
He led the way in promoting new acts, from David Bowie, through Joy Division to the White Stripes.
As president he was simultaneously maligned as a dangerous man and mocked as a buffoon, but Mr Reagan went to the grave in June after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease widely revered as the Cold War warrior who made America feel good about it itself.
Thousands of people queued over two days to pay their respects as he lay in state before his funeral on a national day of mourning.
Reeve was most widely remembered for his role as the movie action hero Superman.
But the way in which the once strapping six-foot New Yorker dealt with his paralysis after a horse riding accident also remained with many - and his legacy includes raising public awareness of the potential of stem cell research, a cause he championed.
Just days before his death in a plane crash in February, the young Macedonian president had signed his country's formal application to join the EU.
A Western-oriented leader, Mr Trajkovski strongly believed that membership of the club offered the best chance of stability for a region where instability has been the norm.
The London-born actor, writer, raconteur and diplomat died at the age of 82 in April in Switzerland, where he had moved in the 1950s.
He had starred in films such as Spartacus - which earned him an Oscar - Death on the Nile and Logan's Run, and also worked as an ambassador for the children's charity Unicef.
KOOSE MUNISWAMY VEERAPPAN
Life on the run for India's most wanted bandit ended in a hail of bullets in October, chased down in the jungle he had haunted for decades.
He was alleged to have been involved in more than 100 murders, but was nonetheless seen as a Robin Hood figure by many of the poor - who mourned his passing.
Sheikh Zayed was the first and only president of the United Arab Emirates, which was formed in 1971. He died in November at the age of 86.
He was widely revered by Emiratis who believed the UAE had endured not least because of his policy of distributing Abu Dhabi's oil wealth throughout the country, ensuring the status quo politically and socially.