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The new year is all about one thing: contemplating the creeping black hand of death that waits to claim us all. And while the rest of pop culture will spend the next week or so talking about the Nelson Mandelas and Paul Walkers of the world, every year we like to stop and remember those whose passing didn't make headlines, despite the fact that each changed your life in some small way.

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Jan. 21: The Guy Who Started the Vigilante Revenge Genre

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Michael Winner, director of Death Wish.


Liver issues, age 77.

The Legacy:

Did you like that Liam Neeson movie where his daughter gets kidnapped and he responds by beating the shit out of half of Europe with his bare hands? Well, there would have been no Taken if there hadn't been Death Wish -- the 1974 Charles Bronson film that made the world fall in love with vigilante revenge stories.

It was directed by Winner, who began his film career in Britain with movies like the cleverly titled nudism romp Some Like It Cool. Soon enough, Hollywood came calling and Winner shot to fame, quite literally, with the hugely successful Death Wish -- a revenge killfest that was just what a crime-ridden 1970s America was in the mood to see.

Winner tried his hand at a lot of other genres, but every movie he made from then on was an abject failure -- except for Death Wish 2 and, of course, Death Wish 3.

Feb. 4: The Singer/Crazy Person Who Gave Us "Wild Thing"

Harry Dempster/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Reg Presley, lead singer of The Troggs.


Lung cancer, age 71.

The Legacy:


As songwriter for popular '60s U.K. rockers The Troggs, Presley's cheeky proto-punk cover of "Wild Thing" went to No. 1 in the U.S. Later, an unintentionally hilarious recording of the British band members cursing at each other in the studio (around what they didn't know was a live microphone) would serve as inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap.

Unfortunately, though, Presley's most enduring legacy may wind up being a cover of the Troggs' "Love Is All Around," which took the world by storm when recorded by the appropriately named Wet Wet Wet and featured in the floppy-haired-girlish-rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Diane Freed/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hugh Grant accounted for 28 percent of all sex in 1994.

In true insane-rock-star style, Presley spent his truckloads of Four Weddings royalties funding research into alien spacecraft, alchemy, and crop circles. He even published a book about that stuff titled Wild Things They Don't Tell Us. What, the publisher couldn't talk him into Love Is All Around, and So Are Fucking Aliens?

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March 28: Harry Potter's Cruel Uncle Dursley

Warner Bros.


British actor Richard Griffiths.


Complications following heart surgery, age 65.

The Legacy:

Today's movie-going public will no doubt remember Griffiths for his work as Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter's cruel, overweight uncle. But for the true cinephiles out there, Griffiths' most beloved role is that of amorous, overweight Uncle Monty in the cult classic Withnail & I.

Handmade Films
Is that a Harry Potter spin-off?

Yes, he played uncles in his two most famous roles, though in 2007 he did branch out with his role in Ballet Shoes as Great Uncle Matthew.

April 12: The Writer of Several Action Movies You've Seen

Tampa Bay Times


Michael France, accomplished screenwriter.


"An extended illness," age 51.

The Legacy:

Mr. France! You left us so early! We have so many questions.

Willie J. Allen Jr. via Tampa Bay Times
On a scale of 1 to 10, how many times a day did you want to change your surname? Ballpark figure.

The first script France sold to Hollywood was the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Cliffhanger.

That's the one where Stallone is taciturn because he dropped a girl off a cliff, not the one where Stallone is taciturn because he's a Vietnam vet (First Blood), or the one where he is taciturn because he is slow-witted (Rocky, Cop Land, real life).

France also wrote GoldenEye, Hulk, Fantastic Four, and 2004's The Punisher. This is where questions arise. Like, in The Punisher, why does Thomas Jane set those cars on fire in the shape of the Punisher logo when no one would be able to see it from above? Wouldn't that take hours, if not days, of careful planning? And how come the Castle family has a beach house that is fully stocked with guns and ammo?

Artisan Entertainment/Lionsgate Films
How does he elude a mob kingpin for weeks, but a folk singer finds him in a matter of hours?

If it seems tasteless to mock a man's plot holes after he has passed, consider this: The guy sold only five screenplays in his life. Combined they grossed $1.23 billion worldwide -- each time he put pen to paper, he averaged $246 million in ticket sales. Now enjoy this clip from Cliffhanger:

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May 1: One Half of Kris Kross

Getty via Billboard.com


Chris Kelly, aka Mac Daddy from '90s kiddie rap group Kris Kross (NOT Daddy Mac -- that was the other guy).


Suspected drug overdose -- heroin and cocaine, aka speedball. Note: If you're going to do drugs, and we don't advise it, please do not mix heroin and cocaine.

The Legacy:

Known for the hit song "Jump," and for wearing their clothes back-to-front because child + rapper = sound fashion choices. Kelly and his best friend, Chris Smith, were 13 when music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri discovered them in an Atlanta mall. Ah, the '90s. Where grown men trawling shopping malls for underage "talent" was as common and wholesome as child exploitation in rap.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
At least now they've returned to pop, where crushed spirits belong.

Interestingly, Kelly continued to wear his pants backwards well into his 20s and 30s. When asked if it was uncomfortable, the rapper and producer replied: "I don't know. Everybody always asks me that. But you have to understand, I've been wearing my pants backwards for 21 years. ... When I wake up that's how my pants get put on. ... Even if I put on a suit, I put my suit pants on backwards. It's just a way of life for me." A way of life.

Anyway, Kelly joins a long, long list of famous people who have died due to this exact drug cocktail, a tally that includes River Phoenix, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Mitch Hedberg, Layne Staley, and others. Seriously, kids, don't speedball.

May 2: A Death Metal Legend

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images


Jeff Hanneman, guitarist for Slayer and the guy who won heavy metal.


In the most metal way possible. First, necrotizing fasciitis from a spider bite. Yes, that's flesh-eating bacteria. From a spider. And the spider had a tattoo of a flaming skull on it [citation needed]. Soon after recovering from that, the actual cause of his death was alcohol-related cirrhosis. Duh.

The Legacy:

The legacy? THE FUCKING LEGACY? Are you kidding us? Hanneman wrote the best heavy metal songs in existence. Oh, you're skeptical? "Raining Blood," "War Ensemble," "Angel of Death," "Seasons in the Abyss" -- the list continues. Some of those songs have their own Wikipedia entries, such is their influence. So shut up.

We apologize to the thousands of you who watched the above clip and are now in the emergency room due to severe neck trauma.

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May 7: The Candy Man From Willy Wonka

Paramount Pictures


Actor Aubrey Woods.


Cause unknown, but dude was 85 and died at his home, a cottage in England's Lake District, so we can rule out "gangland shooting while BASE jumping."

The Legacy:

If you've seen Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, you know the character, if not the name:

In real life, a favorite hobby of the 85-year-old Woods was going to the hospital. He was a beloved patient at the hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, where he would reprise his role as the Candy Man for the nurses, and we mean that with no innuendo whatsoever. He also played "the Controller" in early 70s Doctor Who episodes, which could make for some confusing, terrifying, and sugary crossover slashfic.

May 11: The Scientist Who Discovered the Hole in the Ozone Layer

David Rose/Rex via The Telegraph


Scientist Joseph Farman.


Cause unknown, but he was 82 and smoked a pipe. So maybe puma attack?

The Legacy:

So it's 1985. You and your sweet-ass parachute pants are leading a group of rag-tag scientists. You're doing science-stuff with microscopes and beakers and shit, when you realize that the ozone layer, that thing that stops the sun from giving us cancer, has a massive fuck-off tear in it, right over the Antarctic.

BernardBreton/iStock/Getty Images
The penguins have been looking a little more tan ...

Instead of losing your shit and holding a suicide orgy, you publish a paper and shit gets done. Two years later, we get the most successful environmental treaty ever: World governments signed the Montreal protocol, banning the household chemicals that were reacting with the ozone.

Today, we can use as much hairspray as we want and the only thing it'll be damaging is our chances of getting laid.

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May 13: A Bank Robber Too Badass to Be Real (Almost)

Mondadori Portfolio UIG / Rex via The Telegraph


Luciano Lutring, an Italian criminal who mistook real life for a Quentin Tarantino movie.


Wouldn't you like to know.

The Legacy:

He was one of those flamboyant criminals that just don't exist in real life; his hobbies included writing and painting but his day job was committing large-scale robberies. Oh, and Lutring was also known as "the submachine gun soloist" (il solista del mitra), since he KEPT HIS GUN IN A VIOLIN CASE. IT'S THAT GUY. THAT WAS A REAL THING NOT JUST A MOVIE THING.

Luciano Lutring/Facebook via TG-COM 24
He kept his violin tucked in his waistband.

Back in the 1960s, Lutring carried out hundreds of robberies in France and Italy, stealing millions from banks, jewelry stores, and other places that have served as locations in heist movies (again, for Lutring those films were indistinguishable from his day-to-day life). At one point he served 12 years in prison in France, where he began to write and paint.

He also had a strange number of friends in high places; he was pen pals with Sandro Pertini, Italian President of the Chamber of Deputies, and his is the only recorded case in history of being pardoned by two presidents, Georges Pompidou of France and Giovanni Leone of Italy. Oh, he's also had two movies based on his life.

Olycom via Il Giorno
"I get a pardon, they make a movie. I get a pardon, they make a movie."

But, hey kids, crime doesn't pay. Remember the end of (SPOILER ALERT) Breaking Bad.

June 24: Spy, Expert Lie Detector, Loon

Discovery Science via Vimeo


Cleve Backster, CIA polygraph expert.


Old age (89).

The Legacy:

It was all going so well for Backster. He was the go-to Lie-Detector Guy, America's primary polygraph expert, and an interrogation specialist for the CIA. But things began getting a bit strange in 1966, when Backster started attaching polygraph electrodes to plants. He claimed that plants could feel pain and had telepathic powers, which if true would be awful. In just, so many ways.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Kill ... me ..."

But, unsurprisingly, these findings were rejected by the scientific community and Backster became a laughingstock among his peers. You do realize this is exactly how mad-scientist-supervillains get started, right?

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July 2: The Inventor of the Computer Mouse

Chris O. via The Examiner


Doug Engelbart, engineer who created at least one thing you're probably touching right now.


Kidney failure, at home, peacefully in his sleep. It's unconfirmed whether anyone tried to revive him by jiggling him before pressing any key.

The Legacy:

Beside creating that thing that we all use every single goddamn day (or trackpad -- yes, yes, you're very modern) Engelbart's role in the personal-computing revolution was huge: His work contributed to technologies like hypertext, networked computers, and the graphical user interface.

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images
Naturally, he's rather vilified among human sperm.

But it was 1964 when Engelbart was trying to find a better way to interact with his computer monitor, foreseeing a future when such a thing would be crucial for downloading pornography. He had been a radar operator in the Navy during World War II and used their setup as a starting point (the radar featured a stylus to move a cursor around the screen). So he went to work -- his original mouse prototype was made of wood and named "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System."

Unofficially, Engelbart and his cronies called it a "mouse" because its cord looked like a tail or something. He was quoted as saying, "We thought that when it had escaped out to the world it would have a more dignified name ... but it didn't." Well, sir, that's because your original name sucked.

July 20: The Creator of the Supermodel

John Casablancas via Models.com


John Casablancas, modeling agent and Julian Casablancas' dad.


Cancer, age 70.

The Legacy:

John Casablancas founded the Elite Model Management agency in Paris in 1972 and made the careers of some models you might have heard of: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Andie MacDowell, Iman, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bundchen. He was also a massive playboy. Casablancas had a public affair with Stephanie Seymour in 1983, but hold your applause until you realize she was only 15 at the time (he was 41). He wound up getting divorced over it (note that his wife at the time, Jeanette Christjansen, was a former model and had won Miss Denmark).

Paul Slade/Paris Match/Getty via The Guardian
Maybe he was hoping they would give him an Oscar.

He had married Christjansen in 1978, and the couple gave birth to Julian, as in Julian-from-The-Strokes. After the affair with the 15-year-old, he married his fourth wife, 17-year-old Aline Wermelinger, whom he'd met when she participated in Elite's Look of the Year contest.

"I had the understanding of a guy who loved beautiful women, and above all who liked the sensuality of it all," Casablancas said in a 2010 video interview with the blog Modelinia, possibly while stroking a pre-oiled mustache. "All of the other agents were either women or gay guys. They had their own approach, which in certain instances was probably superior to mine, but I had something I thought was unique. I looked at my models as women." Meaning he tended to bang most of them.

Studio Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
A truly unique perspective among heterosexual men regarding beautiful women.

He was largely responsible for glamorizing the business and turning models into celebrities and idols. "One of my biggest regrets is that I created the supermodel," he said in 2000. "They can be impossible. Elite single-handedly brought modeling rates to a peak no one could have imagined, but the girls never thanked me for it. I've had enough."

Because attending wildly lavish parties, picking and choosing which of the world's most beautiful women to marry/bang, and being thrown millions of dollars while doing it? Yeah, that'd get tedious if you're not thrown an "Atta boy!" every so often. Poor guy.

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July 22: A Guy You've Seen in Probably a Dozen Different Crime Movies

Warner Bros.


Dennis Farina, real-life policeman turned movie policeman/gangster.


A pulmonary embolism, age 69.

The Legacy:

Farina was a bona fide Chicago police officer when Michael Mann hired him as a police consultant -- you know, to tell all the pussy actors how cops get shit done in the real world. No doubt Farina saw how much easier and more lucrative life could be in show business, and so he became a full-time actor, mostly playing cops and/or gangsters.

Trish Lease/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The "not getting shot at" part was nice, too.

If that sounds dismissive, we don't mean it to be. We mean literally Farina's most famous roles were for Law & Order (cop), Manhunter (cop), Midnight Run (gangster), Get Shorty (gangster), Striking Distance (cop), Snatch (gangster), Out of Sight (gangster), and Luck (gangster). And give the guy credit: He was equally plausible in every role.

Aug. 15: Laurie From That '70s Show



Actress Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Laurie, the promiscuous older sister of Topher Grace's character on That '70s Show.


Died in rehab, specific cause still under investigation, Age 43.

The Legacy:

Let's just say that the intervening years after That '70s Show were hard on Kelly:

Iredell County Detention Center
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
How would you react if the most successful cast member ended up being Ashton Kutcher?

There were drunk-driving charges in 2010, domestic violence charges in 2012 (that is, Lisa was charged with assaulting her ex-boyfriend), more assault charges later that year (this time versus her 61-year-old husband), and more drunk-driving charges in June of 2013. She finally checked herself into rehab in August, which is great, but then passed away a few days later for reasons that aren't totally clear.

In an effort to try to keep things lighthearted in the wake of what was a short and tumultuous life, we're going to look at her list of character names on IMDb and see if we can spot any similarities. In the course of her 18 years of acting, she played characters named Debbie, Sherrie, Brandi, Jenny, Ashley, Patty, Kristy, Terri, Debbee, Angie, Molly, Daisy, and Laurie.

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Sept. 12: The Man Who Changed What Entertainment Sounds Like

Ray Dolby via The Mirror


Ray Dolby, American audio pioneer and inventor of surround sound.


Alzheimer's and acute leukemia, age 80.

The Legacy:

Everyone has heard the word "Dolby" and knows it has something to do with sound systems and movie audio, but how many of you even knew if that was a guy's name, or just the technical term for the speakers or something? Well, it was a man: Specifically, it was a humble inventor and audio engineer named Ray Dolby who started with a really simple invention in 1965 -- a device to remove the hiss from audiotape recordings -- that wound up ushering in an era where audio quality in movies actually matters. The next time you blast your surround-sound system at home, or feel the floor shake in a movie theater, thank Dolby.

Jansa/iStock/Getty Images
Or hear that persistent ringing in your ears. That's Dolby too.

After his noise-reduction tech became an industry standard, Dolby started working with Hollywood, and by the 1970s, blockbusters were being blasted from Dolby equipment. The sounds of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were thundered from crystal-clear Dolby stereo systems (Dolby would go on to win an Oscar for his work), and 1978's Superman featured early surround sound, splitting the signal into multiple channels to play around the audience and give the illusion they were in the middle of the action. There's a good chance many of you reading this have never gone to see a movie that wasn't in surround sound.

From that point on, no cinema was complete without a sound system that would hammer the audience from all sides with every explosion and gunshot. This is presumably also why when you play a DVD or Blu-ray at home, you have to crank up the sound to hear the dialogue and turn it down again when the explosions start.

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
And brace yourself when the sound-system promo plays.

Dolby would have gone down as the most influential inventor to pass away in 2013, if not for ...

Dec. 3: The Man Who Gave Us the Doritos Locos Taco

Team Todd via NPR


Todd Mills, the random guy who created the most sweeping fast-food phenomenon in a generation.


Brain cancer, age 41.

The Legacy:

Yes, the guy who came up with the idea of a taco shell made out of Doritos -- an item that Taco Bell would sell more than 500 million of in one year and that would make more than a billion dollars for the company -- wasn't even an employee. He wasn't a cook, or even one of the scientists in the lab where Taco Bell grows its "beef."

PlazacCameraman/iStock/Getty Images

Nope, he was just a guy in Arkansas who used to make taco dishes out of Doritos and couldn't figure out why restaurants weren't doing it. In 2009, he started a Facebook page begging Taco Bell to adopt the idea. He'd probably forgotten all about it when, three years later, the company called and offered to fly him out to their test kitchen, which hopefully is not the den of unimaginable horror we're picturing.

They told him they were launching his idea, and when the product exploded (utterly changing the fortunes of the chain in the process -- they wound up hiring 15,000 new employees to keep up with demand), Mills didn't ask for a penny. He came down with cancer shortly after, and his family set up a website to take donations to cover his medical expenses (they're still taking donations, by the way). When the CEO of Taco Bell heard about their plight, he happily donated ... a thousand dollars. Which is nice, we suppose, but by our count his company makes that amount in Doritos Locos Tacos sales every three minutes.

Taco shells made from Doritos movement / Facebook via LA Times
To be fair, that doesn't include the required cost of upgrading the nation's sewage systems.

But that's the point: There was no lawsuit or demand for credit. Mills wasn't that type of guy. He just wanted a goddamned taco shell made of Doritos, and he wouldn't stop until he got it. Most of us can only hope to have that kind of impact.

Lisa-Skye is Australia's favorite barking sparklepuppy comedian. See more of her on Twitter or Facebook.

Paul Rasche is the author of the darkly bizarre Smudgy in Monsterland.

Related Reading: Did you know Aerosmith nearly died in the same plane that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd? That could've changed everything. For a look at some musicians who predicted their OWN deaths, click here. Bummed out? Cheer up and reminisce about the best celebrity movie deaths in film history.

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As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.

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