Because they are usually carried out against well-known figures in order to highlight religious or political differences, assassinations inevitably create greater fame for the victim and eternal notoriety for the perpetrator; in many cases they influence significant cultural happenings. Here is our list of the most famous assassinations in history.
14. Julius Caesar
The assassination of this vaunted military general and dictator of Rome was carried out on March 15, 44 BC, a date better known as the Ides of March, when in the midst of a calculated melee he was stabbed 23 times by his own senators.
13. John F Kennedy
This popular president was shot and killed as he drove in a presidential motorcade through Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was later murdered, paving the way for several theories as to the motive, none of which have been proven.
12. Abraham Lincoln
Born in a log cabin but destined to save the Union and obliterate slavery, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 during a performance of My American Cousin at Ford's Theatre. "Honest" Abe died just days after Robert E. Lee's surrender.
11. Malcolm X
The human rights activist and Muslim minister known as Malcolm X was shot onstage at the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 by two men armed with semi-automatic handguns and one with a sawed-off shotgun. Malcolm had been the target of death threats since 1964.
10. Martin Luther King
Advocating a doctrine of civil disobedience over violence, King was a Christian minister and the most prominent voice of the Civil Rights Movement before his death at age 39. He was assassinated as he spoke from a motel balcony in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
9. Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Often cited as the event that sparked World War I, Franz Ferdinand’s assassination was carried out by Black Hand initiate Gavrilo Princip on Sunday, June 18, 1914, after a motorcade including the Archduke was briefly stopped on a side street in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegova.
8. John Lennon
Having already given Mark Chapman an autograph at 5:00 pm on December 8, 1980, this legendary musician and former Beatle was later shot by the troubled young man upon returning with his wife Yoko Ono to their home in the Dakota Apartments in Manhattan.
On January 30, 1948, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a non-violent proponent of India's independence from British Rule, was killed by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, an apparent reaction to Gandhi's acceptance of Indian Muslims. Gandhi's October 2nd birthday is now recognized as an International Day of Nonviolence.
6. Robert F Kennedy
On the evening of June 5, 1968, not long after securing the California primary for the Democratic candidacy, Robert F. Kennedy was murdered by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian national who opposed the Senator from New York's support of Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967.
5. James Garfield
“My God, what is that?” cried the 20th president of the United States, after having been shot in the back with a British Bulldog revolver on July 2, 1881. Garfield’s assassin was one Charles Guiteau, a failed theologist, lawyer and book collector turned political hopeful.
4. Yitzhak Rabin
After three previous attempts on his life, this two-term Prime Minister of Israel was assassinated on November 4, 1995, a date corresponding to the 12th of Heshvan on the Hebrew Calendar. Law student and right-wing extremist Yigal Amir killed Rabin to protest the Oslo Accords.
3. Benazir Bhutto
The secularist, liberal Bhutto was the first female democratic head of government to lead a Muslim majority country. Prime Minister of Pakistan during 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, she was murdered on December 27, 2007, after a man firing shots at her bullet-proof car detonated a suicide-vest.
2. Pierre Laporte
Kidnapped by FLQ members while playing football with his nephew outside his home, Laporte's dissappearance marked the height of the 1970 October Crisis. A Quebec Liberal MNA, he was found dead seven days later in the trunk of a Chevrolet at Montreal’s St. Hubert-Longeueil airport.
1. Alexander Litvinenko
A one-time FSB agent and subsequent outspoken critic of Russian government, Litivinenko was poisoned in London on November 1, 2006. Before his death he wrote, “You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest… will reverberate... for the rest of your life.”