1986 is a common year starting on Wednesday.
- March 8 - Japanese spacecraft Suisei flies by Halley's Comet, studying its UV hydrogen corona and solar wind.
- March 9 - United States Navy divers find the largely intact but heavily-damaged crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The bodies of all seven astronauts were still inside.
- March 27 - Car bomb explodes at Russell Street Police HQ in Melbourne, killing 1 police officer.
- March 31 - A fire devestates Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England.
- April 3 - IBM unveils the PC Convertible, IBM's first laptop computer
- April 5 - In the terroristic La Belle discotheque bombing the West-Berlin discotheque, a known hangout for U.S. soldiers, was bombed, killing 3 and injuring 230 people. Libya is held responsible.
- April 17 - British journalist John McCarthy kidnapped in Beirut (released in August 1991) - three others are found dead, Revolutionary Cells claims responsibility in retaliation for the US bombing of Libya
- April 26 - In the Ukraine, one of the reactors at the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) nuclear plant explodes creating the worlds worst nuclear disaster. 31 are killed directly by the incident, many thousands more were exposed to significant amounts of radioactive material, vast territories in Ukraine and Belarus rendered uninhabitable.
- April 27 - Captain Midnight (John R. MacDougall) hijacks HBO's satellite and transmits his own message to HBO viewers.
Year in topic
- 1986 in film
- Friday, February 7, 1986 - F/X
- Friday, May 16, 1986 - Top Gun starring Tom Cruise
- Friday, May 23, 1986 - Cobra starring Sylvester Stallone
- Friday, June 6, 1986 - Raw Deal starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Friday, July 18, 1986 - Aliens starring Sigourney Weaver
- Friday, October 17, 1986 - The Color of Money starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise
- Wednesday, November 26, 1986 - Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Children of a Lesser God
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- Little Shop of Horrors
- 1986 in literature
- 1986 in music
- 1986 in sports
- 1986 in television
- January 1986 - A Vicks Formula 44 ad premieres, starring Peter Bergman from All My Children, in which he told the viewing audience "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."
- Thursday, May 22, 1986 - Cher calls David Letterman an "asshole" on the air during a taping of Late Night with David Letterman.
- Friday, July 18, 1986 - A tornado is broadcast live on KARE TV in Minnesota when the station's helicopter pilot makes a chance encounter.
- Thursday, October 9, 1986 - The FOX Broadcasting Company becomes the United States' fourth television network with a broadcast of "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers".
- Monday, October 27, 1986 - Australian soap opera Neighbours begins broadcast on BBC1
- February 1 - Johan Vonlanthen, Swiss soccer player
- February 19 - Maria Mena, Norwegian pop star
- February 21 - Charlotte Church, Welsh singer
- March 1 - Jonathan Spector, soccer player
- March 9 - Brittany Snow, actress
- March 14 - Jamie Bell, actor
- April 3 - Amanda Bynes, teen actress and show host
- June 13 - The Olsen twins, actresses and entrepreneurs
- June 24 - Solange Knowles, actress, singer
- July 2 - Lindsay Lohan, actress
- July 4 - Shane Kippel, Canadian actor
- October 25 - Conor Smith, Irish actor
- November 5 - BoA, Korean singer
- November 3 - Jasmine Trias, American Idol singer
- November 25 - Amber Hagerman, kidnapping, murder victim (d. 1996)
- January 1 - Alfredo Binda, Italian cyclist (b. 1902)
- January 14 - Donna Reed, American actress (b. 1921)
- January 24 - L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction writer, founder of Scientology (b. 1911)
- January 24 - Gordon MacRae, actor, singer (b. 1921)
- January 24 - Vincente Minnelli, director (b. 1903)
- January 27 - Lilli Palmer, actress
- January 28 - Crew of Space Shuttle Challenger: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe.
- February 11 - Frank Herbert, science fiction author (b. 1920)
- February 27 - Jacques Plante, ice hockey star (b. 1929)
- February 28 - Olof Palme, Swedish prime minister (b. 1927)
- March 6 - Georgia O'Keeffe, American artist (b. 1887)
- March 10 - Ray Milland, British actor (b. 1907)
- March 30 - James Cagney, American actor (b. 1899)
- April 3 - Richard Manuel, musician ("The Band") (b. 1943)
- April 3 - Peter Pears, English tenor (b. 1910)
- April 14 - Simone de Beauvoir, feminist philosopher (b. 1908)
- April 26 - Broderick Crawford, actor (b. 1911)
- April 26 - Dechko Uzunov, painter (b. 1899)
- May 9 - Tenzing Norgay, mountaineer (b. 1914)
- May 12 - Elisabeth Bergner, actress (b. 1897)
- May 15 - Theodore H. White, writer (b. 1915)
- May 23 - Sterling Hayden, American actor (b. 1916)
- May 25 - Chester Bowles, American politician (b. 1901)
- June 13 - Benny Goodman, jazz musician (b. 1909)
- June 14 - Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer (b. 1899)
- July 4 - Oscar Zariski, mathematician (b. 1899)
- July 8 - Hyman Rickover, American admiral (b. 1900)
- July 8 - Skeeter Webb, Professional Baseball Player (b. 1909)
- August 20 - Milton Acorn, Canadian poet, writer, and playwright (b. 1923)
- August 31 - Urho Kekkonen, president of Finland 1956-1981 (b. 1900)
- August 31 - Henry Moore, English sculptor (b. 1898)
- September 4 - Hank Greenberg, Baseball Hall of Famer (b. 1911)
- September 27 - Cliff Burton, Metallica bassist (b. 1962)
- October 5 - James H. Wilkinson, mathematician (b. 1919)
- October 16 - Arthur Grumiaux, Belgian violinist (b. 1921)
- October 25 - Forrest Tucker, American actor (b. 1919)
- October 26 - Jackson Scholz, American sprinter (b. 1897)
- Robert Jungk, Rosalie Bertell / Alice Stewart, Ladakh Ecological Development Group and Evaristo Nugkuag / AIDESEP
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