- January 1 - Spain and Portugal enter the European Community
- January 1 - Aruba gains increased autonomy from the Netherlands and is separated from the Netherlands Antilles.
- January 9 - After losing a patent battle with Polaroid, Kodak leaves the instant camera business.
- January 12 - Space shuttle Columbia is launched with the first Hispanic-American astronaut, Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz.
- January 20 - The United Kingdom and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel.
- January 20 - The first federal Martin Luther King Day, honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
- January 24 - Voyager 2 space probe makes first encounter with Uranus
- January 28 - Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch, killing its crew of six astronauts and a schoolteacher.
- January 29 - Yoweri Kaguta Museveni became President of the Republic of Uganda after leading a successful five-year liberation struggle.
- February 7 - 28 years of one-family rule end in Haiti, when President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees the Caribbean nation.
- February 9 - Mohinder Amarnath becomes the first batsman dismissed for handling the ball in one-day international cricket.
- February 9 - Comet Halley reaches its perihelion, the closest point to the Earth, during its second visit to the solar system in the 20th century.
- February 11 - Human Rights activist Anatoly Shcharansky is released by the USSR and leaves the country.
- February 16 - The Soviet liner Mikhail Lermontov runs aground in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
- February 19 - The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station
- February 19 - After waiting 37 years, the United States Senate approves a treaty outlawing genocide
- February 25 - EDSA Revolution: President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines goes into exile to USA after 20 years of rule; Corazon Aquino becomes the first Filipino woman president, first as in interim president.
- February 25 - Egyptian military police, protesting bad salaries, enter four luxury hotels near the pyramids, set them to fire and loot them
- February 27 - The United States Senate allows its debates to be televised on a trial basis
- February 28 - Swedish prime minister Olof Palme is shot dead on his way home from the cinema.
- 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 - A car bomb explodes at Russell Street Police HQ in Melbourne, killing 1 police officer.
- March 31 - A fire devastates Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England.
- April 2 - A bomb explodes on a TWA flight from Rome to Athens - 4 dead
- 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 13 -- Pope John Paul II officially visits the Synagogue of Rome — the first time a modern Pope had visited a synagogue.
- April 14 - 2.2 lb (1 kg) hailstones fall on the Gopalganj district of Bangladesh, killing 92.
- April 15 - At least 100 people died after USA planes bombed targets in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and the Benghazi region as part of Operation El Dorado Canyon
- 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 17 - Treaty signed, ending Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly.
- April 26 - In Ukraine, one of the reactors at the Chornobyl (Chernobyl) nuclear plant explodes creating the world's 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" interrupts HBO satellite feed
- May 2 - The 1986 World Exposition in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada opens.
- May 7 - Steaua Bucharest wins the European Champions Cup in Sevilla
- May 25 - Hands Across America
- May 26 - The European Community adopts the European flag.
- June 4 - Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling top secret United States military intelligence to Israel.
- June 8 - Former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim is elected president of Austria.
- June 9 - The Rogers Commission releases its report on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
- June 29 - Argentina defeat West Germany 3-2 to win the Football World Cup 1986
- June 22 - Pirate radio Euro Weekend begins to broadcast
- July 5 - The Statue of Liberty is reopened to the public after an extensive refurbishing
- July 23 - In London, Prince Andrew, Duke of York marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey.
- July 30 - Estate agent Suzy Lamplugh vanishes after a meeting in London
- August 6 - A low pressure system moving from South Australia and redeveloping off the New South Wales coast dumps a record 328 millimetres of rain in a day on Sydney.
- August 18 - Australian Democrats leader Don Chipp retiers from fedral parliment and is succeded by Janine Haines, becoming the first woman to lead a political party in Australia
- August 19 - Picasso painting Weeping Woman is found in a locker at the Spencer Street Station in Melbourne, Australia. It had been stolen from the Victoria National Gallery two weeks earlier
- August 20 - In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill guns down 14 of his co-workers before committing suicide.
- August 21 - The Lake Nyos tragedy occurs, killing nearly 2000 people.
- August 31 - The Soviet passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov collides with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasev in the Black Sea and sinks almost immediately, killing 398.
- August 31 - An Aeroméxico Douglas DC-9 collides with a Piper PA-28 over Cerritos, California, killing 67 on both aircraft and 15 on the ground.
- August 31 - Cargo ship Khian Sea departs from the docks of Philadephia, Pennsylvania, carrying 14,000 tons of toxic waste. It will wander the seas for the next 16 months trying to find a place to dump its cargo
- September 5 - Pan Am Flight 73 with 358 people on board is hijacked at Karachi International Airport.
- September 6 - In Istanbul, two Arab terrorists from Abu Nidal's terror organization kill 22 and wound six inside the Neve Shalom synagogue during Sabbath services.
- September 7 - Desmond Tutu becomes the first black to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa.
- October 1 - President Ronald Reagan signs the Goldwater-Nichols Act into law, making official the largest reorganization of the United States Department of Defense since the Air Force was made a separate branch of service in 1947.
- October 9 - United States District Court Judge Harry E. Claiborne becomes the fifth federal official to be removed from office through impeachment.
- October 10 - An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale strikes San Salvador, El Salvador, killing an estimated 1,500 people.
- October 11 - Cold War: Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavík, Iceland, in an effort to continue discussions about scaling back their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe (the talks break down in failure).
- October 26 - Bus deregulation in the United Kingdom, except Greater London and Northern Ireland.
- October 27 - The New York Mets win the Major League Baseball World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox in seven games.
- October 28 - The centennial of the Statue of Liberty's dedication is celebrated in New York Harbor.
- October 28 - Jeremy Bamber is found guilty of the murder of his parents, sister and twin nephews and is given five life sentences.
- November 1 - Queensland, Australia: Joh Bjelke-Petersen wins his final election as Premier of Queensland with 38.6% of the vote. He resigns on December 1 1987 following revelations of his involvement corruption released in the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
- November 3 - Iran-Contra Affair: The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reports that the United States has been selling weapons to Iran in secret in order to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
- November 9 - Romania: Ellection of Patriarch Teoctist Arǎpaşu/Theoctist
- November 11 - Sperry Rand and Burroughs merge to form Unisys, becoming the second largest computer company
- November 12 - Australian singer John Farnham releases the album "Whispering Jack", which becomes the highest selling album in Australia's history.
- November 21 - Iran-Contra Affair: National Security Council member Oliver North and his secretary start to shred documents implicating them in the sale of weapons to Iran and channeling the proceeds to help fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
- November 25 - Iran-Contra Affair: US Attorney General Edwin Meese announces that profits from covert weapons sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
- November 26 - Iran-Contra Affair: U.S. President Ronald Reagan announces that as of Monday, December 1 former Senator John Tower, former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft will serve as members of the Special Review Board looking into the scandal (they became known as the Tower Commission). Reagan denies involvement in the scandal.
- December 14 - Voyager, an experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan and piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, begins its flight around the world.
- December 19 - Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov is permitted to return to Moscow after years of internal exile
- December 23 - Voyager, completes the first nonstop circumnavigation of the earth by air without refueling in 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds
- December 31 - A fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills 97 and injures 140.
- Rajendra Sethia flees from England to India owing £170 million
- Atomic force microscope invented
- Nintendo releases The Legend of Zelda.
- The National park passport stamps program begins.
- January 3 - Nicole LaPlaca, Canadian actress
- January 24 - Mischa Barton, English-born American actress
- January 24 - Ricky Ullman, Israeli-born actor
- February 1 - Johan Vonlanthen, Swiss footballer
- February 19 - Maria Mena, Norwegian singer
- February 21 - Charlotte Church, Welsh soprano
- February 25 - Justin Berfield, American actor
- February 26 - Henning Kjensli, Norwegian automobile restorer
- March 1 - Jonathan Spector, American footballer
- March 9 - Brittany Snow, American actress
- March 14 - Jamie Bell, English actor
- April 3 - Amanda Bynes, American actress and variety show host
- April 10 - Vincent Kompany, Belgian footballer
- June 3 - Rafael Nadal, Spanish tennis player
- June 10 - Joey Zimmerman, American actor
- June 11 - Shia LaBeouf, American actor
- June 13 - Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, American actresses and entrepreneurs
- June 24 - Solange Knowles, American actress and singer
- June 25 - Aya Matsuura, Japanese singer
- June 27 - Drake Bell, American actor
- July 2 - Lindsay Lohan, American actress
- July 4 - Shane Kippel, Canadian actor
- August 16 - Shawn Pyfrom, American actor
- August 28 - Keri Sable, American actress
- September 3 - Shaun White, American snowboarder
- September 5 - Darin Brooks, American actor
- September 12 - Emmy Rossum, American actress and singer
- September 16 - Hasib Hussain, Suicide bomber (d. 2005)
- October 2 - Camilla Belle, American actress
- October 9 - Laure Manaudou, French swimmer
- October 31 - Christie Hayes, Australian actress
- November 2 - Lara Sacher, Australian actress
- November 3 - Jasmine Trias, American singer
- November 4 - Alexz Johnson, Canadian singer
- November 5 - BoA, Korean singer
- November 15 - Sania Mirza, Indian tennis player
- November 25 - Katie Cassidy, American singer and actress
- January 1 - Alfredo Binda, Italian cyclist (b. 1902)
- January 8 - Pierre Fournier, French cellist (b. 1906)
- January 10 - Jaroslav Seifert, Czech writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1901)
- January 14 - Donna Reed, American actress (b. 1921)
- January 24 - L. Ron Hubbard, American writer and founder of Scientology (b. 1911)
- January 24 - Gordon MacRae, American actor, singer (b. 1921)
- January 24 - Vincente Minnelli, American director (b. 1903)
- January 27 - Lilli Palmer, actress (b. 1914)
- January 28 - Crew of Space Shuttle Challenger:
- February 1 - Alva Myrdal, Swedish politician, diplomat, and writer, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1902)
- February 11 - Frank Herbert, American author (b. 1920)
- February 27 - Jacques Plante, Canadian hockey player (b. 1929)
- February 28 - Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden (b. 1927)
- March 6 - Georgia O'Keeffe, American artist (b. 1887)
- March 10 - Ray Milland, Welsh actor (b. 1907)
- March 30 - James Cagney, American actor (b. 1899)
- April 3 - Richard Manuel, American musician (The Band) (b. 1943)
- April 3 - Peter Pears, English tenor (b. 1910)
- April 7 - Leonid Kantorovich, Russian economist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1912)
- April 14 - Simone de Beauvoir, French feminist writer (b. 1908)
- April 15 - Jean Genet, French writer (b. 1910)
- April 23 - Otto Preminger, Austrian-born film director (b. 1906)
- April 26 - Broderick Crawford, American actor (b. 1911)
- April 26 - Dechko Uzunov, Bulgarian painter (b. 1899)
- May 3 - Robert Alda, American-born actor (b. 1914)
- May 4 - Henri Toivonen, Finnish rally car driver (b. 1956)
- May 9 - Tenzing Norgay, Nepalese sherpa (b. 1914)
- May 12 - Elisabeth Bergner, Austrian actress (b. 1897)
- May 15 - Elio de Angelis, Italian race car driver (b. 1958)
- May 15 - Theodore H. White, American writer (b. 1915)
- May 23 - Sterling Hayden, American actor (b. 1916)
- May 25 - Chester Bowles, American politician (b. 1901)
- May 31 - James Rainwater, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1917)
- June 13 - Benny Goodman, American jazz musician (b. 1909)
- June 14 - Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer (b. 1899)
- June 16 - Maurice Duruflé, French composer (b. 1902)
- June 17 - Kate Smith, American singer (b. 1907))
- July 4 - Oscar Zariski, Russian mathematician (b. 1899)
- July 6 - Jagjivan Ram, Indian politician (b. 1908)
- July 8 - Hyman Rickover, American admiral (b. 1900)
- July 8 - Skeeter Webb, baseball player (b. 1909)
- July 14 - Raymond Loewy, French-born industrial designer (b. 1893)
- July 15 - Billy Haughton, American harness driver and trainer (b. 1923)
- August 2 - Roy Cohn, American lawyer and anti-Communist (b. 1927)
- August 20 - Milton Acorn, Canadian poet, writer, and playwright (b. 1923)
- August 31 - Urho Kekkonen, President of Finland (b. 1900)
- August 31 - Henry Moore, British sculptor (b. 1898)
- September 4 - Hank Greenberg, baseball player (b. 1911)
- September 25 - Nikolay Nikolayevich Semyonov, Russian chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1896)
- September 27 - Cliff Burton, American bassist (Metallica) (b. 1962)
- October 5 - James H. Wilkinson, English mathematician (b. 1919)
- October 16 - Arthur Grumiaux, Belgian violinist (b. 1921)
- October 25 - Forrest Tucker, American actor (b. 1919)
- October 26 - Jackson Scholz, American runner (b. 1897)
- October 28 - Ian Marter, British actor and writer (b. 1944)
- October 31 - Robert S. Mulliken, American physicist and chemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (b. 1896)
- November 6 - Elisabeth Grümmer, Alsatian soprano (b. 1911)
- November 8 - Artur London, Czech statesman (b. 1915)
- November 8 - Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet politician (b. 1890)
- November 21 - Dar Robinson, American film stuntman (b. 1947)
- November 22 - Scatman Crothers, American actor, musician (b. 1910)
- November 29 - Cary Grant, British actor (b. 1904)
- December 8 - Ben Dover, American actor (b. 1940)
- December 28 - Andrei Tarkovsky, Russian movie director (b. 1932)
- December 29 - Harold Macmillan, British statesman (b. 1894)
- Physics - Ernst Ruska, Gerd Binnig, Heinrich Rohrer
- Chemistry - Dudley R Herschbach, Yuan T Lee, John C Polanyi
- Medicine - Stanley Cohen, Rita Levi-Montalcini
- Literature - Wole Soyinka
- Peace - Elie Wiesel
- Economics - James Buchanan Jr
- Robert Jungk, Rosalie Bertell / Alice Stewart, Ladakh Ecological Development Group and Evaristo Nugkuag / AIDESEP
Events in the Video Games Shenmue and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City take place.af:1986 ar:1986 ast:1986 bg:1986 be:1986 bs:1986 ca:1986 cs:1986 cy:1986 da:1986 de:1986 et:1986 el:1986 als:1986 es:1986 eo:1986 eu:1986 fo:1986 fr:1986 fy:1986 gl:1986 ko:1986년 hr:1986 io:1986 id:1986 ia:1986 is:1986 it:1986 he:1986 kn:೧೯೮೬ ka:1986 csb:1986 kw:1986 la:1986 lt:1986 lb:1986 hu:1986 mk:1986 ms:1986 nl:1986 ja:1986年 no:1986 nn:1986 os:1986 pl:1986 pt:1986 ro:1986 ru:1986 sq:1986 scn:1986 simple:1986 sk:1986 sl:1986 sr:1986 fi:1986 sv:1986 tl:1986 tt:1986 th:พ.ศ. 2529 tr:1986 uk:1986 wa:1986 zh:1986年