Movie magic is a remarkable thing, and Hollywood studios are capable of making the most dangerous, heart-stopping scenes come to life without so much as a scratch on their stars. But even with so many precautions in place, one wrong move for an actor or actress can mean the difference between life and death.
These 20 famous movie scenes were so risky to perform that even professional stuntmen wanted no part of them. While most of these stunts only resulted in incredibly close calls, the more daring ones left the talent with injuries that nearly ended their careers…and their lives.
1. First Blood: Sylvester Stallone is notorious for injuring himself while filming, and his first appearance as John Rambo was no exception. Filming three takes of the scene where Rambo breaks his fall from a cliff using a tree, he eventually broke three ribs.
2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout: Though he’s been doing his own stunts for years, Tom Cruise may finally be considering a stunt double after a scene went awry in his latest Mission: Impossible film. During a rooftop chase, Cruise mistimed his jump and smashed his foot into a building, breaking his ankle and halting production for months.
Variety / YouTube
3. Titanic: In a film that involves the sinking of a giant ship, injuries are bound to happen, even to its leading lady. Despite numerous precautions taken during her underwater scenes, Kate Winslet came down with a serious case of hypothermia and nearly drowned when her coat snagged on a submerged gate.
4. Ben-Hur: Fans of this 1959 blockbuster may cite the nine-minute chariot scene as one of the film’s highlights, but many are unaware that it was also one of its most dangerous. After being accidentally thrown from his carriage, a stuntman nearly lost his life after the remaining competitors came inches away from trampling him.
5. Point Break: The 2015 remake of this 1991 cult classic may not have killed box office numbers, but it very well could’ve done so to many of its actors. Though the wingsuit scene was performed by highly trained stuntmen, the sharp rocks and crags of the narrow canyon still posed a serious threat to all involved.
6. The Dark Knight: Not only did Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece push the boundaries of comic book adaptations, it also went above and beyond with its action work. During the famous truck-flip scene, stuntman Jim Wilkey was actually inside the tractor-trailer and, amazingly, came away unscathed.
The Dark Knight
7. Now You See Me: During Isla Fisher’s water-escape scene, the actress almost drowned after a technical glitch actually trapped her underwater. The crew thought she was just doing a really good job acting, and it took almost three minutes for them to realize the real danger she was in.
Now You See Me
8. Waterworld: As we’ve already learned, open water and perilous stunts usually don’t make for a good mix. During the scene in which Kevin Costner is tied to the top of a ship, a real-life storm broke out and pummeled the helpless actor for almost 30 minutes. It’s safe to say Costner wasn’t too pleased with director Kevin Reynolds after that!
9. GoldenEye: The Pierce Brosnan-led Bond films may get a lot of guff, but there’s no denying that the stunts performed in them were incredibly dangerous. In one of the opening scenes of GoldenEye, stuntman Wayne Michael briefly lost consciousness falling too fast during the Contra Dam bungee jump.
10. The Wizard of Oz: This American classic may not seem like a dangerous film, but the 1939 fantasy flick had its fair share of injuries. In the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West makes her first fiery exit from Munchkinland, the trapdoor beneath actress Margaret Hamilton malfunctioned, sending her into the flames and leaving her with severe burns.
The Wizard of Oz
11. The Passion of the Christ: A brutal-yet-poignant film, The Passion of the Christ saw lead actor Jim Caviezel suffer a number of real-life injuries in addition to those inflicted on screen. Not only was Caviezel actually whipped a number of times, but he also dislocated his shoulder, caught hypothermia, and was even struck by lightning!
12. The Lone Ranger: Though Johnny Depp has had a number of close calls while shooting his Pirates of the Caribbean films, his role in this 2013 adaptation nearly cost him his life. After insisting on performing a high-speed horseback scene himself, Depp was thrown from the moving horse and almost trampled.
13. Kill Bill: Quentin Tarantino’s films are known for being violent, but recent allegations against the director by Kill Bill star Uma Thurman have cast the action classic in an entirely different light. Despite deeming herself unfit to perform the scene, Tarantino forced Thurman to perform a driving stunt that saw her crash her vehicle and almost lose her ability to walk.
14. Premium Rush: If you thought driving in New York City was bad, try weaving through traffic at 30 mph on a messenger bike. This was all in a day’s work for Joseph Gordon-Levitt during the filming of Premium Rush until a taxi cab ran a curb and sent Gordon-Levitt through the back windshield.
15. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The film’s iconic boulder scene may have been filmed using a fiberglass prop, but not all of Indiana Jones’ adventures were so free of peril. Stuntman Terry Leonard put his life on the line during this truck-chase scene in which Indy is dragged by — and ultimately climbs under — a ten-wheeled truck.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
16. The Exorcist: Another film not known for its high-risk stunts, this horror classic features one scene with a frightening real-life consequence. When the possessed Regan slaps her mother and sends her “flying” across the room, actress Ellen Burstyn was yanked so hard by her stunt cable that it broke her tailbone.
17. True Lies: On her 36th birthday, Jamie Lee Curtis blew out her birthday candles and then dangled herself off a helicopter in a scene for the 1994 film True Lies. Though the actress was initially hesitant to perform the stunt, director James Cameron let her know he’d be hanging out of the chopper right alongside her. How reassuring…
18. The Princess Bride: Cary Elwes was so committed to the scene in which Christopher Guest’s character hits him over the head with the butt of his sword that he encouraged Guest to actually hit him. Guest obliged, of course, and Elwes made a trip to the hospital with a mild concussion.
The Princess Bride
19. Roar: Notorious for its 11-year production, Roar is also responsible for 70 of its cast members sustaining serious injuries. The film’s star, Tippi Hedren, also suffered a number of life-threatening injuries, including bone fractures, scalpings, and even gangrene.
20. Whiplash: In an intense film about a jazz teacher pushing a young drummer to his limits, you probably wouldn’t expect significant injuries to occur. Well, you’d be wrong. In the scene where Miles Teller’s character tackles J.K. Simmons’ after cracking under pressure, the young actor hit his co-star so hard that he actually broke two of Simmons’ ribs.
Maybe being a Hollywood star isn’t all its cracked up to be. Here’s hoping these actors have great insurance.
Share these dangerous scenes with your movie-loving friends below!