6 of The Most Dangerous Stunts, Performed by Actors in Movies!

Within any Hollywood action movie, stunt doubles are needed to perform various stunts for the lead actors and convince audiences that the actors, themselves, are really the ones in harm’s way. However, there are few actors that have risked life and limb to provide audiences with a look at their impressive stunts and give their movies genuine action set-pieces.

The Wicked Witch’s Pyrotechnic Stunt, Gone Wrong in ‘The Wizard of Oz’!

The same film that dazzled audiences with Oz’s beautiful yellow brick road and Emerald City, also boasted several injuries during its production! From actors being poisoned, exposed to asbestos and even being prescribed amphetamines, The Wicked Witch actress Margeret Hamilton experienced the worst of these hazards, when she suffered third degree burns after a trap door below her failed to open during a pyrotechnic stunt. Both the flames and smoke that engulfed the actress, led to a two-month absence from production and, understandably so, resulted in her refusing to take part in any more work that included fire!

Harrison Ford’s Boulder Run Stunt in ‘Raiders of The Lost Ark’

@raidersofthelostpodcast How Dangerous was the Boulder Stunt in Raiders of the Lost Ark? . . . . . #raidersofthelostark #indianajones ♬ Raiders March (From “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) – John Williams

Fans of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of The Lost Ark surely remember Indy’s iconic scene where he outran the oncoming boulder that nearly crushes him while retrieving the golden idol head! While the massive rock was merely a prop and not the giant boulder that it appears to be, the faux boulder weighed around 300 pounds and could have easily injured or worse, killed Harrison Ford! It’s good the history professor and archeologist had enough spring in his step and avoided being trampled, otherwise he would have been flattened!

Michael J Fox Hanging Stunt in ‘Back to the Future Part III’

@thejordanrainer Here’s a true story about a behind the scenes accident on the set of Back To The Future III. Michael J Fox had a close brush with death while doing his own stunt. #behindthescenes #movieclips #moviefacts #fyp #storytime #moviestory #backtothefuture #michaeljfox ♬ Action thriller music – Jun Naotsuka

During the filming of Robert Zemickis’ 1985 Back to the Future sequel, Back to the Future Part III, Marty McFly actor Michael J. Fox bravely volunteered to do one of the close-up scenes of his near-hanging stunt, while his stunt doubles replaced him in their wide shots. It was during one of these closeup shots that Fox was hung for real, squirming to free himself from the constricting rope, before ultimately losing consciousness! Thankfully, he was not seriously injured by this terrible stunt gone wrong, but his genuine horror of being choked may be seen when watching the film!

Jackie Chan’s Pole Slide Stunt in ‘Police Story’

When it comes to performing innovative and dangerous stunts, few actors have walked away from numerous injuries on set like Jackie Chan has! Known to his fans for his slapstick acrobatic fighting style and comedic quips, The Hong Kong actor, director, producer, martial artist and stuntman has garnered laughs, awards and screams from anxious fans, watching him perform death-defying stunts during his 40-year-long career. The stunt that nearly claimed the actor’s ninth life, however, was his pole slide stunt performed in his 1985 action/comedy film, Police Story.

During a scene where his character is chasing criminals through a mall, Chan jumps from a railing and slides down a metal pole to the bottom floor, without any safety nets or harnesses to keep him from free-falling if he slipped! As if he wasn’t already risking life and limb, a lighting malfunction caused the pole to overheat and resulted in Chan suffering second-degree burns on his palms!

Ouch, Jackie!

Falling House Facade Stunt in Buster Keaton’s ‘Steamboat Bill Jr.’

@thenomadsoffantasy Buster Keaton House Falling Stunt #busterkeaton #stunts #classic #oldmovie #og ♬ (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

Considered to be one of the best stunts pulled off by Buster Keaton, this legendary stunt took place during a hurricane sequence in 1928’s Steamboat Bill Jr., The mock house collapses forward and Buster’s character survives because he’s standing perfectly in the spot where he passes through one of the windows, instead of being crushed!

Having seen Fatty Arbuckle perform the same gag in their 1919 short Back Stage, Keaton did it himself in his 1920 short film One Week, before going on to use a bigger and heavier wall, weighing about 4,000 pounds, and the window was a lot narrower for the 1928 film. Buster Keaton’s alleged courage towards the dastardly stunt came from him not caring what would happen to him, as he’d heard his studio was being shut down.

If that isn’t one way to save your studio from being shut down, we don’t know what is!

Tom Cruise Hanging Off The Side of Plane in ‘Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Who doesn’t love watching an insane stunt, performed every other year on the big screen by legendary actor Tom Cruise? Going on 30 years of dancing with death on the big screen, Cruise continues to push the limits of his body, by performing many of his own stunts in his films since 1986’s Top Gun!

His role as the beloved Mission Impossible character Ethan Hunt has given fans of the action/thriller franchise some of the most dangerous stunts he’s ever performed, particularly when he hung from the side of an airplane in flight during Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. This daredevil wore a full-body harness connected to cables bolted to the inside of the plane, moving at 187 mph and quickly ascending to 5,000 feet! In addition to his life-saving safety harness, Cruise also wore special contact lenses designed to help his eyes withstand the raging wind. To put the icing on the cake, this stunt was shot eight different times and meant the actor had to risk being hit by debris and suffering a fatal death, 5,000 feet in the air!

About the Author

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Gregory Karp

Gregory S. Karp Jr. is a third-year multimedia journalism student at Cal Poly Pomona, with a passion for writing news, sports and culture articles.