Wednesday, August 9

Defying Gravity: the Most Dangerous Movie Stunts Ever

As one of the most popular and exciting film genres, action movies have countless fans and enthusiasts around the world. No good action movie would be complete without jaw dropping stunts, too; this article covers the history of stunts in film, as well as five of the most dangerous movie stunts of all time.

Background: the History of Stunts in Movies

The origins of professional stunt performers go back further than you might think; we can probably consider acrobats, circus actors, and combat performers to be just a few examples of stunt work before it was considered stunt work. While perhaps not quite as dangerous as some of the death-defying stunts you see in modern, big-budget Hollywood movies, it was still very much commonplace for actors in these professions to get hurt or injured as badly or even worse than comparing with professional sportsman.

And, back in the early 1900s, films started to hire performers to handle dangerous stunts on set. Cinema was more or less a brand-new field at the time, and an absolute novelty as a result; because of this, there were usually so many people who would willingly volunteer to perform stunts in a film, just so they could be part of the production, that it actually wasn’t necessary for professional stunt performers to be hired at all.

But, as the film industry continued to grow and the productions themselves became more elaborate and sophisticated, there was a greater need for stunt performers who could safely and reliably carry out high-risk stunts for the big screen.

As this change took place, the men who can probably be considered the first true professional stuntmen started getting hired to appear in movies. These were clowns and comedy performers like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin; it probably goes without saying that the stunts these men had to perform were not quite on par with what you’d see in a big-budget action movie today.

It was action movies that created demand for professional stunt performers, too. As the genre grew in popularity, higher-risk stunts became increasingly the norm as a means of entertaining and shocking audiences. This led to more work for stunt performers, as well as the development of safety measures and devices that would help them to keep the risks inherent to their work as low as possible.

With that being said, even today, stunt performing is far from being a safe line of work. Regardless of the safety measures that might be in place when someone performs a particular stunt, there’s still a significant level of risk that the stuntman or woman simply has to accept as part of the job. Tragically, serious injury and even death are both possibilities that professional stunt performers have to accept every time they show up on set.

Of course, the risks inherent to working as a stunt performer pretty much speak for themselves. While the actual danger a performer is exposed to depends on the nature of the stunt and the production, broken bones are all too commonplace.

It’s also the norm for stunt performers to work with explosions and fires, creating a particular need for them to be able to protect their skin from burns wherever possible. Abrasions are another form of injury that many stunt performers have to deal with at some point in their careers, as are cuts and lacerations.

The Most Dangerous Movie Stunts of All Time

The Car Jump in Smokey and the Bandit

Smokey and the Bandit is a comedy action film revolving around the efforts of two bootleggers who are trying to transport hundreds of cases of beer across the USA. Its car jump scene is iconic among stunt enthusiasts, too; not only were there virtually no safety measures taken during production, but the stunt performer in the scene had to wear a cowboy hat; a crash here likely would have been fatal.


The Chariot Race in Ben Hur

Ben Hur’s legendary chariot race scene is regarded by many as being one of the most impressive, and dangerous, stunts in the history of cinema. This is largely because of the way the scene was choreographed and then actualized; several of the chariots in the race crash into one another, with both people and horses being brutally trampled in the aftermath.

While the film was made decades ago now, just how the iconic chariot race was completed without any of the performers being gravely injured still baffles film enthusiasts and professionals alike to this day. It’s probably safe to say that this isn’t a scene that could ever be replicated in the modern age without CGI, as it would be considered too risky to even try.

The Last-Minute Limo Rescue in True Lies

Jamie Lee Curtis’ epic rescue scene in True Lies has gone down in history as one of the most tense and memorable of all time. The actress essentially gets plucked out of thin air at the last minute by co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger - this was one scene where, with anything less than perfect timing, things likely would have gone very badly.

The Plane Jump in Cliffhanger

Simon Crane is one of the most highly regarded stunt performers of all time, and his jump between two planes in Cliffhanger is thought of by many as one of the boldest and most dangerous film stunts in history. The scene sees Crane leap between two planes; while he was attached to a zipline, it likely wouldn’t have done much for the stuntman if he’d fallen.

Jackie Chan’s Legendary Stunt in Police Story

Jackie Chan is known for performing all of his own incredible stunts, and his work in Police Story is perhaps his most famous. The scene in question sees him sliding down a pole in a shopping mall before crashing through glass - Chan sustained extensive injuries as a result.


  1. Wow, those are some incredible stunts in the history of cinema! It's amazing how filmmakers were able to create such thrilling and dangerous scenes without the use of CGI.

  2. The plane jump in Cliffhanger must have taken a lot of courage and skill to pull off. Simon Crane's leap between two planes while attached to a zipline sounds incredibly daring. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush he must have experienced during that stunt.

  3. Marina Smith8/09/2023

    Action movies and their stunts never fail to bring a smile to my face! The adrenaline rush and heart-stopping moments create an exhilarating experience. It's incredible to see the creativity and innovation behind these stunts, making them unforgettable and leaving us with a sense of joy and excitement.

  4. Amanda8/09/2023

    It's incredible to see how much filmmaking has evolved. While these stunts were groundbreaking in their time, it's fascinating to think about how they would be approached with modern technology and safety measures. Would they still have the same impact?

  5. Lorita C8/09/2023

    As a fan of action movies, I've always been in awe of the incredible stunts performed on screen. It's amazing to see the dedication and skill of the stunt performers who make these thrilling moments possible. They truly deserve recognition for their hard work and bravery. The chariot race scene in Ben Hur is a timeless masterpiece.The level of risk and danger involved in that stunt is mind-boggling.

  6. Niloyn8/09/2023

    While the entertainment value of action movies and their stunts is undeniable, we should also question society's fascination with danger and risk-taking. The glorification of dangerous stunts may encourage reckless behavior and put unrealistic expectations on individuals to pursue extreme activities for thrill-seeking purposes.

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