For many people, working on a film seems like a dream job. You’re making magic, bringing to life impossible dreams for the entire world to enjoy. If you don’t know a lot about the behind the scenes working on a film shoot, you might even assume it’s a pretty easy job. While this is sometimes the case, never underestimate how far filmmakers will go to tell their stories right. Sometimes this involves some truly dangerous scenarios, and we’re not just talking stunt-work!
You’d be surprised how many of your favourite movies were dangerous to make and how far filmmakers were willing to push their actors to get the perfect shot. Whether it was by choosing a dangerous locale or tackling a dangerous subject matter, these filmmakers put their lives and the lives of their cast and crew on the line to make the best possible film. While none of these films resulted in lost lives, many came close, or at the very least could have gone tragically wrong.
Next time you watch your favourite film, take a moment to consider all the work that went into the making of the film. In some cases, ask yourself if the dangerous scenarios were really worth the final results. In some cases, the story behind the scene is better than the film themselves. How far would you be willing to entertain an audience? Where do you draw the line, avalanches? Lions? Tigers? Overturned trucks? Being dropped out of an airplane?
13 The Dark Knight (2008)
For what it’s worth, we think that The Dark Knight is still the best Batman movie - and it lands itself on our list for one especially dangerous moment. While Christopher Nolan is no stranger to ambitious stunt work (his amazing practical effects in Inception are legendary), his most epic action moment has to be the truck flip in The Dark Knight. While this could have very easily been done with CGI, Nolan knows that computers can’t quite match up to real life. They not only flipped the truck for real, they actually did it in downtown Chicago. It was done with a veteran stunt driver who clearly knows his way around a car and expertly pulled off the very dangerous stunt with no mistakes. So much could have gone wrong with this stunt, but luckily for us, it didn’t!
12 Point Break (2015)
While late last year the new Point Break was released to little fanfare, it does include one of the most dangerous stunts in film history. While we don’t necessarily think of surfing as particularly dangerous (if you ignore the possibilities of sharks and drowning), the film’s biggest stunt takes its players way above the line of the Ocean into the sky. The base jumping scene looks like it was all done in a studio using green screens, but apparently not! With mathematical detail, five stunt people were dropped from a plane and literally fly through a tight opening at 120 mph. This is dangerous with just one person, with five, one person falling out of line, missing their mark could be disastrous for all of them. While this film was far from a success, you have to admire how dedicated they were to create adrenaline pumping action!
11 Classic Comedy Stars
Back in the silent era, it seemed like the biggest stars of comedy were willing to do just about anything for a laugh - including risking their lives! Take Buster Keaton, the stoney faced comedy genius. In Steamboat Bill Jr. he orchestrated a stunt that would have the front of a building fall while he remains standing, coming away unscathed with some very careful mathematics. In another one of his films, Sherlock Jr. he allowed water from a tower tube fall on his head, where he fractured his neck - he was nearly paralyzed for the rest of his life! Another silent star, Harold Lloyd hung high above moving traffic from a giant clock in Safety Last, and while he also used a circus performer to help perform some of the most dangerous feats, the scene could have easily ended in a fatality!
10 The Revenant (2015)
Leonardo Dicaprio has earned his place on this list by subjecting himself to one dangerous feat after another. Whether it’s spending time in a frozen body of water, sleeping in a dead animal or eating raw bison - Leo was willing to go the distance in order to finally get his Oscar. Tensions were high on set, though, and Leo wasn’t the only person in danger. The remoteness of the locale, sub-freezing temperatures and the fact that they were only shooting a couple of hours a day to best utilize natural light meant tensions were high. Director Alejandro Iñárritu did not make many friends on set and most of the crew hated him. It came to a point that the film’s co-star Tom Hardy, had to put him in a choke hold to calm him down!
9 Gomorrah (2008)
While not many people have heard of Gomorrah, this film is a favorite of Martin Scorsese, who directed Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas. This Italian film is about a crime syndicate based in the Southern part of the country and is based on a true story. The dangers of this film are a little different than most of the entries on this list, as it mostly has to do with the danger of crossing the Mafia. The film’s director lived in the infamous Neapolitan quarter in Scampia region, where gangs were in control, as research for the film, and due to the film and novels’ subject, the author of the book is permanently under police protection. The film and novel have apparently been optioned for a television series for American TV.
You might only know Ben-Hur because your grandma made you watch it around the holidays, and while it was a bit of a bore, the infamous chariot race still raises our blood pressure. Including planning, the chariot race alone took one year to prepare for and over 5 weeks to shoot. The scene which included over 75 horses, 1500 extras, and innumerable stunt men was incredibly dangerous to shoot. At one point one of the stunt men was thrown into the air during a pivotal moment, and it was only luck that saved him from a pretty nasty death.
7 Cliffhanger (1993)
No stranger to danger, Sylvester Stallone is one of our favorite action stars for a reason! While we could have chosen just about any of his action-packed franchises, Cliffhanger holds a very special place in our hearts. With the majority of the film shot on the Tofane cliffs in Italy, this rock climbing action thriller really tests our vertigo. In one of the most death-defying stunts ever committed to film, stuntman Simon Crane was paid $1 million to cross between two planes at 15,000 feet! You’d have to pay us a lot more than that to try that dangerous stunt!
6 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
A common favorite film from 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road was no walk in the park to make. Using mostly practical effects, most of the crazy action you are seeing on screen was done using very real vehicles and some incredibly talented stunt people. Everything from the flame-throwing guitar to the enormous flipping tankers was done practically on the set. In an age where CGI dominates, Mad Max: Fury Road is a real breath of fresh air and the sacrifices made by the cast and crew created truly inspired effects. This is a perfect example of dangerous stunts done right, as the film effect is spectacular and no one walked away hurt.
5 The Fast and the Furious
Whenever you're dealing with car stunts, you’re playing with danger - the more cars, the more dangerous it becomes. To stay relevant and exciting, over the years the Fast and the Furious franchise has upped the stakes. You’d be surprised as to how real things get on the set, with real actors strapped to fast moving vehicles (including tankers) and throwing a giant bank safe off a cliff! If you have any doubt that these films are dangerous, it’s hard not to take into account the franchise star Paul Walker, died in a tragic car accident far away from the set. While these films are shot under controlled conditions with trained professionals, there is always a huge element of risk!
4 James Bond
Okay, guys maybe this one is a bit of a cheat, but narrowing down the most dangerous moments in all of James Bond would prove to be impossible. While we give a bit of an edge to more recent entries, like the parkour introduction in Casino Royale, everyone’s favorite spy has always gotten himself into some tricky situations. If are a fan of death-defying stunt work, James Bond really has it all from jumping on fast moving trains, car chases to real live crocodile hopping in Live and Let Die, adrenaline junkies can find a bit of everything. We just hope that James is responsible and keeps his martinis to a minimum before jumping into the next dangerous situation!
3 Everest (2015)
This 2015 action adventure story nearly turned fatal when a huge avalanche nearly gobbled up the 9-person crew working at the time. Based on a horrific true story of 8 people dying while scaling Everest, some of the film’s inserts were taken from an IMAX documentary that was present during that awful storm. In an ironic turn of events, even more people died during the 2014 avalanche, as sixteen Sherpa guides lost their lives on that day. While the film turned out to be quite a success internationally, we have to ask if making such a dangerous movie was really worth putting so many lives at risk.
2 Mission: Impossible
Headlining the Mission: Impossible franchise since 1996, watching some of Tom Cruise's stunts makes us think he might have a death wish. Whether he is hanging off the side of a plane or scaling the side of a mountain, Cruise has put himself in some very dangerous situations. Since he basically refuses to have a stunt double, you can guarantee whatever crazy thing you see on-screen is really him! As each Mission: Impossible film seems to raise the stakes in terms of danger, we are left wondering if there is really any dangerous stunt left that Cruise hasn’t already done!
1 Roar (1981)
While “No Animals were Harmed” during the making of Roar, many people were. In fact, it is an absolute miracle that this film production which included over 150 lions, tigers, leopards and panthers did not kill anyone! Most of the cast and crew suffered injuries as the production grew in scale, actress Melanie Griffith was mauled, and her mother, Tippi Hedren, was bitten in the back of the head by a lion. The film’s cinematographer got the worst of it, being scalped by one of the lions on set. He needed 120 stitches to repair the damage! Overall over 70 people were injured in some way, making this the most dangerous film ever made.