10 Incredible Movie Stunts Performed by Real Actors
Mission: Impossible – Fallout has been getting rave reviews from critics and audiences alike since its release with many calling it the best in the film’s franchise. Much of the praise has come in for Tom Cruise, who once again proves his complete nutjobness by performing virtually all of his own stunts. Whether it’s legitimately breaking his ankle jumping between buildings or actually learning to do his very own death spiral in a helicopter, nothing phases the man.
But while Tom Cruise is probably the most famous actor who performs his own stunts – probably because at 57 years old he’s old enough to know better – the history of cinema is littered with performers not content with body doubles and CGI. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the best ever movie stunts performed by real actors.
10) Daniel Craig in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
Though we can’t ever really expect Bond to do all his own stunts, Daniel Craig has done more of his own than any other 007 in the franchise’s history, and he was clearly out to impress in his debut film Casino Royale. In the opening sequence, Craig chases the bad guy on to a building site and up some scarily high construction cranes, jumping from crane to crane. The sequence is one of the all-time great James Bond openings, but it’s all the better knowing Craig performed the death-defying leaps himself.
9) Angelina Jolie in ‘Salt’ (2010)
Angelina Jolie may be known as one of the biggest activists in Hollywood but she’s also a certified badass on the film set. In Salt, she plays a CIA agent who goes on the run after being accused of being a Russian spy. Naturally there’s a load of chase sequences with Jolie leaping off bridges and jumping on the roofs of moving cars. While there is some camera cutting in some stunt scenes, many are pretty complicated and Jolie performed all of them herself.
8) Tony Jaa in ‘Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior’ (2003)
It might be cheating putting Tony Jaa in a stunt list – mainly as that’s pretty much the reason he got said gig in the first place – but in Ong-Bak it’s not his gravity-defying stunts which earn him a place on our illustrious rundown. It’s the fact he literally doused his legs in oil and set them alight in the name of entertainment. Yes, during a showstopping fight scene, Jaa delivers a roundhouse kick to his opponent’s neck while his pins are on fire. In one of the takes, Jaa used so much oil he burnt off his eyebrows.
7) Jason Statham in ‘Crank’ (2006)
If you haven’t seen any of the Crank series, you don’t know what you’re missing. Jason Statham plays a British assassin who’s injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate drops below a certain level. To keep that BPM up, he does everything you could imagine – drugs, fights, shagging, electrocution… the lot. But given its small budget, it’s no surprise that Statham had to perform many of his own stunts. At the end of the first Crank, Statham fights a villain in a helicopter 2,000ft above LA. The scene isn’t CGI and all that was stopping him from falling was a small belt and thin wire. While it is impressive, we should remember than Statham is used to heights seeing as he used to be an Olympic diver. True story.
6) Harrison Ford in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981)
Probably the most iconic scene on our list, Harrison Ford did indeed genuinely run away from a giant boulder in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. The boulder was 12 feet tall and while lighter than rock, it did weigh a hefty 60 stones. Made out of wood, plaster and Fiberglass, though there were mechanical arms and poles to stop it in an emergency, Ford did get awfully close to being flattened while outrunning it.
5) Keanu Reeves in ‘Speed’ (1994)
Keanu Reeves is a bit of a cult hero these days for being low-key the nicest guy in Hollywood. And we’ve got nothing but love for the actor too. He’s also a bit of an adrenaline junkie and regularly does his own set-pieces in films. In Speed, for example, Reeves genuinely did leap from a moving car to a moving bus. And before you ask, Dennis Hopper did make sure the bus was going over 50mph.
4) Zoë Bell in ‘Death Proof’ (2007)
Having worked as a stuntwoman for more than 15 years, Zoë Bell was given her time to shine as a full blown actor in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. The director gave Bell her big break after she showed her fearless side while acting as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in Kill Bill. Though she was used to facing fear, Bell’s car scene in Death Proof (where she rides on the hood of a speeding car) can’t have been a breeze…
3) Jackie Chan in ‘Who Am I?’ (1998)
Jackie Chan is famous for death-defying stunts. And while there’s plenty to choose from, we’ve gone his stunt in Who Am I?, which his producers labelled the “world’s most dangerous stunt”. It’s hard to argue with that summation too. In the scene, Chan escapes the baddies by sliding down the side of a slippery skyscraper in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Chan had to navigate 21 storeys with no wires and no nets. Incredible.
2) Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (2015)
Though we mentioned his helicopter ride in Fallout in the intro, we just couldn’t ignore Tom Cruise’s jaw-dropping stunt from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. In the opening scene, Ethan Hunt has to hang on for his life from the side of a prop plane as it takes off, reaching triple-digit speeds. But did Cruise actually do it for real? Yep. He did. Cruise wanted it to feel as authentic as possible, so the only thing keeping the pint-sized madman strapped to the Airbus was a solitary harness.
1) Buster Keaton in ‘Steamboat Bill Jr’ (1928)
But the all-time greatest stunt performed by an actor has to go to Buster Keaton and the collapsing house in Steamboat Bill Jr. In the silent film, Keaton is standing minding his own business when a house behind him falls. Keaton is only saved by a perfectly placed window hole. The joke has been copied in so many films now that we’ve almost become anaesthetised to it. But it’s worth remembering in Steamboat Bill Jr the house did actually fall, and Keaton had the grapefruits to stand underneath it, hoping he’d survive the day. One tiny change in trajectory and he would have been flattened. Cruise and the like can only bow down to the master. Here’s to you, Buster Keaton!
If you love an action sequence as much as we do, you might be interested to hear that a James Bond museum has opened in Sölden, Austria – scene for the snow chase sequence in SPECTRE.