ByBrian Finamore, writer at
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Brian Finamore

We all know Tom Cruise is a bit of a nut. The actor seems almost impossibly (I know) upbeat and down for everything. Then again, the 53 year old actor's net worth is reportedly $470 million dollars. I guess we'd all be a little more upbeat and down to do some cool stunts.

For the latest Mission: Impossible (titled Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation), Cruise literally put his life on the line to feature a stunt in the film where Ethan Hunt is climbing and fighting on the outside of a flying Airbus A400M Atlas. According to the production, Cruise performed the sequence, at times suspended on the aircraft 5000 feet in the air, without the use of a stunt double.

There is a long and storied history of stunt work in film. Before the invention of CGI, stuntman and even some actors, put their lives on the line to give the audience spectacular entertainment.

Research shows that Stuntwork accounts for over half of all film-related injuries, with an average of five deaths for every 2,000 injuries. From 1980 to 1990 there were 37 deaths relating to accidents during stunts; 24 of these deaths involved the use of helicopters.

Let's take a look at eight of cinema's craziest stunts.

Safety Last! (1923) - Harold Lloyd

Harold Lloyd, like many early cinematic comedy performers (Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin etc.), loved to put life and limb on the line in order to give us something truly unique. This is one of the most famous stunts in film history, as Lloyd literally hangs clutching the hands of a large clock as he dangles from the outside of a skyscraper above moving traffic.

As if that wasn't crazy enough, Lloyd only had eight fingers (normal people have ten) to do it with!

Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) - Buster Keaton

Literally a house fell on Buster Keaton during the making of one of his early comedic classics, Steamboat Bill Jr.

According to the production, the open attic window fits neatly around Keaton's body as it falls, coming within inches of flattening him. (Keaton had performed a similar, though smaller scale, stunt eight years earlier in the short film One Week). Keaton did the stunt himself with a real, two-ton building facade and no trickery. It has been claimed that if he had stood just inches off the correct spot, Keaton would have been seriously injured or killed.

Bullitt (1968) - Steve McQueen, Bud Ekins, and Loren James

To be fair, it's been widely reported that although Steve McQueen did perform some stunts in Bullitt, that at least 90 percent of the film's stunt work should be attributed to Bud Elkins and Loren James. Of course, in the case of this famous film, the stunt work involves carving up the streets in sweet cars.

This film has one of the most famous car scenes in history, it's what the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this film. The total time of the scene is 10 minutes and 53 seconds, beginning in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco. The director called for maximum speeds of about 75–80 miles per hour (121–129 km/h), but the cars (including the chase cars filming) at times reached speeds of over 110 miles per hour (180 km/h). Driver's point-of-view shots were used to give the audience a participant's feel of the chase. Filming took three weeks, resulting in nine minutes and 42 seconds of pursuit.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Vic Armstrong

The truck chase in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Art is a fantastic piece of filmmaking, mainly thanks to the stuntwork of the famous stuntman Vic Armstrong. Sadly, Armstrong would later die on duty on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). A controversial topic surrounding his death has ensued to this day.

Police Story (1985) - Jackie Chan

Of course, I couldn't do a crazy stunt work list without mentioning Jackie Chan. I chose one of his earlier works, but Jackie Chan, in his heyday, was known for doing all his stunts and doing them tremendously. Entire marketing campaigns were made around Chan's stunt work, and it's part of the reason why he enjoyed (and still does) an insane amount of popularity.

For this insane mall fight in the 1985 film Police Story, Chan suffered from burns, cuts, an injured back, a dislocated pelvis, and near electrocution and paralysis while pulling this off.

Goldeneye (1995) - Wayne Michaels

The opening scene of the first Pierce Brosnan James Bond film Goldeneye features one of the most famous stunts of all time, known as the bungee scene, performed by stuntman Wayne Michaels. He jumped from a specially constructed platform suspended in front of the dam to minimise the chance of him hitting the wall, which is studded with steel pegs and could have left him dead.

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (2011) - Tom Cruise

Arguably Tom Cruise's craziest stunt is this one he did for the fourth Mission: Impossible film in 2011. Choosing the Burj Khalifa tower, which is the world's tallest building, Cruise crazily spent a day of filming just climbing all over the building.

Of course, Cruise appears to be free solo climbing in the film with the help of special gloves, in reality, he was securely attached to the Burj Khalifa at all times by multiple cables.

That crazy Scientologist loves his fun though!

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Plane Hijacking

One of the coolest scenes in recent film history is the opening plane heist scene in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. It would have been easier to use miniatures or special effects, but no, this is Christopher Nolan we're talking about here.

Two planes were destroyed to achieve this sequence. It's been reported that after filming it once, Nolan announced to everyone “Looks good! Let’s do it again!”

Feel free to mention any I missed below!


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