What’s Your Favorite Movie Stunt?

Who doesn’t remember Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (or, more accurately, Mr. Newman’s and Mr. Redford’s stunt doubles) jumping off that cliff? Can cinema fans ever forget James Bond skiing off the edge of Mount Asgard? (Well, I did indeed forget that it was Mount Asgard, but I did the honorable thing and credited the Bond fan who helped me fix my careless mistake) And, what movie maven doesn’t treasure the hair-raising work of Harold Lloyd or the (still) record-holding 220-foot freefall of the late and legendary stuntman Dar Robinson, tumbling backwards out of a skyscraper in Sharky’s Machine?

With these immortal gags in mind, let’s Ask Movie Irv to share what filmic feats top his list of favorite movie stunts:



Agreed? In the age of digital effects, we may have lost a little of our appreciation for the stuntperson’s craft. Rectify that by adding your own memories of your favorite jaw-dropping movie moments below!

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.ruffin Bryan Ruffin

    That is tough!! ” Bullit” car chase is right up there, but how can you get past Bruce Lee? Backdraft was really good. I think what really makes them so good is the fact they were actually done by people, not CGI. With Steve, he really did drive a car through those streets! In the Great Escape, he drove a motorcycle over a fence, more then once! Bruce Lee, do I really need to say anything?!

    • masterofoneinchpunch

      Bud Ekins actually did the famous jump for Steve in The Great Escape. Yuen Wah did some doubling for Bruce Lee whenever a flip was involved. But Bruce was awesome though.

      If you like Backdraft check out Johnnie To’s Lifeline where he puts the actors in quite a lot of danger around the fires.

      • Mike B

        Just for the record, as you might know early in his career Bruce suffered a severe back injury while weight training. The fact that he functioned at all let alone continue to do his martial arts was a miracle. So yes a double did do his flips, as in Enter the Dragon, but because of his back problems. Thanks for giving Bruce credit!

  • wayne

    Hey George: Another great question, thanks for asking!

    Sure, jumping off tall buidlings, thru fire and falling off horses, plus doing great martial arts/fight scenes are all superb stunts, with or without planes, trains & automobiles, but…how about the one and only Lon Chaney Sr., submitted for consideration in not 1 but 2 roles? As Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with a heavy sack on his humpback scaling down a tall cathedral on a rope to rescue Esmeralda and then in “The Penalty” with his legs tied back behind him for long stretches to play a stumpy man in boots? Not to mention all his great make-ups over the years. :)

    Harold Lloyd is a good choice you made also and lets not forget and he also paid for his stunt one time by losing a finger or so when something blew up in his hand…Buster Keaton was unforgettable in the scene where the house fell on him and he went thru the upper window but cant remember the name of the pic; silents get an edge for primitive technology requiring less aid alone!

    • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

      Glad to offer it; thanks for answering :)

      Yea, it feels natrual to regard practically everything Chaney Sr. did as a stunt–as amazing as everything he did was–tho I do believe he had a double for the treacherous “Hunchback” bits.

      The Keaton movie to which you refer is “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” Which I just looked up and I see is now out on a Kino Blu-ray. As Borat would say, “Niiiice.”
      http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=B61132

  • Ron

    In the movie “Dark Command” with John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon and Roy Rogers, there is a stunt where a wagon, team and man all go over a fairly high cliff. If my memory is correct. First time I saw it, I thought it wasn’t survivable

  • Blair Kramer.

    The ski jump in the pre-credits sequence of “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Rick Sylvester, doubling for Roger Moore as James Bond, skis off a snow covered mountain (you see… Agent 007 is rapidly skiing down a mountain in an effort to escape a group of gun wielding assassins!)! I don’t remember how high the fall may have been, but you may be sure that it was a very long drop! After a few heart swallowing, jaw dropping, slow motion moments that seem like forever, Sylvester finally opens a parachute that is emblazoned with the Union Jack (the British flag)! I’ve never seen any film that offers a more fantastic stunt than this!

  • Richard A. Barr

    I could be wrong but I believe the 220 foot backward drop from a high-rise by Dar Robinson was from the Burt Reynolds movie “Stick”. Regardless, Dar Robinson was one helluva stuntman!

    • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

      Robinson did work on “Stick,” but the record-setting fall is indeed from “Sharky’s.” Here’s an excerpt from a making-of doc that shows Robinson preparing for (and executing) that awesome stunt:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LWZj7ZopsA

    • Harold

      Your correct that movie was titled “Stick”… “What do you call a boomarang that doesn’t come back? ” A stick”

      • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

        Nope. Still “Sharky’s Machine.” They were so proud of Dar’s record-setting stunt it was always the money shot for the trailers.

        Or maybe I should just say:

        ibid.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTwHa-9ul34

        • Mike B

          Dar Robinson did perform a backwards fall in Stick but there was a tether (for lack of better word) tied to his leg. It can be seen when he is falling and shooting at Stick. The fall in Sharky’s Machine was much higher and extremely dramatic to me.

          • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

            All this talk about “Stick” and “Sharky’s” makes me want to watch one of them right away. Or at least a Burt movie in general. Unfortunately “Stick” is not in my library (My “Sharky’s” disc comes fully Burt-loaded with, um…”Stroker Ace”…and “Hooper”). Really, there is pleasure for the stunt fan to be found in much of the Reynolds oeuvre.

          • Terry Powell

            One stunt that always impressed me was from Gator. Towards the end, Gator is in the back of a truck wrestling with the villain who’s driving the truck. The truck goes over a dune, flipping as the stuntman(was it Hal Needham?) jumps off the back. Sound simple but it looks great and had to be very dangerous.

      • Tim

        Yep, never seen anybody with “bunny eyes” before..*L*

        • Mike B

          “If you push real hard, you might hit the water”
          LOL!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.crowe2 Timothy Crowe

    Bruce Lee.He choreographed all his films and stunts, and did all of them like in ‘fist of fury he goes round to the rival karate school, and single handedly

  • Movie Fan

    Jackie Chan has done some fantastic stunts during his career. The fight scenes in the Kill Bill movies were beautifully choreographed. Sometimes a stunt is more than climbing or falling or driving at breakneck speed.

  • Tito Pannaggi

    HAROLD LLOYD in “Safety Last!” (1923) and Buster Keaton in general!!!

  • masterofoneinchpunch

    Car Chases: I always feel the two main car chases in The Blues Brothers are vastly underrated. The reverse direction chase in Ronin is excellent as well. I really liked the opening chase in Drive (2011) which was more cerebral. And the shanty town distruction in Police Story which left several injured (just like the bus sequence).

    Jackie Chan: I could write a whole article just on his stunts. Most well known is the small fall which almost killed him in Armour of God. My favorite is probably the Harold Lloyd homage for the clock fall which he did at least three times (with one time landing on his neck).

    Fight Scenes: there are so many great ones that this is impossible. Some of my favorites are by director Lau Kar-leung (Heroes of the East, 36th Chamber of Shaolin) and some by the combination of Chang Cheh and the Venoms (Five Deadly Venoms, Crippled Masters, Invincible Shaolin).

    How about the chariot race in both big screen versions of Ben Hur?

    The Dar Robinson stunt is awesome BTW.

    If you like stunts and like films where they don’t care about the lives of the stuntmen(and women), but don’t care about plot check out the Thai film Born to Fight (2004). Seriously if you can youtube the sequence with the semis …

  • R.D.Cochran

    Yakima Canutt’s famous stunt in which he(stunting for John Wayne) is on a speeding stagecoach jumping horse to horse in Stagecoach (1939). The Chariot Race in Ben-Hur (1959). Harold Lloyd’s clock dangle in Safety Last (1923) is iconic. But I’m partial to anything with Buster Keaton (yeah,I’m a big fan) when he was at the top of his form in the 1920’s.

    • TinyTim

      Canutt was the stunt director in Ben Hur, and watched his son almost get killed in a chariot crash and recovery so spectacular that it was included in the finished film (the story that stuntmen actually died making Hur is an urban legend). No list of great stunt work could possibly be complete without mentioning Canutt and the work in that scene and in Stagecoach. In fact, I’m surprised Movie Irv’s list is so top heavy with more recent movies while ignoring the incredible scenes in golden-age studio pictures like Cimarron (1931), Hell’s Angels (1930), and the silent epics of directors like DeMille and Griffiths. Bruce Lee was an incredible athlete and fight coordinator, but come on; his greatest achievement was not hitting his colleagues. He wasn’t risking death like so many did in the old days.

      • Leo

        Canutt’s stagecoach flip in the serial ZORRO’S FIGHTING LEGION left me picking my jaw off the ground.

  • Barbara Atkinson

    The art of Yakima Canutt is at the top of our appreciation list. His stunts just can’t be beat. All real, w/o any computer adjustments….

  • Rufnek

    The movie stunts I most remember–not like but remember–are those in which stunt men were killed or injured. For instance, at the end of the original Flight of the Phoenix, the jury-rigged aircraft, having reached safety at the oasis, flies behind a sand dune (from the camera’s perspective) and is never seen again. Original plans were to show the plane landing and the survivors debarking. But in real life, immediately after it passed behind that sandhill, the plane crashed, killing its stunt pilot. As a result the movie ends with the survivors coming on foot over a sand dune.

    In the comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, there’s a scene where the twin-engine aircraft supposedly piloted by Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney flies through a billboard. That, too, is a tragedy about to happen, as the plane then crashed, killing its pilot.

    In How the West was Won, in the grand finale shootout with Peppard against Eli Wallach and his gang, there’s a scene where the train is crossing a bridge and a chain securing a load of logs breaks, causing the log to swing out over the gorge with one of the outlaws holding on. The camera films the man dropping just before the train reaches the other side of the gorge and he disappears behind it rim. But the stuntman missed his mark and didn’t fall into the safe prepared area below. As a result, he was badly injured, resulting in amputation of his leg.

    Great stunts, but were they worth dying for?

    As for the best stunts, I always enjoyed Yakama Cannutt’s work. I’m also fond on actors doing their own stunts–Burt Lancaster, for example, and Douglas Fairbanks. Errol Flynn also was popular with stuntmen after he whipped one’s butt over a prank pulled on him on the set of They Died With Their Boots On. They liked that he did take some of the risks, too. Tom Mix also had a tough image and did some of his own work. I seem to remember in one film Mix jumps from a horse to a moving train and climbs on top of a passenger car. It was reportedly the real Mix from start to finish in that scene.

    • Emily

      I agree with all of the above. I believe that the stuntman seriously injured in How the West Was Won was the husband of actress Yvonne DeCarlo.

    • OZ, Rob

      Three horseman died in the cavalry charge,” They Died With Their Boots On ” 1941, one of those was riding alongside Errol when his horse tripped..Three aerial stuntmen were also killed during the making of ” Hell`s Angels ‘ 1930.although only one was killed while actually filming…
      Agree with the others who praise Harold Lloyd & Buster Keaton for their daredevil feats..
      I thought the two horse with their riders leaping into the river way below in ” Jesse James ” 1939, was pretty exciting & daring….

  • mrmovie

    name an easy 3. one the bike jump in the great escape, the guy doing the fall’ to his death, for basil rathbone in adventures of robin hood; stunt man broke his foot; and guy falling off his horse after col travis shoots him off his horse in 1960’s the alamo. no animation or special affects but last 2 stunt men was hurt with broken bones. why bond movies always thrill they seem to have dangerous stunts in them like the guy running across the gators in live and let live

    • Bruce Reber

      That was Roger Moore as 007, and the title is “Live And Let Die”. There was a pretty awesome chase scene with the speedboats and cars, including one of the guys chasing bond crashing his boat into the redneck sheriff’s car!

  • DIRK

    yes, I would say Harold Lloyd hands down (no pun intended with his missing digit) — and speaking of slapstick, the stunt-laden WHAT’S UP, DOC? The final Chase scene that employed a bunch of stuntpersons!! Harrowing and hilarious!

  • May

    The James Bond films had some great stunts but one that really was so lifelike (I cannot remember which film it was in) was when James Bond was chasing someone through the snow on a snowmobile and the guy went in front of the snowplough. You saw the blood (and you presume body parts) come out of the snowplough, it was so real and scared the living daylights out of me as a very young teenager.

    • Bruce Reber

      That was in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), with George Lazenby in his only appearance as 007. The one scene I really liked was the cars racing on the ice rink – I know that certainly involved some fine stunt driving.

  • aflixianado

    Airplane stunts have appeared throughout film history from Hells Angels to Top Gun. Two memorable stunts involved flying a plane through a hanger. The great Paul Mantz, who died filming the final scene of the original Flight of the Phoenix, originated the stunt in 1932’s Air Mail. Legend says he flew through an opening that gave him five feet of clearance on each wingtip. In 1983, a more modern era stunt pilot, Corkey Fornof, paid homage to Mantz by duplicating the stunt in the opening sequence of the James Bond film, Octopussy.

  • Johnny Lasagna

    I must agree that any live stunt is better than CGI, especially those devised and played by Yakima Canutt. He is/was, probably the best stunt man and 2nd unit director to ever come out of Hollywood. Now how about the AMC car jump in The Man with The Golden Gun.

  • Leo

    Indiana Jones vs. the truck in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

    • Johnny Sherman

      Performed by Terry Leonard, with a tiny ditch dug along the truck’s path, to give a little more clearance for the stunt.

  • Diane

    The scene in the Buster Keaton movie “Our Hospitality”, where Buster saves his love from going over the falls, is just amazing. When I first saw it, I thought for sure he would have broken his back on that one.

  • robert bishop

    Some might remember the film Breakheart Pass with Charles Bronson. I am not sure but i thought he was actually on the side of the rail car in a fight scene, which looked pretty impressive.

  • richard finn

    I still love Ben-Hur. That Chariot Race is something to behold. I realize by the time some bodies were run over, those had to have been made up dummies. But the man who stunted for Steven Boyd, when he was dumped from his chariot did a magnificent job. Also who ever was in Heston’s chariot when it hit an obstruction and he was flipped onto the front of the chariot and then managed to crawl back into the chariot was something. When the movie was released, it was advertised that Heston was actually driving the chariot when that happened, but later I was told that was not Heston. I still don’t know the truth.

  • Woody

    Die Hard II, the ejection seat escape, and yes I know is was green screen.

  • Garry Stewart

    The one I remember in more recent times was Geena Davis [and/or her stuntman] escaping from prison, scaling down a scaffold and jumping onto a moving coach in ” Cutthroat Island .” Outstanding, fast moving stunt work .

  • Johnny Sherman

    I’m just skimming through the comments—

    Anything by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. is terrific, especially since he was the first “name” actor to do his own stuff.

  • frank pienkosky

    the dogfighting sequence in “Hell’s Angels”..awe-inspiring, or piloting that “creation” in “…Phoenix”..incredible!…or Donzell running down the top of that train…nuts!..[how do they insure these people?]…once got a chance to work alongside these guys["stunt extra" in "Sudden Death"], and came away totally impressed by their professionalism…they’re a breed apart..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1562464653 Steve Martin

    Errol Flynn in “Robin Hood” cutting the rope that holds up the draw bridge but then hanging on to propel him over the top of the castle wall! I think that was really him too.

  • johnny villeneuve

    Always great to read the articles and posts about the movies. Great to see this article about some unsung “heroes” of films…the stuntmen.
    Which brings me to another group of unsung “heroes”…the “non-stars” (as I like to call them)…the supporting cast.
    Since movies began, there have been those actors who have delivered memorable performances yet go totally unrecognized.
    Just off the top of my head, we have more recent actors like Stan Shaw or Luis Guzman (if you love the movies, then you shouldn’t be saying, “Who?”). These guys have added so much to the movies they were in, it’s inconceivable that they are ignored!
    Just a well-deserved nod to the ones who make the stars look good.

  • Anonymous

    My vote would have to be anything that Bert Lancaster did. He performed almost all of his own stunts and was great. One particular one stands out from the movie “The Train” where he slides down the ladder at the train station. Looks simple enough but I can attest to the fact that it’s almost impossable for anyone.

  • lpydmblb

    One thing I did not know about Dar Robinson (until researching this question) is that he did one of the most jaw-dropping stunts I’ve ever seen: Papillon’s escape from Devil’s Island in (uh) “Papillon.” You know, the one where he jumps off a cliff into water filled with bad currents and sharp rocks.

  • Sabineholterman

    I can’t believe that no one is mentioning one of the greatest stunts of all time! In Stagecoach when the Indian is shot and the falls to the ground where the stagecoach and horses run over him. How dangerous and scary must that have been!

  • Susan

    The first time I really became aware of the contributions that stuntmen made to movies I was a kid watching Rio Grande. The cowboys who were riding on horseback teams of 3 horses were imitating Roman soldiers. For just a second I was more concerned for the stunt and the the cowboy that I was the movie’s storied sequence. No computers, no fakes or tricks that depended on machinery were working here. All we saw was a man synchronizing his body’s motions with those of his horses. We were witnessing history, and it was on film! Ever since I saw those sequences I knew that they were filmed while it was likely that other stuntmen, the film’s craftspeople, all the directors, and most if not all the cast was on set mesmerized by the perfected skills they also witnessed. We visited the Stuntmens Hall of Fame on a rainy afternoon shortly after it opened. The museum’s director was arranging a photo display of that very Rio Grande event. He knew the men who were in the pictures, and we marveled at the work. To me no film awards could have been enough to demonstrate my gratitude for those moments, and neither will my humble thanks.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HM6WYUFVKNJTLY6SUXFDNUD6H4 Condemned Soul

    James Gang 1939
    Return of Frank James
    Khartoum
    Waterloo
    Virginia City
    Charge of the Light Brigade
    Miracle Rider
    Mystery Mountain
    Mountain Man
    Ulzanas Raid
    Valdez is Coming.
    Bite the Bullet

    Will watch any movie with horse stunts. 
    But Burt Lancaster stands out.  Looks like he rode two horses down.  The first one is in Ulzanas Raid-he sends the rider back to get the troops and takes off after the indians and the horses.  
    The second stunt sequence is at the end of Valdez is Coming.  Lancaster is thrown when his bay goes down.  He barely clears the horse when the black crashes into the bay’s hindquaters. 

    Seems like this stunt would require some planniing or a test ride.  I would really like to know If an alternate scene of this stunt exists or there is a commentrary of ow this stunt was et up and filmed. 

  • Antone

    Almost everything done by Buster Keaton in his silent films was a spectacular stunt. In Steamboat Bill, Jr. the storm scene in which a house collapses around him, he walks with his body at a 45-degree angle and is thrown for spectacular pratfalls. In Seven Chances the scene where Buster is chased by dozens of angry women in wedding dresses, leading to a frantic dash down a hill dodging a boulder avalanche. He was a tiny man, but he was a great athlete to have survived everything he did in the films.

    For an old, fat alcoholic, WC Fields could do amazing stunts. I’ve been told that he was a juggler in vaudeville. His “clumsy” antics with his top hat were hilarious.

  • Bruce Reber

    IMO the three greatest movie auto chase scenes: 1-“Bullitt” (1968), with Steve McQueen in a ’68 Mustang fastback going after syndicate hitmen in a ’68 Charger 2-“The French Connection” (1971), with Gene Hackman speeding through NYC in a ’71 Pontiac LeMans trying to catch a killer who’s hijacked an el-train and 3-“The Seven-Ups” (1973), with Roy Scheider in a Ventura chasing the bad guys in their Grand Ville (both ’73 Pontiacs) at breakneck speed through Manhattan traffic. Stunt driver Bill Hickman was the coordinator for all three chases.

  • Greg M. 84

    How about the car chase with the subway in “The French Connection” or the car chase by Steve McQueen in “Bullet”.

  • Quiggy

    Maybe not my “favorite” stunt, but the most impressive stunt was a nine-wheeler in one of the James Bond movies (can’t remember which one off hand). A standard two wheeler stunt is OK, but doing it with an eighteen wheel truck was really neat.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      I think the 18-wheeler stunt you’re referring to takes place towards the end of Timothy Dalton’s second (and last) Bond flick Licence to Kill. An incredible stunt for sure.

  • dirkwrestler

    maybe one of the Best (certainly in Bond — and that is quite an acheivement) Stunts is the skiing freefall at the beginning of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

  • jbourne5181

    the chase scene in Bullit

  • Sancho

    Sean Connery did his own, quite impressive stunt on a moving train in The Great Train Robbery. Amazing! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV36CHsDZ_c