If there’s one job that will guarantee higher insurance premiums, it’s that of a stuntman. Since the dawn of cinema, brave men and women have been flinging themselves through explosions, off buildings, between vehicles and into each other; all in the name of entertainment. We thought it only fitting today that we, a company in the risk industry who also happen love the spectacle of a good action movie, take a look at some of the greatest movie stunt scenes ever committed to film.
Remember: these are in no particular order and simply represent our favourites. Leave your own suggestions in the comments, and enjoy!
Yakima Canutt (Stagecoach, 1939)
Originally a world champion rodeo rider, Yakima Canutt’s foray into the world of Hollywood stunts saw him quickly embraced by the studios, and in particular by John Wayne who learnt a huge deal from his stunt double. One of Canutt’s most memorable stunts was ‘the drop’ as seen in the video above, taken from John Ford’s Stagecoach and starring John Wayne himself. Canutt performed the stunt perfectly numerous times.
Marvin Casino Royale
There’s quite a lengthy scene in Casino Royale in which a chase takes place on an enormous crane, and at various points along the way James Bond fights a bomb maker named Mollaka in the most precarious of spots. One part in particular, however, was so dangerous to film that the regular stuntman – parkour expert Sébastien Foucan – had to hand over the reigns to Marvin Campbell, another stuntman, as his insurance company refused to cover him should he make the leap. The jump in question can be seen at YouTube.
Michelle Yeoh (Police Story 3: Supercop, 1992)
Prior to landing parts in Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Michelle Yeoh played the part of Jessica Yang in the 1992 movie Supercop. One of the movie’s stunts, seen above, required Yang’s motorbike to jump onto the roof of a train. After rehearsing unsuccessfully with wires attached to ensure safety, Yang eventually filmed the stunt without them. The ensuing spectacle gained her enormous respect amongst the stunt community.
Buster Keaton (Steamboat Bill Jr., 1928)
Buster Keaton’s most famous stunt came in 1938 in the movie Steamboat Bill Jr. The scene involved the facade of a house falling onto Keaton’s character; him surviving by virtue of its open window surrounding his body. He refused to rehearse for the stunt and no trickery was involved.
From Marion Meade’s ‘Buster Keaton’:
“As he stood in the studio street waiting for a building to crash on him, he noticed that some of the electricians and extras were praying. The window was just big enough to give two inches of clearance on either side. Keaton drove a nail in the ground to mark his position. When the moment came and the house front came down, he froze. The open window hit him exactly as planned. Afterwards, he would call the stunt one of his greatest thrills. He said later that he did not care whether he lived or died: ‘I was mad at the time, or I never would have done the thing.’”
Wayne Michaels (GoldenEye, 1995)
When filmed in 1994, the bungee jump that eventually became GoldenEye‘s opening scene instantly broke a world record as it became the highest bungee jump ever made from a fixed structure. It was shot in Switzerland at the 750ft high Verzasca Dam; featured gutsy British stuntman Wayne Michaels in the shoes of Pierce Brosnan; and has since been voted the greatest stunt ever performed. Watch it here.
Joe Canutt (Ben Hur, 1959)
When filming what would become one of the most well-known chase scenes in cinematic history, the stuntman responsible for Ben Hur‘s infamous chariot scene – Joe Canutt, son of Yakima (see Stagecoach above) – was incredibly lucky not to be killed. In one particular scene (see clip above, beginning at 4:45m) Charlton Heston rides over a downed chariot; in fact Joe Canutt ended up flipping over the chariot by mistake and was lucky enough to escape with both a bruised chin and some amazing footage.
Jackie Chan (Police Story, 1985)
The final scene of Police Story is essentially ten minutes of classic stunt-work from one of the all-time greats, Jackie Chan. In fact, much of the film is an homage to stuntwork, so if you haven’t already seen it, we recommend you do so. For now though, watch a master at work as he bounces around a mall in the movie’s dying moments.