Stunt actors are the backbone of action movies, and can bring excitement, danger and drama to a film or TV series.
However, while we're watching their stunts unfold on screen, we might forget that the danger is extremely real, and sometimes, the worst can happen on set.
While stunt actors are highly skilled and trained to avoid injury, tragic accidents have occurred in which performers have died in the line of work.
Here are 20 films and TV series where stunt actors lost their lives.
Harry O'Connor was a Navy SEAL before he got into the stunt industry as a performer and skydiver, and was hired as Vin Diesel's stunt double on the set of xXx.
While filming a paragliding scene in Prague, the 45-year-old collided with a pillar of the Palacky Bridge, breaking his neck. He died from his injuries.
Director Rob Cohen later said: "We had 500 stuntmen involved with this picture; 499 didn't get a scratch. It shows you the lengths to which we will go to bring this kind of intense experience to the viewer. Stuntmen know they are in danger. They make their living through danger. Most of the time, it's all right. Sometimes, unfortunately, it isn't."
The fatal accident occurred on O'Connor's second take of the stunt; his first take was successful and can be seen in the 2002 film.
Famed stunt pilot Art Scholl died while filming footage for the Tom Cruise classic Top Gun in 1985.
Scholl had been performing an upside-down spin in a camera-equipped aerobatic biplane when the Pitts S-2 plane plunged into the Pacific Ocean after Scholl was heard saying over the radio: "I have a problem; I have a real problem."
Scholl's body and plane were never recovered. He was 53 years old.
Stuntman A.J. Bakunas was determined to take back the record won from him by Dar Robinson (see below), by falling from the 22nd floor of a construction site for the 1979 movie Steel, on which he was playing George Kennedy's stunt double.
Filming Kennedy's character's death, Bakunas successfully completed the jump, but the airbag beneath him ruptured, causing him critical injuries.
He was taken to hospital, where he died the following day aged 27.
For Your Eyes Only
In the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore's 007 was pursued by Russian assassins, and skis down a bobsleigh track to avoid them.
Stuntman Paolo Rigon, 23, was driving the bobsleigh, and was killed when he became trapped under the sleigh, which continued to drag him along.
A week earlier in 1981, American bobsledder James Morgan was killed on the same track during the FIBT World Championships. The accidents led to the course being shortened.
The Expendables 2
Kun Liu, 25, was killed while performing on an inflatable boat on the Ognyanovo reservoir in Bulgaria.
The stunt had involved an on-set explosion which went awry, resulting in Liu's death and another stunt actor, Nuo Sun, being seriously injured.
Liu's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Millennium Films and the movie's stunt coordinator, Chad Stahelski.
Back in 2000, veteran stuntman Chris Lamon died six days after an accident on the set of the Steven Seagal and DMX action film Exit Wounds.
Lamon, 35, and another stuntman were set to jump out the back of a truck, which was being towed upside down along a street, when he hit his head.
Lamon was diagnosed with a fractured skull, and died almost a week later in hospital.
"[He] made an error with his footing," Warner Bros. Senior Vice President Mark Reina told The Hollywood Reporter in 2006. "He landed badly and hit his head on the pavement. We are very sad about this. It doesn't happen very often."
Joi Harris was the double for actress Zazie Beetz on Deadpool 2, and was performing her first stunt when she was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2017.
Harris was killed when she was ejected from the bike she was riding and crashed through the plate glass window of a nearby building.
A report from WorkSafeBC found that Fox had "failed to conduct a risk assessment addressing safety controls, speed of the motorcycle, and equipment limitations," had "failed to ensure that the stunt performer was wearing safety headgear" and failed to provide "adequate supervision" for Harris. Producers were fined nearly $300,000.
Ryan Reynolds, who plays Deadpool, said he was "heartbroken, shocked and devastated" by Harris's death.
While most films that suffered tragedies would like to distance themselves from fatalities, 1969 Burt Reynolds action film Shark! did the opposite.
Originally called Caine, the film changed its name to Shark! after a stuntman was killed by a white shark during filming. Jose Marco, was attacked and killed on camera by a white shark that broke through protective netting.
The poster for the movie read "A realistic film became too real!" and promoted a Life magazine photo spread of the attack.
Director Samuel Fuller battled with producers to have his name removed from the project after he saw Marco's death being used to promote it.
The crew of John Wu's 2000 film Red Cliff were left distraught after one stuntman died and six crew members were injured after a fire stunt went out of control.
During filming in Xiotang Shan on the outskirts of Beijing, a burning ship crashed into another for a stunt but high winds saw the fires grow out of control, with both ships becoming engulfed in flames.
A 23-year-old stuntman died in the fire.
A statement from Lion Rock read at the time: "The crew of Red Cliff is deeply distraught and full of regret. Every effort is being made to make arrangements for the deceased, his family, and the injured crew members."
Million Dollar Mystery
Veteran stuntman Dar Robinson was known for his death-defying leaps off buildings and from helicopters, and had never broken a bone in his career.
But it was during a routine chase on the set of Million Dollar Mystery that he was involved in a fatal motorcycle stunt.
The 39-year-old had been driving a dirt bike around a sharp turn on U.S. Highway 89- A for a scene, when he drifted to the right and lost control of the bike.
Robinson plunged 40 feet into an embankment, hit a boulder and fell in some sage brush, where he received a puncture wound and suffered massive internal trauma.
The Right Stuff
The critically acclaimed historical drama The Right Stuff followed Navy, Marine, and Air Force test pilots and required shooting at the Edwards Air Force Base.
Stuntman and parachutist Joseph Svec, a former Green Beret, was filming a portrayal Chuck Yeager's ejection from an NF-104, when he failed to open his parachute.
Svec was killed in the incident, with later examinations showing nothing wrong with the 35-year-old's parachutes.
Vampire In Brooklyn
Stunt performer Sonja Davis was fatally injured on the set of the Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett comedy horror Vampire In Brooklyn when performing a 42 foot backward fall.
Davis's mother and brother were on set watching as Davis, who was doubling for Bassett, bounced off the airbag that was meant to cushion her landing and slammed into the opposing wall and then into the ground.
The 27-year-old sustained critical injuries and died two weeks later in hospital.
Davis's mother Wanda Sapp filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, Eddie Murphy's production company, director Wes Craven, and stunt coordinator Alan Oline, alleging that her daughter had expressed her concerns about the safety of the stunt before she was injured.
She said: "The last words I heard my baby say was when she yelled down to the stunt coordinator, 'Are you sure?' ... I could feel Sonja wasn't comfortable with the stunt."
The Sword and the Sorcerer
Stuntman Jack Tyree was killed when a stunt on the cult fantasy film The Sword and The Sorcerer went wrong.
The 37-year-old was performing a jump from a 24-metre cliff when he hit the ground, 60 centimetres shy of the airbag meant to cushion his fall.
The film's producers said there didn't appear to be anything "untoward" about the jump and Tyree had previously completed the same height jump for another TV movie.
Comes a Horseman
Stuntman Jim Sheppard was doubling for Jason Robards on Comes A Horseman when he was killed filming a scene where Robards' character was dragged to his death by a horse.
Sheppard was required to be dragged by a horse, but the horse failed to run straight and the performer's head struck a fence post.
The 40-year-old was airlifted to hospital but died from his injuries in hospital.
The scene is still in the movie, but is cut before the accident occurred.
During filming for the Tom Cruise film American Made in 2015, a Piper Smith Aerostar 600 carrying three stunt pilots crashed into the Andes.
Alan Purwin, 51, a Hollywood pilot, and native Columbian Carlos Berl, 58, died on the scene, while the third pilot, American Jimmy Lee Garland, 55, was left paralyzed.
The estates of the two deceased pilots claimed that Cruise and director Doug Liman's insistence on filming a "high-risk, action-packed motion picture" contributed to the circumstances that led to the crash.
Producers later settled all litigation surrounding the case.
They Died with Their Boots On
Three stunt men were killed during the filming of the 1941 Western They Died With Their Boots On, which was a highly fictionalized account of the life of Gen. George Armstrong Custer.
One man was killed when he broke his neck after falling from a horse, while another stuntman died on set from a heart attack.
Actor Jack Budlong insisted on using a real sword in a cavalry charge scene, and accidentally impaled himself when an explosive charge sent him flying off his horse.
Bennie E Dobbins was a veteran stunt actor, starring in films including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial and Ferris Bueller's Day Off before becoming a stunt coordinator.
He worked as a stunt coordinator on Red Heat, but sadly, a bout of pneumonia led to him suffering a heart attack on the set of the action film.
Dobbins was 55 years old, and the film is dedicated to his memory.
Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was not a stuntman, but the breakthrough star of the action film The Crow, which was the site of one of Hollywood's most notorious on-set deaths.
Shooting a scene where his character Eric Draven was shot, Lee was fatally wounded by a prop gun, which was loaded with a single harmless blank, but had a piece of a real bullet still lodged in the chamber from earlier use.
Lee died aged 28 during surgery.
The film was completed using a stunt double and special effects, and is dedicated to Lee's memory.
The Walking Dead
John Bernecker was performing a 20-foot fall on The Walking Dead in 2017 when he missed a safety cushion by "inches" and hit the concrete floor, sustaining a severe head injury.
The 33-year-old died the following day in hospital.
Bernecker's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that his death was preventable and the result of negligence on the part of the production.
AMC's legal team argued Bernecker's death stemmed from human error on the stuntman's part, claiming he grasped the rail and held on during his flip off the balcony, which changed his anticipated trajectory.
Bernecker's family was awarded $8 million in a jury verdict, but an appeals court threw out the verdict earlier this year.
In 2019, special effects coordinator Warren Appleby was killed on the set of the DC series Titans, after a piece of a car being used in a stunt broke off during testing and hit him.
A statement from Warner Bros at the time read: "We are heartbroken and devastated by the passing of our treasured colleague, special effects coordinator Warren Appleby, after an accident which occurred at a special effects facility during the preparation and testing for an upcoming shoot.
"Warren is beloved by all who worked with him during an impressive 25-year career in television and motion pictures. The executive producers, along with everyone in the 'Titans' family, Warner Bros. Television Group and DC Universe wish to express our deepest condolences, and heartfelt love and support, to Warren's family and friends at this most difficult time."
What actor died during a stunt? ›
Soviet actor Yevgeni Urbansky died in an accident while performing a stunt during filming on 5 November 1965.Which actors died while filming? ›
- 1 Chris Farley - Shrek (2001)
- 2 Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (2014) ...
- 3 Paul Walker - Furious 7 (2015) ...
- 4 Bruce Lee - Game of Death (1978) ...
- 5 Brandon Lee - The Crow (1994) ...
- 6 Heath Ledger - The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) ...
During the filming of a sequence portraying Chuck Yeager's ejection from an NF-104, stuntman Joseph Svec, a former Green Beret, was killed when he failed to open his parachute because he may have been unconscious from smoke.Was a stuntman killed in Mad Max? ›
Nobody died in Mad Max, Hooper or Where Eagles Dare. These myths arise when people see a stunt that looks convincing (perhaps by going slightly wrong) and swapping scare stories. The high fall in Hooper preceded one for the movie Steel, in which AJ Bakunas did die.What actor died during heart surgery? ›
The family of the late actor Bill Paxton has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against a Los Angeles hospital and the surgeon who performed his heart surgery shortly before he died in 2017, according to a court filing Friday.Which actress died on set? ›
Halyna Hutchins died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021. Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza.What movie was John Candy filming when he died? ›
The larger-than-life comedic star John Candy dies suddenly of a heart attack on March 4, 1994, at the age of 43. At the time of his death, he was living near Durango, Mexico, while filming Wagons East, a Western comedy co-starring the comedian Richard Lewis.Who died while filming the Joker? ›
Eminem's stunt double Ryan Shepard has died aged 40. The stuntman, who worked with the 50-year-old rapper early in his career after the release of 1999 album 'The Slim Shady LP', died on January 31 after being hit by a truck while crossing the road.Who is the best stunt actor in the world? ›
1. Dar Robinson. Celebrated as the greatest stuntman of all time, Dar Robinson broke 19 World Records and set 21 World's Firsts in stunts during his lifetime, which included jumping off the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada in 1980.
Which actor died in a car crash in the 50s? ›
On September 30, 1955, actor James Dean was killed in a two-vehicle accident near Paso Robles, CA. Dean was killed, but his passenger and the driver of the other vehicle survived.Was the real Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff? ›
“The Right Stuff” follows test pilots who were selected to be astronauts for NASA's Project Mercury, which was the first human space flight organized by the U.S. In the film, Sam Shepard portrays Yeager, and Yeager himself even made a cameo as Fred, a bartender at Pancho's Palace.Who died in The Right Stuff? ›
Fred Ward, star of 'The Right Stuff,' 'Remo Williams' and 'Tremors,' dies at 79. Fred Ward, a character actor and producer who starred in "The Right Stuff," "Tremors" and "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins," has died at 79.What happened to Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff? ›
The videos show the famous sequence of Chuck Yeager's NF-104 ejection which took place while he was attempting to set a new altitude record at the edge of space but was nearly killed in a high-speed ejection after his aircraft went out of control in a flat spin.Did the baby survive in Mad Max? ›
According to Max, she went under the wheels of Joe's vehicle. Joe wound up crashing in a futile attempt to avoid her. Angharad later succumbed to her injuries. Joe had The Organic Mechanic perform an emergency C-section to save her child, but the infant died as well.Was anyone hurt filming Mad Max? ›
Real people were hurt during the making of "The Road Warrior." An authorized video on the film's production captures the injury of Guy Norris. Filling in for Vernon Wells as "Wez," Norris drove his motorcycle directly into a wrecked car and sent himself flying, as required by the script.What do they scream in Mad Max? ›
A chrome'd out Nux ready to die. Chrome is a slang term used by War Boys.Who keeps the heart alive during surgery? ›
Cardiovascular perfusionists are responsible for operating extracorporeal circulation equipment, such as the heart-lung machine, during an open-heart surgery or any other medical procedure in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient's circulatory or respiratory function.What is the hardest heart surgery? ›
Open heart procedures, which represent a major portion of our volume, require cardiopulmonary bypass (heart-lung bypass machine) and are usually the most complicated and complex procedures.What happens if an actor dies during filming? ›
In many cases, a show will handle the death of an actor by killing off their character or otherwise writing them out of the show. In other cases, the show may recast the part with another actor. In extreme cases, the show may be cancelled outright.
How old was Marilyn Monroe when she died? ›
On August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead from an overdose of barbiturates in her home in Brentwood, California. She was 36 years old.What famous opera singer died recently? ›
Maria Ewing, the opera singer acclaimed for her sensual, dramatically charged performances in works by Strauss, Bizet and Shostakovich, died at her home near Detroit on Sunday. She was 71. Her death was announced in a family statement published by multiple news organizations.How much did John Candy weight at his heaviest? ›
He was 43 years old. In addition to his obesity, he tended to binge eat in response to professional struggles and weighed in excess of 300 pounds (140 kg) at some points in his life.What movie was Chris Farley filming when he died? ›
"Almost Heroes" was Chris Farley's last leading role in a major movie and was released just a few months after his death from a drug overdose in late 1997.
How much did John Candy weigh at his death? He weighed 275 pounds.What movie did Heath Ledger died while filming? ›
Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)
An accidental overdose ended Ledger's life in January 2008, months before the movie that would make him a movie icon was released. The film smashed box office records and is considered one of the best superhero movies ever made.
Joker was inspired by two Martin Scorsese movies
He follows an experimental film style. Now, any cinephile can point out his auteur from the rest, and Joker seemed like a Martin Scorsese movie. That was because it was heavily inspired by two of them, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
The character was introduced in Batman #1 (1940), in which he announces that he will kill three of Gotham's prominent citizens. Although the police protect his first announced victim, millionaire Henry Claridge, the Joker had poisoned him before making his announcement and Claridge dies with a ghastly grin on his face.Who is the craziest stuntman? ›
Evel Knievel's Canyon Jump
You can`t have a list like this without including Robert Craig Knievel, aka “Evel Knievel,” the baddest stunt performer of all time. Evel Knievel was one of the most daring motorcycle stuntmen ever to straddle a bike.
The reality of this profession is that stunt doubles do get hurt, but there are ways that they and their employers minimize those risks. Some of the common dangers of being a stunt double include cuts, burns, broken and sprained bones or joints and abrasions.
Who is the highest paid stunt double? ›
According to The Guinness Book of Records, Robinson was the highest-paid stuntman who received $100,000 for a single stunt. This he performed when he leaped from the top of the world's tallest free-standing structure, the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.Who is considered the best male actor of all time? ›
- 8 James Cagney.
- 7 Clark Gable.
- 6 Henry Fonda.
- 5 Fred Astaire.
- 4 Marlon Brando.
- 3 James Stewart.
- 2 Cary Grant.
- 1 Humphrey Bogart.
That was Jeannie Epper, too. If you've seen The Bionic Woman or Charlie's Angels or Robocop or 2 Fast 2 Furiousor The Italian Job, you've seen Jeannie Epper fight, jump, fall, and claw her way to the top of the heap in the stunt world, becoming an inspiration for countless women behind her.What actor was killed by a car? ›
Death of James Dean.
|Date||September 30, 1955|
|Location||At the junction of California State Route 46 and California State Route 41 near Cholame, California|
The first recorded automobile fatality occurred in a small town in the Irish Midlands in 1869. Mary Ward, a celebrated microscopist, artist, astronomer and naturalist, fell from a steam carriage and died after crush injuries from its heavy iron wheels.What actor killed someone with a car? ›
On August 5, 1987, while driving a rented BMW 316 on the Tempo Road outside Tempo, Northern Ireland, Broderick crossed into the wrong lane and collided head-on with a Volvo. The driver, Anna Gallagher, 28, and her mother, Margaret Doherty, 63, were both killed instantly.Who was the best test pilot ever? ›
Chuck Yeager is unquestionably the most famous test pilot of all time. He won a permanent place in the history of aviation as the first pilot ever to fly faster than the speed of sound, but that was only one of the remarkable feats this pilot performed in service to his country.Who is the fastest pilot in the world? ›
Brigadier General Charles Elwood Yeager (/ˈjeɪɡər/ YAY-gər, February 13, 1923 – December 7, 2020) was a United States Air Force officer, flying ace, and record-setting test pilot who in October 1947 became the first pilot in history confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight.Who really broke the sound barrier first? ›
Seventy-five years ago, on October 14, 1947, the Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis, piloted by U.S. Air Force Captain Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1).Who dies in The Thing 1982? ›
During the encounter, Norris appears to suffer a heart attack. As Copper attempts to defibrillate Norris, his chest transforms into a large mouth and bites off Copper's arms, killing him.
Who dies in The Thing 2011? ›
Jameson: Stabbed through the lung by one of Edvard-Thing's tentacles, seems to drown in his own blood. Kate then burns his body with a flamethrower to ensure he wasn't infected. Sander: Attacked, killed and assimilated by the Splitface, the Sander-Thing is destroyed when Kate throws a thermite grenade into its mouth.What is the demon in The Right Stuff? ›
Answer and Explanation: The word ''demon'' appears a handful of times in The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. It is the name of one of the fighter planes mentioned in the book, but it is not one of the book's important aircraft.Why is it illegal to break the sound barrier? ›
Breaking the sound barrier leads to a sonic boom. And regulators have determined that people need to be protected from sonic booms. Planes produce sound waves when they travel. At under Mach 1, these waves propagate in front of a plane.Who broke Mach 10? ›
On November 16, 2004, NASA made history by launching the X-43A, the first-ever air-breathing hypersonic vehicle, into the atmosphere, achieving Mach 10 speed. The X-43A separated from its booster and accelerated on scramjet power at nearly ten times the speed of sound (7000 MPH) at roughly 110,000 feet.Who is the first pilot in the world? ›
Product Description. Here is the little-known history of Otto Lilienthal, a daring man whose more than 2,000 successful flights inspired the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers. In 1862, balloons were the only way to reach the sky. But 14-year-old Otto Lilienthal didn't want to fly in balloons.Did Gibby's stunt double died? ›
During rehearsal of a stunt, Bernecker fell 20 feet (6.1 m) onto a concrete floor, missing a placed safety cushion by "inches", and sustained a severe head injury. This shut down production on the series. He was taken to Atlanta Medical Center and placed on life support. He died from his injuries the following day.Has any stunt double ever died? ›
Jack Tyree died in 1981 while filming "The Sword and the Sorcerer." While performing an 80-foot fall, Tyree missed the airbag below and died on impact. Paolo Rigoni died in 1981 while filming one of the James Bond movies, "For Your Eyes Only." He was pinned under a sled during the ski chase scene.Have any stunt men died? ›
Veteran stuntman Jack Tyree was filming a scene for The Sword and the Sorcerer on the production's Malibu set in which he was to jump from an 80-foot cliff. He unfortunately landed a few feet away from his landing airbag, causing severe injuries that ultimately cost his life.Who was the most famous stuntman? ›
1. Dar Robinson. Celebrated as the greatest stuntman of all time, Dar Robinson broke 19 World Records and set 21 World's Firsts in stunts during his lifetime, which included jumping off the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada in 1980.Do stunt doubles get hurt? ›
The reality of this profession is that stunt doubles do get hurt, but there are ways that they and their employers minimize those risks. Some of the common dangers of being a stunt double include cuts, burns, broken and sprained bones or joints and abrasions.
What stunt actor got hurt on iCarly? ›
Fun fact: According to Gibby himself, Noah Munck. His stunt double did not wear any safety equipment when they were filming this and broke all his ribs. Anyways, goodnight.Is Guppy really Gibby's brother in real life? ›
Munck's popularity continues to soar and was punctuated last season when "iCarly" creator Dan Schneider introduced the fans to Gibby's adorable little brother, Guppy, played by Noah's real life little brother Ethan Munck, 8.Which stuntman was killed by a shark? ›
Trivia (6) Stuntman Jose Marco was killed on-camera when a great white shark bit through a protective net and attacked him. Samuel Fuller had clashed with the producers on a variety of issues, and when the production company used Marco's death to help promote the film, he quit.How much do stunt people get paid? ›
How much does a Stunt Person make? As of Mar 2, 2023, the average annual pay for a Stunt Person in the United States is $36,105 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $17.36 an hour. This is the equivalent of $694/week or $3,008/month.Who was the first stunt actor? ›
The first possible appearance of a stunt-double was Frank Hanaway in The Great Train Robbery, shot in 1903 in Milltown, New Jersey. The first auditable paid stunt was in the 1908 film The Count of Monte Cristo, with $5 paid by the director to the acrobat who had to jump upside down from a cliff into the sea.Who was the first black stuntman? ›
Calvin Brown is the first African American stuntman recognized in Hollywood.What stunt almost killed Johnny? ›
In one stunt, in which Knoxville stood in front of a charging bull, he was flipped, spinning into the air before landing on his head. He sustained a broken wrist, broken ribs and a concussion that left him with brain damage. It took him months to recover, including a course of antidepressants.What is the highest movie stunt fall? ›
The greatest height from which a stuntman has leaped in a free fall was 335 m (1,100 ft), a stunt performed for Highpoint (Canada, 1982) by Dar Robinson (USA) from a ledge at the summit of the CN Tower, Toronto.How much does a stuntman get paid in Hollywood? ›
Stuntmen average $70,000 per year. If you're newer to the industry, you may only make $5,000 per year. It all depends on how much work you manage to find. The highest end stuntmen can make up to $250,000 per year.