Who doesn’t love anonymous stuntmen thanklessly hurling their bodies into harm’s way for our enjoyment? Today, we look at the very best in movie stuntery and salute the real heroes that made it happen.
The crocodile jump in Live and Let Die
Crocodiles are basically dinosaurs, prehistoric killing machines from an era where the world was harder and more violent that us soft-skinned humans could ever appreciate. Crocodiles are not to be trifled with for this reason.
In the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die, crocodile wrangler (yes that’s apparently a job title) Ross Kananga spit in the face of this warning by skipping across a series of crocs like they were mere stones in a pond. Check it out:
It happens so quickly that it’s easy to gloss over how ridiculously bad this could have gone. If any of those crocodiles got a hold of Ross, we’re not talking about him walking with a limp for the rest of his life. We’re talking about 3,700 pounds-per-square-inch of bite force and a one-way ticket to deadtown.
All the respect in the world to Mr. Kananga for tangling with prehistoric monsters and living to tell about it.
Jackie Chan’s electric slide in Police Story
OK, so the article is supposed to honor the anonymous stuntmen of the world, but I can’t help that one of them became the greatest action star of his (or any) generation. Jackie Chan started out as a stuntman getting beaten up by folks like Bruce Lee, but his overwhelming charisma and gift for comedy made him a star.
In the 1985 film Police Story, Chan’s protagonist has the bright idea to get a leg up on an escaping criminal by foregoing the mall escalator and sliding directly down to the ground floor on a pole wrapped in light bulbs. Seriously, that’s what happens:
During this period of Jackie’s career, they didn’t do a whole lot to make this safe. Those are real light bulbs he’s breaking with his hands on the way down, and the thing that breaks his fall is a SUNGLASSES HUT COVERED IN GLASS.
Reportedly, Jackie was scared to do the stunt and had a stuntman pray for him before making the leap. We can’t blame him and admire the fortitude needed to overcome fear and pull off this insane stunt.
The longest wire-free fall in cinema history in Sharky’s Machine
Stuntman Dar Robinson is a legend. Known for high falls, he jumped from the CN Tower in Toronto for the movie “Highpoint” and was at it again in the Burt Reynolds starrer Sharky’s Machine.
Strangely, it’s difficult to find a good video of this stunt considering how special it is, but you’ll see here how freaking long Dar Robinson falls. One look and it’s pretty easy to believe that it’s the longest wire-free fall in a movie, which it is at 220 feet.
Sadly, the daredevil career of Dar Robinson was cut short when he died in a motorcycle accident while shooting the 1986 film Million Dollar Mystery. Dar, we salute you and your amazing work.
Ski-diving in The Spy Who Loved Me
James Bond is escaping from enemies while skiing down a mountain. But, WAIT! He’s headed straight for a cliff! WAIT, he’s tumbling over the cliff! Is 007 going to …
And that’s when a UK-flag-inspired parachute opens.
An incredible and incredibly dangerous stunt that required Rick Sylvester to possess expert timing and nerves of steel. He pulled it off with style and grace.
The bridge is out in The Man Who Would Be King
Stuntmen are as brave as they come, but sometimes even they don’t want to tangle with a dangerous stunt. Such was the case in the movie The Man Who Would Be King. Here, a bridge collapses, sending Sean Connery’s character tumbling down a ravine.
The stunt, as choreographed, required a stuntman to tumble off the unpredictable broken bridge 80 feet onto a bunch of cardboard boxes to cushion their fall. Right next to the boxes, however, was a massive ravine. Missing the boxes would mean certain death, and the margin for error wasn’t great.
Reportedly, many stuntmen claimed they were unable to do the stunt due to sudden and mysterious ailments. Not that we’re blaming them – that sounds nuts. Thankfully, there was a hero among them named Joe Powell. He volunteered as tribute, and well, this happened:
If you can ignore all the singing, you’ll see an absolutely incredible stunt. Great work, Joe.
Which of your favorite stunts did we miss? Show us in the comment section below.