20 Iconic Movie Scenes That Nearly Killed Their Stars

bask to the future

Making films is inherently a dangerous job: you’re surrounded by thousands of watts of electricity, lots of wires, and in the case of many films, special effects. You’re also putting your life in the hands of strangers who might not even speak the same language as you if you’re relegated to Direct-to-DVD movies, and if you’re looking for that extra profile boost, you probably insist on doing “all” of your own stunts.

Many actors, like Meryl Streep will probably never encounter a near-death experience on set, but if you’re Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, maybe it’s a good idea to just be that little bit more aware of your surroundings, because there’s a good chance any number of on-set things could cause you harm.

And judging by past incidences, real threats to life can and do happen.

1. Michael J. Fox: Back to the Future Part 3

You know the brilliant bit in “Back to the Future 3” where Marty is hanging with a noose around his neck, only to be saved by Doc? He really sold the moment, didn’t he?

There’s a good reason for that. If you think it was only Fox’ acting skill, you are wrong.

That scene almost killed the actor, who announced in his autobiography that the first couple of takes he stood on a box for the stunt, seeing as his whole body wasn’t going to be shown, but it just didn’t look realistic enough and he offered to do it without a box.

Dangerously, this being the 7th take meant that Fox was getting tired and miscalculated the timing of his hand, which was meant to go between the noose and his neck, and as a result, he passed out for around 30 seconds.

According to Fox, “it was a full 30 seconds before anyone noticed. Thankfully Bob Zemeckis, a fan of mine though he was, realized that I wasn’t that good of an actor”.

The shooting was halted for the day and Fox was allowed to recover from this incident, presumably while seriously reconsidering his commitment to using stunt doubles.

  • John TestMember

    Lucky for Stallone it was Dolph Lundgren and not Chuck Norris.

    • Richard Knob

      Chuckey is a dink!

      • Russ T Shakkleford

        Norris is a big baby teabagger.

  • Eric J. Schultz

    Lundgren was a world class kick boxer at the time. Stallone was dumb to tell him to give him his best shot.

    • G L

      Not to mention he was in terrific shape, and 6’5″ to Stallone’s 5’9″.

  • maxentropy

    Chan wasn’t electrocuted. That is a fatal condition. Chan was shocked.
    Divers don’t breathe straight oxygen, it’s poisonous below 1ATM. They breathe air.
    You’re welcome.

    • Mariner

      Electrocution is not necessarily fatal, and pure oxygen can be toxic at any elevated pressure. Your welcome.

      • MikeO

        If electrocution is not necessarily fatal, I suppose execution isn’t either. Although surviving an execution must be very rare. btw, what’s maxentropy’s welcome?

      • Josh Josh

        *You’re *

    • Former Shuttle worker

      They use regular ‘air’ in space and below a certain depth. Heliox is used for deep diving. Pure oxygen is only used prior to spacewalks. Apollo 1 is the reason they haven’t used pure oxygen in spacecraft. It ‘soaks’ everything, making everything highly flammable (like putting gunpowder in it). The Kapton wiring acts like a burning fuse when it’s broken/shorted until the current is turned off. That’s what happend to Apollo 1. 3 atmopheres of pure oxygen, combined with a hatch that opened like an airliner’s door (pushed inwards first, THEN swinging outward taking 15 seconds). When pressurised, it was impossible to open the hatch. When the wiring caught fire, everything in the CM burned rapidly including the astronauts. They didn’t have a chance. The fire also increased the pressure against the hatch as well. After redesign, they used a ‘normal’ atmosphere and the hatch opened outwards only, taking up to 5 seconds to open.

  • aztecace

    Shouldn’t it be reacted not counteracted?

  • Jennifer Fogarty

    I can’t believe Cameron would put Harris is such danger. What a jerk. I wouldn’t work with him either. Of course, I have no desire to be a famous actress….

    • Linda Kincaid Adams

      I agree!!! In my opinion, what Cameron did…borders heavily on criminal! I wonder if he ever thought for even one minute….what the very real possibilities were?! I would NEVER trust him again!!!

    • smartsoprano

      It was totally criminal of Cameron to put Harris in that danger. How incredibly irresponsible and patronizing! You don’t assume you need to shock an actor into acting, especially one with the talent and skill of Ed Harris. You let him act. And shocking an actor mid scene won’t get acting out of him; it will engender panic. Cameron is an asshole.

  • Jennifer Fogarty

    My heart goes out to David Holmes!

  • Jennifer Fogarty

    I can’t believe Cameron would put one of his actors in such danger. I wouldn’t work with him either, but then I don’t want to be a famous actress.

    • Christine Judy

      Oh please, Cameron only cares about money.Bottom line is his only concern, it will never be about anything else.

  • Fred Thompson

    Amazingly, Harold Lloyd REGREW his right thumb and index finger…look at the promotional still in the post…

    • Bill Adams

      My understanding is that he just wore a prosthetic glove for the rest of his career.

    • Marjiscott

      Highly doubt that. Once amputated, they stay amputated. Trust me, I know.

  • Cynthia

    I believe that you forgot one. Remember “The Empire Strikes Back”. Mark Hammel was in the Bacta Tank and could have been electrocuted too. From what I understand all those wires that he was attached to could have done it. He was lucky that time.

    • Jim

      He did almost drown according to his post-production interview. Nimoy almost suffocated during ST:TMP while inside his space suit during filming. They used the same suit designs during ST:TWOK. Watch when then they take off the helmets. Their gasps for fresh air and sweat are real!

  • Calvin

    The Abyss is allegedly “underrated”? That one film made me swear off spending $$$ at a theater for years because it was so bad. I felt like I had been ripped off by a common street thug when that movie was over.

    • Robert Slackware

      Yet the directors cut changed the entire movie and made it good.
      But I can’t remember any scene where he runs out of air? except when he is breathing water in the first place. She is the one that drowns, and I thought the dead eyes was very well done, though the electro shock was pretty pathetic. Shouldn’t he have dragged her while she held her breath TOWARDS the rig and not waste time letting her drown in the sub?

  • m a

    If I were Ed Harris, I would have beaten James Cameron wiithin an inch of his life– no jury would have convicted me.

    • Tom Hardy’s Proctologist

      I think anyone would be able to beat him to within an inch of his life and no jury would convict them.

  • surfcitysocal

    Almost? Let’s not forget Vic Morrow and two child actors who did actually die in 1982 filming a scene for the movie Twilight Zone…and director John Landis got away with it. Funny how the scene was on the last scheduled day of shooting.

    • Jim

      That was caused by a pyro going off and took out the chopper’s rotors. That’s why they don’t use real choppers during close-ups.

  • PTieno

    We think “Police Story” is the reason there are 380 words for broken glass in Cantonese. is SeanBaby’s joke you twats. Nobody likes a joke-stealer. Make up your own shit for Christ’s sake.

  • Heather

    Regarding the Texas Chainsaw one:
    I seriously doubt the chainsaw had a chain on it, which without that it won’t cut you. I’ve been repeatedly “killed” with a real chainsaw with no chain on it for years at the haunted house I performed at. Though I have to admit getting hit with it a little too hard by the Leatherface actor the first year left me bruised. The first time it came near me I have to admit, even without a chain it terrified me. Just the sound of it that close to you is scary as hell. It can still hurt you with no chain but I wouldn’t consider it life threatening by any means.

  • Seriously

    Almost 3 minutes uh? Didn’t know Isla was a super athlete.

    • smartsoprano

      I know — 3 minutes sounds awfully long.

  • Jim

    He can’t get insurance and has to provide his own money, out-of-pocket, to provide for any injuries during shootings/movies.

    • smartsoprano


  • tomasiepants

    Yeah, Dolph was a fairly good fighter in his day. He’s also a Bell Lab Scientist, has a high IQ, can play several instruments… all that hope in his life makes me depressed.

  • Jai K.

    In addition to the other things people have pointed out, last time I checked, wearing period clothing does not give you pneumonia. You can get sick, and you can decide to not go to a doctor (Which is greatly mistaken about being not-accurate tot he time”), but that will all have the exact same results no matter if you are wearing a sweatshirt and jeans or a suit with waistcoat and cravat.

  • Pat

    The Director of a movie putting the star unknowingly in real danger is the plot of about 50 movies about bastard Directors only caring about their finished product.

  • Richard Foreman

    Sorry to decriminalize Jame Cameron (a man people love to hate for some reason), but as I recall from being there underwater during this scene, it actually happened like this:

    Ed was going to come through a hatch at the bottom of one of Deepcore’s modules, and start swimming towards the Sub Bay, to confront the manical Michael Beihn. While Ed is a decent swimmer, he in not the best and everyone knew that he wouldn’t be able to make it. Cameron placed a stunt team diver with a spare regulator on the other side of the rock that Ed going to swim towards. Ed was supposed to swim for the rock and when he got there, the spare regulator would be offered by the stunt diver. Easy enough, right?

    Well, just before the take, Cameron could see a very tiny stream of bubbles, leaking from the stunt diver’s regulator, rising up behind the rock that concealed him. He repositioned the stunt diver up above the rock and behind some of the Deepcore wreckage. Ed was to swim to the rock and then the diver would come from above, not below, and give him the air.

    Trouble is, no one told Ed, because he was isolated inside the metal module and couldn’t hear anything. His cue to come out and start swimming was someone banging on the shell of the module with a metal rod.

    Ed swam underwater about 20 yards to the rock, getting there totally out of air, looked down for the stunt diver who wasn’t where he excepted to find him, and panicked for about two seconds until the stunt diver swam down from his hiding spot and jammed the regulator into Ed’s mouth.

    This incident has been totally exaggerated over the years. Yes, Ed had reason to be quite upset, but no, no one’s life was ever in danger and it WAS NOT done to get an on screen reaction from Ed because the cameras were 20 to 30 feet away shooting a wide master.

    That is the story – I remember it like yesterday.

    Richard Foreman
    Still Photographer on THE ABYSS

  • Dang

    “While attempting to do her own stunt on one occasion, she fell over and scraped skin off her knee.” Wow, that’s a cool story.

  • http://thedailyheckle.net Malcolm Cox

    Rocky 4 is still the greatest boxing movie ever. And the Drago fight is the best fight – real or otherwise – in history.