12 Movies With The Most Shocking On Set Injuries
Filmmaking can be dangerous, especially when you take a commercially artistic process and you start adding stunts, vehicle choreography, fighting, explosions, aerial shots, and the list goes on…someone is bound to get hurt. People have been making movies for just over 100 years. In that time period, well over 100 people have been injured and some even killed on set. Some of the movies on this list will come as no surprise, as the general idea of the film was dangerous from the get-go. Here are 12 movies marked with near misses, injuries and tragic deaths.
12. Citizen Kane (1941)
Widely considered the greatest film ever made by so many pundits, apologists, filmmakers and historians, Citizen Kane changed the way films were made. The story holds up well to this day, and it offers that wonderful, first taste of a disjointed timeline leading to a very satisfying culmination. The definitive plant and payoff. As one might imagine, the stress on Orson Welles during the making of the film was immense. He wrote it, starred in it and also directed it. He thrust himself so heavily into the role that he kept hurting himself during production. At one point, he tripped and fell down a flight of stairs, chipping a piece of bone in his ankle joint, forcing him into a wheelchair for two weeks. He also severely injured his hand during a scene when he turns a room upside down.
11. The Cannonball Run (1981)
When a film is about a car race across the country, it has the potential for something to go wrong. In the 1981 film, a young, beautiful stunt-woman and aspiring actress, Heidi Von Beltz, was thrown out of the windshield of a car in the Nevada desert while filming a scene. She was doubling for actress, Farrah Fawcett. The vehicle was mangled and Heidi was pulled from the wreckage barely clinging to life. Her injuries were so severe she never again regained used of her body from the chin down. Her cervical spine was crushed. Heidi had been a champion skier and was only 24 years old. It was her first professional stunt job. She’s still living and authored a book entitled, My Soul Purpose. Heidi has lived a life full of tragedy since her accident, but continues to remain positive in living life.
10. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011)
Jumping into the most recent decade, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was another physically demanding film that required loads of effects mixed with practical stunts. Unfortunately, while shooting outside of Chicago, the production paid extras $25 to drive their own cars in a scene that involved stunts on a highway. One of the vehicle rigs — a cable with a long hook — was poorly welded on the tow vehicle, and during the take for the scene, it tore loose, struck the car of Gabriela Cedillo, shattered her windshield and struck her in the head. Her injuries included permanent brain damage and the loss of her left eye. The family sued Paramount and Dreamworks, and eventually settled for $18.5 million. By far the worst story stemming from the bumps, bruises and bloodshed on these films.
9. The Passion of The Christ (2004)
Speaking of spilling some blood… no sacrilegious tone implied… Jim Cavaziel took a serious beating while playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ. Jim was fitted with special body armor that looked like flesh in order to be scourged by the Roman soldiers. This allowed him to feel the pressure of the whips, but not the pain associated of being beaten to the point of bleeding. Unfortunately, at one point, the whip stretched beyond his protection and he took some hard shots to the back, and across his sides. He also endured a bout of hypothermia from extreme shooting conditions and separated his shoulder while carrying the cross through the streets to Golgotha. Add all that to the fact he was struck by lightning while preparing for the Sermon on The Mount, and there was very little acting necessary during his suffering.
8. First Blood (1982)
And more blood… Jumping back to the 1980s, First Blood was yet another film building the legendary foundation of Sylvester Stallone’s career. In the film, Stallone wanted to do all of his stunts, including the aerial work that involved jumping off a cliff into a tree. They filmed it three times as Stallone broke several ribs in the process. He also suffered a severe beating after 19 takes of a fight scene in the police station. In the film’s sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, a stuntman was killed in a pyrotechnic explosion during a battle scene. On-set injuries seem to follow Sylvester Stallone, who has endured multiple surgeries and even had steel reinforcements added to his spine in order to alleviate the stress from his onscreen beatings. A general rule of thumb: if Sly Stallone is involved in a film, it’s dangerous.
7. Titanic (1997)
Who would have guessed it would become the first film to crack the billion dollar mark at the box office? James Cameron didn’t have to — he knew. There’s nothing quite as delightful as spectacle mixed with an easy-to-follow romance. Set it to one of the greatest transit disasters in human history and cha-ching! The film set was no picnic. The replica ship they built to “sink” was operated by a hydraulics, and several people were injured while shooting the iconic scenes of the mighty Titanic going down. Broken ankles, sprained ankles, busted knees, fractured ribs… one person fractured their zygomatic, and another ruptured their spleen. Kate Winslet went hypothermic, and during one scene, her costume caught on a fixture and she was bowled with a wall of water. Hollywood lore states she almost drown…
6. Sliver (1993)
Sliver? Wait, wasn’t that the sexy movie with Sharon Stone that she did after Basic Instinct? You would be correct if you ascribe to such thinking. Nah, there wasn’t anything so dangerous for the actors in Sliver, but for the crew, things became unexpectedly dangerous when a helicopter crew capturing footage for the film’s opening sequence. The helicopter — shooting in Hawaii — crashed into the crater of a volcano, and left cameraman, Michael Benson, stuck there for two days. Yes, it would have been amazing if they could have salvaged some of the footage, but it was totally trashed in the crash. This was film stock, after all. Another 125 feet in depth, and the active volcano possessed a pond of molten lava. Michael escaped relatively unscathed. His injuries were minor lung and eye irritation due to the volcanic gasses.
5. The Flight of The Phoenix (1965)
Think back to the original The Flight of The Phoenix. Yes, there was a remake of this film in 2004, but the original was much more of a filmmaking challenge. Unlike the three fortunate souls who survived a helicopter crash into a Hawaiian volcano, Paul Mantz, a crew pilot on the set of the film, crashed on the second take of a shot set-up and died from his injuries. Mantz was an accomplished pilot who became a stunt pilot and a flight consultant for movies in the early 1930s. His short stint flying for the United States military ended due to an unauthorized stunt playing chicken with a train, so he went back to the silver screen, and also competed in air races. To answer the question you’re begging to ask: no, there were no reported incidents of injury or accident during the 2004 remake.
4. Waterworld (1995)
Waterworld was a disaster in waiting. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made at $175 million. It had more than its fair share of issues, including dangerous locations, dangerous storms that hampered the shooting schedule and several near-death incidents. Kevin Costner almost drown after being caught in a squall. His stunt double, world-renown surfer, Laird Hamilton, was lost at sea for a short time after his jet ski ran out of gas during a storm. He drifted for hours before being rescued by the Coast Guard. Tina Majorino was nicknamed Jellyfish Candy, because she was stung on three separate occasions. Kevin’s $4,500/night digs vs. the crew’s non-insulated bungalows created a nasty spirit of animosity on set. Costner and director, Kevin Reynolds, eventually feuded and Reynolds bailed with two weeks left for Costner to finish it on his own.
3. Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story (2014)
Still fresh in memory, Second AC, Sarah Jones, was killed in February of 2014 when she was struck by a train while working on the Gregg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story. The crew were on a railroad trestle in Georgia, filming a dream sequence with actors Wyatt Russell and William Hurt. Director, Randall Miller, made the decision to shoot on the tracks, even though his location manager had been denied permission on two occasions. As the train approached, the crew frantically began pulling props off the track, including a hospital bed used in the scene. Wyatt was able to quickly maneuver off the tracks as the crew struggled with the gear and props. Everyone got off the tracks, but the bed was struck, hitting Sarah and launching her into the train, killing her instantly.
2. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
In another fit of negligence, director John Landis pushed forward with the production of a war scene in which actor Vic Morrow was to rescue to children from war-torn “Vietnam.” The scene was shot outside of Los Angeles on one of the many movie ranches, and it involved spectacular choreography with pyrotechnics and helicopter stunt flying. According to lore, the pilot was uncomfortable making such a low pass through pyro, considering the wind conditions. Landis persisted, and they moved forward with the scene. When the pyrotechnic explosions went off, it was bigger than anticipated and the helicopter — only flying at 25 feet in elevation — was far too close. This caused the pilot to lose control, crashing in a small pond of water, decapitating Vic Morrow and one child, while crushing the other with a skid. Landis was tried for negligence, but avoided a conviction.
1. Catch-22 (1970)
“Catch-22.” You’ve heard the phrase hundreds of times. Did you know it was taken from the title of a book published in the 1960s, and later turned into a film directed by the legendary Mike Nichols? Mike ran a tight ship on all of his sets, and safety was paramount, but in the production of this war-time flick, his Second Unit Director, John Jordan, refused to wear a safety harness while working in the air, flying in a B-25 bomber. They were capturing footage over the Gulf of Mexico when he was sucked out of the plane. A wind shear — as lore would have it, from another plane — pitched the B-25. He fell over 2,000 feet to his death. In a twist of irony, John was well known in the industry for developing a safety harness for capturing aerial photography from helicopters.