Movies That Were Incredibly Dangerous To Make And People Paid The Price

Movies that heavily rely on action and violence require plenty of stunt doubles, time, and preparation. To successfully make these films, incredible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the cast and crew, while simultaneously shooting a movie that will wow audiences with amazing stunts and special effects. Ordinarily, most movies go off without a hitch, even those with heavy doses of special effects and over-the-top stunts. However, there are some films that have proven to be immensely more dangerous to make than others. These are the films that directly put the cast and crew in harm’s way, with some of them even costing people their lives.

Waterworld Was Almost A Watery Grave

Kevin Costner yelling
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Released in 1995, Waterworld was primarily shot in the Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Hawaii. The unpredictability of the weather and the waves almost took the lives of several members of the cast, crew, and even the star.

On one occasion, the film’s star, Kevin Costner, almost died when he was caught in a freak storm for 30 minutes while tied to the mast of a boat. On top of that, his stunt double, Laird Hamilton, had to be saved after being lost at sea while “commuting” to the set on a jet ski. Set pieces were sinking; boats were falling apart, the entire production was a nightmare.

Roar Was An All-Around Moronic Idea

Kids running from lions
Filmways
Filmways

Completed in 1981, Roar is about a family who is attacked by wild animals while visiting the secluded home of an animal researcher. While the idea for the film wasn’t necessarily outrageous, the fact that they used real predatory animals was. To turn their dream into a reality, the filmmakers brought in tigers, lions, leopards, and other wild animals, shooting the movie on a ranch where they coexisted with the animals.

Throughout its 11-year production, over 70 members of the cast and crew were seriously injured by the animals. The filmmakers themselves almost died from incidents such as scalpings, bone fractures, and gangrene. To this day, it is considered the most dangerous movie of all time, not receiving a North American release until 2015.

Twilight Zone: The Movie Took The Lives Of Three Actors

Aftermath of helicopter crash
Pinterest
Pinterest

While filming 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie, improperly timed special effects and the reckless use of a helicopter resulted in the deaths of two child actors and actor Vic Morrow. With a helicopter flying dangerously low above the scene, a poorly timed explosion caused the helicopter to crash on top of three actors. The helicopter crushed one child while simultaneously decapitating the other, along with Morrow.

Director John Landis, the special effects coordinator, and the helicopter pilot were all charged with involuntary manslaughter, yet were later acquitted. Unbelievably, the film was still released although the scene with the helicopter was obviously left out.

Tragedy Strikes On The Set Of Jumper

Lane Christianson peering behind a corner
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Not only did the 2008 sci-fi film Jumper receive lackluster reviews, but the making of it put countless people in danger, leading to one person’s death. At one point, set dressers found themselves tearing down a set in the middle of winter in Toronto, Canada when the unthinkable happened.

A massive chunk of sand, earth, and ice fell from a wall, hitting three of the set dressers. 56-year-old David Richie was killed on impact, another received severe injuries to his head and shoulder, and the third was unharmed. It was described as a “fluke accident” by the Toronto police and it didn’t help that the film flopped.

One Stunt For xXx Was Far Too Extreme

Zip line stunt
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

There are countless stunts in the 2002 action film xXx, and as each stunt became increasingly outrageous, so did the danger. Sadly, one particular stunt cost aerial stuntman Harry O’Connor his life. Acting as Vin Deisel’s character, Xander Cage, O’Connor was filming a stunt in which Xander ziplines down the cable of his paraglide, barely making it under a bridge, and landing on a moving boat.

Unfortunately, O’Connor didn’t make it under the bridge and struck a pillar, killing the 45-year-old stuntman instantly. O’Connor’s scene made it into the final cut of the film, although it was edited to make it look like everything went smoothly.

John Huston’s Dedication To Authenticity Led To Some Serious Problems When Filming The African Queen

Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart on the set
United Artists
United Artists

Director John Huston didn’t want to film The African Queen at some jungle set in Hollywood, so he opted for the real thing. So, the film was shot over a seven-week period in Uganda and the Congo instead. While the cast and crew weren’t necessarily battling the jungle elements, they were battling with dysentery from drinking bad water.

All of the cast and crew spent those seven weeks dangerously ill, except for Huston and Humphry Bogart who preferred whiskey over water. If dysentery goes untreated it can lead to severe dehydration and even death. Luckily, nobody reached that point.

Over 90 People Died Because Of The Conqueror

Photo of John Wayne as Genghis Khan
RKO Radio Pictures
RKO Radio Pictures

In 1956, John Wayne was mistakenly cast as Genghis Khan for the box office flop The Conqueror. Aside from being a financial failure, director Howard Hughes nearly killed the entire cast. The film was shot in the Utah desert downwind from the location where the US government experimentally detonated 100 nuclear bombs between 1951 and 1962.

In 1953, the year they began filming, eleven nuclear bombs were detonated. Nobody thought much of nuclear fallout at the time, with the Atomic Energy Commission declaring the area safe. Unfortunately, in the decades following filming, over 90 members of cast and crew died from cancer most likely caused by radiation exposure.

Howard Hughes Pushed The Limits In Hell’s Angels

Hell's Angels planes flying
United Artists
United Artists

Business magnate Howard Hughes had so much money that he could basically had the means to do whatever he wanted. Fascinated by Hollywood, he began producing films in 1926 although the only movie he wrote and directed was Hell’s Angels in 1930. To film the World War I aviation drama, he assembled a private air force of 87 fighter planes to film dog fight scenes that were as close to real life as you can get.

Yet, over the course of a year, two of the pilots had died, along with one mechanic. With pilots beginning to refuse to do stunts, Hughes did one himself and crashed, resulting in a concussion and lacerations on his face.

The Expendables 3 Added Some More Injuries Onto Sylvester Stallone’s List

The Expendables 3 cast running with guns
Lionsgate Entertainment
Lionsgate Entertainment

While The Expendables 3 has a cast of some of Hollywood’s biggest action stars, there’s no denying that many of them are well past their prime. So, with all of the stunts involved, it’s no surprise that there were a few injuries. One of the worst injuries on set occurred when Sylvester Stallone had a precarious fall, resulting in him needing a metal plate inserted into his back.

Jason Statham was almost seriously injured as well when the truck he was driving accidentally ended up launching off of a dock and into the Black Sea. While everyone claims Statham appeared calm and collected, Statham opened up admitting he was fearing for his life.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Destroyed The Lives Of Two People

Resident Evil cast walking
Screen Gems
Screen Gems

Even though the Resident Evil series has never wowed critics, there’s no denying that these films are about as action-packed as they come. Each film attempts to outdo the previous one, pushing the limits of the stunt team. Stuntwoman Olivia Jackson was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle crash when a camera rig failed to get out of the way, which resulted in her being put in a medically-induced coma.

Her face almost completely ripped off and the majority of her body, broken. Jackson later had her left arm amputated, yet managed to survive her injuries. As if that wasn’t enough, crew member Ricardo Cornelius was crushed to death after a humvee pinned him to the wall.

Filming Troy Was Almost As Dangerous As The Battle Itself

Picture of Brad Pitt as Achilles
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

While filming the 2004 war epic Troy, apparently, the extras in the film were given unclear directions during a crowd scene. This led stuntman George Camilleri to leap into an unsuspecting crowd, causing serious damage to his lower leg. Just weeks after sustaining the injury, Camilleri was re-admitted to the hospital where he passed away two days later from pulmonary thromboembolism due to a blood clot in his leg.

In addition to Camilleri’s tragic death, Brad Pitt, who played Achilles, ironically damaged his Achilles tendon. This halted production for 10 weeks until he was in the right condition to film.

Filming The Hangover Part II Wasn’t All Fun And Games

Cast on a boat
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The set of a raunchy comedy like The Hangover Part II might seem like a safe place to be, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Scott McLean was the stunt double for Ed Helms and was filming a scene where he sticks his head out of a moving truck only to have it narrowly miss an oncoming car.

As you can imagine, things didn’t go as planned, and McLean experienced massive head trauma after hitting the other vehicle. He was airlifted to the hospital and has since relearned how to walk and talk. McLean and his wife blamed stunt coordinator Russel Solberg for making adjustments to the stunt at the last second, causing the injury.

Filming For The Eiger Sanction Was Almost Stopped Entirely

Clint Eastwood on a rope
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

For Clint Eastwood’s third movie in the director’s seat, 1975’s The Eiger Sanction was filmed on Eiger Mountain, a 13,000-foot mountain in the Swiss Alps. Already filming in a dangerous location, that didn’t stop Eastwood from taking risks, such as dangling thousands of feet off the ground without using a stunt double.

Yet, things went south during the shoot when a giant boulder came loose and killed stuntman Dave Knowles, while seriously injuring climbing supervisor Mike Hoover. While Clint Eastwood considered canceling the film, the other stuntmen dissuaded him, claiming they didn’t want Knowles to have died for nothing.

People Don’t Believe Nobody Died Filming Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur Chariot Race
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Released in 1959, Ben-Hur had an 18-acre set– largest set ever constructed– for its infamous chariot race scene. The scene has gone down in film history for its scale and ambition and if it looks incredibly dangerous, its because it was. With a lack of the technology we have today, all of the crashes and pileups had to be done for real and needed to be timed and executed perfectly.

One injury that occurred was when stuntman Joe Canutt was pitched over his chariot so hard that he landed between the two horses. Luckily he only suffered minor wounds. Yet, the scene was so dangerous to film, to this day, people are convinced MGM covered up the death of a stuntman.

No Animals Were Safe In The Filming Of The Hobbit Trilogy

Picture of Bilbo Baggins with the ring
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Thankfully, no humans were seriously harmed or killed during the making of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. However, the same can’t be said for the animals. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood’s relaxed standards of self-regulation are to blame. Over 27 animals died. However, their deaths weren’t on the set of the film, but where they were being housed.

The enclosures of over 150 animals were built on top of underground streams that led to sinkholes where the animals would fall down, break bones, and even suffocate. Hollywood goes to great lengths to protect the animals they work with, making this situation hard to ignore.

A Prop Gun Killed Brandon Lee In The Crow

Brandon Lee as The Crow
Miramax Films
Miramax Films

Brandon Lee starred in the 1994 film The Crow, playing the role of a murdered rock and roll musician who came back to life to exact his revenge. While filming a scene when Lee’s character is shot, a fluke accident occurred when a piece of debris was fired from an improperly cleaned prop gun, lodging in Lee’s chest.

Although he was immediately rushed to the hospital, Lee bled to death. Lee’s death was devastating to everyone involved and led Michael Masse to quit acting for a year. The film was eventually completed and was dedicated in remembrance of Lee.

Apocalypse Now Was The Real-Life Apocalypse

Martin Sheen and Sam Bottoms in Apocalypse Now
United Artists
United Artists

The filming of Apocalypse Now has gone down in film history as one of the most miserable and taxing shoots of all time. The conditions in the area of the Philipines they were filming were challenging enough, with diseases and bad weather. But those were minor problems compared to what was going on behind the scenes.

Martin Sheen was teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown while battling severe alcoholism, eventually leading him to have a heart attack. On top of that, Dennis Hopper was violently abusing drugs and alcohol, and Sam Bottoms spent the majority of the year-long shoot on LSD. Even Copolla lost 100 pounds and threatened to kill himself three times. It truly is a miracle that nobody actually died.

The Explosives In Rambo: First Blood Part II Proved To Be Deadly

John Rambo getting into a helicopter
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

Any movie with the name Rambo in it is guaranteed to have enough stunts and violence to satisfy even the biggest action fans. While First Blood Part II had it all, it, unfortunately, it led to the death of Cliff Wenger Jr., the special effects technician.

Wenger was in charge of setting up the film’s countless explosions, and one ended up taking his life. However, how he died is still up for debate. While some claim he fell off a waterfall while rigging up explosives, others say that he was killed during a premature detonation.

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Isn’t All CGI

Shia Lebouf running from an explosion
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Director Michael Bay is best-known for his big-budget, over-the-top films, using enough CGI for three movies. However, not all of the explosions and stunts in his films are accomplished using computers. While making Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a steel cable holding a car snapped and flew straight into the windshield where extra Gabriela Cedillo was sitting.

The cable severely wounded Cedillo causing massive lacerations on her face as well as permanent brain damage. After months of lawsuits, Paramount Pictures awarded the family $18 million for the tragic accident.

Midnight Rider Had To Be Shut Down

William Hurt laying on train tracks
Open Road Film
Open Road Film

During the production of Midnight Rider, a film about Greg Allman’s life, an incident with a train claimed the life of crew member Sarah Jones. Apparently, while shooting a scene on the train tracks, Jones was only given a one-minute warning to clear the tracks of all the personnel and props.

The producers were charged with being criminally negligent after it was discovered that they hadn’t received permission to film on the railroad’s property. Hollywood and Greg Allman condemned the film, leading to the cancellation of the entire movie. Director Randall Miller received a year in prison for manslaughter and trespassing.