Action movies live or die by the "wow" factor of action sequences that can thrill audiences and leave lasting impressions. To achieve this, they need seasoned stuntmen and coordinators developing and executing the awesome stunts that tie these sequences together. Let's look at some of the coolest and most memorable action movie stunts ever. What are your favorites?
Photo credit: YouTube/United Artists
(Stunt begins around 6:40)
The Movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Stuntman: Vic Armstrong
To accomplish this, Vic judged the amount of strides his horse was taking in relation to the speed of the tank and made sure to ride as close to the edge of the rocky ridge as possible with Mut slipping into the chasm below. Then, in stride with the horse's feet he kicked out of the stirrups, pulled his knees up to his chin and straightened his legs as hard as he could, kicking sideways. As this was happening, Vic realized he'd mistimed the jump. Luckily, he just made it, rattling his bones and getting the breath knocked out of him in the process, but successfully completing the amazing stunt.
(Embedding Disabled, Click the photo to watch; Stunt begins around 1:20)
The Movie: Goldeneye
The Stuntman: Wayne Michaels
At 750 ft. high, this was the highest bungee jump off a fixed structure at the time, and accomplished in one take. The most pressing safety issue was to keep stuntman Wayne Michaels from bouncing off the steel peg studded wall of the dam. In the interest of safety, the fall-point occurred from a specially constructed platform suspended above and in front of it. And guess what? Thrill-seeking fans can actually experience this 220-meter bungee jump at the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland.
Photo credit: YouTube/United Artists
The Movie: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The Stuntman: Tom Cruise
The tower climb in MI4 required a ton of prep to pull off; special mounts were made for the IMAX cameras, extremely hot temperatures and high winds had to be accounted for and a variety of equipment materials and wardrobe options had to be tested beforehand. The stunt was rehearsed in Prague, but not on the 2,723 foot tower in Dubai where it would be filmed. During it, Tom Cruise had to climb up, walk on, swing around and plummet down the side of the building. It's a thrilling stunt, made even more incredible as it was done by Mr. Cruise rather than a stuntman, and extra impressive considering the film's FX engineers had to take out the 24 cables that were rigged to hold him 147 floors up.
The Movie: Speed
The Stuntman: Jophery Brown
The bus jump was executed on what was then a brand new section of an L.A. freeway before it was released to the public. The achieve this, the stunt driver needed a one mile run up to hit the ramp at around 68 miles per hour, sailing through 109 feet of air over a piece of the elevated highway that was digitally removed for the final cut. The stunt was actually performed twice because the bus landed too smoothly the first time.
(Stunt begins around 4:15)
The Movie: Police Story
The Stuntman: Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan jumps from the top floor of a mall, sliding a few stories down a pole through strung up light bulbs and then smashes through a glass ceiling. Sugar glass (an edible form of breakaway glass) was used for the stunt, but Jackie still suffered second degree burns, a dislocated pelvis and a back injury.
(Embedding Disabled, Click the photo to watch; Stunt begins around 3:05)
The Movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Stuntman: Peter Kent
In T2, Peter Kent (who's worked many times as Schwarzenegger's stunt-double) performed this famous bike jump into a massive storm drain. The motorbike was rigged up to a web of cables (that were digitally erased in post-production) to cut the impact when the bike hit the ground.
Photo credit: YouTube/TriStar Pictures
(Stunt begins around 0:25)
The Movie: The Spy Who Loved Me
The Stuntman: Rick Sylvester
After a harrowing escape in the film's opening sequence, Bond skis off the edge of a cliff, free falls, then opens a British flag-printed parachute and sails away. This was performed off the peak of Mount Asgard in Canada and you can actually see stuntman Rick Sylvester's detached skis almost rip through the parachute after it opened, which could have led to a catastrophic accident.
(Stunt begins around 1:05)
The Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Stuntmen: Vic Armstrong/Harrison Ford
As the most iconic stunt in one of the most celebrated action sequences, in one of the most popular series of all-time, this one took lots of preparation to pull off. A trench was dug right down the middle of the dirt road to provide Vic with the necessary room to maneuver. He "climbed" underneath the moving truck toward its rear, and then held onto Indy's bullwhip while being dragged along the road behind it. Harrison Ford was also dragged for some close-up shots and those looks of pain on his face are real as he'd bruised several ribs during the stunt.