10 of the Most Death-Defying Stunts Ever Performed
Some seek out fame, while others are addicted to adrenaline and risk. No matter the reasons, stuntmen and stuntwomen have risked life and limb to give us thrills.
Broken bones, burned skin and months in the hospital, or even death, can be the reward for a stunt gone wrong. But when the daring feat is pulled off, money, glory and internet fame are the prizes. Here are some of the craziest stunts ever performed for film, the viewing public, or just because someone felt like doing it.
Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Jumps
Robert Craig Knievel (aka “Evel Knievel”) was one of the most daring motorcycle stuntmen ever to straddle a bike. In addition to his numerous jumps in the 1960s and 1970s, he also had the dubious honor of holding the world record for the most broken bones in a single lifetime, at 433.
Knievel wanted to jump the Grand Canyon, but knew the government wouldn’t allow it, so he tried to jump the Snake River Canyon instead. He used a rocket-powered motorcycle, but failed, and landed on the canyon floor.
Evel’s crashes were as memorable as his successes. Jumping buses and cars took a heavy toll on the man. A coma, and countless trips to the hospital were the price of his fame.
Philippe Petit’s Twin Towers Tightrope Walk
Philippe Petit, a French tightrope walker, amazed the world in 1974 when he walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Making use of a bow and arrow, he and his team shot a fishing line from the South Tower to the North Tower. After passing larger lines back and forth, they were able to set up the heavy cable needed for the walk.
Petit made use of a lot of intrigue to accomplish this amazing feat, which was of course illegal. He was arrested right after the tightrope walk, but the charges were eventually dropped. You can learn more about this incredible stunt in the British documentary, ‘Man on Wire.’
The GoldenEye Bungee Jump
James Bond knows no fear, nor do his stunt doubles, it seems. In the Bond flick ‘GoldenEye,’ 007 had to jump from the top of a 220-meter Swiss dam all the way to the bottom. This amazing feat was performed by the British stuntman Wayne Michaels, who at the time set the record for the world’s highest Bungee Jump from a solid structure.
For those of you who chase thrills, you can now jump from the same dam (it’s a tourist attraction), but probably not all the way down to the bottom.
Gary Connery Skydives Without A Parachute
This year, yet another British stuntman put his life in peril when he jumped out of a helicopter in a modified wingsuit… without a parachute. Gary Connery was the name, and he dived out of the helicopter, glided for a brief moment, fell 2,400 feet and crashed into a landing strip assembled out of more than 18,000 cardboard boxes.
Alain Robert, “The Human Spider”
Alain Robert, whose fans and the media alike have dubbed “The Human Spider,” really loves to climb. This Frenchman will climb just about anything, and he doesn’t bother with a safety rope. He has climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, Taipei 101 in Taiwan and countless other man-made structures. Because most of these climbs are against the law, Alain has been arrested numerous times, but that never seems to discourage him from scaling new heights.
Yakima Canutt’s Stagecoach Jump
Yakima Canutt accomplished one of the most iconic movie stunts ever performed. In the 1939 film ‘Stagecoach’, Canutt, a seasoned rodeo rider and stuntman, jumped from horse to horse, and then dropped down and let the stagecoach pass over him without getting crushed. Steven Spielberg paid homage to this famous stunt in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ when Indiana Jones passed beneath the Nazi truck, and was then dragged behind it.
Jackie Chan’s Rotterdam Building Slide
Hong Kong actor and stuntman Jackie Chan is famous for doing all of his own stunts. One of his most memorable film exploits was his free-fall slide down the face of the Willemswerf Building in Rotterdam, located in the Netherlands. Jackie slipped down 21 stories of slanted glass for the film ‘Who Am I,’ and walked away from this particular stunt without a scratch. That can’t be said for all of his film work, as the battered and bruised actor can attest to.
The Human Cannonball, David Smith Jr.
David “The Bullet” Smith Jr. is the Human Cannonball, and that title pretty much says it all. David has made a name for himself by getting shot out of cannons. With more than 5000 cannon shots under his belt, he’s accumulated a lot of time in the air. Too bad his profession doesn’t offer frequent flyer miles. He holds the record for the longest distance a human cannonball was ever shot, at more than 200 feet. His father, David “Cannonball” Smith Sr., held the old record. Crazy must just run in the family.
Omar Locklear, The Wing Walker
Omar Locklear entered the collective imagination of film goers in the first part of the 20th century. It seems this daredevil pilot first started walking out onto wings (while his plane was still in the air, mind you) simply to repair a faulty engine. That first stroll turned into a brief, but glorious career as a movie stuntman. Sadly, Mr. Locklear died in 1920 while performing a wing stunt. His plane caught fire and crashed, killing both him and his assistant.
Harry Houdini And The Chinese Water Torture Cell
Harry Houdini was a magician, performer and stuntman of great renown. One of his most memorable acts of daring was the Chinese Water Torture Cell. For this stunt, Houdini was placed head down into a giant tank filled with water. His feet were locked together and the tank was covered; yet somehow Harry always managed to escape. When Houdini died, his instructions were for the tank to be burned and destroyed, but his brother, Theodore Hardeen, donated it to a collector of Houdini artifacts instead.