As a kid I loved movies and I also loved to get into fake fights with my friends and jump my stingray bike over anything that was in the way. So naturally I had a good time writing this list. Sadly with the advancement of Special effects (CGI) Future memorable stunts are becoming more infrequent. Just keep in mind all of you Listversers that the criteria for this list is “most memorable” and is not the degree of difficulty of the stunt.
This French futuristic film is not well known but has received quite a bit of attention because of the great stunt work and for it’s depiction of parkour which means the aim of moving from one point to another as quickly as possible, using only the abilities of the human body.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch Cassidy: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance Kid: I can’t swim.
Butch Cassidy: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.
Even though Newman and Reford’s stuntmen did the river jump off of a construction crane at the studio’s Century Ranch by Century Lake it is still a memorable stunt. The crane was obscured by a matte painting of the cliffs.
Steamboat Bill Jr.
OK… I don’t care how many times they tested & measured this out it still took a lot of guts for Buster Keaton to stand in that one spot and wait for a house to collapse around him.
This is a very short clip so even if you are at work or (on your lunch break of course) with slow Internet speed you can at lest see this one before you go home and watch the rest.
The Great Escape
I knew if I didn’t include this in the list I would be tarred & feathered. How can anybody forget this famous 65-foot jump for freedom over a barbed-wire fence? This might not look like much after we are so accustomed to daredevil jumps over busses and cars on those sissy bikes but keep in mind this stunt was done on a 400- pound ’62 Triumph. The stunt man was Bud Ekins. Elkins & McQueen both shared a passion for motorcycle racing and were good friends.
When making a stunt list you have to include Jackie Chan. I was never a fan of your typical martial arts film but Jackie Chan approaches his films with more of a tongue and cheek attitude so I do enjoy some of his movies. Chan actually paid homage to Harold Lloyd ala hanging on a clock in a movie called Project A and also paid homage to Buster Keaton ala a house collapsing around him (see 8) in the move Project A II. This is a pretty neat stunt at the end of this clip by Chan from the movie Police Story.
One of John Wayne’s first movies featured some of the most dangerous stunt sequences ever filmed. I can’t imagine anyone attempting these stunts today. This guy positions himself while being dragged going full speed hanging onto the front horse of the stagecoach and then lets go and somehow is not trampled to death and then manages to go directly between the stagecoach wheels as it passes over him. He also doubled for Wayne where he is jumping from horse to horse. These stunts were performed by Yakima Canutt, one of the greatest and most respected stuntmen to this day.
The Spy Who Loved Me
So many Bond Stunts so little time. Here is my favorite. This stunt combines down hill skiing, bullets flying out of ski poles and a Union Jack parachute. I ask you what could be more Bondish and memorable than that?
Harold Lloyd was famous for doing his own stunts. In this very famous scene he climbs & hangs on a building with some funny interferences along the way and with only 3 fingers on his right hand to boot. Harold Lloyd was a true original. Unfortunately the person who loaded this clip on to youtube has disabled embedding (I have no idea why some people do this – it is incredibly annoying!) To watch the clip, go here [opens in a new window].
Raiders of the Lost Ark
This is one of my favorite chase sequences with some great stunts along the way.
The famous under the truck stunt was performed by Vic Armstrong and was inspired by Stunt man Yakima Canutt. (See 5) Believe it or not Spielberg did not direct this particular scene. The second unit just followed his storyboard but he did direct the close-ups of Harrison Ford later on.
I just had to put Ben Hur in the number one spot. This stunt occurs about half way through the famous Chariot race when Judah Ben Hur is forced to the inside part of the track and has no place to go but strait towards the wreckage of a downed chariot. The stunt was performed by Joe Canutt who is launched over the front of his chariot and just barely hangs on to the front as he climbs back up. This was not planned when they designed the stunt which makes this stunt even cooler and more memorable.