Hollywood magic can sometimes take a toll: here are Hollywood’s most shocking deaths, disasters, and all-out bungles.
While filming The Crow in 1993, American actor Brandon Lee – son of martial arts great Bruce Lee – was accidentally shot and killed. Unbeknowst to the crew, part of a bullet remained in their prop gun (they had hastily made their own dummy bullets by hollowing out gunpowder from real bullets). The fatal shot, fired by Lee’s co-star Michael Massee, struck Lee in the abdomen. He underwent surgery but died in hospital.
40. Title Fight
During production for 1969’s Shark, a stuntman was killed on camera by–you guessed it–a shark who was supposed to have been sedated. After the production company used the man’s death to promote the film, director Samuel Fuller quit.
During a torture scene in Syriana, George Clooney’s chair was knocked over with such force that he suffered spinal injuries. Clooney said he contemplated suicide due to the pain of his injuries.
Jackie Chan is no stranger to injuring himself performing stunts for his films; he’s broken and dislocated numerous bones and even almost lost his eyesight. As a result, he’s actually been blacklisted by insurance companies and has to cover the cost for any injuries he incurs!
37. Animal Rights
After a horrifying stunt in Jesse James (1939) that intentionally rode a horse off a cliff and into a river, new standards for animal welfare in Hollywood were put into place. Even so, the stunt was still included in the final film!
36. PETA Wouldn’t Be Proud
No actors or crew died on the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but 27 farm animals – including sheep and goats–reportedly died of dehydration, exhaustion, or drowning as the blockbuster filmed on a farm in New Zealand.
In The Exorcist, actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan’s mother, suffered a serious spinal injury in a scene where she fell backwards after being slapped. The scene, and her real scream of pain, made it into the final cut.
34. Relgious Devotion
Filming duriing The Passion of the Christ got a bit too real for Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the Mel Gibson film. He suffered scars to his back from accidentally being whipped during a whipping scene, a separated shoulder while carrying the cross, and got hypothermia from filming outside in winter. He was even struck by lightning!
33. Not Just Like Heaven
In one of the most shocking cases of animal cruelty on a modern film, at least four horses allegedly died in Michael Cimino’s western Heaven’s Gate, including one that was accidentally blown up by dynamite. The production was also accused of disemboweling cows, cutting off live chickens’ heads, and staging a real cockfight. The film faced a massive boycott, and was a box office flop.
32. Evil for Sure
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter stunt double Olivia Jackson had to have her left arm amputated nearly a year after a horror crash during a motorcycle chase scene in 2015.
31. Eye Opening
During the shocking and iconic scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex DeLarge has his eyes propped open, actor Malcolm McDowell suffered a scratched cornea and almost went blind.
While shooting a stunt that saw him rappel down a parasailing line and jump onto a submarine, Vin Diesel’s stuntman in XXX, Harry L. O’Connor, hit a bridge and died instantly. The scene, although not O’Connor’s final moments, was included in the film.
29. Such Things Are Dangerous
The film Such Men Are Dangerous—about a Belgian financier who faked his own death and got plastic surgery to get revenge—suffered a deadly incident of its own. While filming a parachute scene, two planes collided over the English channel, killing all 10 people on board both planes.
28. The Lion’s Share
What could possibly go wrong on a film set featuring real lions? A lot. 70 members of cast and crew were said to have been injured while shooting the 1981 film Roar, starring Melanie Griffith.
27. Almost Cast Away
While filming Cast Away in Fiji, Tom Hanks cut his leg. He waited two weeks before seeing a doctor, and only agreed to see one when the swelling wouldn’t go down. He was told that if he’d come an hour later, he might have died of blood poisoning.
26. Not Expendable
The Expendables 2 stars a who’s who of action heroes—including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger—so there was a good chance a stunt or two might go awry. In fact, one stuntman died and another suffered severe wounds after a staged explosion on a boat misfired. Stallone and Schwarzenegger also both needed shoulder surgery after production.
25. Blockbuster, Bone Buster
While all eyes were on Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the blockbuster Titanic, a number of extras were badly injured during the film’s sinking scene. As the ship rocked about and passengers fell, a number actually broke bones. Winslet also fell ill with pneumonia from filming scenes in the water after refusing to wear a wetsuit under her costume.
24. Epic Fail
A flooding stunt in the 1928 silent film Noah’s Ark went awry when a temple, rigged to collapse when some 600,000 gallons of water were poured on it, crushed an actress and crew members, injuring them. Legend has it that three people were also killed, though this is unsubstantiated.
23. Yippee ki-pardon me?
Die Hard’s director wanted a lot of loud explosions—but they left Bruce Willis with permanent hearing loss. In the infamous scene where Willis’ character shoots a bad guy from under a table, a louder-than-usual blank in his gun cost Willis two-thirds of the hearing in his left ear.
22. SS Viking
The Viking (1931) set some records: it was the first to record sound and dialogue on location, and also greatest loss of life of any film in history. Wanting more shots to finish his film, director Varick Frissell boarded the SS Viking. But tragedy struck: the ship became stuck in ice before an explosion killed at least 27 men onboard.
21. A Rocky Start
To ensure their sparring scenes looked legit in Rocky IV, Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren decided to have a real boxing match in the sequel. After taking a strong blow to the chest that swelled the tissue around his heart, Stallone was rushed to hospital by helicopter, where he spent eight days in intensive care.
In one of the first ever recorded film deaths, 16-year-old Across the Border (1914) star Grace McHugh was shooting in a boat when it capsized and threw her into the river. Cameraman Owen Carter jumped in to rescue her from the current and pulled her to a sandbar—but it was quicksand, and both died.
19. Is Clumsiness a Sin?
While filming the crime thriller Se7en, Brad Pitt slipped and smashed his arm through a car’s windscreen. He needed surgery for a severed tendon, leaving his arm in a cast—which was later written into the film.
18. Achilles Heel
Se7en wasn’t Pitt’s only film set injury: incredibly, while playing the Greek god Achilles in Troy, Pitt tore his Achilles tendon. However, his wasn’t the worst fate on the film: George Camilleri broke his leg during an action sequence, underwent surgery, and died from complications two weeks later.
17. A Literal Train Wreck
The Valley of the Giants star Wally Reid was grievously injured when the train he and crew took to the film’s location fell off a bridge and landed on its side. After recovering from his wounds, Reid returned to the film’s set. However, he became addicted to the morphine he was given to treat his constant pain.
16. Hanging by a Thread
In Back to the Future Part III, Michael J. Fox lost consciousness during a scene where Marty McFly is nearly hanged by Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen and his gang. Someone realized Fox wasn’t just acting, and within seconds, the noose around his neck was lowered.
15. A Figurative Train Wreck
Not everything Johnny Depp touches turns to gold. His western/action/comedy film The Lone Ranger was a total trainwreck, due to several factors: as its budget blew out, Disney briefly halted production but was talked into finishing the film. Adding insult to injury, Depp was trampled by a horse during filming. A few months after the film’s release, studio bosses said they expected to take a loss of up to $190 million.
14. The Real Goose
Stunt pilot Art Scholl was asked to film a few background spin scenes for Top Gun. While executing a spin over the Pacific Ocean, Scholl, an experienced airman, radioed to say he had “a real problem.” A support plane soon spotted debris and oil in the water, but neither Scholl nor his plane were found.
13. Spooky Stuff
A production crew member was electrocuted and six others were injured when a scaffolding pole fell, hitting power lines, on the set of The X-Files in Los Angeles. The man who was electorcuted, Jim Engh, died of cardiac arrest.
12. The Great Stone Faceplant
Buster Keaton, one of Hollywood’s greats, did his own stunts—which led to numerous injuries. While shooting war film The General, Keaton was knocked unconscious after standing near a live cannon.
11. Hack Attack
It was intended as a comedy, but outrage over the controversial Seth Rogen and James Franco film The Interview—which includes a scheme to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—led to a massive hack of Sony Pictures. The hacker group, Guardians of Peace, then threatened an attack on cinemas that screened the film.
The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan, was shot in an area near where the US military had tested nuclear weapons three years prior. Later in life, 91 of the movie’s 220 actors and crew later developed cancer, and 46 died from the disease.
9. Steel SNAFU
An extra on Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Gabriela Cedillo was left with brain damage and paralysis after a steel cable snapped, striking her during a car stunt.
8. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
In the early days of film, it wasn’t just humans who were injured or killed on set. The classic film Ben-Hur went out of its way to make a chariot race realistic, promising $100 to the winning stuntman—and killing about 100 horses in the process.
7. More than 47 Million
Keanu Reeves’ career hasn’t always been on the up and up: 47 Ronin ran an estimated loss of $151 million, adjusted to 2017 inflation. The film was plagued by issues: it shared its name with a Japanese epic, confusing audiences; the studio kept pushing back its release; and reshoots blew its budget by about $50 million.
6. When Life Gives You Lemons…
At last, a happy accident: A helicopter appearing in the film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes accidentally crashed on tape, wrecking the chopper but making for an incredible shot. The actors weren’t injured, and the footage made it into the final film. Granted, the crash did cost more than the rest of the movie combined.
No tomatoes were injured!
5. An Expensive Death
During a break in filming the blockbuster Gladiator, Oliver Reed (Proximo) suffered a heart attack and died. Nonethleless, Reed’s character was still filmed after his death, using CGI to superimpose his face onto a body double. Although Reed’s “ghost” appears in only about 2 minutes of film, the effects cost $3.2 million to achieve.
4. I’m Melting
The actress playing the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton, was supposed to disappear in a puff of smoke and flames, but the pyrotechnics detonated before she descended through the trap door, and she suffered first and second-degree burns.
3. Unlucky Number 13
The Antonio Banderas flick The 13th Warrior became one of the greatest film flops of all time. The action film had a budget of $160 million but made just $61 million at the box office. For you math types, that’s a loss of nearly $100 million.
2. Some Headache
An accident while filming the comedy sequel The Hangover Part II in Bangkok left a stuntman with severe brain damage. Scott McLean was leaning out the window of a taxi when his head hit a vehicle.
1. Twilight Tragedy
In what’s become known as one of the most shocking on-set deaths of all time, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, Myca Dinh Lee, aged seven, and Renee Chen, six, were killed when a low-flying helicopter got caught in pyrotechnics on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie and crashed.