Top 20 Actor Injuries You ACTUALLY See in the Movie

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Top 20 Actor Injuries You ACTUALLY See in the Movie

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
There's a reason that movie scene looked so real. For this list, we'll be looking at real on-set accidents involving actors that were intentionally left in the film. Our countdown includes Tom Cruise, Sean Bean, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael J. Fox, Channing Tatum, and more!
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Script Written by Nathan Sharp

Top 20 Actor Injuries You Actually See in the Movie


There’s a reason that looked so real. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Actor Injuries You Actually See in the Movie.

For this list, we’ll be looking at real on-set accidents that were intentionally left in the film. What you see is what you get! Even if you weren't supposed to.

#20: Tom Cruise

“Mission: Impossible - Fallout” (2018)
At this point, we’re starting to think that Tom Cruise has been replaced with a stunt-performing robot. He's inhuman. “Fallout,” the sixth installment in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, contains a shot in which Cruise’s Ethan Hunt jumps between two buildings. Hunt slams into the second building, pulls himself up with a clear grimace of pain, and slowly hobbles off screen. It’s a great realistic detail – and that’s because Tom Cruise was actually in a lot of pain. Cruise performed the stunt himself and broke his ankle upon impact with the building. Rather than calling for a cut, Cruise pulled himself up and finished the scene. Seven weeks and $80 million later, he was back at work, good as new.

#19: Fred Astaire

“Follow the Fleet” (1936)
Injuries and dancing go together like peanut butter and jelly. “Follow the Fleet” was the fifth collaboration between iconic dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and one of the movie’s musical numbers required Rogers to wear a beaded gown. During the very first take of the long shot, Astaire was smacked across the face with a sleeve of heavy beads, leaving him “somewhat maimed.” His words, not ours. He continued the rest of the dance in a daze and asked for another take, believing that his injury had affected his performance. And while more takes were eventually performed, it was the first that ended up in the movie. Beaded sleeve slaps and all.

#18: Jake Gyllenhaal

“Nightcrawler” (2014)
Jake Gyllenhaal committed to the role of Lou Bloom, a criminal-turned-crimescene videographer. Bloom is not quite right mentally, and it shows when his frustrations finally come to head in this scene: he’s lost out on an important story to a competitor, and he’s clearly stressed and angry. He takes that anger out on his bathroom mirror, screaming at it, shaking it, and eventually slamming it shut, breaking it. If the scene looks a bit TOO real, that’s because Gyllenhaal got really into it and smashed the mirror by accident, slicing through his thumb in the process. He apparently needed upwards of 40 stitches, but the shot of the mirror breaking was left in the final version of “Nightcrawler.”

#17: Ellen Burstyn

“The Exorcist” (1973)
In one of the most famous scenes of “The Exorcist,” a possessed Regan assaults her mother, Chris, and slaps her across the room, resulting in Chris screaming in distress. It wasn't acting – that’s the scream of a back injury that caused lifelong pain. To film the sequence, a stuntman was needed to forcefully pull actress Ellen Burstyn onto her back using a wire. Burstyn told director William Friedkin that the stuntman was pulling too hard and that she feared for her safety, but Friedkin didn’t listen. On the next take, Burstyn injured her back and screamed in pain, which is the take you see in the movie. The injury wasn’t debilitating, but it did leave Burstyn with a lifetime of back discomfort.

#16: Diane Kruger

“Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
In a tale of Nazi-killing basterds, things are bound to get dangerous – even for the actors involved. German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kruger, is actually a spy for the good guys – something that doesn’t go over too well with Christoph Waltz’s Nazi colonel Hans Landa. When “The Jew Hunter” confirms his theory, he lunges at Ms. von Hammersmark and chokes the life right out of her. It seems like Kruger’s acting here is on point, but the truth is she actually can’t breathe. Because of the scene’s importance, the danger involved and the fact that he had a very specific vision in mind, Quentin Tarantino himself strangled Kruger, with his hands used in the close-ups.

#15: Harrison Ford

“The Fugitive” (1993)
Harrison Ford is one of those actors who doesn’t let a mere limp hold him down. And if that means that his character walks with a limp throughout the movie, then his character walks with a limp throughout the movie! While filming a scene in the woods, Ford tore some of the ligaments in his leg. While this should be cause for surgery, recovery, and significant filming delays, Ford simply soldiered through and refused to treat his injury. And owing to the fact that Ford was filming with torn ligaments, his character Richard Kimble can be seen limping throughout much of the movie. He’s clearly taking the phrase “walk it off” to heart.

#14: Jim Caviezel

“The Passion of the Christ” (2004)
Playing Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s Biblical opus sounds like the role of a lifetime, and that role went to Jim Caviezel. Unfortunately, Caviezel went through absolute torture while filming the movie. He suffered migraines from his swollen eye makeup, incurred a lung infection and pneumonia, dislocated his shoulder while carrying the 150 pound cross, and was even struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount sequence. During the lashing scene, Caviezel was accidentally whipped across the back on two separate occasions, a pain he described as “so horrific that you can’t get air.” Suppose that’s one way to get a great reaction shot...

#13: Daryl Hannah

“Blade Runner” (1982)
She may be playing an android, but Daryl Hannah is still very much a human – a fact she proved on the set of “Blade Runner.” Hannah plays basic pleasure model, Pris, and in one scene she encounters genetic designer J.F. Sebastian in a rainy alleyway. She’s surprised and scared, so she bolts. But as she’s running away, she slips and breaks a car window. This was, in fact, not scripted: Hannah actually slipped on the wet pavement, and her arm actually went through a real glass window, but she managed to stay in character for the rest of the scene. That’s even more impressive when you find out she chipped her elbow in eight places.

#12: Michael J. Fox

“Back to the Future Part III” (1990)
Michael J. Fox came a little too close to feeling like a condemned outlaw. When Marty arrives in 1885, he is immediately hanged by 'Mad Dog' Tannen. While most of the wide shots were performed by a stuntman, we do get a brief shot of Fox clearly struggling for breath. That’s because he was. Fox had offered to film the sequence without a box to make it look more realistic. Unfortunately, he mishandled the noose and ended up actually hanging himself. The crew believed that he was giving the performance of his career, when in actuality he was just dying in front of everyone. Fox ended up passing out on the noose, and that’s when director Robert Zemeckis realized that he wasn’t acting...

#11: Martin Sheen

“Apocalypse Now” (1979)
To introduce us to Captain Benjamin Willard, Martin Sheen shambles around his Saigon hotel room, drunk as a skunk. Sheen decided to go very “method” with this one, which is a fancy way of saying he was actually drunk when they filmed the scene. That’s probably why he thought it’d be a good idea for him to punch a mirror. Of course, as this list proves, it’s hard to break a mirror and not cut yourself, and Sheen indeed did slice open his hand in the process. But he kept going, rolling over his bed and smearing his blood all over the sheets and his face, and ultimately ending the scene bloody, drunk, naked and sobbing.

#10: Sean Bean

“Patriot Games” (1992)
The climax of “Patriot Games” sees Harrison Ford’s Jack and Sean Bean’s... Sean... fighting on a speedboat. While filming the sequence, Ford was instructed to mime pushing a boat hook up into Bean’s face. Either Ford pushed a little too hard or Bean was a little too close, because the boat hook actually slammed into Bean’s face and knocked him backwards. The accident left Bean with several stitches and a distinctive scar over his left eye. At least he has a cool story to tell people when they ask. Who else can say that they’ve been hit with a boat hook by Harrison Ford?

#9: James Franco

“Pineapple Express” (2008)
One of James Franco’s most popular roles is that of Saul Silver in the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express.” In one of the movie’s funnier sequences, Saul thinks he sees something in the woods, causing him and Dale to run away in abject terror. While running, Dale trips and falls onto a rock while Saul runs headlong into a tree. Franco did the stunt himself and hit a safety pad that had been screwed onto the trunk. Ironically, the screw head was jutting out of the safety pad, and Franco ran straight into it. Fun fact – the grey headband that Saul wears throughout the movie was used to hide Franco’s stitches!

#8: Channing Tatum

“Foxcatcher” (2014)
When he was playing Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, Channing Tatum tried to be as authentic as possible, and in this case that meant destroying a mirror with his face. By this point in the film, Schultz is feeling the mental strain. After losing an important match, he paces around his hotel room, hitting himself angrily and crying. The most intense moment comes when he stands in front of a mirror and proceeds to smash it with his head three times, shattering it and cutting his forehead in the process. Though he was actually bleeding and came within inches of hitting a stud in the wall, Tatum finished the scene beautifully – and he claims not to remember filming this at all.

#7: Steve Carell

“The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005)
This chest waxing sequence is now iconic, and part of the magic stems from its realism. Wanting the scene to look as true-to-life (not to mention as funny) as possible, Steve Carell decided to bite the bullet and actually get his chest waxed. His clear hesitance and screams of pain are all real, as is Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen’s laughing. By the end of the waxing, Andy has tears in his eyes and blood spots adorning his chest. That is not makeup, nor a great bit of acting from Carell. Those are very real tears and very real blood spots. We thank Carell for putting his body and comfort on the line just for our comedic enjoyment.

#6: Sylvester Stallone

“Rocky IV” (1985)
This is widely considered to be the goofiest movie in the “Rocky” franchise, but it has an amazing final fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago. To make the fight appear more authentic and brutal, Stallone asked Dolph Lundgren to punch him for real. He took three straight takes of powerful body shots before he felt a burning sensation in his chest. Stallone proceeded to ignore the discomfort... until his blood pressure shot up to 260 and he had trouble breathing. He was subsequently flown to a hospital and spent time in the ICU, where he learned that his heart had slammed against his breastbone and begun to swell.

#5: Cary Elwes

“The Princess Bride” (1987)
“The Princess Bride” is a fantastical fairy tale filled with swashbuckling pirates, six-fingered men and – of course – princesses. At one point, Princess Buttercup and her true love Westley are confronted by the dastardly Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen, and Cary Elwes’ Westley is ultimately captured. To make sure their new prisoner is compliant, Christopher Guest’s Rugen – aka the six-fingered man – hits him in the head with the butt of a sword and knocks him out. According to Elwes, there were no rubber swords on-hand, and they couldn’t get a good take by faking it, so Guest actually hit him and actually knocked him out. Elwes woke up later in the hospital, wondering what the heck had happened.

#4: Jackie Chan

“Police Story” (1985)
“Police Story” contains one of the most insane Jackie Chan stunts – and that’s certainly saying something! It involves Chan jumping onto a metal pole, sliding down through a series of lights, and crashing through a glass ceiling onto a display below. Chan was actually very hesitant to perform the stunt and was ecstatic following its successful completion. But once the immediate adrenaline wore off, Chan realized that the skin on his palms had been peeled away. The hot prop lights had significantly heated the metal pole, resulting in second-degree burns to Chan’s hands. All things considered, we think he got off very lucky...

#3: Sylvester Stallone

“First Blood” (1982)
In movie badass John Rambo’s first outing, our titular protagonist – played by Sylvester Stallone – is being pursued by the abusive Hope, Washington police department. The chase eventually leads to a cliff, where Rambo is hanging on for dear life, about to be shot at by a cop in a helicopter. With no other options, Rambo takes a blind leap, tumbles through the trees, and lands on a tree branch. Being the professional action star he is, Stallone performed this stunt himself; however, things didn’t quite go as planned. The painful scream you hear when he lands is not acting. When all was said and done, Sly walked away with a cracked rib but an amazing stunt performance.

#2: Leonardo DiCaprio

“Django Unchained” (2012)
Here’s another Tarantino movie, but this time the director didn’t personally injure his star. In “Django Unchained,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays a psychotic slave owner who’s hosting a dinner for Django, played by Jamie Foxx, and Dr. Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. During the meal, DiCaprio’s character unnervingly reveals his knowledge of Django’s plan to free his wife – and as you can imagine, this makes him mighty angry. So angry, in fact, that DiCaprio slams his hand on the table, breaking a glass and slicing his skin in the process. Pretty soon, the audience can see that DiCaprio’s hand is completely covered in blood. But like a true thespian, he gives an amazing performance and uses his injury to his advantage.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

An Extra Gets Hit Down Low
“The Last Samurai” (2003)

A Stormtrooper Hits His Head
“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)

Gianni Russo Cracks 2 Ribs & an Elbow
“The Godfather” (1972)

George Clooney Smacks His Head
“Syriana” (2005)

Ben Affleck Twists His Ankle
“Dazed and Confused” (1993)

#1: Viggo Mortensen

“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002)
In the second “Lord of the Rings” film, Viggo Mortensen returns as Aragorn with a performance as powerful, emotional and raw as that in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” One of his most visceral scenes comes at the beginning of the film: angry at the thought that his hobbit friends might be dead, a rage-filled Aragorn kicks a helmet on the ground. After doing four takes of this shot, Viggo broke two toes on his fifth take, meaning that scream heard in the finished film is very real. Even so, Viggo kept working, and director Peter Jackson said he didn’t even realize his star was injured until much later – he just thought Viggo had given it his all.
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