Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Actors Who Got Knocked Out While Filming A Movie

Hey, look, accidents happen. And film sets are no exception. Making a movie can be a rather perilous venture. There can be fire, water, stunts, and good old-fashioned human error. What's that old fatalistic saying? That if things can go wrong they invariably will?

Suffice to say, stunt performers exist for a reason. Most stars aren't in a position where they can justify shutting down production to accommodate their accidents. And even if you are Tom Cruise, you still might slip (and bend your foot backwards). So, if you can tell that a stunt is potentially dangerous, for goodness sake, leave it to the professionals. Especially, and we cannot stress this enough, if your noggin is involved. Head injuries are no joke. There's a very important lump of jelly in your skull that is — oh, we don't know — the thing that makes you you (shout out to all our fellow Cartesians). As the Center for Disease Control emphasizes, while brain injuries aren't usually life-threatening, they're still a serious business that can impact memory, sensory input, and balance. In other words, all things you need to act and perform on-camera.

And yet, like we said, accidents happen. Or, if you're in a 'Rocky' movie, "rights of passage insisted upon by Sylvester Stallone" happen. Below you'll find an assortment of instances across cinema history where actors were knocked out while shooting scenes. This list isn't formally an Occupational Safety and Health Administration video, but we'd encourage imaginative readers to make it so, in your (hopefully) un-concussed minds.

Michael B. Jordan got his bell rung on Creed

Ryan Coogler's "Creed" sees former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) serving as both mentor and trainer to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Balboa's late friend and former boxing rival, Apollo Creed. Somewhat appropriately for a film intent on revisiting old ground, Jordan partook in the time honored 'Rocky' tradition of getting laid out for real.

A behind-the-scenes tweet by none other than Stallone himself showed Jordan taking a mean right hook from his co-star/very real professional fighter Tony Bellew ... and falling flat on the floor. "That's called guts!!" Stallone gleefully tweeted. Breaking down the footage on "The Graham Norton Show," Jordan recalled that the real punch was orchestrated by Stallone to achieve a convincing slow-motion shot. Unfortunately, the first time they did the real punch, Bellew's glove got in the way of the camera, so they had to do another take. And it's this second hit that dropped Jordan like a sack of potatoes. 

While the actor assured the talk show host that he wasn't "technically" unconscious, he admits, "I was definitely seeing stars ... I was not all there. ... It felt like I was in a car accident for like four days afterwards."

A misfired cannon floored Buster Keaton in The General

Frankly, it's a miracle that Buster Keaton made it out of the movie-making business in (mostly) one piece. Heck, the man broke his ankle while goofing off on a moving staircase during the shoot of "The Electric House." And per Marion Meade's Keaton biography "Cut to the Chase," the silent star even fractured his neck during the filming of "Sherlock Jr" when a geyser from a water tower knocked him backwards, smacking his spine on the rail of a train track and causing him to black out. 

Keaton, a genius of both physical comedy and death-defying action sequences, famously never refused a stunt, however dangerous. On 1926's "The General," Keaton's re-telling of the true Civil War story of a runaway locomotive stolen by Union spies, Keaton was knocked unconscious when he was standing too close to a Civil War replica cannon that fired prematurely. 

Jackie Chan received his first (of many) concussions during Hand of Death

Few actors have been bonked and bruised in the name of cinema quite like Jackie Chan. Then again, few actors have so successfully straddled the line between superstar and stunt performer. You could probably write an entire medical textbook based on all of Jackie Chan's cumulative injuries. He broke his eye socket while shooting 1978's "Drunken Master." He dislocated his pelvis and sustained second-degree burns and spinal damage while shooting the explosive pole-slide conclusion of "Police Story." He even cracked his skull open while shooting 1986's "The Armor of God," arguably the most serious and squirm-inducing injury in his career.

All to say, Chan's presence on this list should come as no surprise. According to his autobiography, "I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action," Chan was knocked unconscious while filming the 1976 film "Hand of Death." As Chan tells it, he hit his head after a stunt that involved the actor jumping off a truck. Despite the pain of the impact, he immediately performed the stunt again to get the shot and then passed out. Supposedly, director John Woo was convinced Chan was going to die until the actor woke up an hour later. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), this would prove the first major concussion of many.

Matt Damon punched Tim Griffin's lights out in The Bourne Supremacy

In the second cinematic outing of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), everyone's favorite amnesiac CIA assassin has his peaceful life threatened by a conspiracy involving Russian documents, which naturally has something to do with the nefarious Operation Treadstone. Bourne's covert adventure takes him to an airport in Naples, where he allows himself to get spotted by security. During his interrogation, he subdues (the polite word for "punches the heck out of") CIA officer John Nevins to obtain his SIM card.

As Paul Greengrass explains on the film's director's commentary, the execution of the fight scene didn't quite go as planned. Reportedly, Damon's flying fists came into contact with Tim Griffin, the actor playing Nevins, knocking him out cold. "When he came around, he said, 'Did you get it on camera?' I thought he'd broken his nose or something because it was a hell of a whack, but it works. Made the scene look real." While Greengrass' infamously frenetic shaky cam makes the hit hard to catch, if you have the luxury of replaying the punch frame-by-frame, you'll indeed be treated to a smack that looks like it hurt big time. To his credit, from what we see on-screen, Damon doesn't break character. Hey, remind us not to mess with Matt Damon.

Jack Lemmon got pelted with 4,000 pies in The Great Race

What if "Death Race 2000" was a whimsical slapstick comedy? Well, good news, that movie exists, and it's called "The Great Race." Blake Edward's 1965 film tells the unapologetically capitalistic tale of professional daredevil/white-clad hero, the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis), who convinces automotive manufacturers that a race from New York to Paris will increase car sales. The Great Leslie's arch-nemesis — the mustachioed, black-suited Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) — vows to vanquish his blue-eyed foe by way of a car of his own invention (that features hydraulic stilts, because why not?).

"The Great Race" is the proud recipient of a couple of superlatives. At the time, it was the most expensive comedy ever made, with a then-bloated budget of $12 million. But, more importantly, "The Great Race" boasts the "greatest pie fight ever," as the July 1965 edition of LIFE magazine boldly puts it. The scene featured 4,000 pies and was shot over five days. As fun as the ordeal sounds, things steadily took a turn for the dangerous as the shoot wore on. In the aforementioned LIFE article, Lemmon claimed that he got knocked out a couple of times. "A pie hitting you in the face feels like a ton of cement," he explained. The same article describes how, at one point, actress Natalie Wood choked briefly when a pie flew directly into her mouth. Who knew pies could be so deadly.

Téa Leoni took an AK-47 to the jaw during Bad Boys

"Bad Boys" may be formulaic and cliché, but for all its macho sins, the film is a seminal piece of 1990s action cinema, as well as a testament to the on-screen power of both Will Smith and director Michael Bay. The film tells of two Miami cops — one a family man, the other a womanizer — who have 72 hours to reclaim heroin stolen from their station's evidence storage locker. In the mix, naturally, is Julie Mott (Téa Leoni), the sole witness to a murder and someone who requires the titular bad boys' protection.

During the filming, Leoni was accidentally knocked unconscious by co-star Martin Lawrence's stunt double. As the actress relayed to Movieline in a 2000 interview, "I ended up in the hospital at one point. ... It was the AK-47 under the jaw that got me. I wasn't on the proper mark when the stunt guy hit me with it. My legs went over my head, and I landed flat on my back. Didn't have much memory at that point." As she tells it, Bay "freaked out" about Leoni's ability to finish the film. "I started to cry," the actress remembers, "because I'd never thought that the chill of Hollywood would be so close in my face."

Bernard Mariano put the 'blood' in Bloodsport

"Bloodsport" is a film that could easily be re-titled "Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. the World." The film is a delightfully flagrant excuse to showcase the actor's talents for taking and dishing out beatings. Dux (Van Damme), a skilled fighter, is invited to participate in an illegal martial arts tournament in Hong Kong known as the Kumite. Determined to bring honor to his state-side sensei/father figure, Dux accepts and proceeds the long and bloody journey of beating up the best of the best.

One of "the best" is Sadiq Hossein, played by Bernard Mariano, a Hong Kong native of Filipino descent who was scouted at a gym. During their brawl, Hossein refuses to stay down and lurches forward from his defeated position on the floor to challenge Dux for a second go-round. Hey, all's fair in love and Kumite. The script called for Dux to land a definitive punch to keep Hossein down for good. Unfortunately for Mariano, Van Damme's elbow actually made contact with his jaw (a squirm-inducing hit you can see for yourself in the final film). As Mariano relayed to the South China Morning Post, "When we rolled the first take, [Van Damme] moved too fast. My hand was resting on his shoulder, and at that moment, he was already moving back and caught me full on the jaw and split my lip. I passed out and was taken to the hospital and stitched up. ... The blood that you see in the movie is actually my blood."

Tony Randall's accidental KO made the final cut in Pillow Talk

How could anyone get knocked out in 'Pillow Talk," a CinemaScope rom-com about the flirtatious potential of a party line? Michael Gordon's aged (but charming) comedy of late 1950s gender roles tells of a playboy (Rock Hudson) and an interior decorator (Doris Day) who share a telephone line and steadily fall for one another after Hudson's character pretends to be a Texas rancher. The scheme is threatened by Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), a mutual of the pair who aims to thwart the budding romance.

Near the end of the film, during the diner scene, Forbes slaps Day's character, and a truck driver (John Indrisano) promptly punches him in the jaw, and the knocked-out Forbes slides comically down his booth seat. However, as Turner Classic Movies is keen to note, during the filming Indrisano misjudged his punch and clocked Randall for real, rendering the actor unconscious. Naturally the shot looked so convincing that this take, accidental punch and all, wound up in the final film. So if you've always wondered why the knockout in "Pillow Talk" looked so real, well, it is.

Christopher Guest knocked out Cary Elwes for real in The Princess Bride

One of the most memorable scenes in Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride" takes place when the newly reunited Westley (Cary Elwes) and Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) make their way through the treacherous Fire Swamp, which is exactly what it sounds like. Unfortunately, the pair's happy (if nail-biting) reunion is short-lived. They survive Rodents of Unusual Size and quicksand, only to fall prey to the ambush of the dastardly Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). When it came time to film the shot where the prince's right-hand man, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), slugs the injured Westley with the butt of his sword, the blow didn't look quite convincing on camera. 

According to "As You Wish," Elwes' 2016 memoir of his experience making "The Princess Bride," the solution made him quite literally see stars. As he said, "Because of the angle, we couldn't sell a fake blow well enough for the camera, so I told [Guest] to just hit me hard. And this was no prop sword. So he bashed me on the head. And that's the last thing I remember. I woke up in the hospital."

Rachel McAdams bashed her head while filming Red Eye

Wes Craven's 2005 airborne thriller doesn't get enough love. Like, come on, the main villain's name is "Jackson Rippner," how can you not love that? "Red Eye" tells the story of Lisa (Rachel McAdams), a woman kidnapped by a stranger (Cillian Murphy) on a routine commercial flight bound for Miami. With her father's life in the balance, Lisa finds herself dragged, unwillingly, into assisting her menacing captor in the murder of a politician.

In one scene, Murphy and McAdams duke it out in an airplane bathroom. At the beginning of the confrontation, Murphy rushes at McAdams, pinning her against a wall. However, while filming the scene, it seems Murphy miscalculated, and McAdams hit her head for real and supposedly lost consciousness. The incident is included in the film's gag reel, so clearly there were no hard feelings. If you look closely during the actual scene as it appears in the film, you can catch Murphy's hand protecting McAdams' head from future injury. How sweet.

Someone threw a pool ball at Stepin Fetchit's head

It's never a "fun time" to be on the wrong end of a head injury. But of all the knockouts on this list, Stepin Fetchit's is by far the least amusing. Directed by Edward Sedgwick, 1935's "The Virginia Judge" tells of, well, a Virginian judge (Walter C. Kelly) and his resentful stepson (Robert Cummings). 

As Champ Clark relays in his 2005 book "Shuffling to Ignominy: The Tragedy of Stepin Fetchit," Fetchit's experience filming "The Virginia Judge" was nightmarish, and one incident stands out in particular. "What was reported in the Black press as a simple on-set mishap — 'Stepin Fetchit Is Knocked Out by Wild Pool Ball' — was, in reality, a general representation of white on Black racism." 

The scene in question features Fetchit's character as the living target in a county fair booth, where white fairgoers gleefully pelt baseballs at his head. Reflecting on the incident 40 years later, Fetchit recalled, "This cat was supposed to throw a ball at me. A soft ball. I'm supposed to get hit and knocked out. It's a long shot, and I know how to get hit in the long shot to make it look good. ... And just before this cat throws it, something tells me, 'Don't take this ball.' But it was too late. It hit me dead on. It was a pool ball." Fetchit was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital with a concussion.

Sylvester Stallone had to be hospitalized while filming Rocky Balboa

Ah, would you lookee here — another literal knock out from the Rocky Balboa universe. Released 16 years after "Rocky V," the sixth entry in the saga of underdog boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) catches up with the aging Philadelphian. He's in his 60s, widowed, and has a strained relationship with his son. When a simulation predicts that superstar professional boxer Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) would lose to Rocky, the undefeated Dixon throws down the gauntlet in the hopes of finally fighting a true contender. To everyone's surprise, Rocky agrees and comes out of retirement.

As reported by The Guardian, Stallone was knocked unconscious during the shoot "and the crew kept on filming because they thought he was still acting." Reportedly, Traver accidentally punched Stallone in the head while shooting a scene in a Las Vegas ring, where the 59-year-old actor promptly collapsed. After the crew realized that no, Stallone was not acting, they rallied emergency services. He was rushed to the hospital and thankfully made a full recovery. And really, when comparing this incident to Stallone's other "Rocky" injuries, the star got off easy ... lest we forget that time on "Rocky IV" where Dolph Lundgren punched Stallone in the chest so hard he wound up in the ICU for nine days.

Chris Pratt was the victim of some speedy wire work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

While promoting "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," Chris Pratt relayed the details of a stunt-gone-wrong in his latest outing as Marvel's Star-Lord. Pratt explained that he got knocked out while he and an unspecified co-star were filming some wirework. As Pratt describes in the interview, the accident was the result of the stunt happening too fast. 

"I was heading toward the ground and I thought, 'I have a bad elbow; I'd better just take it in the shoulder and avoid my head so I don't crush this stuntman with my gargantuan head.' I turned this way and bounced my face off the mat. I saw a flash of yellow, and it kind of tasted like smoke in my mouth. And then I came up and as I came to I realized there was a camera zooming past me and I realized if I didn't do the scene I was going to have to do the stunt again. And so I kind of stayed in the moment, and it kept going. Then they yelled 'cut.'"

Given the amount of rig and wirework involved in the "Guardians" sequel, we're not even going to try and guess which specific scene was being filmed when Pratt came crashing down. Thankfully, his gargantuan head appears to have protected him from more serious injury.