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Movie Scenes That Actually Killed Stunt Actors

Being a Hollywood stunt person might seem like a great chance to rub elbows with A-listers and perform some risky on-camera maneuvers for money. But there's a reason those A-listers use stunt doubles in the first place — specifically the fact that the stuff they do to entertain us is incredibly dangerous even under the relatively safe environs of a major movie set. Doing stunt work means you get to contribute to millions of filmgoers' fondest viewing memories; the downside of the job, however, is that it can be very dangerous for even the most skilled and cautious of the craft. 

No matter how much training you have or how many safeguards a production might have in place to try and minimize the risk, there's always a chance that something will go horribly — and irrevocably — awry. For these stunt actors, the productions turned lethal, and they lost their lives in the line of duty.

xXx (2002)

Harry O'Connor, who served as a stunt double for Vin Diesel in "xXx," died on the Prague set of the film while performing a paragliding stunt in his place. An experienced skydiver and stunt performer who'd joined the industry after retiring as a Navy SEAL, O'Connor reportedly collided with a pillar of the Palacky Bridge while paragliding and broke his neck in the process before passing away. It was his second effort to complete the stunt, the first of which was successful and used in the movie.

Director Rob Cohen later said on his commentary track, "We had 500 stuntmen involved with this picture; 499 didn't get a scratch. It shows you the lengths to which we will go to bring this kind of intense experience to the viewer. Stuntmen know they are in danger. They make their living through danger. Most of the time, it's all right. Sometimes, unfortunately, it isn't." O'Connor was 45.

Top Gun (1986)

Stunt pilot Art Scholl had become internationally renowned for his aerial stunt work in films like "Blue Thunder" and "The Right Stuff" before he was selected to complete an inverted air stunt that would become a big part of the storyline in "Top Gun." According to The Los Angeles Times, Scholl was heard relaying his in-air troubles during production on the scene, saying on his radio, "I've got a problem here." Scholl was highly skilled at the maneuver, so colleagues concluded that there must have been a mechanical failure that caused his vessel to crash. However, neither he nor his plane were recovered from the debris, despite a search effort, so the details leading up to his death are unknown.

The mystery that surrounds the failure that cost him his life still lingers with his widow, Judy Scholl, who told The Daily Mail, "Art didn't say what the problem was. This is the one thing I'm not happy about with him. So I don't know if he had a control failure, where maybe the camera jammed into the flight controls. Or whether he had an issue with the flight controls where he wasn't able to get the airplane out of the flat spin or whether he was disorientated. He didn't say." Scholl was 53.

Shark! (1969)

In one of the grisliest accidents to ever occur on a Hollywood set, stuntman Jose Marco, a double for Burt Reynolds, was brutally attacked by a real-life shark while shooting an underwater scene for "Shark!" Marco was filming alongside a subdued bull shark in scuba gear when a great white managed to make it through the nets protecting the area from the rest of the sea and charged at the camera crew before launching at Marco and disemboweling the actor where he swam.

Crew members tried to steer the shark away from Marco with spears, but the animal was undeterred, and the stuntman's resulting injuries were so severe that he died shortly after being transported to the hospital. The incident was catastrophic, but producers wanted to (and ultimately did) use the footage of Marco's death in the movie, along with publicizing the incident as a marketing push. Director Samuel Fuller was so disgusted that he disavowed the movie, unsuccessfully attempting to have his name removed from its credits. Marco was 32.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

The Vancouver, Canada set of "Deadpool 2" became the site of a tragedy in August 2017 when a stunt woman named Joi "SJ" Harris was killed while attempting to complete a motorcycle sequence for the film. Harris was substituting for actress Zazie Beetz as the character Domino and was not wearing a helmet during the scene in question to match the character. Harris had successfully completed the stunt four times in a row, but on the fifth attempt, she lost control of the vehicle and went airborne before careening into a glass building. Local news crews reported that she was treated on site by paramedics after the incident, but was later taken to the hospital and ultimately declared dead.

In a statement, a rep for 20th Century Fox said of the incident, "We are deeply saddened by the accident that occurred on the set of 'Deadpool 2' this morning. Our hearts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of our crew member during this difficult time." Lead actor Ryan Reynolds echoed that sentiment, writing on Twitter, "We are heartbroken, shocked and devastated ... but recognize nothing can come close to the grief and inexplicable pain her family and loved ones must feel at this moment. My heart pours out to them — along with each and every person she touched in this world."

Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

Angela Bassett's double in "Vampire in Brooklyn" had invited her mother and siblings to the set of the film to watch her work on the day her life was cut short. Sonja Davis' mother Wanda Sapp would later reveal that she overheard her daughter casting doubt on the safety of the stunt she was about to perform during their fateful visit, telling The Los Angeles Times, "The last words I heard my baby say was when she yelled down to the stunt coordinator, 'Are you sure?' I could feel Sonja wasn't comfortable with the stunt."

Davis had been performing a 42-foot backward jump off a building, but rather than landing safely on the air bag that was supposed to cushion her fall, she instead bounced back into the building before making impact with the ground, much to her family's horror. Her mother initiated a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit against the studio, Paramount Pictures (along with director Wes Craven and producer/star Eddie Murphy), but the case was ultimately dismissed. Stunt coordinators on the film would later claim in an oral history of the movie that Davis didn't perform the jump correctly, but there were also no ambulances on set during the incident. Davis was 32.

The Expendables 2 (2012)

The "Expendables" movies were envisioned as a vehicle for pure action-driven spectacle, bringing together the biggest stars in the genre. Led by Sylvester Stallone, the films have featured such heavyweight action heroes as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, and many more. But with all that action comes the increased risk of disaster, and tragically that's just what happened on the set of "The Expendables 2." 

During production of a second unit water scene on Lake Ognyanova, Bulgaria, stunt actor Kun Liu was killed and fellow double Nuo Sun was severely injured when a planned explosion went awry. The pair were riding on an inflatable rubber raft at the time. Liu was reportedly doubling for Stallone himself, while Sun was subbing for Jet Li in the second unit shot. Liu was just 26 at the time of his death and the film was dedicated to his memory.

Sun managed to survive his serious injuries and filed suit against Sylvester Stallone and Millennium Films for damages. The family of Liu, meanwhile, also pursued wrongful death damages against the parties responsible for the movie (including stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, who went on to direct the "John Wick" films). In 2017 it was reported that the plaintiffs were awarded $195,000 HKD, while Jet Li himself gave $5.8 million HKD to the stuntman's family.

Million Dollar Mystery (1987)

Director Richard Fleischer has a long list of classics on his resume, including sci-fi favorites like "Fantastic Voyage" and "Soylent Green." But in 1987, just a few years after helming "Conan the Barbarian" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, he turned out a comedy caper called "Million Dollar Mystery" that's not quite as well-remembered. Unfortunately, what it is known for is an on-set death involving a legendary stuntman named Dar Robinson.

Robinson was a stunt pioneer who invented a safety system known as the decelerator, which helps stunts involving falls from great heights. The subject of his own documentary, "The Ultimate Stuntman," he'd worked on several major movies, including Steve McQueen's "Papillon" and the first "Lethal Weapon." In 1986, however, Robinson paid the ultimate price for a daring shot while "Million Dollar Mystery" was filming in Arizona. He was completing a motorcycle chase scene when he lost control of his bike in the middle of a planned high-speed turn, launched off a ledge, crashed into a rock, and then impaled himself on a tree. He died en route to the hospital.

Prior to his death, Robinson had set records with his increasingly daring jumps, spurring his final film's stunt coordinator, George Fisher, to remark (per the Los Angeles Times), "We have a saying ... it's always the easy ones that get you." Robinson was 39 when he lost his life.

Exit Wounds (2001)

In the early '90s, Steven Seagal was a bona fide action superstar. He was also no stranger to controversy, often getting into on-set fights with cast and crew, which may have contributed to his career decline after the turn of the millennium. The incident on the Toronto set of his 2001 film "Exit Wounds," however, wasn't just a case of frayed nerves or inflated ego, but a workplace tragedy that saw the death of a stuntman. 

Canadian stuntman Chris Lamon lost his life in a bizarre accident during production, which occurred when he and another stuntman were supposed to jump from an upside-down van while it was being towed by a truck. Instead of leaping feet first from the vehicle during the maneuver, Lamon mistakenly fell right on his head, leading to injuries that ultimately proved fatal. As a representative of Warner Bros. would later explain to ABC News, he "made an error with his footing ... he landed badly and hit his head on the pavement. We are very sad about this. It doesn't happen very often."

In addition to suffering multiple skull fractures, Lamon suffered from severe swelling of the brain and died a few days after the incident. Lamon's fiancée campaigned to have the film pulled from its release schedule out of respect for his death, but her efforts were unsuccessful and the movie was released in March 2001, to poor reviews. Lamon was 35.

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

Written and directed by the late schlock auteur Albert Pyun (famous for Jean-Claude Van Damme's "Cyborg"), the 1982 sword-and-sandal adventure "The Sword and the Sorcerer" starred Lee Horsley as Prince Talon, who learns he's descended from noble blood and must take on a powerful and evil wizard. Though it's not one of that decade's most memorable movies in the genre, it made the news after one of the film's performers — 37-year-old John Hale "Jack" Tyree — died in a stunt gone wrong during production. 

Tyree was a veteran of the industry who'd worked on everything from "Escape From New York" to "History of the World: Part I." He was filming a scene in Hollywood's Griffith Park for "The Sword and the Sorcerer," in which he was to jump from an 80-foot cliff. He unfortunately landed a few feet away from the airbag intended to cushion his fall, causing severe injuries that eventually cost him his life. "It was definitely a high-risk stunt," said an official at the time (per the Calgary Herald). "But Jack was a real professional. He had some more difficult high falls before, tougher than the one he faced [on 'The Sword and the Sorcerer']." Perhaps surprisingly, the stunt itself was actually left in the film, despite Tyree's tragic passing, and the film was dedicated to him in the credits. 

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The James Bond franchise has built a reputation for its impressive stunts and elaborate action sequences. Each film in the series seems to attempt to top the one before it, and to do that can sometimes mean making the stunts riskier and riskier. But by the time the franchise got to its 12th entry in 1981, "For Your Eyes Only," the risk-taking may have gone a little too far. 

To create one skiing and bobsledding chase that takes place amidst the wintery slopes of Italy, the film involved the use of a four-man bobsled, operated by the second unit director to better capture footage of the action. Unfortunately, 23-year-old Italian stunt driver Paolo Rigoni fell off the sleigh and was quickly killed after it overturned and dragged him underneath. It wasn't the first or last serious injury to happen on the set of a James Bond film, but it was the deadliest.

Still, Rigoni's loss wasn't for nothing: It's been reported that it was his death — along with the death of professional bobsledder James Morgan just a week earlier during the 1981 bobsled world championships — that prompted the decision to shorten the Cortina bobsledding track, where Rigoni was killed, to make it safer.

Red Cliff (2008)

Filmmaker John Woo was one of the hottest action directors of the '90s. After a string of groundbreaking features in his native Hong Kong, Woo was wooed by Hollywood and came over to helm such favorites as "Hard Target," "Broken Arrow," and "Face/Off." By the late 2000s, he was back directing smash hits in China, and one of his first in his return to his homeland was "Red Cliff," starring Tony Leung ("Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"). It was the highest-grossing movie of the year in the Middle Kingdom, but came at the cost of a stuntman's life.

A period piece about the battle of China's Three Kingdoms, the set of the film became a deadly inferno when a blaze overtook the production, claiming the life of stuntman Lu Yanqing and injuring six other crew members. The accident took place during a ship battle scene in Xiaotang Shan, just outside of Beijing. During the filming of the sequence, a smaller vessel engulfed in flames was planned to collide with a larger ship. But high winds carried the fire to the second ship and the flames spread uncontrollably, injuring those onboard and killing Yanquing.

"The crew of 'Red Cliff' is deeply distraught and full of regret," read a statement from the U.S. studio Lion Rock, which was co-financing the film (via The Hollywood Reporter). 

Comes a Horseman (1978)

"Comes a Horseman" was a 1978 Western starring Jane Fonda, James Caan, and Jason Robards. Robards starred as Jacob "J.W." Ewing, a rancher who wants to protect his sprawling valley from big business tycoons who would try to exploit it for its natural resources (a spiritual precursor to "Yellowstone" in a way). Working as Robards' stunt double was stunt actor Jim Sheppard, who had a wealth of experience on Westerns like "The Wild Bunch" and "Hour of the Gun," and even sci-fi outings like "Star Trek" and "Planet of the Apes." 

In "Comes a Horseman," Sheppard was filming a scene in which he was supposed to be dragged behind a galloping horse through a fence to simulate the death and disappearance of Robards' character. However, the horse didn't stick to the straight path through a gate as planned, and the unexpected equine maneuvers caused Sheppard to be thrown off, with his head striking a fence post. While he survived the initial blunt head trauma, he died not long after being hospitalized. The incident sadly occurred on one of the last days of filming. Although the scene did cut away from the fatal collision, the 40-year-old Sheppard's last stunt was still included in the picture.

High Road to China (1983)

Not long after cameraman Robert Van Der Kar lost his life in a helicopter accident while shooting the hit TV series "Magnum P.I.," that show's star, Tom Selleck, was involved in a movie that also saw a tragic behind-the-scenes death. That film was "High Road to China," a 1983 adventure movie that tried to capitalize on the popularity of the first Indiana Jones movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" – whose lead role Selleck regretted turning down. Set in the 1920s, "High Road to China" had Selleck playing a pilot who is hired to help track down the father of a wealthy socialite (Bess Armstrong).

Today, "High Road to China" is barely remembered, notable only as one of the many "Indiana Jones" imitators that assaulted moviegoers in the early '80s. It flopped in theaters and is among Selleck's most forgotten feature films, but its box office failure isn't the worst thing that came from it. Filmed mostly in Yugoslavia, the production needed remote locations for some of its biggest scenes, and that meant moving its performers in by air. Stunt pilot David Perrin, fellow pilot Nigel Thornton, and mechanic Jaron Anderson were taking a helicopter to shoot one scene when the helicopter crashed, killing all three men.

Delta Force II (1990)

Though mostly known for his martial arts movies, Chuck Norris made plenty of military action flicks in the '80s, with "Delta Force" being one of his most memorable. A surprise cult hit that co-starred Lee Marvin, it got a sequel in 1990, "Delta Force II: The Colombian Connection." For the follow-up, it was Norris headlining the action alone as Major Scott McCoy, who leads the Delta Force team against a group of terrorists who have hijacked a plane. But like a number of other action films, "Delta Force II" also saw a deadly helicopter crash during filming that took the life of a stunt actor.

This time, it was in the Philippines, where the action sequel was shooting, and it sadly wasn't just stuntman Geoff Brewer who lost his life in the crash. Alongside him were pilots Don Marshall and Jojo Imperiale, cameraman Gadi Danzig, and key grip Mike Graham. All five died instantly when their helicopter collided with the side of a mountain. To make matters worse, the production company — notorious low-budget studio Cannon Films — had seen the deaths of at least 10 people while filming numerous projects over the course of four years. 

Hired to Kill (1990)

Another film in a long line that saw deadly helicopter crashes during production, "Hired to Kill" is — like "Delta Force II" — a low-budget action movie from 1990, this one starring Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, and George Kennedy. Thompson plays a mercenary who poses as a photographer when he's hired to rescue a freedom fighter being held behind enemy lines. During filming the year before the movie hit theaters, a helicopter being used to shoot a mid-air scene crashed, injuring the pilot and several others, and killing a stunt actor.

The actor, Clint Carpenter, had been a regular stuntman on the kid's action series "V.R. Troopers," and was riding with a pair of fellow stuntmen. While performing what was later described as a "routine fly-by," moving across the camera's field of vision — set up on a rooftop — the vehicle attempted to make a tight turn. For unexplained reasons, the helicopter failed to achieve the turn and crashed into a group of trees, killing Carpenter, who was pronounced dead before he even made it to a nearby hospital.

Passengers Michael Kane, pilot Marc Wolff, and stunt coordinator Mark Cuttin (along with a third unknown stuntman) all sustained injuries. Though they suffered broken ribs, a leg fracture, and a punctured lung among them, they were able to escape with their lives.

Bikini Island (1991)

Jumping from great heights is obviously a dangerous stunt, and safety airbags are crucial in making sure that a stunt actor stays safe on the way down. We've seen from the death of Jack Tyree on "The Sword and the Sorcerer" what can happen when the stunt person misses the airbag meant to stop their fall, but sometimes even when they hit their mark it can still go wrong. Such was the case on the set of "Bikini Island" when stuntman Jay C. Curran was working on a jump from the Malibu cliffs.

It was just the first day of shooting and the scene required Currin to take a tumble of more than 60 feet off the seaside cliff. Though the actor did manage to hit the airbag, it wasn't dead center, and he instead landed on the edge. The resulting bounce didn't send him straight up as intended, but unexpectedly and violently off to the side and in the wrong direction. The force of the bounce sent him speeding directly into the adjacent rock face, and he died from his injuries. Currin, whose previous stunt work had included "The Exorcist III," "To Live and Die in L.A.," and "Smokey and the Bandit II," was just 34.

Proof of Life (2000)

Doubling for an actor on the set of a major motion picture isn't always hazardous, as stand-ins can often be used simply to rehearse scenes. When the bigger name actors aren't needed, and the action isn't deemed all that dangerous, it's these replacement actors who take their place on the set. It's not supposed to be as risky, but when it came to filming "Proof of Life" — the 2000 film starring Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, and David Morse — it proved fatal for one stand-in and stunt double.

"Proof of Life" is an action movie about a negotiator brought in to secure the release of a hostage amid a conflict in South America, but it wasn't an action scene this time that led to a death. Instead, it was an otherwise mundane moment that was supposed to involve a slow-moving truck lumbering down a mountain road. But during the shot, the truck took an unplanned detour — turning left and tumbling over the side of a cliff. The stand-in for David Morse, Will Gaffney, was aboard and was killed in the incident. 

"We are all deeply pained by the tragic loss of Will Gaffney, and the production is doing everything possible for his wife and family," director Taylor Hackford, who was unable to explain the accident, told Variety. "The weather and circumstances were perfect. No one, at this time, has any idea what happened other than to say it was a freak accident." 

The Right Stuff (1983)

Before "Apollo 13" in 1995, it was 1983's "The Right Stuff" that held the title for best film about NASA's space flight program. Oddly enough, that movie also included "Apollo 13" actor Ed Harris, who plays astronaut John Glenn. It recounts the years that led up to the launching of the Mercury 7, beginning when Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) first broke the sound barrier, and includes all the incredibly dangerous exploits of test pilots like Yeager, Glenn, and Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn). The film features a number of incredible high-flying stunts, and one of them involves a pilot parachuting to safety from the confines of an experimental aircraft.

Unlike in the movie, though, the pilot never did make it home safely. Performing the scene was stunt actor and Houston native Joseph Svec, both a veteran of the profession and a qualified parachutist. But during the filming of the ejection, Svec inexplicably failed to pull his ripcord, the parachute never opened, and he plummeted to his death. According to a manager of the California City Airport where the scene was being filmed, an investigation revealed that nothing was wrong with Svec's chute, suggesting that it was either a simple error by Svec or that he somehow lost consciousness during the plunge. 

They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

In the 1930s, Jack Budlong wasn't strictly a stunt performer; he was also a professional horseman and actor. But for the 1941 movie "They Died With Their Boots On" — a Civil War classic about General Custer that starred Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Gene Lockhart — Budlong was brought in for the film's sprawling war scenes. Reportedly, Budlong played both Union and Confederate soldiers at various points in the production, and it was during one sequence when he was in the Southern grays that the horse rider was killed.

Budlong, who is said to have been a close personal friend of Flynn, had cajoled the star into getting him a role as a stunt-performing extra during the film's war scenes. Not much of a veteran stunt actor, though, Budlong's inexperience may have been what led him to insist on using a real saber rather than a prop. So when, during filming, his horse began bucking due to the simulated artillery exploding around them, Budlong was tossed off the animal and landed right on his very real, very sharp blade. 

Budlong was taken to a Los Angeles hospital, but it was far too late for him: the saber had punctured his abdomen and exited via his back. He wasn't the only casualty of filming, though, as the production of "They Died With Their Boots On" led to countless injuries and at least two more deaths besides Budlong.

Troy (2004)

Brad Pitt's 2004 ancient war movie "Troy," directed by Wolfgang Peterson, adapted Homer's "Iliad," the epic poem that depicted the historical Trojan War waged between the Greeks and the Spartans. Its filming was also a massive undertaking and a throwback to epics of the '50s and '60, which meant it had several large-scale action sequences involving hundreds of extras. It also led to the death of one of the many stunt actors involved in the production. 

Stuntman George Camilleri was admitted to a hospital during filming with "serious trauma" to his ankle, according to the Times of Malta, while also suffering chest pains and shortness of breath. He underwent surgery, but two days later he was dead. Though initially it wasn't realized that his death had been related to an on-set accident, a later inquiry actually traced the cause of Camilleri's death all back to injuries he'd sustained while filming an action scene on "Troy."

An autopsy revealed that Camilleri's death was caused by a pulmonary thromboembolism. "Pulmonary thromboembolism is not an uncommon complication following trauma, fracture of the lower leg, surgery to the lower limb and immobility," the report stated. According to the investigation, the initial injury occurred when Calmierri had been jumping over the side of a galleon. But mixed signals between extras led to him making an error and jumping from the wrong spot, which he hadn't been prepared for.

The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Westerns were once the biggest genre in Hollywood, and with so many cowboys, ranchers, and rough-riding outlaws up on the screen, that meant a bevy of stunt riders were needed. One of them was Fred Kennedy, who had worked all across Tinseltown, performing all kinds of horseback stunts, from chases and jumps to falls. Active since the late '30s, he'd seemingly done it all, and had even helped train horses in how to fall without injury, following an outcry from the SPCA over animal cruelty.

But even with that kind of experience, the best stunt actors can still get into accidents on the set. The 1959 John Ford film "The Horse Soldiers," starring John Wayne and William Holden, required a scene in which Kennedy was to fall off his saddle, a move that director Ford even offered him a bonus for. When action was called, though, he slipped and fell off his stirrup step and broke his neck when he hit the ground. According to reports, actress Constance Towers, who was supposed to run over to the actor and plant a kiss after the planned fall, was the one who noticed he was in distress. But it was too late to get Kennedy help, and he died at the scene.

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

The 1965 film "The Flight of the Phoenix" starred James Stewart as a pilot whose plane crashes in the Sahara. Desperately trying to keep himself, his crew and his passengers alive in the remote desert, his only hope is a passenger whose experience as an aircraft designer has him convinced they can build a new plane out of spare parts from the wreck. It's a nail-biting tale of adventure and survival, but in the making of the movie, a famed stunt pilot who was hired to make risky aerial maneuvers lost his life.

An experienced racing pilot who'd worked in Hollywood since the 1930s, Paul Mantz was well-known for helping Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan prepare for their first attempt to circumnavigate the globe. He was practically pilot royalty in his day, but that didn't mean he was invincible: During filming of "The Flight of the Phoenix" he was flying low in a sequence meant to simulate a take-off when something went wrong and the plane crashed, killing him. Ironically, it wasn't even Mantz who was supposed to be behind the controls that day, but his partner Frank Tallman. At the last minute, though, Tallman injured his knee and Mantz filled in.

With Mantz's death, "The Flight of the Phoenix" may have been a cursed production: In 2004, Randy Quaid and Jared Padalecki starred in a remake that seriously injured cameraman Ciaran Barry. He received a million-dollar settlement, though no one was killed.

Steel (1979)

Movies about dangerous professions are inherently going to involve precarious stunts, so when it came time to film a story about the construction of a skyscraper, there was extra danger involved. Experienced stuntman A.J. Bakunas was  doubling for lead actor George Kennedy on the Lexington, Kentucky set of "Steel" when tragedy struck. In the scene, he attempted a daring drop that would feature him plunging from the top of a high-rise to simulate the falling death of Kennedy's character.

Bakunas was a well-known name in the industry long before he went to work on the film. By all accounts, he had been preparing for the jump for weeks and decided to increase the length of his fall to 323 feet instead of the ninth-story leap he'd already completed. He wasn't doing it to make the stunt more impressive, but instead simply hoping to top a stunt performed on another set by rival stuntman Dar Robinson — who was still nearly a decade away from his own fatal stunt. 

Bakunas completed the jump as planned, but the airbag below ruptured, injuring him critically right in front of a massive crowd of spectators who had assembled to watch the stunt. The actor was still alive and conscious as he was rushed to the emergency room and treated, but he eventually succumbed to his injuries. Bakunas was only 27.

Von Richthofen and Brown (1971)

Movies involving high-flying aircraft action can be fraught with danger and typically require the skills of talented stunt pilots who can pull off death-defying maneuvers. That was the case with "Von Richthofen and Brown," a 1971 World War I epic about one of the greatest flying aces that history has ever known. A passion project for director Roger Corman, who put up much of the financing himself, the film was shot in Ireland and told the story of Manfred von Richthofen, aka "The Red Baron," and the pilot Roy Brown, who took him down. Filming the intense dogfights, though, led to a mid-air collision that killed stuntman Charles Boddington.

Following the incident, the Irish government decided to shut down the production's aerial scenes that Corman had scheduled for Weston Airfield, not far from Dublin. According to contemporary accounts, Boddington's disastrous crash in the sky wasn't even the last accident during filming: Just a day later, pilot Lynn Garrison and actor Don Stroud received injuries after an unscheduled crash landing in the Liffey River. 

Hi-Riders (1978)

Stunt actor deaths are usually the result of something going wrong, whether it's a malfunctioning airbag or the crash of a helicopter. On rare occasions, though, the stunt is pulled off without a hitch in the moment and the director gets his shot, but something goes terribly wrong after. And that's exactly what happened on the set of the 1978 movie "Hi-Riders" when 29-year-old Pennsylvanian stuntman Vic Rivers drowned in a shallow pond after a car chase that saw him submerged in the water.

In the scene, Rivers — an experienced stunt driver who had previously worked on the cult classic "Grand Theft Auto" — was supposed to race down a road, fly his car off a bridge, and roll the vehicle over into the body of water below. Well, he did just that, and the stunt was pulled off without any problems at first: Rivers' car flipped and plunged into what was described as "a three-foot streambed" located on Paramount Ranch. But the unthinkable happened after Rivers crashed: according to published descriptions of the incident, Rivers emerged from the vehicle light-headed and unable to stand. Possibly suffering a concussion, the stunt actor collapsed into the water and drowned before assistance could get to him.

Red Heat (1988)

It probably isn't much of a surprise to learn that there have been some mishaps on the sets of movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all, the overly-muscled body builder-turned-actor is known for his explosive action movies, from fantasy and science fiction to military thrillers. In 1988, filming on his buddy cop action-comedy "Red Heat" went a little too far even by Arnold's standards, resulting in the death of stunt actor Bennie Dobbins.

The film, which was dedicated to Dobbins, had Arnold in the role of a Russian military captain named Ivan Danko. He's sent to Chicago where he teams up with a local cop named Ridzic (Jim Belushi) after they realize they're both looking for the same criminal. Filled with guns-blazing shootouts and bare-knuckle brawls, "Red Heat" is an underrated Arnie classic. But filming one scene that involved the "Terminator" star duking it out hand-to-hand with a stunt man (not Dobbins) led to a death in an unexpected way.

During the scene, Dobbins was actually serving as the stunt coordinator, helping stage the scene with his two actors when he suddenly collapsed. Suffering a fatal heart attack, Dobbins was airlifted to a local hospital but didn't survive. He was 50 years old, and left behind work in a number of action classics like "First Blood," "Commando," and "The Running Man." 

Love Serenade (1996)

It may be expected that dangerous stunts result in injuries on major action movies, but it's a little more surprising when it happens in a romantic comedy. Yet over in Australia, one such movie actually led to the death of stunt actor Collin Dragsbaek. It was 1996 and filming was underway on the film "Love Serenade" starring future "Lord of the Rings" actor Miranda Otto.

The tragedy occurred while filming a scene that had Dragsbaek taking a fall off a grain silo. He was supposed to land on a safety airbag, but a critical error resulted in the device being faulty, and Dragsbaek was killed when it didn't adequately cushion his 29-meter fall. His death cast a pall over the production, one that the film's director, Shirley Barrett, had to work hard to get through. ”It was absolutely devastating when it happened," Barrett told the New York Times after the picture was released. "It has been very hard for us to live with, to think because of this idea of yours, a comedy even, someone had died. But we just kept going. We had to.”  

Dragsbaek's death prompted calls for improved safety procedures, but stunt actor Chris Anderson, who ran his own stunt agency, felt that new rules weren't necessary. He argued that the attitude of productions needed to change. "The rules and regulations are very good," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's a matter of policing them more properly. People are becoming complacent."

The Walking Dead (2017)

Although it didn't technically take place on a movie set, the death of "The Walking Dead" stuntman John Bernecker rocked the Hollywood community in July 2017. The stuntman was filming a fight sequence with actor Austin Amelio on the set of the hit AMC series' eighth season during which he was supposed to fall from a balcony onto a padded landing mat below. Instead of falling straight onto the mat, he made an effort to grab onto the railing and missed the padded area by a matter of inches, landing on the concrete flooring instead.

Although Bernecker was still alive when he was transported to an Atlanta hospital, he was pronounced brain dead within hours as a result of his head injury and was taken off life support. Amelio later tweeted of the incident, "I have no words. My heart is absolutely broken from John Bernecker." Bernecker was 33.