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The Most Dangerous MCU Movie Stunts Ranked

When you think of Marvel Studios, you're probably more likely to conjure images of dazzling (or disappointing) visual effects than of pyrotechnics or wirework. And who could blame you? The Disney-owned hit factory has a well-earned reputation for being VFX-happy, but there are still more practical stunts being performed than you might think, even if they're being filmed in front of a green screen. Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige encourages the stars of his films to get as involved in the physicality of their characters as they're comfortable being, filming fights, jumps, and falls themselves whenever feasible. But, even when a lead actor is involved in an action sequence from start to finish, they're still surrounded by a highly skilled stunt crew, and there's absolutely no shame in an actor tagging out so that their double can complete a shot more safely or more effectively. That's why they're there, after all.

It's also important to calibrate your idea of "danger" when it comes to modern Hollywood stunts. If a stunt coordinator has done their job properly, no stunt is unsafe so long as everyone participating has the proper training. At the same time, even the simplest of stunts can have serious consequences if they go wrong, which is one of the reasons why Hollywood employs stunt doubles to begin with. Stunt performers sustain injuries often, in part because of the incredible demands on their bodies. Chris Evans might have to fly through a gimmicked car windshield once or twice while shooting an Avengers movie, but his stunt performers literally "do this all day." If your top-billed star breaks an arm, everyone on set could be out of a job until it's done healing. (Unless you're Jeremy Renner. Then they'll just give you new, CGI arms.)

14. An Avengers stunt performer nearly lost his head

In 2021, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" star Letitia Wright suffered a concussion and a critical shoulder fracture while filming a stunt sequence, easily the most serious high-profile injury that's been sustained on the set of a Marvel Studios film to date (per Deadline). Assuming the details of this incident ever come out, it will almost certainly merit a high place on our list, but without the details about the stunt in question, it's hard to decide where to place it. That's because a serious injury can result from even the most routine stunt if the right thing goes wrong.

Take, for example, the next-most written about injury from a Marvel production, which happened on a relatively normal day in the life of a Hollywood stunt performer. While shooting an action scene for "The Avengers" in 2011, stuntman Jeremy Fitzgerald was supposed to get shot with an arrow (by Hawkeye, of course) and fall 30 feet from a building. (Y'know, kid stuff.) Instead, he caught his foot and slammed into a brick wall, which took a silver dollar-sized piece out of his scalp. He says if he hadn't narrowly missed a "razor-sharp" rain gutter, his injuries would've been much worse. After apparently phoning TMZ to tell his dramatic tale (via The Hollywood Reporter), Fitzgerald went right back to work and did not require stitches.

Obviously, Fitzgerald's injury is comically mild compared to Wright's, whose recovery suspended filming of "Wakanda Forever" for almost five full months. The point is, if Fitzgerald is to be believed, the difference between a minor injury and a major one can be a matter of inches, even on a stunt that is not (in a relative sense) inherently dangerous. Accidents like these are simply an unfortunate reality that comes along with making action movies.

13. Pretty much anything you do in Star-Lord's mask is dangerous

When A-list movie star Chris Pratt suits up as Star-Lord for the "Guardians of the Galaxy" films, he slips on a very cool metallic mask — and we mean that literally. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord helmet has a cooling system inside to keep the actor as comfortable as possible during shooting. When stunt performer Chris Romrell gets dressed for that same role, he puts on a mask that looks identical, but has no such perks.

"They don't spend that much money on me," Romrell told Vulture in 2019, after doubling for Pratt in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame." "The mask was clamped around my head like a Power Rangers mask with just these tiny little slits for breathing. And once you start moving in it and doing action stuff, you lose all the oxygen in there real quick." Beyond the air flow problems, there's also the matter of Star-Lord's glowing red eyes, which offer practically no visibility for the wearer, something that's more than a little important to a stunt actor's work. "It's not conducive to filming action scenes," says Romrell.

Romrell broke three of the masks while the shooting "Avengers: Infinity War," including one incident during a fight scene in which Romrell hit the back of his head doing a wired backflip, which shattered it right off of his face. After six months of filming, someone in the production finally asked him if he'd rather just put some dots on his face and have the mask added in digitally. Romrell had no idea that was even an option.

"That was probably a $50,000" decision," he says.

12. Stunt rider Sarah Lezito test drove an electric motorcycle for Age of Ulton's high-speed chase

Marvel's movie stars may jump at the chance to do wirework and fight training, but there's one arena of stunt performance in which you'll practically never see them, and that's stunt driving. It's altogether too dangerous and too specialized a skill to train an actor to perform for a film, especially when there are so many ways to fake it. Stunt drivers need to be able to depend on their instincts and experience to safely weave through traffic at high speeds or even execute controlled wipeouts and crashes.

Their skills are put to the test further when asked to perform stunts using strange or unfamiliar vehicles. In "Avengers: Age of Ultron," stunt motorcyclist Sarah Lezito (also credited as Sarah Vignot) subbed in for Scarlett Johansson for the sequence in which Black Widow pursues Ultron down the streets, alleys, and highways of Seoul on a futuristic motorcycle. The bike doesn't only look fancy, it's an actual prototype for the Harley-Davidson LiveWire, an all-electric motorcycle that wouldn't actually go into production for another three years (per Bloomberg). This presented a particular challenge for the stunt rider, who had to adjust to a totally different riding experience in a high-stakes, high-danger environment.

"It's an electric bike, so you have no engine to warm up," said Lezito in a promotional interview for the film. "Nothing is similar with a gas bike, except it's got two wheels and a handlebar." Lezito nevertheless executed her driving assignment successfully, darting between lanes of traffic at high speeds and portraying Black Widow as a daring, expert motorcyclist.

11. Spidey double Marvin Ross got the taste knocked out of his mouth in Civil War

Sure, a movie star might want to perform a cool stunt for a fight scene once, but one of the many reasons why stunt performers are necessary is that between rehearsals and shooting, many stunts have to be performed over, and over, and over. Being repeatedly thrown around by wires and cranes is exhausting and takes a mounting toll on the performer's body. Just ask Marvin Ross, one of Tom Holland's doubles on the set of "Captain America: Civil War."

During Spider-Man's face-off with Captain America in the massive airport fight, Cap catches Spidey's webs, pulls him closer, then smacks him with his shield. For this stunt, Marvin Ross was attached to a cable that would slam him onto the ground after the hit.

"On the first take, I hit the ground and I couldn't move," he told Vulture in 2019. "They go, "Cut! Okay, Marvin, that was great, but you're Spider-Man — you're not dead.'" But that was just the beginning for Ross, who then had to perform the stunt four more times. When he was finished, he'd gone so numb that he couldn't taste anything for the rest of the day.

10. Chris Pratt got knocked out on the set of Guardians Vol. 2

The film production process is grueling and complex, and it's impossible to avoid human error altogether. Occasionally, even during the check-and-double-check world of Hollywood stunts, something's bound to go wrong. That's why there are so many safeguards, after all.

Chris Pratt learned this lesson the hard way during the shoot for "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2," when he and a stunt performer were set up to be dropped from 15 feet high onto a mat. The pair were suspended parallel to the ground, one on top of the other, and were supposed to descend in a controlled fall. According to an interview on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," Pratt saw the mechanism demonstrated and suggested that the fall looked too fast, but was assured that the actual fall would happen at half that speed. According to Pratt, instead of slowing down, the fall actually happened at twice its previous speed. In order to avoid landing on his bad elbow or bashing his scene partner with his head, a quick-thinking Pratt rolled over and took the impact on his shoulder, bouncing his own head against the mat and knocking himself unconscious. "I saw a flash of yellow and it tasted like smoke in my mouth," said Pratt. "There were birds flying around my head all day."

Luckily, the actor walked away from the incident with nothing more than a bump on the head and a story to tell on the film's press tour.

9. Heidi Moneymaker did Black Widow's famous chair flip for real

Big budget blockbusters like the Avengers films employ multiple stunt doubles for each actor, but there's no Marvel character more closely identified with a single stunt performer than Black Widow and Heidi Moneymaker, who has doubled Scarlett Johansson in every one of her Marvel appearances. Moneymaker has participated in some of Black Widow's most iconic moments, such as the famous headscissors hurricanrana from her debut in "Iron Man 2," and just as notably, Widow's introduction in "The Avengers." In her first scene in that film, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Natasha Romanoff is tied to a chair, being interrogated by a mobster. During the interrogation, she begins fighting her captors while still tied to the chair and gets the upper hand by kicking off one of her attackers' backs, doing a mid-air somersault while still seated, and then landing on another baddie so that the chair shatters, freeing her hands.

It's one of Black Widow's coolest moments, made all the more impressive by the fact that Heidi Moneymaker actually did it, with no wires or cables, as she told Scott Adkins on his show, "The Art of Action." Apart from the willing participation of her scene partners and the chair being made of a light, breakable balsa wood, there's no trickery employed here. Just imagine the danger of accidentally landing on your head or neck, or of the chair not breaking properly. Moneymaker followed up this move by bouncing off of a scene partner's chest, landing on her shoulders, and kipping back up before her back could touch the ground in an astounding feat of athleticism. For their work on this sequence, Moneymaker and the rest of the stunt team won the 2013 Taurus World Stunt Awards for Best Fight and Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman.

8. Tom Holland and Zendaya did a 100-foot swing for Far From Home ... and then it was cut

An advantage of using a lead actor in a stunt sequence is that it helps the audience maintain a connection to a character throughout the action. An actor can bring their emotional preparation and experience with their character into the action, which can enhance the reality of the stunt as well as bolster the suspension of disbelief.

For Peter and MJ's inaugural swing through Manhattan in the coda of "Spider-Man: Far From Home," lead actors Tom Holland and Zendaya fastened into a harness and swung off of a 110-foot platform over a mass of hollow boxes, with a camera mounted between them to record their close-up as they whizzed through the air. This would allow Zendaya to get very much into character as someone who has never had to swing off of a 110-foot platform before. (Holland's face was concealed by his Spider-Man mask, but the daredevil actor wouldn't dream of skipping out on performing such a stunt.)

But, according to an interview with Zendaya on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," this real-life swing isn't the version that made the final cut of the film. Instead, director Jon Watts filmed the scene again with the pair on a green screen, hanging two feet above the ground with a wind machine in their faces while the crew jostled them back and forth by hand.

"And it looked better!" says Zendaya. That's movie magic for you.

7. Black Panther and Winter Soldier outrun cars in Civil War

"Captain America: Civil War" boasts a high density of thrilling practical stunts, raising the bar set in "The Winter Soldier." "Civil War" sees the MCU debut of Black Panther, who reveals himself by pursuing the Winter Soldier in a high-speed footrace across Bucharest. For part of the chase, the two superhumans run through a busy tunnel, outrunning moving cars and weaving between lanes. This effect, though aided by CGI, was mostly achieved through practical means.

Chadwick Boseman's double Gui DaSilva described this stunt in detail to the Corridor Crew's "Stuntmen React" YouTube series. The secret is a time-honored gimmick called the "magic carpet," in which cars drag long tarps behind them for the stunt actors run on, allowing them to actually run faster than the cars themselves. Before "Civil War," DaSilva had never done this particular stunt before, and it required a full month of rehearsal, starting at low speeds, then gradually speeding up, then gaining the confidence to jump between lanes and leap onto the backs of the cars themselves, which were rigged with additional handles and tailing crash mats for additional safety.

6. Spider-Man's double is dunked by a helicopter in Homecoming

Tom Holland won the role of Spider-Man in part due to his dance and gymnastics background, and has done a lot of his own stunts in his MCU appearances. But, like every other Marvel star, he's backed up by a daring stunt team who takes risks that he's not qualified to take. For instance, for the scene in which Spidey fights the Vulture over a suburban park in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," Holland balked at being dangled under a helicopter and then dropped into an actual lake.

"I was like, 'Let me do it! Let me do it!'" said Holland in a Facebook Live promotional video for the film. "And when I saw him do it ... I'm so happy I let him do that one because that was the scariest thing I've ever seen. Can you imagine? Flying under a helicopter and being dunked in a lake. I don't get paid enough for that s***."

For the record, Tom Holland was paid half a million dollars for "Homecoming", which is about 10 times what the average Hollywood stunt double makes in a year, according to Comparably. We don't know which of Holland's doubles performed the stunt, but you heard Spider-Man: That guy deserves a raise.

5. Wasp stunt double Ingrid Kleinig smashed through a real car windshield

As famous as the MCU is for its CG-driven climaxes, a fair percentage of Marvel Studios films punctuate their second acts with a good old-fashioned car chase, shot on real city streets where they flip real automobiles and fire real pyrotechnics. The car chase in "Ant-Man and the Wasp," for example, was shot at least in part on location in Atlanta during the hot summer of 2017. During production, one of Evangeline Lilly's stunt doubles, Ingrid Kleinig, performed a complex stunt which involved flying off the back of a speeding truck and into the real glass windshield of the car tailing it. Kleinig, a veteran stunt performer and coordinator with more than 80 credits to her name, would go on to describe this as the hardest stunt she's ever done for a Marvel film (via Today).

"There was a lot of technical rigging and coordination involved to get everything to the right place at the right time," says Kleinig. "Me having to stand on the back of a flatbed truck careening down the road at 40 miles an hour, and then be ratcheted through a windshield was quite a tricky experience but good fun. I'm glad it made the cut." If you're sweating just thinking about doing a stunt like this, imagine doing it in head-to-toe motorcycle leather on an 80-degree summer day in Georgia.

4. Cap's stunt team takes three hard falls

Stunt performer Sam Hargrave has taken a lot of hard hits during the making of Marvel films, mostly in his capacity as Chris Evans' stunt double. In "Captain America: Civil War," he also served as a stunt coordinator, in some cases participating in the conception, planning, and performance of complicated gags. For the film's early action sequence in which the Avengers battle Crossbones and his forces in Lagos, Hargrave helped devise a nasty, multi-level fall for Captain America in which he gets blasted out of a third-story window, bounces off the awning of a shipping dock, then face-first off the top of a truck, then flat onto his back. The first half of the fall where Cap is propelled out the window by an explosion was performed by stunt double Jackson Spidell, while Hargrave himself did the second half, where Cap makes impact with the three platforms.

"I did the gravity portion, where there's a little less skill involved," Hargrave told ComingSoon.net when counting down his favorite Marvel stunts. "A little more [of] just [letting] gravity do what gravity does."

The hits paid off in the form of two Taurus World Stunt Awards (for Best High Work and Hardest Hit), and the work experience Hargrave gained putting together sequences like this one helped him along the path to becoming a 2nd Unit Director on "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame," and finally taking the helm himself for the Netflix action film "Extraction."

3. Black Panther double Kofi Yiadom is the real rainmaker

One of the early action sequences of "Black Panther" sees King T'Challa, secret agent Nakia, and General Okoye of the Dora Milaje fighting against gunrunner Ulysses Klaue and his mercenary forces in a fancy Busan casino. This fight was accomplished through a lot of complicated practical photography and stunts, ending with a hard-hitting and award-winning piece of wirework. The fight wraps up with Klaue revealing that his prosthetic arm is actually a futuristic weapon, blasting T'Challa off the second-story balcony and down to the casino floor below. (This also sends the contents of a safe flying into the air, hence Klaue's giddy exclamation, "I made it rain!")

The man really flying across the casino is T'Challa stunt double Kofi Yiadom, who won a Taurus World Stunt Award for Best High Work for the maneuver. According the Taurus website's description of the stunt, Yiadom was ratcheted 35 feet across the length of the casino, flipped one and a quarter times, and then dropped by a second set of rigging that decelerated him just enough to land with a safe but impressive-looking impact onto a foam mat on a gambling table. This allowed the entire hit to be captured in a single shot, from Klaue's point of view above, which is also why his punchline works.

The rest of the stunt team was also nominated for Best Stunt Rigging Taurus for their ingenuity in pulling off this shot.

2. Cap's double calls an audible and saves a stunt in The Avengers

For the Battle of New York in "The Avengers," Captain America double Sam Hargrave starred in a stunt that saw him ratcheted back through a window and then face-first onto the hood of a car, all in one take. (This happens towards the dramatic low point of the fight, when Cap is blasted out of an office building that he'd been helping to evacuate.) It's an impressive stunt that won Hargrave and the rigging team two Taurus World Stunt Awards for Best High Work and Hardest Hit, but it almost hit a lot harder than it was supposed to.

Like most complicated stunts, this move had been thoroughly rehearsed by the stunt team before they arrived on set to shoot the scene. But before cameras got rolling, Hargrave got a feeling that something wasn't right. All of the elements for the stunt were placed exactly according to the measurements the team had rehearsed with, but Hargrave trusted his instincts and asked the team to move the car where he was set to land two feet closer to the window he'd be falling from. Putting their faith in their fellow stunt performer, the team acquiesced to his request. This, Hargrave told ComingSoon.net years later, turned out to be exactly what needed to happen for the stunt to be executed safely. Otherwise, Hargrave imagines he might have been badly hurt.

Hargrave describes this as an important teaching moment in his career as a stunt performer, coordinator, and later director. If a stunt performer has a feeling that an extra safety measure needs to be put in place, he should trust that feeling and take precautions accordingly. That instinct might save a performer's life.

1. Iron Man 3's Barrel of Monkeys sequence was done practically

In "Iron Man 3," Col. Rhodes' Iron Patriot armor is hijacked by Aldrich Killian and used to kidnap the President of the United States right off Air Force One. The aircraft is destroyed in the process, and the surviving passengers and flight crew spill out into the open air. The only way Iron Man can rescue them all is if they all join hands ("Remember that game called 'Barrel of Monkeys?'") and let him try to break all their falls at once. It's a magnificent rescue sequence, and though the backgrounds and Iron Man's suit are replaced via CGI, the fall itself was captured in camera, thousands of feet in the air.

Arguably the biggest practical stunt that's ever been done for a Marvel Studios film, this sequence saw a dozen professional skydivers (including one wearing a bulky camera on his head) jump out of an airplane, do a series of coordinated mid-air rendezvous, and then land safely on the ground, over and over and over again. As seen in a studio behind-the-scenes featurette, the skydivers wore custom-made costumes with parachutes hidden inside, which had to be re-loaded and re-deployed for each take over the eight days of shooting. There were a total of 62 airplane loads and over 600 total jumps filmed for the sequence. The end of the rescue, which sees ol' shellhead safely dropping his rescued flight crew into the ocean, was also done practically, as 14 actors were arranged on individual ziplines, gliding at 30 miles per hour from 160 feet in the air.

Unsurprisingly, this one sequence took home three Taurus World Stunt Awards, for Best High Work, Best Stunt Rigging, and Best Specialty Stunt.