There are few things more exciting than watching truly professional drivers and stuntmen laying it all on the line and seeing just how far they can push the envelope of both a human and mechanical endurance. These are the guys who give us those heart-stopping moments and have us sitting on the edge of our seats to see what is going to happen next. Today much of what was once performed by these gladiators of the big screen has been passed off to CGI, but not all and sometimes it just has to be done old school to look real. The most dangerous car stunts are things of legend. The best that come to our minds were performed by real people risking it all to give car lovers a thrill like never before.
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For a movie shot on a shoestring budget, the original Mad Max is so full of action sequences that it is very possible that the stunt budget for the film exceeded all other considerations. The most graphic and dangerous stunt in the film occurs in the closing sequence when Mad Max Rockatansky, played by Mel Gibson forces the man who killed his wife and son into the path of an approaching truck. How they pulled off the head-on collision between the motorcycle and tractor-trailer without killing the stunt rider is anybody's guess.
You know if Quentin Tarantino is behind a movie there is going to be something special in store for you and Death Proof is no exception. The set up for this film is Kurt Russel playing a psychopathic stuntman who stalks and kills beautiful woman in staged car accidents. The best of the lot is a massive crash sequence involving dozens of vehicles in the middle of the film that is shown from multiple camera angles and in different perspectives.
One of the great things about the 2003 remake of this 1969 action comedy is how well they stayed true to the original film while updating it by 30 years and moving it from London to Los Angeles. Both films are on our list because of one common thread between them and that is the outstanding Mini Cooper escape sequences that have the little speed demons racing through bumper to bumper traffic and subway tunnels with microns of space to spare.
The Steve McQueen classic Bullitt set the standards for car chases that people are still trying to equal today. Steve was given credit for driving the 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 in this legendary chase scene, but he actually shared time under the wheel with one of Hollywood’s best stunt drivers Bud Ekins. It easy to tell who is driving when because McQueen’s face is reflected in the rearview mirror, but when Bud is driving the mirror is pushed down.
When TheBlues Brothers was released in 1980 both of the stars, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were at the height of their fame. While the entire film is one raucous laugh after another, what most people remember most about the comedy is the massive police car pileup just outside LaSalle Plaza in Chicago. Total there were 103 cars destroyed in the filming, a record at that time, and in that one scene, 60 police cars that were bought for $400 each were damaged beyond repair.
One of the few movie stunts to ever be patented so that it could never be repeated, the corkscrew jump from The Man with the Golden Gun starring Roger Moore marked many firsts. It was the first and only time an AMC was used as a Bond car and the first stunt to be completely computer modeled before it was shot. Driver Loren “Bumps” Willard who was at the wheel of the heavily modified AMC Hornet X was quoted as saying after the first and only take, “It went pretty fast and was over before I realized what had happened.”
2002's The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon was the first in a long line of action thrillers that helped revive the genre and once again establish car chases as a staple of movie making. Borrowing from Ronin and The Italian Job, director Doug Liman placed the hero amnesic agent Jason Bourne behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper running from the police on the convoluted streets of Paris where the nimble little beast was able to outmaneuver all pursuers.
The 2015 revival of the Mad Max storyline, Mad Max Fury Road is overall a poor attempt to resurrect a dead horse, but there were some memorable scenes to be viewed none the less. One of the most stunning featured road warriors swinging from one vehicle to another on long poles as they rocketed across the desert. Director George Miller intended to use CGI for the scene, but the stunt coordinator overruled him and had a special team train for two months with the Cirque du Soleil to perfect their skills.
Not all car stunts are dangerous because of crashing, smashing, and sheet metal flying in all directions. One of the most unbelievable stunts on our list mainly involved two vehicles running side by side at highway speeds with absolutely no intention of making contact. In this scene, Jack Traven played by Keanu Reeves must leap from a moving car through the door of a bus running 50 mph; even though he had been told not to Keanu performed the stunt himself.
Some people love the Matrix series of movies, and others hate them, but everyone agrees that they are some of the most action-packed films to ever hit the big screen. While there was a lot of CGI used in the film, the big highway chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded was shot on a track specially built for that one series of shots. General Motors donated 300 cars for the shoot all of which were destroyed by the completion of the chase scene
This is another one of those cult classics that every motorhead needs to have seen at least once in their life. Larry Rayder played by Peter Fonda has dreams of racing in the NASCAR series, so he and his mechanic rob a bank and end up on the run from a sheriff that is obsessed with bringing them in. The sheriff doesn’t have much luck in the beginning, and it only gets worse when the boys trade their souped-up 1966 Chevrolet Impala for a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 and take to the backroads and woods.
The former amateur racing driver turned director John Frankenheimer asked for help from former Formula One driver Jean-Pierre Jarier and an additional 300 professional stunt drivers from around the world to shoot the 8-minute Paris chase scene in the 1998 thriller Ronin starring Robert De Niro and Jean Reno. In total there were 80 cars destroyed shooting this one pivotal scene, but thankfully none of the drivers were injured.
OK, most of the special effects in the Terminator movies are pure computer generated, but one scene stands out for its pure authenticity and the sheer guts it took to shot it. Towards the end of the flick when the T-1000 climbs from the tractor-trailer rig and jumps in the back of the pickup, there was no CGI used. Even more shocking, the scene was shot at 60 mph, and the stuntman used no wires or safety harness.
Aaron Paul plays ex-con street racer Tobey Marshall who sets out for revenge by entering an underground cross-country race when he gets a bounty placed on his head. Alright, it’s not exactly an original premise for a movie, but it does supply plenty of fuel for some of the most imaginative and purely violent car stunts ever recorded. Just pick any 10-minute segment of the movie, forget the sorry plot and acting, and enjoy the show.
Our winner for the most dangerous car stunt ever pulled goes to a film that most people probably don’t even remember. In the movie Hooper with Burt Reynolds in the title role, the film ends with an extended car chase through a city as it is being blown apart; funny thing is that is exactly what is happening. The scene was filmed at Northington General Hospital, a World War II military hospital near the University of Alabama, and they literally blew the place up. The entire scene had to be meticulously timed and shot in one take.