Cameron Diaz has a rule: she does her own stunts. It’s in her contract and everything. For the most part, this hasn’t changed much – she’s often seen in rom-coms, comedies, or voicing Princess Fiona in the Shrek series. But she’s still had plenty of opportunities to flex her muscles in movies such as Charlie’s Angels (the 2000 version), and she delivered on all counts.
She’s also been in Vanilla Sky with fellow stunt-actor Tom Cruise. Even her very first role, the female lead in The Mask, had her trying to hold her own as Jim Carrey went wild as the title character.
As far as actors who did their own stunts, McQueen is a legend. The King of Cool loved his classic cars and motorcycles and showed off his skills numerous times in movies such as Bullitt, The Great Escape, and The Magnificent Seven.
Whether it was making sweet motorcycle jumps to get away from Nazis, putting his 1968 Ford Mustang GT through its paces as he’s in hot pursuit of killers, or jumping off a cliff, McQueen waved away stuntmen. McQueen loved doing his own stunts, and was an avowed adrenaline junkie, always ready to face down the latest challenge all in the name of getting the next rush and putting on a good show.
Any big Marvel actor is going to have a hard time if they aren’t ready to do some serious stunt work. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe uses plenty of CGI to make things easier – and there are stunt actors aplenty on every set – pretty much all of them have taken their lumps in adding to this film franchise.
Brie Larson boggled the mind on Captain Marvel by doing most stunts on her own, training extensively with personal trainers and stunt trainers. By the time of filming, Larson could, according to Samuel L. Jackson, power lift 250 pounds, push a Jeep up a hill. Larson was more impressed with her ability to do ten pull-ups in a row.
The name Buster Keaton might not come to mind if we asked you to think of wild actors, but it’s been said that this silent-era leading man was fearless. He was one of the biggest stars of the early Hollywood scene, and since movies couldn’t rely on special effects (unless you count rudimentary camera tricks), most of the things you see on screen really happened, which led to plenty of ultra-dangerous stunts that Keaton faced down with aplomb.
Most famously, in the (very) early blockbuster The General, Keaton rode on the cowcatcher of a full-speed locomotive as it barreled down the track.
When the Twilight “films” launched Kristen Stewart to…well, not stardom, but people at least knew who she was, it was a bit of a surprise to find she did all her own stunts. Yes, she managed to spend that much time around Robert Pattinson without help. Stunts in the Twilight series were minimal, but she did them all.
While her acting skills didn’t really impress anyone, her ability to do her own stunts got her cast in Charlie’s Angels as well as Snow White and the Huntsman. Rewatch either of those films with an eye on Stewart’s stunts, and you might have a new appreciation for this actress.
In a franchise that relied so heavily on special effects and camera tricks, it’s interesting to hear that Keanu Reeves did all of his own stunts in The Matrix and its sequels. People run on walls, jump from buildings, fly, and get into plenty of fights, but Reeves did it all.
While CGI-enhanced, the films still needed an actor in the harness, even if he isn’t actually doing slow-motion flips. Reeves showed off plenty of reasons why he deserves to be a star in these movies, as well as in other action films such as Point Break, Speed, and the John Wick movies.
Is there anyone in Hollywood more famous for taking his life into his own hands than Jackie Chan? From martial arts master to comedy hero to anything else, Chan has wowed audiences with stunts that turn the stomach.
While this hasn’t held perfectly true as he’s aged – the years make moving a little harder sometimes – Chan made his bones in the industry by breaking them – seriously if there’s a bone in his body, it’s probably gotten injured. Throw on a classic Chan film and watch him wow as he does it all on his own.
Harrison Ford has become one of the classic action stars of Hollywood thanks to his roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. There are plenty of other examples – his list of famous roles runs the gamut from science-fiction to war thriller, to thriller, and he’s even had a few chances to be the bad guy.
His roles are often physically demanding, but he did pretty much all of his own stunts for a lot of the films (though not all of them – especially these days), and has the injuries to prove it. The Indiana Jones movies in particular helped Ford get his lumps.
As one of the most recognizable and highly-paid action stars in the world, Tom Cruise movies have an interest in keeping him from getting injured. Too bad, because Tom Cruise does all his own stunts. All of them. A lot of people see him as the standard for big-time action stars that eschew stuntmen.
Even back in the eighties with films like Risky Business and Top Gun, he was doing it all. His recent movies, including the Mission: Impossible series, have crazier and crazier stunts, and Cruise continues to do them all, which add to the realism and high-quality of the movies.
As the boxer from Philly who won the hearts of millions, Sylvester Stallone is best known for being able to take a punch and then throw one right back. He did do his own stunts in the films, though they were nothing compared to the stunts he would put himself through later in life.
Later in life, he would star as the main character in The Expendables and the sequels, which was bursting at the seams with heroic action stars and crazy events. Once again, Stallone did his own stunts, but the results weren’t as good for him. The films did well and are tons of fun, but Sly ended up breaking his neck while filming a fight scene with WWE star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Plenty of battles have been waged recently over the controversial Mulan live-action remake from Disney, which made numerous changes to the beloved animated musical film, as well as working with a Chinese government that is currently holding more than a million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps.
Another battle takes place in the film itself, where Liu Yifei, the actress who played Fa Mulan, did ninety percent of her own stunts, even those that took place during a large-scale battle that was part of the film’s climax and was filmed without using CGI. If you say so, China.
He’s one of the very first superheroes in our new, modern era, and his maddening physique came along with superb acting skills and plenty of guts. Jackman let his claws fly as Wolverine beginning in 2000, and what a lot of fans don’t know is a lot of the astonishing stunts the character did were thanks to Jackman himself. He’s pretty firm about doing his own stunts, which helps the film be as real as possible.
It doesn’t matter if he’s fighting on top of the Statue of Liberty or leading a young girl through desolate wastelands in the most recent outing for his character, Jackman is ready.
Even as the Fast and the Furious franchise – and the movie-loving world at large – mourns his death, we can look back at some of the incredible car stunts this actor pulled off. Some of the best stunts in his films were thanks to Walker, who was more than capable of doing most of the intense driving action himself.
It was only for insurance reasons that The Fast and the Furious movies had to bring in stuntmen and give Walker a break. His extensive celebrity garage is a simple way to see how much Walker enjoyed his cars and driving them
Chloë Grace Moretz
Though only a youthful twenty-three years old, Moretz has already earned a reputation as an actress who rolls her eyes at the thought of a stuntwoman replacing her. Her wide range of talents helped bring her to prominence in such films as 2010’s Kick-Ass which, while a terrible movie, had Moretz doing all her own stunts to a good amount of applause.
Her character Hit-Girl was a menace during the film, and it was even more impressive for Moretz since she was only thirteen when the film came out. I mean, for Pete’s sake, she gets shot in the chest while wearing a bullet-proof vest. That’s rough for anybody.
As Wanda Maximoff – superhero alter ego Scarlet Witch – Elizabeth Olsen suffered a pretty serious bruise to her upper arm while filming a stunt for one of the Avengers movies. She took to her social media to show off a photo of the bruise.
Just like many of her co-stars, Olsen did most of her own stunts in the famous superhero film series. She also received high praise from costume designer Ruth Carter, who pointed out that Olsen created her own “normal dress” to wear during the fight sequence when she got the bruise.
Jean-Paul Belmondo may not ring a bell, but as far as actors and filmmaking go, he’s one of France’s best. Whether it’s arthouse classics or high-octane action, Belmondo seemed to have a death wish when it came to doing his own stunts.
From exploding cars and assassins to navigating precarious high-rise construction sites and – we kid you not – huddling inside a phone booth when a helicopter picks it up and drops into an ocean with a man-eating shark, these were just some of his moves. To call Belmondo an adrenaline junkie is to do the term a disservice. Belmondo never said no – not even to falling down an enormous rock quarry. Whoever said the French were wimps?
She’s been in a few movies here and there, but Mariska Hargitay’s most popular role is on Law and Order SVU, where she gets into plenty of action. So much, in fact, that she’s actually suffered a partially-collapsed lung while performing a stunt fall in 2009. Luckily she was no worse for wear and was fully recovered after a few weeks.
Since then, she’s let a few different stuntwomen take her place in order to stay healthy, but she still has skin in the game when it comes to filming fights and some other scenes. Doing stunts is a young actress’s game.
Actors and actresses in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have a history of getting into the action and showing up in a big way. Scarlett Johansson is known for plenty of roles, but her most well-known is probably that of the Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff, also known as Black Widow.
Her combat and infiltration skills are legendary, but people who were wowed by the Black Widow might be surprised to learn Johanssen dove, leaped, launched, and fought without the help of a stuntwoman. It adds a whole new level to her cool factor and gets us even more excited for the Black Widow film that will, hopefully, come out at some point.
Despite appearing in fewer movies than many other classic actors, Bruce Lee was instrumental in bringing the martial arts out of Asia. While he passed away in 1973 due to a freak cerebral edema, his movies (such as Enter the Dragon or Fist of Fury) broke new ground in filmmaking, and are still wowing audiences to this day.
It’s no surprise Lee did his own stunts since few people could recreate the high-flying skills and acting chops of everyone’s favorite warrior. Looking for some direction in your life? Throw on a Bruce Lee flick and not only will the action entertain you, but you might pick up some classic wisdom from the man himself.
Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the only member of The Hunger Games cast that does her own stunts. Josh Hutcherson, who plays Katniss’s love interest throughout the series, engages in combat on multiple occasions, does plenty of acrobatic acts, and, after four films, does plenty of other fun stunts.
While Hutcherson has appeared in a number of other films (such as Bridge to Terabithia and Zathura: A Space Adventure), his first time doing most of his own stunts came from Hunger Games. It’s possible producers wanted their principal actors to do their own stunts for more authenticity because both of the main actors of this action series do their own – a rarity.
Stephen Amell isn’t the only member of the Arrowverse who performs eye-popping stunts. Caity Lotz, who plays Sara Lance (aka White Canary) in Legends of Tomorrow has a huge diversity of physical talent that she loves to show off.
Not only acting, and not only singing and dancing, Lotz also has skills in a variety of martial arts such as Wushu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Tae Kwan Do. She even gets to show off her parkour skills every once in a while. She does pretty much all of it on her own, except for stunts that might result in serious injury.
With a name like Diesel, what did you expect? Another actor from The Fast and the Furious franchise, there are always plenty of high-flying vehicle stunts to do, as well as fistfights, gunfights, and acrobatic moves. Diesel has had plenty of experience doing his own stunts thanks to movies like Saving Private Ryan, the XXX films, and The Chronicles of Riddick franchise.
Beyond physical feats, his voice gets a chance to shine, including as everyone’s favorite tree person Groot, as well as the title character from The Iron Giant. We wonder if he does his own stunts when he plays Dungeons and Dragons (he’s a big fan).
From gymnastics to the circus to the movies, Lancaster had a life full of doing his own stunts. After serving in World War II, Lancaster found his way to the movies and waved the stuntmen away.
His breakthrough role was the film noir movie The Killers alongside Ava Gardner, and then he starred in the smash hit From Here to Eternity. He started his own production company with a few friends, and in the first film, Trapeze, Lancaster channeled his old skills to play a circus performer, doing his own stunts. The film was a big box-office success.
While not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chloe Bennet still plays a Marvel character. Anyone in a piece of Marvel work is going to have her work cut out for her, and Bennet’s role of Quake in the Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has her performing plenty of difficult stunts and getting into dangerous fights.
What Bennet does is even more impressive than a normal MCU actor. With multiple seasons of the show to fight through, Bennet has no lack of stunts on her plate, meaning she has to keep learning, preparing, and training. Her ability to roll with the punches (literally) has formed her into a powerful actress who has the skills to pay the bills.
While Wonder Woman has been part of pop culture for almost a hundred years, it took a long time before the public was ready for a movie based on the character. Israeli actress Gal Gadot has set the standard for this powerful female warrior and did all of her own stunts to bring the character to life.
To anyone who knew her, this came as no surprise. Gadot used to be a combat fitness instructor in the Israeli military. Her ability to fight for real (service in the Israeli military is mandatory) lent tons of authenticity to the character, and acting in a movie is nothing compared to being in an army.
No stuntman required for this classic actor. Douglas Fairbanks’s legacy is still alive today thanks to films such as The Artist, which includes a main character loosely based on Fairbanks. There are hundreds of films and still images of Fairbanks engaged in dangerous activities, from simple handstands on mountain cliffs to carrying both Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.
He exulted in his athletic abilities and never missed a chance to put them to good use. His most famous roles are swashbuckling – in one famous moment in a Robin Hood film, a rare stuntman runs up the chain of a rising drawbridge, only to reveal the stuntman was, in fact, Fairbanks himself.
From Mr. Universe Champ to the movie star that defined the nineties, Schwarzenegger has run the gamut. His distinctive voice and huge physique turned him into an overnight star thanks to The Terminator, and as the biggest, toughest guy in Hollywood, it comes as no surprise that this behemoth did his own stunts.
Being a bodybuilder and doing movie stunts are two different things, so it’s pretty impressive that he’s able to show off both skills. Through the years the amount of stunts he’s done has dipped, just like any other aging actor, but he still proved his worth by being the mountain of muscle we all know and love.
Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence has made her name by appearing in plenty of blockbuster films, but when she started as Katniss Everdeen in the The Hunger Games series, she had just begun. Everdeen is a pro with the bow and arrow and a skilled woodswoman, which means that Lawrence had to learn how to handle herself in the same situations.
She gets into plenty of fights, pulls off some eye-popping acrobatic moves, and never lets anything bring her down. It gets to the point where Lawrence barely seemed like she was acting – if the Hunger Games were real, Lawrence might be able to emerge victorious even without the cameras.
Margot Robbie jumped into the public eye by playing the wildest woman from the DC Universe in one of the worst movies from the DC Universe, Harley Quinn. This crazed lunatic had all eyes on her during her scenes, as well as in Birds of Prey, thanks in part to a salacious outfit and unstoppable fury.
Robbie let the madness in big-time by doing her own stunts – a requirement she gave the producers, who didn’t care enough, clearly. It meant a ton of extra work for Robbie, which is kind of a shame since it was all for Suicide Squad. It’s like pouring gold coins into an open sewer. Yeah, there’s gold down there…but…
If you’re suiting up as James Bond, you’d better be ready to prove you have what it takes. And Daniel Craig has done more than his fair share, with the movies giving him plenty of opportunities to wow without the help of a stuntman.
If Daniel Craig had only done half of the stunts in his stable of Bond films, it would still be impressive, but no, he did them all. Perhaps you remember the incredible parkour chase scene from the beginning of Casino Royale? He’s paid the price, too – during one scene, he got his teeth smashed in.
Reynolds has been a big name in the movie industry, and especially the action film industry, for some time now, and while he doesn’t do his own stunts anymore, he used to love doing them. You may wonder: why the switch? It turns out that he seriously injured himself on the set of the 2013 blockbuster Safe House.
Since then his doctor has barred him from doing anything that might result in further injury. Up until then, he had been doing all his own fights, falls, and scenes, and sadly had to pass the reigns off to stuntmen who are still able to help the movie finish filming.
The man who made death-defying comedy cool was one Harold Lloyd, who most famously hung from a clock tower in Never Weaken, a darkly comic film about a sweet young man. Watching Lloyd’s films is like being at the carnival – you never know what to expect next, but it’s sure to take your breath away.
Whether it’s dangling several stories above bustling city streets or trying to win a woman, Keaton did everything with a moxie that may seem lacking in today’s ultra-serious stars. With over two hundred acting credits to his name, Lloyd was another trailblazer when it came to stunts – they couldn’t edit out a wire harness later on. If he slipped, he fell.
A pretty common track for people to take is to move from sports into acting. Being in action movies requires good fitness, but it’s nothing compared to being an athlete, so it allows aging athletes to keep working with the skills and performance they already have.
Gina Carano was a professional MMA fighter who decided to make the move and show her stuff on the big screen, first appearing in Haywire, a 2011 film that had created the character with Carano in mind. She also did her own stunts in the Marvel blockbuster Deadpool, playing a mutant named Angel Dust.
Another actor from Spider-Man films, Tom Holland is the most recent web-slinger, and thus never worked with Willem Defoe. Holland was only twenty-one when cast as Spider-Man – making his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War – and he continues to impress as this classic Marvel character.
He trained hard and is known for his excellent gymnastics skills, which allowed him to perform as Peter Parker and Spider-Man. This character is known for flipping, diving, and swinging everywhere, so it’s no surprise that the actor who plays him nowadays is ready to accumulate bruises in order to make the movies look authentic.
While Bell is a stuntwoman first and an actress second, she has plenty of acting credits to her name. She first made waves as a stuntwoman filling in for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (both movies) and Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess.
Before too long, casting directors realized she had acting chops of her own, landing her roles in the web series Angel of Death as Eve. She’s also appeared in a number of films by Quentin Tarantino, and she’s turned into a star in a number of circles of the filmmaking industry. Don’t get on this actress’s bad side – she’ll kick you through a wall.
While Mila Kunis isn’t much of an action star, she had one role in particular that forced her into the prime of her physical fitness. When she took on the role of a ballerina in Black Swan, she not only trained with ballerinas but lost tons of weight, a total of twenty pounds, landing at a shocking ninety-five pounds by the time she filmed.
She learned all of the movements, and the movie succeeded because of it. Mila herself was shocked about the competitiveness: “I can’t even put into words how competitive the ballet industry is.” Good thing she’s in a movie about it!
Being Batman is never easy. Just ask Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton, Robert Pattison, or Adam West. But Christian Bale (what many would rightly call the best Batman) bumped it up a notch by doing his own stunts during the Dark Knight trilogy.
But it’s not the only time he put skin in the game: whether it was action films like Public Enemies or The Fighter, or non-action movies that still included plenty of wild actions, such as The Machinist. He also has the weird habit of losing and gaining tons of weight for a variety of roles, including packing on the pounds of muscle as Batman or slimming down to an eye-popping 120 pounds for The Machinist.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the line of kings of Gondor. And he does his own stunts! Whether he’s fighting orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies, winning an epic race in Hidalgo, or keeping his son safe from cannibals in The Road, Mortensen never lets a stuntman take his place.
And this king has suffered plenty in order to make it authentic – just while filming the Lord of the Rings series, he chipped multiple teeth and broke multiple bones as Aragorn. Remember Aragorn kicking an orc helmet and screaming in fury? Mortensen broke his toe filming it. The scream is quite real.
A famous Hollywood producer, Todd Lieberman, once talked about Bullock, saying she could be as tough as any guy on film. This comes after her skills in keeping the bus at the right speed in Speed, as well as plenty of other stunts, be they action films or otherwise. From Miss Congeniality to Demolition Man to Bird Box, Bullock loves movies that give her something new to do.
Until about 2010, that is, when she adopted a son. Since then, she’s let other people do the stunts in order to stay healthy, but there are still plenty of opportunities to see her demonstrate her toughness.
Burt Reynolds, may he rest in peace, was the symbol of masculinity in the 1970s, and got up to plenty of action on-screen. He insisted on doing all of his own stunts, and it, unfortunately, led to some pretty serious injuries. One came from the 1972 film Deliverance, where he insisted on performing a dangerous fall from a waterfall, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay.
The injury? He hit a rock on the way down and cracked his tailbone. From personal experience, I can say it’s a horrific feeling. Reynolds put his life on the line numerous times, and received plenty of injuries, but managed to come out on top until September sixth, 2018.
Here’s another big-name actor (and former boy band member) you might be surprised to find doesn’t let a stuntman take his place when he doesn’t have to. Though Damon is known for plenty of non-action movies, he leaps at the chance to show off his physical skills in films such as The Bourne Identity and its sequels, Saving Private Ryan, and Courage Under Fire.
He did all his own stunts for the Bourne films – just think about that. Fistfights, gunfights, jumps, crashes, and everything else but the kitchen sink happened in those films. Becoming the full package has become more and more important for an actor or actress thanks to guys like Damon.
Yet another Marvel actress who has the red badge of courage (apologies to Stephen Crane) from her time in the series is Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula, the blue-skinned “sister” to Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. Nebula does quite a lot, and Gillan trained to add her skills, but she couldn’t do everything: for one stunt in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Gillan’s unfortunate clumsiness kept her from doing a stunt where she jumped off a rock and twisted out of the way of a metal plate. Gillan didn’t feel up to the task – she did give it a college try, but couldn’t do it as well as the producers were hoping.
Gritty, fierce, and unbroken. They’re all ways to describe Charlize Theron, and those terms came about because she doesn’t let someone take her place when the stunts are in the script. From Mad Max: Fury Road to Atomic Blonde and plenty of other movies, Charlize Theron exhibits toughness and control over her character.
She’s put in plenty of work learning how to fight and battle on-screen, as well as take a fall, a punch, and a crash. Alongside all her other acting accomplishments, this turns Charlize Theron into a truly formidable actress that will never back down from a wild scene.
A lot of people in the acting business have found a comfortable niche – comedy, drama, horror, etc. Jason Statham found his niche in action movies. He’s often the dangerous, wild action star, and it turns out he picks his roles based on how fun the scenes will be to shoot.
He does all his own stunts, and despite a lot of producers not being a big fan of A-listers doing their own stunts, Statham has enough clout to force their hand. For movie after the movie we get to see his incredible abilities as a stuntman, with plenty of sweet fight scenes and big leaps, Statham impresses every time.
Anybody who appears in a Bond film is going to need to put in the necessary work to make the action look real, and that includes Naomie Harris, who plays the most recent iteration of the classic Moneypenny character. Harris had three months of extensive training in shooting, fighting, and driving to prepare her for the role of Bond girl.
She did all of her own stunts in Skyfall, as well as a good deal of them in movies like Rampage and Black and Blue. The most difficult stunt she did, according to stunt coordinator Gary Powell, was driving, which required keeping close to the camera, hitting the right spots, and keeping her speed up.
Few actors have such a superhero pedigree as Evans. From the Human Torch to Captain America as well as characters from other hero-centric stories, this Chris has to do plenty of stunt work. Evans’s dedication to his craft has led to him putting on tons of muscle, and for all of his films as Captain America – beginning in 2011 with Captain America: First Avenger.
He does all sorts of stunts in all of the films he appears in, whether it’s fighting against Red Skull and the Nazis or saving the entire universe from Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
When Sam Raimi wanted a villainous actor for the Green Goblin in the first live-action Spider-Man movie (which came out in 2002), he ended up choosing Willem Dafoe. When it came to light that the man who played the Green Goblin would have to do lots of stunts, Willem Dafoe shrugged and got into costume.
Over ninety percent of the stunts were performed by Defoe himself, and even though the character is wearing a mask during these stunts, you can still clearly see Defoe’s recognizable eyes behind it. He gives an incredible performance as a character who is overtaken by madness and doesn’t let a stuntman stop him.
This one might come as a surprise. Sure, she’s been in a few, but Jolie isn’t what a lot of people would call an action star. Still, the Tomb Raider series, Wanted, Salt, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Gone in 60 Seconds have all given her a chance to show her action-star stuff.
Whether it’s trading shots with her husband, showing her young protege how to curve a bullet, or pretending the Tomb Raider movies are worth anything, she never lets a fake take her place. She strives for authenticity in everything, and that means she’s going to be on-screen as much as possible.
While she’s only appeared in a few of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Atwell made waves as Margaret “Peggy” Carter from Agent Carter, a short series that had Atwell handling guns, critical information, and foes in equal number as she worked for S.H.I.E.L.D.
All of those fight scenes – as well as pretty much every other stunt that Agent Carter is put through – is thanks to Atwell herself. While the show was pretty short, Atwell got to make another appearance as Carter in Avengers: Endgame, where she is finally reunited with her love, Captain America himself.