Home Entertainment Top List Thursdays – Five great movies that almost killed the actors in it

Top List Thursdays – Five great movies that almost killed the actors in it

5 min read

What happens when you give a possibly mental director the budget to shoot a picture and too many disposable actors/stuntmen? Genius, that’s what. Some things in life cannot be faked or acted, no matter how good the thespian is. Sometimes, you need an extra edge to squeeze the best performance possible out of them. Sometimes, you need to appreciate human life as much as a regular Joe appreciates used toilet paper. Here’s five such moments from cinema that resulted in great scenes.

A Clockwork Orange – Busted ribs, scratched eyeballs and near drowning


There’sa  reason why Malcolm McDowell became a household name after A Clockwork Orange was released, and that’s thanks to a tour de force performance that was a little too real sometimes. Take the re-education scene for example, where McDowell is strapped down tighter than K53 instructor and has his lids locked in place. The doctor next to McDowell? A licensed chap, who had to keep his eyes moist or risk having McDowell go blind. The locks eventually left McDowell with a scratched cornea, but that was just the start of his trauma.

Another scene required an actor to stomp on McDowell’s chest as he lay on the ground suffering, but director Stanley Kubrick wasn’t satisfied with McDowell only pretending to be pain. Kubrick then instructed said actor to actually curb-stomp Kubrick, resulting in several cracked ribs.

But the worst treatment came from a scene that required McDowell to be almost drowned by his former gang-mates, now police officers with an axe to grind.

McDowell had a hidden air pipe in that scene, but for some strange reason it malfunctioned, with the actor almost drowning. The rest of the crew thought it was good acting. McDowell most likely thought that Kubrick was being a notorious dick yet again.

The Passion of the Christ – Whipping, Hypothermia

The Passion

When you’ve got Mel Gibson directing a movie, you can rest assured that the fake blood industry in Hollywood will be making enough cash to put all their kids through college that year. Jim Cavaziel may have looked as convincing as the Christian icon, but Mel Gibson was damn sure that he’d at least make Cavaziel suffer to the same extent before filming wrapped.

In one scene, Jim Cavaziel is having the Old Testament whipped out of him by Roman centurions. Several takes in, and Gibson tells the head whipper to change his technique a little, resulting in Cavaziel getting a proper 14-inch long gash across his back. And another one on top of that when the actor “missed” again. And it only got worse from there.

Cavaziel got crucified later in the film, nursing a dislocated shoulder, getting a lung infection and hypothermia bonus to go with his shredded back. So remember, the next time you agree to star in a Mel Gibson film, you better have your medical aid all paid up.

Hard Boiled – Exploding Chow Yun Fat


John Woo is much like your old PE teacher from primary school: He clearly doesn’t give a crap who gets killed, so long as he gets the desired push-ups/results. Enter Hard Boiled, a legendary action flick that turned Chow Yun-Fat into a household name. And almost an overdone actor.

Near the end of Hard Boiled,  Chow decides to do what all great action heroes do and outrun an explosion, never looking back, while carrying a baby. Take one comes and goes, and Chow is none the worse for wear. That’s not good enough for Woo. Taking over the pyrotechnics, made Chow do it again, and started hitting the red buttons of fiery death in a manner that would make Chow pray to Hong Kong Jesus as he genuinely ran for his life.


Woo admitted that he most likely got “carried away” with trying to make the scene look as real as possible, and then proceeded to go and film Face-Off and convince Nicolas Cage to actually cut his own face off (citation needed).

Jon Woo, Chow Yun Fat

Conan the Barbarian – Arnie is actually running for his life


Conan, what is best in life? Not to be chased by f**king dogs I’d imagine. In one scene in the cult classic 1982 flick about the riddle of steel and James Earl Jones being a creepy snake-man, the barbarian finds himself being chased by ravenous wolves. Good news! They weren’t real wolves! Bad news: Those trained dogs that chased him were even worse than wild wolves, as Scwharzenegger found out while one of them decided to drag him off the set.

Conan the Barbarian is notorious for the physical toll that it took on its actors, from making Schwarzenegger take a bad tumble into a temple and busting his head open, to various extras getting mauled by more dogs and even actress Sandahl Bergman almost lost a  finger in one botched fight scene.

Rocky IV – Drago is the real deal

Rocky 4

As much as I love the Rocky movies, one has to admit that some of the boxing scenes in the first three looked a tad too fake. Much like a news team fight, faces were off limits in those brawls between Sly Stallone, Carl Weathers and Mr T, as the action was mimed instead. For Rocky 4 however, Stallone wanted to get physical, and I’m not talking an Olivia Newton John song here.

Facing his greatest opponent in the entire franchise, in the form of Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, Stallone engaged in an actual sparring session for the film. Much of it was still scripted, especially certain haymakers and one-two combinations, and with Drago meant to take a lead early on in the bout for the sake of drama, something bad was bound to happen.

Not realising that he was fighting a human cheat code from Fight Night Round 4, Stallone ended up getting Lundgren punch to the heart that caused swelling and massive blood pressure, hospitalizing the Italian Stallion for eight days. Years from now, when scientists do an autopsy on Lundgren, they’re going want to know who put Gorrilla and Grizzly bear organs inside of him.


Last Updated: March 13, 2014


  1. Awesome list Darryn!


  2. SargonTheGreatPandaOfAkkad

    March 13, 2014 at 13:44

    These are the sort of lists of interesting things I love reading. I really don’t want to ever have to read “The Top Ten Ways to Eat Celery” again. But this? Brilliant!


    • Kervyn Cloete

      March 13, 2014 at 14:04

      Why did you read “The Top Ten Ways to Eat Celery” once?


      • SargonTheGreatPandaOfAkkad

        March 13, 2014 at 14:07

        It is very green. Therefore I was unsure what you do with raw ‘celery’. The internet didn’t help. 🙁

        No. In all seriousness. I once dated a girl that loved celery. I thought it was something you just threw into stew. It never occurred to me that you could do other things with the stuff. 😛


      • James Francis

        March 13, 2014 at 14:38

        Why not? How else will you know the ten ways someone might sneak celery on you?


  3. James Francis

    March 13, 2014 at 14:38

    I recently heard about the Conan stuff – great list!


  4. Choffel

    March 13, 2014 at 15:44

    “Not realising that he was fighting a human cheat code from Fight Night Round 4” Oh Brenda, you make me laff! 🙂 Nice list indeed!


  5. Skyblue

    March 14, 2014 at 00:34

    Conan is still one of my all time fav’s. Brilliant movie.


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