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Top 10 Actors Who Almost Died on Set

Actors who almost died on set definitely didn't realize their life was in danger when signing their contract.

Remind us never to take up acting. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 actors who nearly died on set.

For this list, we’ve picked the most dramatic examples of actors or actresses who have come close to death on TV or movie sets, but were fortunately able to avoid it. We’ve excluded brave stunt doubles, as they’ve gone into the profession knowing what they signed up for.

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#10: Jackie Chan “Armour of God” (1986)

This actor is known for performing his own stunts, and he took it to the next level when a particular one caused him to fall over 16-feet from a tree. For Armour of God, while attempting to jump from a wall toward a branch, Chan landed hard, and in the process his skull collided with a rock. This pushed some bone into his brain, which required surgery to remove. Everyone’s favorite martial artist still has a hole in his head—though it’s been filled with a plastic plug. Luckily, Chan seemingly escaped the incident without lasting brain damage, although he did think starring in the Rush Hour sequels was a good idea…

#9: Isla Fisher “Now You See Me” (2013)

Remember when escapologist and magician Henley Reeves pretends to be stuck in a tank of water as piranhas pour in? Well, it turns out pretending to be stuck and being stuck look very similar. During the filming of this Now You See Me scene, actress Isla Fisher banged on the glass to tell the cast and crew she was stuck, but since that’s what her character was supposed to do, no one thought much of it. Thankfully, she managed to free herself in time. Practical effects shouldn’t need to be this real, how about a little more movie magic…?

#8: Kate Winslet “Titanic” (1997)

Few things are scarier than a near-drowning incident. While Viggo Mortensen’s near drowning in a river during filming of The Lord of the Rings was harrowing, imagine having to run from a giant wave! During the Titanic scene in question, Kate Winslet caught her coat on a gate and got pulled underwater. James Cameron continues to dismiss the idea that she was in any real danger, claiming they only let her think she was going to drown. He also claims to know what he’s talking about because he’s almost drowned on many occasions. Okay, let’s put this incident aside for a second and ask ourselves: “Why does James Cameron keep nearly drowning?”

#7: Jaimie Alexander “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

Asgardians are pretty hard to kill. Lady Sif is no different. Yet, the Sif actress was defeated by the most humble of foes in the second Thor flick; a flight of stairs. After tripping over in heels, Jaimie Alexander chipped 11 vertebrae, knocked out her left shoulder, slipped a spinal disc and tore a rhomboid. Don’t worry though—she was largely healed and back to filming within a month. Is she going to appear in any more Thor sequels? Well, that may depend on whether they build stairlifts between the nine realms.

#6: Michael J. Fox “Back to the Future Part III” (1990)

The Back to the Future series isn’t known for its realism. The time-travelling car and flying skateboards ruined that. Yet, one scene of the trilogy was all too real for lead Michael J. Fox. In the series’ final installment, Marty McFly is captured by bandits and hung with a noose until the Doc rescues him. If McFly’s squirming looks genuine, it’s because the actor really was being hung. He even passed out for half a minute before he was saved!

#5: Johnny Depp “The Lone Ranger” (2013)

The Lone Ranger already had to suffer being panned by audiences and critics. But imagine how much hate it would have received if it had been the cause of Johnny Depp’s demise! During one horseback-riding scene, Depp’s saddle slipped. Johnny held onto the horse’s mane before letting go and falling in front of the horse. Luckily, the horse’s hooves just missed his head, meaning the world’s sexiest hipster received only minor wounds from the fall. Obviously, Depp survived, and the only thing the film did any permanent damage to was his career.

#4: Jason Statham “The Expendables 3” (2014)

You’d feel pretty safe hanging out with The Terminator, Rambo, and the Old Spice power guy, wouldn’t you? In fact, when these guys are together, the biggest fear might be that the continent they’re on could run out of protein. Yet Jason Statham did nearly die doing a stunt for The Expendables 3. While driving a truck, the brakes gave out and the actor drove off a cliff into the Black Sea. The Transporter’s driving may have let him down, but fortunately, his expert-level diving skills helped him escape the wreckage and swim to shore.

#3: Aaron Paul “Breaking Bad” (2008-13)

Did you know Jesse Pinkman was supposed to be killed off in the first season of Breaking Bad? The idea was ditched early on because, you know, Jesse’s awesome. But the writers may never have had the chance to save Jesse if Aaron Paul wasn’t a perfectionist. In episode 6 of the first season, Paul asked to change the position where he was standing. This was very lucky because a boulder fell down off the roof of an RV and landed exactly where Aaron had been during the filming of the scene.

#2: Tom Hanks “Cast Away” (2000)

Tragedy nearly struck when actor and generally nice bloke Tom Hanks cut himself on the set of this adventure drama. While only a minor cut, it quickly became infected. When he finally went to the hospital, a doctor told him the cut could poison his blood so Hanks was kept in the hospital. This incident set filming back three weeks, but Hanks fully recovered. We’re certainly glad he didn’t die. Who’d break the bad news to Wilson?

Before we get to number one, here are some honorable mentions:

  • Jennifer Lawrence Chokes on Fog Machine Fog, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)
  • Halle Berry Falls Headfirst onto Concrete During a Fight, The Call (2013)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt Goes Through Taxi Cab Window to Avoid Diplomat’s Car While Riding Bike, Premium Rush (2012)
  • Brendan Fraser Is Almost Hanged, The Mummy (1999)
  • Martin Sheen Suffers Heart Attack on Location, Apocalypse Now (1979)

#1: Tom Cruise “The Last Samurai” (2003)

The Last Samurai is about as a close to two hours of pure sword porn as a film can get. Combine this with the fact that Tom Cruise likes to do his own stunts and it seems like he was bound to get hurt on its set. In one scene, Cruise and his Japanese co-star were seated on mechanical horses. These two horses were hurtled towards each other and his fellow actor’s sword missed Cruise’s neck by an inch—thanks to his martial arts skills. Still, that was relatively tame. Another fight scene featuring 4 attackers apparently had 70 instances in which Cruise could have been wounded.

Do you agree with our list? What near death experiences caught your attention? For more entertaining top 10s published daily, subscribe to WatchMojo.com.

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