20 Injuries & Deaths That Have Happened on Movie Sets

by Jessica Hickam
Sep 2, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. ET

According to a November 2016 article from Daily Mail, a reported 43 people have died while working on movie sets in the United States since 1990. The same report found that 194 serious film and television set accidents had occurred between 1990 and 2014.

Though any professional movie crew will do everything and anything it can to prevent accidents from happening, sometimes things on set do go wrong. There is a good reason (besides liability) that actors aren't allowed to perform certain stunts. Show business can also be a dangerous business, even when you have trained professionals. And even liability laws haven't kept some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Halle Berry and Charlize Theron, from suffering some serious on-set injuries.

But the show must go on... in most cases.

Check out our slideshow of some of the most noteworthy tragedies that have occurred throughout film history.

1 /20: 'The Crow'

1/20 :'The Crow'

On the set of The Crow in 1993, Brandon Lee was fatally shot while filming. According to Ranker, live bullets were used in a different scene to save time when the prop guys discovered they didn't have any blanks available. Unfortunately, a lead tip from one of the bullets got lodged in the barrel — unbeknownst to the crew, who used the same gun for the scene where Lee's character dies. The gun was loaded with blanks but, when fired, the lead tip was also expelled and hit Lee in the abdomen. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

2 /20: 'Top Gun'

2/20 :'Top Gun'

Stunt pilot Art Scholl died during the filming of the 1985 film Top Gun. Scholl was performing an arial stunt when he lost control of the plane and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He and the plane were never recovered. 

3 /20: 'Syriana'

3/20 :'Syriana'

George Clooney hurt his back while filming Syriana, an injury that was so painful Clooney said he considered suicide. "I was at a point where I thought, 'I can’t exist like this. I can’t actually live,'" he told Rolling Stone. "I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you’re having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, 'I may have to do something drastic about this.'" Clooney eventually had surgery to fix the injury.

4 /20: 'Gothika'

4/20 :'Gothika'

Robert Downey Jr. accidentally broke Halle Berry's arm in a scene where he grabs her in their 2004 film Gothika. The moment actually made it into the movie. Luckily, Berry and Downey are still good friends.

5 /20: 'Twilight Zone: The Movie'

5/20 :'Twilight Zone: The Movie'

In 1982, while filming a scene that showed actor Vic Morrow being attacked by American soldiers in Vietnam, the helicopter in the scene crashed for an unknown reason. The rotor decapitated Morrow and child actors My-ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen. 

Executive producer John Landis was later tried for manslaughter and found not guilty, based on the fact that he did not believe the scene would be dangerous. 

6 /20: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

6/20 :'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Harrison Ford suffered a broken leg on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens when he was pinned by a hydraulic door. Ford recovered from his injuries and continued filming.

7 /20: 'Jumper'

7/20 :'Jumper'

Set dresser David Ritchie was killed on the set of the 2008 film Jumper when the crew was breaking down a set. Ice and rock that had been frozen to a wall for an exterior design came unstuck, according to The Hollywood Reporter, killing Ritchie and injuring one other person.

8 /20: 'The Conqueror'

8/20 :'The Conqueror'

The 1956 movie The Conqueror chose a nuclear fallout site in Utah as one of its filming locations — a decision that proved to be fatal for 91 of the 220 people who contracted cancer following the project, including John Wayne, who died of stomach cancer in 1979.

Producer Howard Hughes was so distraught over his part in the deaths that he kept the film from being released for 21 years and reportedly watched the film over and over again in private, adding to his mental decline.

9 /20: 'Deadpool 2'

9/20 :'Deadpool 2'

In August 2017, stuntwoman Joi Harris was killed on the set of Deadpool 2 in a motorcycle accident. A source explained to Deadline, "In the maneuver, which was never more than 15 kilometers per hour — [a little less than] 10 miles an hour — she rode on a flat surface through two open doors and then turned left and went out of camera range. Her exit was a safety ramp to a big platform where the bike was supposed to stop, but she overshot the platform, hit a curb, and was thrown from the bike through a glass window.”

10/20 :'The Pact'

Ike Barinholtz broke his neck on the set of his film The Pact in a stunt accident. According to Variety, Barinholtz was performing a falling stunt fractured cervical vertebrae on impact. Luckily, the injury hasn't completely stopped Barinholtz from working. He told People that The Mindy Project was writing the injury into his character's storyline for the new season.

11 /20: 'Mission: Impossible 6'

11/20 :'Mission: Impossible 6'

Tom Cruise broke his ankle while performing a stunt in Mission: Impossible 6. The actor, who is infamous for performing his own dangerous-looking stunts, was performing a shot in which he jumped from one building to another when the accident occurred. Production has been put on hold for about three months, and Cruise is expected to make a full recovery.

12 /20: 'Rocky IV'

12/20 :'Rocky IV'

For the epic fight scene in Rocky IV, Sylvester Stallone asked his co-star Dolph Lundgren to actually try to knock him out. Well, Lundgren obliged and gave Stallone a blow to the stomach that landed him in the ICU for five days.

13 /20: 'Aeon Flux'

13/20 :'Aeon Flux'

An Aeon Flux stunt gone wrong almost left Charlize Theron paralyzed. Theron was doing back flips for a scene when she landed on her neck incorrectly. Production was halted for eight weeks so she could fully recover, and Theron vowed never to do dangerous stunts again.

14 /20: 'The Eagle'

14/20 :'The Eagle'

For a scene in his 2011 film The Eagle, Tatum had to lie in freezing cold water in the rain. In order to keep him warm, an assistant was in charge of pouring boiling water mixed with cold water down his suit between takes. But the assistant forgot the cold water at one point, and Tatum suffered bad burns on his chest and privates. 

15 /20: 'The Passion of the Christ'

15/20 :'The Passion of the Christ'

Jim Caviezel was struck by lighting while playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. Caviezel told Fox News, "We were preparing to shoot the Sermon on the Mount and three seconds before, I was hit by lightning. I knew it was going to happen. People started screaming and they said I had fire on both sides of my head and a light around me."

Miraculously, Caviezel was just fine.

16 /20: 'The Wizard of Oz'

16/20 :'The Wizard of Oz'

Margaret Hamilton suffered severe burns when a pyrotechnic effect malfunctioned. In The Making of Wizard of Oz, Hamilton recalled heading back to work six weeks after her injuries. "My face was all right. I could put makeup on it. But not the hand. All the nerves in my hand were still exposed. Instead of makeup on my hands I was going to wear green gloves."

17 /20: 'Django Unchained'

17/20 :'Django Unchained'

Leonardo DiCaprio had a scene in Django Unchained where he hit a table in an angry moment. Unfortunately for DiCarpio, during one of the takes, he accidentally smashed a crystal cordial glass. Producer Stacey Sher said of the moment, "Leo had slammed his hand on the table countless times and he moved his hand further and he crushed a crystal cordial glass. Blood was dripping down his hand. He never broke character. He kept going. He was in such a zone. It was very intense. He required stitches." The moment made it into the movie.

18 /20: 'Moulin Rouge'

18/20 :'Moulin Rouge'

Nicole Kidman broke her rib in a fall on the set of Moulin Rouge. But, even more startling, she then re-fractured the bone trying to get her corset as tight as possible when she returned to filming. "I had this thing that I wanted to get my waist down to 18 inches, which Vivian Leigh had on Gone with the Wind, and I was just like, 'tighter, tighter!'" I just have to add this point: Vivian Leigh was 5'3". Nicole Kidman is 5'11". Ouch.

19 /20: 'Troy'

19/20 :'Troy'

Brad Pitt, ironically, tore his achilles tendon on the set of Troy while playing Achilles. The injury delayed filming for months and Pitt later confirmed the news. "It's a true story. It's sad, it's stupid, but it's true. It's so wrong. It's such a bad headline."

20 /20: 'Midnight Rider'

20/20 :'Midnight Rider'

One of the most tragic deaths in film happened in 2014 on the set of the film Midnight Rider. Camera assistant Sarah Jones was struck by a train. The production company had not secured a permit to film on the tracks. According to Variety, filmmaker Randall Miller pleaded guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. He spent a year in jail and settled with the family. The film was never released.