As we marvel at the acrobatic feats our favorite characters perform on screen, it’s easy to forget that a stunt double is probably doing them. But that’s not the case with these actors, who insist on being their own stuntman all the time. From death-defying leaps to the moments that left them injured, here’s who’s not afraid to go hard in Hollywood.
1. Gal Gadot
Deeply embedded in pop culture, superhero Wonder Woman represents the epitome of female empowerment. Israeli actress Gal Gadot impressed a whole lot of people when she started doing her own stunts in order to bring the iconic character to life. But for anyone who knew her background, her prowess wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Considering the fact that Gadot herself was once a combat fitness instructor in the Israeli military, it’s not surprising that she had plenty of experience in this field. If you rewatch some of the action scenes from Wonder Woman, you’ll notice that many of the leading superheroine’s moves look surprisingly authentic — and it’s because the use of a stunt person was quite minimal.
2. Jason Statham
Some actors are known for making one style of film, and Jason Statham is one of them. When most people think of Statham, their minds leap to action, dangerous jumps, and high-speed chases. He knows the importance of sticking to your strengths, and it shows through his incredible abilities as a stuntman.
He’s always been known to do his own stunts, and he actually picks roles according to how fun the action scenes will be to shoot. Although producers are less than keen on allowing star actors to do their own stunts, Statham clearly has enough clout to acquire such a privilege.
3. Viggo Mortensen
If you want to talk about action scenes, Viggo Mortensen can tell you a great deal about it. He came into prominence playing the role of Aragorn, the fighting ranger descendants of old kings of Middle Earth in the live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. We watched as Aragorn slew orcs, trolls, and all kinds of foul creatures seeking to deliver the one ring to Sauron.
Crazily enough, Mortensen actually did the majority of these stunts, and suffered some physical damage as a result. He actually chipped multiple teeth and broke multiple bones while playing Aragorn — but when the fate of the world depends on you, perhaps it’s worth it? Check out that scene of him kicking a helmet in The Two Towers; he’s roaring in pain because he literally broke his toe.
4. Chloë Grace Moretz
Even though Chloë Grace Moretz is only 23 years old, she’s already earned herself a reputation as a tough-as-nails, high-profile actress sporting a wide range of talents. The most prominent of those talents is Moretz’s ability to thrive in action films, such as 2010’s Kick-Ass, where she starred as the ninja-like superhero Hit-Girl.
However, more than her ability to act tough is her capability to actually do her own stunts. Hit-Girl was an absolute menace, which makes the fact that Moretz did most of her stunts in that film all the more impressive. Oh yeah, and she was only 13 when the film came out.
5. Jackie Chan
Is there any actor out there more famous for doing his own stunts than Jackie Chan? Sure, there are a few who may give him a run for his money, but Chan’s always had a reputation for being a martial arts master in real life. In fact, Chan has done extensive work throughout his career as a stuntman for other actors as well.
Therefore, it stands to reason he would do his own stunts, and that his employers would trust him with risky scenes. From early films like 1978’s Drunken Master to later works like Rush Hour, Chan’s career as a stuntman is paramount.
6. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie’s filmography shows that she can act in drama, thrillers, and even comedy films. However, most of her best movies usually have no shortage of action, and her characters are usually in the thick of it all. Her most notable work as an action-film actress was when she starred in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider film series, based on the immensely popular video game.
Additionally, she has appeared in action films like Wanted, Salt, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Gone in 60 Seconds. While some of these films have more action-packed scenes than others, Jolie always strives to do her own stunts, aiming to make her films seem as authentic as possible.
7. Christian Bale
Playing the role of the Caped Crusader can’t be easy work, even without doing one’s own stunts. So the fact that Christian Bale did his own stunts while playing the role of Batman is quite impressive, and honestly even shocking. Who knows, maybe entering the skin of the legendary character of Bruce Wayne gave him a new level of confidence.
Regardless, Bale has been known for doing his own stunts for years, and not just for his works in the Christopher Nolan Batman film franchise. From action films like Public Enemies to The Fighter, there are plenty of examples throughout his career where he’s put himself in danger for the sake of a film’s authenticity.
8. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Well if it isn’t the Terminator himself. You can’t listen to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s distinctive voice without immediately thinking about some crazy action scene that’s about to take place. As popular as those movies were, it’s pretty cool to note that the former Governor of California actually did his own stunts as well.
Considering the fact that he’s known for being a bodybuilder, it may seem normal that he’s capable of performing dangerous scenes on camera. However, being a bodybuilder and being a stuntman are two different things — which is why it’s actually more surprising that one might think that he has those talents.
9. Kristen Stewart
When Kristen Stewart first appeared in the Twilight film series, it launched her career into the stratosphere, paving the way for her to land multiple new roles. Was it just because of her acting abilities that her fame caught on? Or was there something more going on? It turns out that while her stunts were minimal in Twilight, she did them herself whenever she could.
This led to casting directors choosing her to portray other action stars, including Sabina Wilson in 2019’s remake of Charlie’s Angels. On the set of that film, she went the full nine yards with doing her own stunts. Rewatch it, and you’ll realize just how incredible her abilities are.
10. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise isn’t just one of the most recognizable action stars of all time. He’s one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood, period. However, although Cruise has achieved celebrity status for many reasons, his action roles were certainly the catalyst that led the way.
From his early ’80s films like Risky Business and Top Gun, to later iconic roles like that of Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series, his action résumé is quite strong. It’s easy to be wowed by what he does on screen, but it’s even more amazing that it’s actually him doing it, and not a stunt double. Cruise is willing to do just about anything, and that’s why his stunts have always looked super realistic.
11. Scarlett Johansson
Any time you have a character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s likely that they’ll have to endure a handful of dangerous scenes. Scarlett Johansson, although known for multiple works, has become especially popular for her portrayal of assassin Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, in the MCU’s The Avengers.
But while most people are wowed at home by Black Widow’s stellar combat abilities, it’s unlikely anyone actually considered the idea that Johansson herself was performing these stunts. Lo and behold, she was actually the one doing diving and leaping and launching herself headfirst into those wild stunts — adding a whole new level of cool to her aura. In other words, we wouldn’t get on her bad side.
12. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz, like many stars on this list, has a strange rule: that she gets to do her own stunts. Since most of her movies aren’t actually action-based, this didn’t really cause many problems. After all, not many risky stunts were required for rom-coms she starred in like There’s Something About Mary and The Sweetest Thing.
However, it wasn’t long before Diaz flexed her action capabilities when she portrayed Natalie Cook in the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels, and again in the 2003 sequel. Finally she was able to show off her physical talents as a stunt performer, and she certainly delivered the goods firing on all cylinders.
13. Daniel Craig
Any actor that steps into the fancy shoes of James Bond has certainly got his work cut out for him — especially if they’re doing their own stunts. Agent 007 is known for pulling off some of the most outrageous stunts ever, and therefore even if the most recent Bond actor, Daniel Craig, had actually done half of them that would still be impressive.
As it stands, Craig has been in the driver’s seat, figuratively and literally, for many of his stunts. He even got his teeth smashed as the result of a fighting scene he volunteered to be a part of, as opposed to letting a stuntman do it in his stead.
14. Charlize Theron
Whenever Charlize Theron appears on screen, a certain fierceness comes to light that’s rarely seen. Theron has a grittiness to her character that shines through so many of her characters. This can be seen in films like Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster, Atomic Blonde, and countless others.
But what some people don’t realize is that this Oscar winner’s toughness isn’t just an act she puts on. Theron has actually put in the work to learn how to fight on screen, and therefore she’s been known to do her own stunts. Add that to the list of her accomplishments, and what we have is one truly formidable actress.
15. Harrison Ford
Easily one of the biggest Hollywood male icons of all time, Harrison Ford’s list of iconic action films he appeared in is beyond extensive. He forever shifted the bar of what would be expected of a dashing swashbuckler lead thanks to his performance as Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy, as well as his intense portrayal Rick Deckard in Blade Runner.
Ford is just as popular for playing perhaps his most physically demanding role, as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, along with the rest of the films of that series. Unbeknownst to many people, however, it was learned later that Ford actually did many of his own stunts in those movies — and he’s got the bruises to prove his daring as a stuntman.
16. Margot Robbie
When Margot Robbie became the face of DC Comics’ infamous anti-heroine Harley Quinn, the result was electrifying. All eyes were on her chaotic character in Suicide Squad, and Birds of Prey, placing her squarely in the lead, was an obvious follow-up.
But in scenes where Harley Quinn kicks the living daylights out of her foes, Robbie hasn’t been just some actress hiding in the shadows. She made it clear to the filmmakers that she wanted to do her own stunts whenever possible. This meant a lot of extra work, but like everyone else on this list, the end result is always worth it.
17. Jennifer Lawrence
Although nowadays Best Actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence has already appeared in countless blockbuster films, she first came into prominence playing the role of Katniss Everdeen, aka “Girl On Fire” or “Mockingjay” in the dystopian film series The Hunger Games. In order to play Katniss, Lawrence was required to learn a myriad of new stunts in order to realistically perform more than a few scenes.
In the films, she not only fights a handful of characters, but we see her doing acrobatic moves worthy of a Panem victor, further displaying the length of her stuntwoman prowess. All things considered, Lawrence probably would have volunteered as tribute in real life — and still won.
18. Chloe Bennet
Although Chloe Bennet isn’t technically part of the MCU per se, she’s still a Marvel character — which means she’s acted in countless fighting scenes. Bennet is best known for playing the role of Quake in the Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she all too often performs the difficult stunts that her character engages in.
Actually, when one stops to think about it, what Bennet does can be seen as even more impressive than a regular MCU star. If a TV show has multiple seasons (which is the case here), the amount of stunts required for Bennet to do is far more than that of a regular movie actress — not to mention the fact that her scenes always look impressively authentic.
19. Matt Damon
Here’s yet another big-name actor who most people probably didn’t realize also doubles as a stuntman. Although Damon is well known for plenty of non-action films (Good Will Hunting, The Martian), he’s also well-versed in the former, appearing in action classics like The Bourne Identity, Saving Private Ryan, and Courage Under Fire.
Apparently Damon did all of his stunts for the Bourne series, which is saying quite a lot if you think about just how constantly those films require stunts. Such was also the case for the other action films he’s starred in. Matt Damon, like other actors on this list, has shown industry authorities that he’s got the complete package.
20. Keanu Reeves
We’re going to have to use a little bit of imagination for this one. In the epic sci-fi Matrix trilogy, Keanu Reeves plays the role of Neo, and sources say that he too did his own stunts in this film. However, some of you may be wondering how that’s even possible in a topsy-turvy franchise like The Matrix.
In the films, we’re constantly watching people running on walls and aeronautically dodging bullets in crazy ways. It stands to reason that these stunts, while obviously enhanced by CGI, are still probably pretty hard to pull off. And yet Reeves maintains that he’s able to do it. His secret? Ice baths every night.
21. Burt Reynolds
The symbol of masculinity as represented in film for the 1970s, the late actor Burt Reynolds was known for engaging in some crazy stunts on screen. In fact, Reynolds suffered some very serious injuries in the past as a result from insisting on being his own stuntman.
One of these injuries came from his work in the 1972 thriller Deliverance. He insisted that he be the one to perform a dangerous waterfall scene, and the result left Reynolds horribly injured and lying in a hospital bed. “I hit a rock and cracked my tailbone,” Reynolds recalled. There were numerous other cases in which Reynolds put his life on the line to perform daunting stunts, but he always managed to come out on top.
22. Sylvester Stallone
There’s a difference between action actors and sports actors. Sylvester Stallone is undeniably and irrefutably best known for his portrayal of Rocky Balboa, the gruff boxer from Philly who inspired all with his eye of the tiger attitude in the famous movie series. But his stunts in those films are actually not the ones he’s best known for.
In the later years of Stallone’s career, he appeared in the film The Expendables, which was essentially a platform for all action stars of the last few decades to join forces and collaborate in a film. But the results were less than fun for Stallone. He broke his neck while engaging in a fight scene with WWE star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
23. Gina Carano
It’s not uncommon for athletes to transition from sports to acting, especially because they usually have exceptional physical gifts to contribute to their characters. In the case of Gina Carano, she was already a professional MMA fighter when she decided to dip her toes into the film industry.
Her first claim to fame as an actress was in the 2011 film Haywire, which was actually created with Carano in mind. She impressed the world with her abilities as a stuntwoman, so much so that she landed another role in the Marvel smash hit film Deadpool, playing the role of a mutant called Angel Dust.
24. Josh Hutcherson
Another stunt-loving actor from The Hunger Games film franchise was Josh Hutcherson, who played the role of Katniss’ lovestruck tribute Peeta Mellark. While Peeta seems timid at first, we eventually see his strength for what it is in the arena, as he engages in combat on multiple occasions.
Like his co-star Jennifer Lawrence, Hutcherson also performed many of his stunts while playing the role of Peeta. Perhaps the both of them were required to do these stunts, but either way it’s still quite inspiring. Although Hutcherson is known for other films like Bridge to Terabithia, it’s likely that most of his own stunts were done in The Hunger Games.
25. Zoe Bell
Zoe Bell is actually a stunt woman first and actress second. But considering the fact that she has acted in multiple films, she certainly qualifies for this list. Hailing from New Zealand, Bell made a splash behind the scenes as a stunt woman for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess.
But eventually, casting directors realized that she had some of her own acting chops as well, and gave her some big roles of her own, such as Eve in the web series Angel of Death. Known for appearing in multiple films by acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Bell is a respected star in multiple circles of the industry.
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