Being a stunt performer requires people to be a certain kind of crazy. We’re not talking about stuntmen here. We’re talking about the daredevils who try and pull off insane stunts just for the hell of it. You know, to see if it can be done. These are the people who fly off cliffs, jump motorcycles across caverns, and ride over waterfalls in wooden barrels. And they do it for no other reason to get a thrill, hold other people’s attention and generally thumb their noses at life. These are the real crazy people, who have performed some stunts so crazy that they are hard to believe. Here are 10 of the most insane stunts ever performed.
10. The Bungee Jump from Goldeneye
It’s been voted the greatest movie stunt of all time, and is in the Guinness Book of World Records. We’re talking, of course, about the bungee jump off the a 220-meter Swiss dam at the start of the 1995 James Bond movie Goldeneye. The incredible stunt, performed by British stuntman Wayne Michaels, set a world record for the highest, and longest, bungee jump from a solid structure. The stunt apparently took more than three months to design, involved more than two dozen engineers and required nearly 100 permits and waivers. But the end result was spectacular. Incredibly, the entire stunt was performed and captured in one take. 007 would be proud!
9. Philippe Petit’s Tightrope Walk
The whole endeavor was brilliantly captured in the documentary Man On Wire, as well as in a recent movie The Walk starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. But the tightrope walk performed in 1974 between the twin towers of The World Trade Center by French daredevil and tightrope walker Phillippe Petit continues to astound and bewilder. The fact that this feat was accomplished in New York City made it all the more hyped. Using of a bow and arrow, Petit and his team shot a fishing line from the South Tower to the North Tower, and then passed larger lines back and forth, which eventually resulted in enough cable to sustain the walk between the towers. Philippe Petit made use of a lot of intrigue to accomplish this amazing feat, which was totally illegal by the way. He was arrested right after the tightrope walk, but the charges were eventually dropped. And the world was left with a lasting legacy of a truly crazy stunt.
8. Harry Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Stunt
Arguably the greatest stunt performer of all time, Harry Houdini probably deserves his own top 10 list. However, probably the most insane, over the top stunt Houdini, who billed himself as a magician and stuntman, performed was the Chinese Water Torture Cell. The stunt saw Houdini placed head down into a giant tank filled with water. His feet were shackled and the tank was covered. However, Harry Houdini apparently really managed to unlock his feet and escape the water filled tank without spilling a drop of water. Several times, he narrowly escaped. One time he had to be resuscitated. But always he managed to escape. When Houdini died, his instructions were for the tank to be burned and destroyed, but his brother, Theodore Hardeen, donated it to a collector of Houdini artifacts instead. But the mysteries of the tank have never been revealed.
7. Dave “The Bullet” Smith – Human Cannonball
There are guys who earn a living being shot out of a cannon, and then there is Dave “The Bullet” Smith Jr., aka the “Human Cannonball.” Bullet, as he prefers to be called, has taken being fired out of a cannon to the next level. A new extreme, if you will. Not content to simply be shot into the air and land on a net or air mattress, Dave Smith regularly has himself launched more than 200 feet across parking lots and stadiums to the roar of the crowd. To date, he has more than 5,000 cannon shots to his name, and he holds the world record for the longest distance a human cannonball was ever shot, at more than 200 feet. The Bullet comes by his stunt performing ways naturally. His father, Dave “Cannonball” Smith Sr., held the old record for furthest cannonball shot. Guess this whole cannonball thing is hereditary.
6. Alain Robert – Skyscraper Climber
What is it with the French and performing death defying stunts on skyscrapers? Alain Robert is another French daredevil who goes by the nickname “Spider-Man,” because of his penchant for illegally scaling the sides of skyscrapers around the world. What makes Alain Robert’s stunts particularly nutty is the fact that he scales the skyscrapers illegally, with no practice and no safety net. He literally just shows up and starts climbing. Some of the notable buildings he has crawled his way up include the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, The Taipei 101 building in Taiwan and many others. And he’s been arrested every time he does this. Yet he continues to climb like a human spider.
5. Jackie Chan’s Rotterdam Slide
Jackie Chan is a pretty lovable actor. But he’s also pretty damn crazy. Over nearly four decades in the movies, the Hong Kong actor and stuntman has performed almost all of his own stunts – some of them truly mind blowing. But his biggest and craziest stunt was probably the one he did for the 1998 movie Who Am I, where he performed a free-fall slide down the face of the Willemswerf Building in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Jackie slid down 21 stories of slanted glass for the film and walked away unscathed. Pretty incredible. And while Jackie Chan has been beaten up on many of his movie sets, he did not get a scratch carrying out one the biggest stunt of his career. Remarkable!
4. Omar Locklear’s Wing Walks
We’ve all seen old news reel footage of wing walkers, those insane stunt performers who walk out onto the wing of an airplane mid-flight and hang on as the plane does flips and loop-de-loops. And we’ve all thought: “Man, those people are f***in’ crazy.” Well, no wing walker was as crazy as stunt performer Omar Locklear. This nut job first got noticed by film goers in the first part of the 20th century when the daredevil pilot flew several planes in World War I set movies. Hollywood executives then noticed that Omar Locklear would leave the cockpit of the plane and walk out on the wing as the plane was in the air to simply tweak the engine or repair a piece of the wing. A star was quickly born and Omar Locklear became the most famous wing walker of all time, briefly. Sadly, Omar Locklear died in 1920 while performing a wing stunt. His plane caught fire and crashed, killing both him and destroying the plane.
3. Gary Connery – Wingsuit Jumper
Wingsuit jumping, where people dive off the sides of cliffs and fly through the air in a suit reminiscent of a winged squirrel, is catching on and growing in popularity. And the rise of this sport can largely be attributed to Gary Connery, a British stunt performer who has pulled off several of the craziest wingsuit jumps in history. Gary Connery, on several occasions, has jumped out of a helicopter in a modified wingsuit without a parachute to brace his fall should something go wrong. In fact, like many people on this list, Gary Connery set a world record — for a wingsuit jump, having dived out of a helicopter, glided momentarily, then fell 2,400 feet and crashed into a landing strip assembled out of more than 18,000 cardboard boxes. He survived. The only question is: Why?
2. 167 Mile Per Hour Bike Ride
Most bicycles reach a maximum speed, when being peddled, of about 10 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast. However, that speed is nothing compared to the speed reached by stunt performer Fred Rompelberg, who made a bicycle reach a top speed of 167 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. And yeah, this was another world record. Basically Fred Rompelberg bicycled in the air pocket created by a speeding dragster at 167 mph (that’s 268 km/hour for you non-Americans). Rompelberg set up the bizarre stunt at the Bonneville Salt Flats using a specially modified bike with a lowered center of gravity. When the pace car took off, Rompelberg drifted in its wake to make his wind resistance virtually zero, allowing him to get his ride to insane speeds. Miraculously he didn’t crash. And, he was also the oldest professional cyclist in the world when he pulled off this stunt at age 50. So there!
1. Evel Knievel’s Canyon Jump
C’mon. You can`t have a list like this without including Robert Craig Knievel, aka “Evel Knievel,” the baddest stunt performer of all time. Evel Knievel was one of the most daring motorcycle stuntmen ever to straddle a bike. He became a legend in the 1960s and 1970s and was even featured on cereal boxes for God’s sake. In addition to his numerous motorcycle jumps, Evel had the dubious honor of holding the world record for the most broken bones in a lifetime. By the time he retired from his stunt career, Evel Knievel had broken 433 bones in his body. Ouch!
Evel Knievel’s most famous stunt was rocketing over the Snake River Canyon. He used a rocket-powered motorcycle to carry out the feat, but it failed and he landed on the canyon floor. Still, he gets an “A” for the effort.