And sometimes the actors themselves get in on the life-threatening action, like when Harrison Ford actually outran a giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark and when Keanu Reeves secretly trained to do the whole "jumping onto a bus from a Jaguar" sequence in Speed, which he did, without a hitch, thankfully.
As for some of the greatest stunts ever pulled off in cinematic history, few compare to the chariot race in Ben-Hur. While every second of this nine-minute clash of titanic balls is enough to suffice as the most badass anything ever filmed, the totally unscripted near-death of stuntman Joe Canutt was nothing short of a modern day dance with death worthy of Rome.
Fast-forward to 4:43. After that, you'll know when you see it.
However, there is one final stunt that deserves our attention if only because it might be the single stupidest thing anybody has ever done for a movie, and a really crappy movie at that. We are talking about the aerial transfer pulled off between two planes at 15,000 feet by stuntman Simon Crane for the 1993 film Cliffhanger.
No tricks. No foolin'. That scene really happened. A man hung on a wire between two moving planes in the air for a movie that ultimately went on to garner four Razzie nominations. And the best part? The audience is left to believe that the costliest stunt in cinematic history was pulled off by this man:
Apparently, air-to-air transfer is basic training at the Department of the Treasury.