Today, we're looking back to remember those who came before us and explore the thrilling history of stunts. As we chart this daring journey across the decades, we'll recognised some of the iconic names, mind-blowing moments, and pivotal breakthroughs that have defined the exhilarating world of stunt work. Buckle up!
If you ever want to unite a group while dividing the room, get your Stunt Family together and pick one stunt per decade! haha. There is just so much incredible work and so many amazing performers that any attempt to define a decade through one icon and one breakthrough is always futile. However, it's important those joining the industry learn about those who walked before them and the work that helped to define the way we do things today. Here's a good starting point to start learning your Stunt History...
1910s-1920s: The Early Days
Our story begins with the silent film era when action sequences were choreographed without the luxury of sound. These were raw and unfiltered days, with actors often performing their stunts.
Icon: Buster Keaton - Known as "The Great Stone Face," Keaton's daring and innovative physical comedy, particularly in films like "The General" and "Sherlock Jr.," set the tone for stunt work.
Breakthrough Moment: The jaw-dropping train chase in "The General" (1926) remains an iconic testament to early stunt work.
1930s-1940s: The Golden Age
With the advent of "talkies," action sequences became even more complex. The scope for imagination broadened, and so did the risks.
Icon: Yakima Canutt - Canutt's groundbreaking work as both a stuntman and coordinator in films like "Stagecoach" set the gold standard.
Breakthrough Moment: The stagecoach chase in "Stagecoach" (1939) where Canutt himself doubles for John Wayne, showcasing dangerous horse-riding stunts.
1950s-1960s: The Age of Experimentation
Cinematic universes expanded, and so did the demand for more diverse, bigger, and audacious stunts.
Icon: Hal Needham - This daredevil stuntman turned director brought us films like "Smokey and the Bandit" and is known for his contributions to car chase sequences.
Breakthrough Moment: The motorcycle jump in "The Great Escape" (1963), with Steve McQueen's character trying to jump over a fence, became an unforgettable moment in film history.
1970s-1980s: Modernising Stunts
With evolving technology, stunts became more sophisticated, blending practical effects with emerging CGI elements.
Icon: Dar Robinson - Recognized for his fearless high falls, Robinson shattered records, and his stunt in "Stick" (1985) is the highest freefall (from a building) ever performed without wires.
Breakthrough Moment: The car jump off the cliff in "Thelma & Louise" (1991), combined with its groundbreaking use of special effects, remains legendary.
1990s-2000s: The Digital Era
Digital technologies began to play an even more significant role, but the essence of real, practical stunts remained irreplaceable.
Iconic Name: Vic Armstrong - Known as Harrison Ford's double in the Indiana Jones series, Armstrong transitioned to a successful director and stunt coordinator, ensuring that the spirit of practical stunts remained alive.
Breakthrough Moment: The breathtaking semi-truck flip in "The Dark Knight" (2008), which combined real stunts with CGI, showcasing the balance between reality and digital enhancement.
Pushing BoundariesToday's era marries technology with human capability, producing stunts that blur the lines between the real and the impossible.
Iconic Name: Zoe Bell - Standing out in a predominantly male industry, Bell, with her outstanding work in movies like "Death Proof" and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," symbolizes the evolution and diversification of the stunt industry.
Breakthrough Moment: The HALO jump sequence in "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" (2018) showcases Tom Cruise's commitment to performing his stunts, pushing the envelope of what's possible on-screen.
The history of stunts is a testament to human audacity, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of the extraordinary. At the International Stunt Academy, we're proud to prepare the next generation of stunt professionals, ensuring that this legacy continues to thrive.
This blog os co-authored by The ISA Team