While some actors insist on performing their own, sometimes dangerous, stunts, many iconic movie action moments were performed by brave stunt doubles. Here are some of the great stunt people of the last hundred years, sometimes captured alongside the actors they’ve doubled.
Yakima (Yak) Canutt, the man who filmed the iconic scene in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939)
The former world rodeo champion Canutt worked on dozens of westerns, but he is best known as the stunt double for Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind (1939), and was the second unit director of Ben Hur (1959), too.
(via Criterion and a screenshot from Stagecoach)
Russell Saunders, stuntman on King Kong (1933), Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942), doubling Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Shane (1953), Spartacus (1960) and Logan’s Run (1976), among others
By the way, he was Salvador Dalí’s model for Christ of St John of the Cross (1951).
Sally Sage and Bette Davis on the set of Now, Voyager (1942)
Bill Hickman, the stunt driver from the best car chases ever, including the legendary ones in Bullitt (1968) and The French Connection (1971)
Frank Sinatra and his stunt double on the set of The Lady In Cement in 1968
Carey Loftin, the greatest stunt driver ever as a truck driver in Duel (1971)
Other films in which he appeared include It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), The Love Bug (1968), Vanishing Point (1971), THX 1138 (1971), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), Against All Odds (1984). He appeared in the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever (1967) and five A-Team episodes between 1983 and 1985, and he drove KITT in 12 Knight Rider stories between 1982 and 1986 as well.
(via Find A Grave)
Dar Allen Robinson in Highpoint (1979), as the stunt double for Christopher Plummer
Robinson only appeared in 37 movies as a stuntman because of his deadly accident at the age 39, after a thirteen-year career working on films like The Towering Inferno (1974), Rollerball (1975), Logan’s Run (1976), Stick (1985), and Lethal Weapon (1987).
Lynda Carter and Jeannie Epper in the Wonder Woman TV series (1975-1979, created by William M. Marston)
Harrison Ford and Vic Armstrong, on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, dir.: Steven Spielberg) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, dir.: Steven Spielberg)
Armstrong doubled actors in other movies, too. The most iconic ones are A Bridge Too Far (1977), Superman (1978), Flash Gordon (1980), Blade Runner (1982), Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), Dune (1984), Brazil (1985) and some James Bond movies, but he was also a stunt coordinator for Rambo 3 (1988), Total Recall (1990), Starship Troopers (1997), Gangs of New York (2002), and War of the Worlds (2005), among others.
Carrie Fisher & Tracy Eddon in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983, dir.: Richard Marquand)
Kate Winslet and her double Sarah Franzl on the set of Titanic (1997)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and his regular stuntman Billy Lucas on the set of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and True Lies (1994)
Bonus: Buster Keaton
Buster didn’t have a stuntman, and he didn’t care much about his own physical wellbeing. Once he broke his neck after having a water tower dumped on him during the filming of Steamboat Bill, Jr., but he didn’t notice and kept filming. He’s not the only actor who performed his deadly stunts, but he had some of the most dangerous ones ever.