9 Times Tom Cruise Literally Risked His Life For A Scene

Cruise Dangled By A Razor-Thin Wire And The Winds Kept Slamming Him Into The Building During The Skyscraper Climb Scene In 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

Thankfully, none of these Tom Cruise injuries were fatal. Despite being one of the biggest movie stars on the planet over the last four decades, Cruise insists on doing his own stunt work. Directors have tried to get the Mission: Impossible actor to step aside from time to time, but Cruise is willing to take chances. There have been stunts where the actor has seriously injured himself and even put his literal life on the line. Just because there are expert stunt coordinators standing by, it doesn’t mean the stunt is 100% safe. 

Six (and counting) Mission: Impossible movies, Jack ReacherOblivionEdge of TomorrowThe Last Samurai, and Top Gun. Cruise has climbed the exterior of the tallest skyscraper in the world, hung onto the side of an airbus while in mid-flight, and fell several feet from a flying helicopter. 

These stunts are ordered by how many votes they received on Ranker, presented here as a countdown with the #1 most voted stunt last.

9. Cruise Nearly Broke A Rib On ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Cruise Nearly Broke A Rib On 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'

The thing about action movie sequels is that the stunt sequences need to continue to get bigger and more impressive as the series moves along. For the fifth installment of Tom Cruise’s enormously successful spy franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, the actor may have pulled off his most daring stunt yet.

It’s hard to believe that one of the biggest movie stars in the world agreed to do his own stunt work for an action scene that required his character Ethan Hunt to hang onto the exterior of an A400 airbus while it was up in the sky at heights that reached well over 5,000 feet. Yet, despite being in his 50s, Cruise was positioned on the plane (sometimes standing up, sometimes dangling off the side) during its take-off, flight, and landing. And, he did it eight different times.

That is not a professional stuntman, nor is there one single frame of CGI used in the daredevil action sequence. In fact, Mission: Impossible takes great pride in being a franchise that uses mostly practical stunts. 

Of course, a stunt like that is going to come along with a high degree of danger. For example, if any sort of object hits Cruise (even the tiniest pebble) while he is flying high up in the air, it could potentially result in serious injury – or even loss of life. “While we are going down the runway, we’re worried about bird strikes, any kind of particle that the propellers could pick up, any kind of stone,” said Cruise.

One stone nearly became a lethal weapon. “I remember I got hit by a stone that was so tiny, you cannot believe,” revealed Cruise. “I thought it broke my rib. Lucky it went to my vest and not my hands or my face – it would have penetrated and gone right through.”

8. Jamie Foxx Thought He Killed Cruise In ‘Collateral’

Jamie Foxx Thought He Killed Cruise In 'Collateral'  

Tom Cruise played against type as a salt-and-peppered hitman baddie in Michael Mann’s 2004 neo-noir, Collateral. His contract killer character Vincent takes a Los Angeles cab driver (Jamie Foxx) hostage in order to complete a job. 

Foxx revealed he thought he killed Cruise during a driving scene gone wrong. “I hit the gas, the cab goes straight head-on into [Cruise’s] Mercedes, and the Mercedes lifts off the ground and goes off the set,” Foxx said.

“I was hitting the roof,” Cruise added. “I was down on the ground.”

After the head-on collision, the crew immediately ran over to Cruise’s car. “They were so worried that I had killed my man,” Foxx said. “Can you imagine all that money bouncing around in the back seat?”

7. He Broke His Ankle Leaping From One Building Onto Another In ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’

He Broke His Ankle Leaping From One Building Onto Another In 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' 

If anyone thought that Tom Cruise would hand over some of his stunt duties once he turned 50, they would be completely wrong. The actor was in his mid-50s when production started on M:I’s sixth installment, 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Cruise did not walk away from the blockbuster unscathed. He broke his ankle jumping from one building onto another building. 

Cruise described the injury:

I was chasing Henry [Cavill] and was meant to hit the side of the wall and pull myself over, but the mistake was my foot hitting the wall. I knew instantly my ankle was broken, and I really didn’t want to do it again, so I just got up and carried on with the take. I said, “It’s broken. That’s a wrap. Take me to the hospital,” and then everyone got on the phone and made their vacation arrangements.

The movie star and producer knew the entire franchise rested on the recovery of his broken ankle. Cruise went to work in an effort to get filming underway in as little time as possible. He did physical rehab 10 to 12 hours every day for six weeks. Doctors doubted that his injured ankle would permit him to sprint nine months after the accident. However, the ageless wonder was up and running in just three months. 

6. Emily Blunt Confessed To Nearly Killing Cruise During A Driving Scene In ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Emily Blunt Confessed To Nearly Killing Cruise During A Driving Scene In 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Emily Blunt co-starred with Cruise in the 2014 science-fiction action movie, Edge of Tomorrow. The British actress was behind the wheel when she made the near-catastrophic decision not to listen to the veteran stunt actor. 

The movie’s stunt coordinator instructed Blunt to speed up during an action scene. However, Cruise felt that the actress was actually driving too fast and should instead slow down. 

“‘I hear him under his breath as I approach the right-hand turn, going ‘Brake, brake, brake. Brake. Brake, brake, brake…’ Oh, God,” said Blunt. “‘Brake, brake, brake. Brake it hard! Brake hard!'”

Blunt ignored Cruise’s pleas and wound up driving the car into a tree. The actress half-jokingly revealed during an interview with Conan O’Brien, “I almost killed Tom Cruise. I was just laughing, and he was laughing, and I told him, ‘I thought you were being so annoying,’ and I apologized.'”

Thankfully, the car crash did not result in injury.

5. Cruise Blacked Out A Few Times Training For The Underwater Sequence In ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’

Cruise Blacked Out A Few Times Training For The Underwater Sequence In 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'

After nearly doing every stunt imaginable over the course of his prolific action movie career, Tom Cruise wanted to try something completely different. In 2015’s fifth M:I installment, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Cruise did extensive training to be able to hold his breath underwater for over six minutes.

In the dynamic underwater scene, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt dives into the water from a 120-foot ledge. Cruise not only had to hold his breath for the scene, but also had to act out his mission. The film’s stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood, confirmed that the entire sequence was filmed without a stunt double. 

“It’s been said in other interviews if he wasn’t an actor, he would have been a great stunt man,” said Eastwood. “The difference between Tom and a stunt man is he acts the character after hearing ‘action.’ A stunt person just does the stunt to double the character.”

On the surface, the stunt crew anxiously watched Cruise as he held his breath underwater. The actor could have easily passed out from the lack of oxygen. 

“On two or three occasions, I brought him up because I felt he was down for too long,” said Eastwood. “He was like, ‘What are you doing? I was right in the moment. I’m acting.’ And I was like, ‘I know, it was just too real for me, and I wasn’t comfortable.’”

Cruise trained for two months to get his lung capacity ready to shoot the scene. The longest he was able to hold his breath underwater was six and a half minutes. However, it should be noted that holding your breath for more than a few minutes can carry significant consequences and even lead to brain damage. In fact, Eastwood admitted that Cruise blacked out many times during training.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do. [Director Christopher McQuarrie] and I have been thinking about it since working on Edge of Tomorrow. I have done a lot of underwater sequences,” said Cruise. “But we wanted to create a suspenseful underwater sequence without cuts. So doing that sequence was really interesting. We’re underwater, and we’re doing breath-holds of 6 to 6 1/2 minutes. So I was doing all my training with the other stuff (on-set). It was very taxing stuff.”

4. He Was Almost Decapitated During A Fight Scene In ‘The Last Samurai’

He Was Almost Decapitated During A Fight Scene In 'The Last Samurai'

Even Tom Cruise’s eight months of intense samurai training could not prepare him for a fight scene that almost went horribly wrong on the set of his 2003 action period drama, The Last Samurai. “I learned Kendo, swordsmanship, Japanese martial arts, and all manner of weapons handling,” said Cruise. “I not only had to ride a horse, but I had to effectively fight while riding. I studied Japanese. As far as training goes, you name it, I’ve done it.”

For one of the film’s battle scenes, Cruise and Japanese martial arts actor Hiroyuki Sanada were on mechanical horses getting ready to square off. Sanada’s horse experienced a mechanical malfunction and didn’t stop where it was supposed to.

“One day we were shooting, I was on a mechanical horse, and Hiro was on one, too,” Cruise explained. “He was approaching me, and then suddenly, his horse hit me, and his sword was right here (points an inch from his neck).”

Cruise literally came within an inch of being decapitated. “Luckily, Hiro is trained in martial arts. I trust him,” added Cruise. 

3. Cruise Fell From A Flying Helicopter In ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ And Onlookers Thought He Had Just Offed Himself

Cruise Fell From A Flying Helicopter In 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' And Onlookers Thought He Had Just Offed Himself

Even stunts that go exactly as planned can still be extremely dangerous. For 2018’s sixth installment, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Tom Cruise did not just break his ankle. He also performed one of the most dangerous stunts of the entire spy franchise.

At the end of the film, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hangs from a flying helicopter. However, Hunt loses his grip and falls several feet. He is able to grab onto a netted cargo load that is being hauled by the copter. “I had to work out how to drop Tom this distance and catch up and how to help him up if there were emergencies,” said stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood

Eastwood tested the stunt to make it as safe and amazing as possible. “With Tom Cruise, I’ve got to make it as safe and as powerful and spectacular, but also if he’s slightly damaged, we can’t shoot anything else.” 

Several members of the cast and crew saw Cruise fall from the helicopter and thought he had actually just offed himself. “I heard myself scream. I actually thought he fell,” admitted co-star Rebecca Ferguson. Other people watching thought that the actor broke his back.

Cruise wound up having to shoot the scene five times. Somehow, someway, he didn’t seriously hurt himself. “You know it’s going to be a big impact. It really knocks the wind out of me,” Cruise said. “Those takes – you don’t do many of them. You do them until you get them, then it’s like please, let’s move on.”

2. Cruise Dangled By A Razor-Thin Wire And The Winds Kept Slamming Him Into The Building During The Skyscraper Climb Scene In ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’

Cruise Dangled By A Razor-Thin Wire And The Winds Kept Slamming Him Into The Building During The Skyscraper Climb Scene In 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

In 2011’s fourth M:I installment, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt needs to climb up the exterior of a 2,722-foot skyscraper to the 130th floor. Hunt is equipped with a single suction glove to make the climb, and Cruise himself was harnessed to the building with a cable the size of a piano wire. The action scene took place at the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Cruise also had to rappel down the building. 

The stunt was so dangerous that it kept director Brad Bird up at night. “One night, after one of the earliest shooting days, I bolted up in bed realizing that we had our star dangling about a mile up in the air on a thin wire, and my brain was screaming, ‘What the hell are we doing?'” confessed Bird. “The whole thing was one extended, hair-raising moment, but we planned well.”

The “well-planned” scene, which took eight days to film, actually put Cruise 1,700 feet up in the air. The actor may have had a small harness strapped onto his body, but the gusty winds continually slammed the action star up against the building. When reporters asked what he was thinking during the scene, Cruise simply replied, “I hope I don’t fall.”

1. Cruise Nearly Got Pulled Out Into The Middle Of The Ocean In ‘Top Gun’

Cruise Nearly Got Pulled Out Into The Middle Of The Ocean In 'Top Gun'

In one of the actor’s first blockbuster action movies, Top Gun, Cruise played reckless Navy fighter pilot Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. No one who has seen the ’80s classic can forget the tragic scene when Maverick’s co-pilot and best friend Goose (Anthony Edwards) is slain after being forced to eject from their aircraft. 

Maverick escapes death and safely lands in the ocean. However, Cruise himself was in the danger zone and nearly died filming the scene. The actor’s parachute filled with water, and it could have easily dragged him out into the middle of the ocean. 

“Cruise came as close to dying as anybody on a set I’ve ever seen,” said co-star Barry Tubb (Wolfman). “They were refilling the camera or something, and luckily, one of the frogmen in the chopper saw his chute ballooning out. He jumped in and cut Cruise loose right before he sank. They would have never found him. He would have been at the bottom of the ocean.”