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Tom Cruise’s 10 wildest movie stunts, ranked

The action star famously does many of his own stunts, but here's a list of some that are absolutely wild, even for Cruise.

Photo by Mike Coppola/WireImage

Superstar actor, lover of jumping on sofas, and subject of many tooth-related conspiracy theories Tom Cruise is a famous adrenaline junkie, and just has done many of his own stunts throughout his long career. Basically, if you’re ever watching one of his films and wondering if a scene is real or CGI, the answer is likely that it’s really Cruise. While the daredevil Hollywood icon (and the studios who are terrified about potentially killing a bonafide action star) obviously makes sure everything is as safe as it can be, and trains endlessly for the stunts, that doesn’t change the fact that many of them are still unbelievably dangerous, even for seasoned stunt actors, let alone a normal performer. But which of his many incredible acts are the most insane? Here’s our list of Tom Cruise’s 10 wildest movie stunts, ranked in order of how crazy they are!

10. Climbed the Burj Khalifa

In Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, IMF agent Ethan Hunt appears to free climb the world’s tallest building, the 830m tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, aided only by “special gloves” given to him Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). While in real life Cruise was secured to the building via harnesses, that doesn’t make the incredible heights he scaled any less real, which is why the Mission: Impossible team knew leaking this stunt would be an incredible marketing move (which it was). The cables were removed in post-production, and on a big enough screen you can see Cruise bend the windows with the pressure of his hand, and even watch traffic going by being reflected on the glass.

9. Jumped between buildings

During the filming for Mission: Impossible Fallout, Cruise had a scene where he was jumping between buildings. In his customary style, he did the stunt himself, and while this might not seem like it’s more adrenaline spike inducing than climbing a building that’s over half a mile tall, during the scene the actor managed to shatter his ankle thanks to the force of the impact of his land. Ever the pro, the superstar Scientologist was still able to grab onto the correct building, even carrying on for a few moments before the pain became so bad that a determined Cruise couldn’t keep going. Filming had to stop for eight weeks at a cost of $80 million, and that was with the star coming back earlier than expected.

8. Held his breath for three minutes (and possibly more)

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation was Christopher McQuarrie’s first time behind the camera of a Mission: Impossible film, and alongside the two leads Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson managed to craft an absolutely brilliant fifth installment in the franchise. One of the scenes in the film showed Hunt being submerged underwater and holding his breath for around three minutes, and predictably (although still impressively) Cruise trained himself to survive that long in the deep without breathing too. The scenes were filmed in the U.K, and the actor trained with a diving specialist named Kirk Krack to help him to achieve his goal. Even more impressively, the sequence was filmed in a singular take (from multiple angles), which is cool enough. But a stunt coordinator on the project said Cruise had managed to go beyond six minutes of holding his breath, which is near-unbelievable for any actor who isn’t him.

7. Letting a real knife get uncomfortably close to his eyeball

The plot of Mission: Impossible 2 involves Ethan Hunt chasing a rogue IMF agent named Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), who’s in possession of a dangerous bioweapon that has the potential to cause a devestating global pandemic. This all culminates in a classically outrageous Mission: Impossible fight scene, and at one point Ambrose has Hunt on the ground, and tries to stab him with a knife. Cruise, ever the showman, insisted that a real knife be used, and that Scott utilize as much force as he could when stabbing the knife down to get a realistic take for the scene. The weapon was on a very specifically measured cable, but that doesn’t change the fact that one small movement or a slight prop failure could have led to Cruise being blinded or worse.

6. Flew numerous planes

While taking the dangerous risks that Cruise has in his career is admirable, many of the stunts he’s done were more about willpower than skill. However, for Top Gun: Maverick, the actor went full method and genuinely flew many of the aircraft he was in during the movie. There was one exception, though: he was not at the controls of the F-18 fighter as the U.S Navy didn’t give him permission to fly it (a jet would have cost around half of the film’s gigantic budget, although it did gross over $1bn at the box office, so maybe for the next Top Gun film we’ll see Cruise with one). However, the scenes of his face being contorted into strange shapes by G-force were very much real, as he was in the cockpit of the jet, just not at the controls. I guess that, even for someone with the star power of Cruise, there’s a limit to what you can achieve.

5. Zigzagged through the sky in a helicopter

Mission: Impossible Fallout culminated in an outrageous helicopter chase between Ethan Hunt and August Walker (Henry Cavill), as the IMF agent chases the villain in order to take a bomb detonator from him. Not only did Cruise actually fly the helicopter in question (a matte black Airbus H125) through the mountainous scenery, but also jumped from the chopper, albeit with a cable attached. However, even that wasn’t as safe as it seems, as the cable was only supposed to help guide his fall, not stop it completely. Many of the crew were unaware that Cruise was supposed to drop down, which apparently led to some really intense reactions on set.

4. Did over a hundred sky dives to get one just right

Fallout gets its second mention in two entries here, and given what Cruise did for the sake of filming, it seems pretty fair. In order to perfect a scene where Cruise does a HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump from a plane, the dedicated star allegedly did 106 practice jumps. Again, while this might not seem so wild compared to other entries on this list, the fact is that McQuarrie and the rest of the crew could only film this scene in the U.A.E, as they were the sole country who’d allow them to do a stunt so dangerous. Add in the fact they wanted to film at dusk (so only a few minutes of being able to capture something), and you have a crazy story.

3. Scaled a sheer cliff face

In the opening scene of Mission: Impossible 2, Cruise is seen climbing up an almost 90 degree cliff with what seems to just be his bare hands, before jumping over a dangerous chasm, hanging from a rock ledge, then hauling himself up to safety. He insisted on utilizing just an ultra-thin safety cable, and going up a bigger rock face than the one constructed by the set department. Cruise did relent and had two rock climbing specialists to guide him, but that was the only concession the superstar made, much to the chagrin of director John Woo. Even worse for Woo? It took seven shots. Cruise apparently didn’t mind though.

2. Skydives and motocross jumps

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One sees Cruise take on one of his wildest stunts yet, by riding a motorbike off a cliff before skydiving to safety. And, to prepare, he did over five hundred skydives, as well as nearly a thousand motocross jumps. The sequence is absolutely stunning, and required multiple experts on hand to not only teach Cruise correct techniques, but make sure everything went right when they filmed what director McQuarrie called “the most dangerous thing we’ve ever done.”

1. Held onto an actual Airbus A400M

We know many of the above entries into this list could have made it to the top spot, but for Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, the Scientologist had a scene where Ethan Hunt held onto the side of an Airbus A400M, and frankly for us that just takes the cake. Sure, he was secured to the aircraft in a number of ways, but at the speeds he was going, even a stray pebble crashing into him would have broken a bone (or worse). Even more impressive was the fact the crew only had two days to film it because of time and price constraints. An absolutely wild stunt.

About the author

Sandeep Sandhu

Sandeep is a writer at We Got This Covered and is originally from London, England. His work on film, TV, and books has appeared in a number of publications in the UK and US over the past five or so years, and he's also published several short stories and poems. He thinks people need to talk about the Kafkaesque nature of The Sopranos more, and that The Simpsons seasons 2-9 is the best television ever produced. He is still unsure if he loves David Lynch, or is just trying to seem cool and artsy.