Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Horrific Deaths That Happened While Filming a Movie


Tyrone Power, who starred in the 1940 film "The Mark of Zorro," met a tragic fate while filming a movie in 1958. Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images
Tyrone Power, who starred in the 1940 film "The Mark of Zorro," met a tragic fate while filming a movie in 1958. Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images

"Death stalks the movie set! Actors and crew members fall victim to spooky, cruelly ironic fate!"

That may sound like a hyped-up promotional line for a movie, but the onscreen illusions of danger can become all too real for the people making the movies. Throughout its brief but rich history, moviemaking has caused a number of deaths.

Like any profession, working in film presents its own unique risks. Film is a highly visual medium, and filmmakers have long courted disaster to create a dramatic scene. In 1928, for example, Buster Keaton allowed a 2-ton (1.8 metric tons) house frame built of solid lumber to crash down around him while standing in the one safe spot, the window frame, for "Steamboat Bill, Jr."[source: DeMain]. Fortunately, technology is increasingly reducing or eliminating the need to stage such too-close-for-comfort calculation. The sequence in "Forrest Gump," for instance, in which Forrest flees the strafing of enemy choppers in Vietnam, was digitally created at a fraction of the cost and risk to human life [source: Bernstein].

Human nature being what it is, however, poor planning, cost-cutting and ego sometimes trump reason — and probably always will, as this list illustrates. Its oldest incidents took place in the early days of Hollywood, while its most recent ones you probably remember. So without further ado, let's dim the lights and raise the curtain – we'll be starting back in the 1920s and ending up in present day.