Movie Scenes You Thought Were Fake But Weren't

Voting Rules

Vote up the coolest scenes filmed without CGI.

A battle scene where a forest gets burned to the ground. An FBI agent jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Cars falling from the sky. Or a super-spy escaping the possibility of being eaten by crocodiles by jumping onto their backs.

These are just a few scenes from well-known movies that could have viewers asking each other, “How did they do that?” Or perhaps the audience assumed the scenes were fake, produced using computer-generated images or another type of visual effect.

But as these behind-the-scenes stories show, the stunts or events described below are real, produced with little to no special effects.

  • Alien: Resurrection (1997) was the fourth film in the Alien franchise and is set 200 years after the events of Alien 3. Scientists on board the military spaceship USM Auriga create a clone of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) by using DNA from blood samples taken prior to her demise. Because Ripley's DNA has been combined with that of the Xenomorph queen, the clone, designated as “Ripley 8," grows up with an embryo inside of it. Scientists later extract the embryo, raise it and collect its eggs, which they implant inside abducted humans in stasis brought to the Auriga by mercenaries. The result of this experiment is the birth of a bunch of Xenomorphs; as adults, the aliens escape their confinement and end up killing most of the ship's crew.

    It's revealed that the Auriga's default action is to return to Earth. Realizing that would allow the Xenomorphs to wreak havoc on the planet, Ripley 8 teams up with the mercenaries, a military scientist, a soldier, and the lone surviving Xenomorph human host in an attempt to intercept and destroy the Auriga before it reaches Earth.

    Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet came up with some stunts to show off Ripley 8's powers, one of which involved the clone throwing a basketball backward over her head and into a basket. In an article published in Premiere magazine in February 1997, Weaver revealed that she trained for about two weeks before the scene was filmed. By the day of the shoot, she revealed “my average on the shot is one basket for every six tries.”

    However, Jeunet had made the actual shot be from a longer distance than what Weaver had been practicing. After she missed it in the first two takes, the visual effects coordinator suggested that she deliberately miss the shot on the next take, as that would make it easier for the VFX team to manipulate the image to make it appear that Weaver made a basket.

    Weaver and the basketball trainer she'd been working with thought this would make the shot look fake. So after taking a few more practice shots, she was ready for another take. The whole crew broke into cheers as she made a basket.

    But there was a problem. As Weaver explained:

    Two beats after the ball goes in, Ron Perlman [who played one of the mercenaries] flashes a huge smile and yells “oh f*ck” right into the camera.

    Weaver feared Perlman's reaction had ruined the shot. But cinematographer Connie Hall reviewed the film and discovered that the pause between the ball going through the basket and Perlman's reaction was long enough to allow for film editing around it.

    However, Jeunet believed the audience would still believe the shot was faked, as the basketball went out of the frame. Weaver assured her director she would make sure everyone knew she made the shot. She accomplished this by talking about the scene in interviews promoting the film, although somehow the story became that she had made the shot on her second attempt (which she hadn't).

    33 votes

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  • The Dark Knight (2008) is the first sequel to the 2005 blockbuster Batman Begins. Directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight  stars Christian Bale as billionaire Bruce Wayne and his superhero alter ego Batman, Heath Ledger as maniacal criminal The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart as district attorney-turned-vigilante Harvey Dent/Two Face. 

    In the film, Batman aligns with Dent and the police to try and eliminate organized crime in Gotham City, in the hope that he can give up his crime fighting and resume a normal life as Wayne. Meanwhile, The Joker, who has already masterminded the robbery of a mafia-owned bank, approaches the lead mafiosos and offers to kill Batman in return for half of the criminals' joint fortune. The bosses agree, and he goes on a crime spree that includes slaying Dent's girlfriend (and Wayne's potential love interest) Rachel Dawes. He threatens to continue his criminal activities unless Batman reveals his real identity. Among these threats is one to blow up a hospital if Wayne Enterprises accountant Coleman Reese (who has discovered Batman's identity) isn't killed.

    Much of the film was shot in Chicago. One of locations was the abandoned Brach’s Candy Building. The filmmakers turned it into the fictional Gotham General Hospital. It is this real building that explodes in the scene where the Joker, dressed as a nurse, calmly blows up the hospital in front of a stunned news crew and a busload of rescued patients. 

    In the segment, The Joker walks through the hospital's halls and out the front door as several explosions occur. At one point he pauses, looks back and seems startled when a final large explosion finally occurs. Many people believed Ledger had improvised the scene, but Nolan refuted that belief in the featurette Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene (included in the film's home video release). The director explained how the scene was shot without endangering Ledger or any other actors:

    [Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould] was able to come up with a scenario in which Heath could actually be walking out of the building because what Chris worked out is if we put in a little beat where the first set of explosions stops as if something's gone wrong, and the Joker just takes a second to look around surprised like the audience is surprised, then the major demolition comes in and he jumps straight into the school bus. In that way he was able to come up with a practical scenario in which we could actually take a principal actor, walk him out of a building that's about to be destroyed, and literally drop the building to the ground.

    12 votes

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  • Django Unchained (2012), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, is a revisionist Western about enslaved person-turned bounty hunter Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) and German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who team up to reunite the former with his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is enslaved on a plantation owned by the cruel “Monsieur” Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The plan is to acquire Broomhilda for a low sum by pretending they really want to buy one of Candie's Mandingo fighters, enslaved people forced to wrestle each other until one dies.

    However, Candie discovers the bounty hunters' real intent and threatens Broomhilda at gunpoint. This scene, in which Candie goes on a long racist rant, took several takes to shoot. During the rant, DiCaprio injured his hand, making a bloody mess. This wasn't in the script, but rather an accident on the actor's part. As costar Samuel L. Jackson explained to The Hollywood Reporter, on about the sixth take “Leo slammed his hand on the table and hit a glass.” Coproducer Stacey Sher added, "It disintegrated into his hand, and he never flinched.”

    Indeed, DiCaprio seemed unfazed by his injury. As he revealed in the same interview:

    My hand started really pouring blood all over the table. Maybe they thought it was done with special effects. I wanted to keep going. It was more interesting to watch Quentin’s and Jamie’s reaction off-camera than to look at my hand.

    The actor added that, “we did it bloodied and bandaged for the rest of the movie” in order to give Tarantino the option of not using the take where DiCaprio cut his hand. “I’m glad Quentin kept it in,” the actor admitted.

    31 votes

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  • Keanu Reeves's Stunt Double Jumped From A Plane With No Parachute In ‘Point Break,’ While Patrick Swayze Did His Own Jump
    Video: YouTube

    In Point Break (1991), Patrick Swayze plays Bodhi, the leader of a group of surfers who rob banks to finance their surfing expeditions around the world, while Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former star college quarterback-turned rookie FBI agent tasked with finding and arresting the robbers (called “the Ex-Presidents” because they wear rubber masks of former US presidents when they pull off the bank jobs). Utah learns how to surf in order to befriend Bodhi and his gang. Bodhi discovers Utah is an FBI agent and kidnaps his girlfriend Tyler Ann Endicott (Lori Petty) to force Utah into taking part in a bank robbery, and later forces him onto a getaway plane after a shootout at the airport.

    Bodhi and another robber - who's dying from gunshot wounds - don parachutes and jump from the plane with the stolen cash. Utah doesn't have a parachute, but still jumps out of the plane in pursuit of the criminals. He lands on Bodhi and, after a game of chicken over pulling the cord to open the parachute, they land safely, but Utah reinjures his bad knee on the hard landing, which allows Bodhi to escape.

    Did Reeves actually jump out of a plane without a parachute? Nope. Instead, director Kathryn Bigelow devised this memorable sequence by combining the following shots: (1) Swayze, who had real experience as a skydiver, jumped out of a plane backward while wearing a parachute; (2) Reeves's stunt double jumped out of the plane, supposedly without a parachute, although in this video for GQ that explains how the sequence worked, it's obvious the stuntman is wearing a rig under his shirt that can open into a parachute; and (3) closeups of both Reeves and Swayze plummeting through the sky. These last shots were filmed by suspending the actors from a crane that held them about 10 feet off the ground.

    In It’s Make Or Break, a behind-the-scenes featurette about the film's production, Swayze described this rig, which had separate telescoping arms for both himself and Reeves that allowed them to move independently in and out of the shot:

    They built a body thing with a post coming out of the center of it. We laid in that and you strapped yourself in and put your clothes on over it.

    In the GQ video, Jeb Corliss, a professional skydiver, explained it was physically impossible for someone to manually hold onto another skydiver while in freefall. So it's probable that the two stunt skydivers were locked into each other's rig.  

    The producers used high-powered fans to simulate the wind, and also “floated” the cameras. According to second unit director/stunt coordinator Glenn R. Wilder, “…we had it so that we could turn and oscillate, and it worked out very well.” This allowed them to film Swayze and Reeves from the side or from below to create the illusion of skydiving.

    As for the conversation between Reeves and Swayze once the former freefalls on top of the latter? Swayze said that wouldn't have been possible in reality:

    You can’t talk in free fall. You’ve got 120 to 200 mile an hour winds, which is nothing but a giant roar. So there is a little bit of poetic license taken with us having conversations.

    28 votes

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  • James Bond’s Stunt Double Ran Across Real Crocodiles In ‘Live and Let Die’
    Video: YouTube

    Live and Let Die (1973) marked the first time Roger Moore played James Bond in a feature film (he'd previously played him on a TV sketch show). In the film, 007 investigates the demise of several MI6 agents; this entangles him in a plan by drug lord Mr. Big to distribute two tons of heroin for free in order to put his competitors out of business so he can monopolize the drug trade. Mr. Big is the alter ago of Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a Caribbean island country called San Monique, where opium poppies are grown in secret.

    While scouting locations in Jamaica to stand in for the fictional San Monique, the filmmakers stumbled across a crocodile farm with a sign that read “trespassers will be eaten,” owned by a man named Ross Kananga (born Ross Heilman). Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz put the farm into the script and even named his villain after Kananga.

    One terrifying scene involves the corrupt dictator arranging for Bond to be stranded on an island where he'd likely be eaten by crocodiles. It was the real Kananga who suggested the dangerous stunt where Bond runs across a bunch of crocodiles. The producers ended up hiring Kananga to be Moore's stunt double for the scene. 

    In the behind-the-scenes documentary Inside Live and Let Die, viewers learn that while the reptiles' tails were tied down for the stunt, their jaws were not. This was true for all five takes Kananga performed, making it clear how dangerous the stunt was. In one take, he lands atop a croc and has to wait until the animal calms down. In the next-to-last take, one of the crocodiles catches Kananga's leg in mid-air and tugs at his trousers before he finally wiggles loose. Finally, on the fifth take Kananga is able to complete the stunt successfully.

    18 votes

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  • Tom Cruise Hung Off A Real Plane In 'Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation'
    Video: YouTube

    In Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), Tom Cruise makes his fifth appearance as Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt. In this installment of the long-running series, Hunt intercepts a shipment of nerve gas meant for the Syndicate, a group of rogue agents from various agencies around the world. He later discovers the Syndicate has infiltrated IMF and is rendered unconscious via sedative gas. When he wakes up, he escapes from a torture chamber with the aid of an MI6 agent who has gone undercover with the Syndicate. On the run from both the CIA and the Syndicate, Hunt attempts to find and capture Solomon Lane, the rogue MI6 agent who heads the Syndicate.

    Cruise is well-known for wanting to perform his own stunts in his films, no matter how dangerous they may be. In one chase scene during Rogue Nation, Hunt is seen hanging from an airplane - specifically, an Airbus A400M. Director of photography Robert Elswit told The Hollywood Reporter that for the scene:

    Tom was in a full-body harness, and he’s cabled and wired to the plane through [its] door. Inside the aircraft was an aluminum truss that was carefully bolted to the plane, which held the wires that went through the door, which held Tom.

    The stunt was filmed eight times, with the plane reaching an altitude as high as 5,000 feet. After the scene's completion, the harness holding Cruise was digitally erased to make it look like he was simply holding onto the plane with his hands.

    30 votes

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