Tom Cruise Stunts: 10 of His Most Jaw-Dropping Feats

7:30 AM 7/26/2018

by Omar Sanchez

In anticipation of 'Mission: Impossible — Fallout,' which hits theaters July 27, take a look at some of Cruise's most intense feats.

Ever since his first taste of the action genre in 1986's Top Gun, Tom Cruise has looked for ways to push the limits of his body and acting. Mission Impossible, The Last Samurai and Jack Reacher are just some of the countless films where Cruise has foregone a stuntman to take his own fall. 

In anticipation of Mission: Impossible — Fallout, which hits theaters July 27, The Hollywood Reporter has compiled a list of Cruise's wildest stunts over his more than 35-year career. While some of them are jaw-dropping in their own right, others are downright death-defying. 

  • 'Mission: Impossible' and the Aquarium

    1996

    In 1996, New York Times critic Stephen Holden referred to the first installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise as “a live-action cartoon.” Nothing may seem more on the nose for this description than the scene Cruise has in the Prague cafe. While the scene seems to have “cartoon” elements, Cruise was never changed out for a stuntman during the one particular sequence.

    In the sequence, Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt intentionally blows up a full wall-sized aquarium to make a quick getaway. The power of the explosive is so powerful it launches his restaurant mate through a glass panel and Cruise is sent running, chased down by 16 gallons of water. The getaway all reportedly was filmed using Cruise himself. 

  • 'Mission: Impossible 2' and the Rock Climbing

    2000

    For Mission: Impossible 2, director John Woo was looking for a new way to “create a hero,” according to a behind-the-scenes interview. As Cruise seems to be a fan of doing any stunt that would test his limits, he waved off stunt expert Ron Kauk and delivered Woo’s vision. Hunt’s opening scene zooms in as he is actively climbing and hanging and leaping off hazardous cliffs. During the shoot, Cruise was under the mercy of just a safety cable to soften any impact. Woo said he was actively sweating throughout the shoot because of the level of danger one bad step can cause.

  • 'Top Gun' and the Parachute

    1986

    Before Mission: Impossible, Cruise’s action chops were honed on the set of 1986’s Top Gun. At the time, it had been reported that a veteran fighter pilot died shooting aerial footage. Even after the death, Cruise went on doing his own stunts.

    “Cruise came as close to dying as anybody on a set I’ve ever seen,” Top Gun actor Barry Tubb told the New York Post on the film's 25th anniversary. The accident took place while Cruise is lifting up the body of his deceased co-pilot, Goose, in the middle of the ocean. During the shoot, Cruise slowly began sinking due to water building up in his parachute. According to Tubb, Cruise would have sank to the bottom if not caught early enough to take him out.

  • 'The Last Samurai' and the Samurai Sword

    2003

    Warner Bros.

    During a fight sequence on 2003’s The Last Samurai, Cruise is seen dueling with co-star Hiroyuki Sanada on what were actually mechanical horses. During one of the takes, one of the horses was supposed to stop in time before Sanada swipes at Cruise with a real-life samurai sword. The horse didn’t stop, and briefly Cruise was within an inch of getting decapitated. The crew and cast feared for his life.

    Luckily. though, Sanada was able to pull back his sword before making any kind of impact.

    "Tom's neck was right in front of me, and I tried to stop swinging my sword, but it was hard to control with one hand," Sanada told the Daily Mail. "The film crew watching from the side all screamed because they thought Tom's head would fly off."

  • 'Collateral' and the Car Crash

    2004

    Photofest

    Cruise’s signature sprint is synonymous in all of his action films. Cruise being chased in a car is less of a common occurrence. When filming with Jamie Foxx on 2004’s Collateral, Foxx thought he had almost killed Cruise when he hit Cruise’s Mercedes during a chase sequence. “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 at the time. Luckily for Cruise, he got out of the accident OK, citing that he only got tossed around a bit. 

  • 'Edge of Tomorrow' and the Other Car Crash

    2014

    Another time Cruise had his fate tested in a car was during Edge of Tomorrow. Co-star Emily Blunt told Conan O'Brien on Conan during the film’s press tour that she got caught up in a scene with Cruise in the passenger seat of their car when sh took a left turn too late.

    “I drove us into a tree and I almost killed Tom Cruise,” Blunt said jokingly on June 5, 2014.

  • 'Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol' and Scaling a Skyscraper

    2011

    People may know director Brad Bird from his work on Incredibles and Incredibles 2, but Bird’s work can also be seen in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. In Ghost Protocol, Cruise is tasked with scaling Dubai’s 163-floor Burj Khalifa. Bird was there through the whole thing. “This is just another day at work on Mission Impossible,” Bird tells the camera during a behind-the-scenes vignette.

  • 'Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation' and the Plane

    2015

    Bo Bridges/Paramount Pictures

    For Cruise, no mode of transportation is off limits for his high-octane stunts. Not even an Airbus 400 that’s taking off while he’s dangling on the outside. Robert Elswit, the director of photography for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation told The Hollywood Reporter at the time what went into 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 cinematographer said of safety measures. “He was also wearing special contact lenses to protect his eyes. If anything hit him at those speeds it could be really bad. They were very careful about cleaning the runway so there were no rocks. And we took off in certain weather conditions; there were no birds. And he’s sort of protected by the way the air moves over the wing." 

  • 'Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation' and Underwater Breathing

    2015

    By now, Cruise has fended off death on an airplane, in a car and scaling the world’s largest skyscraper. But for Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise met face to face with death underwater. For an extensive underwater scene, Cruise trained to hold his breath underwater for six minutes. To put that in perspective, professional breath-hold divers hold their breath for between four and seven minutes, according to the American Physiological Society. And even at the professional level, holding your breath for that long can cause brain damage. "It's something I have always wanted to do,” Cruise told USA Today. “We're underwater and we're doing breath-holds of 6 to 61/2 minutes. So I was doing all my training with the other stuff (on-set). It was very taxing stuff." 

  • Mission: Impossible Fallout And The Building Jump

    2018

    On a January episode of The Graham Norton Show, Tom Cruise shared a video of him breaking his ankle for a stunt in the latest Mission: Impossible movie. Cruise said the production had to shut down for six weeks to allow for his recovery.

    The stunt involved Cruise jumping from high-rise to high-rise to chase down Henry Cavill’s character, August Walker, as two safety wires keep Cruise buoyant during the jump. While he was supposed to not make the jump and instead hit the wall, his foot slipped and bent backward on impact. Cruise even revealed that his ankle was not fully healed and still broken as he was on his current press tour.