Jackie Chan might be a real-life Marvel hero with Wolverine-style healing powers. There’s no other way to explain how he has survived scores of bone-breaking injuries over the course of his career as a martial arts movie star, many of which have been chronicled by fans and news sources like The Guardian. Many actors do their own stunts nowadays, but very few of them would have the courage to tackle the things that Jackie Chan has done over the years.
Nevertheless, Chan has survived and thrived after taking a ton of knocks that would probably kill the average person. For some reason, he has kept coming back for more as the years tick by. Chan is up there in years, which means his deadly stunt days might have already come to a close, but he can look back with pride, knowing he survived the worst of the worst.
10 Over The Railing / Police Story (1985)
Audiences truly felt the impact of one of Jackie’s most painful stunts in the original 80s action classic Police Story. The scene involves him fighting two bad guys who proceed to toss him over a railing where he goes through a trellis, and straight into the ground below.
The scene was done without the use of padding or mats, which is positively brutal to watch. The end credits scene shows a less-than-enthusiastic, yet still very much alive Jackie coming around after the painful fall, and finishing the shot.
9 The Eye Injury / Drunken Master (1978)
Chan nearly lost an eye in this 1978 kung fu classic during a fight with actor Hwang Jang-Lee. After taking a high kick to the head, Chan’s supraciliary ridge was smashed, which effectively broke his eye socket, and nearly cost him his eye.
Had it not been for some timely intervention, Chan would have surely lost the use of that eye, permanently. It wasn’t the only injury suffered on the set of the film, either. He also suffered a lacerated eyebrow that left a permanent scar.
8 Broken Ankle / Rumble In The Bronx (1995)
American audiences came to really know Jackie Chan during his major breakout hit Rumble In The Bronx, which in turn kicked off his highly lucrative American cinema career. This lovable mix of hilarious comedy and high-octane action sequences set in New York City was an instant hit, and with it came the classic on-set injuries that permeated many of his overseas films.
The most notorious was a scene where Chan leaps onto a hoverboard and lands just the wrong way so as to break his ankle. The end credits scene shows the botched stunt, which looks absolutely agonizing. True to form, Chan had a cast put on it, then covered it to make it look like a sneaker so he could continue filming.
7 The Glass Window / Police Story 2 (1988)
This follow-up to the bone-breaking original Police Story had its fair share of hard knocks for Chan, as well. During a scene where Chan leaps across a series of buses, he ends up diving through a glass window, which was replaced with safety glass by his stunt team.
Unfortunately, Chan misjudged the jump and ended up leaping through a real glass window, instead. The resulting injuries were severe, with multiple lacerations across his neck, hands, arms, and face. This necessitated that Chan wore flesh-covered bandages on his face for the remainder of the film.
6 The Helicopter / Police Story 3: Supercop (1992)
The final act of Police Story 3 features Jackie fighting thugs on top of a train when a pole strikes him in the midsection and spins him around, nearly sending him face-first into a pair of stationery helicopter blades. A botched take found him grabbing onto the pole, but he failed to clear the helicopter on the roof of the train.
The resulting impact struck him in the left shoulder and did immense damage. He was left hanging on the pole until emergency crews managed to get him down, at which point they found out he had torn his shoulder muscle to shreds.
5 Broken Sternum / Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor (1991)
American audiences knew this film by its subtitle, but Operation Condor did feature one of the most brutally painful stunts that went wrong for Jackie. While swinging from a long chain in an underground Nazi stronghold, Chan inadvertently lost his grip and tumbled down to the ground below.
The impact was so ferocious that he broke his sternum, which must have been sheer agony. The botched stunt can be seen in its entirety during the end credits scene of Operation Condor, and it’s grisly to watch. Still, Chan’s work on dangerous films ended up inspiring many mainstream movie fight sequences who all list the actor as a major influence.
4 The Clock Tower Fall / Project A (1983)
One of the most cringe-worthy of Chan’s injuries occurred on the set of Project A during the clock tower fight sequence. Chan manages to make his way outside of the clock tower, where he’s forced to hang on for dear life from one of the clock’s hands.
When he loses his grip, he plunges straight down through two cloth rooftops and lands on the ground. Chan did the stunt twice but was unhappy with the result. The third attempt proved painful when he landed directly on his neck, nearly breaking it. Miraculously, he not only survived but stayed in character and finished the scene.
3 Head Injury / Hand Of Death (1975)
Head injuries are nothing to laugh at. Without proper medical treatment, they can lead to chronic issues or even death. Jackie Chan suffered one of his worst injuries on the set of Hand of Death when he leaped off a truck and hit his head on the way down. Before the injury could fully set in, he repeated the jump a second time before passing out for one hour.
The excruciatingly painful injury was so bad that director John Woo was convinced Chan was dying. It wouldn’t be the first time the action star would come close to death, after taking too hard a hit on the melon.
2 The Pole Slide / Police Story (1985)
This 1985 action classic was rife with injuries from the start of filming, right up to the final scene. The most notorious of the bunch occurred during the infamous mall sequence, when Chan leaps off a balcony and grabs onto a pole, before crashing through a glass roof.
While sliding down the pole, Chan suffered electrical shocks, burns on his hands, a fractured finger, an assortment of cuts, and an injured pelvic bone and vertebrae. How he managed to walk away from this one is anyone’s guess, but it’s almost a given that adrenaline had a lot to do with it.
1 The Tree Fall / Armour Of God (1987)
Jackie Chan suffered his most notoriously deadly injury on the set of Armour of God. While filming in Yugoslavia, Chan leaped from a cliffside onto a tree and nailed it one shot. However, he felt the take wasn’t fast enough, so he repeated it a second time, with disastrous consequences.
Chan ended up falling straight onto his back and smashed his head on a rock, which drove a piece of bone up into his brain. Bleeding profusely from the ear, Chan came dangerously close to death. Had it not been for the timely arrival of medics, the 1987 film would have been his last.