Jackie Chan is widely regarded as one of the greatest action stars of all time, and his work often speaks for itself. A South China Morning Post article once referred to him as the “Jackie of all Trades,” an accurate label, considering that he can act, write, direct, crack jokes, and perform stunts all by himself. Many individuals struggle to master just one of these particular skills, so Chan deserves all the praise he can get.
Over the years, Chan’s stunts have left action movie fans awed because of their complex and unconventional nature. Jumping on top of a car or diving while shooting is never enough for the Hong Kong-born star, so he always strives for more. In the Guinness World Records, the honor of “Most Stunts by a Living Actor” still belongs to Chan and the following are arguably the best ones he has ever executed.
10 The Window Slide – Who Am I? (1998)
“Who am I?” That’s the question Jackie Chan’s character asks himself after waking up in a South African village with no memory. The natives believe this is his name, so they go on to refer to him by that question and so does he. His search for answers to the Willemswerf building in Rotterdarm, where he finds himself on the top after being chased by henchmen. Cornered, he decides to slide down the building’s window panes.
The Who Am I? stunt is beautiful because it never seems like an option before it happens. Anyone watching can easily bet that the protagonist is either going to fight or surrender instead of sliding down the windows, yet he does just that. The stunt is possible because the building is designed to look like a triangle, hence it has one slanted wall. He, therefore, just sits back and relax. Still, there remains the risk of one of the windows breaking under his weight, so audiences are forced to hold their breath for several seconds.
9 The Bus Chase – Police Story (1985)
The investigations conducted in Police Story are thorough enough to make it one of the most recommendable detective movies of the ’80s, but it’s the stunts that really impress. In one of the scenes, Sergeant “Kevin” Chan Ka-Kui (Chan) clings onto a double-decker bus that criminals are using as their getaway vehicle. He doesn’t do it with his bare hands but with the handle of an umbrella, hence doubling the risk.
So good is the stunt that it has been replicated in some form in different movies over the years. A recent example can be found in The Flash where Batman attaches his grappling hook to a vehicle that robbers are using and slides through the highway, with his feet on the ground, as he figures out a way to get in.
Chan’s characters always have great judgment when it comes to when to fight and when to flee. In Rumble in the Bronx, Hong Kong policeman Keung (Chan) does the latter by leaping some 28 feet from the top of one building to the balcony of the next. Prior to that, Keung shows up in the Bronx for his uncle’s wedding, only to find himself dealing with a notorious biker gang.
It’s clear that even members of the production team were impressed with the stunt, as it’s replayed three times from different angles. By the end of the third view, anyone who had doubts about its awesomeness gets convinced. It’s thus no surprise that this is the movie that made Chan a household name in America.
7 Fall from a Clock Tower – Project A (1983)
In Project A, Hong Kong marine Dragon Ma (Chan) is focused on stopping a group of modern-day pirates, but the job ends up being a lot harder than he expected. In one of the scenes, he finds himself dangling from a giant clock tower before dropping some 70 feet to the ground. Thanks to plot armor, he survives and goes on to fight some more baddies.
The stunt isn’t exactly original. It is inspired by Harold Lloyd’s clock stunt in Safety Last! The iconic silent film looks even more dangerous because Lloyd happens to be hanging above moving traffic. However, unlike Chan, he doesn’t drop all the way to the ground. For that reason, Chan deserves to be lauded for taking a bodily beating to ensure his version appeared cooler.
6 The Helicopter Leap – Supercop (1992)
Supercop’s story about a Hong Kong lawman trying to bust a drug ring in China before everything gets ruined by his visiting girlfriend, is as basic as action movie plots get. Still, the movie towers above many of its kind because of its reliance on extraordinary stunts. The climatic scene, where the protagonist leaps from a helicopter’s ladder to a train’s cart, is enough to qualify it as one of the best ‘90s Hong Kong action films.
The beauty of the stunt lies in the calculation. A helicopter ladder isn’t the most stable thing, because it keeps swaying, so Chan’s character is required to have some form of mathematical accuracy if he is to avoid hitting the ground. The same kind of accuracy is required when he jumps from a building to the ladder. Interestingly, he pulls it off rather easily.
5 Legend of the Drunken Master (1994)
Wong Fei-hung is both the funniest and most skilled Jackie Chan character because he fights like a drunkard while still managing to obliterate dozens of opponents. The standout moment of Drunken Master II plays out in the climatic fight between Wong and the villain’s chief enforcer, John. At one point, Wong falls into a bed of flaming coal, forcing him to crawl through it, slightly getting burned in the process.
The sequence, once again, shows the lengths Chan is ever willing to go to ensure audiences get value for their money. During filming, the actor insisted on doing the stunt three different times, and it’s during the final take that he got slightly burned. Today, minor scars can be seen on his hands as proof of the sacrifices he made just to entertain action movie lovers.
4 The Hot Air Balloon Dive – Armour of God (1986)
Jackie Chan has never been asked to explain where he drew inspiration for Armour of God, but the idea is presumably from the Indiana Jones movies. The actor plays an adventurer who goes on a mission to rescue a woman who has been kidnapped by cultists in search of armour that has supernatural powers. This is also one of those movies where actors got seriously injured. While attempting a tree jump, Chan knocked his head on the ground, resulting in serious damage to the temple.
However, the tree stunt is trumped by the protagonist’s jump onto the top of a hot air balloon during the finale. Standing on the edge of a cliff, he realizes that his only escape route lies on a balloon that’s flying many miles below. He, therefore, leaps into the air, and even he is surprised when he makes a soft landing. Director Eric Tsang was smart enough to end the movie there, aware that no other moment would to this.
3 Roller Skating in Traffic – Winners & Sinners (1983)
Winners & Sinners isn’t as popular as other Jackie Chan movies. That’s because he is only a supporting character in it. Events in it revolve around a group of recently released convicts and Chan plays an error-prone officer tasked with retrieving a briefcase that they have just stolen. As he is pursuing them, he roller-skates through traffic, causing a massive pileup.
The stunt is amazing to watch because does just about everything audiences would expect to happen in this scenario. He briefly lies on the ground and allows a vehicle to pass over him, acrobatically leap-frogs motorcycles, and weaves through speeding vehicles, which he only avoids colliding with by a whisker. He breaks no sweat while doing all this, proving that he was born for such moments.
2 The Snowboard Leap – First Strike (1996)
In First Strike, Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong officer working with the CIA to track down a woman who is alleged to be working with a terrorist. Soon, it’s revealed that the terrorist aims to acquire nuclear weapons, so the protagonist has to stop him before it’s too late. One of the early scenes sees him snowboarding down a mountain as he flees from pursuers. A helicopter conveniently appears just as he reaches the edge, so he times his jump perfectly and holds on to its landing skid.
It’s yet another scene that highlights the actor’s daredevilry. The presence of snowboards on his feet means he is heavier than usual, but he doesn’t care. He takes the risk and it pays off. The fun doesn’t end there either. Just before the helicopter explodes, he frees himself and drops 100 feet down into a frozen lake.
1 The Pole Slide – Police Story (1985)
Police Story makes another appearance on the list because of its iconic mall fight. In it, Ka-Kai fights off numerous henchmen by himself at the top floor. In the process, a briefcase containing sensitive information falls all the way to the bottom floor. In order to retrieve it, Ka-Kui slides down a pole wrapped in hot bulbs and crashes through the glass just before he hits the floor.
Covered from various angles, the stunt wows audiences mainly because of the flair. Watching Chan’s character beat everyone before dropping majestically to get what he came for is something everyone who watches the movie is unlikely to forget. However, pulling it off wasn’t as easy as it might seem. Chan dislocated his pelvis and suffered second-degree burns, and instead of toning it down, he went on to perform more dangerous stunts in the future.