The ten most memorable workplace accidents in film

Still feel bad about the time you spilt hot coffee on your boss' laptop? Don't worry. As these movie mishaps demonstrate, it could've been so, so much worse

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Have you had an accident at work? Well, the hapless stars of ‘Gravity’ have. When their shuttle is ripped to shreds by a cloud of flying debris, astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are left drifting in Earth orbit. But they’re not the first movie characters who ought to be phoning that no-win, no-fee hotline and seeking compensation quicksmart. Here are ten more on-the-job calamities which we reckon could result in big-bucks insurance claims…

  • Anchorman (2004)

    Nature of the accident
    Your classic news-anchor-falls-into- bear-pit scenario. While reporting on a pregnant panda, a rival anchorman shoves Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) in with the grizzlies.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    Newsroom sexists will tell you this is proof that it’s ‘anchorman’ not ‘anchorlady’ for a reason. Send a woman to do a man’s job and she’ll end up in some kind of mess. What we’re actually dealing with is a basic health-and-safety infringement – the zoo needs to raise the bars on that bear enclosure. Stay safe San Diego.

    Who’s to blame?
    Tim Robbins, we can see you behind that perm and sideburns. But in the cutthroat world of local news, perhaps Veronica should have been watching her back.

    Read review

  • Jaws (1975)

    Nature of the accident
    Shark bites man. It’s a classic case of hunter becomes hunted, as the great white swallows seasoned shark-catcher Quint (Robert Shaw) in one toothy bite.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    There’s not much health-and-safety can do for you when a 25-foot, three-ton killing machine is circling your vessel. Especially not if that shark fixes you with its lifeless black eyes.

    Who’s to blame?
    When your business card says ‘shark hunter’, you’ve only got yourself to blame. And Quint didn’t do himself any favours with that possessed look in his eye. He let it get personal between him and the shark – clouding his professional judgement. The whisky didn’t help.

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  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

    Nature of the accident
    While checking power lines in the wake of an unexpected mass outage, electrical engineer Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) sees some strange lights in the sky, and comes home with half of his face bright pink.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    The electrical company involved should immediately supply all employees with some kind of alien-avoidance facial covering.

    Who’s to blame?
    Little green men, as per bloody usual. We suggest calling their CEO in for an illustrated lecture on the importance of health and safety.

    Read review

  • Death Race 2000 (1975)

    Nature of the accident
    After cheering the heroic drivers through every swerve, every bend and every kill on the epic Trans Continental Road Race, insanely enthusiastic sports correspondent Junior Bruce (Don Steele) is cruelly run over by the winner himself, Frankenstein (David Carradine).

    How the accident could have been avoided
    Some would argue that Junior should’ve kept his mouth shut, rather than cheering every time some poor sap got splattered all over the road. Still, it’s a harsh penalty.

    Who’s to blame?
    The victorious Frankenstein would doubtless claim that it was a simple mishap – ‘I didn’t know it was in reverse!’ – but we have to argue that, if your expertise is driving, this kind of cock-up really shouldn’t happen.

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  • Brazil (1985)

    Nature of the accident
    When restless, overimaginative futuristic worker drone Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is upgraded to the Ministry of Information Retrieval, he finds himself sharing a desk with scheming jobsworth Lime (Charles McKeown), who occupies the next cubicle. When their inter-office rivalry gets physical, poor Lime ends up with a busted arm.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    Health and safety should’ve been all over this one: a two-man desk split by a sheer steel wall is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Who’s to blame?
    This whole freaking system is out of order! It’s less a problem of who’s to blame, and more of who, in this bureaucratic hellscape, you’d actually complain to…

    Read review

  • Session 9 (2001)

    Nature of the accident
    While digging asbestos out of an abandoned psychiatric hospital, blue-collar everyman Gordon (Peter Mullan) begins to go a little… well… odd. Is he just suffering from a midlife crisis? Or is his work environment gradually transforming Gordon into a psycho killer?

    How the accident could have been avoided
    When working in spooky old buildings previously inhabited by the criminally insane, a precursory demon-check – or even, for good measure, a prophylactic exorcism – should surely be top of the checklist.

    Who’s to blame?
    Satan, probably. But, as he’s notoriously tricky to pin down, we’ll go with the drifting spirits of the damned.

  • Modern Times (1936)

    Nature of the accident
    Working day in, day out, factory dogsbody Charlie Chaplin blows a gasket as he frantically tries to keep up with the assembly line, plunging himself into the machine’s cogs.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    Long hours, abusive bosses, dehumanising monotony – conditions at this industrial behemoth are less than ideal. Is it any wonder poor Charlie freaked out?

    Who’s to blame?
    We know what the bosses will say – this Chaplin fella has a screw loose. But we advise the company to take immediate steps to improve its work practices, as well as introducing adequate protective equipment.

    Read review

  • The Wages of Fear (1953)

    Nature of the accident
    When a well fire blazes out of control, the Southern Oil Company hires four unscrupulous drivers – Jo, Mario, Luigi and Bimba – to pilot two trucks filled with nitroglycerine across the Amazon jungle to the wellhead. It’s only a matter of time before something goes boom.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    There’s a lesson for us all here: never trust a rusty lorry packed with nitroglycerine to guys named Luigi and Bimba.

    Who’s to blame?
    In a nameless South American country wracked by dubious employment practices it’s going to be hard to point fingers, and the company would doubtless insist that these guys knew the risks when they signed on.

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  • The Naked Gun (1988)

    Nature of the accident
    While being recklessly pursued by detective lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) in a commandeered learner vehicle, a hypnotised doctor-turned-assassin crashes first into a petrol tanker, then a missile transporter and finally a fireworks factory. Despite repeated pleas from Drebin, the resulting crowd of onlookers refuse to disperse.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    We suggest the US military find an alternate route for missile transportation which avoids major gunpowder stockists.

    Who’s to blame?
    The doctor himself? The villain, Vincent Ludwig, who hypnotically transformed him into a mindless killing machine? Or, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, could it be the reckless law enforcer who drove him to this untimely end?

    Read review

  • Ghostbusters (1984)

    Nature of the accident
    While on their way to rescue New York City from marauding Sumerian deity Gozer, the Ghostbusters are swallowed by a giant pavement crack which opens up right on the edge of Central Park.

    How the accident could have been avoided
    If the ’Busters had read their AA Milne they’d have known never to step on cracks in the pavement. That said, this one is about 30-foot wide, so we’d try a different tactic: don’t piss off a god.

    Who’s to blame?
    It’s the insurance man’s favourite claim: an act of God. Unfortunately, in this case the god is ancient, angry and very, very real. So let’s blame the local government of NYC.

    Read review

Anchorman (2004)

Nature of the accident
Your classic news-anchor-falls-into- bear-pit scenario. While reporting on a pregnant panda, a rival anchorman shoves Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) in with the grizzlies.

How the accident could have been avoided
Newsroom sexists will tell you this is proof that it’s ‘anchorman’ not ‘anchorlady’ for a reason. Send a woman to do a man’s job and she’ll end up in some kind of mess. What we’re actually dealing with is a basic health-and-safety infringement – the zoo needs to raise the bars on that bear enclosure. Stay safe San Diego.

Who’s to blame?
Tim Robbins, we can see you behind that perm and sideburns. But in the cutthroat world of local news, perhaps Veronica should have been watching her back.

Read review

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Users say

1 comments
Mr E A Dobson
Mr E A Dobson

Session 9 is a very overlooked film. No masterpiece but well worth a look & best watched on your own before you try & sleep, creepy! As for The Naked Gun, now that is a masterpiece!

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