1. The chariot race in ‘Ben-Hur’ (1959) – picked by Vic Armstrong
Not only do they not make them like stunt legend Vic Armstrong anymore, they rarely make movies like the ones he made his name on. Take An American Werewolf in London, in which he helped orchestrate an improbable 24-car pile-up in Piccadilly Circus. Or the daredevil leap from horse to tank as Harrison Ford's stunt double in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He's been in the business as a stuntman, second unit director and filmmaker since the ‘60s, working on historical epics (Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood), sci-fis (Starship Troopers), Bond films (loads of them) and more recently, the fantasy mega-series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Fittingly, the one-time amateur jockey’s choice of action sequence is Charlton Heston's chariot race in William Wyler’s 1959 epic Ben-Hur. ‘It came out in 1960 when I was 14 and starting out as a jockey,’ he remembers. ‘I was in awe of it.’
‘If I could do what they did with this sequence, I’d happily retire tomorrow. The grandeur, scale, the knowledge, how long it took to shoot… it might be the greatest second-unit shoot of all time. You couldn’t do it today – although they tried it [in the 2016 remake] and it didn't work. I grew up as a horseman – it’s what got me into the business – and I’m in awe of what (second unit directors) Bundy Marton and Yakima Canutt achieved. I'm a great devotee of rehearsal but there are always happy accidents and here it's when (stuntman) Joe Canutt, Yak’s son, is fired over the front of the chariot. I feel for Yak in that moment, because I have four kids in the business and it's nerve-racking to send them off [to do a stunt].’