10 Movie Scenes That Were Extremely Difficult to Shoot Via

Whether it’s through the use of impressive cinematography, editing, or visual effects, every so often we encounter a scene from a movie that absolutely blows us away and leaves us pondering just how the filmmakers actually achieved it. Sure there are amazing things that can be done in post-production with a green screen these days but, to give the audience a more real sense of the environment in which the film is taking place, using practical effects with real-life objects is often the best way to go. Even though practical effects tend to be costly and time consuming to set up, sometimes knowing just how much painstaking work went into making a movie can give you deeper appreciation for it. Here are 10 movie scenes that were light on computer graphics and extremely difficult to shoot.

Warning: Some of these scenes contain graphic violence and imagery.

10. Apocalypse Now – The Smell of Napalm in the Morning Scene

In 1979, back before computer graphics were a pillar of Hollywood film making, Francis Ford Coppola had to rely entirely on practical effects to create the huge explosions and battle scenes in Apocalypse Now. To create the famous napalm scene, cameras needed to capture real F-5 Tiger fighter jets flying in formation over a massive extended explosion. But, as impressive as fiery blast looked on screen, it was really Robert Duvall’s historic line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” that elevated the scene to its iconic status.

9. The Bridge on the River Kwai – Bridge Collapse Scene

The Bridge on the River Kwai in another movie from the pre-CG days of cinema. In the film’s climax, a bridge gets destroyed just as a train is crossing over it. Rather than shoot the scene using scale models, filmmakers decided they wanted to build and then blow up an actual life-sized bridge. The expense of both time and money required to make the bridge meant that they would only have one chance at capturing this critical scene on camera. Fortunately, when it was time to shoot, their meticulous planning paid off as the scene came together perfectly with the bridge exploding and the train plunging into the river below.

8. Kill Bill: Vol 1 – Crazy 88 Fight Scene

Quentin Tarantino’s samurai spaghetti western features a lot of memorable scenes, but none more so than the Crazy 88 fight scene from the end of Volume 1. As Uma Thurman’s character “The Bride” is surrounded by dozens of black tie wearing, blade wielding body guards, she begins an expertly choreographed ballet of death that sends severed limbs flying and leaves the room covered in arterial blood spray. Through all the excessive violence in the scene, Tarantino keeps upping the ante — adding more elaborate swordplay, wire work, and even throwing in some light 60’s rock to keep it fun. The sequence is so crazy and over the top that you’ll want to go back and watch it again just to pick out your favorite kills.

7. 28 Days Later – Deserted London Scene

At the beginning of 28 Days Later, the main character awakens to find that the city of London appears to be completely deserted. To make this scene possible, police had to close off London roads in the early morning just long enough for the crew to get the shots they needed. This meant that, after setup, the production team would sometimes only get 12 minutes or less to shoot some of the movies most critical establishing shots.

From a visual standpoint, seeing a bunch of streets and iconic landmarks void of people might not look that impressive; but, from a production standpoint, when you consider all the time, money, and manpower that must have gone into shutting down one of the busiest areas in a leading global city, it’s nothing short of a film making miracle that Danny Boyle and his team were able to pull it off.

6. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Burj Khalifa Scene

Tom Cruise is an actor well-known for doing a lot of his own stunts. So when filming on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol required him to scale the outside of Khalifa Tower — the world’s tallest man-made structure — he stepped up to the challenge. Rather than getting a stunt double or using some clever CG tricks, Cruise actually went out on a limb and performed all the stunts in the movie where you see him climbing and running along the outside of the tower. Although there was surely an assiduous attention to detail throughout every aspect of filming the scene, whenever cinematographers have the opportunity to film actors doing their own stunts, it scales up production value in a big way.

5. Saving Private Ryan – D-Day Scene

The scene where the troops land on Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan was filmed over the course of an entire month. Steven Spielberg made the choice to shoot the sequence using hand-held cameras so he could place audiences firmly at the center of the action. The technique works brilliantly as the panic and anguish displayed by the soldiers on screen is intensely visceral and immediately felt by viewers. Both phenomenal and haunting behold, this remains, to date, the most vicious depiction of war ever captured in a re-enactment.

4. The Dark Knight – Joker Chase Scene

When making his Dark Knight trilogy, one of the things Christopher Nolan tried to do was create a realistic version of Gotham City. In order to accomplish this, he incorporated a gritty aesthetic and used a lot of practical effects in action sequences. This method is very apparent in the Joker Chase scene from The Dark Knight. As The Joker attempts to escape driving a big tractor trailer, Batman zooms in on his Batpod and tows a metal cable under the wheels of the rig to stop it. On screen, audiences see a spectacular crash as the tractor trailer flips end over end and lands on its back in a crushing heap. But what most people might not know is that, in order to film the scene, Nolan used a real truck with a real driver that was inside when it flipped — hopefully hazard pay was issued.

3. Mad Max 2 – Car Chase Scene

When he was given a larger budget than initially expected to make the sequel to Mad Max, director George Millar decided to pull out all the stops. In the movie’s especially imaginative climax, Max is behind the wheel of a tanker truck trying to outrun a wasteland gang hell-bent on killing him. The amount of technical difficulty involved in shooting this scene was staggering as characters jump around the outside of fast-moving vehicles, shooting grappling hooks and throwing fire bombs as things smash and burst into flames all around them. It’s even more impressive when you take into consideration that it was all accomplished without the use of green screens or CG.

2. Titanic – Titanic Sinking Scene

James Cameron worked tirelessly to make his film sets on Titanic look as authentic as possible. But in addition to the astonishingly accurate practical effects, he also utilized a lot models and green screen techniques to keep audiences gasping in shock and awe as the massive ship sinks into the icy North Atlantic. In the final moments before the Titanic is completely submerged, dozens of extras were needed to crowd around the ship’s bow and hang on for dear life. The scene is epic in scale and leaves audiences thrilled as they watch passengers everywhere fall to their death, hoping that the somehow Jack and Rose find a way to survive the disaster. Via

1. The Dark Knight Rises – Crashing This Plane Scene

Seeking to outdo his own amazing work on The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan raised the stakes for The Dark Knight Rises and came up with a scene that would be even more of a filming challenge. In the “Crashing This Plane” scene, Bane is a prisoner being transported on a secure CIA aircraft. But when a much larger C-130 Hercules aircraft shows up, his plan for escape is put in motion as a covert team makes a daring mid-air extraction attempt. From a filmmaking perspective, everything just comes together masterfully in this moment to create the perfect storm of stunts, cinematography, and practical effects — it simply raises the bar for action sequences in cinema.

Wes Walcott

Wes Walcott

Wes is a devourer of media. He ravenously consumes podcasts, books, and TV shows with seemingly no regard for review scores or subject matter. If encountered in the wild, Wes is said to respond positively to verbal cues relating to X-Men or the SNES. The subject can be easily captured and tamed using Transformers or Gundam models.