Have you ever wondered how skydiving movies are filmed? Are they legit or is it all special effects? Of course, the best skydiving movies are real (and movies about skydiving are even better), but Hollywood has come a long way with CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery)! In this video, professional skydiver and BASE jumper Jeb Corliss breaks down top skydiving scenes in movies. If videos aren’t your jam, we’ve got ya covered with this written breakdown. Let’s get into it!
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
(Starts at 00:38)
Tom Cruise is a real skydiver who does all of the jumps in his movies (no stunt doubles here!), and yes, he is awesome. Check out this behind-the-scenes BASE jump from his newest film, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I.
The filmmakers for Mission: Impossible – Fallout had to design a special helmet for Tom to wear that not only lit up to show his face clearly for the camera (and prove it was actually him), but also provided him with supplemental oxygen.
The jump in this scene took place from 25,000 feet. At this altitude, supplemental oxygen is legally required, and without it, the jumpers would experience hypoxia and become unconscious. Since this scene is shot at dusk, the timing had to be impeccable. The crew shot over a six-week period, once a day, within a precise three-minute window – serious dedication! Jeb states that this was, “One of the most technically demanding scenes” he has seen an actual actor accomplish!
The skydive was completed by Tom Cruise and his counterpart, and (awesomely) filmed by Craig O’Brian.
Tom Cruise did deploy his counterpart’s parachute after chasing him through the sky.
Tom Cruise did 250 skydives and hours in the wind tunnel (which they built on set) with his counterpart to practice initiating his deployment.
Notice: Cruise flips him over prior to pulling to lessen the chances of a malfunction, which is more likely to happen when deploying back-to-earth.
The lightning and clouds! Weather delays happen all the time, and for good reason!
Tom Cruise deploying crazy low and snagging his canopy on a statue.
Tom Cruise giving O2 to his counterpart mid-freefall.
Reality Score: 8.7/10
Point Break (1991)
(Starts at 7:33)
Did Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves actually skydive? Swayze sure did! It was the first time an actor was seen skydiving on the big screen, and it was a BIG deal! Especially when skydiving was stigmatized as being super dangerous – the 90s were a wild time.
The skydive is happening for real, and Patrick Swayze is doing it.
It is totally possible to catch up to someone in freefall, this is all based on weight and surface area, which determines how fast each jumper falls.
The duration! Most skydives from this height (12,500 feet) last about 50 seconds.
It is physically impossible to hold onto someone at terminal velocity and deploy the parachute with them still hanging on – this can be done with a special harness, but the will to hold on and some strong arms just aren’t enough!
Reality Score: 1/10 (It was a real skydive; but Jeb states it’s, “Not realistic in the slightest.”)
(Starts at 11:51)
This scene depicts a tandem skydive. Jeb says, “Watching tandems is one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.” And we have to agree! Jeb goes on to say that if you’re scared (like this scene shows) then feel your fear: that’s what it’s all about. You didn’t sign up for stamp collecting or chess!
The airplane is an actual jump plane, you can tell by how easily accessible the door is.
You CAN do a skydive with zero training (yay tandem skydiving)!
The Rock is talking and operating like a tandem instructor would, but he did not do this actual skydive.
The exit is a prime example of a real tandem exit.
The random harness and rig in the airplane – these are securely put on prior to boarding.
Placing their arms to their sides to instigate forward movement (called tracking) only works for solo skydivers. Tandem skydivers have a piece of equipment, a mini parachute called a drogue, that keeps them stable in freefall while ensuring they don’t go too fast–this would prevent tracking from being effective.
Reality score: 5/10 (“A few obvious Hollywood things.”)
(Starts at 16:26)
Jeb really hit on the fact that cars will absolutely tumble through the sky, not fly stable. The times that stability with large vehicles is possible is when they’re on a pallet with parachutes, or using a drogue chute – neither of which happened in Furious 7.
Pretty much all of it!
Reality score: 0/10
Point Break 2015
(Starts at 20:30)
The Point Break skydiving scene is absolutely insane, and Jeb worked as a technical advisor for the film! He goes into detail about how wingsuits are designed, points out that every year they’re getting more advanced, and says wingsuit piloting fulfills the childhood dream of flight and is a, “wonderful sensation.”
Is the BASE jumping in Point Break real? Jeb states that the flying scenes were shot using over 60 real BASE jumps, and took place at The Jungfrau in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
How did they film the Point Break skydiving scene? They did it authentically – a wingsuit pilot flew alongside the four shown pilots with a camera pointed backward and forwards, it was able to capture all the angles of pure awesomeness. Jeb says this is the greatest wingsuit flying sequence he has ever seen, and that it hasn’t been topped, despite coming out nearly a decade ago!
The wingsuit flying! All of it!! Yes, even that part they’re mere feet above the ground going over 120mph.
The timing; a 5,000 foot rockface with a 2.5 minute flight time is realistic.
The occasional mini cloud or tree in between the cameraman and wingsuit pilot.
Reality score: 9.9/10 (No clouds in real life!)
Iron Man III
(Starts at 28:13)
The people falling through the sky are Jeb’s friends! In the scene, they build a formation, called a ‘round’ in skydiving talk, and all dock on one another. Formation skydiving is a huge discipline and many people dedicate their entire skydiving career to mastering it!
The freefall portion of the skydive is shot for real, but the actors did have actual skydiving gear on.
They’re exiting a commercial plane; the lack of oxygen would cause them to immediately pass out due to being at such a high altitude (around 30,000 feet).
Holding on to someone as they deploy at terminal velocity will “rip her fingers off!”
Note: Water HURTS – water landings can safely happen while flying the parachute, but hitting the water at high enough speed (like freefall) is like hitting concrete.
Reality score: 2/10
(Starts at 31:41)
Jeb points out that wingsuit BASE jumping from this height (about 600 feet) is impossible to survive. According to him, 1,000 feet is the absolute bare minimum to complete a wingsuit BASE jump, but they almost always take place from much higher objects. He also went into detail about the fact that BASE jumping – especially with a wingsuit – takes extreme skill and training, years in the sport, and hundreds (if not thousands) of wingsuit flights.
The use of a wingsuit – it was just a normal BASE jump.
The fact that anyone would be BASE jumping for their introduction to body flight.
The height (if it was truly a wingsuit jump).
Reality score: 1/10 (The jump was real in essence.)
(Starts at 35:17)
If you jump in high winds like the scene shows, “It will go bad for you and not end well,” says Jeb. He goes on to explain two primary disciplines in skydiving: freestyle and free-flying, and talks about how this scene shows a skill called tracking. BASE jumping is very, very rare in cities, and is only done by BASE jumpers with TONS of experience.
None of it! It’s all greenscreens and special effects.
There are three instances that are similar to what would happen if parts of the jump were real. The guy who is scared to jump and sits on the edge is very similar to what nervous jumpers do! The violent opening their canopies had is what would happen in very high winds – parachutes ideally open softly! Although a visible bolt of electricity is CGI, hitting power lines is a BIG no-no and has a high chance of resulting in electrocution.
All of it.
Reality score: 0/10
Along Came Polly
(Starts at 39:58)
Jeb Corliss: “If there’s a building that looks like it could be jumped off, it’s been jumped off.”
Jeb talks about how he’s jumped off hundreds of buildings in 20+ different countries, and has even leapt from the Eiffel Tower! He has about 10 tree landings, and he’s grateful they’ve all been relatively gentle, because they are NOT something to mess around with.
Although the movie plot takes place in NYC, they have strict BASE restrictions. The jump scene was actually filmed in downtown LA, where restrictions are often lifted for filmmakers!
Bringing a walkie-talkie happens in real life BASE jumps.
Actually landing in the tree; in actuality the jumper landed safely on the shut-down road and used a totally separate apparatus to hang out in the tree.
Reality score: 7/10
(Starts at 43:57)
This is an old-school skydiving scene from 1997! Although this BASE jumper does not actually fly super close to the plane, this can happen in real life. Drogues are used on airplanes as stabilizers and allow skydivers in freefall to actually fly into them after exiting from a different plane. Wingsuiters can also fly alongside aircraft!
The base jump was real, and he really did ride a motorcycle off a cliff next to a falling airplane!
Flying near the airplane (special effects).
Reality score: 6/10
Big shoutout to Jeb Corliss for this fantastically entertaining and informative video!
Want to live out your movie star dreams with a tandem skydive! You can at Skydive Key West! It’s not such a far-fetched idea, either – scenes from the James Bond movie License to Kill and the action movie Drop Zone with Wesley Snipes were filmed right here! Book your jump with us!
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