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The Screening Room's top 10 movie stunts

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  • The Screening Room chooses the some of the best stunts ever filmed
  • Buster Keaton is saved by an open window in "Steamboat Bill Jr."
  • James Bond turns bungee jumping into an art form in "GoldenEye"
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By CNN's Mairi Mackay
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- As the saying goes, "Pain is temporary, film is forever" and noone in the movie business knows this better than stuntmen.

Stunt double Terry Leonard performs a hazardous jump from horseback to a truck as Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Hollywood's athletes regularly defy death in pursuit of ever more extreme spectacles to keep us on the edge our cinema seats.

"The Screening Room" takes a look at some of the best stunts ever pulled off -- and a few that didn't end so well.

Don't agree with the list? Think we've missed one? Tell us in the SoundOff box below.

1. "Steamboat Bill, Jr." (Charles Reisner, 1928)
Stunt: Building falls down Stuntman: Buster Keaton

Charlie Chaplin may be better remembered, but no early stuntman was more willing to risk eternal oblivion for a great stunt than Keaton. In perhaps his most perfect stunt, the side of a building crashes down on top of him and Keaton is saved only by an open window that fits neatly around him. The window was built to have clearance of two inches around each shoulder and on the top of his head. As Keaton himself said, "You don't do these things twice."

2. "Stagecoach" (John Ford, 1939)
High speed stagecoach jump Stuntman: Yakima Canutt

Ex-rodeo cowboy Yakima Canutt was probably the first celebrity stuntman, best known as a stunt double for John Wayne. In this stunt -- which has since become a Western classic -- he portrays a galloping warrior during an Indian attack on a stagecoach. He jumps from his own horse to the six-horse team pulling the stagecoach, is shot, falls, and is dragged underneath the fast-moving team and stagecoach.

3. "Ben Hur" (William Wyler, 1959)
Stunt: Chariot race Stuntman: Joe Canutt

Canutt (son of Yakima) doubles for Charlton Heston in the famous chariot race. Half way through, things veer off plan and he is forced down the inside part of the track straight towards a wrecked chariot. When his charito hits, Canutt is flung over the front of the chariot, where he clings before clambering back on. The sequence was completely unplanned but made it into the film because Canutt kept a cool head even though he was injured.

4. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (Stephen Spielberg, 1981)
Stunt: Truck drag Stuntman: Terry Leonard

This intense stunt sequence was so hazardous to perform that veteran stuntman Terry Leonard only agreed to do it if his friend and fellow stuntman Glenn H. Randall Jr. was driving the truck. A ditch was dug underneath the path of the truck to give Leonard enough room to manoeuver. Harrison Ford, an accomplished stuntman in his own right, performed an earlier portion of the sequence, where Indy hung onto the bonnet of the truck only by a bending hood ornament.

5. "GoldenEye" (Martin Campbell, 1995)
Stunt: 750 foot bungee jump Stuntman: Wayne Michaels

This breathtaking Bond stunt was performed at the Verzasca hydro-electric dam in Switzerland and done in one take. Michaels jumped from a specially-constructed platform built to jut out from the dam to prevent him making contact with the front of the dam, which was studded with steel pegs. This, combined with his high falling velocity, could have proved fatal.

6. "Who am I?" (Wo shi shei) (Jackie Chan, 1998)
Stunt: 21-storey slide Stuntman: Jackie Chan

It's almost impossible to choose just one of Chan's stunts, but his faintly slapstick 21-storey slide down the side of a skyscraper is pretty impressive -- even more so when you find out he did it without a harness. He never uses stunt doubles or special effects and as a result has broken just about every bone in his body over the years. Now that's commitment.

7. "Sharky's Machine" (Burt Reynolds, 1981)
Stunt: Free-fall jump Stuntman: Dar Robinson

At 220 feet, legendary stuntman Dar Robinson's jump from Atlanta's Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel remains the highest free-fall stunt ever performed from a building for a commercially-released film. Ironically, despite it being a record-breaking fall, moviegoers only see the briefest moment of the actual stunt in the film. The rest of the fall from the skyscraper is disappointingly a dummy.

8. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (George Roy Hill, 1969)
Stunt: Cliff Leap Stuntmen: Mickey Gilbert/Howard Curtis

Trapped by the Superposse, Butch and Sundance leap from the top of a cliff into the boiling waters of a river below. It's set up nicely with some humorous dialogue: "I can't swim." "Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!" Robert Redford and Paul Newman did jump off the cliff, but landed on a ledge with a mattress about six feet below. The stuntmen jumped off a construction crane at a studio lot obscured by a painting of the cliffs.

9. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (James Cameron, 1991)
Stunt: Motorcycle jump Stuntman: Peter Kent

Stuntman Peter Kent's resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger was the basis of a 14-year association with the ex-action hero. As Schwarzenegger's stunt double he performed the T-101's famous motorbike jump into a massive storm drain. To get the effect, his motorbike was rigged up to a web of one-inch cables, to cut the impact when the bike and rider hit the ground. The cables were later digitally erased.

10. "Deathproof" (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
Stunt: Car chase on bonnet Stuntwoman: Zoë Bell

Bell won an award at the Oscars of the stunt world, the Taurus stunt awards, for this daredevil action piece. She clings precariously to the bonnet of a car going at 85 miles per hour while receiving hits from a second car in a long, climactic chase scene. Bell is a stuntwoman by trade but it's easy to see why Tarantino flouted the unspoken Hollywood convention that stuntmen stay out of the limelight and cast her as the film's lead.

And five tragic stunts that didn't come off ...

Stunts are a dangerous business, and it doesn't always work out. We pay tribute to five brave stunt men and women who fell in the line of duty.

1. "Top Gun" (Tony Scott,1986)

Renowned aerobatic pilot Art Scholl died during the making of "Top Gun" in 1985 after his plane never recovered from a flat spin and plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

2. "The Crow" (Alex Proyas,1994)

Martial arts legend Bruce Lee's son Brandon was shot and killed during a stunt shooting sequence, when the cap of a blank accidentally penetrated his abdomen and lodged in his spine.

3. "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (Joe Dante/John Landis, 1983)

Actor Vic Morrow and child actors Renee Chen and My-ca Dinh Le were instantly killed when a special-effects explosion caused a helicopter to spin out of control and crash down on top of them.

4. "Cannonball Run" (Hal Needham, 1981)

Stuntwoman Heidi Von Beltz was paralysed from the neck down when her sports car crashed head on into a van during a stunt on the set of the film.

5. "Armour of God" (Jackie Chan, 1987)

Chan fell 15 feet while jumping from a wall to a tree branch. He landed hard on his head, causing part of his skull to crack and lodge in his brain. He required major surgery and now has a permanent hole in his head which is filled by a plastic plug.

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