We've all heard horror stories of hellish film productions that went wrong. But what about actual horror stories on movie sets?
We're not talking spiked punch bowls and overblown budgets, but truly inexplicable events that resulted in injuries, fires, and even deaths. The kind of tragic happenings that make you wonder.
Here are several movies where cast members, crew members, and even audience members experienced horrific and dreadful events, so much so that people claimed the films were "cursed."
Note: This article isn't intended to sensationalize the tragic deaths of those involved, nor do we condone using the idea of a "curse" to relieve accountability in face of negligence.
12. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is notable for being one of the longest films to be stuck in development. It took 29 years—from 1989 to 2018—for Terry Gilliam to reach the final cut.
At the start, Gilliam started production despite funding troubles, casting Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp in the lead roles. Little did he know what an arduous journey awaited him!
Storms destroyed sets, Johnny Depp's schedule filled up, John Hurt was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually the project was cancelled. In 2002, a documentary called Lost in La Mancha showed the production woes.
Seventeen years later, Gilliam returned to reboot production on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with a sparkly new cast. This time, he managed to finish it—to lukewarm reviews.
11. Atuk (1963)
You can be forgiven if you've never even heard of Atuk... because this film was so cursed that it never actually got made.
Atuk only survived eight days of production before United Artists filed a lawsuit against actor Sam Kinison, who tried to rewrite the script without permission. Sadly, Kinison then died in a car crash.
Next up, John Belushi was cast to star in this satirical comedy, only to be found dead at the Chateau Marmont, Hollywood.
John Candy then signed up for the part, but died of a heart attack at age 43. Chris Farley was the fourth direct victim of the "Atuk curse," dying of a drug overdose at an even younger age of 33.
The producers decided to call it a day at that point, and the string of deaths quickly turned into an urban legend.
10. The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker won the awe of fans and critics, who marveled at his unrecognizable, utterly insane performance.
Word then got around that his unhinged depiction was so convincing that he actually did go mad, killing himself at 28 years old.
Toxicology reports and documentary I Am Heath Ledger (2017) both show this wasn't the case. Yet, Heath Ledger's untimely death after such a haunting performance still doesn't feel right.
Before this tragedy, Christopher Nolan had lots of other trouble while filming The Dark Knight. Blockbusters of this scale are prone to on-set accidents—especially when you're flipping entire trucks over.
Morgan Freeman was later hospitalized after a car crash, which he had to be pried out of, literally. Christian Bale himself got arrested, too.
9. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Another day, another production hell. Like The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Apocalypse Now got its own documentary on how laborious the production was (called Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse).
Epic war films are always a handful to make, more so when the main cast includes a challenging actor-diva, and even more so when entire sets are destroyed by outside forces.
With Marlon Brando playing the elusive, god-like Army Official (gone rogue) who anchors the entire film, you'd think he'd at least read the book it was based on... or remember his lines... or get fitted in the wardrobe.
Meanwhile, Martin Sheen drank himself into a heart attack and director Francis Ford Coppola had to mortgage his house to finance the film.
Everything went so wrong that it felt suspicious, and Coppola even threatened to commit suicide over it all.
8. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Famed actor James Dean died in an auto-racing accident at just 24 years old. Dean is remembered as more of a cult icon than an esteemed actor, mainly because he never got to produce the greats he'd dreamed of.
Of the three he did manage to make, it was Nicholas Ray's suburban coming-of-age Rebel Without a Cause that remains most hailed.
Sadly, Dean never got to see his masterful performance on the big screen—nor hear the world's praise—because of his accident.
But James Dean wasn't the only cast member to die mysteriously. Co-star Nick Adams died of a drug overdose at 36 and other co-star Sal Mineo was stabbed to death at 37. Another co-star Natalie Wood drowned to death on the way to Catalina under shady circumstances.
One of the stars claimed to see a nuclear flash on set—the same night a warhead was tested in Nevada. Perhaps it was an omen...
7. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
A lot of our picks are horror movies, because what better genre for the gods to curse than the home genre of curses?
Rosemary's Baby is up there among the most iconic horror movies ever made. Roman Polanski's satanic psychological masterpiece depicts the birth of Satan's son, unbeknownst to the mother.
The movie was based on a 1967 novel by Ira Levin, but it didn't come free. The first to pay was the film composer, Krzysztof Komeda, who died in a fall very similar to the way Rosemary's friend does in the movie.
Later, the film's producer was put in a hospital and suffered frightening hallucinations from the movie ("Rosemary, for God's sake, drop the knife!" he reportedly screamed) in his delirium. Safe to say, he never made a Hollywood film again.
Then, of course, the notorious murder of Roman Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate, fresh from her similarly demonic movie Eye of The Devil. By whom? Only the biggest Satanists around: the Manson family.
6. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
The Passion of the Christ didn't seem to get God's permission to be made. Not all miracles are good, and Mel Gibson's biblical epic saw its fair share of many supernatural oddities.
The actor who plays Jesus, Jim Caviezel, was struck by lightning twice, including once during the crucifixion scene. An assistant came to check on him—and got struck, too. What are the odds?
Jim Caviezel seemed to suffer more godly punishment throughout production, including bouts of hypothermia, pneumonia, dislocated bones, migraines, asphyxiation, and accidental whippings.
Some of the cast and crew converted to Catholicism after witnessing these eerie mishaps (out of fear or awe, it's hard to say), including atheist Luca Lionello, who played the infamous Judas himself.
5. The Crow (1994)
Rewriting a script is a tedious practice, but it's even worse when the rewrite is forced due to a tragedy.
The Crow is a dark, grungy superhero film—kind of like a modern Batman film except if Joker himself was Batman. Or, in this case, Crow...man?
Like The Dark Knight's very own Joker, starring actor Brandlon Lee died during production, except this wasn't in an unrelated incident—Brandon Lee was shot to death during one of the scenes. Accidently, of course.
The firearms specialist had gone home early, so was unable to catch the .44 Magnum bullet lodged between the dummies.
Before this awful mortality, director Alex Proyas had previously received a voicemail that "bad things" would happen if he makes this movie. It wasn't long before an electrician had his ears amputated when powerlines set him on fire and left third-degree burns.
Fans have speculated that this particular "curse" goes beyond the film and into Lee's family tree, as his own father Bruce Lee suddenly collapsed and died while filming a movie at 32 years old.
4. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Things went so bad while making Twilight Zone: The Movie that it was put on trial in court.
The original TV anthology series ran from 1959 to 1964, and even that low-key, black-and-white 1960s version was enough to scare the bejesus out of people. But the 1983 movie took things a step further and suggested a "Twilight curse" in fitting with its sinister themes.
The accident involved two illegally hired Vietnamese children (six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen and seven-year-old Myca Dinh Lee) who were killed by a helicopter crash caused by pyrotechnics shooting it down into a river where the kids were waiting.
Some viewers argue a simple—if terrible—case of legal negligence, but the extremity of the case immediately turned it into an urban legend. Not long after, Hollywood instated new safety standards.
3. The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist was—and remains—one of the most famous horror films ever made. The gruesome effects, demonic storyline, and amazing script made it the scariest movie ever made during the 1970s, setting off a chain reaction of satanic horrors in its wake.
But it didn't come without a price. Besides several reports of audience heart attacks in theaters, director William Friedkin had to deal with house fires and even deaths.
Weirdly, only Regan's bedroom—the little girl possessed by the devil—wasn't burnt down to the ground. Linda Blair, who played the little girl, suffered spinal damage from faulty rigs, as did Ellen Burstyn.
Furthermore, two actors died from the flu epidemic in London, and some of Blair's family members passed away before filming finished.
2. Poltergeist (1982)
Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg teamed up to bring us killer clown dolls and ghosts inside TV sets in their Oscar-nominated horror.
Poltergeist follows a suburban middle-class family whose home is built on a burial ground—so, of course, the spirits of the deceased try to take their youngest daughter.
Heather O'Rourke, who played the girl at just six years old, was misdiagnosed with Crohn's Disease and died six years later following a cardiac arrest.
Equally tragic was the death of Dominique Dunne, who played Heather's older sister in the movie. Dominique was strangled by her ex-partner, who left her for dead and only served three-and-a-half years in prison.
A few other cast members from the Poltergeist franchise also died, but from foreseen circumstances.
One thing unrelated to death but still creepy: it's said that Will Sampson (the film's Native American shaman who died shortly after production) supposedly performed a real, successful exorcism.
1. The Omen (1976)
In 2005, John MacLaverty made a 50-minute documentary called The Curse of The Omen that, as expected, explored the curse of The Omen.
The 1970s supernatural horror follows Damien Thorn—the Antichrist—who's swapped with a normal child at birth by his father. It's basically Rosemary's Baby but five years later.
The Omen's producer Harvey Bernhard said "the devil was at work and he didn't want that film made" when things started to get spooky.
Actor Gregory Peck dodged a bullet when he cancelled his flight to the set, with that flight crashing into the pilot's family station wagon. Talk about a chilling coincidence. No passengers survived.
When Peck eventually flew to England later, his plane was struck by lightning. Then, the writer's plane was also hit by lightening two days later! Plus, some cast and crew members never made their dinner reservation—because the restaurant literally blew up.
Next up, the special effects designer's wife was decapitated in a car crash while driving past a town called Ommen... 66.6 kilometers away. And the animal trainer was killed by a baboon the day after shooting his scene.
You'd think Richard Donner would have given up, but he pressed on—and even went on to create three more sequels (though none involving the original crew, who'd definitely had enough).