8 Movies That Put Their Extras Through Hell

Joaquin Phoenix may have been laughing while filming Joker, but the extras certainly weren't...

joker extra
Warner Bros.

On a movie set, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who could be considered unsung heroes, and the dozens of extras peppered throughout each scene definitely fall into that category.

As viewers, we don't really think about how important extras are when it comes to worldbuilding and immersion, but it's no exaggeration to say that they're utterly indispensable. Just think about some of the amazing big-screen moments we've seen in 2021 - like Shang-Chi's final battle, or the bustling city in Free Guy - and try to picture them without all those extras filling out the ranks.

It's just not the same, is it?

Now, extras might be important, but as you can imagine, they aren't exactly treated like movie star royalty. Usually, they're herded onto set, left there for a few hours, and then herded off again, and the life of an extra means you have to suck it up, and deal with whatever circumstances the director has in store for you on any given day.

And unfortunately, these circumstances are often rather horrible, as the extras on these movies found out...

8. Extras Were Burned With Fireballs And Flaming Arrows - Unconquered

joker extra
Paramount Pictures

The 1947 historical epic Unconquered was, at the time, one of the most expensive films ever made. Director Cecil B. DeMille was known for his lavish productions that usually cost a pretty penny to produce, which explains how he was able to pay for around 4,000 extras to take part in the shoot.

Unfortunately though, not all of these extras had a rollicking good time on set. In fact, for some of them, things got a little too hot to handle. Literally.

During a massive battle scene in the movie, DeMille - in a Christopher Nolan-esque desire for unparalleled realism - opted to use hundreds of real fireballs and flaming arrows. These were rained down on the actors like some sort of fiery plague, and as you'd expect, quite a few people were caught in the crossfire.

In particular, nine extras were injured: eight of them suffered painful burns to their skin, and one of them had their hair burned clean off.

Luckily, nobody's life was seriously threatened, and in the end, the movie was nominated for the Best Special Effects Academy Award. DeMille's direction was certainly dangerous, but it did make for a spectacular visual showcase back in the day.


WhoCulture Channel Manager/Doctor Who Editor at WhatCulture. Can confirm that bow ties are cool.