Famous People Critically Injured In Horrific Accidents

Being rich and famous is everyone's dream (don't deny it). But not even celebrities with six-pack abs and bodyguards are immune from harm. After all, give someone enough money to buy a motorcycle or put them on a movie or TV set that demands dangerous stunts, and you're bound to see a few trips to the emergency room here and there. (Don't worry, they can afford it). 

Fortunately, everyone on this list has made a full recovery. Many have even made the most of the following tragedies by using them to inspire their fans, as the basis of charitable foundations, or to make career changes that paid off big time in the long run. Still, we doubt any of the folks here would want to relive any of the car crashes or movie stunts gone wrong. 

From Gary Busey's terrible motorcycle crash to Harrison Ford ramming his plane into a golf course, these are famous people who were severely injured in horrific accidents. 

Gary Busey

On December 4, 1988, The Hollywood Reporter says "Lethal Weapon" and "Point Break" star Gary Busey was thrown from his motorcycle while joyriding in West Hollywood. That's bad enough, but his decision to ditch the helmet made the resulting injuries even more severe. The actor was swiftly rushed to the hospital, where he claims he died briefly while undergoing emergency surgery. "I went off the bike without a helmet," Busey said to The Guardian, "hit my head into a [curb], split my skull, passed away after brain surgery, and went to the other side." Thankfully, he found a way back to this side, and has continued his career in the decades since.

The accident was a life-changing moment for a couple of reasons. First, per the same article, the resulting head injuries meant he had to relearn how to walk and speak again. This led to his idiosyncratic "Buseyisms" — those impulsive tics and seemingly strange behaviors that everyone should probably stop mocking him for. Second, it turned Busey into an outspoken advocate for motorcycle safety.

"I went to Washington, D.C., and met with someone in President George Herbert Walker Bush's administration," Busey told Ability Magazine. "Parts of what we discussed became the initial language used to create the Traumatic Brain Injury Act that President Clinton signed in 1997." When asked how he feels about the experience now, Busey told The Guardian, "I have a brain disordered in a better direction, because of how it happened and how it recovered. Oh, boy!"

Gloria Estefan

In 1990, Latin American singer Gloria Estefan was on top of the world following a string of '80s hits. But in March of that year, People says the "Anything For You" singer was involved in a horrific crash when a semi-truck slipped on a wintery Pennsylvania highway and slammed into her tour bus. "I was taking a nap on the bus," she told the magazine in a 2020 interview, "trying to be fresh for the show that night, and suddenly I was lying on the floor, not able to stand up, looking up at the ceiling, going, 'What happened?' The pain was excruciating."

Recovery was brutal — Estefan was in a wheelchair for a good bit afterward, recovering from a broken back — but she claims it changed her life for the better. Before the accident, she didn't take her spirituality too seriously. "I went to a Catholic girls' school. We prayed a lot — the Our Father, the Hail Mary — but I couldn't connect because it was just spouting, almost like a meditation," she said. 

"There was definitely a before and after from that accident," said Estefan, who the article says would go on to be awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom and star in the Super Bowl halftime show twice (in 1992 and 1999, per ET). "Maybe this is the reason that I've gone through this; maybe I can be an example to people of how to take control of our lives and get past hurdles."

Bret Michaels

In 1994, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Poison frontman Bret Michaels was having anything but a good time when he slammed his Ferrari into a telephone pole, breaking several bones. VH1's "Behind the Music" (via YouTube) says he'd been bar hopping before getting behind the wheel, and that low blood pressure from diabetes only further impaired the "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" singer's judgment.

No pun intended, but the incident was a sobering experience for Michaels. "I still look at the photos sometimes and I look at that car bent back over itself where my head went through the windshield," he said to VH1. "Like man, it is amazing I'm alive. I broke my ribs, my nose was on the other side of my head, you know. Split my head ... It's weird when you find your own teeth in [sic] the floorboard of the car."

He recovered in time to reach reality TV glory with "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels" (per IMDb), but his troubles weren't over. NBC says he was injured by a falling prop at the 2009 Tonys, forced to undergo emergency appendectomy surgery the next year, barely survived a brain hemorrhage weeks after that, and was diagnosed with a hole in his heart in 2011. Maybe Michaels was supposed to live fast and die young in the '80s and is now living in a "Final Destination" movie? Either way, we're glad he's still with us. 

Christopher Reeve

For millions of people around the world, Christopher Reeve was Superman. He starred in the critically acclaimed movie of the same name in 1978, which got rave reviews from critics, per Rotten Tomatoes. IMDb records he reprised the role several times before hanging up the cape and boots after 1997's "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." By the 1990s, Reeve was looking for new opportunities to showcase his talent and deepen his filmography with more serious work, according to his website.

But fate had other plans. According to a New York Times article released shortly after the May 27, 1995 incident, Reeve was thrown from a horse he'd been riding on and tragically paralyzed from the neck down after "shattering" two bones in his spine. It was initially unclear if he would survive. His website says his injuries were so serious that his own mother even discussed pulling him off life support with his medical team to alleviate his suffering. Reeve did eventually pull through, but his career in Hollywood was all but over, and he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, unable to even turn his head. It was a horrifying turn of events for an actor barely 42 years old, looking forward to a new phase in his career.

But Reeve turned the tragedy into something positive. He formed the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for victims of paralysis, alongside his wife, who stayed by his side through what recovery there was.

Kanye West

These days, you either know Kanye West because of his music or the endless controversies. But as the Netflix documentary "Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy" (summarized in Newsweek) points out, he almost never got the opportunity to revolutionize hip hop (or ... defend Hitler, per The Washington Post). That's because, in 2002, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed violently into an oncoming vehicle. The other driver broke both legs, and West's jaw was broken in three places, necessitating emergency surgery, metal plates, and having his jaw wired shut for weeks.

"I had nasal fractures," West told MTV months later. "I'd be talking to people and my nose would start bleeding. Even to this day, I could start choking because spit will go down the wrong path. That whole area is messed up."

Weirdly, West has since claimed that the accident helped his career. In a 2014 sit down with Interview Magazine, he said, "...the accident gave me the opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. I was a music producer, and everyone was telling me that I had no business becoming a rapper, so it gave me the opportunity to tell everyone, 'Hey, I need some time to recover.' But during that recovery period, I just spent all my time honing my craft and making 'The College Dropout.'" That album, released in 2004, would win the Grammy for Best Rap Album (according to the organization's website), and helped supercharge West's career.

Charlize Theron

Sometimes actors risk life and limb by waiving their right to a stunt double. Far Out Magazine says silent era comic legend Buster Keaton engineered the front of a house to crash around him, only avoiding being crushed because he stood where they measured an open window would fall. He even got knocked unconscious filming a stunt where he swung into a waterfall Tarzan-style. And, of course, People notes that Tom Cruise likes to dangle from planes and leap across rooftops whenever his blockbusters demand it. It's all very cool, but man, is it a dangerous way to earn a living.

Just ask Charlize Theron, who did her own stunts for 2005's "Aeon Flux." While shooting a fight scene, Chicago Tribune says she misstepped attempting to perform some acrobatics in platform shoes and landed hard on her neck. Filming was halted for weeks while she recovered from an injury that was almost much, much worse.

"I was a centimeter away from being completely paralyzed for the rest of my life," the actress told News.com.au. "It was nobody's fault, but it was just a freak accident where I landed on my neck." Although she recovered, she dealt with chronic pain for years. Luckily, the worst of it appears to be behind her. "I ended up having a [neck] fusion four years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did," she continued. "Now my body's functioning perfectly again, and I obviously didn't want to mess that up."

Travis Barker

In August 2021, outlets like Buzzfeed News and NME ran articles about how Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker got on a plane with his now-wife, Kourtney Kardashian. It doesn't sound like a very big deal. After all, a world-famous and very in-demand musician has to tour, right? What does he use to get to gigs, horses?

Thing is, getting on an aircraft was something of a triumph for Barker, who'd avoided planes for years following a terrifying and deadly plane crash in 2008. According to CBS, under-inflated tires caused a Learjet 60 plane, carrying Barker and several other passengers, to crash on the runway while attempting to take off. The plane burst into flames, killing several passengers and wounding Barker. The following year, People said Barker's good friend and fellow passenger Adam Goldstein, more commonly known as DJ AM, died in New York. Since Goldstein was the only other person to make it off that cursed plane, that leaves Barker as the sole living survivor of the crash. As if the poor guy wasn't already going through enough.

He recounted the ordeal to Joe Rogan in 2019. "I was in such a hurry to get out of the plane, and exit the plane, I jumped right into the jet, which is full of fuel. So my whole body lit up." You might think he was exaggerating. But then you hear quotes like, "I [sic] just never think about fire, until you're on fire."

Tracy Morgan

Near-death experiences aren't something people get over very easily. In 2014, People says "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan was involved in a fiery, lethal car accident involving multiple vehicles. The wreck killed his long-time friend and mentor, 62-year-old Uncle Jimmy Mack, and sent Morgan to the hospital in critical condition. Another article on the same site says it went down when a Walmart truck smashed into a limousine Morgan was in on the New Jersey Turnpike.

For five months, Morgan was largely bedridden, and confined to a wheelchair when he wasn't. "I was in a very dark place," he later told Rolling Stone. "I was sitting right here, contemplating suicide. I couldn't walk." On the Today Show, he told host Hoda Kotb that he initially didn't remember the ordeal, but that hospital staff kept him informed as he recovered in those first days after the accident. "It was surreal. They remember everything. I had traumatic brain damage, so I don't remember anything, and they would tell me everything that happened."

When the memories flooded back, it was traumatic. "I got to the bed that I recovered in, and I just dropped to my knees and started crying because everything came before my face: Jimmy Mack, the truck, my friends that was in the car with me ... all of that stuff came right before me."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford doesn't just pretend to know his way around planes and spaceships in the movies – the "Indiana Jones" star has been flying for years, according to Plane and Pilot. And he's not just flying recreationally, either — the article says he's flown real-life wilderness rescues that have saved lives.

But in 2015, he was the one in need of help. The Associated Press says that the then-72-year-old A-lister was injured after crash landing on a California golf course. But it wasn't incompetence that caused the wreck. Quite the opposite, actually — witnesses and aviation vets commended Ford for landing in open ground, even roughly, rather than trying to limp his dying aircraft back to the runway and risk crashing into a populated area. "Another 25 to 30 yards and ... I don't want to think about it. He saved several lives," one witness said, per NBC News. Said a member of the Santa Monica Airport Association (per AP), "I would say that this is an absolutely beautifully executed — what we would call a forced or emergency landing — by an unbelievably well-trained pilot."

AP said his condition was "fair-to-moderate" as he was taken to the hospital. But although he recovered fully, he may have been in worse shape than he initially let on. Ford recalled his injuries to Ellen: "A dislocated right ankle, a shattered pelvis, and a broken back, and a serious bump on the head, and a major laceration."

Justin Theroux

Some people are just born unlucky. Well, we're not sure we can call a successful actor who was romantically involved with Jennifer Anniston "unlucky," but when you see just how many times he's barely escaped death, you'll get what we mean. On an episode of Ellen, Justin Theroux talked about his many injuries while filming "The Leftovers." "I went to the emergency room every single season of this show," he said, before detailing how a botched stunt resulted in a broken nose and torn lip.

Nobody would call those life-threatening injuries. But in another episode, he describes something much more serious. "I had a scooter accident," he said, before confirming that he wasn't wearing a helmet. "...I realize as I'm coming up on the next street that there's no lockup. There's still actual cars going back and forth." He continues, saying he slammed on the brakes and flew sideways off the bike, smashing his head on the ground.

And that wasn't even the worst thing he went through. On yet another Ellen episode, he describes an earlier incident when he got creamed by a van while skateboarding and woke up with amnesia. "I woke up with people all around me. I clearly blacked out for, I think, a long time... I had no clue who I was. I mean, I knew that I was me ... but I couldn't remember my name and I couldn't remember my phone number." Luckily it wore off, and he recovered fully.

Brooke Shields

Actress and model Brooke Shields was just trying to stay in shape when Page Six says she tumbled off a balance board and instantly knew something was wrong. "It felt like it was all in slow motion. And then I just started screaming," Shields told People about the accident. "Sounds came out of me that I've never heard before." She said she was genuinely afraid she was paralyzed and would never walk again, even telling EMTs she couldn't feel her toes when they rushed in with a stretcher. In the hospital, Shields got two metal rods in her leg. But then her injured bone popped out again, necessitating a second surgery involving five more rods and a metal plate to hold everything in place.

She went home to recover about two weeks later, but she wasn't out of the woods just yet. Soon afterward, she was back in the hospital with a serious staph infection that doctors feared could turn septic. To make matters worse, Shields' husband and daughters couldn't even visit her due to Covid restrictions. She remembers feeling helpless: "The feeling of helplessness is shocking," she said. But then she added, "If anything, I'm a fighter."

On February 21, 2021, Shields posted a video to Instagram of herself walking slowly, in a hospital gown, with the use of crutches. "Broke my femur," reads the caption. "Beginning to mend. No matter what your challenge is, make a positive choice, for yourself, to move forward."

Jeremy Renner

US Magazine says that just after New Year 2023, "Hawkeye" and "28 Weeks Later" star Jeremy Renner was severely injured in Nevada while trying to help a family member get a car unstuck after a snowstorm, when his own snowplow ran over him. He was flown to a nearby hospital for traumatic "blunt chest trauma and orthopedic injuries" and remained in "critical but stable condition" even after several surgeries.

Luckily, the 52-year-old has since woken up and posted a few updates on social media to keep fans in the know about his prognosis and recovery. "Thank you all for your kind words," the caption on a January 4 Instagram post. "Im too messed up now to type. But I send love to you all." As of this writing, the post has been liked more than 7.7 million times and has received hundreds of thousands of supportive comments. Several of Renner's MCU costars also expressed sympathies with their injured pal on the post, per Variety, with Chris Hemsworth wishing him a "speedy recovery," and Chris Evans praising him as "tough as nails."

People says Renner updated his Instagram followers with a January 5 story about how his mom and sister helped "lift his spirits" with a "spa day." The next day, he posted another story (also via People) praising the hospital staff who saved his life. "Thank you renowned medical ICU team for beginning this journey," it read, over an image of him surrounded by nurses.