Over 24 movies spread over a half century and change, the James Bond franchise has left an indelible mark on the minds of millions. We all have a favorite Bond movie, but more than that, there are moments, fragments of these films, that stick in our minds more than others.
Whether it’s firing off an unbeatable quip, taking out some henchmen, or romancing one of the many beautiful women who enter his life, 007 has given us perhaps more great moments than any other movie character – partly due to the character’s longevity, but more than that through the writing, direction, and performances.
These are some of the moments that spring to mind when thinking about Bond and the relationships he’s cultivated over 24 movies. All these moments involve Bond but aren’t necessarily about him. So now that you’ve seen Spectre, his latest adventure, you can see how that film stacks up against his old adventures.
Here are the 11 Best James Bond Scenes of All Time.
11. Bond gets a jetpack – Thunderball
Almost as important to the Bond series as the performances and the quips is the bevy of gadgets 007 puts to his advantage in the field. At the beginning of Thunderball, he gets to use perhaps his most outlandish gizmo.
Bond attends the funeral of Jacques Bouvar, an operative for the global crime syndicate SPECTRE. However, what looks like Bouvar’s widow is actually the supposed dead man in disguise. Bond is quick to see through the ruse and, after following Bouvar to a castle, kills him for real this time.
But there’s seemingly no escape from the château. That is, until 007 straps on a jetpack to flee. He also uses a Aston Martin DB5 in his self-extraction, a car is arguably more important to the overall series, but his jetpack escape is so quintessentially Bond in terms of how ridiculous it is. It’s a terrific way to kick off Thunderball, and a great James Bond moment.
10. The funhouse duel – The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun took some flack over its comedic sensibility. But that approach works quite well in the closing duel between Bond and his opponent Francisco Scaramanga, a dangerous assassin and the owner of the titular weapon.
The battle between the pair plays out in Scaramanga’s funhouse, a venue seemingly custom-built for fights with spies. Scaramanga uses animatronics, video trickery and a hall of mirrors to fool Bond. Yet 007 prevails after standing in the place of a mannequin of himself and using the art of surprise to shoot and kill Scaramanga.
The sequence quite deftly balances the tension and playfulness of the franchise — we don’t truly know where Scaramanga is as Bond navigates the funhouse, and the knowledge the assassin might kill the spy at any moment adds to the nervy atmosphere. However, the layout of the funhouse makes this seem like a bit of a carnival ride, which adds an element of humor to proceedings.
9. Bond goes to space – Moonraker
The Man with the Golden Gun is relatively grounded compared with the hijinks Bond gets up to in Moonraker. The movie is a typical Bond globe-trotting adventure, but when that’s not really enough for audiences any more, there’s only one place to go: outer space.
The villainous Hugo Drax has a plan to reshape Earth in his own image. He takes dozens of men and women with perfect genetics to his space station to protect them while he poisons the rest of humanity. But Bond has other plans, and makes his way to the space station to foil Drax’s plot.
The set up makes logical sense, but it’s still a crazy move to push the tussle between Bond and the villain into space. It smacks of the producers running out of even somewhat realistic places to take the series. For as much as Bond provides bombast and charm, Moonraker is proof positive that the franchise can get stupendously silly as well.
8. Bond’s bride dies – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Shortly after the climactic action scene where Bond rescues Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (better known as Tracy) from the clutches of his archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the pair tie the knot in Portugal. Bond stops the car – an Aston Martin, naturally – to remove chains flowers from the roof and hood. However, Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt take aim at Bond in a drive-by shooting. He’s unscathed, but she’s hit in the head.
It’s a sequence that shows Bond at his most human and emotionally vulnerable. He’s the world’s greatest superspy, but nothing can prepare him for the hammer blow to the heart of seeing his new wife die at the hands of his enemies and becoming a widower so quickly. It’s also that rare moment which ends a Bond movie on a low point for him. It changed the game for what to expect from a James Bond film.
7. The train chase – Octopussy
As we’ve seen in Skyfall, Bond is no stranger to tangling with bad guys on moving trains. Octopussy probably has the best version of the type of showdown from which there is limited escape. Roger Moore is in pursuit of some ne’er-do-wells and a nuclear warhead when it happens in this mid-80s outing.
Once on the train, Bond is soon fleeing some enemies, including Kamal Khan, a key orchestrator in the bomb plot, and a pair of knife-throwing wins. As he evades his opponents, Bond traverses the train across its roof and sides, dodging obstacles that could cause instant death along the way.
It’s a thrilling scene and it works really well as it’s assembled intelligently and it’s a moment of seriousness in a movie that largely plays things tongue-in-cheek. There’s also the notion that watching someone clamber across, around, and underneath a moving train is inherently engaging and nerve-wracking.
6. Bond is poisoned – Casino Royale
One of the rules of a Bond movie is that no matter just how much trouble 007 is in, he will prevail. He cannot die. But on some exceedingly rare occasions, there’s just enough tangible peril to make us think for a nanosecond that the spy may find himself in mortal danger.
Such is the case in Casino Royale, where, during a high-stakes poker game, Bond’s nemesis Le Chiffre poisons him. There’s enough tension in the sequence to cause viewers to hold their breaths for a moment. The chance Bond could die is a brief reality in this new landscape.
Amid everything Casino Royale changed about our perceptions of Bond, we had to contend with a more tangible version of the character, and one that stood a chance of actually perishing, which makes watching the Daniel Craig movies – or at least this first one – infinitely more exciting.
5. Bond leaps from the dam – GoldenEye
In 1995, Martin Campbell reinvented the Bond franchise for the first time, dragging Bond firmly into the ‘90s – before he pulled the same trick years later in Casino Royale. Here, he delivers an action set piece that stands out as perhaps the singularly iconic James Bond stunt.
After the gun-barrel sequence, the movie opens on an enormous dam, the camera affording the construction a massive scale. We see a man running along the top, to its midsection. He drops a rope, and fixes it to the top and his feet. It’s Pierce Brosnan’s Bond. He leaps off, a tiny black figure almost lost against the grey backwash of the dam. The bungee cord decelerates his descent. Bond fires a grappling gun into the base of the dam, and reels himself in so he can infiltrate a hidden chemical weapons plant.
4. Bye, bye, Q – The World is Not Enough
Perhaps the most critical, long-term relationship Bond has formed over these two dozen movies is his partnership with Q, the quartermaster of MI6, who is responsible for hooking up Bond with all the gadgets and vehicles he uses in his missions.
Desmond Llewelyn played Q in almost every Bond movie until The World is Not Enough, his final appearance in the role before his death. His last scene as Q is quite remarkable, as it points towards a retirement for the character and he still gets to go out on a high note.
When Bond asks whether Q is retiring, he replies, “I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.” Bond asks, “And the second?” Q says, “Always have an escape plan.” And with that, he lowers himself through a hole in the floor of his lab.
3. No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die. – Goldfinger
One of Bond’s defining traits is his blistering, witty comebacks. His repartee is almost unparalleled. In Goldfinger, we see Auric Goldfinger go toe-to-toe with him in the wit department. Well, it’s more like waist-to-head, as Goldfinger has Bond strapped to a table, legs splayed apart, with a laser slowly making its way towards his midsection.
Goldfinger warns 007 in choosing his next retort carefully, as it’s likely to prove his last. As Goldfinger is walking away, Bond asks “Do you expect me to talk?” Not missing a beat, Goldfinger replies, “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.”
It’s a moment that shows the importance of having strong, well-drawn villains, and particularly ones that in some way mirror Bond. Goldfinger can ape his wit, and it’s a moment of genuine humor as Bond faces mortal peril. Even better, Bond quickly uses his silver tongue to persuade Goldfinger to turn off the laser a moment later.
2. The Shanghai fight – Skyfall
If ever you needed further evidence Roger Deakins is our greatest living cinematographer, Skyfall provides it in spades. It’s unquestionably the prettiest of the Bond movies, and the Shanghai section provides one of the most visually breathtaking moments in the franchise’s history.
Bond is on the trail of Patrice, a mercenary who is planning an assassination in Shanghai, Patrice manages to shoot his target from a skyscraper, but Bond stops him from leaving and the pair engage in a fight backlit by blue neon lights from outside. Bond eventually prevails, and Patrice falls to his death. The fight takes place almost in silhouette and it looks incredible, from the standpoints of both cinematography and choreography.
1. “Bond. James Bond.” – Dr. No
James Bond’s singular method of introducing himself took root the very first time we see him in his debut movie, Dr. No. He’s shown from behind in a casino, playing baccarat, when he tells another bold player, “I admire your courage, Ms…” She replies, “Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr…”
And then we see the suave agent for the first time, lighting a cigarette as he responds with “Bond. James Bond.” In that one moment, Sean Connery sets the stall for his version of 007: confident, smooth, and unrelentingly masculine. He’s a handsome figure who commands attention. It doesn’t hurt that the classic Bond theme starts to play here.
It’s the moment when we first meet James Bond, and audiences instantly fell in love with this accomplished, dangerous spy. It’s a clear, perfectly pitched establishment of who this man is, as Connery instantly draws the audience’s to him and keeps it there.
Can you think of any other great Bond moments that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!