James Bond has been through a lot over the years. Through twenty-four official movies, and a few others, various villains have attempted to kill the seemingly-immortal character by any means you can think of. He’s survived battles on land, sea, in the air, outer space and even inside a volcano.
After a certain point, you have to stop counting all the ways in which he should be dead if you’re going to have a chance of focussing on anything else in the movies. To jog your memory, we’ve compiled a list of ten absurdly deadly situations that Bond should never have been able to walk away from – but did.
10 When he got shot. Twice (Skyfall)
In the blistering opening scene of Sam Mendes’ fiftieth anniversary extravaganza, Bond has to pursue a henchmen who’s stolen a file containing the names of every deep cover NATO agent. The famous scene sees Bond take some bullet shrapnel to the shoulder near the beginning of the chase. Undeterred, he soldiers on, but things only get worse.
The fight ends up, as it almost always does in these situations, with a fist fight on the roof of a moving train. Wounded, Bond is already struggling. When his partner, Eve Moneypenny, runs out of road to follow them on, she’s forced to make a tough decision over an unclean shot. Ordered to shoot, she accidentally hits Bond and he plummets several hundred feet to the river below. You never find out how he got out of that river, or who gave him a patching up (if he even needed one). It’s pretty much just a warm up for Bond.
9 When he got spun at full force in a centrifuge (Moonraker)
When investigating strange goings-on regarding space shuttle development at Drax Industries, Bond is invited to try out their centrifuge for training astronauts in how to handle extreme G-force. When Dr. Holly Goodhead gets called away for a moment, a henchman steps into the control room and rigs the machine to spin at deadly force.
Bond manages to get out of it thanks to a handy dart gun hidden on his wrist. The movie never really explains why shooting a small dart at the panel in front of him in the G-force emulator causes the entire thing to immediately shut down. Nor how Bond’s bones weren’t crushed by the incredible force that turns poor Roger Moore’s face into pancake batter.
8 When he drank poison (Casino Royale)
Representing the British government at a high stakes poker tournament in Montenegro, Bond runs afoul of his target – the super-villain banker known simply as ‘Le Chiffre’. 007 becomes such a hassle for his nemesis that he poisons Bond’s drink. Realizing he’s been given a fatal dose, Bond does a decent job of keeping his cool and following radio instructions for help.
On the verge of death, Bond has to find his way outside to his car and inject a transmitter into his arm to notify MI6 of what’s happening to him. He then has to shock himself with his own personal defibrillator and he only makes it because his partner, Vesper Lynd, shows up at the last second.
7 When Blofeld drilled into his brain (Spectre)
After finally locating the elusive Ernst Stavro Blofeld at his information gathering headquarters in Morocco, Bond is given the full treatment of a lengthy explanation of Blofeld’s plan before a light afternoon of torture. Torture is one of the odd traditions that make up a James Bond story and Blofeld really kicks things up a notch on this outing.
Bound in a hydraulic surgical chair, Blofeld decides to really get into Bond’s head. Literally. He drills into his skull to damage key areas of his brain regarding memory and sense. We’re not neurosurgeons, but we’re pretty sure that, after more than one instance of a villain drilling into your brain, you’re gonna have some permanent damage. But Bond escapes and destroys Blofeld’s entire base within a matter of minutes.
6 When Goldfinger tried to laser him in half (Goldfinger)
Almost certainly the most iconic example of Bond movie torture, if not the most iconic moment from Bond movies in general. The dastardly Auric Goldfinger captures Bond at his lair and proceeds to strap him to a table, legs apart, with a high-powered laser slowly moving upwards towards his crotch. As a concept alone, it’s enough to make anybody shift in their seat a little.
Bond manages to bluff his way out of the situation on barely anything at all, certainly not enough to make Goldfinger do a full 180. But it’s hard to criticize a scene which gave the world one of the most memorable movie exchanges of all time: “Do you expect me to talk?” – “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”
5 When he flipped his car over a river (The Man with the Golden Gun)
Even though its main villain has a giant laser cannon, a gun made out of gold and three nipples, 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun is not the most memorable Bond movie. But the movie’s main stunt has gone on to live in infamy. Of course, the producers knew that it would. That’s why they bought the rights to the corkscrew maneuver when it was first unveiled a few years prior.
The barrel roll car stunt over a river is also remembered as the first movie stunt to be modelled in a computer program first. Despite the intense preparation, there was a lot of skepticism as to whether or not it would work. But the stunt driver nailed it on the first take and secured a £30,000 bonus (around $70,000, at the time).
4 When he wrecked his car at full speed (Casino Royale)
The result of a high-speed pursuit where Bond’s superhuman driving abilities can’t even save him. Chasing Le Chiffre after defeating him at the poker tournament, Bond swerves to avoid a well-placed Vesper Lynd lying in the middle of the road just over a crest. Bond misses her but the car spins out in spectacular fashion and twirls through the air like a ballerina before smashing into the dirt.
The stunt team managed to secure one of the Bond franchise's Guinness World Records for the impressive amount of flips that they got out of the final product, but the spectacular flying of metal and dirt makes Bond's survival all the more unbelievable.
3 When he had his spine bent like an accordion (Thunderball)
Another famous piece of Bond movie torture. This time around, 007 finds himself enjoying a little recuperation when he’s strapped onto a “motorized traction table for stretching the spine.” After his physiotherapist leaves him for fifteen minutes, an agent of the nefarious crime syndicate SPECTRE turns up the machine to max and leaves Bond to die.
The really ridiculous part of this one is that Bond doesn’t even pull off a miraculous escape. He’s just left there with his spine being stretched by mechanical springs until his physiotherapist comes back to save him.
2 When he fell into a frozen lake (Skyfall)
After blowing up his childhood home, Bond is stopped while running over a frozen lake. Seeing no other way out of the situation, he grabs a nearby goon’s gun and causes it to fire into the ice, plummeting them both into the water.
In the pitch black freezing waters, Bond takes the time to strangle his opponent which, underwater, seems a little redundant. By the time he’s done, he can no longer see the opening which he fell through but manages to grab a flare from the dead goon’s body and shoot it up to find the exit. After climbing out, somehow, Bond makes it just in time to kill the bad guy without even a hint of hypothermia or physical damage.
1 When he stopped his own heartbeat (Die Another Day)
James Bond has done a lot of fairly unbelievable stuff over the years. He’s made a lot of impossible shots, pulled off a lot of deadly stunts. There is no moment throughout his fifty-plus year history of being an action badass, however, that inspires quite as much incredulity as when he flatlines his own heartbeat through the sheer power of his own mind in Die Another Day.
Imprisoned on a secure military ship after being returned from North Korean custody following a prisoner exchange, Bond seeks to escape. He does so by lowering his own heart rate to the point of a flatline and then restarting it – again, by himself – a split second before the defibrillators hit his chest.