One of the best parts about being a fan of something is gushing about our favorite stuff. The memorable moments, the unique ideas, the cool quotes. Who doesn’t want to revel in the minutiae of a thing you love?
But let’s be honest: the REAL best part about being a fan is complaining about all the dumb stuff. The absurd plot choices. The bad dialogue. The silly props and costumes. It doesn’t mean we don’t like it. In fact, we wouldn’t spend this much brainpower on these things if we DIDN’T care deeply. At Mutant Reviewers, we nitpick because we love.
2022 is the SIXTIETH anniversary of the James Bond franchise, and, over the course of twenty-five films and six canonical Bonds, you’d better believe this series has done a lot of dumb stuff. To celebrate the big 6-0, I thought it would be fun to look back at all 25 entries and highlight my favorite dumb thing in each movie.
One note before we dive in: a lot of the Bonds, especially early on, have a bad record on topics like race, sexuality, sexual politics, and consent in general. I’d never pretend they’re not there or let you assume MRFH thinks they’re not worth mentioning. In the context of this list, though, ‘dumb’ requires something that is fun or funny, so these instances have (mostly) been left off the list.
If someone told you that the small Caribbean Island of Crab Key was guarded by a dragon – not a Komodo, but a dragon of the “St. George and the” variety – what would your response be? Would you assume this was a joke or a prank, or would you live your life in fear of an actual fire-breathing dragon? Dr. No is considered to be a grounded spy adventure, yet at least two of our cast members — Bond’s sidekick Quarrel and the oyster diver/Bond girl Honey Ryder — are genuinely afraid of a man-eating dragon on Crab Key. When we DO finally meet the “dragon” and it is clearly a tank with a flamethrower and googly eyes, Quarrel is so overcome with fear that he loses his mind and runs away screaming before being burned alive. Bond’s adventures have taken him many places over the course of 25 films, but never anywhere else that contains freakin’ dragons.
From Russia With Love
Look, I understand that Rosa Klebb and her shoe-knife are an indelible piece of the Bond franchise, but you cannot expect me to take the end of this movie seriously. She looks ridiculous hopping on one foot while Bond fends her off with a desk chair. He is one step away from being Bugs Bunny, holding her at arms-length by her forehead while she angrily swipes at thin air. Iconic? Sure. Dumb? Absolutely.
Operation Grand Slam, Goldfinger’s master plan, involves his personal plane being flown over Fort Knox and releasing a lethal gas that kills everyone in the compound. Very hardcore. Unbeknownst to Goldfinger, however, Bond and Pussy Galore have switched the deadly gas for something harmless, then somehow convinced every single person in Fort Knox to simultaneously fall over and play dead when the plane flew by. However silly Sean Connery is with a duck on his head at the start of this movie, the logistics of this are even sillier.
Thunderball’s famous opening scene has James Bond foiling an enemy operative, Colonel Bouvar, who faked his death and is attending his own funeral disguised as a grieving widow. But how does Bond discover Bouvar’s deception? The “widow” opens her own car door, and that is enough evidence for Bond to punch her directly in the face. The more I think about it, this actually falls in line with Sean Connery’s well-documented feelings on how women should be treated so maybe it’s not as ridiculous as it first appears.
You Only Live Twice
This film is not a favorite of mine and I wasn’t going to rewatch it for this list — sorry, not sorry. Luckily, the dumbest thing in You Only Live Twice is not hard to spot. About a third of the way into the movie, it is decided that Bond, on assignment in Japan, can better infiltrate Blofeld’s volcano hideout if he becomes Japanese. Connery gets a wig, fake eyebrows, a Japanese bride, and even trains to be a ninja. Breakfast At Tiffany’s, eat your heart out.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
So, wait, Bond and Blofeld finally met face to face in the climax of You Only Live Twice, and now, in the very next movie, Bond is undercover and rubbing elbows with Blofeld for an extended period of time… and Blofeld doesn’t recognize him? That Japanese fisherman disguise was better than I thought!
Diamonds Are Forever
During a car chase to evade the Las Vegas PD, 007 turns down a dead-end alley too narrow for a car to fit. How does he evade capture? By hitting a ramp with his driver’s-side wheels, so they lift off the ground and he can drive the car using only the passenger-side wheels to diagonally enter the too-small alleyway. This would be ridiculous enough on its own, but, due to a continuity error during filming, Bond’s car exits the alley driving on the wrong wheels. When the production realized their mistake, the director inserted a shot of Bond spinning the steering wheel as he drove. I don’t have the strongest spatial reasoning skills, but I don’t think this math checks out.
Live and Let Die
The big bad of this adventure, Dr. Kananga (aka Mr. Big), is played with 70s cool by Yaphet Kotto. He’s iconic all the way up to his death scene, which Is also iconic but for all the wrong reasons. During a fight underwater, Bond forces Kananga to swallow a pellet of compressed gas from a shark gun, causing his body to inflate like Violet Beauregarde in a chocolate factory. Kananga turns into a Macy’s Thanksgiving balloon, rocketing to the ceiling and exploding. It is an entirely absurd sequence, and the balloon is one of the single worst movie props I’ve ever seen.
The Man with the Golden Gun
Roger Moore was a very silly Bond, and Golden Gun is probably his silliest outing. Within the rampant goofiness, however, we are given one of the franchise’s best stunts: During a car chase, Bond (and his obnoxious passenger, Sherriff Pepper, who I cannot believe did not get his own entry anywhere on the list) angles his vehicle towards a ravine with a broken bridge. He guns the engine, hits the bridge, corkscrews the car over the cliff, and lands back on his wheels to keep driving. It is an entirely practical effect – a marvel of physics – done in one take by an amazing stunt driver. So why did it make this list? Because the movie’s composer inserted a slide whistle over the jump. A SLIDE WHISTLE. It robs the moment of every shred of dignity and should feel like a slap in the face to every person who worked hard to make it happen. Of all the dumb things on this list, it is the only one that actually makes me angry.
The Spy Who Loved Me
This is one of my favorite James Bond movies, and one of my favorite dumb franchise moments. The production apparently had to do a pickup shot in Egypt after Roger Moore had already left. Rather than bring back the actor all the way from London, they instead insert a painting of James Bond in the shot. It’s easy to miss if you’re not watching for it, but once you notice, its impossible to see anything else.
During yet another long, long, long vehicle chase (I swear that every vehicle chase in this franchise lasts about ten minutes more than it needs to), James Bond uses his Q-Branch spy tech to lift his gondola out of the water of Venice and pilot it through the streets instead. The human crowds are understandably shocked, but not as shocked as a random pigeon, who does a double-take as 007 rolls by. This is the kind of quality content I need more of in my life.
For Your Eyes Only
This is Roger Moore’s most serious film and an overall solid spy flick. The opening of the movie, however, is infamous. It gives us the return of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond’s greatest nemesis! Blofeld had not been seen in years due to an ongoing legal battle about the character, so he is not named in this movie and we never see his face. So why have him here at all? Because Bond needs to take control of a helicopter, scoop Blofeld up in a wheelchair, have him beg for mercy, then get unceremoniously dropped into a smokestack and (presumably) to his death. It’s a weird, discordant start to the movie, and an expensive way to thumb your nose at the guy suing you in court.
I think this is an underrated entry in the Bond franchise, but there is no denying that it is full of some dumb, dumb stuff. Bond dressed as a gorilla. Bond dressed as a crocodile. Bond dressed as a circus clown. After a bit of debate, though, I believe the dumbest thing in this movie occurs just as 007 arrives in India. He enters a crowded market where his local MI-6 contact, Vijay, is posing as a snake charmer. To attract Bond’s attention, Vijay begins playing the James Bond theme song on his pungi flute, which Bond recognizes and responds to. In other words, Monty Norman’s classic Bond tune not only exists within the world of the film, but James Bond is aware of it and understands that it belongs to him. The implications are staggering.
A View to A Kill
Usually regarded as the bottom of the Moore barrel, it is never more apparent how high this movie flies in the dumbosphere as when 57-year-old James Bond snowboards during the opening mountain chase and the soundtrack switches to “California Girls.” Because – haha – its like he’s surfing. I have a lot of love for A View to a Kill, but there’s so little faith in the joke that the production didn’t even spring for the original Beach Boys song – they use a Beach Boys tribute band instead.
The Living Daylights
The Timothy Dalton era brought us a more stripped down, back-to-basics approach to Bond, and I appreciate the grounded plot of The Living Daylights. Unlike so many Bond films, the story and the stakes are clear and easy to follow: 007 goes undercover to escort Kara Milovy, the girlfriend of a double-crossing Russian defector, back to Russia. As he begins to fall for Kara, they must evade the KGB and keep his cover intact so she will lead him to his target. It’s a straightforward and human story – right up until the plot busts its stitches and we’re suddenly knee-deep in Afghani opium smuggling, illicit diamonds, Soviet arms deals, and Bond fighting alongside the Mujahedeen. You were SO CLOSE, movie! How could you go this bonkers in the last reel?
Licence to Kill
TRUCK. CHASE. UGGGGGGHHHHHHHH. 18-wheelers are quite possibly the dullest and least photogenic form of transport, yet Licence to Kill decided to sacrifice every drop of goodwill it earned by climaxing with a 20-minute big rig chase around a mountain. Trust me, you will feel every single minute of this chase. I say again: UGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.
What is up with 006 Alec Trevelyan’s backstory? It feels like it should be straightforward: 006 was an arrogant and disillusioned agent who faked his death and turned to a life of crime. So why do we spend precious minutes – not once, but twice – filling in the audience on the history of the Lienz Cossacks? Making 006 a Cossack doesn’t make Goldeneye any more interesting or meaningful. Maybe it’s just me being a ignorant American, but these scenes grind the movie to a halt and make me feel stupid for missing something the movie thinks is important.
Tomorrow Never Dies
Okay, I’m being selfish with this one. How do you cast TERI HATCHER as a Bond girl in your movie, only to give her three scenes and then kill her off-camera? As a teen boy in the 90s, I strongly protest this decision.
The World is Not Enough
TWINE is one of the most divisive Bonds, but I feel like most everyone agrees about the bad parts. I’m going to skip the low-hanging fruit of Dr. Denise Richards, nuclear physicist; and instead look at 007’s avalanche jacket. Is this the single-most reverse engineered Bond gadget of all time? I’m certain that some of these movies just left a big blank page in the script for the Q Branch scene, then backfilled it in with plot conveniences as they wrote themselves into corners. “Wouldn’t an explosion on the mountain cause an avalanche?” “Well, what if we gave Bond a jacket specifically designed for him to survive avalanches?” “We’re so clever! They’ll never see it coming!” I can’t believe this was written by the same guys who wrote Casino Royale.
Die Another Day
When you want to talk about dumb James Bond, you’ll be spoiled for choices with Die Another Day. It’s got an atrocious theme song, a bad guy with a lightning-powered Iron Man suit, and Halle Berry blithely sassing her way through her role as American spy/Bond girl Jinx Johnson. That said, it’s tough for me to get worked up about the idiocy on display here, since the movie is basically a live-action Looney Tune. If I’m going to call out anything, though, it needs to be 007’s infamous invisible car. Yes, not only does he get an invisible car in this movie, but he drives it around in the snow where he leaves tire tracks all over the place so being invisible doesn’t matter. I don’t care what real-world science you want to throw at me, this is a dumb, dumb, dumb choice. I can’t believe this was written by the same guys who wrote Casino Royale.
I can’t believe this was written by the same guys who wrote The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Casino Royale is widely (and correctly) regarded as one of the best Bond films, but even it can’t escape some dumb stuff. Explain to me how – one hand into the Casino Royale tournament — Bond is allowed to walk away from the table to explain the concept of a “tell” to Vesper and Mathis? How do government agents IN THE MIDDLE OF A MISSION not understand the basics of bluffing?
Quantum of Solace
They shot M and forgot about it. Let me repeat: THEY SHOT M AND FORGOT ABOUT IT. No, really. Early in the movie, M’s bodyguard betrays her to get Mr White out of interrogation. He fires twice: once and he hits another guard, very clearly. Then he fired a second time and we cut to M wilting in pain, then it cuts away again and begins an action set piece. When we revisit M afterwards, she is completely fine and the gunshot is never mentioned again. I know Quantum was filmed during a writer’s strike, but COME ON!
Villainous mastermind Raoul Silva might have the most ambitious plan in Bond history, if only because it relies on a jaw-dropping amount of luck, coincidence, and possibly a Sports Almanac from the future. For example, when Silva is being pursued by Bond, he has had the foresight to not only plan his disguise and route to his target, but to also wire the ceiling of a tunnel with explosives so it blows a hole behind Bond and allows the approaching subway car to plummet into the room and take Bond out. It’s a thrilling moment, but one that requires Silva to know – in advance and down to the second – what his own timing and movements will be at that moment, what Bond’s timing and movements will be at that moment, and how both of those things are going to interact with the London subway schedule. If nothing else, it qualifies Skyfall as one of the great Bond films because you are having so much fun that you won’t notice it’s got plot holes that, well, you could drive a train through.
While it was eventually made clear that Daniel Craig’s Bond isn’t trying to meld with the rest of the franchise, it was baffling to watch Spectre for the first time and discover that Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond’s longtime nemesis and greatest foe, was actually Franz Oberhauser, Bond’s adopted stepbrother who felt jilted by his father when he seemed to prefer Bond over his biological son. Did you catch all that? Oh, and Blofeld is the name Oberhauser adopted once he murdered his father and faked his own death, after which he has been strategically placing all of Bond’s previous foes in his way so Blofeld could become “the architect of all [Bond’s] pain.” Holy melodrama. We’re officially one evil twin away from The Young and the Restless, and the utter fantasy of this plot development has tanked any investment I had in the actual story of the movie. Great job, fellas.
No Time to Die
This movie did the dumbest thing of all: it made me cry. Damnit, Bond! I come to these movies for vehicle chases and big explosions and women being seduced by one-liners and gadgets! And yet, here you are: ruining my good time with compelling character relationships and great acting and a satisfying story arc. This is total crap, movie, and I label you a big, dumb, dummy dumbhead for making me feel feelings.
(What? Did you really think I was going to spoil the plot of the newest movie? Go watch it yourself, ya slacker!)
And that’s it! Sixty years of Bond, sixty years of delightfully dumb decision making. So, what did I miss? What did I get wrong? Should Bond’s fake third nipple have made the list? Or the magical voodoo shaman, Baron Samedi? Let me know!