Ranking the Bond Action Sequences
Oh man, it’s the action sequences. Are you excited? Well you should be, because you’re about to relive many of the best moments of the franchise right now.
Action sequences are the centerpiece of this franchise. And there are a lot of them. The hard part was trying to figure out which ones to list. Originally I was just gonna list 50, but soon realized, “Fuck that, let’s make it 100. There are so many good ones.”
But then I didn’t want to structure it the same way as everything else. That’s not as interesting. So I figured — let’s do it this way — instead of me listing my favorites and TokyoRemix commenting and then listing his list, I figured we’ll just have one list. Since there are so many action sequences, the specific rankings don’t really matter, as long as we all agree they belong in the general area. So TokyoRemix and I both came up with a list that we felt generally put all the action sequences in a place where we both felt they should go. Then, what we did was — we each took half the list. We alternated talking about the sequences. TokyoRemix is doing all the odd numbers, and I’m doing all the even numbers. So I’ll talk about a sequence, then he’ll talk about one, and so on and so forth. That’s how numbers work.
So get ready — it’s pretty great. This is gonna be the best of the supplementary Bond articles, and a great way to lead into tomorrow’s final article (which of course is gonna be the Bond cars).
Ranking the Bond Action Sequences
100. Skyfall sequence #1
99. Skyfall sequence #2
98. Skyfall sequence #3
We’re leaving three spots reserved for Skyfall sequences. They, more than likely, will be on this list, but again, we’re not ranking any Skyfall stuff until we both have seen it.
97. Poppy fields assassination attempt / Bus chase through San Monique (Live and Let Die)
This was an okay chase. It isn’t particularly fast, but there is a double-decker bus involved and Bond does mess up a few cops in the process. And in the poppy field, Bond is attacked for the umpteenth time by a helicopter.
96. Slumber, Inc. (Diamonds Are Forever)
This is here for me because of how fucking terrifying the situation is. Imagine being knocked out (which, if you’re Bond, is like, twice a week) and waking up inside a coffin. You’re possibly buried alive, which is bad. Or — you’re in a fucking CREMATION OVEN! You don’t get out of that. You’re fucked. And that’s terrifying.
And honestly, outside of the fact that we know he can’t die, this is a terrifying situation for Bond to be in. He’s totally fucked. I think that ought to be acknowledged.
95. Helga leaving Bond to die on the plane (You Only Live Twice)
Not bad, but far from perfect. Bond has his arms held down by a pop-out table, I guess. I like to imagine how the conversation went as they were getting into the plane and Helga’s got this huge parachute on while Bond has nothing. “I’m only wearing this because I’m a wuss. But you like to live dangerously, right, James?” “Uh…sure.” Oh, and Mike has to love this sequence because we see the plane going down in flames behind Helga’s chute using REAR PROJECTION!
94. Boat chase / J.W. Pepper (Live and Let Die)
Yeah, this one — I wanted to include this one for a specific reason. Most people, especially those who don’t necessarily like the light-hearted tone of the Roger Moore movies, would say this chase is shit because of the inclusion of Sheriff J.W. Pepper. And I’ll give you half that claim. Pepper certainly isn’t particularly helpful to the quality of the film. However, if you take him out of the chase, the actual chase itself is quite good. The stunt work and driving done with the boats is really great, and the location looks terrific. They just unfortunately cut away from the action too often to show the sheriff and his bullshit, which is why this chase is so far down on the list. But if you focus solely on the action itself, it’s quite an enjoyable chase.
93. Pimpmobile chase (Live and Let Die)
Everyone loves a Pimpmobile. The one used here was a Corvorado, which was a Corvette with El Dorado bodywork done by Dunham Customs. It slides up on Bond’s car, and Whisper shoots a dart at Bond’s driver from his side mirror. Then he takes off. It’s a great trick. Then Bond has to steer the car from the backseat, which is pretty scary. Not riveting, but certainly entertaining.
92. Stealing the bombs (Thunderball)
I gushed over this moment in the movie, of course I was gonna find a way to work it on here. This scene is so great to me. And not even just this moment with the tarp — all of it. Angelo (with Derval’s face) gasses all of the crew members aboard the plane, then Largo has landing lights built into the ocean so Angelo can land the plane. Then the plane sinks to the ocean floor, Largo’s men come and put this tarp over it and steal the bombs that are aboard the plane and leave it so that no one could know where it is from above water. It’s a great scene and shows how well thought out Largo’s plan is. That said, this is totally here because the idea of that tarp protecting anything underwater from being seen is so awesome I just had to put it on this list.
91. Boat chase with Jaws (Moonraker)
Mike and I like this because of Jaws, really. By itself, the chase isn’t that crazy, but once Jaws shows up, you know it’s on. We’ve got mines and machine guns, and Bond’s in a small hydrofoil. Bond goes over the waterfall in a hang glider, letting his boat get demolished (sorry, he’s not sorry, Q) and Jaws goes over the falls in his boat. But he eats those.
90. Sneaking up to see Whyte (Diamonds Are Forever)
Another one I had to put on. This scene legit made me dizzy the way you get dizzy looking up at a skyscraper. I’ve never experienced that before. Not even really in Ghost Protocol (though maybe if I watched it again, I might). I think it’s because everything here happened so slowly, and you’re acutely aware that Bond is dangling over a very tall building (because we saw him slowly take the elevator up it), and he’s just taking his time. That shit was scarier to me than most sequences meant to create tension in this franchise. I think it’s all the opposite angles. Look at how that building is jutting out like that. It’s giving me vertigo just looking at it.
89. Bond vs. Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
Aw, lil fella. It’s kinda cute how Nick Nack holds the knife between his teeth and in his pudgy little fingers. And then he comes OUT THE CEILING! Oh jam. Then Bond puts him in a suitcase and goes back to…what(who)ever he was doing. It’s more of a comic scene than an action scene, but hey. It’s a midget fight.
88. Mountain Climbing (For Your Eyes Only)
I made an executive decision once I decided we were gonna try to get 100 sequences on this list, and that was to get at least one sequence from every film on the list. For parity’s sake. It’s not like we were hurting for spots. It’s like that NFL rule where every team must be represented in the Pro Bowl. On the one hand, it could cut someone off who deserves to be there, but on the other hand, everyone is represented. All this is leading to — there were three films that were in danger of potentially not having a sequence on this list, and this is one of them. (The other two were the next two Roger Moore movies, not surprisingly.) Actually, of all the three, this was the one most in danger. Since, as we’ll see shortly, one of the other two was gonna have a sequence on this list because of — well, you’ll see — and the other was guaranteed to have a sequence because of its location. This one, though — I kind of had to stretch at the outset to make sure it had one on. Turns out, two of the sequences from this film ended up on the list, and TokyoRemix fought hard for one of them (which wasn’t exactly something that needed to happen, since that was a sequence that, when I saw this film for the first time, was pretty much the only thing from it I remembered). But that’s all beside the point. I just like going on tangents.
This sequence is actually pretty good, since it’s really the only time Bond has ever climbed a mountain. Mountain climbing can be made very tense, and has been done quite a bit in some very thrilling films (which we can talk about at another time). This sequence is actually quite solid all around, and really its only downside is the fact that there’s no goddamn way a 54 year old Roger Moore was gonna be able to do the shit Bond does in this sequence. I mean, the fact that there’s an obvious stunt double in that screenshot aside (seriously, it looks like Irma Bunt is doing the scene), it’s pretty well-done. It’s not hard to make mountain-climbing cinematically compelling.
87. Jaws Cable Car (Moonraker)
This reminds me a lot of Where Eagles Dare, which is strange, because that was on a Bavarian cable car at night in the snow. But it’s a potentially scary location with Jaws involved, so that’s always acceptable. It could have been better, but anytime Jaws is around is at least a bit thrilling.
86. Chase up to Harlem (Live and Let Die)
This reminds me of home. That’s why it’s here. It’s shit like this — shots of New York in the 70s, that give this movie flavor. I love this scene.
85. Car Park Sequence (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Just because I find this car offensive doesn’t mean that the scene as a whole is useless. There’s some pretty good action going on, and the henchman are using more than the usual amount of ordinance for a parking garage fight. Dude had a missile. If you can get past the ridiculous gadgets like the wire cutter BMW emblem, the rest is okay. I like the re-inflating tires, especially since that’s possible. The sequence went on for quite awhile, but it was okay.
84. Solitaire checking the cards (Live and Let Die)
It’s not action in the classical sense, but this is a tense scene. Bond’s fucked Solitaire, and now she’s lost her ability to see the cards. Kananga suspects this is the case, so he puts it to the test — Solitaire needs to read the cards, and if she’s right, Bond will be all right. If not, they’ll cut off Bond’s fingers for every wrong answer, and then cut off his dick. I’d call that tense. And then we know she has to get it right without knowing she’s going to, which adds to it. I really like this scene, even though most people wouldn’t even consider this scene for a list like this. But guess what — it’s my list, motherfuckers. Ah, ah!
83. The Spine Stretcher (Thunderball)
Ah. How’s it feel, Sean? Getting stretched out on the rack like your beloved William Wallace? This whole thing looks pretty ridiculous, but Mike and I have discussed it at length, particularly in comparison with the centrifuge scene in Moonraker, which is basically the same idea. The key differences were that he had a reason to be here — the nurse wanted him on it, and he was at the spa to begin with. You have to be restrained for the machine to stretch you, so that makes sense too. The nurse gets him off and he uses the mishap as a pretense for blackmail sex and then he kills the guy that almost got him. Moonraker fails at all of these things. He’s there in a practical capacity and she puts him in the centrifuge? There’s no reason for it. He doesn’t subsequently sleep with Holly or kill Chang, so in comparison, the spine stretcher works a lot better.
82. Barfight / Marlin guy (Licence to Kill)
It’s your standard barfight. There are some nice elements, like Bond getting punched square in the face, and Pam shooting a hole out of the back of the bar so she and Bond can get away (plus Bond fucking nails a guy on the dock from a moving boat, which is pretty nice, despite me making fun of him for hitting that guy and missing Dario from even closer). But the real genius of this scene is the one drunken guy who yanks a stuffed marlin off the wall of the bar and starts waving it at people. He then CHARGES at Bond with the stuffed marlin, and it’s glorious. Absolutely glorious. Because, if you’re in a barfight (for no reason. It started, and you’re just in it, like most true barfights), and there’s a stuffed fish on the wall with a sharp bill, you’re gonna pull it off the wall and charge somebody with it. You just are. And the fact that this guy does it and has nothing to do with this plot makes him my personal hero. They should have written one of those Bud Light “Real American Hero” commercials about this guy.
81. The Doctor (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Aw, Vincent. This is a character we both like a lot because he’s unique and he’s Vincent Schiavelli. He’s very convincing with the bit about being very good at what he does, and he’s pointing the gun right at Bond when the phone call comes. Lucky timing.
80. Bonesaw fight (Octopussy)
BONESAW IS READY!
Seriously, this is only here because we gave this guy the name Bonesaw and it stuck. Plus, there’s no other sequence in Octopussy that even merits talking about. They’re all ridiculous. At least this one has Bonesaw and an octopus face-fucking a guy. But seriously — it’s all about Bonesaw.
79. Vegas chase (Diamonds Are Forever)
This isn’t a bad chase. It’s reasonably interesting and there’s that part where the car goes on two wheels. In terms of Bond car chases, this is middle of the pack, but they gave it a shot and it was pretty interesting. Nice sound out of that engine, too.
78. Zukovsky’s Caviar factory (The World Is Not Enough)
I enjoy this sequence. I know TokyoRemix doesn’t like it for various reasons (destruction of the Bond car, Zukovsky floating in his own caviar), but I enjoy it. I enjoy it because, as a set piece, it’s quite good. In a purely conceptual sense, this is a great sequence. Here’s a limited space (which they had to build from scratch), in an interesting location, and now let’s choreograph a helicopter chase around it. That’s terrific to me. I think it’s such a well-choreographed sequence, and is pretty entertaining to boot. I think it works. I almost want to put it higher, but that’s because I’m so personally fond of it, not because it’s a particularly amazing sequence. It’s just good.
77. Plane sequence (Quantum of Solace)
I have mixed feelings about this sequence. This is the sequence that really messed up Quantum for me. With something better in its place, it would have jumped a spot or two for me. That said, it’s still a pretty good action sequence as the franchise goes. Bond and Camille are in a Douglas DC-3 when they get attacked by a Bolivian fighter. It’s an old-fashioned dogfight (as opposed to a Michael Vick dogfight) in that the Bolivian fighter only has machine guns and the whole thing is taking place at below 200 knots. Bond’s method for taking out the fighter is to gun the smoking engine to obscure the guy’s view and then force him lower and lower into the side of a cliff. Don’t buy it. Then, since they need to get out of the plane, he puts it on the ceiling with only one engine, until that one cuts. Then they jump out with one parachute and manage to open it just short of the bottom of the sinkhole they fall into. Like I said, it’s better than a lot of the action in other movies — if Roger Moore had done this, I’d have been thrilled — but it was Quantum of Solace‘s weak point.
76. Koskov’s “defection” (The Living Daylights)
Oh, I love this sequence. I love it because I love hardcore Cold War spy movies. John Le Carre shit. There’s nothing more suspenseful to me than an atmosphere where no one can be trusted and everything’s a threat, and people having to sneak out of a country without being detected. That’s drama. Forget the fact that Koskov isn’t defecting for real — this is a great sequence. Bond’s there with a sniper rifle, ready to cover in case someone knows about the defection and is gonna take a shot at him. He sees Kara, decides she isn’t a threat and scares “the living daylights out of her” by shooting her rifle, then taks over Saunders’ escape plan and brings Koskov to a pipeline that’s also used as an escape route. It’s one of those scenes I wish they spent more time on, because seriously, I could watch ninety minutes of just that. (Imagine that movie. A real-time movie about someone escaping/defecting from East Berlin into the west. And it’s totally from their point of view, so it’s tense as shit, because you have no idea what’s gonna happen and if anyone knows. I’d pay to see that movie. I really would.)
75. Boat Chase (Quantum of Solace)
This was a pretty decent scene. Bond makes a bunch of awesome jumps on his motorcycle and finally lands on a little outboard skiff. The whole thing really kicks off when he pulls a Syriana and rams into General Medrano’s big motor yacht. Suddenly there are henchmen everywhere in fast boats, and Bond has to sort of fight Camille while avoiding them and navigating the harbor. There’s a particularly good bit when he flips a henchman’s boat by snagging it with a hook. Nice scene. And then everything quiets down and Bond straightens out the boat with his legs planted and Camille passed out on the floor.
74. Ski chase / Avalanche (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
The second ski chase in this movie. Not as good as the first one, but it has its moments. It starts off with Bond and Tracy, newly engaged, skiing happily (which they used as a template for The World Is Not Enough skiing scene with Bond and Elektra), and then Blofeld, who is still looking for Bond from the night before, finds them, and there’s a chase. There’s the section in the photo, with the snow excavator and the henchman falling into it, and then it ends with Blofeld leading Bond and Tracy into the avalanche area and setting off an avalanche. And honestly, any sequence that ends with an avalanche is all right by me. Honestly, that’s the thrilling part for me. When is an avalanche not worth seeing?
73. Showdown on plane (Goldfinger)
Pussy knew a lot about planes and at least something about guns. Goldfinger doesn’t. Bond gets on a Lockheed JetStar (the same model as Goldfinger’s — wouldn’t that have been a clue?) to go visit the president of the US, but it’s GOLDFINGER, BITCHES! He’s got his golden gun (eat your heart out, Scaramanga) and ends up firing it through a window. The cabin depressurizes, and Goldfinger is sucked out the window to his death. Ouch. Bond then finds Pussy (like he ever has to look) struggling at the controls and we get a bit nervous they won’t make it. Nice little shot of the government guys looking at the plane going down on the radar. It’s tense, but not too tense, and not too long. This is a good place for it.
72. Final boat chase (From Russia with Love)
A bit anticlimactic, but it works. I like how this film builds and builds and builds, and then it’s boom, boom, boom, boom, action sequences in a row. We get the Grant fight on the train, then they get off, then the helicopter chase the next day, and they get away and get on the boat, and then there’s this boat chase. Like I said, it’s mostly anticlimactic, but it does feature Bond losing the boats behind a wall of fire, and back in 1963, that’s pretty great. Boat chases would get more complex after this, but this one, in its simplicity, still packs quite a punch.
71. Battle on the Liparus (The Spy Who Loved Me)
This is a cool fight if only for the fact that it takes place on a boat. T Pain! Stromberg has a basically impregnable control room that nobody can get into. Then again, if anyone can impregnate something, it’s James. He rides a thing on a thing to get to the wall without being shot as the submarine crews he freed take on Stromberg’s henchmen. There’s a lot of gunfire and more than the usual number of grenades, especially for a confined space that’s floating.
70. Jaws at the Pyramids (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Mostly because this is the scene that really establishes Jaws as a villain. Sandor’s already been dispatched, and here’s Jaws out on the lookout for Fakkesh. Fakkesh sees him and flees, and Bond wonders what the fuck is going on. Jaws stalks Fakkesh into some of the ruins, biting off a padlock in the process (the first time we see him use those pearly silvers), and then biting Fakkesh’s throat. Then Bond catches up to him and Jaws, like a badass, disappears out of nowhere. Seriously, lights go out for like a second, they come back up, and Jaws, a 7’2” man, is totally gone, with no trace left. That’s pretty fucking great. Plus — the setting is so great, as are the colors. Watch this sequence, it’s pretty great. You wouldn’t immediately think of it as a great scene, but it’s pretty memorable.
69. Final fight with Klebb (From Russia with Love)
This isn’t the most exciting sequence we’ve ever seen, but it has a special place in our hearts because it occurs after everything is supposed to have been resolved. Klebb shows up in Bond and Tanya’s hotel room disguised as a maid and tries to steal the Lektor. When Bond recognizes her, she pops out her shoe blade and tries to kick him. Keep in mind, Ian Fleming originally intended this scene to be the end of James Bond. But Bond blocks her with a chair and even though she gets the drop on him with a gun, Tanya intervenes. We’re also presented with the final choice for Tanya — to kill Klebb, who she still thinks she’s working for, or Bond, who…dick magic. And you know…dick magic prevailed.
68. Jaws fight on the train (The Spy Who Loved Me)
If I’m counting correctly, this is our third train fight of the franchise. The first was the Red Grant fight, the second was the Tee Hee fight, and this is the third one. What happens is, Bond and XXX are traveling to Sardinia to Stromberg’s base, and are in the middle of the whole sexual tension phase. They have separate rooms, and both are waiting for the other one to enter their room again so they can fuck. And XXX opens the closet in her room, and — Jaws. The great thing about this moment is — this is the fourth time we’ve seen Jaws. First was at the pyramids, second was when he killed Max Kalba at his club, and then third was the encounter at the ruins. And then they go on their way, having forgotten about them, and he shows up… what’s that Drax line… “With the inevitability of an unwanted season.” It’s great. It’s so exciting when Jaws shows up. Plus, this is actually a pretty great train fight. Bond is so clearly outmatched he has to figure out a way to get out of it, and it’s really the only time we see him use Jaws’s teeth against him. And then there’s that great tag after Jaws is thrown off the train where he gets up and straightens his suit like it was nothing. Train fights are always fun.
67. Ninja Assassin (You Only Live Twice)
This is when Aki died. I live in Japan, and everyone here knows to never sleep under a skylight or window because you’re just asking for a ninja to kill you. Basically, Bond is having ninja training at Tiger’s ninja school (awesome.) near Himeji Castle and he and Aki put on the Sisqo CD one last time before he has to go “marry” another Japanese chick. As they lay on the futon, a ninja creeps up to an opening in the roof and unrolls a string down to Bond’s mouth. A trickle of poison comes down the sting and Bond, knowing unconsciously that he was in danger, rolled over to let Aki take the hit. Ninjas are deadly, man. Then Bond wakes up and fires a shot.
66. Opening Sequence (Licence to Kill)
It’s memorable. That’s really it. It’s a great opening sequence for the film. It begins with the DEA tracking a plane carrying Franz Sanchez, a major drug dealer, and radioing in to their man in Key West — Felix Leiter. Only, Felix is on his way to the church to get married, and his friend Bond is his best man. So they detour, fly down to take down Sanchez, there’s a little action sequence (we’ll ignore the hilariously bad slow motion shot), which is a lot of fun, and then Sanchez flies away on a plane, and Bond and Felix catch him and fly the plane (attached to the end of a helicopter) to the church, and skydive off of it to make a grand entrance. It’s pretty great. In terms of franchise action sequences, it’s definitely one of the more memorable ones, plus it sets up the plot of the rest of the film perfectly. I’m a big fan of this one.
65. Escape from Largo’s house / Shark tank (Thunderball)
Bond gets Largo’s henchmen shooting at each other and then gets locked in a pool full of sharks with a henchman. Sharks.
64. Golden Gate showdown (A View to a Kill)
It’s a showdown on the Golden Gate bridge. That’s awesome on its own. And I didn’t even have to mention that it’s against Christopher Walken.
63. Opening sequence (Goldfinger)
While this is clearly one of the missions that Bond is just phoning in, it is pretty cool. Nice sets, a big explosion that Bond acts all suave about, a chick he’s clearly sleeping with and a guy that gets electrocuted. Shocking. Positively shocking.
62. Opening sequence (Thunderball)
It’s a love/hate, with this one. It begins irising out on a casket with the initials “JB.” For Jacques Bouvar, a colonel who killed some of Bonds friends (six?) and has now died himself. Bond shows up to the funeral like it’s Charles Lampert, wanting to make sure the fuck is dead, lamenting he didn’t get the chance to kill the guy himself. Then, as he’s leaving, he notices the Colonel’s widow get into her car and follows her. Back at her house, Bond is waiting and punches her in the face. Why? Because it’s actually Colonel Bouvar, trying to fake his own death. So they have a fight, which is a pretty decent fight that’s poorly edited, and then Bond snaps the colonel’s neck and throws some flowers on him (which is one of those great Bond touches). Then he has to escape, runs outside onto the roof, where a jet pack is waiting. This is the part of the scene that’s pretty ridiculous, though I imagine at the time it was pretty exciting. And then he flies back down to his car, where his tricked out DB5 is waiting. Bouvar’s men start shooting, but Bond puts up the bulletproof metal plate in back and then sprays then with some water jets attached to the back mufflers. Strangely, I like that aspect of the sequence. Really it’s the jet pack that makes it seem a bit ridiculous. But other than that, the sequence on the whole is really solid.
61. Showdown with Alec (GoldenEye)
I always thought this could have been better. It felt like a bit of an anticlimactic ending for such an amazing Bond movie. They exchange fire on the catwalks, then they fight in the gear house, and then there’s the showdown on the dangly thing. Bond drops Alec to his death after catching him. I mean, it’s great by franchise standards, but I was expecting more.
60. Slate fight (Quantum of Solace)
I almost docked this because it’s basically a Bourne fight, but you know what — it fucking works. It really does. Bond enters this apartment, Slate attacks him, and they just fight. It’s a thrilling 90-second fight scene. No dialogue, no score, just fighting. What’s great about it is that you’re expecting this to be a scene where Bond and Slate fight, maybe Slate escapes and Bond chases him in a car, or Bond makes him talk about who he’s working for — no, none of that. They fight, and Bond stabs him in the neck with a piece of glass, and Slate dies. This leads to three great moments. First, Bond staring at him, patiently waiting for him to die, his pulse not going above 85, then Bond calmly cleaning himself up like it’s nothing and that reverse shot of Slate just laying there, dead, and then that great line where he calls M and says Slate was a “dead end,” and M immediately goes, “Damn it, he killed him!” While I wasn’t particularly crazy about the scene when I first saw it, I think it works. I mean, it’s clearly Bourne, but since these types of scenes are Craig’s M.O., I’m cool with it. It’s so well done.
59. Elektra’s torture device / Zukovsky (The World Is Not Enough)
Oh man. This was pretty good, huh? Elektra straps Bond into a special chair that was apparently excavated nearby — which, wouldn’t it be all old and not work and stuff? Ah, never mind. Anyway, It has a neck restraint, and as Elektra twists a crank, a metal piston is driven into Bond’s nape, the idea being that after one turn too many, it’ll snap his neck. It’s a great scene because they put the dialogue over the tension and interlaced it so that every jab he takes at her has a consequence. She’s temperamental and twists when she gets particularly angry. The real fun occurs when Zukovsky arrives, is shot by Elektra, and pulls out his cane gun. He points it at Elektra, who stands there dumbfounded, but then he turns it to Bond, and shoots off one the wrist restraints. Elektra doesn’t get it and thinks Zukovsky was trying to kill him, but SHE WON’T BE SO SMART IN A FEW MINUTES, WILL SHE? Great scene, even though our beloved Valentin had to die.
58. Final chase with Blofeld / Bobsled (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
The reason this made it so high for me is because, when it first happened in the film, I went, “Really? That’s where you’re going?” But then a few minutes in, I realized that I was actually very interested in what was going on and was really enjoying the chase. Plus, by that point, they’d had two ski chases and a car chase, not to mention a raid on a hideout, so there were really only so many options they could have gone to. You can’t exactly do a boat chase on snow. And you can’t have him get into a plane, since they can only get up there by helicopters. Personally, my choice would have been to have them fighting on a frozen lake. But Blofeld isn’t a physical type, so that wouldn’t have made sense, character-wise. (Though how great would it have been if Bond and a villain were fist-fighting on a frozen lake that could crack at any moment?) So I get the bobsled chase. And, all things considered, it works. Plus Bond actually comes really close to actually killing Blofeld, which would have been huge (especially since, you know, the next two times we see him after this… well, you know). Maybe I put this a bit higher than it should have been, but meh. Too late to fuck around with the list.
57. Stealing the Lektor (From Russia with Love)
Russian clocks are ALWAYS correct. Yeah, and in Soviet Russia, embassies bomb you. Luckily, this is Istanbul, so Bond bombs the Russian building and catches Tanya by surprise — it’s a day earlier than he had told her. Good thinking. In all the confusion, he’s able to get into the back where they keep the Lektor and make the sausage, and then he and Tanya make an escape underground with Kerim. They make it to the train station, where they’re spotted and followed.
56. Opening sequence (The Living Daylights)
Conceptually, this could have been one of the best openings of the franchise. There’s an MI6 training exercise, and a fake double-o starts actually killing off the real double-os. So Bond chases the dude down and kills him. And then he ends up on a yacht with a beautiful woman and fucks her. Amazing set up, right? Unfortunately this sequence is merely just pretty good. It’s not great. I think it’s because it’s the Dalton era, and their priorities got shifted. Or maybe it’s because I’m thinking about how great this sequence could have been if they did it in the Brosnan or Craig eras.
55. Being “taken for a ride” by Mr. Jones (Dr. No)
This pretty much had to go on the list. It’s Bond’s first encounter with a henchman, and he handles it marvelously. First, he spots that this guy is clearly a bad egg and confirms with his boys at Government House. They go for the ride, and Bond plays along enough to get him to lose Felix, tailing them. But once the car stops, it’s hands up and judo time. Connery kicks the absolute shit out of this guy with ease. Before the guy talks, he gets a cigarette and chomps down — it’s cyanide. HOW MUCH MORE “SPY” CAN YOU GET? The answer? Not a whole lot. This is a classic. Bond also brings back the corpse, cause that’s fun.
54. Opening sequence / Beach fight (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
I’m a self-admitted huge fan of this opening sequence, outside of the horrible final line which can’t be helped, so we won’t mention it. I like that it’s so Bond. Bond has disappeared after a mission and is on a bender, which is a very Bond thing to do. He’s off, drinking his pain away. And he randomly drives around the beach until he sees a nice car left unattended. So he stops his car and looks around, curious. And he sees a hot woman out by the water. So he sits there, drinking from the bottle and watching her. When suddenly she tries to kill herself. So he drives out there and pulls her out of the water. That’s when two henchmen show up and pull a gun on him. We don’t know, but they’re sent by her father to bring her back home. But we don’t know. Bond then starts a fight with them, a fight I’m a huge fan of. Look at that shot up there. What a great image. But yeah, I’m a big fan of this one. I guess it’s the setting that makes it work for me, since it does kind of come out of nowhere when you watch the film for the first time.
53. “Motoring” with Onatopp (GoldenEye)
I think I was going to put this higher than Mike would have, but I see why it would go here. This isn’t a particularly thrilling scene, I was just very impressed with it. While Bond is driving his Aston Martin DB5 outside of Monte Carlo with an MI6 psychologist (Caroline) in the car, Xenia Onatopp shows up in a Ferrari F355 GTS. The race is on. There’s cutting of corners, power sliding, skidding, spinning, and a lot of great engine noise. Famke Janssen did all her own driving, which is doubly impressive. The tune over it might as well be a porn score, but then again, it was 1995. Anyway, I love this scene for the location, the cars, and the obvious care that I can tell went into the stunts and the driving. Well executed.
52. Opening sequence (The Man with the Golden Gun)
I’m torn between the two times we get to see Scaramanga’s fun house. They’re both incredible, but for different reasons. I’ll explain why this one came first when I get to the other one. But this scene — it’s the first scene in the movie. Scaramanga’s lounging on a beach, we don’t know who he is or what’s going on. Nick Nack brings him some champagne and then sneaks off as a dude arrives at the island. He pays the dude money to kill Scaramanga. Then Scaramanga realizes it, and we find out it’s a game he and Nick Nack play. Then Scaramanga leads the dude into this specially designed fun house wherein he kills him. And we have no idea what the fuck is going on throughout. And then Scaramanga turns to a wax statue of Bond that he has and shoots it, alerting us to what the main plot of the film is going to be. It’s a great opening sequence to the film, and adds to the second encounter we have at Scaramanga’s fun house.
51. Car chase with the Three Blind Mice (Dr. No)
What does Mike love? Rear projection. It’s Bond’s first car chase — he’s in a Sunbeam Alpine, being chased by a LaSalle Hearse. It’s a comical pairing, but it kind of works. Keep in mind, this was an era during which “sports” cars were usually just lighter than normal cars, not necessarily more powerful. So it make sense that Bond is taking the corners well as the LaSalle is straining at its suspension. Finally, we get to the end of the chase, where Bond goes under a piece of construction equipment and the hearse goes off the road and down the ravine, exploding. Bond gets to use the quip, “I think they were on their way to a funeral.”
50. Opening sequence (Tomorrow Never Dies)
This spot felt perfect for this sequence. Because, on the one hand, it’s a very solid opening sequence. And on the other hand, I don’t love it. It feels too generic action for me, like most of this movie does. There’s a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border (and Achmed is being notoriously stingy on his prices, as always), and MI6 is peeking in. Bond is there undercover. Then MI6 decides to fire a missile at it and take care of all the bad eggs while they’re in the basket, only there’s a nuclear weapon there that they didn’t see. So Bond has to get that plane out of there or else it’ll make “Chernobyl look like a picnic.” And he shoots up the place, steals the plane and flies away, and then there’s another plane chasing him down, and the guy he knocked out to steal the plane wakes up and tries to garrote him, and he ejects that guy into the other plane and everything works out all right. It’s a perfectly acceptable, and even pretty entertaining, sequence. I just — it doesn’t grab me like a lot of the other ones do.
49. Gypsy camp raid (From Russia with Love)
You kind of have to put the gypsy camp raid up here somewhere. It’s just mayhem. Shit getting messed up. This is like the Bond franchise’s scene of Orson Welles trashing that room in Citizen Kane. Like someone said, “Shit is too calm around here. Pandemonium!” So Bond and Kerim are at the gypsy camp watching the feud between the two ladies when bad guys show up and start wrecking up the place. Kerim is shot in the arm, Bond saves the gypsy leader (and flips a table!) before almost being killed himself. We get to see Robert Shaw kill the guy that was gonna kill Bond. But it’s so fun. There’s horses and everyone has revolvers, so it feels like a western. And in the background is the “007 Theme” — not the James Bond Theme with the guitar. It’s the first time we hear that song, which was used again in Thunderball‘s underwater battle and three other films.
48. Showdown in Dr. No’s control room (Dr. No)
The first showdown at the villain’s hideout. It’s pretty great. Mostly owing to some amazing sets. Since what actually happens here is — we pan around the sets, show them off, then Bond sneaks around without being noticed at all, fucks shit up, fights a henchman or two, everyone breaks out, Bond fights Dr. No, drops him into the reactor and goes off to rescue Honey and escape. It’s definitely not the most exciting of action sequences, especially nowadays, but the sets look great, and it pretty much sets the template for all the hideout showdowns to come. Plus, honestly, I enjoy this showdown a lot more than most of the other sequences because it’s the first one. (And again — those sets. Put anything on those sets and I’ll enjoy it.)
47. Chase through the mountains (Goldfinger)
Tilly has a Mustang, which was brand new. Bond is in his Aston. We race awhile, Bond deploys his Ben Hur scythes and ruins her car. She goes off the road in a fantastic turn and decelerates way too fast for us not to realize the film was manipulated. Doesn’t matter. The cars look great, and this is our first proper car chase/rase in the franchise with two awesome cars.
46. Ninja volcano raid (You Only Live Twice)
Full scale mayhem. Everything about this scene is so great I had to put it here. Think about it — hollowed out volcano hideout. It has a fake lake atop it that doubles as a retractable roof for shuttle launches and helicopter landings. An army of ninjas comes in and raids the place. It’s fucking great. The Connery Bond movies were so great with these full-scale mayhem scenes, because they came during a time when you couldn’t do the kind of shit that you could do today — today the battles would be a lot bloodier and stuff. Here it’s just, one bullet and a guy goes down, grenades landing five feet away and stunt falls, shit like that. People hitting each other with guns. It’s 60s stuff. And that makes it better to me than people getting mowed down with machine guns. Plus you get Bond’s fight with Hans and his stopping the shuttle from stealing another spaceship intercut with the battle, which makes it even better, since it’s not just constant mayhem. We get the highlights. Big fan of this one. (How can you not be? It’s a NINJA RAID!)
45. Car chase / Helicopter chase (You Only Live Twice)
This makes it as high as it did because of the car, really. Bond escapes death when Aki pulls up in a flash and tells him to get down. He hops in and she does the driving, with a car full of bad guys in tow. That engine sounded so good. They go flying through back alleys in residential Tokyo (which looked and sounded great) until they get to a thoroughfare. Aki calls Tiger and asks for the “usual reception.” Turns out that’s a helicopter with a giant magnet on it that picks up the bad guys’ car and dumps them in Tokyo Bay. Leave it to the Japanese to come up with something techie.
44. Bond’s “assassination” (You Only Live Twice)
Because it’s the opening of the movie, and Bond gets fucking killed. I’d say that’s a pretty great action sequence. Think about it, the film is starting, and we see a spaceship get captured. Something has to be done. Where’s Bond? Fucking a woman in Hong Kong. We’ve seen this before. But then she hits a switch and the murphy bed folds up into the wall, and in come two gunmen who just annihilate that bed. And when it comes back down, Bond is dead. Opening credits.
How is that not a thrilling start to a movie? I mean, we know he can’t die, but — still, it’s a great scene.
43. Ski chase (For Your Eyes Only)
This was one I fought for a bit, and you know if I’m sticking up for For Your Eyes Only, it must be worth it. I had to say, when I rewatched the film this time that I was impressed with this chase. Honestly, if only for the motorcycle stunt guys, this was a solid piece of work. First of all, that kind of riding on snow is no joke. But they did jumps, stunt falls, broke through a deck railing and even rode down a luge track. Those guys put in work, and it showed. I wasn’t blown away by the skiing, but it was pretty good, and we got a bunch of stunts, some tricky jumps and that one enormous Olympic jump. All in all, a good sequence.
42. Drive-by / Car chase / Stock car (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Huge fan of this one. For many reasons. First, we just had a chase, and a good one at that. And Bond escapes into town and meets Tracy. And you think, “Oh, so now they’re gonna reconnect.” And Bond goes to call into MI6, but then, boom, drive-by. Action sequence starts again. Bond gets in the car, Tracy is driving, and they drive up the mountain roads away from Blofeld’s men. Then they end up on a stock car course, which comes out of nowhere, and yet, like many of the chases in this movie, works despite its implausibility. The thing I love most about this scene is that Tracy is driving. That actually makes me care less about the chase and more about the interplay between Bond and Tracy during the scene (which is terrific). I thought I was the only one who liked this scene, but even when it came up in the article, TokyoRemix mentioned how impressed he was that Tracy does some solid driving in a car that’s not the easiest to control. Which was really enough for me to put this as high as I have. Mostly I like when action scenes also manage to work in some character development/character moments. In Bond it’s really not that often an occurrence.
41. Sex fight with Onatopp (GoldenEye)
Nothing like a nice, relaxing swim in a classy hotel. I guess it was in Russia, too, huh? Bond notices Xenia pop into the steam room, so he goes to join her, hoping to get her to tell him where Janus is. She wants to play, and they get a little…intimate. She bites his lip and then gets him in her crazy hip lock, so he starts to suffocate. At around this time a henchman comes in to help, so he picks her up and burns her ass on the steam vent, knocking the henchman out with a bucket. “No more foreplay. Take me to Janus.” Oh yes, we like this a lot. She was PISSED.
40. Opening / Boat chase (The World Is Not Enough)
This opening was tricky, since it’s about 14 minutes long or something and features two action sequences. I don’t care about the bank scene so much as I care about the part after King is killed and Cigar Girl starts firing from her boat. That’s the part that’s exciting. (Imagine if they went with their original plan, which was to start the credits after the bank sequence, how bad that opening would have been.) Bond gets in Q’s retirement boat and chases after Cigar Girl. There’s a lot of great stunt driving, and there’s that great moment the boat dies and Bond fixes his tie underwater. Then there’s the interlude where Bond drives the boat on land to make up lost ground, and drives through canals, leading to this great moment that’s up there in the screenshot. And then it ends on a fucking hot air balloon. Any sequence that ends in a hot air balloon…
Actually, never mind. Octopussy sort of ends in a hot air balloon. This sequence is awesome, though.
39. Car / Helicopter chase (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Unfortunately, this was the only good shot we had of the car as a car, but you’ll note that we called this sequence “Car/Helicopter chase.” It has nothing to do with the underwater scene, which is boring and ridiculous to me. The chase scene, on the other hand, is properly good. As I’ve said on a few occasions, this Bond car is great until it goes underwater. It looks fantastic and has a great soundtrack from its Lotus engine. There’s some well-executed driving, a motorcycle sidecar that becomes a road torpedo, the usual gadgetry, and some fun with Naomi in her helicopter. Bond really opens up the Lotus and gets some speed out of it. There’s even a nice shot of him doubling back and turning around once to throw off the less maneuverable helicopter. This scene has all the hallmarks of a great Bond chase — until it goes underwater.
38. Opening / ski chase (The Spy Who Loved Me)
This is considered the preeminent ski chase in Bond. I originally had this going much higher until I watched it again and realized how short it is. It’s a great scene, and there are some great moments in it (more than a few of which were copied in later Bond and not Bond movies), but I can’t call this top 25 because it’s so short. That moment of him parachuting off and it leading into the credits is inspired. But again, it’s too short for me to want to put it higher.
37. Raid on Blofeld’s lair (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Oh shit, I think I see Robert Duvall. This is an awesome scene because MI6 has left Bond high and dry, so he has to go to Draco for help. And of course he’s going to. “Hey, so…what had happened was…they got yo daughter.” “GET YO GAT, WE ROLLIN ON THESE FOOS!” It’s alarming how often I mix up Draco and Doughboy from Boyz n the Hood. Anyway, Draco’s crew is disguised as a Red Cross flight on a relief mission to Italy (I guess there was a convenient disaster in Italy just before this) and they land at Blofeld’s lair, Piz Gloria. So, basically — it’s a helicopter raid on a fortress at the top of a mountain. We can work with this. Tracy gets in on the action, and Bond messes up a bunch of bad guys as Draco’s men duke it out with Blofeld’s henchmen. Explosions, mayhem, and grenades. The two high points of the scene are Bond sliding down the iced walkway firing his machine gun on his stomach, and Tracy killing a henchman by impaling him on some modern art. Nice.
36. Opening (Die Another Day)
We had a discussion about this one when we were coming up with the list. What we did was (and here’s a long digression that talks about our tactics in coming up with the list, just because I love digressions and I love explaining methodology) —
I went through and wrote up a list of every action sequence in the films. Then, each of us separately went through and created a list of about 75 that we felt should or could go on the list. And then we compared them, and the ones we both said definitely had to go on we used as a base list. That ended up being about 60 of them. Then there were another 25 we both figured could easily go on, depending on space. Then there were some that I felt had to go on, and some TokyoRemix felt had to go on, and then a few that went on for either parity’s sake or humor’s sake (like Bonesaw or the midget fight). And then the rest I added to fill out the list from ones that I enjoyed despite them not being the best sequences. Then what we did was — all the ones that were clearly filler or there for humor or whatever went to the bottom, and we worked out the list in sections. We worked backwards, figured out the bottom 25, then the next 25, and so on (well, there were only two left). And for each section, there were a few that I listed as being in that swing section, where they could be at the high end of one section or the low end of the other.
This one I listed as potentially being at the top of the bottom 50 (possibly as low as like, #60 or something), or here. And TokyoRemix saw it and said, “You know, that’s actually much better than the rest of the ones on the list,” which I agreed with, I just — if I was gonna rank anything lower, it was gonna be Die Another Day. So we were saying how it was pretty good and should end up higher, and then we got down to figuring out the top 50, which basically happened by me saying, “All right, these are clearly the weakest of the remaining ones,” and putting those up first. Then that ended up leaving us with about 40 sequences. And then we sectioned off the ones we felt were top 25. At which point we each listed the ones we felt should go top 25. And I knew I wasn’t letting this go anywhere near that. And then TokyoRemix was like, “Oh, fuck that. That shit shouldn’t be anywhere near top 30; “It’s good but it ain’t no dinner thang.”
I almost wanted to put that as the blurb for this — “It’s good, but it ain’t no dinner thang.”
Anyway, it’s a pretty entertaining sequence. I’m not crazy about the CG surfing, but I block that out. There’s some great action done with the hovercrafts. Plus — in the Brosnan and Craig eras, it’s almost impossible not to have a great action sequence every time. Mostly what kills action sequences nowadays is obvious CGI, complete ridiculousness, and too much shit. Which — Die Another Day.
But this sequence is pretty good. It’s a nice extended opening that leads to what TokyoRemix and I both feel are a terrific first 40 minutes of a film, before it descends into — well, what we normally think about when we think about Die Another Day.
35. Helicopter chase (From Russia with Love)
You can’t call this not thrilling. This is James Bond’s answer to North by Northwest. Bond and Tanya are in a truck they stole from Red Grant’s contact, making a break for the border. SPECTRE goons show up in a helicopter and make it rain grenades. As Bond lures them away from the truck on foot, they run him down repeatedly. Once he makes it to an outcropping, he assembles his collapsing rifle just in time to shoot the henchman who’s pulled the pin on a grenade. The grenade falls to the floor, and BAM. That’s how you take down a helicopter with one bullet.
34. Killing Krilencu (From Russia with Love)
I love this scene. I love that they stop the plot of the movie to have this scene. It’s like, “Uh oh, this guy is getting too close to killing us. Let’s go kill him instead and not risk it.” So they do. They sneak over to his apartment, it’s quiet and tense, they know his escape route, and they shoot him when he uses it. I love it. There are some great images in this sequence. Check out the article. It’s one of those sequences that you just remember. And yes, Kerim, that Anita does have a lovely mouth, but the rest of that face on the poster… yeesh.
(Look, I’m not the only one who was thinking it.)
33. Mardi Gras Jaws encounter (Moonraker)
Oh man, I thought Mike would have wanted this one, but I’m perfectly ready to talk about it. Bond and Manuela are at Carnival, and Bond’s going inside a building to check out some leads on Drax. Manuela is waiting in the alley, and we see this thing coming. Now, I’ve never been afraid of clowns, but the way they shot this scared me shitless. It didn’t even occur to me that it would be Jaws, because I was so preoccupied with this enormous clown thing creeping toward her. Its head is enormous and it wasn’t walking particularly fast. Manuela is clearly creeped out by it, but she keeps looking around at the people leaving clubs. They keep cutting back to Bond inside the building, and you’re thinking, “No! Look back outside! There’s a creepy clown coming!” And then off comes the head, and OH IT’S JAWS, MOTHERFUCKER! He smiles, grabs Manuela and is just about to get a bite in before Bond comes back. He then gets carried away by a bunch of random party-goers, which is fun because he acts like there’s nothing he can do about it. They mob him and start taking him away, and he doesn’t knock them all out and go back to Bond. I guess this is supposed to be prepping us for Jaws as a nice guy, which is coming up later.
32. Peter Franks fight (Diamonds Are Forever)
I love this one. It’s the precursor to that stairwell fight in Casino Royale. It’s just raw. And this is 1971, too. How many fights did Bond have like this before the Craig era? Not many. This is Bond and a dude who already is made out to be very dangerous, in an elevator, just fucking fighting. I’m a huge fan of this scene. I almost wish it went on longer. And of course, since this is Diamonds Are Forever, they had to get cute and campy and end with the fire extinguisher bit, which, all right. But the rest of this sequence is terrific. Just the idea of two people fighting in one of those elevators is terrific. Not a modern elevator. That’s not the same. Big fan of this one.
31. The Card Game (Casino Royale)
We kind of had to put this in, even though it’s not an action sequence. It is tense, and you’re riveted. This is always going to be the point that Casino Royale haters will come back to when they try to name issues with the film, and they’re absolutely wrong. This extended card game is magnificent. First of all, it’s Bond and Le Chiffre, joined by a bunch of awesome high rollers. To Bond’s right in this photo is the actress who played Bond’s ‘assassin’, Ling in You Only Live Twice and next to her is FELIX! Perhaps best of all is the large gent with his back to the camera, Ade, who doesn’t say anything. But we all know and love him as Tyrone from Snatch. He’s taken a rally course. This scene is how Bond is supposed to take down Le Chiffre — he needs the money to pay back some Afff-ricans, We know that Le Chiffre is a masterful card player, but so is Bond. We see him trying to play Le Chiffre’s tell, and they exchange some jabs at each other. Oh, I guess Le Chiffre’s retort is less of a jab and more…poison.
30. Warehouse Fight (You Only Live Twice)
If there’s two things that most people could take out of these Bond articles, they’re:
1) I fucking love rear projection
2) Pretty much all hideouts remind me of Grand Theft Auto levels
This is really the first one that did, since this was like the second or third movie I watched as I set up these articles. This entire warehouse just feels like a Grand Theft Auto level, and that added a lot of enjoyment for me when I watched it. That aside — it’s a pretty great sequence. We get our first FORKLIFT OUT OF NOWHERE, a rare staple of the Bond franchise, plus a lot of different locations within the set, that great shot of all the guys standing there with chains and smoking, like, “You came to the wrong neighborhood, motherfucker,” and then that shot up there. That helicopter shot of Bond fighting the guys and getting away is just spectacular. Watch this one again. I stand by this ranking. It’s a terrific sequence.
29. Bond vs. the Chinamen (DB5 chase) (Goldfinger)
How are we not going to include this chase? It’s the first full on battle/chase in the franchise, with Bond using his car’s gadgets on bad guys. We see the smoke, the oil, and after Bond breaks out of the little convoy, we see him use the ejector seat, which is great. Nothing like launching an Asian guy out of your car through the roof. It’s a classic image. This scene — and more importantly, the car — was the basis for one of the most successful toys ever, the model DB5 Bond car with ejector seat.
28. Fighting Jaws at the ruins / Fuck Yo Van (The Spy Who Loved Me)
Locations can make a fight scene go from being good to great. Example: this one. Look at that shot. Set any action sequence there and it’s immediately more interesting. Stalking people through ruins. And then there’s that great shot of Bond and XXX walking toward the camera, and then Jaws, behind them, atop one of the ruins, walking from right to left. It’s perfect visual movement. Then they have their struggle, and all the ruins are dropped on Jaws, and they go to get away, but Jaws TEARS THE ROOF OFF OF THEIR VAN. And then they go to get away, but he STOPS THE VAN WITH HIS BARE HANDS and LIFTS IT OFF OF THE GROUND BY HIMSELF. While they’re flooring it, no less. It’s a great scene. And not just because Jaws is awesome, too. That’s just the cherry on top. This is actually a great scene.
27. Ski chase / escaping into town (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Bond movies are big on ski chases. It’s one of the staples of the franchise, and this is a good one. Bond is getting the hell out of Dodge, with henchmen in tow. It’s quite a ways down to the town below, and we get some great skiing and some dizzying heights. The background music is the opening theme of the film, and an all-around great song for action. Blofeld gets in on the chase, and the real excitement occurs when one of Bond’s skis is shot off. You’d think that taking ski jumps with only one ski would be the perfect way to break a knee, but Bond pulls it off. And of course, copious rear projection.
26. Opening / Parachute (Moonraker)
We didn’t feel like this was top 25, but I do love this one enough to put it damn close. Think about it — it’s almost the same opening, structurally, to You Only Live Twice. Something is stolen in space, MI6 hears about it, they ask where Bond is; “He’s on his last leg.” Cut to Bond with his hand on a stewardess’s leg on a private jet. Then she and the pilot pull a gun and take the only two parachutes on board. Bond then fights the guy before he throws him out of the plane and throws the guy out instead. Crisis averted, right? Now he’ll steady the plane and go fuck the stewardess? OH BUT IT’S JAWS, NIGGA! Jaws throws Bond out of the plane, without a parachute. So Bond is no free-falling without a parachute, and has to fly over to the other guy and steal his parachute (there’s a nice mid-air struggle here, too). And then Jaws is like, “Oh, no,” and comes over to make sure Bond doesn’t make it out alive, but then Bond manages to open his chute and get away. And then Jaws’s chute doesn’t open and he falls into a circus, which leads to our opening credits. Watch this sequence again — it’s thrilling. It truly is. What’s great about it, and what I keep coming back to every time I think about great Bond action sequences — it’s when Bond is put into situations that are almost certain death that end up being the most exciting. Because you know he’s going to survive, and yet — he just fell out of a plane without a parachute — how’s he gonna get out of that?
It’s a great sequence. One of my favorite cold opens in the franchise.
25. Chase after Vesper / DBS flip (Casino Royale)
Le Chiffre and his lackeys kidnap Vesper and take her away in a Jaguar XJ8. Bond follows in his pristine Aston Martin DBS. We’re ready, we’re geared up for a lengthy chase with some excitement. It all begins very well; it’s dark, the cars are going really fast, Bond’s in pursuit, and then all of a sudden there’s something in the road and Bond veers out of the way. The DBS rolls several times, and the chase is cut short. This is the one that I lobbied to get into the top 25, and I think there’s a good case for it. You’re watching this expecting some extended chase scene. That’s the way it’s always been, so why would it be any different now? But when you see Vesper in the headlights and hear the music cut out, you’re absolutely shocked. As the car was doing its rolls, I was sitting there in the theater with my jaw on the floor. You don’t see this coming at all. I’d like to add that the stunt team put a crazy amount of effort into shooting this. The Aston Martin DBS is so planted and stable that they couldn’t get it to roll at any speed, so they had to rig it with a mechanism that drove a piston into the ground to send the car flying. They then executed the stunt at such speed that the car rolled 7.5 times, a new world record. I’ll say that in terms of pure surprise and excitement, these few seconds rival any other few seconds in the franchise, but because it’s so short, I’m cool with it just cracking the top 25. Stunt coordinator Gary Powell is arguably the best in the business, and we’ll see more evidence of that to come, plus whatever he did for Skyfall.
24. Interrogation / Library / Tank chase (GoldenEye)
All Goldeneye 64 comparisons aside, this is a great sequence. Bond and Natalya are being interrogated by Defense Minister Mishkin, and Mishkin finds out Ourumov was behind everything. Then Ourumov comes in, hoping they hadn’t said anything, and finds out he’s just a second too late. So he kills Mishkin and his guard, and comes up with the story as he goes along, figuring he’ll frame Bond for it. Then Bond gets away and runs into the library with Natalya, which leads to a shootout there. And then Natalya gets caught and Bond escapes outside, where he finds — the tank. And as Ourumov drives away with Natalya, Bond chases him through St. Petersburg, in a tank. Which is all shades of awesome. And there’s the added bonus of Ourumov drinking through a flask while this is happening (because seriously, motherfucker’s in a tank!).
This is a sequence I love, but wouldn’t necessarily have put in my personal top 25. But TokyoRemix argued for this one, and honestly, since I love it, and I do love me some GoldenEye 64, I felt it was acceptable. Honestly, the only change I’d have made was to swap this with #26 on my own list, which — close enough.
23. Opening (Casino Royale)
This fight was so raw. So raw. Black and white, grainy, un-choreographed, visceral. It also counts as Bond’s first kill in the reboot, both as his character, and that we see. I love how much of a struggle it is. Daniel Craig’s Bond isn’t so much about making it look easy, at least not at this point in the reboot. He’s still fighting for his life. The opponent, Fisher, is a solid fighter, and smart enough to go limp as Bond tries to drown him in the sink. As Bond cleans up and gets ready to head out, Fisher grabs his gun and we watch from his vantage point as Bond executes what’s probably the best gun barrel sequence we’ve ever seen. Then it goes into the title sequence and Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name.” And I’m already sold on this movie.
22. Bond vs. Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
The reason this goes higher than the first fun house encounter is because the first one helps make this one more tense. Plus — even before the fun house, this sequence is tense as shit. Bond and Scaramanga are gonna have a duel. Their backs are to one another and they’re taking twenty paces, turning around and firing. And that alone is pretty tense, since we know how good Scaramanga is, and there’s a pretty good chance Bond might not survive this duel. And then Bond turns and we cut away and only hear a shot being fired. And they drag it out before they reveal that Scaramanga has disappeared into his fun house.
And at this point, we know, “Oh shit, Bond has to go on this guy’s turf. This ain’t good.” And we know what happens in that fun house, so that also makes it tense. And then even when Bond gets outside the set — all of it — it’s very well edited and is a terrifically choreographed sequence. Definitely one of my favorites. Just watch it. You’ll see what I mean. Preferably after having seen the rest of the movie, so you get the full weight of it.
21. Stairwell fight (Casino Royale)
Remember how I said the fight with Fisher was raw? This is like, gives-you-salmonella raw. Bond and Vesper are spotted by Obanno’s henchman, and he and Obanno chase the two of them into the hotel’s stairwell. This is one of the most physical scenes in the whole film, and I get sore just watching it. They’re hitting each other, the henchman has a machete, people are falling down stairs and getting thrown, and the henchman gets knocked over the railing to his death at the bottom of the stairwell. Bond fights Obanno all the way down and strangles him as Vesper watches. There’s a struggle for the gun, shots of Obanno’s legs flailing and a closeup on his face as it happens. Vesper’s shaken by the episode, and we are too.
20. Opening sequence (From Russia with Love)
This is the only one I’m gonna do this for, but honestly — just watch it. It’s incredible. They started the movie like this. The first pre-credits scene in Bond. When you start a movie like this, everyone is immediately interested:
19. Oww, my balls (Casino Royale)
Do we need to talk about this? You know you were feeling it. Le Chiffre has Bond naked on a chair with no bottom. He uses a knotted rope to pummel Craig’s balls to torture him. Bond is yelling in pain, but he still snaps back at Le Chiffre with jokes. If that’s not the definition of a BAMF, I don’t know what is. “To the right! To the right!” Bond’s gritting his teeth and breathing through his nose, and you really can’t look away. This has to be the most chilling torture scene the franchise has ever had.
18. Tanker trucks (Licence to Kill)
If you haven’t seen either The Wages of Fear or its American remake, Sorcerer, you won’t get the true joy of this sequence. But that aside — how great is this sequence? Seriously — it’s Bond in tanker trucks in South America. I can’t even explain it. It should just be one of those that makes sense if you’ve seen it. I’m sure I’m putting it a bit high because I’ve seen those other films, and because it’s one of my personal favorites, but I don’t care. This shit is absolutely thrilling, and is one of my favorite final showdowns in the franchise.
17. Fight in Osato’s office (You Only Live Twice)
I like to think someone said, “Let’s have a huge Asian henchman fight Bond in a classy office. Maybe Bond can hit him with a couch.” And that’s EXACTLY how that shit went down. Bond has infiltrated Osato’s place by posing as Dikko’s assassin (thank you, SARS masks!) but when the henchman puts him down and removes the mask, the fight is on. This guy is bulky — not Oddjob bulky, but pretty big. They wreck up the place pretty good, and you can see that Connery’s a little worried about this one. He finally cracks the guy over the head with a stone idol, breaking it. And then it’s time for a drink! How about some– AW MAN, SIAMESE VODKA? Yuck.
16. Bond’s escape through the pipes (Dr. No)
This sequence actually made me rank the film where I did. I liked the film a lot, but I wasn’t sure how much I liked it past the novelty of it all, until this sequence happened. This is one of the best things the franchise has ever done, and it really hasn’t been repeated all that much since. Bond is being held in a cell, escapes, and has to crawl through the pipes to get out. And we see every second of it. It’s so great. There’s no score, it’s just Bond crawling through pipes. And it’s more riveting to me than almost everything the franchise has done (hear that, plane sequence in Quantum?). I love shit like this. It reminds me of those great prison break movies like Escape from Alcatraz. I love that shit. This sequence is incredible. It should have been longer.
15. Spider in the bed (Dr. No)
This is terrifying, I don’t care who you are. There’s something moving under the sheets and it’s not a girl. Dent has set a tarantula loose in Bond’s hotel room, and it makes its way up his body. He’s awake and perfectly still as it creeps up, so as not to startle it into biting him. As the music builds, it steps off his shoulder onto the pillow, at which point Bond rushes around the bed and out of sight, he kills it with a shoe. It’s made by the music, which matches his blows with the shoe. Absolutely thrilling. And then the scene ends with Bond going into the bathroom, probably to wrench his guts out.
14. Street assassination (The Man with the Golden Gun)
Oh man, this sequence makes me tense just thinking about it. Bond is trying to find Scaramanga, who he hasn’t seen and knows nothing about. Andrea Anders has told Bond where she’s going to meet Scaramanga to give him his bullets, so Bond stakes it out. Then, as he’s waiting outside, we see Nick Nack pass by Bond. And we think, “Uh oh, he knows.” And then we see Scaramanga set up across the street. And Bond starts walking over, completely unawares, as Scaramanga prepares to fire. And he has Bond completely dead to rights. It’s so thrilling. The only thing that saves Bond is the fact that Scaramanga was there to kill somebody else, which we only find out after the fact. It’s terrific. Absolutely terrific. One of the tensest moments in the franchise.
13. Fall of a house in Venice (Casino Royale)
This was an amazing scene. What a great idea for a fight — they’re in a historic house in Venice that’s under restoration, and the huge floats that are helping to hold it up are shot and deflate. As a result, the whole house begins sinking into the lagoon as the fight progresses. Bond shoots a few guys, gets in some good hand to hand and puts a nail in Adolph’s eye, right through the blacked out lens of his glasses. This is also where Vesper gets trapped in the elevator and dropped into the water, where she decides, “Eh, might as well die.” This is everything that a fight on a sinking ship would be, but better.
12. Hotel showdown (Quantum of Solace)
How can you not put this here? It has everything. Bond sneaks into the hotel as Carlos is leaving and shoot him in the head as revenge for Mathis. Then he shoots a bunch of henchmen and blows up one of the fuel cells, which sets the hotel on fire. Then he makes his way upstairs and starts fighting Greene. All the while, Camille has snuck inside to kill General Medrano. And we intercut these two showdowns while the hotel is blowing up. It’s terrific. And then there are the little moments, like Bond shooting through the glass on the roof and jumping down onto the top floor, and the moment I always gush about, which is when Bond is about to shoot Camille in the head — terrific. All around terrific. I shouldn’t have to say that.
11. Opera fight (Quantum of Solace)
One of my absolute favorite scenes from Quantum. Bond has just announced himself over the Quantum earpiece, which prompts most of the bad guys at the opera to break out. As Dominic Greene and his boys come down the stairs, Bond is standing there, looking at him. There’s a creepy look from Greene, and the action sequence begins with Bond walking into a dining room and some henchmen running after him. At this point, the sound cuts out and the opera is cut in over it. Bond running through the dining room, shooting henchmen, creating a ball of flame in the kitchen, and all of it cut between shots of Tosca, which is still being performed on stage. It’s a dark fight, and it matches the opera, where the actors are having their own shootout on stage. This was a pretty powerful scene — great visuals, color, and the audio of the opera just made it. One of the tops.
10. Bond’s been poisoned (Casino Royale)
Easily a top ten moment for the franchise. It’s so gritty. That’s the great thing about this reboot, a scene like this is a big deal. Bond drinks a dirty martini and is poisoned. So he staggers out to his car to contact MI6, and they walk him through how to make sure his heart doesn’t stop. And the whole thing is tense and exciting (and perfectly edited), and then finally, just when it seems like he’s gonna be okay — the nodules aren’t connected and Bond passes out. And then Vesper comes by and manages to restart his heart. It’s — actually, I didn’t even notice the subtext until I wrote that last sentence. Jesus, this scene is a top ten.
Seriously though, tell me when you watch this scene it’s not incredible. Some people might not put this so high, but fuck that, this is more thrilling than everything else on this list to this point.
9. Opening (GoldenEye)
You can’t deny that this is one of the best opening sequences ever in the franchise. We get Brosnan sprinting down the dam, then bungee jumping off it, only to infiltrate the chemical weapons facility. Anyone who’s played GoldenEye 64 is familiar with it, but we meet Alec Trevelyan, 006, and continue into the room full of canisters. As they’re setting the charges, Alec is “captured” by Ourumov and his Soviet soldiers. Bond resets the charges to blow sooner, and has a nice little standoff with Ourumov after Alec is “killed”. He hides behind a cart of canisters, making his way to the conveyor belt. He then switches it on, and rides it out while shooting the release on all the canisters and showering the soldiers with them. Nice. Then it’s about catching up to the plane that’s taking off. He does, but falls out the door with the pilot. He gets his hands on a motorcycle and jumps the cliff, skydiving into the cockpit and pulling up before the plane crashes. Then the facility blows up as Bond flies over it. What part of this scene ISN’T awesome and tense? It’s all pretty much gold.
8. Underwater battle (Thunderball)
It’s an underwater battle that happens for a good fifteen minutes. The end.
(If you’ve seen it, there’s nothing else to say. You know it belongs here.)
(Seriously, how many movies spend that much time underwater for an action sequence? … in 1965?)
7. Bond vs. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
One of the great henchman fights. Oddjob is almost indestructible, and he fights Bond to keep him occupied rather than allowing him to disarm the bomb. Apparently he’s good with dying in the imminent nuclear explosion. There’s a lot of fighting, including Bond throwing a gold brick at Oddjob’s chest to no avail, trying to hit him with a piece of wood, which Oddjob breaks, and Oddjob throwing Bond around. The one thing that Oddjob is afraid of is his own hat, so when Bond gets hold of it, he’s visibly frightened, and the music kicks in. Bond has never played Frisbee, though, so he’s not the best shot with it — it gets lodged in some steel bars. Oddjob gives Bond the best smile, like, “My turn!” and goes to get it. Just as he grabs the hat by the metal brim, Bond slides over to the bars and touches a high-voltage wire to it, electrifying Oddjob. The actor, Harold Sakata, was badly burned doing the shot, but he continued holding on until he heard “cut.” This is such a tense scene, though, because Bond is so clearly outmatched in this fight and because instead of music, we have ticking and whirring to remind us that there’s a nuclear bomb about to go off like 20 feet away.
6. Carlos / Miami International (Casino Royale)
Please. Of course this goes here. It’s wonderful. Bond kills Dimitrios and manages to find Carlos by calling his cell phone. He follows him to Miami and starts tailing him. Carlos makes him and slips away, and Bond has to find him and also slowly figure out his plan as he does. And then the action starts. There’s that thrilling chase as Bond runs down the fuel truck Carlos is on, the fight they have in the truck, Bond sneakily putting the explosive device on Carlos’s pocket, then that great moment at the end where it seems like Carlos has won until — boom. And then that smile Bond has afterward. Of course this goes here. If you’ve seen the movie, there’s no way to deny it.
5. Goldfinger’s laser (Goldfinger)
“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” That’s probably the most famous exchange from the whole Bond franchise and it comes from this scene. Bond’s been captured after his car accident and put on a table under Goldfinger’s laser. The laser is turned on and begins cutting through the metal, heading for Bond’s crotch. We know he’s not getting off the table, so he has to think of some way to get Goldfinger to let him off. We see Connery sweating, and wracking his brain for some way to convince Goldfinger that he’s worth more alive. Goldfinger keeps dismissing Bond’s claims, and ignoring him to talk to his Chinese buddies. Even as he’s walking to the door, we cut back to the laser, which is in closeup and creeping toward the left edge of the frame. We don’t see Bond’s crotch just off shot, but we imagine that’s where it is. It’s such a high tension scene, and it involves Bond’s wits rather than his fighting abilities or marksmanship. Definitely a top five.
4. Mitchell chase (Quantum of Solace)
This chase might be the best choreographed chase in the franchise. Let’s walk through it —
Mitchell shoots M and Bond and he fight. He gets away. He runs down into the catacombs and Bond chases him. That’s great on its own, Bond diving down a set of stairs and all the falling sand and water and shit. Then Mitchell goes up to the street and Bond chases him through the crowd. Then he fires his gun and everyone goes crazy. Then he goes up on the roofs, and there’s the rooftop chase. Bond then ends up across the street, having to follow Mitchell as best he can. Then he jumps on the bus and makes his way over to the building Mitchell goes into. They run up the stairs, and there’s the old Italian lady with the groceries, and that moment they both have to jump across the broken stairs. Then the fight atop the bell tower, and the two of them falling onto the scaffolding and that fight, ending with Bond upside down, grabbing for his gun and shooting Mitchell, and that close up on his face as he does.
This chase has so many layers, and it’s consistently exciting throughout. Incredible chase. It doesn’t have the raw power of the top three, but it’s damn close. Easily top five for the franchise.
3. Mollaka chase (Casino Royale)
This was a definite contender for the top spot on my list. After the opening sequence of this film, you’re thinking, “Man, that was awesome. I guess it’s time to settle down and get ready for exposition and set up. Oh, so we’re in Madagascar. I think I saw a lemur. Wonder what they’re going to tell us.” But they don’t tell us anything. Bond is with a junior agent, watching a bomb maker named Mollaka. Out of the other guy’s stupidity, Mollaka knows he’s being watched and runs. Bond gives chase through some jungle and we end up on a construction site. This is where we find out that Mollaka is a master freerunner, played by Parkour’s inventor, Sebastien Foucan. He works his way all the way up the construction site with Bond in pursuit, fighting construction workers along the way. They get to the highest crane, where there’s a great fight until Mollaka jumps to the next crane and then down into the building. The chase continues there, where we get some clever character work about Bond — when Mollaka jumps through a tiny hole in a wall, Bond smashes through it instead. And when Mollaka jumps across a huge gap and makes his way down several stories, Bond opts to cut a lift’s hydraulics and ride down instead. After following Mollaka to his embassy, Bond breaks in, knocks him down and tries to knock out the guy he was talking to. The alarm is sounded and Bond has to proceed through the building with Mollaka as soldiers fire machine guns at them. On making it outside, he’s surrounded by soldiers with his back to a locked gate. He gives up his gun, frees Mollaka, but then whips out another and shoots Mollaka and then a gas canister. When the Africans come to, Bond is long gone, having escaped with Mollaka’s backpack. What an epic scene. They wanted a parkour scene, so they got the INVENTOR of parkour. There’s character work, a gun fight, some explosions and some magnificent hand to hand combat.
2. Red Grant fight (From Russia with Love)
This was the grittiest fight Bond had until the Craig era. It’s so great. Not to mention, this was almost an entire film in the making. Grant had been tailing Bond since the beginning of the film and had been talking to him for the past twenty minutes, so this scene was the culmination of all that build up. Also, keep in mind, all the talking they do during this scene does count as part of it. It’s just as much a part of the action as the actual fight. And man — just watch it. Two men throwing each other around a train cabin. You feel every blow in this one. And it’s not particularly choreographed, either. This isn’t a Bourne fight. They’re pushing each other’s arms and faces away from one another — they’re struggling like you would struggle in such a location. And then the lights being shot out — it really makes the whole thing work as a total package of a fight scene.
TokyoRemix could say more about this than I could, but there’s no denying this is a top three for the franchise. In fact, we both came up with these same top three when separately compiling these lists. These three were the ones we both felt perfectly captured the three best chases in Bond, in each of the three primary types — foot chase, hand to hand combat, and…
1. Opening chase (Quantum of Solace)
I’m totally willing to go to bat for this scene as the best action sequence in the Bond franchise. It may not sit well with some people, giving the top honors to a car chase, but I’m convinced. It’s the best car chase Bond has ever had by far, and I’d go so far as to say that pound for pound it’s the best car chase we’ve seen since Bullitt and The French Connection. Think about what we have for modern chases to compare this to: Ronin, Gone in Sixty Seconds, the Fast and the Furious movies, the Transporter movies, The Matrix Reloaded, Bourne Supremacy (same stunt coordinator), The Dark Knight, and MAYBE The Italian Job or Wanted. None of them come close to this for stunts, location, cars, or cinematography. I broke down the whole thing in the article, so you should take a look at it shot for shot. Or better yet, just watch it. Starting silent, kicking in the engine sound in the tunnel, a double 180 as the DBS’ door snaps off, the continued pursuit into the quarry and Bond’s handling of the last bad guys with his machine gun. And just when we think there are no more surprises left, Bond gets out of the car and pops the trunk to reveal Mr. White, who’s been in the back the WHOLE TIME. Sploosh. I don’t think it was even that I’m a car guy that made this so riveting. The first time I saw this in the theater (because you know I saw this film five times in theaters) I was so blown away I pretty much forgot to breathe. I’ve never been so into a sequence in Bond — which, again, I can’t speak for non-car people — so in terms of thrills, speed and action, I’d say it belongs right here.