20 Classic James Bond Moments That Have Aged Terribly
James Bond is one of the most popular franchises of all time. Spanning generations, with six actors and a total of 24 films (not counting upcoming 25th film No Time to Die), the series has long since been part of film culture.
Each actor behind the man himself has brought their own twist to the role, but one thing has always remained: to date, every iteration of Bond has been suave, conniving and undoubtedly low on moral fibre, and sometimes even overtly racist and misogynistic. Over the years, the films have become decidedly more PC, yet there are still countless troubling moments from Bond movie history.
We’ve compiled a list of Bond’s most controversial moments, which are sure to leave you shaken, and possibly even a little stirred.
20. When he dances with a dead woman in Thunderball
1965’s Thunderball was the fourth James Bond movie, and with Sean Connery in the role, 007 had long since been established as a ruthless, hard-hearted character.
Whilst attempting to flee from thugs, Bond ends up in a spot of trouble when he is tracked down by assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), who corners him on the dance floor.
In true James Bond style, 007 is not willing to give up without a fight. Bond tries to blend in on the dance floor, dancing with Volpe in an attempt to keep a low profile.
However, when he spots another deadly assassin across the room, Bond has no qualms over using Volpe as a human shield.
Volpe is shot and instantly killed, but rather than accept his fate in an attempt to alleviate his shame, Bond actually carries on dancing with Volpe’s corpse – before sitting her down at a table and telling those sat nearby, “she’s just dead.” Classy!
34 years later, this sequence was spoofed in Austin Powers: The Spy Who S****ed Me, when Mike Myers’ Austin shields himself from attack with the seemingly indestructible Robin Swallows (Gia Carides).
19. When he uses national stereotypes in Octopussy
1983’s Octopussy was the 13th Bond movie, and Roger Moore’s sixth turn in the role (although he came close to being replaced).
Bond’s globe-trotting adventures had taken in many exotic locales, but this was the first time the series gave audiences the chance to gain some cultural insight into the exotic delights of India.
However, it seems Bond wasn’t quite as culturally open-minded as the people of today, and he made one massive blunder.
When Bond generously hands over a wad of his casino winnings to a by-standing Indian man, he tells him “that’ll keep you in curry for a few weeks, won’t it?”
Luckily for 007, the man is not offended, instead beaming up at this white saviour with gratitude.
The mid-80s weren’t a great time for India in western film, as one year after Octopussy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom delivered some even more objectionable representations of the country.
18. When he beats up Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is notorious as the only outing of second Bond actor George Lazenby.
Beyond this, the film is otherwise best remembered as the movie in which the eternal lothario defies all expectation and gets married – albeit very briefly – to Diana Rigg’s Tracy.
However, as romantic as things wind up between them, we shouldn’t overlook how brutal Bond is with Tracy to begin with.
Bond finds Tracy (who he knows to be suicidally depressed) in his hotel room, pointing his own gun at him with a threat to kill him “for a thrill”.
The trained killer promptly disarms Tracy by gripping her hard by the wrist, but even once she’s dropped the gun he does not release his grip.
Then, when Bond asks a question Tracy won’t answer, he slaps her in the face, threatening: “I can be a lot more persuasive.”
17. When he deduces that Chinese women taste like Peking duck in You Only Live Twice
As we’ve already established, Bond is certainly not afraid of some good old-fashioned racism.
This trait is perhaps exhibited most strongly in You Only Live Twice, which is set almost entirely in the Far East.
In the film’s prologue sequence (which sees 007 fake his own death), we open on our hero in Hong Kong in bed with Ling (Tsai Chin).
After the pair enjoy a passionate kiss, Bond asks why Chinese women taste different to other women.
He then decides to answer his own question, likening it to how “Peking duck tastes different to Russian caviar, but I love them both.”
Women today might not like being compared to a meal in this way, although Bond’s companion doesn’t object, remarking “darling, I give you very best duck.”
16. When he threatens to kill Rosie Carver immediately after sleeping with her in Live and Let Die
Roger Moore is generally remembered as the most jovial Bond of them all, but his first film in the role proved he could do ruthless just as well.
In 1973’s Live and Let Die, Bond is sent into Blaxploitation-era America to take on Yaphet Kotto’s villainous Kananga.
There, he meets CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) – and, being James Bond, he wastes little time in taking her to bed (or, in this case, a small blanket by the side of a stream).
However, Bond already suspects Carver of being a double agent working for Kananga – and he soon seeks to confirm these suspicions.
Lying alongside Carver, Bond draws his gun – at which she gasps, “you wouldn’t. Not after what we just done.”
Bond coldly replies, “I certainly wouldn’t have killed you before,” without raising an eyebrow (which, as we know, was a particular challenge for Moore).
15. When he teams up with the Mujahideen in The Living Daylights
When Timothy Dalton was introduced as the new Bond in 1987, it was clear right away that his was to be the most politically correct take on 007 yet.
However, while the sexism and racism may have taken something of a back seat during Dalton’s brief tenure, there were still a couple of significant missteps.
The most glaring of these occurs midway through The Living Daylights – because of who 007 chooses as his new allies.
Whilst imprisoned in Afghanistan, Bond frees fellow prisoner Kamran Shah (Art Malik), and soon thereafter teams up with his band of freedom fighters.
One minor issue here: Shah and his soldiers are the Mujahideen – the real-life Afghan resistance that would later evolve into the Taliban.
Nor was Bond the only western hero to throw his support behind these future enemies of the West, as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo also teams up with the Mujahideen in 1988’s Rambo III.
14. When he’s a raging misogynist in Goldfinger
When people talk about how much attitudes toward women have changed in the past 50 years, there are few better ways to demonstrate this than to look at the early Bond movies.
We might argue that it was simply a reflection of the times, but Sean Connery perhaps brought out the worst in Bond.
This is most apparent in Goldfinger, in the scene where Bond is enjoying a relaxing pool-side massage from his lady-friend, Dink.
After doing the gentlemanly thing and introducing Dink to his friend Felix, Bond rather condescendingly announces that it’s “time for man talk.”
Subsequently Bond gives Dink a smack on her rear end and shoos her away, as if she were a small child.
Again, perhaps this was just the climate of the day, but the scene reveals Bond to be behind the times in other ways, as he makes a crack about only being able to listen to The Beatles whilst wearing ear muffs.
13. When he insults both North and South Korea in Die Another Day
In the West, 2002’s Die Another Day tends to be considered one of the worst Bond movies ever.
While the film was a commercial hit, its critical drubbing was perhaps the main reason Pierce Brosnan’s licence to kill was revoked a little sooner than expected. (He’s the only Bond actor to have been fired; all the others stood down of their own volition.)
However, Brosnan’s last Bond movie (the 20th in the series overall) kicked up quite a stink in the Korean peninsula, and not for reasons of quality control.
North Korea, unsurprisingly, did not take kindly to Die Another Day presenting them as the bad guys, as so many films have in recent years.
However, many in South Korea were also angered by scenes in which their army is seen being given orders by the American military.
The greatest offence, however, was taken over a sex scene between Bond and Halle Berry’s Jinx – which takes place in a Buddhist temple, no less.
12. When he blackmails a woman into sleeping with him in Thunderball
In Thunderball, after narrowly avoiding an attempt on his life at the health clinic, Bond declares that “somebody’s going to wish today never happened”.
He is overheard by Nurse Molly, who wrongly believes the remark is aimed at her, pleading with him and explaining that she could lose her job.
Bond plays this misunderstanding to his advantage, telling Nurse Molly that his “silence could have a price…”, in suitably lecherous tones.
Bond advances on the poor nurse, who had previously spurned his advances, combating her “oh no” with a predatory-sounding “oh yes.”
The next thing you know, Nurse Molly is subsequently forced to succumb to James Bond’s world-renowned “charms”.
He may very well be irresistible to women, but it’s clear that 007 also needs some serious lessons in consent.
11. When he reads Playboy in public in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Few things are more likely to raise an eyebrow in the modern world than a man whipping out a girlie magazine and having a good look at it in a public place.
Nonetheless, we see George Lazenby’s Bond do just this, when he reads a copy of Playboy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
What makes it all the more bizarre today is that Bond happens to find the copy of Hugh Hefner’s notorious men’s magazine in a public waiting room.
Not only does Bond happily flick through the pages, he doesn’t hesitate to go straight to the centrefold model and peruse the image thereon with a big smile on his face.
On top of which, Bond then proceeds to take the issue with him when he leaves the waiting room, continuing to ogle the centrefold as he walks.
Again, this may simply be an indicator of changing attitudes, but it’s still an eye-opening moment these days.
10. When he strangles a woman with her own bikini top in Diamonds are Forever
1971’s Diamonds Are Forever is a bit of an oddity in the Bond series: Sean Connery, having already retired with 1967’s You Only Live Twice, was lured back once more when his replacement George Lazenby abruptly quit.
Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service hadn’t gone down well with all Bond fans, as it had given us a more sensitive take on the character who fell in love, got married and even – gasp! – wept on camera when his wife was shot dead.
As such, when Connery came back for Diamonds Are Forever, it seems producers were anxious to demonstrate immediately that Bond was still every bit the unfeeling sociopath that audiences had come to know and love.
And so, within the first few minutes of Diamonds are Forever, Bond approaches a sunbathing woman (Denise Perrier), and gives his customary “Bond, James Bond” introduction.
Like most women who meet Bond, she thinks nothing of letting him touch her immediately, hence she happily lets him unfasten her bikini top as he remarks “there’s something I’d like you to get off your chest” – then yanks it up around her throat.
Bond then proceeds to squeeze, demanding the location of of his arch-enemy Blofeld – but when her response is simply a panicked choke, he coldly remarks, “speak up darling, I can’t hear you.”
9. When he breaks into a woman’s hotel room and tries to seduce her in Thunderball
Any way you look at it, Thunderball definitely ranks among the most unsavoury entries in the Bond series.
Another such unsavoury moment comes when Bond realises assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) is staying in the hotel room next to his.
Bond proceeds to take advantage of this fact by breaking into her bathroom as she’s having a soak in the tub.
That’s right, he literally enters a woman’s hotel room uninvited and proceeds to act in the creepiest manner possible.
After openly leching at Volpe, Bond then smarmily provides her with a pair of sandals when she asks for something to put on.
He then takes a seat and waits for her to stand, his eyes not leaving her for a second – and we can safely assume that’s not because he’s looking out for concealed weapons.
8. When he strips a woman to distract an assailant in The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights appeared to present Timothy Dalton’s Bond as a very different character when it came to women.
Aside from a brief encounter with an anonymous bikini-clad yacht owner early on, and the occasional flirtation, Bond spends the bulk of The Living Daylights as a one-woman man in a largely chaste romance with Maryam d’Abo’s Kara.
Even so, Dalton’s Bond was also the most ruthless Bond outside of Connery, and one particularly cold and cruel moment sees him humiliate a helpless woman.
Bond has tracked KGB boss Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) to a hotel room where the Soviet leader is meeting with his mistress (Virginia Hey).
As a gunman is about to break in, Bond makes Pushkin hide, then forcibly tears off the robe of his struggling mistress – then, when the attacker kicks the door in and is taken aback by her nudity, Bond incapacitates him.
Bond may throw her some clothes immediately afterwards, and he doesn’t leer the way the Bond of old might have, but it’s still a violation of an innocent woman.
8. His ‘seduction’ of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger
We’ve already established from Thunderball that, in his earliest days, Bond really didn’t give a damn about the feelings of his sexual partners.
This had already been made screamingly obvious one film earlier, by his treatment of Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger.
While the late Blackman’s character has always been one of the most infamous Bond girls due to that name alone, Pussy Galore represented a significant departure for the series.
For one, Blackman was five years older than Connery, marking one of only three times when Bond’s conquest was his senior (the others being Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Monica Bellucci in Spectre).
For another, Pussy Galore is gay. Although given the times the film doesn’t make this too explicit, she makes it very clear to Bond that she is immune to his charms, and has no interest in him.
This doesn’t deter Bond from physically overpowering her in a barn, and – despite her clear objections – persisting in holding her down until she finally submits to his embrace. On top of this clearly being rape, it also promotes the distasteful idea that the right man can simply ‘cure’ a woman of her lesbianism.
6. When he’s surprised by Dr. Goodhead’s gender in Moonraker
One of the silliest entries in the series, 1979’s Moonraker is doubtless one of the Bond films that time has been the least kind to.
Roger Moore’s fourth outing as 007 saw the legendary secret agent blast off into outer space for the first, and to date last time – mainly to cash in on the popularity of sci-fi at the time, in the wake of 1977’s Star Wars.
However, as futuristic as the film’s concept might have been (at the time at least), Moonraker also demonstrated that the Bond series still wasn’t especially forward-thinking in its treatment of women.
Early in the film, Bond learns he is to meet a qualified astronaut and doctor of space-related sciences named Dr Goodhead (let’s not even get started on that name).
Bond is then visibly taken aback – responding with Moore’s signature smirk and raised eyebrow – on finding that she is female, and played by Lois Chiles.
Bond even remarks, “a woman?” with pointed surprise in his voice – as though the title of ‘doctor’ had ever been gender-specific.
5. When he uses a creepy one-liner in From Russia with Love
Bond is renowned for his one-liners, and let’s face it, a great many of them are as incredibly inappropriate now as they were back in the day.
Still, one line in particular in 1963’s From Russia with Love really takes the impropriety biscuit.
The scene in question sees Bond find defecting Soviet clerk Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) waiting for him on his bed when he returns to his hotel.
Being Bond, the super-spy immediately sets about seducing the young woman, commenting on her beauty.
To this she replies “I think my mouth is too big”. Bond is quick to dispute this claim, telling her “it’s just the right size. For me, that is.”
Bond’s said more than his fair share of creepy things to women in the decades since, but this… just no.
4. When he locks a man with dwarfism in a suitcase in The Man with the Golden Gun
As insensitive as the Bond movies had been in the Connery years, when Roger Moore took over they found all new ways to be offensive.
Take Hervé Villechaize’s Nick Nack, diminutive henchman of Christopher Lee’s arch villain Scaramanga in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.
Clearly not posing the same kind of threat as old Bond villains like Oddjob, Nick Nack is there primarily to provide moments of humour – generally at his own expense.
Bond takes the joke just a little too far when he decides to lock Nick Nack in a suitcase near the end of the film.
Our hero is only defending himself of course, but he treats Nick Nack as a mere object, forcing him to suffer the indignities of being locked in a confined space just because he’s little.
Not that we imagine Villechaize was too upset by it all, as his performance in The Man with the Golden Gun paved the way for his recurring role on later TV hit Fantasy Island.
3. When he asks a black man to fetch his shoes in Dr No
1962’s Dr No was the first Bond film, and set most of the key elements of the formula in place: exotic locale, wealthy megalomaniac opponent, and sultry and sexually available female sidekick.
One element of that formula that is particularly frowned upon today, however, is overt xenophobia – but sadly back in the early 60s, it seems casual racism was far more socially acceptable.
Bond demonstrates this not only in his attitude toward the oriental Dr No, but also to the locals in Jamaica, where the bulk of the action takes place.
While in Jamaica, Bond has help from Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), a local fisherman who also works with the CIA.
However, Bond makes it screamingly obvious that he views Quarrel not as a colleague, but as a servant – demonstrated most stunningly when, whilst on the beach post-swim, he flatly order the man to “fetch my shoes.”
As for why Bond is too busy/important to pick up his own shoes: well, he’s obviously too busy chatting up his latest object of affection, the white bikini-clad Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress).
2. When he doesn’t bat an eyelid over Sévérine’s death in Skyfall
Given that Daniel Craig’s run as Bond has been the most grounded, socially aware run of the character yet, you wouldn’t necessarily think too much of it could have aged badly just yet.
However, at least one scene in Craig’s third Bond film, 2012’s Skyfall, is surprising in its insensitivity.
Midway through, Bond develops a close – er – bond with Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), a former sex slave who now works for arch villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).
This being the Craig era, Bond doesn’t simply pounce into bed with Sévérine – they get to know each other and recognise they’re kindred spirits first.
Even so, this doesn’t do much to affect Bond’s near-total lack of reaction when Silva shoots Sévérine dead in front of him.
The fact that mere moments later the back-up Bond called for comes flying in leaves one wondering why the super-spy didn’t put up any kind of a fight to save her.
1. When he disguises himself as a Japanese man in You Only Live Twice
Now, James Bond is a secret agent, and as such, he constantly has to come up with new ways to fly under the radar.
In You Only Live Twice, he demonstrates one such technique when he decides to disguise himself as… ahem… a Japanese villager.
“Hmm…”, we hear you cry, “isn’t James Bond played by a white man?”. Why yes, yes he most certainly is.
And it is this fact that makes this cunning disguise somewhat more troubling, especially when we consider that Bond actually paints his face and tapes his eyes into a squint.
It seems that Bond and his makeover specialists at MI6 assume that no one will see through his thinly veiled guise (spoiler: they do).
And this is without even taking into account the fact that part of his cover is marrying a young woman from the Japanese village, whom he is told has “a face like a pig.”