James Bond has been called many things over the years: suave, sophisticated, sexy, hard as nails. However, he’s also been described (by Judi Dench’s M herself) as “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,” whilst many others have noted his often overt racism and cold-blooded brutality.
In the 60 years since the Bond movies began, audiences everywhere have loved the movies, but it’s never been hard to note the number of incidents in the films that throw up a red flag, particularly through a modern lens. Here are 20 such problematic 007 moments.
20. When he dances with a dead woman in Thunderball
In 1965’s Thunderball, 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. True to form, 007 is not willing to give up without a fight and tries to blend in, taking Volpe by the hand in an impromptu dance.
However, when he spots another assassin across the room, Bond has no qualms over using Volpe as a human shield. She is shot and instantly killed, but rather than displaying any shock or remorse Bond just carries on dancing with Volpe’s corpse – before sitting her down at a table and telling those sat nearby, “she’s just dead.” Classy!
19. When he uses national stereotypes in Octopussy
Bond’s globe-trotting adventures had taken in many exotic locales, but 1983’s Octopussy was the first time the series gave audiences their first sight of 007 in 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 by this crass racial stereotyping, instead beaming up at this white saviour with gratitude.
18. When he beats up Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The only outing of second Bond actor George Lazenby, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is also best remembered as the movie in which the eternal lothario defies all expectation and gets married – albeit very briefly – to Diana Rigg’s Tracy. Yet as romantic as things might get between them, Bond and Tracy’s relationship has a rather alarming start.
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
Bond’s old-fashioned xenophobia is exhibited perhaps 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, remarking, “Peking duck tastes different to Russian caviar, but I love them both.” Women today might not like being compared to food, but Ling 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
In 1973’s Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s 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. Seeking to confirm these suspicions, he 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 Living Daylights sees Bond imprisoned in Afghanistan, where he frees fellow prisoner Kamran Shah (Art Malik), and soon thereafter teams up with Shah’s 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.
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. This is most apparent in Goldfinger, in the scene where Bond is enjoying a relaxing pool-side massage from his lady-friend, Dink (Margaret Nolan).
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. It’s hard to imagine too many women laughing that off nowadays.
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. However, Pierce Brosnan’s fourth and final Bond movie kicked up a particular 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.
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 Pat Fearing (Molly Peters), 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 Pat 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.” 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. Bond doesn’t hesitate to go straight to the centrefold model and peruse the image thereon with a big smile on his face, then proceeds to take the issue with him when he leaves the waiting room, continuing to ogle the centrefold.
10. When he strangles a woman with her own bikini top in Diamonds are Forever
In the opening moments of 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever (Sean Connery’s one-off post-Lazenby return to 007), 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.
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 ogles her in the bath in Thunderball
Before using the assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) as a human shield, Bond decides to have a little fun with her. To this end, he breaks into her hotel room 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
Fourth Bond actor Timothy Dalton may have portrayed by far the most chaste 007, but he was also the most brutal and ruthless of them since Connery. One particularly cruel moment in The Living Daylights sees him humiliate a helpless, visibly upset 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. He may throw her some clothes immediately afterwards and doesn’t leer the way the Bond of old might have, but it’s still a major violation.
8. His ‘seduction’ of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger
It’s clear that, in his earliest days, Bond really didn’t give a damn about the feelings of his sexual partners. This is made abundantly clear by his treatment of Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger. Despite Bond working his womanising charm, Pussy makes it very clear to him that she isn’t interested; for one thing, although the film avoids directly stating this, the character was written as gay.
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 misogynistic, homophobic conceit that the right man can simply ‘cure’ a woman of lesbianism.
6. When he’s surprised by Dr. Goodhead’s gender in Moonraker
One of the silliest entries in the series, 1979’s Moonraker sent Bond to space for the first time. However, as futuristic as the film’s concept might have been, Moonraker also demonstrated that the Bond series still wasn’t especially forward-thinking in its treatment of women, thanks to Lois Chiles’ Dr. Goodhead (and let’s not even get started on that name).
Sent to meet with the scientist knowing only her name, Bond is visibly taken aback – responding with Moore’s signature smirk and raised eyebrow – on finding that she is female. 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 saucy one-liners, and a great many of them are as incredibly inappropriate now as they were back in the day. One particular line in 1963’s From Russia with Love really takes the impropriety biscuit, when Bond finds 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 (in self defence, but even so).
3. When he orders Quarrel 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 – and, sadly, casual racism. 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, 007 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 black man to “fetch my shoes.”
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). Despite their mutual affection, Bond has a near-total lack of reaction when Silva shoots Sévérine dead in front of him. Given that the calvary show up in helicopters mere moments later, it’s hard not wonder why Bond made no attempt to save her.
1. When he disguises himself as a Japanese man in You Only Live Twice
As a secret agent, Bond 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. “Hang on,” we hear you cry, “isn’t James Bond played by a white man?” Why 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).