After creating so many cinematic memories on the big screen, the James Bond franchise is celebrating its 60th anniversary. While news of what comes next for the saga is pretty thin at the moment, there is one certainty about what’s in store: The next James Bond will boast some intriguing, fun, and altogether dangerous gadgets.
It’s become a staple of the series, with the genre as a whole looking to the James Bond movies for inspiration when crafting their own equipment. While the likes of the Kingsman and Johnny English series might have taken some of the gadgets a step further into comedic territory, the devices that 007 uses throughout his adventures can often be grounded in a hyper-reality that pulls from real-world technology but are defined by an imaginative edge. These designs were memorable for their uses in the field and how cool they truly are as a concept. And although Bond might have some of the best gadgets out there, that isn’t to say that his enemies and allies aren’t also well-equipped.
10. The Attack Sofa
A James Bond release wouldn’t feel complete without a hint of some of the other gadgets that Q has in development. There are always odd experiments happening in the background of his scenes; his lab usually transforms into an erratic display of testing and occasional accidents. That’s the only way the team can put together some of the equipment that the agents have demonstrated in their work. The Living Daylights contains one of the most hilarious examples though.
When Bond tours the facility, as has become the custom, he is treated to a look at a man-eating sofa. The Quartermaster asks one of his lab assistants to take a seat. The couch then rapidly moves, consuming the scientist before anyone has a chance to stop it. The application for this device is never quite certain, and Bond himself never gets to use it in any capacity. But perhaps the agent should be more careful about where he sits next while visiting Q’s house for a martini.
9. The Knife Shoe
A lot of love has been given for James Bond’s gadgets but what about his antagonists? From Russia With Love featured the memorable Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) as the villain. She’s a ruthless colonel and Soviet counter-intelligence operative, as well as a SPECTRE double agent(!), who required her own range of surprise weaponry. Disguised as a housekeeper, she gets the jump on Bond near the end of the film, aiming a gun at him before she is disarmed by Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). But it’s what’s hidden in her shoe that has become far more iconic for fans of the series and gives her the edge in the ensuing conflict.
While the shoes themselves look basic, they pack a small flick knife at the tip, which is concealed in the sole. She brandishes this weapon on Bond, with the blade coated in poisons designed to finish the job. He fights her off with a chair before Tatina lands the final shot, firing Klebb’s own gun. While the use of the gadget might not have been too effective considering its in quite a difficult location to harness, it is also tricky to defend against and might have landed a lucky shot on one of 007’s legs. As a piece of cinema history it is thus a classic design that spoke to the shock factor in the climatic scene.
8. Dentonite Toothpaste
A Bond movie wouldn’t be complete without explosives. All manner of situations require a little dynamite to help an agent on their way, and Q usually had an ingenious method to hide these lethal gadgets in plain sight. For License To Kill, the movie took an unexpected approach, relying on a household item. However, unlike other equipment from the series, this was not based on a real-world brand.
His Majesty’s Secret Service had transformed a tube of toothpaste into an explosive device. Comedically titled Detonite, the false branding alluded to the contents within. It’s terrifying that someone could have mistakenly used this product as was intended, but James Bond took advantage of the gadget when he made an assassination attempt on Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). While his goal was unsuccessful, the toothpaste itself destructed without issue. A cleverly disguised cigarette packet became the detonator in another spectacular design choice.
7. The Watches
It’s a bit of an honorable mention, but James Bond doesn’t go anywhere without his trusty watch. Throughout the saga he has featured some of the top-of-the-line wristwatches, many of which are based on real-world products. Of course that makes the concept even cooler for viewers, who could very well own one of these items (hence the high price many watchmaker companies pay to have their wares included). However, as is often the case with Bond’s gear, these accessories aren’t always what they appear to be, with Q kitting them out with some useful upgrades.
For instance, The Spy Who Loved Me saw Bond using a digital watch that allowed for printable messages to be sent to him; a technology that clearly predicted genuine advancements in the smart device world. Famously, 007’s Rolex Submariner in Live and Let Die featured a small buzzsaw that allowed him to cut his way out of imprisonment, while the wrist piece also contained a tiny electromagnet.
The Rolex of Never Say Never Again was incredibly handy when it came to slicing, with its laser capable of burning through Bond’s chains (a trick GoldenEye used to even greater effect when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond used such a laser to cut through an armored train’s floor). The modern releases haven’t shied away from the tradition. No Time To Die saw Bond use an EMP device within his watch. The destructive gadget ensured that no technology was safe around the spy.
6. The Trusty Attaché Case
Bond requires somewhere to store all of his equipment. An object that would blend in with his surroundings. Thus the second entry into the line, From Russia With Love proposed a new solution from Q—and one that played into imagery from Ian Fleming’s novels. The attaché case was handed to Sean Connery’s Bond and looked to be a regular briefcase; fans knew, however, that surprises were naturally hidden within. The original model was crafted by the British company Swaine Adeney Brigg.
The matter of fact rundown of what the attaché case included built anticipation for how Bond might use the intricate object throughout the remainder of the film. It contained 40 rounds of ammunition which were sure to be necessary for 007’s consistent firearm usage. It also hid a small throwing knife in a secret compartment, housed a folding AR7 Sniper’s Rifle with infrared telescopic sight, 50 gold sovereigns, and a teargas cartridge disguised as a tin of talcum powder. The service had really thought of everything and it was fun to see an ordinary object for the first time completely transformed in the most subtle of ways to give the agent the advantage in the field. The way 007 uses every facet to escape certain death at the hands of Red Grant (Robert Shaw) is also one of the franchise’s all-time great sequences.
5. Explosive Pen
If you haven’t learned anything yet from the best gadgets in Bond then it’s important to note that there’s one thing the series loves to do: Combine regular household objects with explosions. Stationary that might be concealed on one’s person is the most popular incarnation of that, and GoldenEye went back to an old trick with the design of an exploding pen.
The stainless steel Parker Jotter casing contained a class IV grenade within. It can be armed with three clicks, and disarmed with another three. But with a four-second countdown, it doesn’t leave much room to escape when it’s ready to blow. Villain Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) repeatedly clicks the pen after taking it from Bond during the movie’s third act, unaware of what he’s about to unleash. It’s a tense moment where Brosnan’s Bond and the audience know of a fiery fate that everyone else is oblivious to. It also allows the spy to make a quick escape, taking advantage of the explosive chaos and signifying that this unassuming item was such a useful gadget in a seemingly impossible situation.
4. The Golden Gun
Going back to the villainous theme, The Man With The Golden Gun included such a spectacular gadget that the film was named after it. The talented and deadly professional hitman, Francisco Scaramanga, had been given that very nickname because of the unusual firearm he carried with him. It might have been a calling card that has featured in the legacy of Bond pictures, but the gun was also crafted in a genius way to conceal it in everyday life.
Firing golden bullets, the weapon was custom made to separate out into different fragments, each of which represented a regular item: a pen, a lighter, a cigarette case, and a cufflink could all be disassembled from the firearm. Low frequency metal detectors are also far less effective at finding gold, meaning security would be a lot easier to travel through with the device on one’s person.
The slow assembly of the gun helps to raise the ominous tension of any scene. The gadget is such a perfect display of James Bond movies at their best, the narrative itself being driven forward by this conflict-causing surprise weapon, which not only rivals some of the best guns that Q has created but has also been involved in plenty of other Bond projects. It’s difficult to find a spinoff game for instance that doesn’t allow players to utilize the popular golden artifact.
3. Lotus Esprit S1 Submarine Car
Just like the watches, another signature of the James Bond series is influenced by the cars that he drives. There are a small range of British manufacturers that follow 007 around on screen, including Aston Martin and Bentley. But one of Bond’s most iconic rides can’t be found on store floors in quite the same configuration. For The Spy Who Loved Me vehicle, the production turned to a custom-built British-made Lotus Esprit S1, a classic and classy, genuine model which was nicknamed Wet Nellie.
Bond can’t go driving a regular Lotus though. With the spy requiring transport that would submerge him beneath the waves, Roger Moore’s Bond utilized the on-board technology of the Esprit S1 to transform the car into a submarine. It was a gadgetry display that continued to keep the magic of the movies alive!
During a major chase scene through the streets of Costa Smeralda, the car leap from the edge of a peer into the sea. Inside the car, the dashboard flipped to signify the change in functionality. The wheels fold in, and a radar system is engaged, which is consequently used to fire a missile at the pursuing helicopter. The sequence personifies the action-packed spectacle of Bond and the otherworldly kit he uses while on the job.
2. The Invisible Car
Back to Bond’s his for cars. If a submarine vehicle wasn’t enough, Die Another Day saw the character step into an invisible car; state of the art technology that the real-world still hasn’t managed to master. This was a moment of pure spy fantasy that thrilled moviegoers worldwide in its concept, although perhaps took some out of the experience because of its use of CGI.
Regardless, is there anything more Bond than a car that produces imagery based on adaptive camouflage, allowing the vehicle to blend into its environment and resulting in an action-packed snowy car chase? Well in fact, the only thing that could make this more 007 heavy is the brand of the car in question. The movie used a British Aston Martin V12 Vanquish for the sequence, playing heavily into a tradition that’s been maintained throughout the franchise. Cloaking device technology is still in development in reality, and right now they aren’t being pulled off quite in the same way as Her Majesty’s Secret Service managed to onscreen. Still, this makes for a memorable entry both for better and perhaps worse but has ranked so highly because of how it pushed the boundaries of the series.
1. The Jetpack
Whether it’s science fiction or semi-realistic thrillers, the jetpack has become an example of a gadget that has captured moviegoers’ imaginations. Humans want to fly and the concept that one could be propelled using the thrust of an engine strapped to their back is a thrilling proposal. Jetpacks of course exist in the real world, and the iteration seen in Thunderball is not quite as fictionalized as many might expect, despite it differing from the hydro-packs audiences can actually experience today.
007 has flown a wide array of aircraft in his time, yet none seem quite as volatile as Connery’s backpack during his fourth film’s opening sequence. The Bell-Textron gear was originally built for the U.S. military but could only last in the air for about 20 seconds, making it a largely redundant design. Despite the dangers it posed, the production strapped Bond (or a stuntman) to the jet, with the character making a quick getaway through the air from his pursuers. It’s a remarkable moment in the movie, with the sound design reminiscent of a powerful plane thruster, helping to sell the idea of its sheer strength. Bond might look slightly clumsy getting lifted in the air by the jetpack, but the premise itself was intriguing enough to mesh well with his style and there really wasn’t anything cooler to a kid watching the scene for the first time.