In 1961, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman founded EON (Everything Or Nothing) Productions and sought financing for a film based on Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories. Dr. No was released the following year, and EON have retained custody over the character for over 50 years and 23 feature films, with the 24th, SPECTRE due to hit cinemas in November.
Countless volumes have been written about Bond’s world, but the last 50 years have taken it from the post-empire British character which Fleming intended, through further tumultuous times in national and global politics, and emerged more successful than ever. With numerous symbols and objects in each film, the history of Bond on screen is rich and complicated.
Here’s our pick of 25 such objects, their places in the respective films, and how they can chart a course through the history of the franchise and its myriad changes of creative direction.
1. Walther PPK
First appearance: Dr. No
“When you carry a 00 number, you have a license to kill, not get killed.”
We have to start with a gun – barring Daniel Craig’s movies (until Spectre at least), the iconic gun barrel sequence is the first thing we see in every single film and Dr. No starts the trend. In most mediums in which the character has appeared, this German pistol is notoriously Bond’s sidearm of choice, but as plot devices go, it’s also highly significant in our introduction to Sean Connery’s big screen version, in showing his reaction to authority.
Following that staggeringly cool first scene in the casino, Bond reports to MI6, where M gives him a mission and tells him in no uncertain terms that he and the other 00 agents will be using the Walther from here on out. Bond is reluctant and even sulky about dropping his preferred Beretta, but M puts his foot down. We’re told that casualties in the field have gone down by 40% as a result and that Bond has just spent six months in hospital because it stuck in his holster on his most recent mission, so it’s probably for the best.
He quickly gets used to it though, because he’s used the same make right up until Skyfall. For reasons that should be obvious, gun adverts aren’t as common these days, but it’s weirdly fitting that Bond’s early change of brand loyalty marks the very first use of product placement in a series that would thrive upon it over time.
2. Attaché briefcase
First appearance: From Russia With Love
“An ordinary black case… with 20 rounds of ammunition, here and here.”
Dr. No‘s quartermaster was played by Peter Burton, but from the second movie onwards, the beloved Desmond Llewelyn took over as Major Boothroyd, or Q. The character would become a fixture of the series above and beyond the usual singular scenes in which he featured, but here he gives Bond his first real gadget, and it’s a doozy.
The leather briefcase carried a collapsible sniper rifle, ammunition, 50 gold sovereigns (the poshest currency imaginable), and a knife in concealed compartments, as well as a booby trap that detonates a tear gas bomb if the case is opened by anyone who doesn’t know the trick to opening it.
When SPECTRE assassin Red Grant (brilliantly played by Robert Shaw) has Bond at his mercy on the Orient Express, this is just about the only thing that saves 007 from a rather nasty death. Director Terence Young’s eye for realism makes this Cold War thriller an early high watermark for the series and the case, while fantastic, is completely within the realm of feasibility. As we’ll see, the gadgets would get more outlandish from here on out.
3. Ejector seat
First appearance: Goldfinger
“You must be joking.”
Often acclaimed as the best Bond movie ever, Connery’s third outing as 007 introduces another branded icon of the series – the Aston Martin. There’s also the first of various visits to Q Branch, where Bond is issued with a DB5 that’s loaded with optional extras including machine guns, smoke screen, revolving licence plates, tire slashing blades and most memorably, an ejector seat.
The only one of these originally specified in the film’s script was the smoke screen, but director Guy Hamilton and other crew members kept adding in new ideas for gadgets. The ejector seat was suggested by Hamilton’s stepson and it makes for a well timed bit of comic tension at the start of a car chase before it’s deployed, not to mention a perfectly pitched sight gag in Skyfall, when Judi Dench complains about the car. Never mind that it’s less of a practical vehicle than a full-on Bond-mobile – this marks the point where the series went from fantastical spy thrillers to turning out iconic blockbusters.
4. Razor-rimmed hat
First appearance: Goldfinger
“Manners, Oddjob. I thought you always took your hat off to a lady.”
The films hadn’t skimped on gadgets and enhancements for the villains up to this point either. Julius No had bionic hands and Rosa Klebb had a poison tipped knife concealed in her shoe, but Oddjob wears the crown amongst these early antagonists. Specifically, he wears a bowler hat with a razor-tipped edge that cuts through things (mostly people) when thrown with enough force.
He dressed like an Oliver Hardy cosplayer, but as played by Olympic weightlifter Harold Sakata, he put more than enough menace and sheer welly behind each throw. The imposing stature of Oddjob has never been equalled, but it’s never stopped the series from trying, with superhuman antagonists including Richard Kiel’s Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonrakerand, imminently, Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx in SPECTRE. The hat is just the cherry on top of the series’ best ever henchman.
First appearance: Thunderball
“I hope we didn’t scare the fishes.”
If we were being generous, we might consider Bond’s status as a Reserve Commander in the Royal Navy to be the reason why over two thirds of his films to date end with him floating around in the water, almost always with a lady. Still, the most water-logged entry in the series to date is still Thunderball, which was originally intended as the first Bond film.
Q issues a re-breather to Bond, which comes in handy (as these gadgets conveniently do) when he has to retrieve some stolen nuclear warheads from SPECTRE’s underwater hiding place. It’s on the list because its purpose is more significant than the object, specifically in the franchise’s tenacity for stunt work at the forefront of action cinema and the extensive underwater sequences that made up over a quarter of the film’s running time.
These scenes were revolutionary for the time, but also rather slow-paced and include a disproportionate number of shots of a snorkelling Connery looking alarmed. The film was the longest of the series up to that point and the pacing even makes it feel quite boring in retrospect. Soggy as it may be, it demonstrates how the Bond film pushed the envelope in terms of practical effects.
6. Little Nellie
First appearance: You Only Live Twice
“A toy helicopter?”
Since the helicopter battle at the end of From Russia With Love, every Bond film but one (The Man With The Golden Gun) has featured some sort of helicopter-related action. More often than not, it’s a villain who gets to the chopper and rains ammunition down upon Bond, but You Only Live Twice has Bond fighting back in a heavily armed autogyro from Q Branch.
Codenamed Little Nellie, the light aircraft comes to Japan in four separate suitcases along with an exasperated Q, much to the bemusement of the Japanese intelligence service. The dogfight that ensues with some grown-up helicopters proved as difficult to film as the underwater sequences in the previous film, but this setpiece does have the benefit of being about ten times more exciting, thanks to some nifty weapons (including aerial mines and a flamethrower) and liberal use of John Barry’s tremendous action score.
7. Tracy’s wedding ring
First appearance: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
“We have all the time in the world.”
We did say that they wouldn’t all be gadgets, but then six films in, this is the first time that the series places much value in a thing that can’t be used to knack someone else. Enter George Lazenby, who had a one night stand with the lead role in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film is a little hung up on Connery, who quit to pursue other film roles, and famously opens with Bond breaking the fourth wall after a girl makes off with his motor and deadpanning “This never happened to the other fellow.”
The girl is mob princess Teresa ‘Tracy’ Draco, (played by a sublime Diana Rigg) and she goes on to become the most important ‘Bond girl’ of the lot. While the main plot is concerned with Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s mad allergy-related masterplan, the film itself is an epic love story between Bond and Tracy, culminating in their marriage.
Lazenby has been lambasted and then reassessed over the years since the film came out and he’s clearly never better as 007 than when he’s on-screen with Rigg. But as in the book, Tracy is killed by Blofeld in a drive-by shooting at the end of the film, as the happy couple head off for their honeymoon. The film ends on Bond cradling his bride and holding her wedding band, heartbroken. Until the current era, the series would seldom, if ever, be this emotional again.
8. La Bombe Surprise
First appearance: Diamonds Are Forever
“Mmm! That looks fantastic. What’s in it?”
Bizarrely, the next film is very much business as usual, with no reference to previous traumatic events. Having got out of the role at precisely the moment when he could have made a masterpiece in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery jokingly demanded a $2 million salary and a production deal to return for Diamonds Are Forever and got both of these anyway, like a boss. However, he also turns in his least interested performance and the slate is completely wiped clean from the previous film, resulting in one of the worst Bond films of all.
One of the more celebrated features of the film is the presence of the gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith) who come up with ever more inventive ways of offing their victims while making morbid Bond-worthy quips along the way. They also serve up the film’s most ridiculous gadget/weapon- a dessert with a bomb in it. It’s a 180 degree turn from the poignant ending of OHMSS.
As Connery’s official last gasp as 007 and the first Bond film of the 1970s, Diamonds Are Forever paved the way for the perceived campness of the era that would follow, and never more so than in the explosively silly finale.
9. Espresso machine
First appearance: Live & Let Die
After a spooky pre-titles sequence and that banging theme tune by Paul McCartney and Wings, our first sight of Roger Moore’s James Bond in Live & Let Die is surprisingly domesticated. Rather than wait for Bond to report to MI6 as was well established in the previous six instalments, M and Moneypenny go to visit Bond’s flat, which we would have previously assumed had a hat permanently affixed to the doorknob to deter exactly this kind of untimely visit.
The new Bond emerges in a monogrammed dressing gown, immediately setting up Moore’s portrayal as different to the attempt to give Lazenby the same trappings as his predecessor. He makes his boss a coffee with his espresso machine, which was still the stuff of Tomorrow’s World and hardly a fixture of everyday life, carefully marking even Bond’s home comforts apart as something aspirational for audiences. It’s hardly Dr. No‘s casino scene, but it does distinguish Moore’s portrayal of the character.
10. The Lovers tarot card
First appearance: Live & Let Die
“I had no choice. Please believe me. The cards.”
We could go for another gadget here. During his house call, Q furnishes Bond with a magnetic watch, which he promptly uses to unzip a lady’s dress. However, we have far more pressing questions about the pack of tarot cards. The main plot of Live & Let Diecenters on drug dealing international gangsters who employ voodoo to intimidate suppliers and monopolise the heroin trade. At one point, Bond uses tarot cards to trick the villainous Kananga’s personal fortune teller, Solitaire, into believing that he’s destined to take her virginity.
Bond lays three ‘The Lovers’ cards and then Solitaire, and the gag comes when he drops the pack and reveals that the cards are all identical. We didn’t see Q give him this and we can’t imagine that he would (although the next film stretches that considerably), which begs the question of how long James Bond has been carrying around this pack of identical tarot cards, just in case he needed to seduce a clairvoyant? For someone who never seems to use contraception, he seems absurdly well prepared for other sexual eventualities. What a bastard.
11. The Golden Gun
First appearance: The Man With The Golden Gun
“You get as much pleasure out of killing as I do, so why don’t you admit it?”
The late, great Christopher Lee is one of the greatest ever Bond villains. It’s just unfortunate that he’s in The Man With The Golden Gun, a film that frequently gets lost in surreal set-ups, detours involving good ol’ boy hanger-on Sheriff J.W. Pepper (the series’ very own Jar Jar Binks) and a random martial arts movie pastiche.
But as the titular assassin Francisco Scaramanga, Lee is terrific. Like Oddjob, Scaramanga packs for maximum efficiency and uses a golden gun with golden bullets to kill people, for one million dollars a hit. This immediately tells you that he’s got a little bit of an ego. It’s also one of the cooler gadgets we’ve seen, iconic enough to have featured in several 007 video game spin-offs as a special weapon that kills opponents with one shot.
On top of being a big old status symbol, the gun disassembles into four golden parts- a cigarette case, a lighter, a fountain pen and a cufflink- making it the most gentlemanly of accessories. And what is Roger Moore’s Bond packing in this one? A prosthetic nipple, because he’s weirdly fixated on the fact that his adversary has a superfluous third papilla. It doesn’t matter who won the assassins’ duel after that- the real loser in this one was Q Branch.
12. Union Jack parachute
First appearance: The Spy Who Loved Me
“Oh God, James Bond is going to die! He’s going to die!”
Oops, we’ve got a bit of I’m Alan Partridge stuck in the quotes bit. But the choice of film is one of the crucial reasons why that scene, in which Alan painstakingly acts out the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me for a bunch of people who really want to watch America’s Strongest Man instead, is so fondly remembered. The Spy Who Loved Me has the finest cold open in the franchise’s history and comfortably the finest moment of Moore’s era.
After eluding some Russian shits on skis, Bond goes right off a cliff into oblivion, in an incredible setpiece performed by stuntman Rick Sylvester. Captured in one amazing shot, the punchline of the unfurling red, white and blue parachute is unquestionably brilliant, striking a perfect balance between ridiculous and awesome. Your dad’s stories of audiences in 1977 giving the scene a standing ovation in cinemas nationwide may have a hint of the apocryphal, but given the perfection of this moment, such tales are still entirely believable.
13. Laser rifle
First appearance: Moonraker
“I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”
Throughout Moore’s era, the franchise had capitalised upon other popular trends in film to try and broaden the audience, including blaxploitation in Live & Let Die and martial arts in The Man With The Golden Gun. Despite The Spy Who Loved Me being a terrific Cold War adventure through and through, Moonraker turns its sights on the blockbuster success of Star Wars and does a bit of sci-fi, taking a Fleming title to absurdly literal extremes.
Even aside from going into space, Moonraker was criticised upon release for an excessive amount of gadgetry – audiences could have been used to Q’s offerings being weirdly fit for purpose in a pickle, but Bond’s armoury here is almost enough to cancel out any jeopardy. The Venetian gondola hovercraft is a particular low point, which even causes a nearby pigeon to do a double take when it is deployed in the most unexpected way.
But when the film features the one and only deployment of the US Army’s laser rifle-wielding space corps to take down Hugo Drax’s satellite, you know it has long since taken a running jump into absurdity. From that point anything goes in the silliest Bond of all, right up to the claim that it was “filmed on location in Outer Space” in the end credits.
First appearance: For Your Eyes Only
“That’s detente, comrade. You don’t have it. I don’t have it.”
Long-time second unit director John Glen stepped up to helm the next five Bond films after Moonrakerand set about trying to bring back some of the realism that had characterised much earlier instalments. After a bizarre and dreadful opening that summarily executes Blofeld for the sake of a rights dispute with Kevin McClory (which is far too tedious to detail here), Glen oversees a back-to-basics international espionage story.
Bond is dispatched to retrieve a misplaced ATAC, (Automatic Targeting and Attack Communicator) a device that could make submarines go rogue and attack their own nations, from terrorists and encounters the vengeful Melina Havelock along the way. As a MacGuffin, it fits its purpose nicely and recalls From Russia With Love‘s Lektor machine.
Having defeated the baddies, at the end of the film, Bond is confronted by General Gogol, who acts as M’s opposite number and an uneasy ally in Russian intelligence. He requests the ATAC, but Bond coolly destroys it and restores the political detente that characterised much of the decade. Like Diamonds Are Forever, it brings the series into a new decade. Unlike that film, it does it by being more topical than most Bond movies.
15. Fake Fabergé egg
First appearance: Octopussy
“I heard the price of eggs was up, but isn’t that a little high?”
The convoluted set-up of Octopussy has Bond poach a Fabergé egg (boom boom) at auction and replace it with a fake in order to flush out the villainous Kamal Khan. The exiled Afghan prince is replacing priceless treasures with fakes, while pawning off the real artefacts to fund renegade Soviet General Orlov’s nuclear attack on US airspace.
But let’s get metaphorical. For this film, we could have picked the hot air balloon or the TV wristwatch that Bond (obviously) uses to look at breasts here, but the idea of duplicates, one real and one somehow not, is important to this particular year in 007’s screen history. That aforementioned rights battle over SPECTRE came to a head in 1983 when McClory got Warner Bros. to make Never Say Never Again, an unofficial Bond film starring Sean Connery, (who is broadly speculated to have returned as Bond just to annoy producer Cubby Broccoli) in direct opposition to Eon’s new film.
It was hardly a duel of titans though – neither Bond film is particularly exciting and Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball that somehow manages to be inferior to the damp squib original. Octopussy is the better film of the two, even though it sinks to such infamously naff Moore moments as the Tarzan yell while swinging through vines, and the dual disguises of clown and gorilla, respectively encapsulating both his and his predecessor’s contemporary takes on the character.
16. Zorin microchips
First appearance: A View To A Kill
“For centuries, alchemists tried to make gold from base metals. Today, we make microchips from silicon, which is common sand, but far better than gold.“
I understand that quote about as much as this movie understands microchips. Moore’s final outing as 007 desperately grasps for technological relevance and has one of the classic movie misunderstandings of how microchips work. In this case, the nefarious computer industrialist Max Zorin is behind a really, really boring racket in running performance-enhanced horses and reaping the profits. The reason why microchips are needed to inject horse steroids remains a mystery.
Like Lee before him, Christopher Walken is squandered as Zorin. He’s the first Oscar winner to take on the Bond villain role and his performance is an honest portrayal of his usual unusual self, but Zorin’s incomprehensible plot to destroy Silicon Valley from his zeppelin is fatally daft. And so, Moore’s era ends not with a bang, nor a whimper, but a pressing need for more cowbell.
17. The Lady Rose
First appearance: The Living Daylights
“Glad I insisted you brought that cello.”
Timothy Dalton’s arrival marked a soft reboot and a concerted effort to take the series back to basics, resulting in the most faithful portrayal of Fleming’s character as written. The AIDS panic of the time also led to a reining-in of Bond’s polyamorous tendencies and although The Living Daylights‘ pre-title sequence is very much classic 007, (taking in a fight and a fuck before a-ha belt out the theme song) Dalton’s Bond is surprisingly chaste.
The Bond girl this time around is Kara Milovy, a cellist who Bond spares when she’s roped into an attempt on would-be Soviet defector General Koskov’s life. Koskov brought her a Stradivarius cello, the Lady Rose, that causes Bond to get stuck in a car chase as he tries to extract Kara. He insists they’re not returning to her flat to get it and she insists even harder that they are.
There’s a nice bit of comic timing to the scene that immediately follows as a rumpled Bond sulkily shoves the cello into the back seat of his car before the baddies show up. It comes in useful for a typical Bond moment as he and Kara sit in the case and use it as a snowboard right through Austrian border control, which at that point might as well be reduced to a theme park height restriction that reads “You must be this awesome to enter.”
18. Felix’s lighter
First appearance: Licence To Kill
“He disagreed with something that ate him.”
CIA agent Felix Leiter was a recurring ally to Bond throughout the series, but had never been played by the same actor twice in a row until Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal in Daniel Craig’s first two movies. However, the only actor to play Leiter opposite two different Bonds was David Hedison, who played the first role in Live & Let Die and then again, unusually, in the Leiter-centric Licence To Kill 16 years later.
The only other feasible connection there is that Felix in mauled by sharks in Fleming’s Live & Let Die, the same grisly plot turn that befalls the newlywed CIA agent in Licence To Kill. In this altogether darker adaptation, the sadistic cartel members also rape and murder Felix’s bride, Della. It’s no accident that the film features the first explicit reference to Mrs. Bond’s untimely death (barring the grave in For Your Eyes Only) and this is obviously part of what spurs 007 to go off reservation on a Yojimbo-inspired personal mission to destroy the cartel from the inside-out.
Despite this, Q drops by to offer up some gadgets in one of the more memorable scenes of the quartermaster in the field. But it’s Bond’s Zippo lighter, a gift from the happy couple to their best man, which serves as a totem of his revenge. After destroying Sanchez’s organisation and blowing up four tankers full of cocaine and petrol, Bond finishes the fuel-doused bastard by burning him alive with the lighter. The graphic content and unusual plot means that some call this film the least Bond-like of the entire series, but do you hear that Leiter/lighter pun?
19. Ballpoint pen grenade
First appearance: GoldenEye
“The writing is on the wall.”
The EON model works on a semi-annual basis and any gaps in 007’s screen history are usually to do with crazy legal battles. One such battle held up production of what was intended to be Dalton’s third Bond movie, GoldenEye (Anthony Hopkins was once mooted to play Alex Trevelyan, if you need further inspiration to imagine how amazing this might have been) for seven years and brought the series kicking and screaming into the 1990s.
When the character has been away for so long, Pierce Brosnan’s début makes a lot of time for some self-reflexive criticisms of the series’ tropes, appointing Judi Dench as M and calling Bond a misogynist dinosaur, while still skewing close to the series’ formula. The quips and the gadgets came back in a big, bad way here and despite vast variations in quality between films, any scene between Brosnan and Desmond Llewelyn is a joy to behold.
Their first Q Branch scene gives the new Bond a motley assortment of gadgets as well as unwittingly foreshadowing Sam Smith’s SPECTRE title song when he’s presented with an exploding pen. This is exactly the kind of gadget that was explicitly mocked in Skyfall, used in a way that relies on the extraordinary coincidence of Boris activating it with a specific nervous tic, but it also draws a fine line between the old and new Bond.
20. Ericsson JB988 mobile phone
First appearance: Tomorrow Never Dies
“Talk here, listen here.” “So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all these years?”
Bond had a phone in his car all the way back in From Russia With Love, but Tomorrow Never Dies is the first instalment of the franchise to capitalise upon the advances in mobile technology to bring a new gadget into Bond’s rotating arsenal. This one doubles as a fingerprint scanner, a taser and a remote control for Bond’s BMW. Plus, with its key replicator, it could be seen as the ‘phone as sonic screwdriver’ trope that has been picked up by the Mission: Impossible series too.
The phone is in keeping with the legacy of gadgets in the series, but also points the way to further product integration in later films. Just as Ericsson’s mobile arm would be spun-off into a co-venture with Sony, so the electronics giant’s feature film division would eventually pick up distribution of the Bond films, starting with Casino Royale.
Since then, the use of mobiles in the movies have been to display new features of real models, like night vision photography and facial recognition, rather than having them tricked out by Q. Look no further than the currently playing Sony advert in which Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny retrieves the new Sony Xperia Z5 for Bond, with a passing note about SPECTRE‘s imminent cinema release at the end, to see how this cross-promotion has continued.
21. Garotte chair
First appearance: The World Is Not Enough
“I could have given you the world.”
There’s an accepted wisdom that the third outing is where any Bond actor nails it – Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Skyfall uphold this, but The World Is Not Enough is more complicated. Speaking personally, I’ll always hold a soft spot for it as the first Bond film I saw in cinemas, but it does also make a whole bunch of missteps.
I can’t bring myself to slag off the inflatable ski jacket, a ludicrously fit-for-purpose invention, partly because it’s the last thing Llewelyn’s Q ever gives Bond on screen, but also because the garotte chair is altogether more interesting. The twist of Elektra King turning heel is undercut by the introduction and general awfulness of Dr. Christmas Jones, (or as we’ve always known her, Denise Richards: Nuclear Scientist) but it still gives us one very memorable villain confrontation.
Elektra straps Bond into the torture chair and takes perverse glee in tightening the screws on the device that’s crushing his neck, all the while doing a great deal of the taunting you’d expect from the series’ first female arch-villain. Plus, as one of Brosnan’s great talents as an actor is grunting, it’s funny to see a setpiece where he’s being strangled, apparently for the sole purpose of giving him five minutes to exhort. Classic Bondage.
22. Aston Martin Vanish
First appearance: Die Another Day
“I wish I could make you vanish.”
It takes something special to go lower than Moonraker‘s hover-gondola, but the 20th James Bond film, and Brosnan’s swansong, manages it with the risible invisible car. Predicated upon a godawful Vanquish pun, it couldn’t be any more ridiculous if Bond and Halle Berry’s Jinx had flown away in it at the end like in bloody Grease. Even Llewelyn would have struggled to sell this one and it doesn’t help that John Cleese, introduced in the previous film as the new Q, is nowhere near as good.
In terms of what this tells us about Bond on screen, we’re looking at the most CG-heavy film to date, combined with the crushing weight of callbacks to the previous 19 films – this also came out in the year of Dr. No‘s 40th anniversary. It was also the first Bond film released after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and its treatment of international terrorism felt as instantly outdated as the rest of it.
The Brosnan era could broadly be seen as a period of the franchise where the video game spin-offs were better than the films that inspired them, especially the much-lauded GoldenEye N64. Ironically, Die Another Day is the most like a computer game, but didn’t warrant a spin-off. Many wish they could make it vanish, but the series had reached its limits once again and the next film would be the biggest reboot to date.
23. Field medical kit (as optional extra)
First appearance: Casino Royale
“That last hand nearly killed me.”
As mentioned, Skyfall is a great movie, but it’s not where this particular Bond nails the role. Daniel Craig nailed it on his very first go, and Casino Royale is precisely the roaring 21st century modernization of Bond that Die Another Day wasn’t. As the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin astutely observed in his recent retrospective on the Craig films, “they looked forward to where the Brosnan films were leading, and then ran, headlong and panting, in the opposite direction.”
Over three distinct acts, Casino Royale reconstitutes Bond in a post-9/11 world. Many of the trappings, like the Aston Martin and Judi Dench’s M, make it past the transition, but Q Branch is nowhere to be seen just yet. Nevertheless, MI6 can spring for a few optional extras in Bond’s new DBS. The field medical kit is probably the most useful thing Bond has ever had in any car and the use of a defibrillator at the midpoint of the film makes for supremely intense viewing.
24. Algerian love knot
First appearance: Casino Royale
“This man and I have some unfinished business.”
It’s not a gadget, but like Felix’s lighter in Licence To Kill, it signifies something personal to Bond and becomes particularly prominent in Quantum Of Solace. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd goes the way of Tracy at the end of Casino Royale, but she also turned out to be a double agent who was trying to save her boyfriend from the villains. The Algerian love knot is a necklace from him, which Bond swipes from an evidence bag at the beginning of the series’ first straight-up sequel.
Quantum Of Solace feels as if it takes place in a much smaller world than its predecessor, with most of the surviving characters returning, as an emotionally wounded Bond single-mindedly pursues the truth behind Quantum. Whatever else the film got wrong as a result of a harried production schedule, the concluding scene in which Bond discovers Vesper’s boyfriend trying the same move on a Canadian intelligence agent, is very well executed. The necklace is dropped in the snow in the final shot of the movie and Bond gets his quantum of something or other.
25. Porcelain bulldog
First appearance: Skyfall
“Sometimes the old ways are the best.”
Q’s first appearance in the Craig era comes at the National Gallery, in front of Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, making deeply symbolic comments about a “grand old warship” and “the inevitability of time.” The best object Ben Whishaw has a hold of in this film is his Scrabble mug, so we have to look to the porcelain bulldog on M’s desk when searching for an object that defines the most recent Bond film’s place in the canon. Like Judi Dench in the post-Die Another Day continuity, it’s an anachronism.
Bond makes a disparaging comment about the ornament on its first appearance, to establish it for when M eventually leaves it to him in her will. More than any film before, Skyfall is totally cognisant of Britain’s diminished stature in a post-empire world and decides that Bond would rage stubbornly against the dying of the light, particularly when he and MI6 come under attack.
The British bulldog may symbolise obviousness for some, but the 50th anniversary celebration succeeds in every place where the 40th anniversary jamboree fell down. Unlikely as it may be, this tacky little bit of Britannia becomes a poignant icon for a film that held onto the past of the franchise with one hand, while pointing towards SPECTRE and beyond with the other.
That makes 25 objects over 53 years of cinema – if you feel we’ve missed any, do feel free to start your comments with “STOP GETTING BOND WRONG!” We suspect we have all the time in the world to reconsider this list after future instalments are released.
Skyfall grossed a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and despite statements to the contrary, it’s expected that Daniel Craig will be in at least one more Bond film after SPECTRE. Even if he hangs up his tux and blue trunks sooner, the press is already rampantly speculating about who will be the seventh actor to play the iconic role – the future of the franchise seems perfectly secure. James Bond will return.