They’ve been making movies about James Bond for over 50 years now and they consistently break box office records and attract millions of moviegoers. He’s a sauce gentleman spy who travels around the world to take out bad guys and sleep with beautiful women.
He’s been played by a bunch of different actors over the years, but the movies and the character are always more or less the same: Bond is sent on a mission by M that takes him to a exotic places and leads him to a diabolical villain bent on world domination.
The movies are full of intense action sequences — chases and shootouts and explosions — 007 surely should’ve died many times over. Here are the 15 most jaw-dropping, incredible times James Bond escaped certain doom.
15. The crane jump in Casino Royale
Casino Royale was the Batman Begins of the James Bond franchise. It was the reboot of the series that stripped it back to its basics. With the Pierce Brosnan movies, Bond had become too jam packed with crummy CGI effects and stupid stunts and gadgets.
They’d gone really over the top. It was time for a change, so they got rid of all that and simply gave us a movie about a suave spy doing his job. This concept was not on display in any scene more than the opener, which sees Bond chasing his target around a construction site.
It takes him up on top of a crane, and then he jumps off the crane and lands on another, which if you think about it, is a big metal frame thing in the sky. It was like a twenty or thirty foot drop, too. So, even though he didn’t miss the crane – which he likely should have – he still should’ve been killed in the impact.
14. The funhouse scene in The Man with the Golden Gun
The negative critical reception to The Man with the Golden Gun was centered around its comedic tone, which was considered to be uncharacteristic of the Bond franchise. There are some really silly comic moments in the film, like when they ruined one of the greatest car stunts ever captured on film – the barrel jump over the river – with a stupid slide whistle sound effect.
However, the climactic scene is pure, thrilling Bond. 007 pursues the villain, Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous man with the golden gun, to a funhouse. The scene is intense as Bond wanders around the room, knowing that at any moment, he could be shot dead by his opponent. It should’ve happened there and then, but Bond was on a mission from God.
13. Jumping off a dam in GoldenEye
Pierce Brosnan very almost wasn’t James Bond. He was tied down to his NBC series Remington Steele when the 007 producers were looking for someone to replace Roger Moore. But then NBC canceled Remington Steele, so Brosnan was available to replace Moore.
But then everybody became interested in Remington Steele when Brosnan was announced as the next Bond, so NBC brought it back, and Brosnan wasn’t available to replace Moore again. And then everybody lost interest in Remington Steele, because Brosnan wasn’t going to be Bond anymore, so NBC canceled it again.
But by then, Moore had been replaced by Timothy Dalton, so Brosnan couldn’t take on the role and thought his chances were gone. But as luck would have it, Dalton resigned and Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, and Mel Gibson all passed on the chance to replace him, so Brosnan finally got his chance to be Bond.
And there was no better way to introduce him than in the hair-raising opening scene of GoldenEye, where Bond jumps off a dam and plummets to his death, only to be saved at the last second by a bungee line.
12. Train chase in Octopussy
In Octopussy, Bond finds himself on a moving train with some bad guys and a nuclear warhead. He faces all kinds of enemies, having tussles on the roof of the speeding train, out in the open with the wind flying through his hair, and squaring off with talented knife throwers who would be better off in a circus where their skills could be used to entertain and not to kill.
As we saw in the opening scene of Skyfall, fighting on the roof of a moving train can easily turn very sour for our beloved 007, and in fact, in real life, it should turn out sour for everybody. But Bond is Bond, and in Octopussy, he manages to pull through. He’s indestructible – that’s why we love to watch him so much.
11. Hotel explosion in Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is perhaps the worst reviewed James Bond movie in history. The critics described it as “a mess,” “incomprehensible,” and “a disappointment.” It’s also been ranked as the most violent Bond movie, following a study in New Zealand that found it to feature 250 “trivial or severely violent” acts, more than any other Bond film.
In the movie’s climax, Bond blows up an entire hotel – a hotel that’s full of volatile fuel cells – and makes it out with barely a scrape. And then he leaves the bad guy out in the desert with nothing but a can of engine oil, curious about whether or not he’ll get thirsty enough to drink it, which is a little questionable, but that’s a debate for another time.
10. Faced with a barrage of bullets in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the most emotional and genuine moments in the entire James Bond franchise. Until then, we’d seen Bond girls come and go with no real romantic or lasting connection. They’re usually just archetypal femme fatales. But in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond actually falls in love and marries a woman named Tracy.
This is the only time Bond has ever been married, and you can understand why he decided not to remarry, since a couple of hours after his first wedding, his wife was slain in the prime of her life in a drive-by shooting by some goons.
However, we’re so swept up in the drama of the moment that we don’t think to consider the possibility that maybe Bond should’ve been killed, too. We’re supposed to believe that Bond managed to avoid a barrage of bullets with George Lazenby’s little tilt of the head.
9. Rolling over seven times in his Aston Martin in Casino Royale
James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is one of his defining hallmarks. Without that car, he isn’t quite 007. He is but a man.
The Aston Martin has been used throughout pop culture to represent coolness and affectionately parody Bond as many characters have driven one just to be like him, like Bernie Mac in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Roger Moore (one of the Bonds) in the comedy The Cannonball Run.
It’s been featured in a whole bunch of Bond movies – Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Skyfall, Spectre – but its appearance in Casino Royale gives us the most absurd, Aston Martin-related, death-defying moment in 007 history.
The scene plays out like an anti-speeding PSA as Bond charges through some country roads and comes across Eva Green tied up in the middle of the road, so he swerves out of the way and the car topples over, then proceeds to roll over a total of seven times, after which Bond is completely unharmed.
8. Surfing a tsunami in Die Another Day
Die Another Day was The Phantom Menace of the James Bond franchise. The filmmakers got too giddy with the burgeoning CGI effects that were being pioneered by the likes of James Cameron and George Lucas and they went overboard with them. Hence the invisible car and the car chase on ice.
But the moment that really takes the cake is when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond wind-surfs on a tidal wave. Even though the CGI is really bad and it doesn’t look like a deadly situation, if you take the scenario they are trying to portray with these rudimentary effects – a man surfing on a tsunami – it’s utterly ridiculous.
If anyone actually attempted that, they would be dead in a second, especially considering the fact that his makeshift surfboard is the roof he ripped off of a vehicle.
7. Getting shot several times with a machine gun in You Only Live Twice
In the opening scene of You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery’s James Bond is lying on a pull-out bed, asking his Chinese lover, “Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?” As if that racist remark wasn’t enough to make her want to kill him, the woman reveals herself to be an enemy of Bond as she hits a button that folds the bed up on him.
Then she lets in a pair of gunmen who fire machine guns at the now-folded bed. We don’t actually see the bullets penetrating Bond’s skin as he was sneakily taken off-screen, but the bed is folded back down again and 007 does look very dead.
After the title sequence, where Bond is buried at sea, he wiggles out of his watery grave and swims into a submarine. He was just faking his death to go on his next mission off the grid. But no one can survive that sort of machine gun fire.
6. Pushed out of a plane with no parachute in Moonraker
There’s a scene in Moonraker where Bond is pushed out of a private jet without a parachute. Skydiving is scary enough, but imagine doing an impromptu skydive and not having a parachute.
If you didn’t have any imagination or were naive enough to doubt the survival instincts and grace under fire skills of Commander Bond, then you might think that this was an inescapable situation. But if you had your head on, you’d realize that Bond always has a trick up his sleeve and an exit strategy.
He finds himself hurtling toward the Earth with no parachute and he sees a way out of it. His brain never stops! He spies a bad guy with a parachute, fights him for it, and then lives to tell the story.
5. Orient Express fight with Red Grant in From Russia with Love
From Russia with Love was the second ever James Bond movie, starring Sean Connery in the lead role, and it improved on Dr. No in that it moved the series further toward the classic formula that we’ve come to know and love (it would later be perfected by the third one, Goldfinger).
In From Russia with Love, there’s a brutal fight between Bond and Red Grant aboard the Orient Express that brings 007 to within an inch of his life. MI6 Confidential Magazine writer and 007 enthusiast Ben Williams has said of this fight scene, “Up until this film, fistfights in the Bond movies had been somewhat more theatrical.
But when Bond takes on Red Grant in a carriage of the Orient Express, we are offered a brutal, claustrophobic battle.”
4. Crashing a plane in Spectre
Spectre is definitely one of the dumbest Bond movies ever made. All of the decisions made by 007 are simply reckless and stupid, the most reckless and stupid of which is this decision to crash a plane into the side of a mountain.
The movie’s primary henchman figure Mr. Hinx, played by Dave Bautista, kidnaps Dr. Swann, played by the wonderful Léa Seydoux, and drives her out into the Alps.
Bond had to think fast about his response to this crisis and how he would save her, so the writers of Spectre had the genius, death-defying gentleman spy think to himself, ‘Hey, I know! I’ll hop into this plane and fly that into them, that’ll save her!’ And that’s exactly what he did. His plane loses its wings and crashes through a barn and he still manages to survive.
3. Skiing off a cliff in The Spy Who Loved Me
In what is perhaps the most breathtaking moment in the entire James Bond series, The Spy Who Loved Me opens with 007 being chased on skis down a mountain by some bad guys, who Alan Partridge describes as “Russian shits in black jumpsuits with lemon piping.”
At the end of the chase, Bond skis right off the edge of the cliff and you’re sure he’s going to die. The camera follows him for a long, extended, nail-biting sequence as he falls from a really, really great height. No music, just Bond falling to certain doom. And then he pulls a ripcord and a parachute comes out with a Union Jack on it!
Once again, James Bond has escaped certain death and lived to tell the tale. Cue Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” and a sexually suggestive title sequence.
2. Laser beam between his legs in Goldfinger
This is the most iconic moment in James Bond history, and it’s only fitting that it was Sean Connery, the original 007, who brought it to our screens. Goldfinger was the third Bond movie and arguably still stands as the best.
It was the first one to have the iconic formula that we come to expect today: open with a big action scene, then into an extravagant title sequence, then M gives Bond a mission, then he meets the Bond girl, then he has a chase, then he meets the villain, then he defeats the villain. It’s a time tested formula that’s proven successful for half a century.
Auric Goldfinger (clever name – Au is the chemical symbol of gold) has captured Bond, strapped him to a table, and has a searing laser beam making its way up towards 007’s crotch. He should’ve been chopped in half by it, but what would’ve been entertaining about that? Bond had other ideas…
1. Getting shot and falling off a train in Skyfall
Of all the near death experiences that 007 has had over the years, the opening scene of Skyfall is the only one that left him presumed dead and allowed him to retire from MI6 (but of course, just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in).
Eve has her sniper rifle aimed at the bad guy who Bond is fighting on the roof of a train that’s speeding along a bridge that’s like 300 feet above a river. Eve can’t get a clear shot of the bad guy; she might hit Bond.
But even with this knowledge, M tells her to “take the bloody shot.” She hits Bond, he plummets off the bridge into the river, and the opening titles begin set to Adele’s theme song. Any normal man probably would’ve been killed by the fall – but James Bond isn’t any normal man.