The best James Bond stunts are celebrations of the craft of filmmaking. Although the long-running franchise hasn’t always won critical acclaim for its storytelling, its spectacular set-pieces have long set the gold standard for action cinema.
While 007 largely steered clear of the truly audacious, ‘how did they do that?’ moments during the Sean Connery era – blockbuster cinema looked very different back then – from the early ’70s onwards, the best Bond stunts have become integral to the brand. Indeed, even the most mediocre 007 outings – we’re thinking A View to a Kill and Die Another Day – tend to feature at least one action sequence worth shouting about.
Our selection of the best James Bond stunts in history (delivered in chronological order) features death-defying leaps and falls, dangerous reptiles, and high-speed peril in practically every kind of vehicle you’d care to mention. 007 usually emerges in one piece, of course, while audiences tend to be shaken – and quite possibly stirred.
It’s all downhill from here… (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
Seeing as many regard Sean Connery as the definitive 007, it’s remarkable that none of our best Bond stunts are taken from his original five-movie run. If the franchise’s priorities were different in the early ’60s, however, we got a hint of things to come in George Lazenby’s one-and-only outing as cinema’s most famous secret agent. Scored by John Barry’s majestic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme, the alpine chase – much of which features Bond on just one ski – is one of the standout sequences in a brilliant movie.
Mustang alley (Diamonds are Forever)
With the Las Vegas police department in hot pursuit, Bond realizes that the alley ahead isn’t wide enough for his Ford Mustang muscle car, and asks passenger Tiffany Case to move to one side. The reason? He’s trying to weight the car so he can drive it on two wheels – a trick that’s not as easy as it looks, as proved by the unfortunate cop car that ends up on its roof when it tries to follow suit. Bizarrely, Bond’s car enters the alley on its right-hand wheels, and leaves on its left – the in-car insert shot does little to explain the flip.
The rig jump (Diamonds are Forever)
If Blofeld swapping You Only Live Twice’s colossal volcano lair for a mere oil platform feels like a disappointing lack of ambition, you can’t fault Bond’s exit. Impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, Sean Connery’s 007 realizes that the only way out is down, and executes a spectacular dive into the sea below. The actual stunt was performed by real-life cliff diver Harvey Orwin.
Crocodile escape (Live and Let Die)
They say you should never work with animals – especially when they’ve got lots of sharp pointy teeth. Nonetheless, when 007 is trapped on an island surrounded by angry crocodiles and alligators, he makes his escape by using the reptiles as stepping stones. Aside from the ridiculous contempt for animal welfare, the most remarkable thing about this Bond stunt is that it was done for real, with stunt man/crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga filling in for (a probably very relieved) Roger Moore.
Speedboat jump (Live and Let Die)
After the aforementioned close encounter with killer crocs, Bond does a runner in a speedboat through the picturesque surroundings of the Louisiana Bayou. With a spit of land (and Sheriff JW Pepper) rapidly approaching, 007 accelerates and launches the boat into the air, making a safe landing on the other side. This Bond stunt broke a Guinness World Record for the longest speedboat jump in a film.
Nice roll, shame about the whistle (The Man with the Golden Gun)
One of the most contrived stunts in Bond history is also one of the most impressive. The nearest bridge is two miles away when 007 and his unlikely passenger, the vacationing Sheriff JW Pepper, need to continue their pursuit of Scaramanga on the other side of a river. In a piece of implausible good luck, however, Bond spots the conveniently placed remains of a twisted bridge, which he uses to launch the car into a spectacular barrel roll – before making a perfect landing on the other side. Unfortunately, the real-life stunt is undermined somewhat by the use of a swanee whistle on the soundtrack.
The Union Jack parachute (The Spy Who Loved Me)
While unconvincing greenscreen work means you never quite believe a yellow-jumpsuited Roger Moore is skiing for his life, it’s worth it for the pay-off at the end of this pre-credits sequence. As Bond runs out of slope, it turns out that flying off a cliff was all part of the plan, as he skilfully removes his skis and settles into an elegant freefall before the pièce de resistance – unfurling a union Jack parachute to taunt his pursuers. Nobody does it better…
Flying without wings (Moonraker)
If The Spy Who Loved Me’s best James Bond stunt was made possible by the surprising introduction of a parachute, Moonraker’s is based around the lack of one. When Bond takes an involuntary tumble from a plane without protection, he dives after another skydiver, whose parachute he then steals and straps to himself. 007 even gets the last laugh, when the pursuing Jaws’ own canopy fails to open. In real life, Bond’s stunt double used a pioneering flat-pack parachute hidden under his suit jacket.
Cable car-nage (Moonraker)
Again, you’re never going to believe that lead actors Roger Moore, Lois Chiles (Holly Goodhead) and Richard Kiel (Jaws) were ever in harm’s way, but the long-shots on this Rio de Janeiro-set sequence are truly remarkable. On the cable car down from Sugarloaf Mountain, Bond and Goodhead get into a rooftop fight with the metal-toothed assassin, hundreds of feet above the ground. At one point during the shoot, 007 stunt double Richard Graydon slipped and was left hanging by one hand, with no safety harness, as a terrified crew looked on.
Winter sports (For Your Eyes Only)
Don’t be fooled by the slapstick tone of For Your Eyes Only’s ski chase sequence – the scene features some of the best James Bond stunt work there is. So while 007’s close encounters with ski schools and a family’s al fresco dining overplay the comedy somewhat, you have to admire scenes that feature Bond speeding downhill with armed motorcycles in hot pursuit. He even gets to chase a bobsleigh down an icy track – and you don’t see that at the Winter Olympics.
Climb every mountain (For Your Eyes Only)
You know that feeling when you’ve just spent ages scaling a massive vertical rockface, only to be kicked in the face when you reach the top? James Bond does, and he’s left hoping his safety ropes are well secured when he’s left dangling in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the ground. Things get worse when the owner of the boot gets some climbing practice of his own, removing 007’s anchor points to speed Bond’s involuntary descent. The bad guy ultimately learns the error of his ways, however, when his laissez-faire attitude to protective equipment (and a knife in his chest) send him falling to his death.
The day he caught the train (Octopussy)
Bond works through an entire repertoire of steam train-based action in this East Germany-set sequence. The long-shots showcase death-defying leaps between carriages, jumps over obstacles, and Bond hanging precariously from the side of a carriage. In fact – as is so often the case in Bond movies of this vintage – the moments when the action cuts to Roger Moore undermine the courageous stunt-work on display. A beautiful ode to the age of steam.
Plane sailing (Octopussy)
AKA the one where James Bond chases down a plane on a horse, climbs aboard, and hangs on to the roof as if his life depended on it – because, well, it does. At the start of the sequence, you think the production team might have cheated by attaching a mannequin to the roof to double for 007, until the subtle movement of a leg proves there’s an actual human being risking life and limb. The subsequent rooftop battle high above India only helps to seal its status as one of the best James Bond stunts of all time.
May Day in Paris (A View to a Kill)
It’s a rarity when the best Bond stunt in a movie isn’t given to 007 himself. In Roger Moore’s final outing in the famous tuxedo, however, Grace Jones’s May Day gets the showstopping moment, fearlessly base jumping from the top of the Eiffel Tower before unfurling her parachute. Bond himself gives chase across Paris in a very ordinary Renault hatchback (which, for much of the sequence, has no rear wheels), but it’s all for nought as May Day lands on a pleasure boat on the Seine before he can catch her.
A lift on an blimp (A View to a Kill)
When it comes to getaway vehicles, they don’t come more ridiculous than Max Zorin’s airship – it’s huge, painfully slow, and has his name written across the side in massive letters. Throw in the fact that geologist Stacey Sutton is stupid enough to miss a massive blimp sneaking up behind her, and this is among the most ridiculous of the best James Bond stunts. Nonetheless, you can’t help but look on in awe when you realize there’s an actual stunt performer (not Roger Moore) hanging from an airship in the skies above San Francisco.
You keep me hanging on (The Living Daylights)
An inexperienced pilot, an assassin, and a ticking timebomb on board… This isn’t a good flight for 007 to have boarded, and things get worse when he ends up scrapping with bad guy Necros while clinging to a cargo net dangling out the back of the plane. Playing out like a high-stakes game from Gladiators, this high-altitude punch-out is ultimately won by Bond’s ingenuity – he first disorientates Necros by throwing bags of opium in his direction, then he sends his assailant tumbling to the ground by cutting off the shoe Necros is clinging onto.
Keep on truckin’ (Licence to Kill)
It’s a case of planes, trucks, and automobiles, as Licence to Kill’s biggest set-piece plays around with all the toys. After an aerial drop-off, Bond commandeers an oil tanker, runs another lorry off the road, and evades a missile by riding up on two wheels – echoes of the Mustang stunt in Diamonds Are Forever, only on a much larger scale. He also pops an HGV wheelie, sets a road on fire, and has a fight with Big Bad Sanchez while hanging off the back of a lorry. All in all, a busy day at the office.
That dam bungee jump (GoldenEye)
007 had been away for six years when an audacious leap from the top of a 720-foot (220-metre) dam announced his return in spectacular fashion. Shot on Switzerland’s Verzasca Dam (doubling for a Soviet weapons facility), it has regularly topped polls to find the best James Bond stunts, and involved Pierce Brosnan’s double, Wayne Michaels, bungee jumping into the valley below. Shot in one take in beautiful slow-motion – soundtracked only by the breeze – the sequence captures the full freefall majesty of the leap, giving the rest of the Brosnan era a very hard act to follow.
Catching a plane (GoldenEye)
With Alec Trevelyan/006 (Sean Bean) seemingly dead, the high-octane opening of GoldenEye continues with Bond’s daredevil escape from the Arkhangelsk base. Director Martin Campbell has admitted that Bond riding a motorbike off a cliff and taking control of a plane in a nosedive is “pushing believability”, but despite much of the sequence taking place with Pierce Brosnan in front of a greenscreen, the sight of stunt rider Jacques Malnuit leaping into freefall (he was wearing a parachute!) behind a tumbling plane is truly awe-inspiring.
Tank you very much (GoldenEye)
Having clearly decided he hadn’t caused enough damage with the truck chase in Licence to Kill, Bond goes armour-plated on the streets of St Petersburg. On a mission to catch villainous General Ourumov and captive computer programmer Natalya Simonova, 007 commandeers an actual tank – and proves that standard traffic laws don’t apply when you can drive through walls and over cars. The sequence is a masterclass of exquisitely choreographed carnage.
Motorbike over helicopter (Tomorrow Never Dies)
The big chase in Tomorrow Never Dies downsizes from its predecessor, with the tank making way for a motorbike. With 007 handcuffed to Chinese spy Wai Lin – playing musical chairs as they ride, one handlebar each, through narrow alleys and over rooftops – the whole sequence is built of edge-of-your-seat moments. But the moment worthy of a pantheon of the best James Bond stunts comes when they leap across a street that just happens to contain a hovering helicopter.
A trip down the Thames (The World is not Enough)
When oil tycoon Sir Robert King is assassinated at MI6 headquarters, 007 does what any self-respecting secret agent would do and jumps into Q’s prototype (and unfinished) speedboat to catch the killer. When Bond’s trip down the Thames is interrupted by a barrage of gunfire, he cannily combines his moves from Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, executing an aerial speedboat barrel roll. The stunt was performed for real, but required gas charges to control the vessel’s spin and landing.
Driving on ice (Die Another Day)
Don’t let the fact this sequence involves the infamous invisible car put you off – the adaptive camouflage on Bond’s Aston Martin has been disabled by the time the chase gets underway. Filmed on a frozen lake in Iceland, it’s a face-off of a pair of weaponized supercars – 007’s rival, Zao, drives a convertible Jaguar with a machine gun – powersliding their way across the ice in style. Bond even manages to keep his cool when his Aston ends up skidding on its roof, righting himself with the cunning deployment of his ejector seat.
One giant leap (Casino Royale)
After a post-Die Another Day rethink, Bond returns as a highly effective “blunt instrument”. Chasing terrorist Mollaka (played by parkour expert Sébastian Foucan) across a building site in Madagascar, Daniel Craig’s 007 should be out of his depth against the fleet-footed free-runner. But, thanks to the combination of a bulldozer, a newfound ability to smash through walls, and sheer bloody-mindedness, the British agent keeps up with his man. The standout moment, however, is the pair’s death-defying leaps between two cranes – Bond definitely earns his double-0 stripes with that one.
Vesper in the road (Casino Royale)
Having defied the odds (and a lot of cheating) in his poker match, Bond hops into his Aston Martin DBS to track down kidnapped treasury agent Vesper Lynd. He finds her rather sooner than he expected, however, and is forced to take evasive maneuvers when he sees her lying in the road. The car subsequently rolls a Guinness World Record-breaking seven times, which is a testimony to the ingenuity of the stunt team. In tests, they couldn’t get the prototype DBS to flip without assistance, so had to use an air cannon to launch the car when it hit the ramp at 80 mph (130km/h). “It was just a case of holding on for the ride,” said stunt driver Adam Kirley.
Special delivery (Quantum of Solace)
The opening of Quantum of Solace is unconventional, picking up directly after the end of Casino Royale. With Quantum boss Mr White stashed in the boot of his Aston Martin, Bond puts the pedal to the metal through Siena in Italy, in a high-speed masterclass of top-level stunt driving. Cars spin, trucks slide through tunnels, and guns are fired, as Bond leads his pursuers first through traffic, then through a hillside quarry. Be warned: few vehicles make it out of this sequence in one piece.
Learning the ropes (Quantum of Solace)
The Daniel Craig era was heavily influenced by the success of the fast-cut, down-and-dirty Jason Bourne movies, and never is that more apparent in the rooftop chase across Siena. As 007 catches up with M’s traitorous bodyguard, Mitchell, they engage in a spectacular clocktower battle, swinging at each other on ropes as scaffolding spins and glass showers down. Luckily, Bond’s just as good upside down as he is the right way up, and he fires the fatal shot from a seemingly impossible position.
Train fall (Skyfall)
Bond certainly packs a lot into his brief Turkish train ride in Skyfall’s pre-credits sequence. In just a few short minutes, he gets shot, drives a digger over a bunch of cars, leaps between carriages, and even has the presence of mind to adjust his suit. That’s before he even gets down to the essential business of fighting a bad guy – and dodging tunnels – on the roof of the train. Unfortunately, the mission is brought to an abrupt halt when 007 is accidentally shot by colleague Eve Moneypenny, leading to a spectacular tumble from the Varda viaduct into the river below.
Chopper of the dead (Spectre)
In the interests of public safety, James Bond should generally stay away from large crowds. He didn’t get the memo ahead of Spectre’s Mexico City-set pre-credits sequence, however, and ends up pursuing a terrorist through the Day of the Dead celebrations. Unsurprisingly, 007 refuses to let the bad guy leave quietly on his escape chopper, ‘treating’ the thousands of people below to some impressive aerobatics, complete with a very low swoop over the street. You’d pay good money to see an air show this spectacular.
King of the swingers (No Time to Die)
It’s still a little early to be diving into No Time to Die spoiler territory, but – as is often the way – one of the most spectacular stunts is so heavily teased in the trailers that it’s fair game for discussion. During the movie’s first act sequence (set in Matera, Italy), Bond finds himself the target of a speeding car on a very narrow bridge. His only option for survival is to dive into the valley below, grabbing a heavy-duty electricity cable as gravity does its evil work. The resulting swing is lifted straight from the best James Bond stunts handbook.
Now you’re caught up with all the best James Bond stunts, check out our ranking of all the best Bond movies – no doubt we will all be arguing in the comments section. We also have pieces on the most iconic James Bond moments, best James Bond gadgets, and the best James Bond villains.