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Licensed to Get Serious: James Bond’s Darkest Movie Moments

Skyfall is one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, earning wide critical praise and being considered one of the darkest, most character-driven Bond movies in the series.

To commemorate this tone, let us look at some of the darkest and bleakest moments in the series (so no Bond going into space or windsurfing in front of a bad greenscreen) over the course of 22 movies. Since these are rather big moments in some cases, be wary of old Bond movie spoilers ahead.


“That’s enough” – The Spy Who Loved Me

One of the biggest shadows over the Bond series is the death of Bond’s wife, but it had only been addressed briefly afterward. One of the few times it was tackled was when KGB agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) taunted Bond with her knowledge of his past, resulting in Roger Moore’s Bond snapping, relieving his pain and anger. It was a wonderful little character moment.

“I never miss” – The World is Not Enough

To me, The World is Not Enough is the most underrated entry in the Bond series, a movie that attempted to bring Bond closer to the real world. Sophie Marceau expertly played Elektra King, a woman who starts off overcoming the psychological effects of being kidnapped but turns out to be a Machiavellian villain. She tortures Bond with a hell of a lot of sexual tension before taunting Bond, saying he would not shoot her, resulting in Bond killing her in cold blood. Adding salt to the wound, Bond uses Elektra death to drive her lover over the edge.

“That’s a Smith and Wesson, and you’ve had your six” – Dr. No

Dr. No is the first official Bond movie and it is still considered one of the best by fans. It was a really strong start for the series and showed Bond’s cold hearted, professional manner as he shoots a would-be assassin and then shoots him again to make sure he is dead. It’s a great tone-setter.

Head Explosion – Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill is easily regarded as the darkest Bond movies and this list could easily be filled with moments from that movie. Despite a mixed reception at the time, it has aged well and is now seen as classic Bond movie. One of the moments that really shocked me when I younger was one of the most violent deaths in a series as a man’s head explodes in a decompression chamber. This moment even had a slight homage in the adaptation of the comic book Kick-Ass.

Civilian Deaths – Casino Royale

In past Bond movies, civilians, police officers and most people were not hurt and the filmmakers went to great effects to show this. That all changed with the reboot as director Martin Campbell showed innocent people getting killed. Construction workers were killed during the parkour chase and an airport worker (Campbell’s cameo) was killed in Miami. The pain toward civilians continued in Quantum of Solace as the camera lingered on a woman who was shot during the foot chase in Siena.

Bond’s Torture – Casino Royale

Throughout the Bond series, MI6’s best has been captured numerous times. One of the most brutal and unpleasant tortures Bond suffered was when the villain of Casino Royale, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), ties Bond to a chair and whips his testicles with a piece of knotted rope (a scene that makes all men whine) as Vesper is tortured in another room. This scene highlighted the tough new world of the reboot, Le Chiffre’s desperation and how tough Bond is.

Bond’s first kills – Casino Royale

In the opening of Casino Royale, we see how Bond earned his 00 status, which means we got to see his first kills. To set the new gritty tone, Bond has a tough fight in a bathroom and we see the pain in Bond’s face as he drowns his victim. This was brilliantly juxtaposed with Mr. Bond coldly shooting a traitor in Prague.

Dominic Greene’s Opinions – Quantum of Solace

In Quantum of Solace, Bond was pretty much a cold-hearted bastard so focused on his personal mission of vengeance that he did not care who he hurt to accomplish his goal. All this leads to one of Bond’s cruelest acts toward a villain, giving Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) the option to either go into the desert or drink a canister of his own oil.

The Rape and Death of Della Churchill – Licence to Kill

Women in the Bond universe have a 50/50 chance of getting killed. One of the brutal deaths of a female character was Della Churchill (Priscilla Barnes) in Licence to Kill. Drawing parallels to what happened to Tracy Bond when she was raped and murdered on her wedding night as a crude act against Bond’s friend Felix Leiter, it was this event that drove Bond to finally go rogue to get revenge.

Tracy Bond’s Death – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is often considered one of the personal and emotional Bond movies; it was one where Bond fell in love with Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) and she is the only woman he ever married (kind of). But on their wedding day Tracy is killed in a drive-by shooting, leaving Bond crying and holding his dead wife in his arms.

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