No other spy in existence makes villainy quiver quite like the tuxedo-clad alpha male known as James Bond. Eight different actors have played the legendary spy across nearly 60 years and twenty-six films. Despite who dons the tux, lovers of the affable spy continue to flock to theaters to enjoy his adventures in all their glory. The continued appeal has allowed the James Bond films to collectively earn a massive box office haul of over $7 billion – a dollar amount that may well fall short of covering the cost of all the high-end sports cars 007 has crashed while saving the day.
Each James Bond film comes with a new adversary hell-bent on watching the world burn. Bond’s dance with death may rattle our nerves, but we know deep down that our hero will always come out on top — so to speak. Decades of mythos have resulted in a blueprint for how Bond needs to operate in his world. While typical movie clichés can wear thin, the set of guidelines present in Bond films has become less tiresome and more expected. Without them, a 007 adventure would simply lose its identity. It is for that reason that there are rules James Bond has to follow in every movie.
James is required to deliver a formal introduction
An exotic locale bathed in soft lighting is an ideal setting to drench any hero in sex appeal. It’s entirely on brand to have this be the setting for our formal introduction to Agent 007. We may know James intimately, but there was a time when the world had yet to know him by name. In 1963, a rugged man in a tuxedo sauntered into a casino and sat down at a card table. After a couple of hands, a beautiful woman in a red dress looked at the man and inquired his name. The man finished lighting his cigarette, casually looked her way, and said, "Bond. James Bond."
The first man to utter those words was the late Sean Connery in Dr. No (1963). His flawless delivery of the name resulted in one of the most recognizable movie lines in cinema history. The line has become so iconic that a James Bond film would not be a James Bond film without the character saying this line. We can grip our seats through an exhilarating opening action scene and simmer during a hypnotic credit sequence, but we all still wait patiently for Bond to introduce himself. You could argue that we can’t fully enjoy the movie until we hear this line.
Bond needs to get chummy with the villain
Playing a James Bond villain has become a coveted acting role, and for good reason. In the world of global espionage, the bad guy always gets his moment to outline his plans in grandiose fashion to a usually captive audience of one — 007 himself. Abiding by this rule actually adds to Bond’s allure because the man is a wonderful listener. It is the only explanation for how someone with Bond’s lethal skills could stare down a megalomaniac and smile while they describe their evil agenda. The menacing monologue can come in the midst of a torture session or over a glass of champagne in a ritzy establishment. Either way, it has to happen.
The trope has spawned an infinite number of parodies, poking fun at the inept approach of supposed genius villains. These arguments are valid. If Bond is so disruptive to their end game, why don’t they just plant a bullet in the man’s skull and be done with him? There are two answers: One is that the antagonists are drunk with power and their pride causes them underestimate 007, so they get distracted playing games with him. The other answer is that this is just a fundamental rule in the James Bond universe. Without it, we’d all leave disappointed.
Bond must always flirt with Moneypenny
According to the canon we’ve seen, there are few women who can resist the charm of James Bond. The seduction of the opposite sex comes easily to someone with no fear of death and a massive travel budget. Bond’s sexual encounters have a tendency to fall into his lap while sniffing out his next clue. It may seem that he always gets the girl, but there is one woman who has yet to fully succumb to the wiles of Agent 007. That woman is, of course, Moneypenny. Not to say there isn’t any sexual tension between the two. Their relationship has been saturated with longing eye contact and dirty puns for as long as we can remember.
The secretary desk outside M’s office is the standard setting for the emotional tango between Moneypenny and James Bond. No matter where the location may be, every Bond film must abide by this rule and give us a moment of flirtatious dialogue. There were even early talks about the two possibly sleeping together in 2021’s No Time To Die, which would have ended a 57-year platonic relationship. However, producers made it clear that this idea was nixed in the writing room because it would destroy the relationship the two have established over the years. Who says art is dead? The flirting continues!
007 has to fool around with a woman who will die
It’s a good thing Bond’s lifestyle is shrouded in secrecy, because if word got out that climbing into his bed effectively signs your death warrant his success rate would drop drastically. In fact, we would like to amend this rule and require Bond girls wear a Star Trek redshirt. Not that we need visual cues to mark a character’s demise. We know the moment Bond locks eyes with a gorgeous woman in the first half of a Bond flick that she is most likely going to die. But even with the knowledge of death as a possibility, he must endure. Sorry James, that’s the rules.
The villains in Bond films are truly evil in this department. When slaying his love interest, the opportunity to eliminate Bond in the process can present itself. But alas, they continue to let the man march around. Most likely they leave him alive because they enjoy subjecting the man to emotional torment. Or perhaps it is their pride. It could even be for the sheer joy of the cat and mouse game. Regardless of the core motive, it is a tantalizing staple in Bond’s journey that accentuates his ability to keep his head on straight — which is a tough achievement when you are cursed with the kiss of death.
Traveling to exotic locations is a necessity
The success of the Bond films has led to larger and larger budgets, with 2021’s No Time To Die sporting a reported $250 million price tag. With a budget like that it’s understandable why the production companies behind the latest installment have pushed back its release date multiple times — they’re hoping for theater re-openings to allow a sizable box office return. It wouldn’t surprise us if most of the production cost comes from carting an entire production crew all over the globe. This may seem like an extravagant expense but it is also necessary. Bond has the deep pockets of a covert government operation at his disposal after all. He uses his seemingly limitless government credit card to traverse the globe in search of ways to infiltrate evil empires.
The fortress of villainy has yet to be discovered in the suburbs of Chicago or in a hut in the middle of the desert. The mechanisms of the Bond universe prefer to steer our protagonist toward the exotic and remote. These locations are necessary for 007 to follow the canon guidelines. We’re not sure if this is because of the stunning visual aesthetic or if villains love to sunbathe while dismantling the world. Probably both.
Bond is required to pull a crazy opening sequence stunt
Sure, every James Bond film’s opening credits come with a sultry tune presented through a kaleidoscope of colorful secret agent bravado, but we would be unable to tolerate the opening credits without a little taste of what’s to come. One of the most important rules comes before the award-winning songs, when the movie cold opens with an action sequence. This action sequence is required to fulfill one of two agendas: Bond kicks butt or he gets his butt kicked.
Sometimes the opening action lays groundwork for the movie’s whole story — like in GoldenEye. Other times it is presented simply to introduce a new Bond, such as Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights. This sequence is like getting served a scoop of ice cream before we’ve even gotten our appetizers because convention be darned. No matter what the scenario, a few years have usually passed between each film installment and — regardless of the basis for the film’s main plot — establishing again what 007 is all about is essential to the experience.
Agent 007 must go over the gadgets with Q
Bond’s resume must come with experience in a vast arsenal of weaponry because no matter his situation, he can climb into any vehicle or acquire any weapon and instantly know how to operate it. Despite this uncanny ability, James is always respectful of the nerds in the basement that create his life-saving devices. The world of cinema has plenty of spy thriller tropes thanks to all the nifty gadgets being developed in the armory at MI-6.
Before he can grab his gear and disembark, Bond knows that he needs to obey the rules and allow Q his moment in the sun. There must be a snarky conversation with the weapons master. Usually this is where we can find some early comic relief. You can always tell that Q feels underappreciated for the amount of work he puts into his gadgets, knowing full well that 007 will use his devices for destructive means — both for the target and the device. The exchanges are hilariously nuanced and tease the possible lethal applications of said devices. Not only does Q need this moment to properly explain the mechanics involved, but also, what would the spy world be without a bit of snark?
James Bond has to deliver puns with panache
When you are blessed with the wonders of parenthood, there is a shift that occurs in the male psyche. Most predominantly, a father develops an insatiable urge to deliver pithy one liners and puns with the express purpose of causing their family’s eyes to roll into the back of their skulls. It makes sense that fathers everywhere adore James Bond, given his penchant for word play. He can take normally dry puns and saturate them with machismo.
The most endearing part of this rule is its element of surprise. Many times a sly one-liner is tacked on to the end of an exhilarating action sequence. Take Thunderball for example: Bond is on a beach with a woman when she warns him that a henchman is sneaking up behind him. Bond snatches a spear gun, quickly shoots the man behind him, and then turns back to say, "I think he got the point." The delivery is everything we love about James Bond. His ability to fight back the urge to laugh at his own jokes is a trait we all desire.
Bond must shoot his gun at the camera
Bullets are in no short supply in the world of Agent 007. They zip past Bond in most encounters with the bad guys. A volley of ballistics is inevitable in the battle of good versus evil. Unless the franchise goes off the rails and Q develops a time machine that warps Bond to ancient Egypt, this will always be the case. The same could be said for a majority of action movies though. The rule separating this debonaire assassin from the rest is that moment when he takes aim at the movie audience itself.
The standard image we’ve come to know is the opening intro, where Bond fires point blank at an unseen enemy and crimson drips down the screen. The recognizable trope hasn’t been in every single film though. Filmmakers have gotten rather crafty with subtle nods to the infamous shot when it isn’t present during the intro. They have respected this tradition using backgrounds resembling the circle frame from the iconic opening. In other instances, James eliminates his adversary with a gunshot straight to the camera lens. No matter how they implement it, Bond has to find a way to stare down the barrel of his gun and fire a bullet straight at our hearts.
Bond needs to chase someone
Name any type of vehicle and James Bond has almost certainly hopped into the driver’s seat and torn through some poor community while pursuing his target. He has leaped off buildings, ripped through trains, and even demolished a city with a tank — simply rolling through brick buildings with gusto in GoldenEye. It’s not that he lacks empathy (although that’s arguable), it’s just that he has to follow the rules. The bad guy will always run and, being the hero that he is, the urge to give chase is irresistible for 007. Not only is it in his nature, but the rules of his world demand pursuit.
It doesn’t matter if there is no pursuit vehicle available because James Bond has the endurance of a Greek god and a mind map straight out of Google headquarters. It’s no mystery how Mr. Bond maintains his figure when we watch him sprinting at full speed across town. Henchmen can be stubborn and when you also endow them with supernatural parkour abilities, the chase can become demanding. James Bond is always ready to spring into action though. If he hasn’t chased anyone yet, he knows he has to before the credits roll.
Agent 007 must ignore a call from M
We have all had a boss at one point in our lives who we would dream of telling off. It’s a fair assumption to think that familiar urge to scream at authority is present in James Bond as well. When he isn’t chasing arch-villains around the globe he spends his time in a government building, with paperwork — we can feel the rage building already. If Mr. Bond feels the same fury, he keeps it bubbling under the surface. James Bond and M’s work relationship has the benefit of mutual respect. While the respect is there, Bond still has to be sure his boss knows he is going to do whatever he wants.
James may get some demented pleasure having to follow this particular rule. M is constantly bothering him for updates on the mission. Which can be distracting when your ninja senses are busy constantly scanning your surroundings for deadly adversaries. He can take M’s calls a lot of the time but it is required that at least one of them gets ignored. On occasion, he can even add some flavor and end their conversation with a sudden hang-up. It can be done to aim his focus entirely on the mission at hand, but it is also a statement. You can’t put shackles on James Bond. He’s a force that needs to roam free.
James Bond has to kill someone
Through the years, Bond has tallied up a massive death toll. The lethal agent has killed 597 baddies — amounting to just shy of 25 kills per movie. It makes sense, because what good is a license to kill if you aren’t going to use it? James Bond’s agent status comes with a thick layer of immunity and the government that dictates his mission parameters gives the man a long leash. They may have implanted him with a tracking device in recent years, but even then, all they can really do is watch the red dot on the screen from their command center.
The kills per Bond actor don’t quite spread out evenly. George Lazenby stepped into the role for one film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), killed six bad guys, and then hung up his tux. Meanwhile, Daniel Craig managed to rack up a whopping 235 kills in 2015’s Spectre! We’re unsure how he managed to wreak such havoc in 150 minutes, but the man always finds a way to one-up himself. This may be the rule that 007 is most religious about following. It is what he is best at after all.
Dress to impress
The traditional military garb is impractical for a man aiming to infiltrate empires with his charisma. Strolling into the lion’s den wearing a camouflage jumpsuit is not going to loosen the lips of any evil lackeys. The most cunning adversaries drape themselves in wealthy surroundings and their senses sound the alarm when they see a man wearing a suit from Men’s Warehouse. Therefore it is required that James Bond dresses in the finest suits and dons the latest beach fashions. Money talks and in order to infiltrate, James needs to look like he comes from deep pockets.
Not only are the expensive clothes required to do his job, but it also shows James Bond enjoying the perks of his profession. The job of a double O involves constantly staring death in the face and denying oneself the traditional elements of happiness. Enjoying some luxury clothes is a reasonable caveat. Plus, if you’re going to give James Bond a credit card with no limit, you best expect him to dress the part. Even when he isn’t in a suit, his silk shirts and skin tight swim trunks scream high fashion. It’s a Bond universe requirement that is also practical. It keeps our main man fresh and ready to fight the good fight. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you do good things…or kill bad things…which is a good thing. You get the idea.