Controversial James Bond moments that deserve trigger warnings

From You Only Live Twice to Skyfall there's been some problematic moments in the 007 film franchise's history

Operation tonnerre Thunderball 1965 Real  Terence Young Sean Connery Claudine Auger. Collection Christophel © Eon Productions
Claudine Auger and Sean Connery in 1965's Thunderball. (Alamy)

There are many things we love about the James Bond movies – the action, the gadgets, the moustache-twirling villains and their insane lust for power but there are some aspects of the franchise can be quite shocking by modern standards.

So much so that the British Film Institute (BFI) has put trigger warnings on screenings of classic films in a retrospective for composer John Barry, saying they "will cause offence today” with You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger being singled out for containing language and themes "prevalent" in the 1960s.

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007 has rarely been accused of metrosexuality. He is, to quote M, “a dinosaur”, and while we cherish the films for capturing a moment in history, there are several times when, in retrospect, the filmmakers’ choices – thematically and through their hero’s behaviour – have been a little suspect. Sometimes much more than a little. Here are 10 of the worst, in no particular order.

Bond becomes Japanese in You Only Live Twice

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Tetsuro Tamba, Sean Connery, 1967
You Only Live Twice saw Sean Connery's James Bond turning Japanese. (PA Images)

Going undercover in the Far East is always a tricky proposition if you are a six-foot-plus Scotsman, but Sean Connery “Oriental-ing” is one of the most embarrassing moments in the franchise’s history. It was all in aid of allowing 007 to go under cover and marry a local woman, but it seems wildly misjudged by today's standards.

Homophobic treatment of villains in Diamonds Are Forever

Bruce Glover as Mr. Wint (left) and Putter Smith as Mr. Kidd (right) during filming of Diamonds Are Forever. (PA Images)
Bruce Glover as Mr. Wint (left) and Putter Smith as Mr. Kidd (right) during filming of Diamonds Are Forever. (PA Images)

Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are amongst the most beloved Bond henchmen ever, thanks to their off-kilter performances and idiosyncratic kills. Not so surprising when you consider that Wint is portrayed by the father of Crispin Glover, aka the awesomely weird actor who played George McFly in Back To The Future.

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The pair are also implied to be gay, which is fine in and of itself, dare we say progressive, if it wasn’t for the uneasy sense in which the filmmakers treat the pair. It’s almost as if being gay is the reason why they’re sadistic assassins — the result is icky.

Bond hitting his love interest in From Russia With Love

Bons baisers de Russie From Russia with Love 1963 real Terrence Young Sean Connery Daniela Bianchi COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL
Daniela Bianchi and Sean Connery in From Russia with Love, which features a scene where Bond slaps his love interest. (PA Images)

During his lifetime Sean Connery spoke about how he condoned a man slapping a woman if circumstances "merited" it. As Bond, his character did so on several occasions.

For Russia With Love, for example, sees him slap Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi), a cipher clerk being used as a pawn by SPECTRE. Watching now, it’s a shocking and unpleasant moment, even if some commentators argue it’s applicable to the time the movie was shot and the character.

That may be fine in theory, but it’s still something a gentleman would and should never do.

007 hitting a woman for no reason in Diamonds Are Forever

James Bond Film Retrospective / Studio Publicity Still:
Jill St.John in Diamonds Are Forever, which sees James Bond slap the character. (PA Images)

But then Bond clearly isn’t a gentleman, because poor old Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) feels the back of his hand in Diamonds just because she – a petty gem smuggler – says he sounds like a cop.

Again, apologists argue it’s 007 in undercover character, but her genuinely frightened reaction makes you realise how wrong it is. Diamonds Are Forever also sees Bond strangling a woman with her own bra during the opening sequence as he tries to track down Blofeld.

James strangles Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and turns her straight

Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore and Sean Connery as James Bond seen here filming a fight scene which develops into a love scene in Goldfingers barn on the Pinewood studios back lot. 2nd June 1964
Sean Connery as James Bond and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore seen filming a fight scene in Goldfingers. (PA Images)

Of course, Bond’s most notably misogynistic move is in the 1964 classic Goldfinger.

He fights and hurts Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) but the filmmakers make it worse by firstly making it seem like she kind of likes it, and then having her fall for him when she’s clearly supposed to be a lesbian.

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In the book, her homosexuality was explicit, in the film it’s much more wishy-washy, though it’s alluded to when she initially says she’s “immune” to James’s charms. Nevertheless, she complies soon after. Frankly, it’s the least savoury part of what is otherwise a brilliant piece of cinema.

1965's Thunderball followed suit which saw Bond taking advantage of a nurse at Shrublands, seemingly against her wishes.

Bond takes advantage of a sex-trafficked woman in Skyfall

Los Angeles. CA.USA. Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe in the scene for the © Columbia Pictures new movie: Skyfall (2012). After a long break, James Bond is back as a new threat to British security sees no one can escape suspicion.  Ref:LMK109-42047-070513 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets.
Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe in Skyfall. (MGM)

During their exchange in 2012’s Skyfall, Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) tells James she was abducted from her home as a young teenager – essentially a child – to become a prostitute and Bond recognises the tattoo on her wrist as her belonging to the Macau sex trade.

Yet after a brief flirtatious conversation and despite him seeming to show concern, he then has sex with her in a shower and essentially forgets about her. Okay, so he doesn’t shoot at her when asked, but does deliver one of his more unedifying quips after her demise. Yuck.

Casual racism in Live And Let Die

LIVE AND LET DIE 1973 United Artists film with Jane Seymour and Geoffrey Hodder
Jane Seymour and Geoffrey Hodder in Live and Let Die, which doubles down on casual racism to profit from the Blaxpoitation era. (PA Images)

Released during the Blaxploitation era, Roger Moore’s first go as Bond was clearly trying to capitalise on the trend, only with a complete lack of guile and white middle-class approach.

Not only does it stereotype Louisiana and the fictional Haiti-like island of San Monique as a place packed full of nefarious voodoo and jazzy funeral processions, but the film tackles it in a patronisingly jokey fashion.

Supporters would argue the movie features the first black Bond girl, but she turns out to be a duplicitous double agent secretly working for Mr. Big, which kind of defeats the point.

Objectifying women in the sexy credits

Title designer Maurice Binder (1925 - 1991) directs a bikini-clad model in the title sequence of the James Bond film 'The Living Daylights', 1986. (Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)
Title designer Maurice Binder directs a bikini-clad model in the title sequence of the James Bond film The Living Daylights, 1986. (Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)

In many ways, the opening titles of a Bond movie are magnificent – whether it was initial designer Maurice Binder’s work or latterly Daniel Kleinman. They’re innovative, languid, iconic and definitely influential.

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But take a moment to think: oodles of naked women draping themselves around guns, doing nude roly-polys for no reason? Sure, it sums up the affluence and old-school nature of 007’s world, but politically correct? Don’t think so.

Racism in Octopussy

<p>A considerably more cartoonish entry, this one sees Moore’s arched eyebrow working overtime, particularly when hearing the name “Octopussy,” and when his champagne-sipping companion remarks, “I need re-filling.” Much of the plot revolves around a Faberge egg used as collateral in a major arms deal, leading Bond to quip, ” I hear the price of eggs was up, but isn’t that a little high?” (Picture Credit: MGM-UA) </p>
Octopussy leans into reductive racial stereotypes. (MGM-UA)

A subtle take on race relations has never been at the heart of the franchise (see above), but what makes 1983’s Octopussy particularly suspect is the way it approaches Indian customs with a wink-wink jocularity, which, let’s face it, is Roger Moore’s modus operandi.

In the same way that almost every Hollywood film about London features a shot of Big Ben and a character called Nigel (just how many Nigels do American think live in Britain?), Octopussy is full of reductive Indian stereotypes, from a snake charmer to Moore’s line, “That should keep you in curry.” It's sloppy and casually racist.

Master-servant embarrassment in Dr. No

JAMES BOND CONTRE LE DR NO DR NO 1962 de Terence Young John Kitzmiller (as John Kitzmuller). action; espionnage; spy d'apres le roman de Ian Fleming based on the novel by Ian Fleming Prod DB © MGM - Eon - Danjaq / DR
John Kitzmiller as Quarrel in 1962's Dr No. (Alamy)

The relationship between Bond and his local Caribbean contact Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) is good for the most part. Until, that is, 007 asks his friend to fetch his shoes.

Released in 1962, the same year as Jamaica’s independence from the UK, the moment has a seedy undertone watched all these decades later, of British master and his black servant. Not cool, especially since Quarrel is awesome.

John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond is taking place at the BFI in February.