James Bond movies have given us many filmmaking tropes. There's the opening gun-barrel sequence and the twangy theme, not to mention all the iconic lines. Trace their origins and more with the ten movies that influenced Bond.
(Also, be sure to check out more 007 content, games, and exclusive video on Noovie's The James Bond Experience)
The Great Train Robbery
Along with the theme's twangy guitar riff, the gun barrel sequence is something that everyone knows best from the James Bond movies. According to media historian James Chapman, this famous sequence, created by film title designer Maurice Binder, was likely inspired by an even more famous scene. That would be the last shot from this early 20th Century Western. The gun barrel sequence usually opens the films. In the Daniel Craig reboots, it's at the end. Could something subconscious now be at play with filmmakers?
Coincidentally, original Bond actor, Sean Connery, starred in a similarly titled 1978 historical crime drama. Written and directed by Michael Crichton, that "Great Train Robbery" bares no other similarity to the 1903 Western...outside of the title, the period, and the basic premise of a band of robbers holding up a train.
Ya know, all this talk about "great train robberies" makes us want to take a quick musical interlude...
The Great Train Robbery
The Third Man
The shadows, the suspense, the intrigue, the music cues (and one of the best Orson Welles roles ever on-screen) – it's all there in Carol Reed's iconic film-noir thriller. Those are just a handful of motifs that James Bond filmmakers scrubbed as they presented Ian Flemming's suave spy to '60s movie audiences.
Inspiration from "The Third Man" would continue. Some crew members from the film would even go on to helm several classic Bond adventures. Reed's Assistant Director, Guy Hamilton, took on "Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Live and Let Die," and "The Man With the Golden Gun." Reed's Assistant Sound Editor, John Glen, took over leading "For Your Eyes Only," "Octopussy," "A View to a Kill," "The Living Daylights," and "Licence to Kill." As for "The Third Man" star Welles? He was initially considered for the role of Auric Goldfinger but was too expensive.
North by Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock and James Bond. Maybe the inspiration did not happen so much on paper, but it was there on-screen. "From Russia With Love," most notably, features an exciting helicopter chase that takes many cues from the famous crop-duster chase in this Hitchcock thriller. In fact, author Ian Flemming contacted the thrill-master himself to direct the first on-screen Bond outing. The script at the time was a reworked version of "Thunderball." Had we gotten a Hitchcock Bond, one can imagine Hitchcock's go-to lead Jimmy Stewart in the role of the suave spy. Or maybe he'd bring back the equally capable and dashing Cary Grant from this picture. Whatever the case, it's likely the direction and the persona would have been vastly different than what we got with Connery and "Dr. No" director Terence Young.
A Fistful of Dollars
The Western genre has more influence on Bond than you might think. For most of their box office dominance in the 1960s, the Spy and Western genres complemented each other. It was kind of like the cinematic equivalent of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. James Bonds' twangy theme begot the equally twangy scores by Ennio Morricone. Moreover, as the Western matured with the stark and violent takes on the genre from Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy and Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch," so too did Bond.
The same year Leone's "A Fistfull of Dollars" hit screens, Bond turned up the violence in "Goldfinger" and its high death count. A year later, "Thunderball" pushed the Bond films beyond the genre's usual Western-influenced "shoot-em-up" style. Over the ensuing decades, Bond filmmakers would continue to pinch from Westerns. For instance, part of the famous opening sequence in "GoldenEye" borrows some suspense and drama from "The Wild Bunch."
James Bond and the Blaxploitation genre is not an obvious connection. But this combo is what audiences got in 1973, as a new James Bond emerged for a new decade. By the time Bond entered the '70s, changes in filmmaking styles had made the spy films feel old and stale. Like Spaghetti Westerns, New Hollywood movies like "The French Connection" pushed visuals further with their stark realism and violence. "Shaft" played in these styles. The film, and its hard-boiled hero, ushered in the Blaxploitation craze. It was also a Black take on Bond. After all, the man did have a way with ladies like a certain British spy. One "Shaft" sequel would even find the private...er...detective hunting down crazed evildoers on a globetrotting adventure.
Bond needed to update for the times, and "Live and Let Die" marked a change in many ways. First, there was Roger Moore's quirkier take on the role. Plotwise, Bond is going after a more grounded villain. 007 heads across the Atlantic to track a drug kingpin instead of hunting down a madman bent on world domination. The adventure takes him through the streets of Harlem and New Orleans and into the Caribbean.
With its large Black supporting class, "Live and Let Die" drew heavily from Blaxploitation. Not only from "Shaft," but other classics like "Black Caesar," "Hell Up In Harlem," and "Across 110th Street." To make the connection even more explicit, stars from those movies -- such as Yaphet Kotto, Julius W. Harris, and Gloria Hendry -- were all tapped to appear. Hendry, in particular, became the first Black Bond girl.
As daring as this was for its time, unfortunately, a lot of it was superficial. Instead of commenting on these films and helping mainstream audiences view the Black heroes as equals to Bond, the movie exploits them. The film leaned heavily on Blaxploitation tropes and stereotypes; and not in a satirical way. Plus, there's the questionable comic relief that came in the form of a racist sheriff (who makes multiple appearances in other Moore Bond films).
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
After a particular space-faring adventure broke box office records in 1977, many studios wanted in on the new sci-fi craze. As a result, producers and screenwriters retooled "Moonraker" almost entirely from its source novel and sent it to space. "Close Encounters" director Steven Spielberg even bid to direct, but producers turned him down. While critics shunned the effort, audiences embraced it. "Moonraker" stood as the highest-earning Bond movie until 1995's "GoldenEye." The Pierce Brosnan-era borrowed even more from sci-fi films, especially 2002's "Die Another Day" with it's laser-based plot and invisible car.
"Star Wars" influence on Bond would eventually come full circle. For starters, the prequel film "Attack of the Clones" drew heavy inspiration from 007 for its espionage subplot. Then in 2015, with "Skyfall" shooting next door to "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at Pinewood Studios, Daniel Craig made a now-famous secret cameo as a helmeted Stormtrooper who gets Jedi-mind-tricked by Daisy Ridley's Rey.
"Moonraker" proved to be influential on its own. This summer's Marvel outing "Black Widow" – a movie very much inspired by Bond – featured a clip from the film and even lifted various plot beats.
By the mid-1980s, Roger Moore's run as 007 was at its end. A new era called for a new Bond. As '80s action cinema got more gritty and explosive, so too did Bond. Timothy Dalton's first turn as the spy was in "The Living Daylights." It's a darker and more serious take than previous iterations. 1989's "Licence to Kill" followed on with the themes. By then, big-budget, action-heavy flicks, like "Die Hard" and "RoboCop," were all over the box office. Bond filmmakers took note. "Licence to Kill," in particular, draws heavily from these '80s action pics; and TV too. That water ski/seaplane scene? You can just as easily swap Bond out for any of the "A-Team" guys and not miss a beat.
James Bond and kung-fu is another pairing that's not immediately obvious. But back in the '70s, as disco singer Carl Douglas will tell you, everybody was kung-fu fighting. And Bond was no stranger to the craze. The Sean Connery Bond movies – in particular, "Dr. No," "You Only Live Twice," and "Goldfinger" – did a lot for Asian representation on screen. But when Moore's Bond came around, the so-called "Chopsocky" craze was already in high gear. The time, thus, was ripe for Bond to show off his martial arts skills. Enter "The Man with the Golden Gun." Moore's second outing followed a run of landmark martial arts flicks like "Enter the Dragon" and "Five Fingers of Death." In the film, a dazed and slightly confused Bond wakes up to find himself in the middle of villain Scaramanga's Thailand-based karate school. A bunch of high kicks later, and Bond is on the run.
The influence of kung-fu movies on Bond didn't stop there. John Woo's 1990's crime drama "Hard-Boiled" took aim at hard-nosed cops like "Dirty Harry" and "Bullitt." But the thriller also took cues from 007, and vice versa. In "Tomorrow Never Dies," Pierce Brosnan's Bond teams up with Chinese spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh). Their mission? To take down a media mogul's WWIII plot. The action is more non-stop here, and Brosnan's Bond is colder and more ruthless.
Woo and his movies like "Hard-Boiled" influenced many stunts and set pieces in this Bond outing, from the guns-a-blazing-at-a-snow-base cold open to the famous bike chase scene. Much the same, the casting of Yeoh as one of the most bad-ass Bond girls was more than just a stunt. It was a way to capitalize on a booming Asian market. All thanks in large part to Woo and his non-stop action crime thrillers, like "Hard-Boiled." Woo passed on directing "GoldenEye," but wouldn't pass up helming a competing espionage franchise's entry, "Mission: Impossible 2."
The Bourne Identity
Bond was in an identity crisis when Pierce Brosnan stepped away from the role after 2002's "Die Another Day." With the Cold War long since over and Russia no longer the big bad of the world, it was time for the franchise to evolve. Much the same, the cinematic landscape was also changing. Bond took a hiatus the same year, another spy born from the page transformed into an action hero on screen. This was Doug Liman's take on Robert Ludlam's amnesiac agent Jason Bourne. The movie was fresh and exciting, and Matt Damon was in control and believable in the lead. A significant hallmark of the Bourne books and films was how much they delved into the character's psyche. Liman's Bourne was gritty, character-focused, action-packed. These elements would cause a major re-think of Bond as he headed into a new decade, century, and millennium.
By the time Eon Productions was ready to roll with another Bond, Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" showed the world how to take a film series that had become too cartoonish and ground it to its core. "Batman Begins" not only ushered in a whole era of gritty reboots, of which Daniel Craig's Bond in "Casino Royale" draws heavy inspiration. It also ushered in a renaissance of the cinematic superhero genre that still reverberates today. Just like with Nolan's Batman, Daniel Craig's James Bond is presented as realistically as possible (gone are all over-the-top high-tech gadgets). Much the same, Craig's Bond is at the start of his career as a Double-O, just like Christian Bale's Batman in Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy.
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.