James Bond is a British icon, and for plenty of reasons — he’s suave, he’s got the cool accent, he works for the good guys, and he’s a one-man army. But even 007 needs some help now and again, and in the 24 official James Bond movies, he’s come to depend on the military forces of the good ol’ USA to save the world more than once. After all, as Stephen Colbert once said, “Do you know what England’s greatest gift to the world is? America.”
So with the release of SPECTRE the week, let’s take a moment to give the Yanks their due with this list of the top five military moments from the Bond film series, in chronological order.
Branch of Service: U.S. Army
Objective: Stop the bad guys from detonating a nuke in Ft. Knox and throwing Western economies into chaos
You can trust America to clean things up on its home turf, and the Fort Knox finale of what many consider the best Bond film finds the Army on double duty. First it must “play dead” when villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) sprays the town with nerve gas — never fear, Bond (Sean Connery) has arranged for the canisters to be switched out — and then, when Goldfinger’s gang converges on the gold depository, it must swoop in and take them out. Both objectives are achieved in sterling fashion. And let’s give an additional shout-out to the CIA; when Bond turns out to be all thumbs when it comes to disarming the nuclear bomb, it’s up to an intelligence expert to stop the countdown in the nick of time (at 007 seconds to go, naturally). Score two for us!
Branch of Service: U.S. Navy
Objective: Stop the bad guys from detonating a nuke off the shores of Miami, and recover the nuke
When armageddon threatens Miami, who are you gonna call? The Navy, duh. Sure, Bond (Sean Connery) gets all the cool underwater toys in this film, but without Navy frogmen running interference for him, and a few well-timed shells from a destroyer to take out the villain’s fleet, he would have been all but helpless. And note that it’s the Navy who hangs around to secure the nuke and ensure world safety while Bond is stuck on a raft with a beautiful babe — that is, until we give him an airlift just in time for the final credits. In all seriousness though, watch this movie for the underwater battles alone — some of the most elaborate and intense ever filmed.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Branch of Service: U.S. Navy
Objective: Take over enemy tanker and thwart villain’s plans to ignite World War III between the USA and the USSR
Nobody puts the U.S. Navy in a corner — even if that corner happens to be a giant tanker that swallows submarines. When Bond (Roger Moore) takes on the aquatic megalomaniac Karl Stromberg (Kurt Jurgens), he must get on board that tanker, and to do that, he needs a lift from our sea service — specifically, the USS Ranger. When the Ranger and her crew are captured, Bond does them a solid by busting them out of confinement, and the crew returns the favor by raiding the armory and vanquishing Stromberg’s goons, giving Bond the opportunity to avert World War III. For good measure, the Ranger crew help Bond escape the rapidly sinking tanker by blasting their way out with a well-aimed torpedo. And if that wasn’t enough, Ranger Commander Carter (Shane Rimmer) even gives Bond an extra hour to save the voluptuous Russian agent XXX (Barbara Bach) before blowing Stromberg’s hideout to smithereens. Who says the U.S. military is incapable of improving international relations?
Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps (sort of)
Objective: Infiltrate and take over enemy space station before it can bombard Earth with deadly nerve gas
“Outer space now belongs to Bond!” crowed the posters for this far-out sci-fi actioner, but when the entire Earth is threatened with extermination from orbit, and Bond (Roger Moore) finds himself a stowaway on the villain’s satellite and in need of reinforcements, who’s going to be first on the scene? The U.S. Marines, of course — or to be more specific, the Space Marines. Okay, maybe such a unit — along with zero-gravity laser battles and killer space stations — doesn’t exist yet, but if there’s ever a madman in outer space threatening to rain destruction down on Earth, we know who’ll be there to save the day.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Branch of Service: U.S. Air Force
Objective: Assist Bond in locating a sunken British cruiser and escort him to the scene
It was only a matter of time before the USAF got into the action in a Bond film, and even though they’re only in Tomorrow Never Dies for five minutes, they play a pivotal role in the plot. When Bond (Pierce Brosnan) acquires a GPS tracker that contains the location to a sunken vessel, it’s up to Uncle Sam to help him decode the data. And because the Air Force is so helpful, it even risks flying him into Vietnamese territorial waters so he can perform a cool-ass HALO jump down to the ship. As Bond’s CIA pal Jack Wade (Joe Dom Baker) proclaims, “Seems like an awful lot just to save the world, Jimbo!” but without the assist from our flyboys, consider what would have happened next: Bond’s comely counterpart in the Chinese secret service (Michelle Yeoh) would have been captured on the scene alone, and without Bond’s help would have been executed by evil media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), whose plans for world domination would have proceeded without a hitch. So keep that in mind the next time you watch this movie: No Air Force, no chance for a happy ending.
Honorable Mention: GoldenEye (1995)
Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps
Objective: Provide covert field support to Bond in Cuba
True, Jack Wade shows up with the Marines after all the shooting is over, but hey, our boys were ready to lock, load and kick ass if Bond happened to fail his mission. And you have to admit, it’s pretty slick how they sneak up on Her Majesty’s top agent at the end, even if his mind was occupied with an imminent shag at that moment. If nothing else, even a seasoned agent like Bond must appreciate a fully-armed escort to his “debriefing.”
And with that, we wait with breathless anticipation for the next 007 epic that will feature the best fighting force in the world. As the titles should read at the end of every Bond film, “The U.S. military will return…”