The James Bond franchise is known for many things: the girls, the martinis, the cars, the shifting lead roles. But most of all, perhaps, it's known for the spectacular action sequences. Over the 23 films to date, 007 has punched, kicked, shot, set on fire, exploded, thrown off high things, blown out of airplanes, eviscerated, fed to sharks and come up with countless other inventive ways of dispatching the villains, while using virtually every form of transport known to man, from motorbikes to hovercrafts to spaceships in a variety of pulse-pounding chase sequences.
With the latest film "Skyfall," hitting theaters in the U.S. this Friday, we're continuing James Bond week at The Playlist (we looked at the the best villains yesterday) by picking out five of our favorite Bond action sequences. We were, frankly, spoiled for choices when it came to making our picks, and we're heartbroken at the ones we had to leave out, but we've tried to get a bit of a spread across the history of the franchise. But if we missed your own personal favorite, you can fight in its corner in the comments section below.
"From Russia With Love" - The Orient Express fight
Bond has duked it out over the years with hundreds of villains, but no fights have been as thrilling or as brutal as the one that Sean Connery's Bond had on board the Orient Express with Robert Shaw's SPECTRE agent Red Grant. Bond, Soviet cypher clerk Tatiana Romanova and Istanbul station head Ali Kermi Bey are on board the train with a Lektro cryptography device when Grant, posing as another agent, kills Bey, and gets the upper hand on Bond. But fortunately, Q branch have booby-trapped 007's briefcase, setting off tear gas in Grant's face, and what follows is a brutal three-minute bit of mano-a-mano combat, the two agents kicking, strangling and gouging at each other. It's still a little shocking in the extent of its violence, and for all the best efforts of the following 21 films, hasn't yet been bested in the series.
"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" - Ski chase
The Bond movies have always done well by skiing sequences. Among others, "The Spy Who Loved Me" (with the spectacular Union Jack parachute jump), "The Living Daylights" (with the cello escape) and "For Your Eyes Only" (with Roger Moore being chased down by motorcyclists, and a detour down a bobsled run -- this one in particular is a cracker, and nearly made the list) have all featured memorable action scenes on the slopes. But the original, and the best, remains the one in George Lazenby's sole entry, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." A professed inspiration for the snowbound action sequence in the third act of Christopher Nolan's "Inception" (Nolan's a big fan of Bond, and of this film in particular), the scene comes when Lazenby's Bond makes his escape from Blofeld's allergy-research clinic headquarters on Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. Skiing down the mountain, he's pursued by Blofeld's men, leading to a thrilling chase (and later, a bobsled chase after 007 blows the base up). It doesn't have the bells and whistles of some of the other Alpine sequences, but there's a visceral thrill that's unmatched elsewhere, aided by camerawork captured by Swiss Winter Olympians bombing down the mountain backwards holding cameras. Some dodgy back-projection aside, the sequence feels like it could fit into any modern-day Bond scene. The death-defying sled chase/fight is almost as good -- watch both below.