After the tenures of Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton, both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig had some huge shoes to fill when they were cast as James Bond. While one-liner delivery and leading-man charisma are the most significant parts of any 007 performance, the character is just as renowned for his iconic fight scenes.
Brosnan and Craig’s fight scenes had to live up to Connery’s scuffle on the Orient Express and Moore’s brutal showdown with Jaws. Both Brosnan and Craig’s Bonds had some unforgettable fight scenes.
Gustav Graves (Die Another Day)
For the most part, Gustav Graves is a mediocre villain, and the twist in which he changes his DNA to become North Korean is ridiculous and far-fetched (even for a Bond film).
But despite Die Another Day’s missteps in characterizing its villain, Graves has a brilliant climactic fight with 007. At first, Bond and Graves engage in a fencing match, but they eventually switch out the fencing swords for good old-fashioned English broadswords.
Alec Trevelyan (GoldenEye)
Brosnan’s first Bond movie, GoldenEye, opens with 007 on a mission with his colleague 006, played by Sean Bean, who’s presumed dead by the end of the sequence. Bond spends the movie mourning Alec Trevelyan, only to find that he’s still alive – and he’s the villain.
Bond’s climactic showdown with Trevelyan starts off as a shootout, but it quickly devolves into an intense fight that sees two 00 agents using their identical combat training against each other. Bond ends up dropping Trevelyan from his diabolical satellite dish in one of the franchise’s most memorable villain deaths.
Renard (The World Is Not Enough)
While Elektra King is the main villain of The World is Not Enough, Robert Carlyle steals the show as Renard, one of the world’s most wanted international terrorists.
There’s a unique twist added to the climactic fight, because Renard is unable to feel pain, so Bond’s punches have no immediate effect. Bond wins the fight by shooting his opponent out of a submarine. Whether he can feel pain or not, that’s a fight-ending move.
Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies)
There’s a tradition in the Die Hard franchise that, once a movie, John McClane gets his butt handed to him by a towering side villain. Brosnan’s Bond has a similar fight with the German henchman Stamper, played by Götz Otto, in Tomorrow Never Dies.
007 gets annihilated in the early stages of the fight, but manages to turn the tables on his opponent with a quick succession of punches punctuated by David Arnold’s revamped Bond theme.
Xenia Onatopp (GoldenEye)
Famke Janssen’s “Bond girl” Xenia Onatopp is a femme fatale in the most literal sense. She has a penchant for lust killing, luring men to bed and then crushing them to death with her thighs. In one sequence, she tries to kill Bond this way as he gets out of the pool at the Grand Hotel Europe.
Bond manages to toss Onatopp into a vat of hot water before she can constrict him to death, then holds her at gunpoint and forces her to take him to the mysterious Janus syndicate.
Primo (No Time To Die)
In Craig’s fifth and final Bond film, No Time to Die, Primo is introduced as a side villain. He’s a hired goon who initially works for SPECTRE and ends up working for Safin after he singlehandedly takes down SPECTRE.
On the tail end of a breathtaking long take, Bond uses Q’s new gadget to blow out Primo’s bionic eye. This paves the way for Craig’s 007 to deliver one last quippy one-liner: “Really blew his mind.”
Mitchell (Quantum Of Solace)
The opening sequence of Quantum of Solace is the best part of the movie (which isn’t saying a lot). The cold open breaks Bond movie tradition by following on directly from the end of Casino Royale as Bond delivers Mr. White to M.
M’s bodyguard, Mitchell, reveals himself to be an agent of Quantum and engages Bond in a rough, visceral fight across a bunch of scaffolding. Bond eventually manages to dispatch Mitchell, but it’s not easy.
Mr. Hinx (Spectre)
The Craig era didn’t have a lot of traditional henchmen, but Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx from Spectre is a classic example. Midway through the movie, he takes on Bond in a brutal fight on a train. The train fight is an obvious homage to Connery’s Bond’s fight with Red Grant in From Russia with Love.
Bautista matches Robert Shaw’s ruthlessness and Craig matches Connery’s sobering vulnerability. This sequence might be derivate, but it sticks the landing beautifully.
In the opening sequence of Skyfall, Bond traces a mercenary with a stolen hard drive containing the identities of undercover agents to Istanbul. After an awesome motorcycle chase, the two end up having a fight on top of a moving train. Just when Bond is getting the upper hand, Moneypenny accidentally shoots him into the river below.
Most Bond movie cold opens are triumphant victories, but Skyfall’s opening is a near-fatal failure. Later in the movie, Bond has another great fight scene with Patrice in Shanghai, gorgeously silhouetted against a glowing billboard.
Fisher (Casino Royale)
The black-and-white opening of Casino Royale provides an origin story for Bond, detailing how he earned his license to kill and 00 status by assassinating a traitor named Dryden and his contact, Fisher.
He dispatches Dryden pretty easily with a gunshot, but he takes down Fisher in a much messier close-quarters fistfight in a bathroom. The brutality of this scene instantly sets the rough, gritty tone for the game-changing reboot.