"Nobody does it better," sang Carly Simon in the theme to The Spy Who Loved Me, but 007 does get an awful lot of help when it comes to doing it twice as well as everybody else. The best James Bond gadgets are as integral to the spy’s arsenal as his Walther PPK and a vodka martini (shaken not stirred, obviously), and have become an iconic part of the long-running franchise.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Q and his team of boffins, 007 rarely ventures on a mission without the right kit. From the iconic souped-up Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger to a ballpoint pen hand grenade in GoldenEye, the best Bond gadgets have helped MI6’s most famous agent out of a tight spot on numerous occasions. He’s also faced a few challenges of his own when his enemies have got their hands on gear to rival his own.
As time has gone by, some of the Bond tech that once felt like sci-fi (the fingerprint scanners in Diamonds are Forever, the wristwatch communicator in For Your Eyes Only) have become reality. Other examples – such as the infamous invisible car in Die Another Day – are as memorable for their silliness as their ingenuity.
In this compilation of the best James Bond gadgets, we’ve picked out 30 of the most iconic pieces of tech from the last 59 years of espionage. Do pay attention…
Utility briefcase (From Russia with Love)
Daniel Craig’s Bond would stick out like a sore thumb if he carried a briefcase, but back in the ’60s, they were an essential part of any businessman’s attire. Which is why Q reinvents one as a stylish box of tricks containing a rifle, ammunition, a throwing knife, a tear gas canister masquerading as talcum powder, and – bizarrely – 50 gold sovereigns. This Bond gadget can also be used to carry important documents.
Rosa Klebb’s shoe (From Russia with Love)
007’s second big-screen outing introduced one of the best James Bond gadgets. A former Soviet spy chief who defected to become Blofeld’s No 3 at Spectre, Rosa Klebb has an extremely useful weapon when she needs a little extra kick. Her otherwise sensible shoes contain a retractable spike tipped with poison, fatal to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with her lethal right foot. Much imitated in other movies, the footwear also made a brief cameo in the 40th-anniversary movie Die Another Day.
Seagull breathing apparatus (Goldfinger)
One of the most low-fi entries in this list of the best James Bond gadgets, this is little more than a fake seagull, worn as camouflage headwear for an underwater approach to a villain’s lair. Bond dispenses with the stuffed bird as soon as he makes landfall, but the idea leaves such an impression that he deploys an updated version (a crocodile submarine) in Octopussy. It should also be noted that, even when worn under diving gear, Bond’s dinner jacket maintains its straight-from-the-dry-cleaners look.
The Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger)
James Bond has always had impeccable taste in cars. While most motorists would be more than happy with the style and sophistication of an Aston Martin DB5, however, the 007 edition comes with more than usual under the bonnet. Key selling points include rotating number plates ("naturally"), oil and smoke emitters, machine guns, tyre shredders and – best of all – an ejector seat which comes in extremely handy in the event of unwanted passengers. Still the definitive 007 vehicle 57 years on, there’s a reason Bond pulled it out of storage when he played bodyguard to M in Skyfall.
Whenever you need to make a rooftop getaway, it’s helpful if you’ve already stashed a jetpack in preparation for your escape. With hired goons in pursuit, Bond calmly straps on his rocket-propelled apparatus, and blasts off to meet the car that’s waiting for him on the street outside. Most impressively of all, 007 finds time to put on a helmet before take-off – safety first, and all that.
Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
Over the last 59 years, James Bond has taken a spin in more vehicles than a Top Gear presenter, but few have been as unconventional as Little Nellie. A modified version of an autogyro created by former RAF pilot Ken Wallis – though we’re pretty sure he didn’t arm his with flame-throwers and aerial mines – this helicopter-like craft is remarkably maneuverable after it’s been assembled from kit form. That said, we’d question the wisdom of using it on a surveillance mission, seeing as it’s INCREDIBLY LOUD. Top trivia: Little Nellie was apparently named after music hall star Nellie Wallace.
Cigarette rocket launcher (You Only Live Twice)
James Bond has never been much of an advocate for giving up tobacco – as late as 2002’s Die Another Day, he can be seen puffing away on a cigar. But You Only Live Twice contains a powerful metaphor about the dangers of smoking, as Bond – captive in Blofeld’s volcano lair – uses the miniature rocket launcher hidden in his cigarette to bump off a Spectre agent. Cigarettes kill, in the most literal way possible.
Hand trap (Diamonds are Forever)
Q had clearly been watching a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons when he thought up this Bond gadget. The officious henchman who attempts to frisk 007 for weapons never counted on finding a mousetrap-like device in the agent’s sports jacket, and recoils in pain when it snaps shut on his fingers. The simple ones are sometimes the best – though this particular piece of kit feels like an accident waiting to happen for its owner.
Rolex Submariner watch (Live and Let Die)
James Bond must be a very punctual guy, seeing as he’s rarely seen without a state-of-the-art watch strapped to his wrist. For 007, it’s never just about keeping time, however, as he tends to insist on his timepieces having more extras than an Apple Watch. His Live and Let Die Rolex Submariner boasts both a powerful electromagnet (handy for deflecting your boss’s cutlery) and a very sharp circular saw. Also worthy of a mention: Bond’s digital watch in The Spy Who Loved Me received text messages – which it printed out on paper – decades before SMS became standard.
The golden gun (The Man with the Golden Gun)
There’s no point being a high-class assassin – famed for killing your targets with golden bullets – if you can’t get your weapon of choice through customs. Francisco Scaramanga has an ingenious solution, however, as his gun can be quickly disassembled into a matching cigarette case, lighter, and pen – he clearly decided that "The Man with the Golden Pen" didn’t carry quite the same cachet.
Flying car (The Man with the Golden Gun)
If we needed confirmation that Scaramanga is every bit Bond’s equal, we get it in his passion for high-tech gadgets. While his choice of car now feels remarkably dated – that shade of brown is so 1970s – the addition of attachable wings and a jet engine is ingenious. They allow the assassin and his trusted aide, Nick Nack, to make a hasty aerial escape, though you have to feel for trapped British agent Mary Goodnight when she opens the car’s trunk and realizes she’s cruising at several thousand feet.
Underwater Lotus Espirit (The Spy who Loved Me)
Not impressed by the standard land-only Lotus Espirit? The model James Bond drives in The Spy who Loved Me comes properly into its own once you’ve driven it off a pier. There’s no need to panic as you sink to the bottom of the sea, because the flick of a button transforms your vehicle into a submarine, bringing a huge variety of ocean life directly to your windscreen. The car also comes with a missile launcher, in case you’re having bother from villains in helicopters.
Spy camera (Moonraker)
Back in the days before everybody carried a smartphone in their pocket, a camera was an essential part of any respectable spy’s toolbox – Q took great pride in showing 007 a waterproof model in Thunderball, while the tiny ring-based camera in A View To Kill is particularly impressive. But Q may have surpassed himself with the miniature device Bond uses in Moonraker. It’s not that it does anything particularly special – it’s more that it features a clever 007 design, with the lens doubling up as the second zero. It’s terrible for going incognito, of course, but it looks fantastic.
Gondola hovercraft (Moonraker)
Nothing characterizes the canal streets of Venice quite like a gondola, but they’re notoriously terrible when it comes to getting around on land. There’s no such problem for 007, however, whose souped-up boat not only comes with an engine, it also converts into a hovercraft should you ever want to take a close-up look at St Mark’s Square. Unfortunately, its vast length makes it rather cumbersome to maneuver, and it looks so ridiculous that even a pigeon does a double-take.
Dart gun (Moonraker)
It’s not great for perennial t-shirt wearers, admittedly, but for anyone fonder of the suited look, 007’s concealed wrist-mounted dart guns are an essential addition to the arsenal. Possibly the best thing about these projectile weapons is that there’s no faffing around with complex trigger mechanisms – nerve impulses in the wrists are enough to fire a dart (armor-piercing and cyanide-tipped versions are available) in your victim’s direction.
Fold-up plane (Octopussy)
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the one-seater escape jet 007 flies in Octopussy, aside from the fact its wings fold up. Significantly worthier of comment is the fact it’s housed in a horsebox, behind a prosthetic animal backside so fake that everyone on the military base who failed to spot it deserves to lose their job.
Whistle-activated keychain (The Living Daylights)
The ability to open an impressive 90% of the world’s locks isn’t the most interesting thing about 007’s keychain in The Living Daylights. Much more than a souvenir from a trip from one of Bond’s favorite tourist attractions, this sound-activated device releases a potent stun gas whenever he whistles the first five bars of ‘Rule Britannia’. A wolf-whistle can prove even more dangerous, unleashing a powerful plastic explosive.
Aston Martin V8 Volante (The Living Daylights)
It may not share the elegant lines of its famous predecessor, the Aston Martin DB5, but the V8 Volante still comes equipped with some of the best optional extras on the market. The laser cutters are a neat update of the tire slashers from Goldfinger, while the skis and rocket-booster are ideal additions for any vehicle likely to be called into action on ice. The car also boasts ample space for a cello, and a self-destruct system to keep it off the second-hand market.
Laser polaroid camera (Licence to Kill)
Lasers have a long history in Bond movies, from Auric Goldfinger’s famous "I expect you to die" torture device, to the space weapons used in Moonraker. But the Polaroid camera from Licence to Kill has to be up there with the Q Branch’s finest, thanks to its user-friendly point-and-kill mechanism. It’s also part of a long line of the best Bond gadgets with the ability to take x-ray photos.
Explosive toothpaste (Licence to Kill)
Austin Powers famously used dental products against one of Dr. Evil’s minions, but it was Bond who got there first. When Q helps out the gone-rogue 007 in Licence to Kill, his assortment of goodies includes a tube of Dentonite, a brand of toothpaste that should come with a government health warning, because it’s actually a highly effective plastic explosive. Turns out it’s tough on plaque and pretty much everything else.
Grappling belt (GoldenEye)
"I’m familiar with that device," Bond assures Q during the first briefing of Pierce Brosnan’s tenure, but there’s more to this leather belt than initially meets the eye. It’s equipped with a 75-foot repelling cord built into the buckle, with a piton to hook on to convenient sections of masonry. It’s only calibrated for one user, but you can guarantee 007 will find a way to bring along a friend.
Pen grenade (GoldenEye)
If ever a franchise has worked to prove the pen is literally mightier than the sword, it’s Bond. Q had already issued an acid-squirting writing implement in Octopussy, but it’s the ballpoint pen 007 uses in GoldenEye that earns a place in our compilation of the best James Bond gadgets. Three clicks arms the four-second fuse, another three deactivates it – which is fine if you’re paying attention, not so good if you spend your time absent-mindedly fiddling with your pen. As “invincible” Boris (Alan Cumming) almost finds to his cost.
Remote control car (Tomorrow Never Dies)
Many of us were still getting used to the idea of having a cellphone in our pockets when Bond used his prototype Ericsson device to turn his modified BMW 750iL into a full-size remote-control car. Using an early touchpad and LCD screen, Bond proves remarkably adept at driving his big toy around a multi-story car park – he even gets a chance to try out additional features such as missile launchers, self-inflating tires, and a conveniently placed wire-cutter. We’re still not sure if he got his deposit back from the hire company.
Avalanche-proof ski jacket (The World is Not Enough)
Even the most serious piste enthusiasts would think twice about taking an Alpine holiday with 007 – every time he clips on his skis, Bond tends to get chased by armies of angry guys with guns (see also On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me and A View to a Kill). That’s probably why he comes prepared in The World is Not Enough, wearing a ski jacket that creates a protective inflatable shell for you (and a friend) in the event of an avalanche.
Invisible car (Die Another Day)
One of the most widely mocked elements of a widely mocked movie, the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day is possibly the silliest addition to Bond’s impressive garage of supercars. That it comes with an ejector seat and enough firepower to take out a small army is just half the story. Thanks to its adaptive camouflage – "Tiny cameras on all sides project the image they see onto a light-emitting polymer skin on the opposite side," explains Q – it’s effectively invisible. Nobody saw that one coming.
Car defibrillator (Casino Royale)
After the ridiculous excess of Die Another Day, the back-to-basics Casino Royale dispensed with most of the gadgets that are usually standard issue in MI6. One exception, however, is the medkit/defibrillator combo located in the glovebox of Bond’s Aston Martin DBS V12. It may not be the most memorable hardware in his arsenal, but few others can match its ability to bring a spy back to life – though someone really ought to take a look at its faulty wiring.
Palm print gun (Skyfall)
Personal safety isn’t always among 007’s priorities, but one of the Walther PPK pistols he uses in Skyfall comes with a special feature that would surely be of interest to anyone who works in the espionage game. The gun is programmed to recognize Bond’s palm print, and won’t fire if anyone else tries to use it – which has to be a big weight off your mind when you’re in a scrap with an evil henchperson. The tech is an update of a personalized rifle Bond uses in Licence to Kill.
Smart blood (Spectre)
Trackers have been a staple in Bond movies since the early days, but in Spectre, the latest head of Q Branch tops all his predecessors when it comes to subtlety. And why give 007 a device he could easily lose when you can inject him with thousands of minuscule nanomachines that can give you an update on Bond’s GPS coordinates in an instant? This "smart blood" can also track blood alcohol levels, so M will always know when Bond has had a heavy night on the vodka martinis.
Spectre rings (Spectre)
These exclusive pieces of jewelry do much more than simply signify your membership of Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s exclusive criminal club. Rather subtler than the signet rings beloved of the likes of Emilio Largo in the ’60s, the fashionable bands feature a neat octopus motif, and – most impressive – are sophisticated storage devices containing top secret information about the dodgy organization. They are, sadly, not USB compatible.
Q Branch’s greatest hits (multiple movies)
Many of the best James Bond gadgets never make it out into the field. Instead, they make cameos in the background, as an exasperated Q struggles to make 007 pay attention during his regular briefing sessions. Highlights include a plaster cast missile (GoldenEye), a man-eating sofa (The Living Daylights), a bagpipe flamethrower (The World is Not Enough), an umbrella that engulfs your head (For Your Eyes Only), and a rocket-launching stereo system (The Living Daylights). Most of them look like they were conceived during a Q Branch all-nighter at the pub.
Now you're caught up with all the best Bond gadgets, check out our ranking of all the best Bond movies – no doubt we will all be arguing in the comments section. We also have pieces on the most iconic James Bond moments and the best James Bond villains.