No Time To Die ending explained: answering your biggest James Bond questions

No Time To Die
(Image credit: Universal)

No Time to Die marks the end of Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond. This spy has officially hung up the tuxedo – and he went out with a bang. 

Considering the No Time to Die runtime is closing in on the three-hour mark, there's a lot to take in, from returning villains to surprise twists, and even a few major reveals that will have massive implications for the James Bond series going forward. There are also a handful of links to previous movies from the pre-Craig era. Essentially, there's a lot to talk about after the credits roll.

Below, we've broken down everything you need to know about the No Time To Die ending. We start with a quick overview of the story and then head into specific plot points that will have you talking everyone's ear off. Naturally, there are major spoilers ahead. And, once you're all caught up, be sure to check out our massive spoiler-free piece on the making of No Time To Die, complete with quotes from Craig and the cast.

No Time To Die ending explained *spoilers*

No Time To Die

(Image credit: Universal)

Well, that was a shock. For the first time in James Bond's history, the main hero has died, leaving behind a child and his 00 number. But how does No Time To Die get to this point? The plot's slightly convoluted, so let's take a step back and brief the intel.

No Time To Die starts with Rami Malek's Safin seeking revenge. Mr. White – a former high-ranking member of the villainous Spectre who made major appearances in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre – killed Safin's parents and siblings, and, in retaliation, Safin kills White's wife, but saves his young daughter, Madeleine Swann.

Many years later, Swann's trying to leave the past behind with James, James Bond, but things soon catch up with them. Blofeld, operating from Belmarsh prison using a fake eye, has a Spectre agent attempt to assassinate Bond while he's visiting the grave of Vesper, Eva Green's character from Casino Royale. Bond escapes with his life but blames Swann for the attack, and the two lovers part ways, with Bond leaving Swann on a train.

That may all happen before Billie Eilish's theme song plays, but it's key to understanding the rest of No Time To Die.

Swann, we learn later, was not responsible for giving away her and Bond's position. She was also pregnant with Bond's child at the time, as signposted by Swann reaching for her stomach when Bond puts her on a train. The assassination attempt was Blofeld's fault, but the iconic villain – played again by Christoph Waltz – has another nemesis who wants him dead. That's where Safin comes back into play.

Safin has been orchestrating the deaths of every Spectre member from his villainous island for many years. Having found a mole in a secret UK government lab, Safin uses a biological weapon that targets individuals using lethal nanobots. He finally unleashes the weapon at a Spectre party – where James Bond also happens to be. Safin later manages to persuade Swann to wear a sample of the nanobots while visiting Blofeld, killing him. However, Safin's not done and wants world-conquering power, and continues to develop the nanobots further.

Having seen the devastating effects of the nanobots, Bond's pulled back into action and hunts Safin with the new 007, Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. She tracks a rogue US agent (played by Billy Magnussen) who's working with Safin, while Bond goes after Swann. At Swann's childhood home, Bond finds her and discovers that she has a daughter, Mathilde. "It's not yours," Swann insists...

Swann and Mathilde are eventually captured by Safin. Bond locates Safin's lair – a former World War Two base – and, with Nomi, the two 00 agents infiltrate the base. Safin uses Swann and Mathilde to stop Bond from destroying the project but Swann manages to escape, Nomi kills a few henchmen, and Bond ends up helping Swann, Nomi, and Mathilde get to a small ship to sail away.

Things aren't quite so simple, as Q, operating from an airplane above, needs the blast doors to be open so that missiles can destroy the lab that Safin's built. Bond shoots his way to a control panel, opens the doors, and makes his way out. Then, tragedy unfolds. Safin closes the blast doors and swipes Bond with a version of the nanobots that targets Swann and Mathilde. Bond kills Safin and, not wanting to risk the fate of the world, heads back to open the blast doors, despite knowing there's not enough time to reach the control room and evacuate the island.

Bond opens the doors and gets patched through to Swann. It's confirmed that Mathilde was his child and Bond loved Swann. The missiles rain down – and Bond dies in the process. Bond's found family at MI6 toast to the former 007, Swann drives into the sunset with Mathilde, and "We Have All the Time in the World" – Louis Armstrong's theme from arguably the other most-tragic Bond movie of them all, On Her Majesty's Secret Service – plays over the credits.

Cue tears.

Is James Bond dead?

Daniel Craig in new James Bond movie No Time to Die

(Image credit: MGM)

We knew this was going to be Daniel Craig's last James Bond movie, but we didn't know that the former 007 would be killed off in No Time To Die.

His death is pretty final. There's missiles falling on him, and having Craig's character return in any form would take away any emotional heft the ending has.

We knew Bond would likely be kicking the bucket quite a while back. Danny Boyle, who was originally scheduled to direct Bond 25, was previously reported to have left the project over creative differences, with The Sun claiming that the disagreement came from Boyle not wanting Bond to die. "There were discussions about killing off Bond in dramatic fashion at the end," an insider allegedly said, claiming Boyle called the idea "ridiculous".

Bond does die in spectacular fashion at the end of No Time To Die. It's a huge move – and one that will inevitably cause controversy.

It's also worth noting the M's eulogy for James Bond ties into Bond-lore. "The proper function of man is to live, not to exist," he reads. "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." 

That's a quote from American novelist Jack London that was first published by the San Francisco Bulletin in 1916. The passage later served as the introduction to a compilation of London’s short stories published posthumously in 1956.

Interestingly, the passage has previously been used to eulogize James Bond. In Ian Fleming's novel You Only Live Twice, Bond's obituary is published in a newspaper as the spy is believed to be dead. His love interest, Mary Goodnight, adds an addendum: the same Jack London passage read by M. (In that same Bond book –very different from the movie of the same name – 007 strangles Blofeld to death.)

The passage is only part of a longer paragraph. It reads: "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

Does James Bond have a daughter?

No Time To Die

(Image credit: Universal)

Despite Madeleine Swann's protests, Mathilde is actually Bond's daughter.

Swann's pregnancy is first signposted during the prelude – as Bond puts her on a train, Swann reaches for her stomach. Later, when Safin first meets the older Swann, he says that it's "not true" that there's no one else she cares for. Despite the movie smash cutting to Bond, Safin was more likely referencing Mathilde.

Bond seems to suspect Mathilde's his child from the first meeting – "the blonde hair, the blue eyes" – but Swann says otherwise, likely as a defense mechanism and her still being unable to trust Bond. It's only during Bond's final moments that the truth is acknowledged. 

How did Blofeld die?

No Time To Die

(Image credit: Universal)

There are plenty of major deaths in No Time To Die, not just Bond. Perhaps the biggest is long-time nemesis Blofeld meeting his demise.

During an interrogation scene, as Bond tries to find out what Blofeld knows about the nanobots, Blofeld is killed by Bond. Accidentally, of course. 

Safin had forced Swann to apply the targetted nanobots to herself, but she bails on the interrogation of Blofeld. However, just as she goes, Bond touches her wrist and therefore he becomes a carrier of the nanobots himself. When he strangles Blofeld, he passes on the killing mechanism and ends Blofeld's life. No bad thing, really, seeing as this man managed to orchestrate an entire villainous organization using a fake eye from behind bars, but not Bond's intention.

With Blofeld dead, the last member of Spectre is seemingly killed.

Are Bond and Blofeld brothers?


(Image credit: MGM/Columbia/Eon)

In Spectre, it's established that Blofeld sees Bond as his brother. Which would mean, surely, that the nanobots – which also target relatives of the person they're meant to kill – would kill Bond? Well, as Bond says in No Time To Die: "It's a good job he's not my real brother."

Bond and Blofeld are foster brothers. Blofeld's family adopted Bond when he was orphaned, and Blofeld grew jealous of Bond and his father's relationship. Blofeld later orchestrated the death of his own father and, believed to be dead himself, fled and adopted his mother's maiden name, Blofeld. It just so happens that he became the head of a nefarious organization and was hellbent on making Bond's life a misery, targeting Bond at every opportunity.

What was Safin's plan?

Rami Malek in No Time to Die

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

When Spectre steals the nano-weapon from the UK government, they didn't count on another corrupt party being involved. That person is Safin, who has been wanting to exact revenge on Spectre after Mr. White killed his family. 

Spectre, with the nanobots in hand, lures Bond to their party in Cuba. Blofeld believes that the nanobots are set to target Bond. However, the scientist in charge of the nanobots is secretly working for Safin and changes the target from Bond to the members of Spectre. Once unleashed, the virus kills everyone at the party except for Bond and Paloma. Technically, Safin just saved Bond.

From there, there's only one Spectre member left: Blofeld. And Bond ends up taking Safin's targeted virus straight to the villain.

Now, it's slightly confusing what Safin's grand plan is after killing everyone who's a member of Spectre. At his island base, Safin's seemingly farming more of the nanobots – which are being wired to wipe out entire continents of people. It's a bioweapon of mass destruction, which Safin wants to wield. Why? The answer appears to simply be for power. Safin's justifications are, frankly, a little hazy.

Thankfully, Bond ends up foiling his evil plan by destroying the lab that's being used to create the nanobots but dies in the process.

What happened to Felix Leiter and Paloma?

No Time To Die

(Image credit: Universal)

Jeffrey Wright's Felix Leiter appears toward the beginning of the movie with new henchman, Logan Ash. The two hope to employ Bond to work for the CIA and help recover the rogue scientist carrying the nanobots.

After tracking down the scientist to a Spectre party, they meet with Paloma, another CIA agent, played by Ana de Armas. The party turns deadly, as the nanobots target the members of Spectre, and then Safin's men attempt to retrieve the scientist. Bond escapes with the scientist – and that's the last we see of Paloma.

Leiter, however, has been double-crossed by his new right-hand man, who is working for Safin. Ash turns on Bond and Leiter, shooting the American multiple times and then destroying the ship that they're on. Leiter dies, and Bond's out for vengeance – which he gets later, killing Ash by letting a car fall on him. Ouch.

Is Nomi the new 007?

Lashana Lynch as Nomi in No Time to Die

(Image credit: Eon/MGM)

Lashana Lynch makes quite an impact as Nomi during No Time To Die. She matches Bond for kills but plays more by the book than the former 007.

As made clear very quickly, Nomi has taken on the 007 badge following Bond's retirement. However, when Bond comes back into action, she later asks for Bond to be reinstated as 007 for their last mission. It's a nice touch, but after Bond's death, it would make sense for Nomi to once again be 007. Whether she will keep that number in movies moving forward remains to be seen.

What's next for the James Bond franchise? 

Next James Bond

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Lionsgate/BBC)

Now for the million-dollar question: who will be the next James Bond? We've offered 17 actors who could take on the role (click on the previous link to find out who) but, now that No Time To Die has killed Bond, there's a question mark over whether there needs to be another James Bond at all.

Whereas previous Bond movies were nearly all insular, Craig's movies heavily followed on from one another. Vesper may have first appeared in Casino Royale, but her relationship with Bond was felt through every movie, even in No Time To Die. Continuity has been more important than ever.

Will the next Bond movie continue the story that started in Craig's era? Spectre is now vanquished, and a new 007 has been put in place. Could Nomi be at the center of future Bond movies – ones without an actual James Bond, but featuring Q, M, and Moneypenny? It could happen and would mark a major shake-up for the franchise.

Having James Bond without James Bond, though, would likely upset a lot of people. There's a bigger chance that the producers will cast a new James Bond. There are a few options for how the franchise could continue if that's the case.

Firstly: they establish that James Bond is actually a code name, and a new actor takes on the mantel but in the same world as the Craig movies. They keep the same actors for Q, M, Moneypenny, and even Nomi, who could retain the 007 number and perhaps train the next James Bond. As a result, the continuity remains.

Second: they keep the same actors for Q, M, etc., but the new Bond's simply there. A soft reset on the franchise, with a different central actor and ignoring past events, but the same crew around James Bond. This scenario is essentially what happened every other time a new Bond was introduced – however, Craig's Bond made continuity important, which could mean a different approach going forward. 

Third: destroy absolutely everything that came before. The producers cast a new M, Q, Moneypenny, and James Bond and simply start again. This would potentially offer the most freedom to a new Bond to make the character their own.

Whatever happens, the decisions the producers make about the future of the James Bond franchise will be fascinating, and we can't wait to see what they cook up. In the meantime, why not check out our piece on the best James Bond movies, ranked!

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.