James Bond Tributes: The Best, Worst and Weirdest Riffs on 007
James Bond has always bordered on the absurd. And, at times, the film series has jumped over that border with complete glee: When you name a nuclear physicist Christmas Jones (The World is Not Enough) just so you can have 007 say, “I thought Christmas only comes once a year,” you’re pretty deep into the ridiculous.
That crisscrossing between earnestness and total camp has made the British icon and his many decades of movies perfect for parody. Sometimes these riffs on Bond hit their mark; sometimes they come off worse than Die Another Day. Here’s our rundown of send-ups — from smart to silly to stupid.
Carry On Spying (1964)
The ninth in a long series of Carry On films — running from Carry On Sergeant (1958) to Carry On Columbus (1992) — this one's often considered the first big screen Bond farce. The British comedy blazed a path literally dozens of films would follow, from Austin Powers to Johnny English. But the wacky outing didn’t just poke fun at 007 — it also took a few jabs at classics like The Third Man, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Casablanca.
The two biggest '60s cultural touchstones were arguably Bond and the Beatles. While it’s a task to find 007’s influence on the Fab Four, the second Beatles film clearly pulls from the template established with the first three Bond movies. John, Paul, George and Ringo may not have the effortless charm of Sean Connery, but they made up for it with goofy charisma — taking on a mad scientist and murderous cult while hopping from London to the Alps to the Bahamas.
Get Smart (1965)
Somewhere between Bond and Inspector Clouseau, Maxwell Smart arrived on the small screen as an often clueless secret agent for clandestine government intelligence agency CONTROL, battling the forces of KAOS, an obvious spoof on SPECTRE. Played by Don Adams, Smart bumbled and buggled his way through five seasons of this NBC/CBS series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. In 2008, the character returned in a feature film played by Steve Carell, who did justice to the famous catch phrase, “Missed it by that much.”
Our Man Flint (1966)
Just a few weeks after the release of Thunderball, the fourth Bond big screen flick, James Coburn debuted as secret agent Derek Flint. Europe had been spinning out 007 parodies for a few years, but Flint is often considered the first mainstream Bond riff. (The film was a box office hit and launched a sequel and a Candadian TV show.) This movie had everything beloved about Bond: global threat, loads of women, fisticuffs, machismo, swagger and questionable fashion choices for so many characters.
Casino Royale (1967)
The Bond film series has seen its fair share of A-list actors. This tale of 007 has them all beat, with starring roles and cameos from David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, John Huston and more. But no amount of talent could save the film from critics. Despite the cast and the legal use of the Bond character, Roger Ebert called it “possibly the most indulgent film ever made” and Leonard Maltin complained, “Money, money everywhere, but [the] film is terribly uneven – sometimes funny, often not.”
The Simpsons: “You Only Move Twice” (1996)
Arguably the greatest one-off character in the Fox show's history, Hank Scorpio starts out as the world’s greatest boss: “Don't call me that word. I don't like things that elevate me above the other people. I'm just like you. Oh, sure, I come later in the day; I get paid a lot more; and I take longer vacations. But I don't like the word ‘boss.’” But he's revealed to be a criminal mastermind akin to Auric Goldfinger: “Homer, on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, that would help me a lot.” While Homer doesn’t kill anyone, he does prevent James Bont (yes, that Bont, with a “t”) from getting away by tackling him. Bonus points to the episode's wonderfully campy theme song, “Scorpio” — sample lyrics: “He'll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth / Beware of Scorpio / His twisted twin obsessions are his plot to rule the world / And his employees' health.”
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
You can thank Mike Myers for getting the Bond franchise to take its hero seriously. At least according to Daniel Craig, who said, “We had to destroy the myth because [the Austin Powers movies] fucked us. I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong, but he kind of fucked us, made it impossible to do the gags.” Powers riffed on everything that seemed laughable about Bond: his swagger, his looks, his puns and his enemies. Dr. Evil poked fun at Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. Kananga and their outlandish lairs. After watching Powers and his co-star Elizabeth Hurley being lowered into a tank of sea bass — “All right, guard: begin the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism!” — few could look at classic Bond in the same way. In the ’90s, the Powers trilogy became even more popular and relevant than Bond himself thanks to the ridiculousness that was Alotta Fagina, sharks with "frickin' laser beams" on their heads, Burt Bacharach love songs and Austin’s meow of “Oh, behaaave!”
Johnny English (2003)
British comedy legend Rowan Atkinson actually showed up in 1983 Bond movie Never Say Never Again (as Nigel Small-Fawcett, a Foreign Office representative in the Bahamas). Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who wrote many of the Bond films, actually penned Johnny English, so the creative team knew exactly what they were doing with this ridiculous homage. Moviegoers agreed — even if critics savaged the secret agent — and made English a box office hit with two successful sequels.
OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies (2006)
Director Michel Hazanavicius proved to be an homage master with 2011's The Artist, a silent, black-and-white film that received 10 Oscar nominations, winning five (including Best Picture). But before his landmark success, Hazanavicius and Artist star Jean Dujardin collaborated on two French-language Bond spoofs. The first, OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, follows the misadventures of French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath in 1955 as he bumbles and stumbles into international intrigue while trying to navigate the world with ignorant, out-of-date views on culture, gender and religion.
H. Jon Benjamin voices super-spy Sterling Archer in this animated series, which turns everything mildly offensive about Bond (sexism, ego, booze-swilling, violence) up to 11. One twist: Archer’s boss is his mom, Mallory, and also the root of his psychological turmoil. Oh, and for some reason, the '80s-loving lead character shoehorns pop culture reference into every adventure.
Melissa McCarthy leads a great cast (Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham) in the best Bond parody in years. A CIA agent who's spent most of her career helping the real spies from behind a desk, McCarthy’s character longs to get into the field with a dashing super spy played by Law. When she’s thrust into the action, she has to act as a double agent, save the world and crash a 50 Cent concert. McCarthy is amazing. Statham is even better as a brutally serious, occasionally amazing, often moronic agent with lines such as, “I’ve jumped from a high-rise building using only a raincoat as a parachute and broke both legs upon landing,” “I've swallowed enough microchips and shit them back out again to make a computer” and “This arm has been ripped off completely and re-attached with this fuckin' arm.”