10 James Bond Movie Gadgets That Would Never Work In Real Life

Summary

  • James Bond movie gadgets push the boundaries of scientific feasibility, but their purpose is to enhance the cinematic experience.
  • Many of Bond’s gadgets, like X-ray glasses and invisible cars, would never work in real life due to implausible engineering and technological limitations.
  • Despite their impossibility, these gadgets are crucial to Bond’s larger-than-life appeal and have contributed to his cinematic legacy.


James Bond movie gadgets that would never work in real life are crucial to the suave spy’s identity. Indeed, 007’s most memorable gadgets typically rely on technologies that are far beyond the current capabilities of engineers. Developed by Q Branch – the research and development department of the British Secret Service – many of these gadgets are infamous for violating the fundamental laws of nature. However, their purpose is not to adhere strictly to reality, but to create thrilling and unforgettable scenes that enhance the Bond movie experience. While these gadgets push the boundaries of scientific feasibility, it’s all in the name of movie magic.


Much like the worst things James Bond somehow survived, the spy’s gadgets also stretch the imagination beyond the realm of plausibility. Yet, they are part and parcel of the larger-than-life appeal of the James Bond franchise. Offering viewers an escape into a realm of high-stakes espionage and daring adventures, these gadgets are often what allow Bond to emerge victorious against impossible odds. In the landscape of cinema history, 007’s gadgets reveal the direct influences of science fiction not just on the Bond movies, but the espionage genre itself. While many James Bond movie gadgets would never work in real life, they’ve done their part in securing 007’s cinematic legacy.


10 X-Ray Glasses (Pierce Brosnan)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The World Is Not Enough is largely regarded to be among the worst Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies, but it did give audiences a chance to experience X-ray glasses brought to life in a live-action spy film. Bond wears the X-ray glasses to see under clothing and identify which of the employees inside a casino are packing heat. However, X-ray technology works by blasting radiation through the subject and capturing the X-rays on the other side, producing an image with a radiation-sensitive receptor. Even without considering the health risks involved, X-ray glasses present many engineering problems that are unsolvable today and in the foreseeable future.

9 Cigarette Gun (Sean Connery)

You Only Live Twice (1967)

you only live twice

Release Date
June 13, 1967

Director
Lewis Gilbert

Cast
Sean Connery , Donald Pleasence , Bernard Lee , Akiko Wakabayashi , Mie Hama

Runtime
117 minutes

Sean Connery’s cigarette gun in You Only Live Twice faces several scientific hurdles. Concealing a functional firearm within a cigarette – without compromising structural integrity – requires impossible engineering. The firing mechanism would need to overcome significant technical hurdles – including miniaturization and heat management – to discharge a projectile safely and accurately. Though the cigarette gun fires like a full-sized pistol in You Only Live Twice, its size limitations would severely restrict firepower, rendering it impractical for combat situations. Furthermore, the logistics of concealing such a device without detection, especially in high-security environments, would be virtually impossible. That said, it’s certainly part of why Connery’s Bond was so cool.

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8 Impossibly High-Powered Laser (Timothy Dalton)

The Living Daylights (1987)

The Living Daylights

Release Date
July 31, 1987

Director
John Glen

Cast
Timothy Dalton , Maryam d’Abo , Joe Don Baker , John Rhys-Davies

Runtime
130 minutes


Featuring Timothy Dalton’s James Bond, The Living Daylights is well-remembered for having arguably the most iconic car chase scene in the franchise. During the famous return of the Aston Martin V8, every deadly car gadget Bond uses would actually work in the real world. The sole exception is the high-powered laser mounted on the V8’s wheel hub, which is seen cutting another car’s chassis instantly and completely in half. In reality, even today, the strongest industrial lasers would struggle to cut through so much metal so quickly. As impossible as it is, the V8’s super laser certainly made The Living Daylights a truly unforgettable part of Dalton’s 007 tenure.

7 Invisible Car (Pierce Brosnan)

Die Another Day (2002)

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) opens the door to his invisible car in Die Another Day.

Apart from being the only Bond movie that features John Cleese as Q, Die Another Day is also notorious for being the most ridiculous film in Pierce Brosnan’s tenure. When it comes to the debate surrounding what went wrong with Die Another Day, the most hated, loved, and discussed factor is the invisible Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. To be fair, the tech that makes the V12 invisible is similar to today’s advancements in active camouflage technology. That said, the level of invisibility it achieves is not only impossible in real life, but was also executed with cartoonish CGI, disappointing even 007’s most loyal long-time viewers.

6 Bulletproof Glass-Shattering Ultrasonic Ring (Pierce Brosnan)

Die Another Day (2002)

John Cleese as Q demonstrating to Pierce Brosnan as James Bond how the supersonic bulletproof glass-shattering ring works in Die Another Day.


Alongside the invisible car, another implausible James Bond movie gadget in Die Another Day is the ultrasonic ring. When twisted, the ring emits a sound that’s able to shatter bulletproof glass immediately. This is theoretically possible, but the engineering dilemma lies in miniaturizing a sound amplifier and battery that is not only small enough to fit in such a miniscule package, but also has the capability to produce such frequencies. Moreover, Die Another Day shows the glass breaking in pieces, whereas bulletproof glass would remain mostly intact even when cracked or destroyed. Though it shatters several basic engineering principles, the ultrasonic ring is admittedly still cool.

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5 Wristwatch Grappling Hook (Pierce Brosnan)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

One of the more popular James Bond movie gadgets is the Omega Seamaster dive watch that Pierce Brosnan wears in The World Is Not Enough. Apart from its impressive profile, it comes with a grappling hook that’s able to cling to unreachable surfaces, and can easily pull and hold up a swinging 007. However, while many ultra-thin filaments are strong enough for this purpose, the tiny grappling hook’s pulling power is unrealistic for its mechanism’s size. Even with today’s advanced knowledge and materials, a grappling hook with this size and pulling power would be an engineering miracle. In this case, it only makes Bond’s wristwatch grappling hook more awesome.

4 Radioactive Homing Pill (Sean Connery)

Thunderball (1965)

Closeup of James Bond's (Sean Connery) hand holding the radioactive tracer pill in Thunderball.

Although it’s not exactly one of the best Sean Connery James Bond movies, Thunderball contributed its fair share of unforgettable moments to the franchise. This includes Q telling Bond to swallow a radioactive homing device the size of a pill – and Bond just trusting Q’s word despite the implications. In the real world, doctors administer radioactive tracer pills to diagnose certain parts of the body that react to harmless amounts of radiation, the effects of which are measured by devices right next to the patient. Realistically, if the homing pill Bond swallowed was radioactive enough to be remotely detectable, he would’ve died from radiation poisoning in Thunderball.

3 Bullet-Deflecting Magnetic Wristwatch (Roger Moore)

Live and Let Die (1973)

Close up of James Bond's (Roger Moore) hands using his magnetic watch to attract a nearby spoon in Live and Let Die.

Roger Moore wore several nice watches in Live and Let Die, but the Rolex Submariner 5513 stood out for a reason: it produces a magnetic field strong enough to deflect bullets. What’s great about this gadget is that it’s theoretically viable – bullets are mostly made of non-magnetic lead, but their steel or copper jacket can be affected by magnets. However, stopping a moving bullet would entail not just a single battery-powered wristwatch-sized electromagnet, but a magnetized tunnel designed and powered for the near impossible task. Although it won’t really work in the real world, Bond’s portable super magnet helped make Live and Let Die a memorable Bond installment.

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2 Credit Card Skeleton/Master Key (Pierce Brosnan)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) unfolds his lockpick/skeleton key/master key disguised as a credit card in The World Is Not Enough.


The skeleton key/lock pick disguised as a credit card in The World Is Not Enough is so popular that it has inspired tons of copycat products in the real world – which notably hasn’t raised any law enforcement alarms. This is because there’s no such thing as a master key that can open any type of lock. Skeleton or master keys exist, but only for specific types of locking mechanisms, which are upgraded all the time – especially in the highly-secured areas Bond breaks into. Despite the fact that it’s completely unrealistic, the credit card master key has become arguably the most iconic of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond movie gadgets.

1 Electromagnetic RPM Controller Ring (Sean Connery)

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Closeup of Q's (Desmond Llewelyn) hand wearing the electromagnetic rpm slot machine controller ring in Diamonds are Forever.

Diamonds Are Forever

Release Date
December 17, 1971

Director
Guy Hamilton

As demonstrated in Diamonds Are Forever, Q Branch’s electromagnetic RPM (rotation per minute) controller ring can induce jackpots in mechanical slot machines. Apart from providing a good distraction for British intelligence operatives, the RPM controller ring is awesome because it’s somewhat rooted in reality – electromagnetism could theoretically control the mechanism inside slot machines. However, even in the ’70s, slot machine makers have already spent decades designing defenses against similar attempts to control them externally. An RPM controller would’ve been thwarted by a fail-safe mechanism inside even older machines. That said, it remains a great example of how James Bond movie gadgets expertly toe the line between fiction and reality.


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