Film / Thunderball

James Bond: My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?
Fiona Volpe: But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue... but not this one! What a blow it must have been. You, having a failure!
James Bond: Well, you can't win them all.

The one with the Tom Jones song, or the "underwater one".

The fourth James Bond film, in which SPECTRE nicks a pair of nukes (from an Avro Vulcan), somebody gets the point permanently and there's plenty of sharks. Oh, and Tom Jones faints on the last note of the title song.

Adjusted for inflation, Thunderball is the most successful Bond movie after Skyfall. Its adjusted figure is over $950 million, above Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. On US and Canadian grosses alone, it is, according to Wikipedia, the 30th highest grosser of all time, beating all of the Harry Potter movies (the "Potter grosses more than Bond" figure is inaccurate, since it doesn't adjust for inflation) and every one of the The Lord of the Rings movies.

The storyline of Thunderball was recycled for the non-canonical Bond film Never Say Never Again, in which a now much older Connery reprised his role as Bond. Columbia Pictures was (at one time) planning to remake Thunderball again, this time casting Connery as Ernst Stavro Blofield, but a court ruled against them in the matter of the rights to the James Bond character. (Through subsequent studio mergers, MGM acquired NSNA and the matter became moot.)

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Nationality:
    • Domino, who was Italian in the book (real name Dominetta "Domino" Vitali), is French in the film.
    • Fiona Volpe was originally an Irishwoman named Fiona Kelly, but in the film is Italian, like her actress.
  • America Saves the Day: The U.S. Air Force Pararescue frogmen parachuting to the rescue to help Bond stop the SPECTRE frogmen with the nuke.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • When Bond goes to visit Largo at his home, Largo points a skeet rifle at his guest. Bond gently pushes it away. Of course, since Largo spends half the movie trying to kill Bond, starting shortly after this scene, it might not have been accidental...
    • The firing pin design of the Walther PPK should prevent an accidental discharge from dropping the gun, as happens when Bond is climbing onto the roof of Largo's mansion. The trigger has to be pulled all the way back for the gun to discharge.
  • Artificial Gill: The mini-breather. After the movie came out, a naval engineer spoke to the producers, inquiring how they managed to make the mini-breather, since he was trying to develop one himself. He was devastated by their answer: Sean Connery was actually holding his breath and got to surface between takes.
  • Asexuality: According to Largo, his henchman Vargas...
    "..does not drink...does not smoke...does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?"
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Count Lippe, as well as the fake Major Derval and SPECTRE Number 9, the latter two of whom try unsuccessfully to embezzle money from SPECTRE they were not supposed to take (the fake Derval demands a raise in the middle of the hijacking, and the latter takes money from an offscreen drug scheme) and are killed quickly for disloyalty reasons.
    • Quist, who after carelessly foiling his own attempt to kill Bond, gets thrown into the shark pool by Largo for his failure.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Colonel Jacques Bouvar, at the beginning of the movie. Bond makes sure that he will be attending his own funeral for real.
    • Played with in that the first thing we see is the "JB" on the coffin. The camera then pans up to James Bond watching the funeral.
  • Badass Crew: Bond and his allies.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: See Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind.
  • Bandaged Face: Angelo Palazzi undergoing the plastic surgery necessary to make him look like Major Derval.
  • Bilingual Bonus
    • Fiona Volpe: Italian for "fox" (the animal), referring to her red hair and cunning as an assassin.
    • Also Largo's ship: Disco Volante is Italian for Flying Saucer, a tip-off of the breakaway hydrofoil front section. In the remake Never Say Never Again, it's actually called The Flying Saucer.
  • Blofeld Ploy: Blofeld electrocutes one of the henchmen sitting at his conference table for embezzling money from him (which he really was guilty of), only after interrogating another (and totally innocent) henchman for the reason why their drug trafficking ring had turned in such poor profits, showing that it applies to things other than just failing to kill a "00" Agent.
    • In the book at least, the purpose of interrogating the innocent henchman was so the guilty one would relax... and therefore be touching the contact plates. And Blofeld then praised the innocent man (who'd totally trusted him to do what was right) for the calm way he'd taken the interrogation.
  • Board to Death: The iconic SPECTRE briefing scene ends with a zapped subordinate.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "Would you mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead"
    • "I think he got the point"
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: During Bond's dance with villainess Fiona Volpe.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Angelo demands an increase to his payment, smugly pointing out he's the only person who can do his job, which Count Lippe reluctantly agrees to. But when word of his behavior reaches Blofeld, he orders Largo to eliminate Angelo and Lippe.
  • Chairman of the Brawl
    • A chair is put to use in the fight between Bond and Bouvar.
    • Bond chucks a chair at a Disco Volante goon during the final fight.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Largo subjects Domino to it.
  • Color Motif: In keeping with her namesake, Domino's clothes are black and white.
  • Concealing Canvas: Hiding a map of top-secret locations.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: As Largo is about to shoot Bond, Domino shoots him from behind with a speargun.
  • Cool Bike: Fiona Volpe's BSA Lightning with the built-in missile launchers.
  • Cool Boat: The Disco Volante with its breakaway shell and hydrofoils.
  • Cool Plane:
    • The Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber SPECTRE hijacks.
    • Special mention goes to the modified B-17 that picks up Bond and Domino at the end — it belonged to a CIA front company and was used for extraction on at least one Real Life spy operation. It was also used to develop the Fulton STARS sky hook.
  • Cool Shades: The Bahamas being a sunny locale more than one character wears one: Bond, Leiter, Vargas.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The leadership of SPECTRE, which includes an Italian (#2), an Englishman (#5), a Frenchman (#10), a Japanese man (#7), and an American (#11). Though he doesn't speak, an Indian appears on the council as well.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: In the cold open, SPECTRE agent Jacques Bouvar fakes his death and attends his own funeral disguised as a woman. Bond catches on (thanks to his not letting one of the men around him open a car door for him; it was the '60s) and he has to fight in the dress.
  • Cyanide Pill: Bond's assistant Paula Kaplan takes one rather than face interrogation by SPECTRE thugs. In a cruel irony, Bond would have arrived in time to save her if she hadn't.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Bond's fellow agent Paula is kidnapped by Largo's goons and taken to his estate to be interrogated.
    • Domino also qualifies, especially toward the end of the movie.
  • Dark Action Girl: SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe.
  • Dead Foot Lead Foot: An aquatic variant as Largo's dead or dying body forces the Disco Voltane to run explosively aground.
  • Deadly Dodging: What leads to Fiona Volpe's demise (see Bulletproof Human Shield).
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: It takes a while but nurse Patricia Fearing eventually warms up to Bond.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Emilio Largo designed the Evil Plan. Blofeld is also seen at the beginning of the movie, coordinating the various activities of SPECTRE.
  • Disposable Vehicle Section: The SPECTRE yacht separates to transform into a faster hydrofoil ship. The remaining section is still usable as a gun platform and boat dock.
  • Dissonant Serenity: While the others are visibly sweating, Largo isn't the slightest bit perturbed by the electrocution of a fellow SPECTRE council member.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The leader of SPECTRE.
  • Don't Try This at Home: That lovely underwater sex scene with Domino? Um yeah, try that in real life and you might float to the surface unexpectedly fast and give yourself and your partner matching embolisms.
  • The Dragon:
    • Vargas and Fiona Volpe, to Emilio Largo.
    • Largo himself is this to Blofeld.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Bond steals a black wetsuit and hood to masquerade as a SPECTRE diver. Subverted when despite there being only a small part of his face visible through his face mask (and then only when looking almost directly at him), Largo still recognizes him.
  • Empty Quiver: The stolen nukes.
  • Enemy Mine: During the big underwater fight at the end, when sharks start to show up the SPECTRE frogmen and their opponents stop fighting each other and join forces to attack the sharks.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Kutz is so disturbed to see Largo torturing Domino that he helps her escape.
    • Blofeld may be a ruthless madman intent on nuclear blackmail but he disdains disloyalty in his own camp. So when he discovers a SPECTRE agent has been embezzling money off drug sales, he electrocutes him.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier If French: Domino (who is an Italian in the novel, but Claudine Auger turned her into a Frenchwoman).
  • Hand Signals: Bond exchanges an "A-Ok" sign with an American frogman who he saves from a SPECTRE henchman.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Q is dressed like one when he equips Bond in the Bahamas.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Is there any other reason, besides your enthusiasm for watersports?"
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Dr. Kutze, who throws the bomb fuses overboard and frees Domino.
    • Subverted however in the case of Fiona Volpe, who mocks Bond's presumption that she'll go over to his side after sleeping with him (probably a Call Back to Pussy Galore's Heel–Face Turn in Goldfinger.)
  • Hero of Another Story: Bond's comrade Double-0 agents at the briefing. It's the only time in the franchise we see them all in one place. Well, until GoldenEye at least with 006...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bond's fellow agent Paula is kidnapped by Largo's goons and taken to his estate to be tortured for information. She takes a Cyanide Pill and kills herself so she can't be made to betray Bond and the operation.
  • High Voltage Death: In the first scene after the opening credits, Ernst Stavro Blofeld electrocutes one of the members of SPECTRE's ruling council in his chair, in the middle of a meeting, for embezzling from their drug-dealing operation in the United States.
  • Honor Before Reason: When standing behind a car with a woman and being shot at, Bond jogs to her side, opens the door, and then all the way around the front of the car to the opposite door (which she doesn't even reach over to open for him). Apparently being chivalrous is more important than quickly getting to safety. Either that or he knows he has Plot Armor.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Domino demands to know how Bond knew that was her name (or rather, her nickname); he says it is on the bracelet on her ankle. It's not clear he hasn't read up on her already, since the reason he is in the Bahamas is following a lead about her recently murdered brother, though it didn't lead to her directly..
    Domino: My my, what sharp eyes you have.
    Bond: (as she walks away) Wait till you get to my teeth.
  • Image Song: The title song by Tom Jones describes Bond perfectly.
    He always runs while others walk
    He acts, while other men just talk
    He thinks that the fight is worth it all
    So he strikes, like thunderball...
    • Given that "thunderball" originated as a term for a nuclear mushroom cloud, it could also be said to describe Largo—who is, after all, the one who is actually trying to "strike, like thunderball."
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Harpoons are the weapon of choice in that movie.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: A particularly weird one, where one of Largo's henchmen is aiming at Bond as he dances with Fiona. Bond spins around at the last moment so that he hits Fiona instead...right between two of Bond's fingers!
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: The Bahamas Junkanoo festival. Notably, those scenes had to be shot at another time of the year, so the film crew convinced the locals to stage an out-of-season Junkanoo for them.
  • Jet Pack: Bond uses one in the opening to escape from Bouvar's mansion.
  • Karma Houdini: Blofeld.
  • Kill and Replace: Angelo has plastic surgery to look like pilot Francois Derval, then kills him and takes his place on a NATO nuclear bomber.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: This is only Bond film in which the villain's henchmen actually surrender after the battle in the climax. If you look closely, you can see them being taken into custody by the Coast Guard while Bond is chasing Largo on the surface.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The underwater battles are long. A common consensus today it's that while in 1965 it was awesome, after aquatic shooting became kinda commonplace they're really overdrawn.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Bond and Lippe try to dispose of each other this way in the health spa.
  • Meaningful Name: Domino wears a black and white bikini at one point.
  • The Man Behind the Man: As in From Russia with Love, Blofeld is the real villain, running things from the background.
  • Mobstacle Course: The Junkanoo chase, Bond's speed further impeded by a bullet in his calf.
  • Moment Killer: Bond and the physiotherapist Patricia are just about to get it on when Bond sees the ambulance bringing the dead pilot back to the health spa and has to go check it out. Patricia is not happy.
  • Neck Snap: Bond does it to Col. Bouvar with a foreplace poker and to two SPECTRE frogmen during the big underwater battle at the end.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Averted: a shark gets shot, and another speared, both on-screen. A case of Values Dissonance.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The health spa at the beginning has a back-stretching machine. The nurse straps Bond into it, turns it on and leaves the room. Somebody else comes in and turns the machine to maximum setting, which nearly kills Bond. There's no reason why that machine should be capable of doing that. (The same could be said for the steam bath Bond tries to parboil Lippe with in return.)
  • A Nuclear Error: Considering a recent Newsnight report, not A Nuclear Error. It's still hard to believe British air-dropped nukes were protected by bicycle locks.
  • Old-School Chivalry: As cited in the "Honor" post above. It's also a slight plot point in the opening sequence. Bond realizes that the supposedly dead assassin is masquerading as his own widow when the veiled "woman" opens her own car door, rather than waiting for any of the surrounding men to do it.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Bond takes a bullet right into his ankle and still manages to run and escape his pursuers, barely limping through the Junkanoo parade. He stops at a bathroom, pulls up his pants and ties a handkerchief around his ankle and he's good as new. Of course, the very next day when he swims out to Largo's island in his swimming shorts, his leg doesn't even have a scratch on it.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: While Vargas is dropping hand grenades over the side of Largo's yacht in an attempt to kill a scuba-diving Bond, he pulls out the pins with his teeth.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • The Bell Rocket Belt Bond uses had its natural sound replaced by a "more realistic" fire-extinguisher sound.
    • The method Bond uses to escape at the end is the Fulton Surface to Air Recovery System, which was dismissed as the fakest Bond gadget yet at the film's release (and was even dismissively "sinned" by CinemaSins when they did an "Everything Wrong With" video about the film).
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The health farm scene (far longer in the book) came about solely because the alcoholic chain-smoking Fleming was ordered by his doctor to go to one and found the experience so laborious that he began to plot out his next book to give himself some relief from it all.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Bond has no problem walking around Nassau in a short-sleeved pink shirt.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When Bond tells M and another government official that he discovered Derval's dead body around the same time he was supposedly flying the hijacked bomber the official with M dismisses Bond's story as fantastical, only to be sternly interrupted by M, who explains that if 007 claims to have seen Derval's corpse then that's enough to begin a serious investigation into the matter.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Fiona Volpe taunts Bond that sleeping with him was insufficient to provoke a Sex–Face Turn.
  • Red Herring: The first shot in the movie is a coffin with the monogram "JB" on it. For a moment viewers might think Bond is supposed to be dead; the woman Bond is with even lampshades this.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: SPECTRE's attempt to kill Bond, which risked alerting his superiors to their presence. Later, Fiona tries to subvert this, saying that killing Bond would only confirm that the bombs are in Nassau.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Blofeld's pet Persian.
  • Same Language Dub: Robert Rietti's voice replaced Adolfo Celi'snote , while Nikki Van Der Zyl overdubbed Claudine Auger's French accent in the role of Domino. Amazingly enough, Italian-born Luciana Paluzzi, who played villainess Fiona Volpe, was NOT same-language-dubbed.
  • Sex–Face Turn: Lampshaded, averted, and mocked.
  • Samus Is a Girl: When motorcyclist assassin Fiona Volpe reveals herself as a woman.
  • Sauna of Death: Bond locks Count Lippe in a Turkish bath. He is able to get out offscreen, but his bungling with both Bond and Palazzi gets him blown up by Volpe.
  • Sexual Extortion: An attractive physical therapist coolly rebuffs Bond's flirtations, and is all business in her dealings with our boy James. But when she leaves Bond alone— and defenseless— in some sort of back-stretchy machine, things take a turn for the worse when an enemy comes to kill him by turning the machine on too high. The therapist comes back, apologizing profusely, and begging Bond not to report her for leaving him. Bond tells her he can be convinced to keep this their little secret. In a major case of Values Dissonance, this is Played for Laughs, and is in fact one of the rare cases the film is less politically correct than the book; in the book he agrees to keep silent without a fuss and they do it perfectly consensually later on.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: As Bond and Volpe are about to have sex, it cuts to Junkanoo.
    • And before that, Bond and Patricia the nurse after he strips her down in the sauna.
  • Shark Pool: On Largo's estate, and the final resting place of the thug who Bond jumps in his hotel room.
  • Shower of Love: Actually a Sauna of Love, between Bond and a nurse at Shrublands.
  • The Smurfette Principle: It's hard to clearly see her during the briefing, but MI-6 agent 003 is a woman. Not until The World Is Not Enough would another female Double-0 agent be visible at such a meeting.
  • Storming the Castle: U.S. divers vs. SPECTRE frogmen in an undersea battle.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Weirdly, a rejected theme: the song playing in the club where Fiona is shot is Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the song originally intended for the titles (the producers didn't like a Non-Appearing Title, so one actually titled "Thunderball" was commissioned).
  • Threatening Shark: A random shark happens by the big underwater trouble, and gets speared for it.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: Largo is about to shoot Bond when he is killed by a harpoon fired by Domino.
  • Title Drop: "Thunderball" is the name of the operation to retrieve the missing nuclear weapons.
  • Torture Technician: Largo claims to be able to do horrible things with just a lit cigar and a bucket of ice. We have no reason to not believe him.
  • Trail of Blood: Shot in the ankle, Bond leaves a blood trail that causes mooks to follow him to a nightclub. Bond, ever the ladies man, dances with the female leader of the group, and manages to get her to take the bullet meant for him.
  • Trash the Set: Bond's fight with Jacques Bouvar.
  • Villain Ball: Count Lippe's attempt to kill Bond, which endangered SPECTRE's operation as it turned out to be a Revealing Cover-Up. It could be considered justified because he suspected (rightly) that Bond was suspicious of him, and knowing that Bond was the Arch-Enemy of the organization might have firstly incorrectly (but reasonably) assumed that Bond was actually there to investigate him (or worse, their plot), and secondly might be acting on "kill on sight" pre-orders. Had he succeeded there wouldn't be a problem, and Bond was starting to look into him anyway after seeing his tattoo.
  • Villainous Rescue: Count Lippe is blown up before he can kill Bond; the trope is more overt in the novel. In the movie Bond is about to take out Lippe with his Bond car gadgets when Lippe's car suddenly explodes, destroyed by Fiona Volpe's own Weaponized Car.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Bond's killing of Colonel Jacques Bouvar at the start of the movie.
  • War Room: Production designer Ken Adam designed two for Thunderball. The cold, metallic and black SPECTRE conference room, and the MI-6' more classical style conference room with huge windows and tapestries.
  • Weaponized Car: The Aston Martin DB5 makes another appearance in the pre-title sequence. Fiona Volpe rides a BSA Lightning motorcycle.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Bond's hat mysteriously vanishes during his meeting with the Home Secretary. It gets mentioned briefly during an awkward moment, but never comes up again.
    • For a more serious example, there's Dr. Kutze, whom Bond has dive into the water following his Heel–Face Turn despite not being able to swim, and doesn't appear for the remaining five minutes of film.