Film / You Only Live Twice
One life for yourself, and one for your dreams...

"Me? I never take any risks."
James Bond

The one in Japan.

You Only Live Twice (1967), often abbreviated as YOLT, is the fifth James Bond film, and the fifth starring Sean Connery. After Bond fakes his death to fall off the radar, he is sent to Japan to investigate SPECTRE's latest plot to spark a nuclear war by interfering in The Space Race. A little known fact about it is that the screenplay was written by children's book writer Roald Dahl, a good friend of Ian Fleming.

Notably, this was the first film to deviate significantly from the source novel, which has Bond, still reeling from the tragic events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, being sent by M on an extremely tricky diplomatic mission to Japan in an attempt to shake him out of his Heroic B.S.O.D.. The novel was considered to be unfilmable, so they had to almost completely rewrite the plot. Apart from the Japanese setting, the basic characters of Tiger Tanaka and Dikko Henderson (both of whom were portrayed completely differently in the film), and Blofeld as the villain, it has little in common with its film adaptation.

Many of the most widely known and celebrated Bond tropes come from this movie, including Ken Adam's giant volcano set. Most famous, however, is the genre-defining performance from Donald Pleasence as Blofeld, complete with a fluffy white cat to stroke - many people are surprised to be told this is actually the only one Pleasence is in (though the character himself shows up a few more times). This Blofeld was specifically parodied as Doctor Evil in Austin Powers, as were a few other tropes such as the hollowed out volcano lair.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl
    • Aki the Japanese spy is actually a pretty good example of the trope, since she's a Waif-Fu with downright mean driving skills. Too bad she bit it.
    • Kissy isn't so bad either. Despite hiding behind Tanaka for most of it, she joins the assault on the SPECTRE volcano all while wearing a bikini, and even manages to get a few shots off.
  • Adaptation Distillation
    • The producers tried to do as in the book and use a castle by the sea. However, they found out there's no such thing in Japan (they are built well into land because of typhoons). The solution they found? A volcano base!
    • Roald Dahl had to create a new plot as he considered that the book was more of a travelogue than a novel (see In-Name-Only, below).
  • Agents Dating: Bond has a dinner with his "wife" Kissy (an agent who works for Tanaka) in which Kissy informs him that they're sleeping in separate beds. Bond protests "But we're supposed to be married. We're on our honeymoon!", but Kissy replies "Not honeymoon. This is business."
  • All There in the Script: Kissy Suzuki is not called or mentioned by name at all during the actual movie — which is otherwise filled with Say My Name.
  • Animal Motifs: Blofeld's famous white cat underlines his own cat-like qualities, such as his calm assurance, soft demeanor, and his habit of playing with his victims before killing them.
  • Asshole Victim: Helga Brandt. Trying to make an excuse for failing to kill Bond is the worst thing any henchman can do in front of Blofeld, so it's unlikely anyone will feel sad for her when she's plunged into the piranha pool.
  • Between My Legs: A common shot in Bond films; this shot is taken of a girl at the bath house framing James.
  • Big Red Button: Two - one pushed by Bond to destroy the SPECTRE space ship, one a switch thrown by Blofeld to activate his base's Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Bond is having his chest hair dyed to look more Japanese. Bond: "Why don't you just dye the parts that show?" Aki (in Japanese, untranslated): "That's a secret only we know!"
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Blackmail may be an ugly word, but its closely related term, extortion, is fine with Blofeld. After all, Blofeld says upfront, "Extortion is my business."
  • Blofeld Ploy: Done twice in this one, by you-know-who. First he uses it to kill Helga instead of Osato, and then later he hilariously points a gun at Bond and shoots Osato, only to attempt to kill Bond again mere seconds later in another location where he's conveniently subdued by one of Tiger's shurikens.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "Bon appetit!" after Hans falls in the piranha pool.
    • Tanaka gets one after arranging Bond's pursuers to be dropped into the ocean by a helicopter: "How's that for Japanese efficiency?"
    Bond: Just a drop in the ocean.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Blofeld actually calls his underlings out on this. When he captures Bond himself, he does make a mistake that allows Bond to escape (he shoots Osato first), but that doesn't seem to be an example of this as Bond was saved by events out of Blofeld's control.
  • Burial at Sea: Commander James Bond gets one.
  • Coitus Ensues: Subverted. Kissy emphatically insisted her fake marriage was strictly business and would not be consummated for their "honeymoon." This being a Bond movie, they still tried to do it, almost during a mission at that! Unfortunately M interrupted by surfacing a submarine directly beneath them while they were just getting started.
  • Collapsing Lair: After Blofeld activates a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Bond is escaping from the Osato Chemicals building when Aki drives up beside him and tells him to "Get in!"
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: The massive army of ninja is slaughtered when it initially attacks Blofeld's lair. They become incredibly effective after Bond opens the door for them.
  • Cool Car: Aki's Toyota 2000GT, widely regarded as Japan's first supercar. It wasn't supposed to be a convertible, but it got converted into one due to Sean Connery's height.
  • Cool Plane: "Little Nellie"; actually a gyrocopter.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Apparently Bond carries around an electronic gadget to open safes everywhere he goes.
  • Death by Adaptation: Henderson gets this In the Back.
  • Death Trap: Brandt tries to kill Bond by holding him inside a crashing plane as she parachutes out the window. (don't ask how such a huge plank appears to trap Bond).
  • Death by Sex: Aki succumbs to Bond's charms, and while they're sleeping in the same bed afterwards she is killed by an assassination attempt meant for Bond.
  • Died Standing Up: Henderson dies from a dagger to the back as he stands next to a paper wall in mid-sentence.
  • Dies Wide Open: Aki, who is killed by a SPECTRE assassin who was trying to kill Bond.
  • Double Take: When Osato sees Bond in the SPECTRE control room, he first turns back to his console and then turns slowly to look at him again with a stunned look on his face.
  • Dressing as the Enemy
    • The escaped astronauts/cosmonauts dress in white SPECTRE security uniforms.
    • Earlier Bond uses a smog mask used by Henderson's assassin to pretend to be him, as well as doubling over to hide his height, pretending to be injured.
  • Drugs Are Bad
    Blofeld: It won't be the nicotine that kills you, Mr. Bond.
    • Inverted with the rocket bullet cigarettes.
    Tanaka: "These cigarettes may save your life."
  • Dueling Scar: This version of Blofeld has one.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The SPECTRE launch facility. Entirely apart from all the side tunnels, the main set is staggeringly huge.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Bond fights his way across the bad guys' port, filmed by a helicopter very high above the action so it looks like a bunch of ants fighting. Combined with the jazzy instrumental of the theme song playing, it is awesome. It also makes it easier to conceal the fact Sean Connery is probably being doubled.
  • Explosive Cigar: Tanaka's rocket cigarettes.
  • Faking the Dead: Bond in the beginning, complete with through-and-through bullet holes and fake blood.
  • False Flag Operation: SPECTRE does this to the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to make each think that the other is stealing its space capsules.
  • Fanservice: Should go without saying in a Bond movie. Examples include Bond main girl, Kissy Suzuki, wearing a white bikini while hiking up the Big Bad's lair. Eventually she puts on a sort of small bathrobe-kimono only to get rid of it later. For pretty much the last quarter of the film she's in a bikini. Also Tanaka's bath servants. Later on when Bond takes a Japanese identity the female makeup artists apply the Japanese makeup to Bond in an operating theater wearing bikinis!
  • Fast-Roping: This is how Tiger Tanaka's ninjas descend into Blofeld's volcano base, but with a special roller apparatus to allow them to descend as fast as safely possible.
  • Fiery Redhead: Helga Brandt (which makes her actress - who is a brunette - saying the producers were looking for a blue-eyed blonde kind of weird...).
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Forklift Fu: One of the Mooks try run Bond over with a forklift at the Kobe docks.
  • Funny Background Event: When the rocket control room is under siege, Bond poses the question "Impregnable?" to Blofold. Meanwhile, his cat is completely freaked out and trying to escape.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Bond arrives at his home with his "wife" Kissy, they have dinner in which Kissy informs him that they're sleeping in separate rooms. Bond protests "But we're supposed to be married. We're on our honeymoon!", but Kissy replies "Not honeymoon. This is business." Bond answers "Then I won't be needing these...", as he pushes his plate away. What they're having for dinner are oysters, which are a known aphrodisiac.
  • Giant Mook: Hans and the Japanese driver who unknowingly picks Bond and takes him to Osato Industries.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: This exchange sums the whole movie up:
    Bond: Do you have any commandos here?
    Tanaka: I have much, much better. Ninjas.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: SPECTRE is working on behalf of an unnamed foreign power, who amongst other things are the ones who built the ship they use (as established in the "extortion" conversation they have). This is almost certainly Maoist China, but for obvious reasons, this isn't outright stated.
  • Hand Signals: Tiger Tanaka twice uses arm signals with his ninja army.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After taking out a henchman during the fight in Osato's office, Bond breaks into a cupboard and takes a drink. Unfortunately for him, the only thing available is Siamese Vodka.
  • IKEA Weaponry: "Little Nellie" is always packed up in kit-form until needed.
  • In-Name-Only: The movie has extremely little in common with the novel by Ian Fleming - though the novel (which was about Bond taking a contract on Blofeld and shutting down his garden full of ways for visitors to commit suicide in exchange for the take from one of Tanaka's intelligence sources) was considered completely unfilmable. The producers allowed Roald Dahl to create a new plot, given he followed the formula by not derailing Bond's character and having him romance three women, so the writer added a space program story similar to Dr. No.
  • Island Base: Blofeld's Elaborate Underground Base is under an extinct volcano on the Japanese island of Matsu.
  • Just Desserts: Hans, The Dragon to Big Bad Blofeld, is devoured after Bond knocks him into the piranha pool Blofeld keeps for disposing of traitors and failures.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: While the Ninja squad that rescues Bond near the end do use some more modern equipment, there are still plenty of shots of them using shuriken and ninja blades successfully against the SMG armed minions.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: For some reason, Tanaka decides not to just send Bond a polite note.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: MI6 agent Henderson is backstabbed (literally) by a SPECTRE assassin while talking to Bond.
  • Last Request: Bond asks for a last cigarette which he uses to kill the mook closest to the controls opening the sliding roof.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The British Hong Kong policeman who discovers Bond "dead" in the opening sequence, almost looking straight to the audience.
    Policeman: Well, at least he died on the job. He'd have wanted it this way.
  • Leitmotif: The rocket that SPECTRE uses is accompanied by a dramatic fanfare.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Bond of all people mutters, "The things I do for England," while unzipping Helga's dress.
  • Lock and Load Montage: The scene where "Little Nellie" gets assembled.
  • Mega-Maw Maneuver: Blofeld has one of these, which he uses in False Flag Operations to kidnap US and Soviet space capsules to start World War III between them.
  • Moment Killer
    • A SPECTRE helicopter passing overhead interrupts Bond and Kissy Suzuki's romantic interlude on the island.
    • And of course what becomes a Running Gag of Bond's superiors interrupting (either before, during or after) sex with the Bond girl at the end of the movie.
  • Mugged for Disguise: How Bond, the U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts get their SPECTRE uniforms.
  • Murphy's Bed: One of these is used as part of a ploy to fake Bond's death.
  • Neck Snap: Bond uses it to kill the assassin who killed Henderson.
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now!: Blofeld says "Interception will take place in eight minutes. Nothing can prevent that."
  • Oh, Crap!: Osato acts that way after he sees Blofeld's killing of his female underling after she failed him. Before he was calmly walking away, but after Blofeld's deed, after which the Big Bad roars, "Kill Bond, NOW!", Osato scampers up the stairs in fright at his truly crazy boss.
  • One Last Smoke: Bond uses this as a ploy to help out his allies in their assault on the volcano.
  • The Oner: An extended helicopter tracking shot as Bond runs across a roof fighting SPECTRE minions.
  • Organ Dodge: Played with. Bond meets contact Dikko Henderson, borrows his walking stick, and smacks him hard in the leg — which is wooden and proves it really is him. Henderson is just glad he got the correct leg.
  • Out with a Bang: With the usual Double Entendre when Bond is found 'dead' in bed thanks to a Chinese Femme Fatale.
    "Well at least he died on the job."
    "He'd have wanted it this way."
  • Overt Rendezvous: Bond meets with his Japanese Secret Service contact at a sumo match.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: "Japanese Bond". It's a nod to the novel, where Bond really manages to look Japanese... somehow.
  • Piranha Problem: Blofeld kept a piranha pond in his underground lair - handy for getting rid of failed employees.
  • Playing Both Sides: SPECTRE is stealing American and Soviet spacecrafts to provoke a war.
  • Prosthetic Limb Reveal: James Bond meets with another operative in Japan who walks up to him with a limp. Bond borrows the man's cane and hits him in the leg with it to make sure he isn't faking. The man's only comment is to say he's glad Bond picked the correct leg.
  • Race Lift: Henderson was a boisterous Australian in the book, as opposed to an effeminate Englishman in the film.
  • Railing Kill: Happens a lot during the big battle at the end.
  • Rare Guns: Tiger Tanaka's army utilizes Gyrojet pistols and rifles, in what is one of the few times the Gyrojet is seen used on film. They also used them in the book. Justified; at the time the film was made, Gyrojets were still available for sale and weren't the absurdly rare weapons they are today.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Tiger Tanaka, the Bond Girls Aki and Kissy Suzuki, and Soviet ground controllers and cosmonauts.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The volcano set is so immense it looks like it was all done with miniatures—but as the documentary featurette reveals, they actually built the whole huge set and flew real helicopters into it.
  • Recycled In Space: Inverted. This is the original attempt to trigger nuclear war between Russia and the US, but it has since spawned many imitators; the plot would be recycled in the series itself for the 10th Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, but it's this one that is actually based in space.
  • Red China: Heavily implied that they are the ones who hired Blofeld to do all this.
  • Retcon: Bond tells Henderson that he has never been to Japan. In From Russia with Love, he was about to go on about some Noodle Incident involving him and M in Tokyo.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: SPECTRE, repeatedly. The most egregious example is when Bond is doing aerial recon of the island and finds nothing of interest... until he gets attacked by four SPECTRE helicopters, tipping him off that their base has to be in that general area.
  • Right-Hand Cat: This is probably the trope maker, though Blofeld's cat had been featured before.
  • Safecracking: Bond breaks into a safe at the Osato Chemical Company with a nifty spy gadget.
  • Same Language Dub: Robert Rietti provided the voice for Tiger Tanaka, though Tetsurô Tanba's own voice is still heard for his Japanese dialogue.
  • Scenery Porn: Spectacular aerial footage of Japan.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Blofeld's cat attempts this as the aforementioned Funny Background Eventnote ; eventually it does escape after Blofeld has to loosen his grip to shoot Osato.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Two of them, one in the SPECTRE space ship and one in the SPECTRE base.
  • Sentry Gun: The crater guns Blofeld used against Tanaka's ninja army.
  • Shark Pool: Instead of sharks, there are piranha.
  • Sic 'em: Osato tells Number 11 "Kill him!'' and Blofeld says "Kill Bond! Now!"
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Donald Pleasence's Blofeld has less than 30 minutes of screentime, but is easily the most memorable Bond villain of all.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Blofeld.
  • The Speechless: Blofeld's bodyguard Hans never utters a word.
  • Spoiler Cover: The box art prominently shows the full likeness of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, which is shown in that movie for the first time. It isn't exactly a major plot twist, but it doesn't seem appropriate for a villain who famously spent at least two a half movies with his face just off-camera.
  • Spotting the Thread: Blofeld sees through Bond's astronaut disguise when he attempts to enter the capsule while carrying his oxygen tank in his hand, something a real astronaut would never do.
  • Spy Speak
    • When James Bond meets with his Japanese contact he gives her the Sign "I love you" to identify himself to her. She doesn't give him a Countersign to verify that she is his contact, which causes him to be suspicious of her. Later on Tiger Tanaka gives him the Countersign, which causes Bond to trust him.
    • While Bond is flying "Little Nellie", he's attacked by four SPECTRE helicopters. After destroying them he calls Tiger Tanaka and tells him what happened in Metaphor form.
    Bond: Little Nellie got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances towards her. But she defended her honor with great success.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: A SPECTRE helicopter does this to Kissy Suzuki.
  • Stock Footage
    • The American and Soviet space launches - although the latter is clearly using a clip of an American Gemini launch, as footage of a Soviet launch was probably unavailable.
    • There's also a lot of stock footage of B-52s taking off or in the air, to show American nuclear bombers heading to their fail-safe points.
  • Storming the Castle: The ninja attack on the volcanic hideout.
  • Supervillain Lair
    • A hollowed out volcano that is also used as a rocket launch base. It's one of the most famous and recognizable lairs in any fiction. It probably inspired a lot of later such lairs.
    • It's certainly lovingly parodied in the second Austin Powers movie, with entire sets recreated very closely.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Two scenes (in Aki's car and Blofeld's lair) have filmed footage that just evokes Fridge Logic.
  • Tap on the Head: A mook to Bond at the Kobe docks and Bond/astronauts to SPECTRE guards.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Kissy shoots a mook who's about to kill Tanaka, then throws away her revolver and doesn't pick up another weapon (despite a major firefight all around her) spending the rest of the time clinging to Tanaka.
  • Title Drop: Given that the film starts with 007 faking his death, Blofeld says "You only live twice, Mr. Bond."
  • Tokyo Tower: It can be seen in a background shot when the helicopter picks up the car full of Evil Minions.
  • Trap Door: Blofeld has a bridge that collapses on command, dropping whatever is on it into the piranha-infested water. Also when Japanese Secret Service chief Tiger Tanaka uses one of these (plus a slide) on Bond.
  • Trust Password: Bond's password with the Japanese Secret Service is "I love you".
  • Tuxedo and Martini: Averted. This is the first film, the only one besides Live and Let Die, that Bond doesn't wear a tuxedo.
  • 21-Gun Salute: During the Burial at Sea of James Bond at the beginning of the movie, several sailors fire rifles as a salute.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: It seems that, in a time when the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. had a monopoly on space flight, the people of Japan thought nothing of a rocket launch from one of their islands.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Blofeld is being paid to start World War III between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., apparently by agents of Red China.
  • Weddings in Japan: A fake one, but traditional nonetheless.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Say, did those American and Soviet astronauts ever made it back home?
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: After the Americans move their launch up to midnight (Japan Standard Time), Bond has to move quickly find the SPECTRE base and stop their plot.
  • Yellowface: Mostly averted; set in Japan, the movie features many well-known Japanese actors and actresses (and a Chinese actress in the beginning). But in a rare in-universe example, Bond spends time disguised as a Japanese peasant.
  • You Have Failed Me: Blofeld doesn't take kindly to failures as usual.