The Curious Connections Between 'Star Wars' And The James Bond Series

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired (or help us better understand) George Lucas's iconic universe. In this edition:the James Bond films)

Ever since the 1962 release of Dr. No, James Bond has occupied a place in the hearts of cinema-goers. The films were brash and adventurous in a new way, offering a realism in their stunts and thrills that hadn't been at the forefront of cinema to that point. Naturally, Steven Spielberg was a fan of franchise. In the 1970s, Spielberg revealed to George Lucas that he wasn't just a fan, but that he wanted to direct a James Bond film. Spielberg had been turned down by the producers of the Bond films and was looking for something else. George Lucas told him to forget about James Bond, he had a better idea. Indiana Smith.

Obviously, this idea morphed into what became the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it's why Sean Connery, the first actor to play James Bond in the official Eon Productions on the big screen, was tapped to play the father of Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. The Indiana Jones films were inspirational in a number of ways to Star Wars, and taking a step back, you can see where the influence of James Bond comes into a galaxy far, far away as well.

On the Rebellion’s Secret Service

James Bond movies, from the very beginning of the franchise, have opened with an action sequence that caps off a previous, unseen adventure, launching us into the rest of the film. Many times, this opening action sequence is even tied into the greater plot, although it might not initially seem related. This is something George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would bring into the Indiana Jones films, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dave Filoni has talked about how this is something they looked to when they were designing the structure of the animated show Star Wars Rebels. James Bond and Indiana Jones are both the sort of heroes who have rising levels of complications arraying against them until, at the last minute, when all hope seems lost, they're able to outsmart or outfight everyone in their way. This, to some degree, is the pattern we see in Rebels.

Every episode of Rebels starts with a plot hook, action scene or complication that brings us to a mini-conclusion or cliffhanger that leads right into the opening credits sequence.

Rebels is a tight 22-minute show, though, and there have been James Bond films with opening pre-credit sequences almost twice that. (I'm looking at you, The World is Not Enough.)

The Investigation Plot

Of all of the cinematic offerings in Star Wars, the film that, most closely resembles the structure of a James Bond movie, however, is Attack of the Clones, casting Obi-Wan Kenobi in the part of the superspy. If you look at the two sorts of films, you can draw a straight line right between them. A mystery of political intrigue presents itself and the superspy's direct supervisors don't know who is involved and send their man to investigate, no matter where that investigation might lead. For James Bond, that could lead to Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger, or any other number of archvillains. For Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Council serves as MI6, sending him on a goose chase that leads him to Kamino, Geonosis, and then to the man with the Golden Gun himself, Christopher Lee's Count Dooku.

Both Bond and Kenobi go through and follow one lead at a time until the political intrigue puts them in situations more and more life-threatening. And Dooku's conversation with a captured Obi-Wan could very easily be viewed as an analogue to 007 on Goldfinger's laser table or Le Chiffre's torture chair. Eventually, the plot is unraveled and the master spies go back to thinking things are fine in the world, but danger festers for the future.

The Crossovers

Christopher Lee isn't the only Bond actor that crossed over into the world of Star Wars, though he might have the deepest connection to the franchise. He was actually step-cousins with Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Fleming had initially wanted Lee to play the villain in the very first 007 film, Dr. No, but there was a mix-up and Lee was unable to take the part. It would be 12 more years before Lee would be able to play the villainous Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun opposite Roger Moore as Bond. Lee was already a legend in film when he was cast in Attack of the Clones.

Another Bond villain that showed up in Star Wars is Julian Glover, who is an interesting case. He actually started with The Empire Strikes Back, playing General Veers. The very next year, he played the bad guy Aristotle Kristatos in the Bond film For Your Eyes Only. He was the second Bond actor added to the cast of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, just after Sean Connery.

Jeremy Bulloch, known most famously to Star Wars fans as the bounty hunter Boba Fett, appeared in two 007 pictures, starting with For Your Eyes Only in 1981. He played Smithers, the assistant to Q.

Richard LeParmentier, who featured prominently as Admiral Motti in Episode IV, played a military official in Octopussy, the James Bond film released in 1983. You can see him in the circus tent when James Bond arrives in clown makeup to save the day.

Most recently we have Madds Mikkelson. Mikkelson played Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a scientist the Empire needs badly to make the Death Star operational. He made waves in the Danish film industry before making the leap to James Bond. He impressed everyone as Le Chiffre in Daniel Craig's first outing as James Bond, Casino Royale.

And how would this list be complete without a James Bond himself? By now everyone knows that Daniel Craig made a cameo in The Force Awakens as the Stormtrooper who Rey used the Jedi mind trick on inside Starkiller Base. Even though his face wasn't seen, the spirit of 007 was definitely felt. In fact, the table Rey was strapped to seemed to come right out of a James Bond film.

Shaken, Not Stirred

This is not an exhaustive list, of course. But the ties between Star Wars and the James Bond franchise are as strong as the Force. Some of these films certainly have their problems when you look back at them through a modern lens, but that doesn't change their importance in film history. I find them entertaining and can look past those flaws. While taken as a whole, the franchise can be seen as hit or miss, there are some genuine masterpieces hidden in there and part of the fun of doing James Bond marathons is finding your favorites. If I had to pick the five I thought were the best, I'd probably recommend, in chronological order, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, and Skyfall. That would give you the best cross section, but there are no right or wrong answers.


Availability: Each of the James Bond films are widely available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also stream them for free or a small rental fee on most of the streaming video platforms.