IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why 'Goldfinger' at 50 remains the definitive James Bond movie

IMAGE: Goldfinger
GoldfingerCourtesy Everett Collection

"Goldfinger" was the third Bond feature but the first Bond blockbuster, an instant smash hit that turned the series into a phenomenon. Fifty years after its Sept. 17, 1964 London premiere, which was overrun by fans fighting to get into the theater, it remains the definitive big-screen incarnation of the world's most famous secret agent.

Sean Connery and Shirley Eaton in 1964's "Goldfinger."Today

"Of all the Bonds, "Goldfinger" is the best, and can stand as a surrogate for the others," wrote Roger Ebert in 1999. "If it is not a great film, it is a great entertainment, and contains all the elements of the Bond formula that would work again and again."

The first two Bond films — "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love" — were both unabashedly sexy and brutishly sexist, cartoons of glib machismo with martini wit and international flair. Sean Connery brought his Bondness to life with a mix of charm, arrogance, elegance and rough-and-tumble toughness.

Today you can see them as time capsules of "Mad Men" fantasies of masculinity with comic-book action. "Goldfinger" not only ups the ante on every level, it adds a few new elements that made the series.

The first great larger-than-life Bond villain
Auric Goldfinger, a megalomaniac billionaire who smothers one victim in gold paint and crushes another in a scrap-metal cube. German actor Gert Fröbe couldn't speak a word of English, and his entire performance was dubbed by British actor Michael Collins

The first iconic henchman
Oddjob, a mute Korean bodyguard with a bowler hat that can decapitate an opponent with the flip of a wrist. While it teeters on the edge of demeaning stereotype, Hawaiian athlete-turned-actor Harold Sakata turned him into one of the most popular Bond bad guys by playing the part completely straight.

The first Bond woman who holds her own with 007
Pussy Galore, a tough private pilot with her own all-female Flying Circus. Sure, Bond seduces her to switch sides, but this is one Bond beauty who jumps right in and battles it out with the boys.

A self-aware wit
Bond and the villains drop quips in their banter and Bond seduces his conquests with double entendres. Not to mention the name Pussy Galore, the first of many suggestive names for the Bond women.

The theme song
A bold, brassy theme song belted out by Shirley Bassey that set the bar for future theme songs.

The gadgets
Bond had style as well as cool toys in "Goldfinger." The handsome Bentley of "From Russia With Love" was replaced with the sexy Aston Martin DB5, and Q outfitted that vehicle with the all the gadgets we expect of a Bond vehicle, from the machine guns in the grill to the rotating license plates to an ejector seat. The best gadget isn't in 007's arsenal, however. It's the industrial laser that Goldfinger uses on Bond (in one of the squirmiest traps that Bond ever faced) before applying it to Fort Knox. A standard tool in the spy kit since the 1970s, back in 1964 it was practically science fiction.