Study Guide

Goldfinger Analysis

  • Aston Martin DB5

    Inspector Gadget

    Before iPhones did everything—reminding us of important appointments, ordering groceries, tracking everywhere we've gone number two—Bond needed an arsenal of gadgets to assist him on his deadly missions.

    The Aston Martin DB5 quickly became one of the most iconic Bond vehicles, even resurfacing in a nostalgic moment in 2012's Skyfall. At the time, it was not only a slick ride, but also a vehicle tricked out with more gadgets than Mario Kart's Bullet Blaster. This thing is equipped with bulletproof windows, revolving number plates, a homing device, radar, a smoke screen, oil slicks, an ejector seat, and mounted machine guns.

    It's a good thing Bond isn't susceptible to bouts of road rage.

    This vehicle set the bar high, meaning that subsequent rides for 007 had to grow more and more ridiculous over the years. Anyone remember the iceberg-shaped boat in A View to a Kill or the invisible car in Die Another Day?

    With more and more Bond gadgets becoming reality, we can only hope to take a ride in a car like the DB5 before robots invent driverless cars equipped with machine guns just like this one to take us all out.

  • Gold

    Fool's Gold

    People with wealth sometimes will stop at nothing to accumulate even more wealth. Goldfinger is one of those people. Even though he has enough gold to make millions of bottles of Kim Kardashian's perfume (that stuff is melted-down gold, right?), he wants more.

    It's his greed that gets Goldfinger caught. Bond first tempts Goldfinger with a gold bar given to him by the Bank of England. Here is the head of the Bank describing it:

    SMITHERS: This is the only one we have from the Nazi hoard from the bottom of Lake Toplitz in the Salzkammergut. […] Mr. Bond can make whatever use of it he sees fit. Provided he returns it, of course. It's worth five thousand pounds.

    That doesn't sound like a lot, but adjusted for inflation, that shiny hunk of metal would be worth around 80,000 pounds today.

    In a shocking plot twist, however, gold turns out to be a 24-karat red herring in this movie. Goldfinger wants to destroy gold so that he can make the gold he already owns even more valuable. He may even be a poet about gold, as we see here:

    GOLDFINGER: This is gold, Mr. Bond. All my life, I've been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness. I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock, which is considerable.

    But Goldfinger's romanticism is misplaced. It isn't gold itself that he is in love with—it's the wealth it brings him. He isn't in love with gold—he's in love with dollar signs. Or pound signs. Or whatever made-up version of currency is applicable for the country he's in. But gold is empty—you just keep wanting more and more of it. There's no end.

  • Laser

    Beam Him in Half, Scotty

    Lasers are everywhere today. They read DVDs, perform surgery, and get swung around by dueling Jedi. But in 1969, the laser was still relatively new technology. Many people saw a laser for the very first time in Goldfinger, and lasers' destructive power was burned into people's brains in the same way this particular laser almost burns itself into Bond's groin.

    Not only is the laser used to torture Bond, but it also reappears at the end of the film to literally cut into Fort Knox's steel vault door like a hot knife through a butter sculpture. The filmmakers couldn't let this killer special effect be used in only one scene. They had to get their money's worth.

    Bond films are known for their technology, but in this case it's the villain's technology that proved to be one that crossed over into the mainstream. Now, if Goldfinger had only patented the laser, he would be a wealthy man without the need for all that criminal activity.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    1. Ordinary World

    Bond doesn't occupy an ordinary world. Yet when we first meet him, he's on vacation in Miami Beach. As this is the 1960s, he isn't distracted by e-mails or text messages; instead, he's able to focus completely on his leisure. That's something we can all dream of.

    2. Call To Adventure

    Just as you might be interrupted on vacation by a vibrating phone, Bond's vacation is put on hold when he receives an unexpected message. This one is delivered by hand, from a CIA agent named Felix, recruiting Bond to stop Goldfinger's gambling schemes.

    3. Refusal Of The Call

    If Bond even thinks about refusing M's order to stop Goldfinger, we don't see the thought cross his face. MI6 doesn't pay him the big bucks to hesitate.

    4. Meeting The Mentor

    Bond doesn't take breaks from his job as 007 to call his mentor on the phone and ask for advice. He doesn't have a mentor figure; he is the mentor figure for millions of people watching the Bond movies. Within the context of the film, the closest Bond gets to a mentor is Jill Masterson. She helps him loosen up and have a good time, and her death keeps him motivated to bring the bad guy to justice.

    5. Crossing The Threshold

    Once Jill becomes the infamous golden girl, Bond is committed to bringing Goldfinger down. There's no turning back, or else her death would be 24 karats of futility.

    6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

    Bond infiltrates Goldfinger's inner sanctum. There, he finds that Goldfinger is an enemy, naturally. And that sniper Tilly Masterson is an unexpected ally. As for Pussy Galore, she remains in the question mark column for most of the movie.

    7. Approach To The Inmost Cave

    As Bond gets closer to Goldfinger, he starts to uncover what Operation Grand Slam is all about, and it isn't about sabotaging the World Series. At first, it appears to be a plan to rob Fort Knox. But Bond discovers it's even more diabolical—Goldfinger plans to nuke the U.S. gold reserves, rendering the country basically bankrupt—and rendering himself that much richer by comparison.

    8. Ordeal

    Bond's plan to stop Goldfinger means allowing him to get so close to his goal that he almost succeeds. Bond is locked inside Fort Knox's vault with the nuke and with Oddjob, Goldfinger's impenetrable henchman. The ordeal leaves Bond battered and bruised (and shaken and stirred, etc.) after a fight with Oddjob, and with only seven seconds left to defuse the bomb.

    9. Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    Bond's reward is saving the day. As a bonus, he gets to have dinner with the president. We hope LBJ knows how to throw a party.

    10. The Road Back

    We know Bond will have another mission: a spy's work is never done. 007 will return to MI6 for his next briefing, and a sequel.

    11. Resurrection

    Goldfinger makes a surprise appearance on Bond's not-so-private jet, meaning this mission isn't yet over. You've heard that it's not over until the fat lady sings, but this time, it's not over until the fat man is sucked out the window of the aircraft. He should have made sure his seatbelt was securely fastened.

    12. Return With The Elixir

    The plane crash lands, but not only does Bond survive, he's also stranded with Pussy Galore. The two have some much-needed alone time. What more could an international superspy want?

  • Setting

    United States, Switzerland

    After a brief introduction in an unnamed location (one filled with heroin, so it's either Colombia or New Hampshire), Bond spends his time flitting between the United States and Europe and back again. He vacays in Miami Beach, pursues Goldfinger to Geneva, and finally visits Goldfinger's Stud Farm (no, that's not where Channing Tatum was born) in Kentucky.

    Most of the scenes in Goldfinger could be set anywhere. But Kentucky, of all places, is critical to the plot, because Goldfinger plans to sabotage the U.S. gold depository at Fort Knox. It's a real place, and although it may seem like Goldfinger is joking when he says the depository is located at the corner of Bullion Boulevard and Gold Vault Road, he's serious.

    Fort Knox is a part of American lore. Any place filled with that much gold—allegedly—is almost mythical in nature. We say allegedly because conspiracy theorists, reality TV stars, and presidential candidates speculate that there may be no gold inside Fort Knox. Hmm, maybe Goldfinger's plot succeeded after all?

  • Point of View

    Just as Bond zig-zags across the globe in pursuit of Goldfinger, the plot of the film bounces around like a bullet from Bond's iconic Walther PPK ricocheting off a gold bar. Goldfinger's plot is less about making sense and more about just having a grand old time.

    The opening to the film, in which Bond blows up a stash of heroin-filled bananas, isn't connected to anything. It's an excuse to have Bond wear a duck on his head, seduce a beautiful woman, and use the phrase "heroin-flavored bananas."

    After that, the plot goes from 0 to crazy before you can say "Goldfinger." Goldfinger paints a girl gold and kills her. Why? Why not!? Bond plays golf with Goldfinger in a sequence that seems designed solely to lead up to the moment when Oddjob crushes a golf ball in the palm of his hand. Again, why not?

    Goldfinger tries to cut Bond in half with a laser in a torture scene designed just for the thrill of showing off new technology. A vehicle is crushed into a cube just because the filmmakers can do it. They want to create as many over-the-top scenes as possible to keep audiences talking.

    And they succeed. Goldfinger is a movie that somehow transcends the ridiculous and becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Genre

    Spy Action Adventure

    James Bond is the grandfather of spy movies. And considering how many women he gets with, he might be the grandfather of a lot of little spies, too.

    The third film in the franchise, Goldfinger solidifies the Bond formula. We open with Bond shooting us in the face. We see a quick little adventure with an explosion or two, introducing us to Bond and getting our adrenaline pumping. Then we meet the villain and get a glimpse of his nefarious henchman. And none of it would be completely without girls, gadgets, gadgets, and girls.

    Like a cellphone network, Goldfinger is a blazing fast 4G experience.

    Goldfinger goes big on all fronts, featuring three beautiful women in supporting parts—Jill and Tilly Masterson and Pussy Galore—and more gadgets than you can shake an industrial strength gold-slicing laser at, like grappling hooks, ejector seats, that laser, and a hat that can kill.

    Bond defined the spy genre, and dozens of later films would follow the formula. Without Bond, we wouldn't have The Bourne Anything or Mission: Impossible. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even when it's parody—and Goldfinger appears to welcome parody, even parodying itself at points. Bond is such a strong character, that by only this third film, audiences knew to expect lines like "Shaken, not stirred" and "Bond, James Bond."

    Goldfinger also heavily influenced straight-up parodies Mike Meyers' Austin Powers films, and echoes of Bond remain in other comedies, like the TV show Get Smart and Melissa McCarthy's Spy.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Goldfinger is one of few Bond titles that feature the name of the villain, putting him up alongside the ranks of Dr. No (1962) and Octopussy (1983)—no relation to Ms. Galore.

    Goldfinger, by the way, is not to be confused with GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond; Goldmember (2002), an Austin Powers movie; Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson's mother, who inexplicably was never a Bond girl; or Gold Bond, which is an itch powder. Goldfinger is about Bond trying to take down a gold smuggler named, obviously, Goldfinger.

    Pretty straightforward.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    Crash Landing

    James Bond adheres to the philosophy "go big or go home," and since Goldfinger is set in the United States, far from 007's native England, he has to go big. Really, really big.

    One of the biggest mysteries in America in 1960 was "What does it look like inside Fort Knox?" Not only do Goldfinger's filmmakers take us inside, but they also make it bigger and better than the real place probably is.

    Bond's final showdown takes place inside a massive multi-level vault filled to the brim with heavy gold bars. As if that weren't enough, we get a showdown with Oddjob, Goldfinger's seemingly invincible henchman. That still not enough for you? Well, let's throw in a ticking nuclear time bomb.

    All that's missing from this massive showdown in America's heartland is a bucket of KFC, and we saw the CIA agents having one of those earlier.

    Bond can't outmuscle Oddjob, so he must outwit him, tricking him into moving toward some metal bars, which Bond electrifies with a severed cable to kill the villain. The bomb is defused in the nick of time, and Bond gets an invitation to dine with the President of the United States as a reward. Bond's response?

    BOND: It's nothing, really.

    It seems like we're missing something…

    Oh, that's right—Goldfinger. The portly smuggler escapes during the Fort Knox throw-down, but he re-emerges aboard the supposedly private plane on its way to the president. Goldfinger suffers an ignominious end—a word which here basically means "If it hadn't killed him, he'd probably have died from embarrassment, anyway."

    Goldfinger shoots out the window of the plane and is sucked out as the cabin depressurizes. His girth temporarily gets him stuck in the window, just long enough to make us fear that Bond will need a plunger to get him out. But soon he is sucked out of the plane and plummets to the ground below. What a way to go.

    Bond, sensitive as usual, tells Pussy that Goldfinger is "Playing his golden harp."

    The plane crashes, and Bond and Pussy decide to take advantage of their isolated jungle crash site to, um, get to know one another a little better. Considering the fact that Pussy wanted to find a deserted island to get away from men, it appears she got half her wish to come true. Bond does his best to make sure she forgets about the other half.

  • Shock Rating

    PG-13

    Goldfinger's chock full of double-entendres, suggestive dialogue, and a character named Pussy Galore. That alone is enough to give this film a PG-13 rating.

    There are also many violent scenes, not that the MPAA really cares about those. Many people are shot, one guy is crushed in a car by a junkyard machine, Goldfinger is sucked out of a window, a car explodes and everyone inside burns to death, and not one but two people are electrocuted. Talk about a shock rating.