What You Need to Remember from Other James Bond Movies to Fully Enjoy 'No Time to Die'

The Daniel Craig era closes with a story that builds on the events of the previous Bond adventures.

daniel craig in no time to die
Nicola Dove/MGM

In earlier eras, watching a James Bond movie required only a passing knowledge with the character's proclivities: author Ian Fleming's super-spy has a licence to kill, an active sex life, and an often-stated preference for unstirred beverages. Sure, some certain supporting characters like Moneypenny or Q would reappear in different films, but the viewer was rarely tasked with recalling events, incidents, or past traumas from each chapter. When it came to concepts like "continuity" or "mythology," the producers' attitude was pretty simple: Live and let die.

That's changed in the Daniel Craig era, which kicked off with 2006's invigorating Casino Royale and now concludes with the just released No Time to Die, an often exhilarating and occasionally ponderous exercise in brand management. As brutal and cutting as Craig's Bond can be, he's also deeply troubled, constantly reckoning with past deeds and former lovers that the audience is expected to remember. In a nod to the demands of the current franchise-obsessed moment, Craig's Bond is always working through his backstory in a way that's more similar to the bombast of Christopher Nolan's Batman films than the on-screen Bond of the 20th century.

Honestly, it's not that complicated––these are still James Bond movies with big explosions and one-liners and monologuing villains––but, if you're a casual Bond fan who forgot some of the main plot points in the nearly six year gap between 2015's Spectre and now, you might need a refresher. The points below are hardly comprehensive. Just consider it a dossier of the necessary information you need to complete your mission: sitting back and hooting and hollering through the new James Bond movie without worrying about who is who.

eva green and daniel craig in casino royale
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in 'Casino Royale' | MGM

Who is Vesper Lynd?

This one is important. Memorably played by Eva Green in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd became the ghost haunting the machine of the Craig era. Assigned to work with Bond on his poker adventure by Her Majesty's Treasury, Lynd both falls for Bond and betrays him, and eventually drowns in an elevator with Bond unable to rescue her in time. Their romance is the defining tragedy of the Craig era and it has informed the character's trajectory ever since.

He just can't get over her. In 2008's Quantum of Solace, Bond sought revenge on her behalf; in 2021's No Time to Die, even though Bond has found a new love, he is still consumed with guilt over her passing and visits her grave early on in the film, where he's met with a disruptive surprise that I won't spoil.

Craig himself clearly sees the Lynd character as central to his performance and his understanding of the character. "We’d often have these meetings on nearly all of them where we’d go, ‘Let’s make it standalone, let’s just stick it somewhere where it doesn’t join in.’ And we couldn’t avoid it," he recently explained in an interview with Den of Geek. "We just couldn’t. I don’t know whether other people see it, but I couldn’t ever really get away from this traumatic thing that had happened to him on Casino."

lea seydoux and daniel craig in no time to die
Nicola Dove/MGM

Who is Madeleine Swann?

Though Lynd haunts Bond, Madeleine Swann, a psychiatrist first introduced in Spectre and played by Blue Is the Warmest Color star Léa Seydoux, is the new love in his life. After the happy ending of Spectre, which found Bond driving off in his Aston Martin with Swann, the two are still together at the start of No Time to Die.

But a young version of Swann appears in the film's opening prologue, a creepy setpiece that finds a masked assassin appearing in Swann's home and killing her mother while looking for her father, Mr. White. In an example of these movie's slightly convoluted world-building, it doesn't really matter that much if you remember that Mr. White was played by Jesper Christensen in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre, the last of which featured his character's death. An awareness of the character's importance adds some texture to the sequence, perhaps? But you can also just enjoy it as an exercise in suspense from director Cary Joji Fukunaga.

After the tense opening, the script jumps to the present, where Swann and Bond are vacationing in Italy. There's no "It turns out Vanessa was a fembot" moment, but, unsurprisingly, the plot does involve Bond becoming convinced Swann betrayed him, which leads to their breakup early on and yet another jump five years into the future, where Bond is living a Swann-less life of leisure. 

daniel craig and cristoph waltz in no time to die
Nicola Dove/MGM

Who is Ernst Stavro Blofeld?

Blofeld is a recurring Bond supervillain, the mysterious mastermind behind the criminal organization SPECTRE. In the Craig era, he's portrayed by Christoph Waltz and was first introduced in 2015's Spectre. There's quite a bit of backstory in Spectre about Bond and Blofeld's tragic childhoods, including an awkward attempt to make them adoptive brothers. Honestly, that part is not really important to enjoying No Time to Die.

Here's the main thing to remember: Blofeld is very much alive. He did not die in Spectre; in fact, that movie's finale hinged on the idea that Bond decided not to kill him in cold blood. Instead, the smirking bad guy gets shipped off to a maximum security super-prison. Though Waltz is not the main antagonist of No Time to Die, he does reappear and get one more sequence to do some scheming and taunting.

jeffrey wright in no time to die
Nicola Dove/MGM

Who is Felix Leiter?

Jeffrey Wright: What a fantastic actor! The Westworld star was given a fun introduction as Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter in Casino Royale, but the series hasn't really given him that much to do since then, and the occasional sidekick didn't even appear in Skyfall or Spectre. He's back for No Time to Die, though, drinking with Bond and recruiting him for another clandestine mission.

What do you need to remember about him? He's a sharp intelligence agent and a solid hang! Again, you leave the movie wishing there was more of Wright's Leiter, one of the more memorable (and underutilized) supporting characters of the Craig era. As much as these films have concerned themselves with big-picture themes like grief and vengeance, they are often at their best when they loosen up a bit. (There's a reason why the light-footed, action-packed setpiece in No Time to Die with Knives Out breakout Ana de Armas is such a highlight.) Why ask the viewer to remember past wounds when there's so much pleasure to found in the present?

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.