Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"My dear girl, don't flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for Queen and country. You don't think it gave me any pleasure, do you?"
James Bond to SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe

The fourth James Bond film, in which SPECTRE nicks a pair of nukes (from an Avro Vulcan), somebody gets the point permanently and there's a shark. Oh, and Tom Jones faints on the last note of the title song.

Thunderball was the first really massive Bond movie. Adjusting its box office tax for inflation, you produce a figure of over $950 million, above Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. On US and Canadian grosses alone, it is, according to The Other Wiki, the 26th highest grosser of all time, beating all of the Harry Potter movies (the "Potter grosses more than Bond" figure is inaccurate, since it doesn't adjust for inflation) and every one of the The Lord of the Rings movies.

The storyline of Thunderball was recycled for the non-canonical Bond film Never Say Never Again, in which a now much older Connery reprised his role as Bond. Sony pictures was at one time planning to remake Thunderball again, this time casting Connery as Ernst Stavro Blofield, but a court ruled against them in the matter of the rights to the James Bond character. (Through subsequent studio mergers, MGM acquired NSNA and the matter became moot.)

The book is notable for being perhaps the first story about terrorists stealing nuclear weapons and holding the world to ransom- a common enough trope in modern spy and action thrillers, but a revolutionary idea at the time. That's right, folks: James Bond invented nuclear terrorism.

Tropes used in Thunderball include:
  • America Saves the Day: The U.S. Air Force Pararescue frogmen parachuting to the rescue to help Bond stop the SPECTRE frogmen with the nuke.
  • Artificial Gill: The mini-breather.
    • After the movie came out, a naval engineer spoke to the producers, inquiring how they managed to make the mini-breather, since he was trying to develop one himself. He was devastated by their answer: Sean Connery was actually holding his breath.
  • Asexuality: According to Largo, his henchman Vargas...

"..does not drink...does not smoke...does not make love. What do you do, Vargas?"

  • Artistic Title: Complete with Tom Jones's singing, the opening credits has underwater swimming silhouettes consisting manly of scuba divers with harpoon pistols and women in their birthday suits.
  • Backpack Cannon: Bond's scuba gear in the big underwater battle also fires rocket harpoons.
  • Badass Crew: Bond and his allies.
  • Bait and Switch Gunshot: See Conveniently-Timed Attack From Behind.
  • Bandaged Face: Angelo Palazzi undergoing the plastic surgery necessary to make him look like Major Derval.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Fiona Volpe: Italian for "fox" (the animal), referring to her red hair and cunning as an assassin. Also Largo's ship: Disco Volante is Italian for Flying Saucer, a tip-off of the breakaway hydrofoil front section.
  • Black Comedy Rape: One of the most unnerving pieces of Values Dissonance in the series, as Bond actually blackmails a woman into having sex with him. She had been sternly rebuffing his advances the whole time beforehand.
  • The Blofeld Ploy: Blofeld electrocutes one of the henchmen sitting at his conference table for embezzling money (which he really was guilty of), only after grilling another (totally innocent) henchman for the reason why their drug trafficking ring had turned in such poor profits. Showing that it applies to things other than just failing to kill a "00" Agent.
    • In the book at least, the purpose of grilling the innocent henchman was so the guilty one would relax... and therefore be touching the contact plates. And Blofeld then publicly praised the innocent man (who'd completely trusted him to do what was right) for the calm way he'd taken the grilling.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Largo's henchman Vargas.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Would you mind if my friend sits this one out? She's just dead"; "I think he got the point" after shooting a fellow with a spear gun.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: During Bond's dance with villainess Fiona Volpe.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Largo subjects Domino to it.
  • Concealing Canvas: Hiding a map of top-secret locations.
  • Conveniently-Timed Attack From Behind: As Largo is about to shoot James Bond, Domino shoots him from behind with a spear gun.
  • Cool Boat: The Disco Volante with its breakaway shell and hydrofoils.
  • Cool Plane: The Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber SPECTRE hijacks.
  • Cool Shades: The Bahamas being a sunny locale more than one character wears one: Bond, Leiter, Vargas.
  • Cosmopolitan Council: The leadership of SPECTRE.
  • Cyanide Pill: Bond's assistant Paula Kaplan takes one rather than face interrogation by SPECTRE thugs. In a cruel irony, Bond would have arrived in time to save her if she hadn't.
  • Dark Action Girl: SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe.
  • Deadfoot Leadfoot: An aquatic variant as Largo's dead or dying body forces the Disco Voltane to run explosively aground.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Emilio Largo.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Largo isn't the slightest bit perturbed by the electrocution of a fellow Spectre council member.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The leader of SPECTRE.
  • Don't Try This At Home: That lovely underwater sex scene with Domino? Um yeah, try that in real life and you might float to the surface unexpectedly fast and give yourself and your partner matching embolisms.
  • The Dragon: Vargas, to Emilio Largo.
    • Also, Fiona Volpe.
    • Technically, Largo himself is the Dragon to Blofeld.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Bond steals a black wetsuit and hood to masquerade as a SPECTRE diver.
  • Empty Quiver: The stolen nukes.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kutze is so disturbed to see Largo torturing Domino that he helps her escape.
    • Which is a direct contrast to the novel version, where Kotze not only doesn't help Domino escape (she does that on her own) but unhesitatingly offered to help Largo torture her.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier If French: Domino (which is an Italian in the novel, but Claudine Auger turned her into a Frenchwoman).
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks
  • Evil Redhead: Again, Fiona Volpe.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Emilio Largo. It helps that he's one of the most charismatic Bond villains ever.
  • The Faceless: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE. As usual.
  • Failsafe Failure: the spine-stretching exercise machine.
  • Fiery Redhead: Fiona Volpe
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Q is dressed like one when he equips Bond in the Bahamas.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Is there any other reason, besides your enthusiasm for watersports?"
  • Heel Face Turn / Helpful Mook: Dr. Kutze, who throws the bomb fuses overboard and frees Domino.
    • Averted however in the case of Fiona Volpe, who mocks Bond's presumption that she'll go over to his side after sleeping with him (probably a deliberate subversion of Pussy Galore's Heel Face Turn in Goldfinger.)
  • Honor Before Reason: When standing behind a car with a woman and being shot at, Bond jogs to her side, opens the door, and then all the way around the front of the car to the opposite door (which she doesn't even reach over to open for him). Apparently being chivalrous is more important than quickly getting to safety. Either that or he knows he has a character shield.
  • Image Song: The title song by Tom Jones describes Bond perfectly.

He always runs while others walk
He acts, while other men just talk
He thinks that the fight is worth it all
So he strikes, like thunderball...

  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Harpoons are the weapon of choice in that movie.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: A particularly weird one, where one of Largo's henchmen is aiming at Bond as he dances with Fiona. Bond spins around at the last moment so that he hits Fiona instead...right between two of Bond's fingers!
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: the Bahamas Junkanoo festival.
  • Jet Pack: Bond uses one.
  • Karma Houdini: Blofeld.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The underwater battles are long. A common consensus today is that while in 1964 it was awesome, after aquatic shooting became kinda commonplace they're really overdrawn.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Bond and Lippe try to dispose of each other this way in the health spa.
  • Man Behind the Man: As in From Russia with Love, Blofeld is the real villain, running things from the background.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: The International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons, a "purely philanthropic" group is SPECTRE's front.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: In the movie, it cuts as Volpe is taking Bond's shirt off, but the trailer shows him saying "The things I do for England" while she does so (the line ended up on You Only Live Twice as Bond is undressing Helga Brandt).
  • A Nuclear Error
    • Considering a recent Newsnight report, not A Nuclear Error. It's still hard to believe British air-dropped nukes were protected by bicycle locks.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Bond takes a bullet right into his ankle and still manages to run and escape his pursuers, barely limping through the Junkanoo parade. He stops at a bathroom, pulls up his pants and ties a handkerchief around his ankle and he's good as new. Of course, the very next day when he swims out to Largo's island in his swimming shorts, his leg doesn't even have a scratch on it.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Bell Rocket Belt Bond uses had its natural sound replaced by a "more realistic" fire-extinguisher sound.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Bond has no problem walking around Nassau in a short-sleeved pink shirt.
  • Revealing Coverup: SPECTRE's attempt to kill Bond, which risked alerting his superiors to their presence.
  • Right-Hand-Cat: Blofeld's pet Persian.
  • Sex Face Turn: Lampshaded, averted, and mocked.
  • Samus Is a Girl: When motorcyclist assassin Fiona Volpe reveals herself as a woman.
  • Sauna of Death: Bond locks Count Lippe in a Turkish bath.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: As Bond and Volpe are about to have sex, it cuts to Junkanoo.
  • Shark Pool: On Largo's estate.
  • Shower of Love: Actually a Sauna Of Love, between Bond and a nurse at Shrublands.
  • Storming the Castle: U.S. divers vs. SPECTRE frogmen in an undersea battle.
  • The UK Armed Forces and Ultimate Defence of the Realm: The Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber SPECTRE hijacks.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Weirdly, a rejected theme: the song playing in the club where Fiona is shot is Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the song originally intended for the titles (the producers didn't like a Non-Appearing Title, so one actually titled "Thunderball" was comissioned).
  • Title Drop: "Thunderball" is the name of the operation to retrieve the missing nuclear weapons.
  • Torture Technician: Largo claims to be able to do horrible things with just a lit cigar and a bucket of ice. We have no reason to not believe him.
  • Villain Ball: Count Lippe's attempt to kill Bond, which endangered SPECTRE's operation.
    • His failed attempt to kill Bond endangered SPECTRE's operation; Count Lippe suspected (rightly) that Bond was suspicious of him, and knowing that Bond was the Arch Enemy of the organization might have firstly incorrectly (but reasonably) assumed that Bond was actually there to investigate him (or worse, their plot), and secondly might be acting on "kill on sight" pre-orders. Had he succeeded there wouldn't be a problem, and Bond was starting to look into him anyway after seeing his tattoo.
  • Villainous Crossdresser: In the cold open, SPECTRE agent Jacques Bouvar fakes his death and attends his own funeral disguised as a woman. Bond catches on (thanks to his not letting one of the men around him open a car door for him; it was the '60s) and he has to fight in the dress.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Bond's killing of Colonel Jacques Bouvar at the start of the movie.
  • War Room: Production designer Ken Adam designed two for Thunderball. The cold, metallic and black SPECTRE conference room, and the MI 6' more classical style conference room with huge windows and tapestries.
  • Weaponized Car: The Aston Martin DB5 makes another appearance in the pre-title sequence. Fiona Volpe rides a BSA Lightning motorcycle with a missile launcher that she uses to kill Count Lippe.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Domino is freed by Dr. Ladislav Kutze, Largo's nuclear physicist who commits a Heel Face Turn. When Bond and Domino escape Largo's boat near the end of the film, Bond first throws Kutze overboard wearing a lifebuoy telling him that it's never too late to learn to swim. Seconds later, Bond and Domino are picked up by the helicopters while the henchman just disappears.
  • You Have Failed Me...: Count Lippe. The Villain Ball is not merciful.
    • Quist, who gets tossed in Largo's shark pool.
    • Fiona Volpe is implied to be the one who does this to SPECTRE's agents.