Is Bond 25’s title No Time to Die really as clichéd as it seems?

Fire up the 007 movie name generator!

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Four months after the cast and plot for what’s expected to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond were revealed, the long-awaited title for the 25th 007 movie was finally disclosed last night (20th August) – and, no surprise, people have opinions.

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Even the title font has come in for some flak (it’s the same as Prisoner: Cell Block H, and The Love Boat!), but the most common criticism is that No Time to Die is a bit of a generic name. A bit dull. Like someone at EON Productions fired up a Bond movie title generator and settled on whatever it spat out.

(The internet being the internet, multiple Bond movie title generators do in fact exist, with this Comedy Central one giving us LicenseFinger on our first attempt – much better, right?)

It’s a stick that’s often used to beat the 007 films – the accusation that their titles are all a bit samey, with critics alleging that certain words – Die (or Death), Kill, Live (or Living) and Day – crop up time and again.

But how accurate is that?

Throw all 25 titles from the official franchise (so discounting 1983’s unofficial, independently-produced Never Say Never Again) into a World Cloud generator and you get the below, which does certainly appear to indicate a fondness for “Die”, “Kill” and “Live” in particular.

James Bond title word-cloud
RadioTimes.com

But if you really dig into the stats and pick out how many times each of these offending words has been used across the series’ 57-year history, they’re not actually all that commonplace.

We’ve done the maths so you don’t have to: Die (or Death) is the worst offender, cropping up four times out of 25, or 16% of the time – in 1973’s Live and Let Die, 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, 2002’s Die Another Day and now 2020’s No Time to Die. (Notably, only the first of these titles originates from one of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, the rest all an attempt by EON to come up with a title that feels suitably ‘Bond-esque’.)

Next is Live (or Living), with three counts (12%) – 1967’s You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die (again, scoring double points) and 1987’s The Living Daylights.

Then, with just two apiece (8%), come Kill – 1985’s A View to a Kill and 1989’s Licence to Kill – and Day – The Living Daylights and Die Another Day, another pair of twofers like Live and Let Die.

(For you completists out there, there have also been two references to “gold” across the 25 titles – 1964’s Goldfinger and 1995’s Goldeneye – and another quasi-reference to days with 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.)

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye
(Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)
Keith Hamshere / Getty Images

So yes, these words are more commonplace than others, but the problem’s nowhere near as bad as you might think. It is interesting to note, though, that more than a few of the titles featuring these familiar words come from the era when all the suitable Ian Fleming titles had already been used up – three examples of Die (or Death), one of Kill and one of Day all come from EON dreaming up their own names.

This is perhaps the root of the matter: Bond films having these sort of titles has become almost a self-perpetuating myth, with the assumption that all 007 projects have “die”, “kill”, “live” or “day” in the title leading to more examples of that than was previously the case.

Spin-off media further inflames this idea: there have been dozens of James Bond novels written post-Ian Fleming’s death in 1964, with a variety of different authors putting out titles that, again, seem to be almost straining to sound “Bond-esque”.

These continuation books, the most recent of which was published just last year, feature a whopping six instances of Die (or Death), three of Kill, with one of Live (or Living) and one of Day. The culprits are as follows:

Die (or Death)

  • Win, Lose or Die (1989) – by John Gardner
  • Death is Forever (1992) – by John Gardner
  • The Facts of Death (1998) – by Raymond Benson
  • Never Dream of Dying (2001) – by Raymond Benson
  • Double or Die (2007) – by Charlie Higson
  • Heads You Die (2016) – by Steve Cole

Kill

  • High Time to Kill (1999) – by Raymond Benson
  • A Hard Man to Kill (2009) – by Charlie Higson – short story
  • Shoot to Kill (2014) – by Steve Cole

Live (or Living)

  • Nobody Lives for Ever (1986) – by John Gardner

Day

  • Forever and a Day (2018) – by Anthony Horowitz

There’s also one more “gold” in there, courtesy of Higson’s 2007 book Hurricane Gold.

So in fact, No Time to Die isn’t quite as derivative of previous Bond titles – at least, not official Bond movie titles – as all the hubbub might have you believing. It’s certainly not as bad as another rumoured Bond 25 title, A Day to Die.

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And however you square it, anything’s better than Shatterhand.