James Bond is a Codename. Here’s the Evidence

Answering the age old question: Is James Bond an Alias or a Real Name?

Note: I first wrote this in 2015, arguing that James Bond is a codename but he doesn’t know it. I content that the man who knows himself as James Bond has been brainwashed and all the answers live within the 2012 film Skyfall. The following is my original argument about it, followed by further analysis added after the release of Spectre and No Time to Die.

For decades, there has been an ongoing debate over the continuity of the James Bond films.  This is known as the “James Bond Codename Theory” or simply “the codename theory”.

What is James Bond’s name?

Specifically, the debate is between two options:

  1. James Bond is his real name: the James Bond films do not care at all about continuity, and yes, each character is named James Bond, and he’s the same James Bond, who cares that he looks and acts different all the time, or
  2. James Bond is a code name: the James Bond films tell one long story, in which a variety of men adopt the codename of James Bond when they join MI6.

Well, the debate has mostly subsided after the 2012 film Skyfall, as many people found it to be proof that James Bond’s name is James Bond, considering that Daniel Craig’s Bond goes to his childhood home, named Skyfall, where he looks at the gravestones of his parents, whose names are Mr. and Mrs. Bond.

Seems straightforward... or is it?
Seems straightforward… or is it?

These gravestones and the entirety of Skyfall suggest, definitively and with no ambigiuty for most viewers, that James Bond is absolutely not a codename.

But what this article presupposes is… maybe James Bond is a code name?

What I suggest instead is this: James Bond is an alias, but James Bond doesn’t know that it’s an alias. Why? Because the man who knows himself as James Bond has been brainwashed.

The suggestions of this reality are all there, with one standing above all the others: the relationship between Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem’s character), M (Judi Dench), and James Bond. Bardem’s Silva is a former MI6 agent who worked under M, before taking up the occupation of cyber-terrorist. Throughout the film, he repeatedly attempts to bond with 007, including referring to both himself and Bond as rats, held and tortured by M.

This part.
This part.

And this next part of my theory is a credit to Bardem’s acting, as it’s something I cannot capture through simple plot synopsis and analysis.  There is an element to Bardem’s acting that not only ensnares you, but in which it appears that he has a secret he isn’t sharing. His grin, his eyes, his body language, and the way he lingers on certain words as he speaks.

Columnist Stephen L. Carter has suggested that this secret is that Silva is the long-lost son of M, writing about it in “The Secret James Bond Missed in Skyfall.”  While I agree with the evidence for this, my interpretation is not that he is the literal son of M, but that he identifies as one of her many sons, as all her agents are her sons.  

But Silva is also this: the only other living James Bond.

It explains his connection (and affection) regarding Bond, his disdain for M, their complicated dynamic, and, finally, let’s return to Bardem’s acting.  Remember that knowing look of his?  

It’s on full view as he arrives at Skyfall, casually walking out of his helicopter and tossing grenades at the house. He remembers Skyfall well. It’s the place he had once been brainwashed into believing was his childhood home. Just as Daniel Craig’s Bond was brainwashed into thinking the same thing. The brainwashing was so thorough, the identity so complete, that Silva even knew Bond would bring M there, and he had prepared for it.  Not only is it the place where they are brainwashed into believing they were raised, but it is also the place where their training and brainwashing occurred.

Where it all began, and ended.
Where it all began, and ended.

This also explains Silva’s thorough need to “make an entrance as he attacks” and, ultimately, leave the estate in shambles, by shredding the home with bullets, tossing grenades into it, and ultimately burning it down.  He considers himself so betrayed, so thoroughly manipulated, that killing M and discrediting MI6 isn’t enough: he must burn down the place where it all started.

Finally, this ties into the other films, particularly the loose continuity that ties them all together. An example being, how was Judi Dench the only character who bridged from the Pierce Brosnan films to the Craig films?  And why do some of the James Bonds remember things that happened to Bonds played by different actors, i.e. Roger Moore remembering the dead wife of Lazenby’s Bond or Brosnan referencing the Thunderball jetpack used by Connery.

The one answer to all the lingering questions regarding 007 is simple: yes, James Bond is a codename, but no, James Bond doesn’t know it’s a codename.

Now let’s considered this debate settled, and starting looking forward to Spectre.

That’s how I originally ended this argument. Here is a continuation of the argument regarding Spectre and No Time to Die and how they can continue this theory.

How Spectre Fits into the Codename Theory

Spectre is one of the strangest James Bond films. At times it feels like the rebootiest soft reboots possible—despite being the fourth film in the Craig sequence—with M once again a man, Moneypenny once again an administrative assistant, and Q back to being a gadget-dispensing funnyman.

It also sees the return of Blofeld—the primary antagonist of three Bond novels and many early Bond films.

It’s Blofeld—and the use of his character—that, for me, confirms the brainwashed Bond theory in Spectre. A recap of the entire plot of Spectre isn’t needed here, but what deems repeating:

  • Christoph Walz, as Blofeld, pretends his name is Franz O-something but then turns out to be named Blofeld. He reveals this via a big villainous monologue, much the same way that Cumberbatch’s John Harrington revealed himself to be Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Blofeld turns out to be Bond’s sorta adopted brother figure or something
  • Blofeld has a cat, just like a) Connery-era Blofeld and b) Dr. Evil, who was inspired by Connery-era Blofeld
  • Bond decides not to kill Blofeld at the end, even when he can
  • Most important to Spectre’s relationship to the brainwashed Bond theory is that it turns out Blofeld has been puppet-mastering everything that happened to Bond over the last three films. He’s the reason all the Bond women die. He’s the reason for every Bond (mis)adventure. The blood-weeping Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, the forgettable bad guy in Quantum of Solace, the Javier Bardem villain in Skyfall—each of these, we learn from Blofeld, were his doing.

As he declares:

Me. It was all me, James. It’s always been me. The author of all your pain.

This is before Blofeld appears, at the end of the film, with his trademark scar.

Yes, Spectre fits within the brainwashing fan theory

Not only does Spectre fit well with the codename theory, but once you accept it—once you really lean into the “James Bond is a name given to brainwashed secret agents who don’t understand the extent to which they function as secret agents”, it’s hard to understand what’s happening otherwise.

Why the dramatic reveal of the name Blofeld, as if that name would mean something to Bond?

Why the sudden suggestion that Blofeld has been the author of all Bond’s pain?

And no, not just what we’ve seen in the films. All your pain, Blofeld says.

So what’s happening here?

How does Blofeld fit into the theory?

A few possibilities:

  • Blofeld himself is another brainwashed entity, not entirely aware of how he fits into this. Far from the true pain author he imagines himself to be.
  • Blofeld was literally the author of Bond’s pain, all the way to the beginning. He worked for MI6, brainwashing agents to believing themselves to be Bond. He then split off and became his own entity
  • Or, the above, but he still does work for MI6 in some function. Spectre and MI6 serve the same master. Some kind of prescribed good-and-evil, duality of man, order and chaos Janus-faced dynamic. I don’t love this one, but it’s possible.

I know that my typical style—and the style of all fan theories—is to choose an absolute stance and to argue for that absolute. In this case, I’m reluctant to do so.

It’s a lot to ponder.

I think that Walz’s Blofeld easily fits into my take on Bond. How, exactly, is something I still haven’t determined.

And what about No Time to Die?

One thing that needs to be said about No Time to Die: it’s the first time we’ve seen a Bond die, and the first time an actor’s time as Bond has come with a conclusive chapter.

There’s nothing in No Time to Die to disqualify this fan theory—aside from any direct acknowledgement of it, after Bond’s death. But to be clear, I don’t want or need such an admission, ever.

That’s what makes fan theories fun. We don’t want them to be proved.

For me, the biggest question remains: what do they do next? I do hope they resist scrapping all the new characters—but will that require a new 007 or will we have to see a new character named Bond? Do they have no choice but to opt for the brainwashing theory?

But wait, does James Bond have a middle name?

According to internet misinformation, his middle name is Herbert.

According to one of the books, he has no middle name:

“No middle name. No hyphen. A quiet, dull, anonymous name.”

The Man with the Golden Gun (the book)

According to the movies, it appears there isn’t one.

So who knows?

Interested in more on this subject? Read the follow-up to this blog post: James Bond, Fan Theories, and the Fragile Online Fan.

Or—if you’re one of the readers who think the issue with this is D. F. Lovett’s overactive imagination—check out The Moonborn by D. F. Lovett


  1. Great theory, worths to be true. Thinking about, it has more range of expansion if it is true. This explains why always the boss of the 00 department is “M” (and this passes on), and possibly helps to understand why there is always a “Moneypenny” who always has a relationship of sorts with the James Bonds. Furthermore, I don’t see no reason for this not to be true to rest of the 00s, everyone with his own identity and codename as 007 is James Bond. Furthermore, I think there must be some trauma with a girl to make a new James Bond the Bond we all know (to fix his personality, I mean), much in the line of Vesper. Furthermore, there must be something similar going on with the Felix Lighters over the years… It’s so great as a theory it may expand the universe by itself. Amazing.

  2. Wow you really over thought this one you have quite an imagination you should wright your own stories.

    1. Thank you! I am working on my own stories, you can check out my About the Author page or check back in a few months to grab a copy of my forthcoming novel.

  3. Yeeeeeaaah…, you have a huge imagination, i”ll give you that. But the answer is obvious, it’s not a codename, and you’re a fucking retard for thinking that it is, you just want it to be a codename so bad you’re making up crazy stupid shit that has nothing to do with the story of the movie. It’s not a codename, they just don’t give a fucking fuck about continuity.


    1. Thank you for reading, and for complimenting my imagination, and for taking the time to comment. It’s awesome knowing that my writing can provoke such a passionate response from a stranger.

  4. Great read, but Spectre would seem to have done away with that theory with the guardianship of Bond after the death of his parents. Maybe his is a Time Lord-

    1. I would agree… but I actually have a theory that I’m working on about how Spectre reaffirms the brainwashed theory, which I’ll be posting on here some time soon.

      1. If it were a codename, why would Roger Moore’s bond be grieving at Tracy’s grave in For your Eyes Only when she was killed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Lazenby was Bond? Or when Connery tried to get revenge on Blofeld for murdering his wife?
        Why would they put “British Naval Commandeer James Bond murdered”in the newspaper in You Only Live Twice when Bond faked his death?
        Why would George Lazenby’s Bond be reflecting on past missions while looking through his office at things he collected when he was played by Connery?
        And another great big problem with your “theory” is if it’s a codename that they pass to the next 007, why does it switch from Connery in You only live twice to Lazenby in On her Majesty’s Secret Service and then back to Connery in Diamonds are Forever?????
        James Bond is NOT a codename. There is only one Bond. Nobody does it better.
        Sorry about your theory. You have a great imagination but you have to look at the facts.

    1. Thanks for reading, although didn’t you learn not to call people names? I’m a pretty big believer in Death of the Author, which makes anything the writer says irrelevant. (I’m also unclear which writer you mean)

  5. Hey idiot, have you forgotten his resignation, that doesn’t just from10-15 years in the force, that shows that he has been through all lot of trauma and he can no longer keep those feelings of sorrow bottled up inside- A brain-washed my would not be able to feel such things.

  6. The Craig movies are PREQUALS people. He is supposed to be Bond starting out. The first M was a male, which is why Judi died off and Ralph Fiens is now M. The original M was a man and we are now caught up to the movies before Dr. No.

  7. Late to the discussion but I think the biggest flaw in your theory is that Silva didn’t know about the tunnel under the house-only realising that M could have escaped after seeing the light across the moor. Given that Kincade says Bond hid down there for days after his parents’ deaths and that Bond himself seems familiar with the tunnel, a previous iteration of him would have known to seal it off or destroy it before the assault.

    Also, it’s clear that M has a kind of intimate relationship with all her agents and that spy work is numbing to the soul so it’s not hard to imagine any 00 going rogue with enough of a push and blanking her. And Silva’s attitude when destroying the house was callous rather than an impassioned destruction. It’s pretty clear that he’s very straightforward about killing so it’s likely that he was just trying to get the job done.

  8. What does your theory make of Kinkade? How does it take him and his lines and their (Bond’s and Kinkade’s) knowledge of each other into account? It seems your theory would have to make Kinkade a plant, and “in the know” about brainwashing. It was a fun read though, and I have no vulgar names to call you (why do some people get so worked up about fiction as though they were being threatened with the loss of job or home?).

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I agree that Kinkade would have to be an agent of M and the 007 brainwashing program on some level.

      I’ve been planning on writing a follow-up to this where I address both some of these questions but also how Spectre fits in.

  9. It is a nice theory, but seems a little over thought. The reason that other actors that have played Bond appear to have knowledge of previous adventures is easily explained in that Daniel Craig’s Bond is a re-boot. Casino Royale is the 1st Book and continuity wise consider it the 1st film. I think the fact that George Lazenby got married to Tracy & years later Roger Moore is at her grave. The fact that Felix mentions that Timothy Dalton’s Bond was once married. The fact that Daniel Craig goes to his family home and sees his parents grave is a lot less convoluted. This is Bond not Bourne.

  10. So when you said “they proved it” what you really meant to say, because of course you wouldn’t be trying to clickbait because that’s a horrible practice which you’re so clearly not doing, anyway, what you meant to say was “and skyfall gives some weak circumstancial evidence to suggest the possibility of the theory that its a codename”

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting and suggesting what I meant to say… but no, I said what I said, meant what I meant, said what I meant and meant what I said.

    1. That’s the most straightforward aspect of this fan theory. She’s M for the tenure of two different James Bonds.

  11. So each Bond is somehow implanted with the memories and skills accumulated by all the previous Bonds? Wouldn’t the Daniel Craig Bond ever stop to question why he remembers fighting Dr No back in 1962 when he isn’t even old enough to have been born then?

    1. No, I didn’t mean to suggest that he’s brainwashed into getting Bond’s entire backstory.

  12. I’ve heard of other people trying to say similar things about 007 being a number that gets passed around along with the name but I don’t agree. To develop any theories about James Bond you have to study the books not the movies which bear very little resemblance to the books. In the books James Bond is very definitely the same person throughout.

    1. Thanks, but I disagree about the books versus the movies. While it’s illustrating to read the source material, this theory is based on the films alone.

  13. I really like your theory and as mentioned before, the continuation is terrible within the 007 movies (not to be mistaken with the books). However, if we are to look at it from very very broad perspective, it makes sense for the character to use a codename, regardless if its by brainwashing from childhood or by knowingly so. Now that we are having a female 007 things would get interesting when it comes to naming the main character. My personal belief is that, yes – the names given within the fictional MI6 are all codenames (M.. Q… Moneypenny.. James Bond…)

    P.S. to all the people that criticize your imagination – All forms of art, including movies, should provoke and inspire one’s imagination. If you perseive all storytelling and art as fact based truths, you might be really sad to know that Bambi is not a real thing.

  14. I disagree with the theory but I like it, nonetheless, and I cannot believe the aggression you’re getting from other people whose views don’t align with yours. The Internet really has brought the end of pleasant discussion.

  15. And why couldn’t all memoeries be added while brainwashing new James Bond?
    Imagine if there is a technology to transfere years of experience from one TOP agent to another by adding new 007 memories from previous 007s.
    Experience is the reason why 007 is the best and if 30 years old agent can have experience of 50-60 years work in HMSS, he is not only a best there is, he’s a legend in small circle of secret agents even if JB never was a single person.
    If You have seen “V for Vendeta”, there was a line “Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.”.
    Maybe James Bond IS a codename, the mask that is worn by more then one agent. Maybe JB in his cinematic version was never a person, but idea, a name, a mask, worn by the best agent there is… at the moment. And upgraded with memories – experience of every previous incarnation of this idea, this legend who had her own name. And name of this idea is Bond. James Bond.

  16. Well .. what do you think now? The most telling thing to me in ‘No Time To Die’ was the portrait of Robert Brown as M (might have been Bernard Lee but can’t remember). Why would he be included? The only reason can be that his tenure of M existed, and thus so did Connery’s as Bond. So it IS a code name. There are lots of flaws to the theory – inconstancies rather – as mentioned earlier by Cody and others. But a lot of retcons have these problems that we will just have to conveniently ignore. I think it’s a cool idea. And we can now get either Dalton or Brosnan back in for a cameo – or as the baddie (though I think that would be a step too far, personally).

    1. I think the mystery has deepened! Intrigued by what happens next, although I agree with you that Dalton or Brosnan as a Bond villain would be a step too far for my taste as well.

  17. I like this theory. One thing I noticed you didn’t mention is the death of Judi Dench’s M which helps tie in the idea of James Bond being a codename. If the Daniel Craig films are prequels to the other’s then M’s death in Skyfall absolutely ruins the continuity and scrambles the plot line. Craig’s Bond couldn’t be the beginning of Bond since Judi Dench’s M was in Brosnan’s Bond films. Brosnan’s Bond was already a well established 007 so the timeline would be absurd. The only explanation would be time traveling, a different Bond universe completely, or more realistically, that James Bond is a codename and James Bonds are created by training young boys who’s parents have recently died. This would be the easiest way to manipulate new Bonds (targeting young boys who have recently been through parents deaths) and keep a relative base of knowledge (death of parents) consistent. I wouldn’t set aside the idea that Craig’s Bond was just the new Bond and his Casino Royale initiation was implemented, not to make it seem as though it was a prequel, but rather to establish that a new Bond had been born.

  18. Your theory might as well be confirmed now… there’s a scene in “No Time to Die” where M (Fiennes) is sitting in a hall and you see a portrait of M (Dench) at the end of the hall, then as the camera pans you can see another portrait of M (Robert Brown). Distinctly connects all of the M’s as a codename/position with portraits to honor their prior service.

    Further… “No Time To Die” seems deeply influenced by “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” which has a central plot point of brainwashing (Angels of Death). It’s like… prior to OHMSS, there had only been one Bond (Connery), and OHMSS was a test run of competing brainwashing tech (MI6 vs Spectre?), which also explains the reversion to Connery after OHMSS… and then since MI6 cleans up after Bond, they picked up al the tech from the Angels of Death brainwashing… which could be used to create Roger Moore’s Bond (and subsequent Bonds) with memories from their test run in OHMSS and all of the first Bond’s memories. It works!

  19. Good read. And now that Idris Elba is being considered incarnate 007 this theory gains more strength and if he’s picked, for me, this would be the definitive explanation.

  20. Interesting theory and good imagination. For any true James Bond fan we all know Bond was a real person and the books are tales of his adventures and the movies simply choose random adventures instead of going in any order. As for the one movie with George Lazenby is simply because Connery was not available at the time so they had a temp swap in witch is why he only got one movie because it was still Connery’s turn. James Bond was a real person it’s his name not a code name and people don’t live forever so obviously over the years when the Actor gets old a new one comes in to continue the adventures.

  21. Ok….so after a quick google search James Bond was a bird watcher and published a book. Ian Fleming was a fan of birdwatching and read the book as a kid. He liked the name James Bond and turned him into a super spy. But still the George Lazenby swapping in for Connery who was busy still stands.

  22. I buy into the codename theory. Six different Bonds, Five different Ms, four different Moneypennys, Bill Tanners and Qs. Seven Felix Leiters.

    I put this in the James Bond Reddit page and everyone was having a fit about it. Saying it was debunked by the author (who probably didn’t have it in mind when he wrote the books) and didn’t provide sources. It has never been confirmed or denied by the film’s producers.

    Back where I come from, we have the Poe Toaster. Some person on the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday would leave cognac and three roses on the grave. This was going on for decades. Since Lazenby’s Bond was married and lost his wife, the subsequent Bonds (Moore, in particular as seen in FYEO) might have gone along with the tradition of leaving flowers on Tracy’s grave.

    As far as Blofeld being Bond’s adoptive brother, Franz Oberhauer wanted to reboot SPECTRE and take on the title of the Blofeld sobriquet to emulate him. It’s kind of like how in the hip-hop community, certain rappers want to take on the name of real and fictional gangsters (N.O.R.E., 50 Cent, Biggie Smalls, Scarface, Capone, etc.,)

    BTW, I said five different Ms because it’s believed that Judi Dench played two different Ms. Brosnan’s M has kids and Craig’s M doesn’t.

Leave a Reply