It's common knowledge that James Bond has an official "License to kill". But what exactly does this license entail? I would assume that it means that he has a blanket authorization by his superiors to liquidate people when he believes that doing so is in the best interest of the United Kingdom and that it provides him with legal immunity for doing so.

But are there any limits to that license?

Could he, for example, kill completely innocent people for his personal amusement and would not have to be afraid of any legal consequences except maybe losing his job?

Is his immunity only binding for the justice system of the UK or are there any allies which also recognize his immunity?

Is there any information in any of the Eon Productions movies or from any of the Ian Fleming books which explains further details about the fine-print conditions of his license to kill?

  • I think the Silva character in Skyfall explains this pretty good. Silva falls outside of the Double-Oh realm and his license is revoked. To lose the license is to lose the job. Nov 3, 2014 at 19:15

3 Answers 3


First of all "License to Kill" is a real thing rather than being completely fictional, although it has been made famous by James Bond franchise. According to Wikipedia:

License to kill is the official sanction by a government or government agency to a particular operative or employee to initiate the use of lethal force in the delivery of their objectives, well known as a literary device used in espionage fiction. The initiation of lethal force is in comparison to the use of lethal force in self-defense or the protection of life.

Regarding your question Is his immunity only binding for the justice system of the UK or are there any allies which also recognize his immunity?

The legitimacy of deadly force usage from country to country is generally controlled by statute law, particular and direct executive orders, the common law, or rules of engagement

Wikipedia also mentions about the part of James Bond franchise in popularising this concept

The idea of a licence to kill is popularly known from the James Bond novels and films, where it is signified by the "00" (Double O) designation given to the agents in the series who are licenced to kill; Bond himself is famously agent 007.

More details can be read on the wikipedia entry.


According to Wikipedia's 00 Agent entry,

In Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and the derived films, the 00 Section of MI6 is considered the secret service's elite. A 00 (typically read "Double O") agent holds a licence to kill in the field, at his or her discretion, to complete the mission.
In the first novel, Casino Royale, and the 2006 film adaptation, the 00 concept is introduced and, in Bond's words, means "that you've had to kill a chap in cold blood in the course of some assignment." Bond's 00 number (007) was awarded to him because he twice killed in fulfilling assignments. (This differentiates from deadly force used by non-00 agents in the course of self-defence or offensive action; plus, in the original time frame of the novel—the early 1950s—many MI6 agents would have had recent war service.) In the second novel, Live and Let Die, the 00 number designates a past killing; not until the third novel, Moonraker, does the 00 number designate a licence to kill. Thereafter, the novels are ambiguous about whether or not a 00 agent's licence to kill is limited, with varying accounts in Dr. No, Goldfinger, and The Man with the Golden Gun.

  • 3
    You get an additional 0 for everyone you kill? Wouldn't he then be like a 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000007 by now?
    – Philipp
    Nov 3, 2014 at 19:20
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    @Philipp: ........huh???
    – Trish Ling
    Nov 3, 2014 at 19:27
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    You wrote "Bond's 00 number (007) was awarded to him because he twice killed in fulfilling assignments" I interpreted that as "every 0 represents one kill".
    – Philipp
    Nov 3, 2014 at 19:29
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    @Philipp I think the two kills were made in 00-agent training.. in other words he had to make the two kills to become a 00-agent. Once he is 007 they probably stopped keeping track.
    – charlie
    Nov 11, 2014 at 3:08

The books were a little vague on this subject while the movies barely even covered it other than the double O status is first applied (not reached, as in finalized) when an agent in the field kills twice, whether it's during the same mission or multiple missions is never really speculated. But here's what I know...

He can only kill while on assignment. As agents they're tested regularly for any psychological condition that would prevent them from being able to perform in the line of duty, obviously being a psychotic lunatic would hinder that agent from making the right decisions and would mean the death of innocent people (he would have the right to kill you for stepping on his shoes). He also cannot kill a member of the Royal family unless it is under the direct order of the Queen (or King) if the situation call for it. The license can be revoked.

  • Can you add references to the "things you know"? Like lines from books and movies where the subject comes up?
    – Philipp
    Jul 28, 2016 at 8:15

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