Do I have to start from the first James Bond film to understand Spectre or can I just watch Spectre without any knowledge of James Bond films?

All I know is that 007 is some type of a code given to a secret agent with 001 being the leader.

  • Wikipedia isn't helpful. They talk about "007:Spectre re-introduces the character". But when I check the YouTube trailer, Do they mean "reappearing character" or "re-introducing the story for new comers like the upcoming Star Wars"?
    – Janing
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:46
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_in_film <--- If you read that, you know all you need to to watch Spectre.
    – user27684
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:47
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    For the record, the British top agents are all coded "double-zero-something". 001 isn't the top agent, he's just another agent. In earlier films, 007 (e.g. James Bond) was generally considered the best of the best with M (the head of MI6) being the actual leader.
    – user7812
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:48
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  • Before you watch Spectre, watch Casino Royale. Not that you need it to understand Spectre, it's just a much better movie. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


According to this interview with Sam Mendez (Spectre's Director) he certainly strived to make sure that the film works as a stand-alone piece, without the audience possessing substantial knowledge of the Bond series of films:

MENDES: I love that challenge; it’s a great privilege and excitement to express myself in that way to so many kids. I just hope that I don’t let them down and there are those pressures because at the end of the day, you may make the movie you want, but this is for the audience. And you do pray and hope that everyone believes in it as much as you do, including the kids, and you have to remind yourself every day you’re working on it that for many kids it will be their first Bond movie just as Live And Let Die was my first, and like From Russia With Love or Dr. No were for others. You hope it will make kids go seek out the earlier movies, which are now so accessible to them.

Obviously there are extensive references to earlier films and it can't possibly hurt to watch some of the previous films that have referenced SPECTRE (especially 'Dr. No', 'From Russia With Love', 'You Only Live Twice', 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' and 'Diamonds Are Forever') but neither is it in any way necessary.

  • Good answer: I think in this day and age they have to make entries into a franchise (especially one this long in the tooth!) pretty accessible to newcomers. That way, first timers can appreciate it more and it might actually prompt them to go look up the other films. From the money side alone, this seems like something producers would be in favour of.
    – user27684
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 22:24
  • @DanielStowers - It's worth pointing out that the Bond franchise stretches over decades. Even hardened fans are likely to have missed (or forgotten) a few installments.
    – user7812
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 22:25
  • Yep - I think the first one was in the 50's, the TV version of Casino Royale. I would point out too that with the changes over the years, if someone dislikes some of the films, it doesn't mean they won't love others. Younger people might appreciate Brosnan onwards, but find some of the earlier stuff hard to wade through.
    – user27684
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 22:28
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    While I don't think you need to have watched the entire franchise to get the gist of this movie, it would definitely be a good idea to have watched all of the Daniel Creig movies (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, & Spectre) to get the full effect of Spectre. Having the entire sequence of this series helps you to understand this iteration of James Bond. Without the background provided by the three other movies, you will in no way get the entire effect they are trying to provide the viewer, IMHO. Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 1:58
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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I tried to adress your concerns in an additional answer (since I share them).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 22:07

While the other answers are right that Bond films in general are usually entirely independent of each other and showing James Bond on a self-contained and independent adventure, there is a little more to it with regards to this specific film.

While the story of this film is also largely independent and can certainly be enjoyed and understood without having seen any previous films, it is definitely contributory to have at least seen the previous 3 films with Daniel Craig as Bond. Contrary to the majority of previous Bond films, the Craig series relies quite a bit more on cross-movie continuity, even if the films' main stories still stay self-contained. This was first noticable in Quantum of Solace, which was to quite some degree a direct continuation of Casino Royale. Then Skyfall again stayed quite independent. But with SPECTRE the filmmakers try to somewhat close the circle to the previous Craig films, relating them to the new film's main storyline. So while you will still get and appreciate the main storyline of SPECTRE, you might not immediately grasp the impact of the bigger picture that the filmmakers attempted here, nor recognize one or the other recurring character from the previous films.

In addition to that, the Craig series also relies on a much more coherent cross-movie character development of James Bond himself. And as in Skyfall, this movie yet again delves a little into Bond's past. And there's also other characters from not only the past Craig films but James Bond mythology in general whose knowledge might add to the appreciation of their reimagining in this film (or not ;-)). But those are more soft requirements.

So to sum up, you certainly don't have to have seen any previous Bond film to understand and enjoy SPECTRE, but it would add a great deal to getting its full impact if you have at least watched the previous films with Daniel Craig, primarily Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (in that order!).

All I know is that 007 is some type of a code given to a secret agent with 001 being the leader.

This is not entirely accurate, though. We never get to see many other 00 agents, let alone a 001, and there doesn't seem to be a hierarchy among them. What you really need to know is that James Bond is a British spy (working for MI6) and his boss is called M.

  • The real head of MI6 has always been known by the initial 'C', its founder Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming always wrote it in green ink. From his service during the war Ian Fleming would have known this and used it in his novels, but slightly changed it.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 22:48
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    @Sarriesfan Sure. In the films it's still M, though.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 22:49
  • yes in the films as in the books its M
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 7:22

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