GoldenEye is the seventeenth Eon Productions spy film in the James Bond series, and the first to star Pierce Brosnan (becoming the fifth official James Bond actor) as MI6 secret agent James Bond 007. It was the first James Bond film to cast a woman (Judi Dench) as M. Judi Dench continued to portray M in the next six consecutive James Bond movies. GoldenEye is also the first James Bond film made after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, which provided a background for the plot.
The name "GoldenEye" pays homage to James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming. While working for British Naval Intelligence as a lieutenant commander, Ian Fleming liaised with the American OSS to monitor developments in Spain after the Spanish Civil War in an operation codenamed Operation Golden Eye. Fleming used the name of his operation for his estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.
In 1986 MI6 officers James Bond (agent 007) and Alec Trevelyan (agent 006) infiltrate an illicit Soviet chemical weapons facility at Arkhangelsk and plant explosive charges. Trevelyan is shot by Colonel Arkady Ourumov, but Bond steals an aeroplane and flees from the facility as it explodes.
Nine years later, Bond arrives in Monte Carlo to follow Xenia Onatopp, a suspected member of the Janus crime syndicate, who has formed a suspicious relationship with a Royal Canadian Navy admiral. She murders the admiral to allow Ourumov (now a General) to steal his identity. The next day they steal a prototype Eurocopter Tiger helicopter that can withstand an electromagnetic pulse. They fly it to a bunker in Severnaya, where they massacre the staff and steal the control disk for the dual GoldenEye satellite weapons. They program one of the GoldenEye satellites to destroy the complex with an electromagnetic pulse, and escape with programmer Boris Grishenko. Natalya Simonova, the lone survivor, contacts Boris and arranges to meet him in St. Petersburg, where he betrays her to Janus.
In London, M assigns Bond to investigate the attack. Bond flies to St. Petersburg to meet CIA officer Jack Wade. He suggests Bond meet Valentin Zukovsky, a Russian Mafia head and business rival of Janus. After Bond gives him a tip on a potential heist, Zukovsky arranges a meeting between Bond and Janus. Onatopp is sent to meet Bond at his hotel and attempts to kill him, but he overpowers her and she takes him to Janus. Bond meets Janus who reveals himself as none other than Alec Trevelyan, now badly scarred from the explosion at Arkhangelsk. A descendant of the Cossack clans who collaborated with the Nazi forces in World War II, Trevelyan faked his death, having vowed revenge against Britain for their involvement in his parents' deaths. Just as Bond is about to shoot Trevelyan, Bond is shot with a tranquiliser dart knocking him out.
Bond awakens tied up with Simonova in the Tiger helicopter programmed to self-destruct, from which the two escape. They are immediately arrested by the Russian police and are brought to the military archives, where the Russian Minister of Defence Dimitri Mishkin interrogates them. As Simonova reveals the existence of a second satellite and Ourumov's involvement in the massacre at Severnaya, Ourumov bursts into the room and kills Mishkin. As Ourumov calls for his guards, Bond escapes into the archives with Simonova, where a firefight ensues. Simonova is captured and is dragged into a car by Ourumov. Bond steals a T-55 tank and pursues Ourumov through St. Petersburg to Janus' armoured train, where he kills Ourumov as Trevelyan escapes and locks Bond in the train with Simonova. As the train's self-destruct countdown begins, Bond cuts through the floor with his laser watch while Simonova locates Grishenko's satellite dish in Cuba. The two escape just before the train explodes.
Bond and Simonova meet Jack Wade and trade Bond's car for Wade's aeroplane. While flying over a Cuban jungle in search of the satellite dish controlling the satellite, Bond and Simonova are shot down. As they stumble out of the wreckage, Onatopp rappels down from a helicopter and attacks Bond. After a struggle, Bond shoots down the helicopter, resulting in the death of Onatopp. Bond and Simonova then watch a lake being drained of water, uncovering the satellite dish. They infiltrate the control station, where Bond is captured. Trevelyan reveals his plan to steal money from the Bank of England before erasing all of its financial records with the remaining GoldenEye, concealing the theft and destroying Britain's economy.
Meanwhile, Simonova programs the satellite to initiate atmospheric re-entry and destroy itself. As Trevelyan captures Simonova and orders Grishenko to save the satellite, Bond triggers an explosion with his pen grenade and escapes to the antenna cradle. Bond sabotages the antenna by jamming the gears, preventing Grishenko from regaining control of the satellite, before turning and fighting Trevelyan. The two end up on the antenna platform, five hundred feet above the dish, and Bond kicks Trevelyan off the side of the platform, but grabs him by the foot and after a brief and personal exchange, Bond lets go of Trevelyan and he falls to the bottom of the pool. The cradle blows up and kills Trevelyan and Grishenko. Meanwhile, Simonova commandeers a helicopter and flees with Bond, and the couple is then rescued by Wade and a team of Marines.