I’m not listing No Time to Die. Fuck that movie and the people who made it. It killed the Bond franchise. People can say what they want about how well-made it is objectively speaking, with the acting, action scenes, whatever else. But it did things that shouldn’t be done in the 007 franchise. And considering what certain 007 films have done up to this point, that’s saying a lot. As far as I’m concerned, the franchise went out with a whimper with that Spectre film, which I’ll get to on this list.
But anyway, here’s my list of Bond films ranked from worst to best. And by “worst to best,” I mean those I find the least entertaining to the most entertaining. As far as I’m concerned, there are only 25 007 films in existence. And yes, that does include Never Say Never Again. It’s a nice rounded number that doesn’t need to be fucked with at this point. I’m currently ignoring the existence of any other 007 films not listed here.
#25 Quantum of Solace (2008)
Complete garbage. It’s not bad enough that the action scenes are shot worse than On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (which I didn’t think was possible); seriously, the shaky-cam and quick-cuts are unbearable. It’s not bad enough that this is just a poorly disguised effort intended to jab at corrupt oil companies, a trite trend at that point (and The World is Not Enough did it better). But what makes this one of the, if not the, worst Bond films out there is that this primarily exists just to setup for for a series of sequels, as it’s all about building up the threat of SPECTRE. The first Bond film Dr. No did a far more adequate job of doing that, mainly just by being a more self-contained stand-alone feature. Hell, virtually every other Bond film ever made outside of this one, even Casino Royale, succeed in standing on their own. Well ok, maybe not Skyfall and Spectre, but I’ll get to those later.
#24 Die Another Day (2002)
You know… even when the Bond flicks were at their most ridiculous, they at least still had practical stunts. This film though, unabashedly and shamelessly uses CG for a good portion of the action sequences during the second half of the film’s running time, the most obvious moment being when James Bond goes surfing. The first half of this film honestly isn’t half bad. Plenty of decent action scenes, with a return to form for Brosnan’s character being a one-man army (not exactly a compliment). But then it all starts to fall apart. It just becomes so typical of an action film, taking the lazy way out with various editing choices, how the action sequences are done, and so on. Plus it has what I consider to be the worst opening song to a Bond film to this day. It’s a bit on the irritating side.
#23 Spectre (2015)
This frustrates me. I really wanted to like this more than Skyfall. If it wasn’t for certain plot elements and call-backs to prior classic Bond flicks that ultimately make this film more of a glorified reboot than a sequel (and here I thought Skyfall was basically the reboot), I would enjoy this more than Skyfall. It has some fun action sequences, particularly the opening sequence, with a nice long take.
But… Goddamnit. It fucking brings back Blofeld. This fucking movie has the balls to act like a sequel in the entire franchise, yet ruins the continuity by having this Blofeld character, with the screwed up eye and everything to make him seem like he’s going to be the same character from You Only Live Twice (matched with Diamonds are Forever). Why not give him a neck brace while you’re at it? That alone infuriates me, nevermind the plot twist involving his character to try and pathetically tie all the previous Craig 007 films together in a nice tidy little package. The only reason I don’t rate this as the lowest Daniel Craig Bond film on this list is because it at least gets the action sequences right. But it sure does try to fuck up everything else (though not as badly as another film whose existence I’m trying to ignore).
Plus some have said this has the worst opening song and title sequence ever done in 007 franchise history, so it has that going for it too.
Wow moment: the opening sequence.
#22 Skyfall (2012)
I dislike this film more than I probably should. My main issue with this is that it’s all about M, and retiring Judi Dench from the role. This is the first time in 007 franchise history that a character is given a highlighted sendoff due to the actor/actress wanting to retire from the role (or dying in real life). I really hated that, because it’s completely unwarranted considering no one else prior to this film had anything remotely close to the type of sendoff she got. This entire film exists for this sole purpose. The privileges of modern feminism.
It’s also stupid with how it makes the villain a threat. Not just a hacker who can hack anything (which really makes the rest of the world seem incompetent, including MI6), but also making others morons in order to keep him threatening. Because they thought it would be perfectly safe to plug a hacker’s USB stick into the mainframe of MI6, while connected to their router and LAN, their internal servers/networks. How stupid are these people? They shouldn’t be this dumb! Then again, this is probably what they get for going all diversity hire with a black Moneypenny, and a beta Q. MI6 ain’t what it used to be.
It’s also far-fetched beyond belief that Bond not only survives the shot and fall at the beginning of the movie, but also that he would be sent on an assignment in the condition that he was in afterwards. It’s completely ridiculous, it makes no sense, and the film acknowledging how ridiculous it is doesn’t make it any better. It only doubles down on the unintentional idea that MI6 is being run by incompetent buffoons. Which really boosts confidence in the merits of the new MI6 replacements that this franchise restructuring of a film is doing (let alone Judi Dench’s M character, pretty much making Pierce Brosnan’s Bond’s worries about M’s replacement in Goldeneye entirely justified at this point; pre-Goldeneye M never would’ve let this shit happen).
What really bothered me though is the finale. Because of the piss-poor tactics the villain displays with attacking this house in the middle of nowhere. Look, unless Bond was going to utilize an EMP to level the playing field, I’m not buying that he can take on an army like this. It tried to be all about how low-tech can defeat high-tech, and all I could think of doing is calling shenanigans on the villains being dumb to give the protagonists a chance. I suppose you could claim this evens things out with MI6 being dumb earlier, to which I would claim, “No, that just makes the whole film even more dumb.” Plus these Daniel Craig flicks take themselves too seriously to allow for a, “screw the logic and just have fun,” tone that the Connery and Moore films had. So when the film does unironically (and seemingly unknowingly) have a “screw the logic” moment, it just come off as less fun and more stupid.
#21 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
A rather odd entry between You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever (both of which star Sean Connery). The only film with George Lazenby as Bond. From what I’ve heard, this portrayal of Bond is the most faithful to the source material. As much as I respect a film for doing this, and allowing fans of the novels to have something more tailored towards them, I have problems with this movie. I mean, Bond is kind of a wimp. I don’t mean in terms of character, with how he acts around others, his personality, etc. I mean in fighting skills. This is one of the most non-lethal Bonds out there, who just can’t ever seem to kill anyone easily. He’s also not a great shot. The only time he showcases some form of badassery is during the finale when he leads an assault on the base; which to this film’s credit, puts to use that classic 007 theme song in such a way that has yet to be topped (and probably never will). The timing and use of that song for that finale is perfection. Easily the highlight of the movie next to the ski sequence (the latter of which used too much green screen for my liking).
But the film’s Achilles Heel is the action sequences. Aside from the shootout during the finale, and aside from the stuntwork done for the ski chase, the action sequences are poorly done. Quick cuts combined with consistent speeding-up the footage. This is a far cry from that fight on the train in From Russia With Love. The action sequences nearly ruin the entire movie for me. A sure sign this film needed a second director, if not an entirely different one altogether. I mean, I suppose a first time director could do far worse than this, but this is a James Bond film we’re talking about here. A franchise firmly established at this point.
But thanks to everything else in the movie (plot, acting, pacing, music, sets), it does enough to elevate itself into being a memorable Bond flick in spite of the poor action/chase sequences (in spite of the merits of the ski chase and the finale shootout). It’s also nice to have Bond participate in an assault with other soldiers rather than just be a one-man army. Plus, that ending is a real tear-jerker. It has more balls than Casino Royale in that regard (though the music that played over the end credits kinda ruins the mood). I really wish this film turned out better than it did, because it had the potential to be the best Bond flick.
Wow moment: the ski chase; the assault on the base on the mountain peak.
#20 Moonraker (1979)
Oh God. The movie where Bond goes into space. With a plot about a guy who wants to wipe out the human race on Earth, then repopulate Earth with the people who chose to be on the space station. You know, a sort of master race thing, with the stereotypical trope of them being the type of people you would expect. To be honest, I felt bad for them when things started going wrong and they started getting killed. But on the other hand, when the fate of the rest of the world is at stake… But on the other hand, the villains had to become rather incompetent to allow Bond to foil their plans. This is one of those 007 movies where the villains have to be made very stupid in order for Bond to succeed.
It’s one of the goofiest Bond films yet (if not ever). Granted, the skydiving sequence at the start of the film is spectacular. And there’s some decent action and stunts here and there. Plus Jaws shows up again, Mr. Indestructable from Moore’s prior film The Spy Who Loved Me. And speaking of love, I love how the child audience (which this franchise had) loved the Jaws character so much, that they convinced the film creators to not only bring Jaws back, but make him into a good guy by the end.
Anyway, this film has a bunch of laser fighting in it.
Wow moment: the skydiving sequence at the beginning.
#19 For Your Eyes Only (1981)
I wanted to like this movie more than I did. But the pacing meanders a bit from time to time. The movie is filled to the brim with fantastic stunts. The villains are as incompetent as ever (on-par with Moonraker). Seemed like they wanted to do a sort of remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, minus the plot about making the world infertile. In fact, references to that movie aren’t uncalled for, considering the film opens with a sequence that shows direct continuity with that film (which showcases the best and worst aspects of the movie; great stunts, moronic villains). The only reason I enjoy this film is because of the stuntwork (it bears repeating), which is this film’s only saving grace in my opinion. Plus I fucking hate that 007 wouldn’t have sex with that blonde skater; almost as much as I hated her character.
Wow moment: the ski chase, where Moore looks more convincing than he did in The Spy Who Loved Me.
#18 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
If there’s a Bond film in existence that can make the case that there is such a thing as too much action, it would be this one.
On the one hand, this has one of the most relevant plots out there. About a news corporation that’s basically a metaphor for Rockefeller run amok, which causes events to happen, reports the news on them before anyone else can, and gets rich off of it while influencing governments internationally. And here people say films weren’t ever made showing how news corporations can be villains. The kudos the film gets for the plot elevates it above the prior listed Bond flicks.
On the other hand, it has the same sort of bullshit that irritated me in Goldeneye, in that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is immune to bullets (I mean, they don’t even try to hide it when he’s the star of the show), and practically a one-man army able to decimate a villain’s well-guarded stronghold with the assistance of a woman sidekick (the Bond girl, if you will). I mean, fuck, at least the older Bonds had stuff like this be a coordinated assault with other agents, if not a small military force. But apparently having an OP Chinese chick who shoots better than he does would have to (over)compensate. It’s at least more believable than the Bond Girl from Goldeneye, albeit irritating for different reasons. Still though, the evidence that major studio films were catering to China even back then…
The thing is though, I had a difficult time getting fully invested in this movie. And I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s because I finally got jaded enough with the idea that Bond will always succeed, and that the franchise appears jaded as well about 007 always succeeding so they don’t even bother trying to hide the plot armor at this point. Or if I was just too out of it when I rewatched this film. I don’t know, a part of me thinks I should be enjoying this more than I currently do.
Wow moment: the motorcycle flying over, and then sliding under, the helicopter.
#17 A View To A Kill (1985)
At this point Moore seems a little too giddy and playing things for laughs. Just his face expressions and mannerisms, the kind he makes when he knows he’s just made a joke, while prior films of his had a handful of moments where he did that, this movie dials that up to 11. Not that I really cared all that much, because that pretty much sets the tone for the movie. As in it’s not to be taken all that seriously. Just shutup and enjoy the actions, the stunts, and the humor. And Christopher Walken, who manages to be a memorable villain. He has an intriguing backstory behind him that’s much different from any I’ve ever seen. A holocaust survivor born from nazi scientist experiments with the side-effects of being a power hungry psychopath (so something borderline Boys From Brazil). This franchise hasn’t had one of those since The Man With the Golden Gun, 4 movies ago.
This is a “business as usual” Bond flick, with the typical dumb villains and implausible escapes Bond manages to pull off, this time without using any Q gadgets (much to my surprise). Hell, we don’t even get a Bond vehicle with any special gadgetry. Guess they still wanted something more on the grounded side like in For Your Eyes Only, but this is too larger than life to succeed at that. But it does have a quaint plot about wanting to capitalize on the microchip market by destroying Silicon Valley (in this day and age, while that valley isn’t as much of a leading force in microchip production as it used to be, I can sympathize with that plot, especially when one utilizes natural forces to do it, which will just be dandy for all those green peace lovers).
Wow moment: the chase from the Eiffel Tower to the ship, and the fight at the Golden Gate Bridge.
#16 Goldeneye (1995)
I want to like this movie more than I currently do. It nails the grittiness that a few prior Bond films were going for (For Your Eyes Only, License to Kill). It has solid effects, terrific stunts, a solid plot, terrific pacing, good casting (though I’m not a fan of Natalya), and a great villain (played by Sean Bean, who could’ve been the next 007). Plus it had a nice sequence where 007 and 006 face off mono-e-mono in hand to hand combat, with an agent fighting another agent, that made the film live up to some of its potential for having two 00 agents fight against one another and match wits and skill.
But unfortunately, this film does a few things that irritate me. For one, of all the Bond films made up to this point in time (1995), this one requires the most suspension of disbelief. I know Moonraker has the dumb space thing (and the way Bond screws up the villains plans could’ve only been done due to their incompetence), but even taking that into account I still found this requiring a greater suspension of disbelief. Just that Bond is immune to bullets, can get out of situations that shouldn’t be possible because these villains are supposed to be smart (especially when one is an ex-MI6 agent), and can somehow infiltrate and destroy an entire base that’s armed to the teeth with military personnel by himself with assistance from a female hacker. In prior Bond films, to pull off something like that, at least he teamed up with a military group to pull off such an infiltration/assault (see For Your Eyes Only, Diamonds are Forever, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, Thunderball, Never Say Never Again). Hell, it’s even implied they could’ve gone this route with the Americans being nearby and waiting for 007’s call, but apparently the film wants to build him up to be a one-man army. It’s ridiculous, and at odds with the film’s more serious feel. Say what you will about Moonraker, but at least it went along with the film’s overall goofiness.
And I’d also have less of a problem with Judi Dench as M if the film didn’t rub the pro-feminism stance in your face. We get it, she’s a woman who is capable of having this leadership role and doing it well. You don’t have to admonish Bond, and hence the viewer, for allegedly thinking otherwise. If this trend and role replacement had as much faith about women in such roles as it lets on, they wouldn’t need to rub the viewer’s face in it. She has enough charisma and a commanding aura in her role to pull it off just fine without all that. An unfortunate sign of things to come in the film industry in general. Thankfully, I believe this element of “rubbing your face” in female empowerment went away from the franchise until Skyfall.
Wow moment: Diving off the dam, and the tank drive through Russia.
#15 The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
While I enjoy this film, it’s difficult to come up with things to say about it. It has Christopher Lee as the villain, which is a plus. It has a more low-key plot about Bond going after someone attempting to kill him (sort of) rather than saving a country, or the world, from SPECTRE or some criminal organization. Though they do shoehorn in this solar power plot to attempt to raise the stakes a bit (just to have an excuse for blowing up a base and island); but it did result in some fun moments with Q admiring and theorizing about that technology, while M is telling him to shut-up. Plus that redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die makes another appearance, and he’s entertaining. But the Bond Girl… she’s one of the weaker ones in the franchise.
Wow moment: the mid-air car rotation and landing.
#14 Thunderball (1965)
This movie doesn’t hold up as well as I hoped it would. It partly has to do with the franchise just going full-blast into cartoon goofiness with the tone. Just the gadgets that were used in the pre-title sequence; that alone let’s you know you can’t take things seriously anymore. To be honest, I didn’t have too much of a problem with that. The main problem was that the film got rather dull during the 2nd act. In spite of some chase scenes, and a couple deaths, and some sharks, the film lost focus for me there. It started to drag. Plus it has one of the most forgettable villains in 007 history next to Quantum of Solace (and that shouldn’t be possible, considering he wears a patch over his eye; maybe if he acted more like a stereotypical pirate or something).
However, once the finale arrives with an epic underwater battle that amazes to this day, all is forgiven. The film is worth watching just for that sequence alone. It puts most other action sequences to shame.
Plus this is what I consider to be the first Bond film to set the standard for 007 title sequences, visually-speaking. The only downside to it is the song, which I found underwhelming compared to the visuals (and especially when stacked up against Goldfinger, and Diamonds are Forever). Kinda wish they went with the original music choice, even if it didn’t have the title’s name in the lyrics.
This is also the Bond film that I consider to be the one that emphasized stuntwork. As in having that one (or two, or three) moment that amazes because of the stunt that was done. In this case, it’s the underwater battle (and to a lesser extent, the rocket pack flight). I believe every other film after this one tried to have at least one “wow” moment.
Wow moment: the underwater battle.
#13 The Living Daylights (1987)
This was a damn fun 007 flick for a while. And personally, I think Timothy Dalton is underrated as Bond. However, while I do try to suspend my disbelief with these flicks (it’s actually progressively easier to do that if you watch them in chronological order), that finale got to be too much. This film had an interesting element going for it, going through the highlights of the Middle East making profit off of selling drugs and buying weapons (from private foreign entities in Russia and the U.S.). Kind of refreshing to see a movie have that as plot points. But when the Afghan resistance teams up with him and starts shooting up and bombing the, uh, enemy faction, it’s ridiculously one-sided. Despite that, Dalton was a breathe of fresh air, taking Moore’s place. Plus I preferred this grittier take on Bond that worked better than For Your Eyes Only did.
Wow moment: the fight on the cargo plane.
#12 The World is Not Enough (1999)
This is not a popular opinion, but I don’t care. This is my favorite of the Pierce Brosnan 007 films.
But why? It doesn’t have any outstanding action sequences or set-pieces, and thus no “wow moment” like just about every other one does ever since Thunderball (or arguably From Russia with Love). It doesn’t seem to be particularly ambitious. By all accounts, it’s a middle of the road B action movie. Sure it has emphasis on characters and relationships more than anything else, certainly more-so than any other Bond flick up to this point (with the possible exception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; though some Daniel Craig flicks would certainly utilize characters and relationships in their own way later on in the franchise). But it’s not exactly stuff that would make it all that memorable compared to the others. Including the two previously released Brosnan 007 films.
So why do I enjoy this as much as I do? Simple. Because there were nowhere near as many of those outrageous death-defying one-man-army deus-ex-machina moments that made me yell out, “Bullshit!” in this film as there were in just about every other Bond film leading up to this one, let alone the last 2 Pierce Brosnan flicks. And I argue this is the last true-to-form Bond film ever made, where Bond can be a badass, where the feminism doesn’t interfere (let alone overpower) the masculinity like it’s been doing to varying degrees lately (M actually needed saving and wasn’t as high up on her high horse as she was in Goldeneye, Elektra kept her intimidation within the boundaries of actual character and plot rather than blunt feminism, and Christmas Jones is probably the last old-fashioned Bond Girl the franchise is ever going to get).
Plus despite how terrible of an actress Denise Richards is compared to everyone else in this movie, I can’t help but like her. She’s too hot not to like. Even if no one is buying that she’s a nuclear physicist.
That being said, while it may not have any action sequence that can be considered outstanding, it did have a fun boat chase at the beginning, and that moment where a submarine goes verticle.
#11 License to Kill (1989)
Pity that this would be Dalton’s last Bond film. This is probably the most grounded of the Bond flicks since From Russia With Love (though I find it questionable how Bond was able to basically destroy the drug factory near the finale). And there isn’t a storyline that’s one of those “global threat” type of plots. Not even as a “throw it in there at the last minute” deal like what The Man with the Golden Gun did. It’s basically Bond taking on a big drug cartel from central America, purely for vengeance after what they did to Felix (the CIA character who has shown up about as often as Q up to this point in the 007 franchise). But Bond’s visceral attitude makes him go rogue, and he acts against the wishes of MI6. This is a big shift in attitude from all prior Bond films, and it works here. It’s also refreshing to show that Bond is vulnerable, often thinking he can take on the entire cartel, but often finds that he does need help. Plus it’s rather fun to see Q given a bigger role than normal in this film. While Bond is given gadgets, they’re more down-to-Earth than you would expect from, well, just about anything between Goldfinger and A View to a Kill. Really is a pity this didn’t do THAT well in theaters (being pitted against Tim Burton’s Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, among others), because it deserved better. Dalton deserved better. Wish he was in the Bond flick that came after this one (6 years later).
Wow moment: when the 18-wheeler does a side-wheelie.
#10 Octopussy (1983)
I found this to be more entertaining than For Your Eyes Only. For Your Eyes Only wanted to be grounded in reality, while still allowing Bond to get out of situations he probably shouldn’t been allowed to get out of; while somehow sucking the fun out of a 007 by not going as much for spectacle as the prior entries, and having a plot that ended up not being all that interesting. This movie, on the other hand… Isn’t the title enough of an indication that this is returning to the state of not giving a shit goofiness?
This is one of the more fun Moore films, returning more to the “shut your brain off and be entertained” mode, while having enough practical stunts to make the whole thing rewarding. The film is ridiculous (not as much as Moonraker though), but it has some solid action sequences. From running on the train (where a stuntman nearly lost his life), to fighting on top of a flying aircraft (this is on-par with the plane takeoff sequence from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation), and fun times in India. This has everything one would want in a dumb fun 007 movie. Including the title.
Wow moment: fighting on top of the flying plane.
#9 You Only Live Twice (1967)
I wouldn’t appreciate this film as much as I currently do if not for watching a behind the scenes documentary listed on the Special Edition DVD. I’m amazed at the hell everyone went through to get this film made.
First you have to acknowledge the achievement of that set for Blofeld’s base where he keeps the space rockets. Because this set is massive. Then there’s the fact that the director almost died in pre-production by just missing getting on an airplane in Tokyo, Japan that would later crash (over 70 people died, and this happened soon after a prior recent plane crash happened at Tokyo). Plus a Japanese actress who threatened to commit suicide if she didn’t get a role in this movie. The stuntman who nearly burned to death during that sequence where a rocket blows up a vehicle. The cameraman who got his leg sliced off while filming the helicopter attack sequence. And the stuntman who broke both his ankles when roping down into Blofeld’s base.
I mean, Jesus suffering Christ, I think the behind-the-scenes story for this movie is on-par with the entertainment the film itself provides, if not more-so. It made me ashamed of myself, for me to have thought this film was just mediocre; not appreciating how difficult it is to make something like this, to get the action scenes that are provided. Just knowing what many went through to make this, and giving it another look to see how entertaining it can be, boosted this film’s rank for me. Even if I found it strange (and in hindsight, completely pointless) to try to make 007 look Japanese at one point (with makeup and doing something with his eyes and stuff); I still find it hilarious because of how anti-PC that is; but it’s still pointless, given it never really does anything for the plot or for any events that follow.
Oh, and don’t make the mistake I did of watching this before watching Diamonds are Forever. Otherwise you might flip out when a certain face shows up a little before the halfway point. A very strange case of the same actor showing up playing a completely different role.
Wow moment: the assault on Blofeld’s base.
#8 Diamonds are Forever (1971)
This is an odd one for me. It’s one of the few 007 flicks where the viewer (and Bond himself) is mostly kept in the dark on what he’s supposed to be doing, and what he’s supposed to be discovering, what plot he should be uncovering, for a respectable duration of the runtime. Plus I’m a little angry at the censors toning down the death of that guy who got killed by the scorpion (it was originally shot for those 2 gay hitmen/agents to shove the scorpion down the guys throat, as opposed to dropping it beneath his shirt). On the other hand, this film seriously pushed the boundaries of how much skin they could get away with. Quick split-second moments of female nudity where you can see their nipples, even during the title sequence. Bravo with pushing the PG boundaries movie.
It’s difficult to describe why I like this movie so much compared to the others. I think it’s a combination of all the little things, and several big things, that make it a good concoction for me to consume. A shot at the fake moon landing theory, actual gay villains, an American so cowboy stereotyped that I get a chuckle out of it, a fun enough finale, an interesting combination of seriousness and goofiness, Connery dialing up his one-liners another notch. It just has a strange subtle aura about it that intrigues me.
Oh, and it helps if On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is still fresh in your head when you start off with this film. Gives more insight into why Bond is going after Blofeld early on in the pre-title sequence. Even if this messes with the future continuity to be had in For Your Eyes Only.
Wow moment: the assault on the rig; the car driving sideways.
#7 Never Say Never Again (1983)
While On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is considered the black sheep of the franchise, I’d say this is the other black sheep. Mainly because this isn’t an MGM produced film, or an Albert R. Broccoli produced 007 film. Orion Pictures convinced Sean Connery to do a 007 movie, then a legal battle happened between them and MGM, and eventually it was settled that they could do a James Bond flick on the condition that they don’t utilize the iconic introduction bit (where a 00 agent shoots at the gun-camera), and do a glorified remake of a prior 007 film. In this case, they ended up remaking Thunderball. But while it is technically a remake, it does so much different that it stands firmly apart. I mean, there isn’t an epic underwater battle between two groups, and he doesn’t really even use the same gadgets Q gave him from Thunderball (though he does get a laser watch, before that was done in Goldeneye). In fact, none of the actors in this film, apart from Sean Connery, have showed up in any prior Bond film. Hell, even Felix, a white American CIA agent, is recast as a black guy (and I honestly didn’t mind, mainly because this was a one time only deal). Plus it’s strange seeing Blofeld back again, after getting killed off in prior Bond films, twice (you know what they say, you only live twice).
But if you can put all that aside, in spite of Connery’s age (even though he’s younger than Roger Moore), I found this to not only be a solid Bond flick, but one that is superior to the film it’s a remake of. Now don’t get me wrong, there aren’t any action sequences as spectacular as the underwater battle in Thunderball. In fact, there aren’t any action sequences I would consider to be outstanding (so no “wow moment” for this movie). But what action that does happen is solid enough. And the plot is far more engaging than the original Thunderball movie. And Connery shows that he still has it, even if just for one more movie that ends on a 4th wall breaking wink to the viewers.
Plus I admire this movie for accomplishing what For Your Eyes Only tried to do. Make a more grounded yet still highly entertaining Bond movie. Again, while there aren’t any spectacular stunts on-par with the prior MGM movies (including FYEO), this movie shows that a 007 flick doesn’t need the spectacular stunts to be a good one. Though I’ll admit that they are missed, and this should be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to 007 flicks having one or two fantastic action sequences everyone will be talking about when the film is over (like any Mission Impossible movie Tom Cruise did after the 3rd one). Although this film did have two scenes that I’ll be remembering after the credits roll. The video game sequence, and when the femme fatale gets blown up.
However, while this film does succeed better at being an entertaining grounded Bond film, it has a couple moments where it seems to fall back onto goofy territory. Particularly near the finale when Bond and Felix are launched out of a submarine in these torpedoes that shoot up in the air and turn into flying capsules that they land on an island. My brain needed a couple extra seconds to process what I was seeing when that happened. So this film couldn’t quite stay grounded. But it did stay fun.
Amusing moment: the video game battle.
#6 Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore’s first entry into the Bond franchise proves to be one of his best. And to be honest, it’s probably the only one where he doesn’t look too old. The tension and action is practically nonstop with this movie, that’s a play on the blacksploitation film genre that had emerged during this time period. A negro organization with ties to voodoo cults, very well organized and coordinated, with unique traps setup everywhere, and ambitions for the drug trade. This is one of the very few movies in existence where the black guys are the villains, and get killed off by a lone white guy. I have to give this film kudos for that just on principle. Even during that time period (let alone afterwards) that was an extreme rarity, where the trend tends to put things the other way around, racially-speaking.
I was fine with this film for the most part on an initial watch, up until Bond’s escape attempt from alligator/crocodile island. Him just hopping across the alligators to escape danger, made me roll my eyes at it. However, seeing the behind the scenes footage, and seeing that they actually had a stunt guy actually run across 3 live gators (granted, they were tied in place so they couldn’t swim out of position, but they could still swing their heads around to snap at him), that made me gain respect for that sequence.
Plus those stunts with the bus, and that boat chase, and the way the main villain gets killed off (absolutely hilarious; the sharks were a red herring). This film is so much fun. It’s a pity Moore would only do one other Bond flick that came close to being as entertaining as this one, in my personal opinion.
Wow moment: running on crocodiles.
#5 From Russia with Love (1963)
To be honest, this is probably an objectively better film than Dr. No. But I find Dr. No more entertaining overall. That being said, this is a consistently solid film overall, with a gritty atmosphere, terrific pacing, great fights, and great stunts. Robert Shaw plays a great memorable, yet understated, villain. Plus Q is finally introduced into the series, and we get our first instance of 007 gadgetry that is to be utilized for getting him out of difficult situations. Amazingly enough, this trope of deus ex gadget machina wouldn’t be utilized as heavily as I expected it to be until the start of the Moore era.
#4 Dr. No (1962)
The main villain in this movie is highly underrated. He doesn’t appear for any significant amount of time. But when he does appear, and when he actually speaks face to face with Bond, he has such a great intimidating presence. A part of me wishes he had more to do, but that might’ve taken away a bit of what makes him so great. Not everything is explained about him, how his hands got to be the way they are, the entirety of his history. But enough hints are given to make him an intriguing figure.
The villain aside, this is a very solid first entry, and introduction to James Bond, let alone Sean Connery as (Bond,) James Bond. This was also made prior to when the franchise would emphasize having at least one major stunt in the movie.
#3 Casino Royale (2006)
I’m amazed this film turned out as great as it did. In essence, it’s less of a reboot and more of a continuation, showcasing that a new 007 (also named James Bond, which is fishy) comes to take the place of the last one who was retired or killed. I’m not a big fan of that. I’d rather this franchise just have a new 007 with the name of James Bond just show up, and leave it to the audience to make of it what they will, otherwise this raises some strange continuity questions and in-universe logic.
It did remind me of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in that Bond gets a legitimate love interest, who he doesn’t manage to keep alive by the end of the film, and it breaks him a bit. But it does the job better than OHMSS, mainly because it’s a better all-around film. Action scenes are done far better (not that OHMSS set a very high bar, finale aside). The action is a bit less over the top and goofy compared to the majority of other Bond flicks. A nice gambling story that acts as a sort of callback to Bond’s first introduction in Dr. No, and other brief casino moments in prior Bond flicks. A good romantic relationship develops. Solid twists and turns. And a good setup to an alternate take on the franchise in a similar vein as Goldeneye. Just too bad the sequels really botched everything up (in my personal opinion).
I also found it amusing, in a good way, to hear Bond’s response to the question of wanting his martini shaken or stirred. The response worked very well in that context.
Wow moment: parkour chase; the finale with the sinking building and elevator.
#2 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
While Live and Let Die certainly gives this film a run for its money, this is what I consider to be Roger Moore’s best Bond film, that easily stands among the top 5 007 films ever made. While the main villain himself is forgettable, his lackey agent Jaws makes up for it by being on of the more memorable bad guys Bond has to face off against frequently. A comically indestructible giant with steel teeth. The title sequence and song are good. And, like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there’s a great finale where Bond teams up with a small army to take out the bad guys.
The main element that makes this film work is the chemistry between Bond and the Bond girl, who is a Russian agent, who is very sly and capable herself (but not so capable that she can’t be a damsel in distress). Their relationship and dialogue exchanges elevate this movie from being just another sexy action/adventure/thriller Bond flick. It injects a more personal touch to it that’s the best since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (though, in hindsight, the relationship never gets THAT serious, though his past marriage is briefly mentioned, which is also a nice moment). Arguably the best Bond girl in the franchise.
Wow moment: some would say that moment he skis off the cliff and opens the parachute, but I’d rather go with the escape/assault within the big ship.
#1 Goldfinger (1964)
I know, this is such a typical choice. But I can’t help it, this is such a fun film. The one that set the standard formula for which virtually all other Bond films made after this one would follow (except for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but that’s another story). The only real issue I have with the film is the opening pre-title sequence. It just seemed overall unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, even if it’s still a little fun. Other than that, it’s great seeing Bond and Goldfinger duke it out against each other.
This film severely alters how flicks like this tend to proceed. Rather than introduce Goldfinger as a menacing intimidating figure, it starts with Bond duping his fixed card game plans and costing him money, showing that this villain is far from foolproof with is plans, and is vulnerable. I can’t think of very many films that dare to utilize this method. But then Goldfinger strikes back with that famous gold-painted woman bit. And then Bond strikes back with the golf game. And back and forth they go (including that other famous moment where the laser beam threatens to castrate 007).
I also find it fascinating that this does something most other Bond films don’t do. Bond is outwitted multiple times, and his gadget tricks don’t work as often as he would like for getting him out of trouble. This was a conscious decision by the filmmakers who wanted to change things up from the last couple films where Bond was mostly in control of the situations he was in. Very refreshing stuff that sets it apart from pretty much every other Bond flick made up until Casino Royale (2006).
Plus, let’s face it. In what other film are you going to get a woman who announces her actual name as Pussy Galore. That’s got to be one of the greatest moments in cinema history, let alone a 007 film.
And just for the hell of it, a bonus list:
Top 10 (or so) memorable villains:
#10 Le Chiffre – Casino Royale
#9 Max Zorin – A View to a Kill
#8 Donald ‘Red’ Grant – From Russia with Love
#7 Silva – Skyfall
#6 Kananga (aka Mr. Big) – Live and Let Die
#5 Alec Trevelyan + Xenia Onatopp – Goldeneye
#4 Jaws – The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker
#3 Blofeld – You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever
#2 Dr. No – Dr. No
#1 Goldfinger – Goldfinger