So I’ve been rather excited about seeing ‘Skyfall’ recently, and indeed did on Friday (review coming soon).
I’ve watched all the Bond films countless times and since 1999, I’ve prepared for the arrival of a new Bond film by watching all the previous films in order in the weeks prior to it. I’d love to be able to do a full re-watch and review each film in detail, but unfortunately I’m without copies of the films in my current location so won’t be partaking this year. However I did think it might be fun to try and rank them all. I haven’t seen any in over 4 years now so I’m working entirely from memory. Goodness knows if I was watching them all again now I might have different things to say.
22. Die Another Day
Out of all the Bonds, this is the only one I would call a flat-out bad movie. A return to the excessive silliness of Roger Moore’s weakest films as Bond surfs massive waves, escapes from dodgy CGI explosions and drives an invisible car through a giant ice palace. Add to this Madonna’s utterly awful theme song (and cameo), an unmemorable villain and a fairly rubbish Halle Berry as a female agent meant to be Bond’s ‘equal’ (a feat they accomplished more successfully two films prior). It’s no surprise that the producers opted to drop Brosnan and take a whole new direction following this mess.
21. A View to a Kill
By his seventh outing, Roger Moore was so far past too old to be Bond it wasn’t even funny. Plus Stacey ‘Oh James!’ Sutton is quite simply the worst Bond girl ever, who is totally unconvincing as a geologist and is basically just a useless damsel in distress (not to mention far too young for Roger Moore). It can’t be all bad though as it has Christopher Walken as the main villain, a product of Nazi experimentation no less.
An ageing Roger Moore heads to India for his penultimate adventure. It starts of well (with an especially chilling sequence involving knife throwing killers) but by the end has Bond parading around in a clown suit.
19. Diamonds are Forever
Sean Connery’s return to the role that made his name was short lived, and unfortunately his weakest Bond-canon film, as more ridiculous elements (desert moon buggy) were added in as Bond yet again took on Blofeld, now confusingly played by an actor who’d played one of Bond’s allies in You Only Live Twice. Gay couple killers Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are an entertaining addition but the girl and new Blofeld aren’t, and Connery is probably just there for the money.
The much derided Mooraker is certainly the most ridiculous entry in the series, with villain Hugo Drax’s utterly preposterous scheme ending up with Bond in space shooting laser guns and saving the majority of the human species from extermination. It is not without its charms though, it boasts some lovely locations and the first two-thirds of the film are fairly solid (minus the dreaded hover-gondola).
17. Quantum of Solace
I feel a little inappropriate including this film as I’ve seen all the others many times but this only once. That does say a lot though, that I had so little interest in re-watching it. A disappointing and probably rushed follow up that needed more thought.
16. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s first appearance as 007 has proved enduringly popular, but is not one of the series better entries. It does boast a memorable setting and some good action, but veers close to supernatural territory at times and does feature Sherriff J.W. Pepper, an awful comic relief redneck.
15. The World is Not Enough
Bronsan’s third appearance tried for a more complex plot yet still packed in an excellent opening action sequence. Unfortunately that proved the highlight and the presence of Denise Richards’ 20-something, hot pants sporting nuclear physicist undermines any real attempts at seriousness with the nuclear weapons plot.
Sean Connery’s winning streak had dulled a little by film number four, the aquatic adventure ‘Thunderball’. Not as essential as his other 1960s films but still good entertainment, and notable as the highest earner in the series, adjusted for inflation this grossed around one billion dollars in today’s money.
13. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
History has been kind to George Lazenby’s sole appearance as 007, with opinion of it seemingly getting better each passing year. It does have a lot to recommend to be sure, a strong plot and villain, the ski chase, a genuine romance and that heart-breaking ending. Unfortunately, none of this can excuse the main problem, which is non-actor Lazenby himself, he just doesn’t make a particularly good Bond, not to mention the several scenes when his voice is obviously dubbed, and when he breaks the fourth wall. Also when viewed in series order the film has a major continuity problem (Blofeld not recognizing Bond), stemming from production on it being initially postponed.
12. The Man with the Golden Gun
I’ve never really understood why this is so often cited as one of the weakest entries. It’s far from the best, but has many things going for it. Primarily Christopher Lee as undoubtedly one of the series best villains, plus his pint-sized henchman, and diabolical murder fun house to hunt is victims in. Mary Goodnight is rather annoying though, and why on earth they thought it would be a good idea to have Sheriff J.W. Pepper return is mystifying. Not only does him choosing to holiday in Thailand make little sense, but why would he then be buying a car there? His presence (and one horrible comedy sound effect) comes close to ruining one of the best car stunts on film.
After years of legal wrangling resulted in Timothy Dalton resigning the role, Pierce Brosnan took it on to modernize Bond for a post-cold war era. The result was undoubtedly successful in re-launching the series.
10. Tomorrow Never Dies
Brosnan’s second, and most fun, outing features a return of a gadget-laden car for a brilliant chase sequence. It also boasts one of the best Bond girls in the form of martial arts star Michelle Yeoh. Jonathan Pryce’s media mogul isn’t well liked by most fans but I’ve never had much of a problem with him, plus he gets one of my all-time favourite lines of Bond film dialogue (‘he’s my new anchorman!’) and a hilarious henchman (Dr Kaufman).
9. Dr. No
The one that started it all, it’s easy to call the original the best, but also a little sad to think that in 50 years of fairly consistent filmmaking it couldn’t be improved upon. It certainly set out the blueprint for what was to come and introduced an icon to the world, but I wouldn’t call it the quintessential Bond picture. It’s unlikely any Bond girl will get a scene as iconic as Ursula Andress’ introduction though.
8. The Spy Who Loved Me
The third time’s the charm for Roger Moore and this acclaimed adventure has all the elements for a classic Bond film, amazing stunts (the ski-jump), a megalomaniacal villain, an unstoppable henchman (Jaws), thrilling chases (the submarine car), grand sets and much more.
7. For Your Eyes Only
Post-Moonraker, it seemed Eon realised how absurd Bond had become and successfully brought him back down to earth for this excellent adventure in which Bond takes on a smuggling ring. The extended climbing sequence is one of the tensest in the series. It’s a toss-up between this and ‘The Spy Who Loved me’ for Roger Moore’s best film.
6. Casino Royale
Proving all the naysayers wrong, Daniel Craig absolutely nailed the role of 007 in his debut, which went so far as to completely reboot the series, while loyally adapting Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel to the present. A huge success all round.
5. Licence to Kill
Timothy Dalton’s second and sadly final outing as 007 saw a real attempt to do something new with the franchise. Bond, motivated by revenge, sets out alone to take down a brutal Latin American drug lord (also a fresh persona for a Bond villain). The girl isn’t particularly memorable, but still, like its predecessor, ‘The Living Daylights’, I feel this is an underrated entry in the canon.
This is the film that set the template most would follow, and introduced many iconic pop-culture touchstones. Widely regarded as the best, it’s certainly the quintessential entry. If you only see one Bond film, this is the one to see.
3. You Only Live Twice
I may think a little more fondly of YOLT as it was I think the first one I saw as a kid. It is a lot more fantastical than its predecessors with an outlandish but hugely entertaining script (by Roald Dahl) involving stolen spaceships. And this is when Bond finally meets his nemesis, Blofeld, the trend-setting super villain who does in fact operate from a hollowed out volcano base surrounded by a river of piranhas. I’d say it’s second to ‘Goldfinger’ in the ‘quintessential Bond movie’ stakes.
2. From Russia With Love
The quickly produced second instalment is certainly a strong contender for the top spot on anyone’s list. I could argue that it is the best ‘film’ in the Bond series, but I was in two minds as to singling it out as the best ‘Bond film’, in that it’s really quite different from most of them. For starters it’s mostly grounded in reality, lacking any cartoonish or gimmicky elements that most later episodes possess. But it is still clearly part of the series, and features two of its best villains. The climactic fight on the train between Connery and Robert Shaw is one of the toughest scenes of the series. An exemplary spy thriller.
1. The Living Daylights
For my money, Timothy Dalton is the best James Bond, and I’ve always had high praise for his films. This is a gritty, complex, cold-war era spy thriller marking a return to more realistic fare following the Roger Moore era, yet still retained many Bond trademarks. It has some great action, chases and stunt work (hanging out of the airplane) with thrilling espionage story, but doesn’t lose all the humour, (Bond does escape a country by sliding down a mountain in a cello case). It also has a whole film long romance, the best since OHMSS. With all the acclaim that surrounded the release of ‘Casino Royale’ years later, which essentially did a lot of the same things, it has been left seeming somewhat ahead of its time.