I can’t claim to be the biggest James Bond fan but I do love 007 and recently sat down to watch all of the films from the very beginning. Starting from Dr. No right up to the brilliant Skyfall, watching all the Bond films has been a great way to be reintroduced to MI6’s best 00 and watching Bond grow from the espionage films of the sixties to the great films we have today has been like watching film history through the eyes of one the cinema’s most enduring characters. So enjoy my take on all the Bond films during its 50 year run.
Note: This only contains the EON Bond films. If you’re favorites are the original Casino Royal or Never Say Never Again then your out of luck and really need to find better taste when it comes to movies.
I think this has to be Roger Moore’s lowest moment as Bond (as I write this I have A View to a Kill left to watch) as the camp and the boring 007 clichés make this one of the worst Bond pictures of all time. Nothing new and exciting here unless you want to watch Bond dress up as a gorilla or a clown and follow a story that doesn’t make much sense, 007 has never looked worse. Moore looks old and tired in the role and the action suffers for it. Octopussy is just about everything wrong with the Moore Bond era rolled up into one dreadful movie.
Note: After watching all the Bond films not only can I confirm its Moore’s lowest point during his stint as Bond but it is also the worst Bond film of them all (but not by much).
23. Die Another Day
After three fairly solid Bronson Bond films, Die Another Day wasn’t the film we deserved but the one we needed at the time*. It was so bad and so over the top that it ushered in the Bond films of the future. This is where the ridiculous Bond film hopefully went to die, as the film is just one big lesson on over indulgence. The technology, the action, and the overall story are so far from reality that the movie feels almost like a science fiction/fantasy film instead of a spy/espionage movie. Over the years Bond had been to space, jumped through the jungle like tarzan, and climbed the golden gate bridge, it was time for that sort of Bond to die and be resurrected with a more deadly, more faithful 007. Credit goes to Bronson who does what he can with what he is given and an opening that should have been used for a better film but Die Another Day is the film that needed to happen for the franchise to finally move in the right direction.
*Sorry, wrong franchise
I give a lot of slack to some of the other Roger Moore Bond films for having a lot of camp but even I cannot over look Moonraker. One of the campiest Bond films ever made saw the franchise try to take advantage of the Star Wars craze. The first hour is actually not that bad with a fairly interesting story and Venice being a lively locale. The second hour is where the film truly falls apart as the camp and the story just get more and more ridiculous. It’s still a Bond picture and even in space, Moore is still entertaining as 007.
21. A View to a Kill
The final Moore James Bond film is one that saw grandpa Bond go out with a whimper. Not particularly good or bad, A View to a Kill is a bland, repetitive, and confusing chapter in the 007 franchise. Moore is about two movies too old for the part and the overall plot doesn’t even attempt to stray away from the worn and tired Bond status quo. There are some thrilling scenes (the fire truck chase) and a villain (played by Christopher Walken) who is a breath of fresh air but at the end of the day the familiar just wasn’t good enough anymore.
20. The Man With The Golden Gun
Third nipple aside, Christopher Lee’s Mr. Scaramanga has to be one of the best Bond villains out there. He is an assassin like Bond, without the charm or moral standing. He is the other side of the coin for Bond in a movie that is plagued with all the bad that came with the Moore era. Humor and a lighter tone don’t do much to make this a worthy entry into the series but for some reason I don’t hate it. You can still see a lot of the Bond we love in this sloppy 007 adventure.
19. Diamonds are Forever
Sean Connery is back in his worst Bond film to date (of the EON cannon) with a fun, yet redundant Bond adventure. In sheer panic to bring back the old Bond, Diamonds are Forever almost overkills everything we love about 007. This is the first time I started to grow tired of Mr. Blofeld and SPECTRE, but Connery is back which is always a welcome sight and his presence keeps the film from collapsing on itself. It is a fun Bond picture for the most part but the gadgets and the overall story just become way too ridiculous and ultimately tiresome. But alas Connery, Las Vegas, and some patented Bond action makes Diamonds are Forever a semi worthy entry into the series.
Spectre is one half of a really good James Bond film and one half of an awful James Bond film. The first hour and a half is a solid follow up to the excellent Skyfall with an intriguing story shrouded in just the right amount of mystery. The action scenes disappoint but other than that, it is exactly what I wanted from a Craig Bond film. The first half contains some of the better comical moments in the franchise as well and one of the best openings to a Bond film yet but then we get to the 2nd half which falls apart when the story becomes clear. The revelations feel forced and uninteresting and the film contains one of the, for lack of a better word, stupid endings in the franchises history. Spectre is a mixed bag of a Bond film and a huge let down from the promise of Skyfall.
17. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s first Bond film is a silly little picture. Taking on the blaxploitation genre and everything you hate about the 1970s, Live and Let Die doesn’t feel like a good start to a new Bond. The film takes clichés and stereotypes to a whole new level and falls victim to the same flaws of the previous Bond movie (Diamonds are Forever). Yes, a lot of things to hate here but Roger Moore proves to be a charming and capable Bond and the movie possesses all the key story elements for a Bond picture. There are some great moments in Live and Let Die (the boat chase minus JW) and the voodoo and magical elements actually makes the film stick out in the Bond cannon. It might not be the best direction but it works with Roger Moore in the suit. Live and Let Die is a decent Bond flick with enough interesting moments and plot elements to keep it afloat.
16. The World is Not Enough
I really thought that this would be more towards the bottom of the list and sure, it isn’t one of the series best but Bronson’s third outing is a serviceable Bond film. The action is the real star this time around as the film is bursting at the seams with fast getaways and explosions of all sorts. Those sequences sort of wear on you during the course of the film as I laughed out loud at the water boat chase opening but in turn found myself actually enjoying the action set pieces towards the end of the film. Bronson can be unlikeable at times in The World is Not Enough as he sort of comes off as a arrogant Bond but he is still an inspired choice for the character. You can tell he is more comfortable in the role even if he doesn’t match his performances from his previous two Bond pictures. With a supporting cast that is hit or miss and some lazy plot devices, The World is Not Enough is still an entertaining/capable Bond picture.
15. For Your Eyes Only
Some would consider this to be a bland Bond outing, but to me it is a surprisingly mature Bond (even though there literally is a scene where Bond scores hockey goals with henchmen as the puck). With all Moore films the camp is ever present and it takes a lot out of For Your Eyes Only, but the more serious tone resembles a lot of what was missing from Moore’s stint as Bond. It is a smaller sort of story, which is good after the joke that is Moonraker, that is both clever and smarter than Moore’s usual showing. Also seeing Bond kick a car off a ledge with a henchman in it is one of the coolest things the character has ever done.
14. Tomorrow Never Dies
It is very well known that Tomorrow Never Dies had a very tumultuous path to the screen but essentially it is an excellent follow up to the great Goldeneye. The series was defiantly moving into a more action heavy future (which still rings true with the Craig Bond films) but that isn’t such a bad thing. Bronson is still a great new Bond for a new generation as his Bond is just as cool coming up with witty comebacks as he is dodging bullets and he dodges lots of bullets here. Sure the story isn’t strong and the main villain’s plot (to start WW3 for the broadcasting rights to China) isn’t very inspired but Tomorrow Never Dies is the continuation of a more dangerous/deadly MI6 agent.
13. Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is a very good film with some great action sequences and an excellent cast of characters, but it doesn’t feel much like a Bond film. I sort of harp on how the Moore films had too much comic relief (sometimes the whole film would feel like it was comic relief) but this is what happens on the other end of the spectrum. The tone is too dark for a Bond film and where as Casino Royale mixed in all the right elements, Quantum is too saturated with intense drama and overall darkness. Craig is still excellent in the role and the film is very interesting as this young/revengeful Bond gets into many moral dilemmas trying to avenge a loss. I guess I am more accepting of the film because I like my Bond dark and gritty, but even I felt like that gun barrel sequence is out of place at the end of the film. There isn’t enough patented Bond for the sequence to carry much weight.
12. The Spy Who Loved Me
Considered by many to be Moore’s best Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me feels like Bond getting back to his roots. The story is a lot tighter than the first two Moore films and many elements of the film remind me of what Connery did many years before. The film doesn’t overkill the comedic relief as we are given a story we can sink are teeth into too (yea I did it) and many great Bond moments (underwater car, parachute with the union jack). The problem is Moore, amongst other things, who doesn’t quite hit the mark with the one-liners and frankly just isn’t as good in the role as he had been in the past. I’m not as in love with this film as many other Bond fanatics are but it is a nice reprieve from the normal Moore era Bond. This and For Your Eyes Only remain the high points of the Moore era.
Blasphemy! Although Goldfinger is usually considered one of, if not the, best Bond films of all time, I never saw anything in the picture that truly lifts it above the “Great” Bond movies for me. It contains so many plot holes, lazy story elements, and a character whose main weapon is his hat. Goldfinger just isn’t my all time favorite but it is an excellent Bond film and one that help set up the template for a Bond picture. From Russia With Love also did that but it was a quieter picture where as Goldfinger has a lot more action and charisma. Along with the action the story moves at a brisk pace as it jumps from locale to locale, which makes for a more entertaining film. Goldfinger also contains some of the most iconic moments in franchise history from the gold woman to “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to Die!”, it is an essential Bond film for all those who truly love the character. Goldfinger may not be my personal favorite, but I respect what it meant for Bond and how it impacted the character probably more than any film on this list.
10. You Only Live Twice
There is not a bad Connery Bond (EON) film in the bunch and You Only Live Twice is another solid Bond picture. SPECTRE was still a semi-interesting villain at this point as the story follows Bond trying to stop the organization from starting WW3. Connery is excellent as always and the Eastern locales are a welcome sight for the series. You Only Live Twice is very similar to the great early Bond films (Goldfinger, Thunderball, From Russia With Love) with extravagant locales and unique action sequences but the film delves very much into the more silly character elements. Connery disguising himself as an Asian is laughable and the plot to kill Bond via board over arms in a crashing plane is uncreative. But with a big battle to close out the picture and Connery still at his best with the character, You Only Live Twice is a worthy addition to the franchise.
9. The Living Daylights
Timothy Dalton’s first of two films as Bond is a satisfying transition to a new age for the character. The style and substance of a Bond film is still there but a more intense tone helps to kick start Bond into a more action heavy future. Dalton doesn’t have the personality that other Bond’s had/has but he is serviceable if not refreshing in the role. Dalton’s Bond works mostly because the film around him is so good and so much more than the last few Moore Bond films. This was the type of film Bond needed at the moment with the espionage characteristics being more present and a story that is both complex and smart when it needs to be. Dalton may not be as iconic as the others who have played the role before but his Bond is just as heroic as Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Bronson, and Craig.
After Dalton left the role of Bond and a six-year gap between films, it was easy to see that the character needed some remodeling again. Dalton helped to bring Bond back to his younger more reckless roots but Pierce brings back the charisma that was missing over the previous two entries. Martin Campbell directs his first of two Bond pictures and just like Casino Royale, Goldeneye is a new and improved 007. The action is turned up a notch and the whole post cold war tone is both well done and unique from other Bond films. There are some plot holes and clichés from the action movies of that time but Goldeneye is at his best when Bronson is dodging bullets and taking out numerous henchmen. Also the tank chase scene is both overdone and awesome at the same time (sort of like Michael Bay at his best). Like all the great Bond films, Goldeneye has just enough creative flair to put it apart from the rest of the cannon while still being at its core, a James Bond picture.
7. Licence to Kill
After what is a rather silly opening that has Bond being the best man for American DEA agent Felix Leiter, the film turns quite dark with the brutal murder of the bride on her wedding night. Revenge is what Bond is after here even if MI6 isn’t the one giving him the orders. This is a Bond film that is far from perfect, but it is the story and the villain who really gives the film its edge, a sort of nobody’s safe mentality. Dalton is back again and he is the perfect man for this type of Bond film. This is a darker, more brutal 007 and Dalton throws away the charms for the type of Bond that is unstoppable. Unstoppable is what Bond has to be as he goes up against, in my opinion, the most heinous and evil villain in the franchise (Franz Sanchez played by Robert Davi). Sanchez keeps the audience on their toes and really gives a sense of dread to the picture that no other villain has been able to match. This may not be the most glamorous or your typical Bond film, but it is the one I cheered for Bond the most. The stakes are higher and the drama on screen hits harder as Licence to Kill is a thrilling break from the traditional 007 mold.
6. Dr. No
Dr. No is quite simply the first Bond film ever made and the foundation for all the Bond films that came after it. Even with that said Dr. No was just a starting point for the series, which would grow into something much bigger than Dr. No. So it is hard to really judge it, but either way it is an interesting espionage film right in the middle of the cold war. Bond suddenly became the man everyone wanted to be with the charm and skills to prevent all the worlds’ fears and anxieties. The world had not seen anything like Bond before and Dr. No helped to take the spy genre into a whole new level. Bond wasn’t just another deadly assassin; he was what every man wanted to be which still holds true today. Dr. No has the curse of being both an overrated and an underrated Bond film mostly because it was the first, but sometimes you have to pay homage to what came before. It is the reason Bond is here today and introduced one of the most iconic heroes of the cinema. There is nothing like Connery uttering those iconic first lines “The name’s Bond, James Bond”.
Connery wears the suit for the 4th time around, as Thunderball is exactly what a Bond film should be. Fun, smart, and unique from the other entries in the series, Thunderball was and still is (adjusted for inflation) the biggest Bond ever. The plot here is actually very clever (and would be reused frustratingly so in numerous future Bond films) as an airplane carrying nuclear missiles goes missing. Bond has to travel to the Bahamas for the case, which leads to some spectacular underwater sequences. A consent complaint about Thunderball is that the cameras stay underwater for far too long, but I found those sequences to be some of the highlights of the film. The biggest thing that Thunderball gets right is the mix between the humor and the drama. So many Bond films fall victim to too much camp (I’m looking at you Roger Moore) where as Thunderball has enough of it to be light hearted when it wants to be while not destroying the weight of the action on screen. Not a lot of risk taking involved here but Thunderball is your atypical Bond film with everything you need to get your 007 fix.
4. From Russia With Love
Heavier on the story, characters, and thrills, From Russia With Love took Bond to the next level. I think the biggest reason why From Russia With Love is still held in such high regard is because it is just simply a good movie. From the plot to the overall production value, From Russia With Love never falls victim to comic relief or relying on too much action. It is a film that was able to grow the character and set up the global trotting status quo of the series. Connery, like the film itself, gives a more polished performance than he did in his previous go around. This might not be his best performance as Bond, but it is the best Bond film of his and one of the truly “great” Bond films of all time. This is a darker more gritty Bond film that is focused on the secret agent parts of the character that made Ian Fleming’s character leap off the page. Goldfinger would set up the blueprint for the franchise but From Russia With Love was the type of quality that the later Bond films would pursue after the camp and one liners started to fade.
Skyfall is the type of film that should have really came before Casino Royale. It is a very aware Bond film as it analyzes Bond’s place in this modern age of cinema. He is an old character who at times has been carried more by tradition than actual quality. Skyfall doesn’t run from this fact but embraces it and ushers in hopefully a new type of Bond film. If Casino Royale was the start of a new Bond then Skyfall is that same Bond using his tools from the past to move forward. Sam Mendes makes a beautiful picture that is visually eye catching and has a sort of craftsmanship that no other Bond film has ever had. It is both vintage and modern at the same time, which is the best thing about the picture. Craig is great again and the casting of Javier Bardem shows that the series is becoming so much more, quality wise, than it has ever been. And then there is Judi Dench who is the Bond girl here and her relationship with Bond is brought to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Skyfall has left the franchise in the best place it could be with the franchise embracing what is new and what has made the series so unique and popular over the years. Casino Royale and Skyfall show that the future doesn’t have to be repetitive for 007 and that sometimes the old ways are the best.
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Yea I’m one of those people. OHMSS is the best of the early Bond films with a more grounded feel and story while still containing the Bond we know and love. George Lazenby is unfairly the most despised Bond, which is most likely due to the fact that he had to follow Connery, but I found him to be a great Bond. He is a quieter and a less witty Bond, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the clever 007 we expect. He is honestly a tamer version of Connery, which makes for a more relatable portrayal of Bond. This works for the character as the story becomes much more personal for 007 as he falls in love with Diana Rigg’s Tracy, one of the most fleshed out and just flat out best Bond girls. Their connection grows throughout the film to provide a high stakes climax (Bond saves the girl that he actual loves instead of one he just wants to take to bed) and a shocking ending that brought the character to a place he had never been before. OHMSS is exactly where the Bond films should of gone after Connery. Less ridiculous story elements and more character, more plot. Bond was a great one-note character but he works as a much more layered character here and the film is better for it. With a riveting story, better character development, and some of the best action of the series so far, OHMSS is an intelligent and exhilarating Bond picture that has aged very well over the years.
1. Casino Royale
In 2006 I could really care less about Bond. He was a relic from my past, films that I remember watching as a kid, a fad that I had since out grown. Then came Casino Royale, which had gotten a good critical response and some good word of mouth from my friends. After I saw it I really had no desire to watch the old Bonds because this was it, this was the Bond for me going forward. Don’t get me wrong I am defiantly a Bronson Bond kid and obviously still enjoy old 007 films but this struck a cord during the middle of my teenage years. Spanning many locations with a plot that is complex and very much intriguing, Casino Royale is the closest we have come to a perfect James Bond film. The praise can start anywhere, but I choose to begin it with Daniel Craig who, in my opinion, is either the best Bond or tied with Connery for the title. He has all the characteristics of the Bonds that have come before: the wit of Moore and Connery, the deadliness of Dalton and Bronson, and the emotion of Lazenby. Even with that said Craig isn’t trying to imitate the past, he plays Bond the way he wants to with a confidence that bleeds on screen. He is the type of Bond that should never go away and one that doesn’t stick with the familiar. Bond is more complicated and edgier than he has been before and is the perfect mesh of what Bond was on page and what he is on screen. Craig is and will probably always be my favorite actor to dawn the suit.
I quickly read the source material before I watched the movie and the film does a good job of adapting it while infusing it with the cinematic Bond formula. I think if the producers had adapted it faithfully it would have not meshed well with the mainstream audience (given the much duller Bond in the books) so what we get is something the die hard Fleming and film Bond fans should appreciate. Martin Campbell directs his second Bond film and even though Im sure it was hard to top his previous Bond reboot (Goldeneye) he does it here in almost every way. The screenplay is the strongest of the series and the cast is the best ensemble of series. Just like with Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, the producers finally put all the right pieces together to create a dense and thrilling Bond outing. One of the things I love most about it is the pacing which has numerous action scenes while giving the quieter moments time to breathe. Emotions and the drama are highlighted well and give the picture something not many of the Bond films can match, actual storytelling depth. I love how the filmmakers bring so many great action scenes to the table while making the vocal point of the film, a high stakes poker game, just as exciting. This is a new era with a smarter audience who crave quality more than anything else and Casino Royale delivers as not only a great James Bond film but just a great film in general.
I could write about Casino Royale forever, but what I really want to mention is how after watching all the Bond films in order, Casino Royale just rises above them all. It is the first steps in elevating the name brand back to being one of the cinemas strongest and most beloved franchises.
Ranking the Bonds:
- Daniel Craig
- Sean Connery
- Pierce Bronson
- George Lazenby
- Timothy Dalton
- Roger Moore
Note: I love all the actors who have played Bond and ranking them in order was harder than ranking the actual films. They were all great Bonds in their own right.
And for fun here is my Top Ten combined with Travis White’s list. So if you want a more comprehensive and a more collective James Bond list, then here it is.
- Casino Royale
- From Russia With Love
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
- Dr. No
- Licence to Kill
- The Spy Who loved Me
- You Only Live Twice