Today is the day that we North Americans finally get to see the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, and with this being such a momentous occasion, I thought I would share my definitive ranking of the 23 Bond films that preceded Spectre. For the purposes of this list, I'm only considering the Eon Productions Bond films, so no Never Say Never Again or either of the first two attempts to bring Casino Royale to the screen. I've also included videos with the Top 10 of some of the most memorable moments from those films.
23. Die Another Day (2002)
PROS: Um... That sword fight is pretty great. That's all.
CONS: Madonna's theme song is atrocious, Pierce Brosnan is thoroughly checked out and having to share top billing with Halle Berry, and worst of all, the film seemed to have taken more cues from the obnoxious, bombastic Bond imitators that cropped up in the early aughts than the Bond films that preceded it.
FINAL VERDICT: Kind of like being stuck under a bed while someone has their way with the love of your life.
22. A View to a Kill (1985)
PROS: Christopher Walken is pretty great in this, though he would go on to essentially perfect his white-haired villain routine in Batman Returns seven years later. Also, Duran Duran's theme song still kicks ass after all these years.
CONS: Everything else. Grace Jones is a scenery-chewing nightmare; Roger Moore was knocking on the door of his sixties for his final Bond outing and it shows; the tech elements that serve as the catalyst for Walken's plan don't age well... at all.
FINAL VERDICT: Certainly more favorable than losing a toe.
21. Moonraker (1979)
PROS: Gave us the most overtly sexual Bond Girl name ever in Lois Chiles' Holly Goodhead.
CONS: This attempt to cash in on the Star Wars craze, which billed itself as "Bond in Space," sends our hero into space late in the third act and only keeps him up there for approximately fifteen of the film's 126 minutes. Add in a ton of clumsy dialogue and a general filmmaking attitude that seems to have boiled down to, "throw more money at it," and you've got probably the messiest film in the entire franchise.
FINAL VERDICT: It's better than any of the Star Wars prequels.
20. The World is Not Enough (1999)
PROS: Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones.
CONS: Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones.
FINAL VERDICT: Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones.
19. Diamonds are Forever (1971)
PROS: Connery came back to "rescue" the franchise following the box office disappointment of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and delivered the first of many mediocre 70s Bond adventures. Plus that Plenty O'Toole gag gets me every time.
CONS: Blofeld, played so memorably in previous Bond films by Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas, is played here by Charles Gray, better known as the neckless criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is an overall indication as to the quality of the film which isn't terrible, but isn't good either.
FINAL VERDICT: The only thing worse than Connery's rug in this film is his attitude toward women in real life.
18. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
PROS: Jonathan Pryce cuts a malevolent villain, just because nobody plays smug entitlement quite like Jonathan Pryce.
CONS: The promise of a final showdown between Pryce and Brosnan is a bit like waiting to see Rocky box Mickey instead of Apollo. It just doesn't feel like a fair fight.The thing that Brosnan didn't do well was share the screen with an equally strong female. Granted they tried to do it to him a number of times, but he just looks uncomfortable taking a backseat to Michelle Yeoh's martial antics. And who could blame him, his films were almost exclusively DOA.
FINAL VERDICT: Like your dad the first time he catches you drinking, you won't be mad at this film, just disappointed.
17. Octopussy (1983)
PROS: The best of the "funny" Bond films, but that's not really saying much, is it? Plus the theme song gave us one of the only legitimately funny scenes in Ted.
CONS: Bond in clown makeup. Nothing will ever erase that from my memory. As an old man, I'll still be ornery about it. Also, the whole plot more or less hinges on a faberge egg... I defy you to find another film that hinges on a faberge egg.
FINAL VERDICT: It could've been a whole lot worse. Plus, who doesn't love saying that title?
16. License to Kill (1989)
PROS: So this was the first Bond film that my dad took ten year old me to see in the theater. For that reason alone, I have a sentimental attachment to this film, but not enough to overlook it's many faults. Dalton already has one foot out the door and seems to almost be rolling his eyes at the script at times.
CONS: The plot, involving Bond going undercover in a South American drug smuggling ring to avenge Felix Leiter, is a bit preposterous, even by Bond movie standards. Drugs may have been the hot button issue of the moment, but the whole thing feels like the people behind D.A.R.E. licensed the James Bond character. Also Robert Davi is a lot of things, but intimidating Bond villain post his role as a Fratelli Brother in The Goonies is not one of them. I kept hoping Anne Ramsey would come out and smack him.
FINAL VERDICT: If this was your first Bond film too, you'll enjoy it more than everyone else, despite not really even liking it.
15. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
PROS: The story and action sequences in this one are pretty good, and Christopher Lee as Scaramanga remains a top 10 Bond villain for sure. Also Britt Ekland is a Top 10 Bond girl as well, so it does have a few things going for it. Add in the return of Sheriff J.W. Pepper and you've got the makings for a pretty good Bond adventure.
CONS: There's no way to get around this, but Hervé Villechaize is a terrible, terrible henchman. Like, the worst of the series. Add in the thoroughly unnecessary bit with Scaramanga having a third nipple and this one's got just a few too many weird things happening to be considered one of the better Bond films.
FINAL VERDICT: Like a halfway decent handjob... An old standby that's right for certain occasions, but not an everyday kind of thing.
14. Quantum of Solace (2008)
PROS: The biggest pro is that this is the shortest Bond outing of them all. At 106 minutes, the film moves at a nice clip and does a pretty decent job of being the first direct sequel in the entire franchise. It's not great, but it's the best one we've talked about so far. It also pretty conclusively proved that Daniel Craig was the real deal as Bond.
CONS: It had to follow Casino Royale, so much like we've been hearing about Spectre, it can't help but be a letdown. The villain, played by Mathieu Amalric, is another one that's just out of Bond's league. In fact, just read that Rocky metaphor I used for Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies again. It applies here and I don't want to be accused of repeating myself.
FINAL VERDICT: As dumb as its title, but still mostly watchable.
13. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
PROS: Coming as it did after Moonraker, this one didn't have to be great to be good. It just had to be good and it's the best of the latter day Moore films. Julian Glover made for a decent Bond villain, though it didn't do the character he played in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade any favors because I knew he was a bad guy from minute one. It's also got Topol in it, and you name me a bad movie with Topol in it.
CONS: It's wholly unmemorable. If you haven't seen the film within the last six months, I defy you to tell me anything about it. If mediocrity is a sin, this might be the guiltiest one of them all.
FINAL VERDICT: Like Sheena Easton's theme song, it's a soft rock movie. Hopelessly uncool but not necessarily offensive.
12. You Only Live Twice (1967)
PROS: This poster is the biggest pro. Look at Connery's face. He's very happy that we've burned through most of his successor's films already. It also gave us the first screen appearance of Blofeld, played here by Halloween's Donald Pleasance, who would go on to become Bond's chief antagonist.
CONS: Like Thunderball before it, the dumbing down of Bond began in earnest around this point in time. The reliance on gadgets and increasingly preposterous action set pieces sank the flirty fun of the first three films. Plus, Connery looks completely checked out by the time he gets dressed up like an astronaut. It's no wonder he wanted out.
FINAL VERDICT: Like kissing your sister. Sure, you kissed a girl, but she's your sister.
11. Thunderball (1965)
PROS: For the first hour, this seems like it might be the best Bond of them all. A killer Tom Jones theme song, some great puns, and one great action sequence after the other. Plus, look at that poster. I don't know what in god's name is going on there but Bond needs to start tanning his cheeks too.
CONS: You could essentially flip flop this and You Only Live Twice, as they both suffer from second halves that are vastly inferior to their respective first halves. This is also quite possibly the most difficult Bond film to follow. It's no wonder they tried to remake it as Never Say Never Again, but that film's failure is just indicative of this story's major issues.
FINAL VERDICT: When Q shows up, just turn it off. It's done being a good movie.
10. Live and Let Die (1973)
PROS: The theme song is the best by a mile, Jane Seymour's a great Bond girl, and Roger Moore doesn't look checked out yet. Sure it's got some notions on British Imperialism and race relations that can't exactly be called progressive, but it's got some great action set pieces and gave us one of the best American characters in the series, Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Check him out in the video below.
CONS: RACISM!!!! Seriously, the way this film portrays black people is an affront to the entire race.
FINAL VERDICT: Like staying over at your really rich, racist uncle's house. Sure, he's got a sweet set-up and a heated pool, but you're gonna have to hear a few of his opinions on his black neighbors.
9. Dr. No (1962)
PROS: This is by far the biggest "spy" adventure for Bond, with a ton of actual spying and information gathering, and the action mostly takes a backseat to the plot until the third act.
CONS: It's virtually unrecognizable as a Bond film. While that's not a bad thing, especially considering that's more or less been the stock in trade for the Daniel Craig Bond films, it's also curious to see Connery both before he got great at the role yet before he lost his enthusiasm for the franchise.
FINAL VERDICT: Basically it's a lot like Batman Begins, solid first flick, but a slightly lesser film than its immediate predecessor.
8. GoldenEye (1995)
PROS: Reignited the Bond franchise after the Moore films turned into farce and the Dalton films went too far in the other direction and ended up dour. This one embraced the ridiculousness of Bond's antics while also giving it a crack spy adventure and a villain that, for once, is Bond's equal in virtually every way. This also brought Judi Dench to the franchise as the first female M and gave us a terrific femme fatale in Famke Jansen's comedically named Xenia Onatopp. Also... Also... That cold open is tits.
CONS: Alan Cumming's Boris "I am inwinceable" Grishenko might be the worst side character in the entire franchise. In many ways it's almost a disappointment because it plays more like a harbinger of doom in retrospect. Things were only going to get worse for this Bond and he wasn't half bad.
FINAL VERDICT: Like the N64 game that shared its name, it's one of the best despite being hopelessly dated now.
7. Casino Royale (2006)
PROS: This was the return to form we were hoping GoldenEye would be, at least at first. This is the true successor to the great Connery Bond films of the 60s. The one that treated everything slightly more serious while also giving a real sense of what a bad-ass this character could be. Eva Green's Vesper Lynd is the perfect mix of Anya Amasova and Xenia Onatopp, and it also introduced much of the Western world to Mads Mikkelsen, who has arguably become our favorite Dane. Also has the second most poignant ending next to a film we'll be talking about soon.
CONS: One word: Parkour. Bond doesn't need it and it's the worst sequence in the film.
FINAL VERDICT: You got your shitty parkour movie in my otherwise awesome James Bond movie.
6. The Living Daylights (1987)
PROS: Timothy Dalton was the right man at the wrong time for Bond. Roger Moore's latter day Bonds combined with Connery's awful Never Say Never Again had made the character a complete joke, and Dalton's combination of arrogance and intensity was the best way to bring this character out of the Moore era.
CONS: Unfortunately the world just wasn't ready for this serious take on the character, and wouldn't be for almost twenty years, but this is still my favorite "first entry" film for any of the Bond actors. The plot is also a touch on the convoluted side and it's the least sexy Bond film next to only Skyfall.
FINAL VERDICT: It's better than its reputation suggests, but it's best seen immediately after suffering through those last two Moore films.
5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
PROS: Moore's best Bond outing is also the franchise's only truly successful love story. The relationship between Bond and Anya Amasova, played by the gorgeous Barbara Bach, is full of enjoyable Nick & Nora-esque witty banter. Add in a plot that's not a total insult to the audience's intelligence in the way the rest of Moore's films after this one are, and you've got the pinnacle of Bond's muddle mid-period run.
CONS: It's hard to hold this against the film in retrospect, but this was the first really successful Bond film to add comedy into the mix. The comedy would get really hackneyed as the films went along, but it's as if the filmmakers took all the wrong lessons from the welcome reception to this injection of humor.
FINAL VERDICT: By far the best Bond film to watch with your special lady.
4. Goldfinger (1964)
PROS: Commonly referred to as the best James Bond film, and with good reason, Goldfinger's got it all: A killer Shirley Bassey theme song, a decent cold open, a tricked out Aston Martin, Gert Fröbe's excellent titular villain, Honor Blackman's husky-voiced temptress Pussy Galore, Harold Sakata as Odd Job, the gold standard of henchmen. Basically everything that Mike Myers parodied with his three Austin Powers movies comes from this movie.
CONS: It's really tough to say anything bad about Goldfinger. It's close to the perfect Bond film and it's frankly just more of a gut instinct kind of thing. I just feel like I enjoy the next three films slightly more.
FINAL VERDICT: You can't go wrong with watching it, it's absolutely terrific.
3. Skyfall (2012)
PROS: The best of the latter day Bond films is one hell of a fun time at the movies for Bond fans and non-Bond fans alike. It's got a sharp script and some great non-action beats like the clip embedded below. Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris step nicely into iconic roles, and Javier Bardem plays his villainous Silva as the superego to his Anton Chigurh's id.
CONS: The one element this film is missing is a good Bond girl. The only one with any dialogue is Bérénice Marlohe, who opens up to Bond about being a child sex slave... roughly ten minutes before getting a good shower fuckin' from our hero. Yeah, it's creepy and kinda kills the film's momentum.
FINAL VERDICT: The best Bond film to show someone who has never seen a Bond film.
2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
PROS: This was the first Bond book released after the films, so it's got a bit of a playful, meta attitude toward the typical Bond elements thanks not only to Ian Fleming's book, but also to Richard Maibaum's script. Diana Rigg is absolute perfection playing arguably the best Bond girl ever, and Telly Savalas cranks up the menace as Blofeld, giving us the definitive version of this character on screen. And that ending... I could tear up just thinking about it. It's also got a crack ski chase scene which you can find embedded below.
CONS: Yeah, so George Lazenby is a bit of a charisma vacuum. I'm not entirely sure what they were thinking when they cast him, but he's a bit out of his league amongst great actors like Savalas and Rigg.
FINAL VERDICT: Like a comedian's comedian or an actor's actor, this is a Bond film fanatic's Bond film. Had this been Connery's last go around as Bond, it could have been the best Bond film of them all.
1. From Russia with Love (1963)
PROS: It's a film of firsts from the cold open and credit sequence to the gadgetry and elements that have become synonymous with Bond films, this film truly validates the expression, "did it first, did it best." This is the quintessential Bond film and was certainly the grittiest until 2006's Casino Royale. And how about that train fight? For my money, it's still the best single action sequence in any of the Bond films.
CONS: The film's only real issue is in the pacing. Goldfinger moves slightly better than From Russia with Love, but this is still the more satisfying Bond adventure for me.
FINAL VERDICT: Like a top shelf vodka martini... shaken of course. Who stirs a fucking martini anyway? Who are these bartenders that don't know the rules?
Images via James Bond Wallpapers