The Best (and Worst) Bond Movies: James Bond Ranked

The remarkably durable James Bond has been on screen for 50 years and thanks in part to the series’ gift for endless re-invention, Bond’s cinematic adventures will likely outlive us all. Watching all the Bond movies in a row can be maddening at times – there’s often tonal whiplash from one to the next, as the movies tend to oscillate between campy and serious entries. There are spectacular highs and crummy lows, but Bond’s the man women want and men want to be. Suit up in a tux and grab a martini, because here are 007’s (official Eon-produced) movies ranked from worst to best:

24. Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day James Bond

Uninspired direction (lots of unnecessary slow-mo), cheap sets (the ice hotel being the worst offender), terrible effects and a generally listless story all combine to create the perfect storm of the worst Bond film. The 20th film in the series, Die Another Day is jam-packed with references to all the previous Bonds but is devoid of their heart and soul. This is soulless franchise filmmaking at its worst and to me represents a nadir in the series. Brosnan ends his run much like Connery and Moore before him, with his worst entry being his last. It would take four years and a certain controversial casting choice (Blonde bond? Sacrilege!) to revive the series and wash the bad taste of Die Another Day away. (full review here)

23. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever James Bond

Diamonds Are Forever is a case of “be careful what you wish for”. After the under performance of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (and Lazenby stupidly quitting the role of Bond), producers were eager to lure back Connery and return the series to a more upbeat tone. Unfortunately Connery was saddled with a disjointed script that leaned a little too heavily on one-liners and not enough on character building or believable action. At times it’s so bad it’s good, but often it’s just bad.(full review here)

22. Octopussy (1983)

Octopussy James Bond Poster

Octopussy goes big and broad, indulging in the worst tendencies of Moore’s run as 007. There seems to be little thought given to consistent tone or an intriguing plot, and the movie instead functions as more of a travelogue of picturesque places and the various ways in which Bond can be humiliated in these gorgeous locales. It goes a long way towards turning Moore’s run into a joke and the most ridiculously titled Bond film yet is an empty effort that comes up short. (full review here)

21. Moonraker (1979)

Moonraker Poster

Moonraker is patently ridiculous for much of its screentime and often doesn’t even feel like a Bond film. Jaws is basically a cartoon and Bond becomes a superhero who’s nearly infallible. Much of the money spent went towards great production design, but it’s in service of a disjointed script that never really gels. The product placement begins to become overwhelming too, as one chase includes numerous billboards wedged in for no reason. Notable for its weirdness and being out of sync with other entries, Moonraker is ultimately less than the sum of its parts. (full review here)

20. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Tomorrow Never Dies movie

Achingly 90s, with its techno-terrorists, fear-mongering about an increasingly connected world and a score that hasn’t aged well, Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t a worthy follow-up to the stellar GoldenEye. With a script that had to be re-written just prior to shooting, a leading lady who seemingly didn’t want to be there (Hatcher later said “It’s such an artificial kind of character to be playing that you don’t get any special satisfaction from it”) and a director unfamiliar with the Bond aesthetics, there’s plenty of possibilities why the movie didn’t work out. The most glaring reason – it’s just not very good. (full review here)

19. Spectre (2015)

Spectre Movie Review Daniel Craig

A movie that’s alternately sluggish and baffling in equal measure. If this is to be Craig’s last film (which is unlikely as he’s contracted for one more), then at least he’ll share an ignoble distinction with former Bonds Connery, Moore and Brosnan – they all ended on a low note. Perhaps it’s the four credited screenwriters that couldn’t come to a consensus. Wildly mixing franchise elements like Roger Moore’s quips and Sean Connery’s epic villains with the muddled action of Pierce Brosnan’s later entries, Spectre is a movie at war with itself. Supposedly fun-loving (Craig’s Bond is the lightest he’s been ever been in the role) but sorely lacking in spectacular set pieces or just general cohesiveness, Spectre is a misfire of epic proportions. (full review here)

18. A View to A Kill (1985)

A View to a Kill poster

Even by the lax standards of Moore’s spotty run as 007, A View to A Kill is not very good. It keeps with the tradition of each Bond actor’s swan song being a bit shitty. Yet despite a disjointed plot and weirdly inert action, it still holds charms. The movie’s well cast and both Walken and Jones knock it out of the park as villains, while some of the broad comedy is at least in line with the movie’s light tone. Moore is sleepwalking through his role as Bond here, having enjoyed the longest tenure (12 years and seven movies) as Bond to date and A View to a Kill certainly confirms that he’d aged beyond the role. Seriously loopy, enjoyably dumb, and less a movie than a loose collection of scenes, A View to a Kill‘s singular weirdness helps save it from the absolute bottom of the pile. (full review here)

17. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The World Is Not Enough Denise Richards

Bond: “I always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.” Dr. Christmas Jones: “Isn’t it time you unwrapped your present?”

It’s half decent and half atrocious, making the end result mediocre but not without its absurd charms. Robert Carlyle and Sopihie Marceau are legitimately good in their villainous roles while Denise Richards (as the world’s most unbelievable nuclear physicist) is basically the opposite. The tone varies wildly, though this is probably the funniest Brosnan Bond yet as it’s absolutely packed with double entendres and sexual puns. TWINE feels closest to Roger Moore’s Bond, for all the good and bad that entails. It lacks seriousness and threatens to veer into parody, but there’s still flashes of life. (full review here)

16. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun Glen-on-Film

An uneven entry that sports a great main villain but is too slapstick-y overall to be taken seriously. There’s some diminishing returns evident with M looking tired, boat and car chases that don’t live up to their predecessors, and very little real danger to speak of to impede the nigh-invulnerable Bond. Nick Nack and Scaramanga are inspired antagonists, but the movie’s blatant appropriation of the fads of the era (a Bond tradition in many ways) doesn’t quite gel here, resulting in an off entry. (full review here)

15. Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace James Bond

Though it has the forward momentum of a freight train, Quantum of Solace is quite dour and suffers most in comparison to the far superior Casino Royale. Considering that the movie was essentially re-written on the fly by star Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster due to the 2008 writer’s strike, the end result is quite watchable and has some thrilling action. It’s possibly the most violent Bond movie yet (rivalling Licence to Kill) and mirrors that film’s lust for revenge and lack of reverence for tradition. It’s not perfect but it gets the job done and doesn’t overstay its welcome, allowing Craig’s cold-blooded killer Bond to do what he does best – kick some ass. (full review here)

14. Licence to Kill (1989)

6_236-237_ltk_opt

Timothy Dalton’s second (and final) outing as Bond is riddled with cliches (the lone wolf Bond out for revenge) and full of unseemly violence. And while it often doesn’t feel like a Bond film (producers wanted a “ripped from the headlines” feel and also shot it all outside of the U.K.), it still provides intermittent thrills and an increasingly complex storyline. In a series that often struggles with balancing tone, it may push too far into bleakness but is a solid tale nonetheless. It’s interesting to speculate where Dalton would’ve taken Bond next, but a years-long legal battle between Bond’s owners and Dalton’s supposed decision not to return would prevent audiences from knowing what that would’ve been. (full review here)

13. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service Poster

The producers were keen to showcase a more realistic Bond here, but it means a more languid pace. The middle section really sags and despite some spectacular action in the final third OHMSS still seems like a lot less fun compared to the Connery entries that preceded it. I don’t think George Lazenby (in his only time playing Bond) is the problem, as he’s a little wooden but probably would have grown into the role if he’d decided to stay. It’s more director’s Hunt desire to put his own stamp on the Bond series and kill some of the sacred cows. Q’s inventions are derided, Bond threatens to quit MI6 and many of the series’ recurring hallmarks are missing in action. James Bond, both the character and the films, would eventually need reinvention many times over and in fact thrive on some fluidity, but unfortunately here it was just too much too soon. OHMSS is a noble failure – extra points for the insane ending though, which is totally out of left field. (full review here)

12. Thunderball (1965)

Thunderball

Thunderball is big and bright, with a straight A-to-B plot that gives Bond plenty of time to luxuriate in simply being his devilish self. The action is at times underwhelming, but the climax goes big and features lots and lots of deaths-by-harpoon. The underwater sequences are refreshingly different. Largo himself proves to be a worthy adversary (if not quite as iconic as Dr. No or Goldfinger) and his sweet eye-patch and pool of man-eating sharks go a long way towards making him memorable. In all, Thunderball proves to be a worthy entry that has the unfortunate luck of following some truly standout efforts from Sean Connery. (full review here)

11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

For Your Eyes Only Movie James Bond

For Your Eyes Only does a lot right – it brings Bond back down to Earth and marries some fairly intense action to a narrative that actually ruminates on the nature of revenge. It also feels a bit disjointed at times, but that’s fairly common for many of the overstuffed Bond movies. Some of the comedy feels out of place and Bibi Dahl might be the worst Bond Girl yet, but overall For Your Eyes Only is satisfying enough to place it in the middle of the list and count as a win for Moore’s uneven Bond. (full review here)

10. Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die Glen on Film

Live and Let Die (despite having an amazing theme) starts a little slow. Muscle through, however, and Moore begins to shine as a fairly unflappable Bond that is above all spirited and fun. Strong characters, memorable set pieces and a brisk pace all elevate the second half. This is a new era for Bond, one in which he may never comfortably fit into to (Moore’s stiff upper lip seems to put him at a bit of a remove), but the filmmaking surrounding him here is solid and the story relatively tight and believable. (full review here)

9. You Only Live Twice (1967)

You Only Live Twice Review

Bond’s fifth movie spits in the face of YOLO and defiantly says You Only Live TWICE. There are some groan inducing puns, but I can’t lie – many are hilarious. And yes, there’s some cringe-inducing cultural tone-deafness on display that must’ve been borderline racist even in 1967, but You Only Live Twice is a fast-paced adventure with plenty of standout moments. Some of the screenwriter’s machinations are plain to see but the scenery (shot on location in Japan), well-orchestrated action, and swift pace all combine to make an exceptional entry in the Bond series. (full review here)

8. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Spy Who Loved Me GlenOnFilm

The Spy Who Loved Me is top-to-bottom Bond goodness. Roger Moore finally grows into the role and the movie surrounding him is equally on point. Exotic locations, a storyline that hums along, great action and a convincing leading lady all help to make this Moore’s best entry yet and one that can actually stand up to some of Connery’s better efforts. Plus it has Jaws, funky 70’s music and Moore rides what is essentially a Scooty Puff Jr. when he goes after the villain Stromberg. (full review here)

7. The Living Daylights (1987)

The Living Daylights painting

Timothy Dalton’s 007 proves to be a sleek, heartless killing machine that makes for a considerably darker Bond, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable here. I’m not sure his run would’ve been sustainable, but it hardly matters now as at least we got this film out of it. The Living Daylights may have its detractors but I’m not one of them. Unique while still paying homage to the past, it’s a successful Bond and one of my favourites. (full review here)

6. GoldenEye (1995)

Goldeneye Shooting

Meet the new Bond, same as the old Bond. Even with the Cold War over, producers found a way to keep Bond relevant by slyly commenting on his outdated views but avoiding obsolescence by showing his effectiveness in an increasingly complex world. As Bond himself says “governments change, the lies stay the same.” Pierce Brosnan slides into the role of James Bond with ease, feeling comfortable with the stunts and charismatic with the women (although GoldenEye stills feels somewhat chaste outside of Xenia’s scenes). A remarkably strong first outing and one that features a murderer’s row of memorable characters, GoldenEye kicks off the Brosnan era in style. (full review here)

5. Dr. No (1962)

Dr. No Poster

The first Bond film is a great introduction to the character that’s jaunty and fun. It gets the all the important building blocks in place (M, Moneypenny, the Villain, the Girl, the cars, the suits) and admirably constructs a world you want to spend more time in. While the low budget means it lacks the big set pieces of later efforts, Dr. No proves that this is the role Connery was born to play – he owns that Saville Row suit with a leonine presence that leaps off the screen. (full review here)

4. Skyfall (2012)

Daniel Craig;Javier Bardem

Skyfall has a tight focus, basically making the central conflict a family affair between a cold, hard-to-please mother (M), the first-born son turned rebellious shithead (Silva) and the second son with a buried need to please (Bond). Featuring amazing cinematography, Skyfall is gorgeous and lush, a movie that actually gets better as it goes along and provides the franchise with one of its strongest endings ever. It also secures Daniel Craig’s place in the Bond pantheon next to the immortal and inimitable Sean Connery. It may not be the best at everything it attempts, but it’s very very good, proving that there’s life in Bond stories so long as there’s passion in the telling. (full review here)

3. Goldfinger (1964)

James Bond Goldfinger

Goldfinger might well be Bond’s biggest and most well-known adventure, and for good reason too. The villain is dastardly, the women are seductive and smart, and Bond himself is at his charming best. It’s strange that Bond is a captive for much of the film (and seemingly kept alive through Goldfinger’s charity), but the globe-totting plot and lively interactions between Goldfinger and Bond keep the film moving along. The evil plan is suitable insane and even though Bond may not single-handedly stop it himself, he gets in a great car chase and an eventual showdown with henchman numero uno Odd Job. Goldfinger is still an all-time classic that holds up today. (full review here)

2. From Russia With Love (1963)

From Russia With Love James Bond

From Russia With Love is an improvement on Dr. No in nearly every way. The plot is twisty and gripping, and not just window dressing to get Bond from one scene to the next. Shooting on location in Istanbul, Turkey provides a lively backdrop to the Cold War machinations of Britain and the Soviets, and the film has more of a chance to stretch its legs with a longer runtime. Robert Shaw is great as Red Grant, the unstoppable (and for a large portion, wordless) henchman that nearly gets the best of Bond, and the action is plentiful and exciting. Sean Connery continues to grow into the role of Bond and wears his suits like the armour of a gentleman. He’s a rough Bond, quick with a one-liner and quicker to the trigger, and Connery plays him as a blithe killer, ready to fight or screw at a moment’s notice. (full review here)

1. Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale You Know My Name

Casino Royale is remarkably assured and it effectively jettisons decades worth of baggage while retaining the essential traits of the James Bond character. The best action of the series yet combined with a focused story that allows the characters to breathe and grow means that there’s little about this movie that doesn’t work. Daniel Craig makes the character his own, drawing on Dalton’s cold-blooded take while still finding time for a well-placed one-liner. The script is flipped as he’s the one that slowly emerges from the water instead of Ursula Andress (wayyy back in Dr. No), but Casino Royale avoids pandering as it updates Bond for the 21st century while providing ample spy thrills. It’s a breathless and satisfying Bond film – the best yet.(full review here)

 

Advertisements

One comment

Join the conversation:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s