You know his name and how he likes his drinks. You can hum the theme, and, just like everybody else, will debate to death the best James Bond movie ever made. When Ian Fleming first created his suave, cold-blooded MI6 agent back in 1953, no one could have predicted that a character whose name came from a book on bird watching would one day be the spy to end all spies and forge one of the most successful film franchises in history, providing 007 aficionados more than enough to duel over. Every Bond film is somebody’s favorite, and finding how 55 years of Bondom align is no easy task. So we’ve combed through every shot fired, dress unzipped, martini drank, DB5 crashed, secret lair exploded, and licence revoked to arrive at a definitive answer — that will satisfy precisely no one.
Since his first swirling shot down the gun barrel, James Bond has traveled to over 50 countries (and outer space), killed 394 people (that we know about), slept with 55 women (give or take a Moneypenny), driven 23 cars (and a tank), defied six different M’s, toyed with five Q’s (and one R), flirted with six Moneypenny’s, foiled six Blofeld’s, teamed with nine Leiter’s, been played by seven actors and appeared in 26 films. Maybe Daniel Craig won’t be the one strapping on the shoulder holster for the next one, maybe he will. One thing’s for sure, whoever’s tapped to draw that Walther PPK next will have quite the legacy to live up to.
Here is Every James Bond Movie Ever, Ranked Worst To Best.
26. A View to a Kill
Despite having been around for fifty-five years (sixty if you count the books), James Bond has always been ageless. Except for the one time he looked really, really old when Roger Moore raised his brows for a seventh and final time. Sure, Tom Cruise has since proven that being over 50 and hanging from airplanes doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, yet somehow, Moore’s Bond seems a man out of time, despite Duran Duran’s best efforts. But then again, he pretty much invents snowboarding during the film’s opening, so what do we know?
Even Christopher Walken playing neo-Nazi Max Zorin and Grace Jones playing the base-jumping horse whisperer May Day aren’t enough to make 1985’s A View to a Kill bearable. By far the worst-reviewed Bond film, there is no getting over the trauma of watching a 57-year-old Moore (who “felt 400 years too old for the part”) sleep with 28-year-old Tanya Roberts, along with three other women (the most of any other film). To say the least, audiences were left with little doubt that Moore’s 007 was ready for retirement. Especially when you consider that in the next theater over, Rambo and John Matrix were blowing away entire armies with their biceps while James Bond was cooking a quiche.
25. Die Another Day
What should have been a nostalgic celebration of the franchise’s 40th anniversary and 20th installment ended up being a calling card for just how ludicrous James Bond had become, thanks in no small part to an invisible car. Despite pulling from the popular Moonraker novel (which bears no resemblance to the film of the same name), Pierce Brosnan’s final outing made it clear that Bond had lost his way. That is unless Ian Fleming had always intended for his spy to one day outmaneuver a death ray from outer space while parasailing a CGI tidal wave.
Head smacking one-liners, a bratty villain, Bond in a beard — this film got everything wrong. Like Madonna’s auto-tuned pop extravaganza for instance, which reigns supreme as the worst Bond song to date, making LuLu’s rendition of “The Man with the Golden Gun” sound like a symphonic masterpiece. All and all, 2002’s Die Another Day proves that putting Halle Berry in a bikini and covering her in diamonds just isn’t enough to honor the franchise’s storied legacy and properly bring it into the 21st century.
24. Casino Royale (1967)
To say 1967’s Casino Royale is a James Bond film is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it borrowed all the character names from the source material, but that’s about it. The best thing this movie has going for it is a redonkulously star-studded cast that includes the likes of Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, John Huston, Peter O’Toole, Ursula Andress, and Woody Allen. Then there’s David Niven (the actor Ian Fleming wanted to play the character) in the lead role as the “original” James Bond, now retired, celibate, and surrounding himself with lions.
One of two films not produced by Eon Productions, the first cinematic Casino Royale is a half-hearted spoof on the franchise. As much as we’d like to embrace its campy, slapstick fun, the movie’s nonsensical plot involving robots, cowboys, skydiving Indians, seals, bubbles, Frankenstein’s monster, angels, and a UFO make it too loony for its own good.
It’s the film that let young kids everywhere get away with saying a word their mothers would smack them upside the head for even mouthing. It’s the one where Roger Moore swings from the trees yelling like Tarzan and saves the day dressed as a clown. It’s the story where we found out Q is just as horny as Bond. Yes, 1983’s Octopussy was a lot of things, least of which being James Bond’s finest moment. But it had just enough humor and a surprising amount of chemistry between its actors to keep it from falling to the very bottom of the list.
Moore’s turn as 007 had always been rife with self-parody, but Octopussy took things to a whole new level of snake charming. It also introduced the world to Miss Moneypenny’s tantalizing new assistant, Penelope Smallbone, and then quickly never showed her again. And in a sign that Moore’s Bond was out of touch, he goes up against the film’s main villain over a not-so-thrilling game of backgammon. Even more ghastly, he diffuses a bomb whilst in full on clown makeup. Like we said, not exactly his finest moment. Though we can safely say there has never been a better film involving a crocodile submarine. But seriously, whatever happened to Penelope Smallbone?
22. The World is Not Enough
Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007 was plagued by some of the worst Bond girls in the franchise. But it truly pulled out all the stops with Christmas Jones. While the first half of 1999’s The World is Not Enough was not all that bad and the relationship between Elektra King and Bond was actually quite compelling, the film takes a plunge into the abyss the second Denise Richards steps out of a hazmat suit and starts sayings things like, “we had a nuclear bomb stolen this morning!”
All diehard Bond fans know there’s no such thing as a “bad” James Bond film. There are some that captivate less than others, and preference mostly depends on which actor one most associates with the character. That is why you might find someone out there who says they actually enjoyed watching The World is Not Enough from start to its “I thought Christmas comes once a year” finish. But for our money, there are few things worse than having to watch Brosnan’s Bond try to take Denise Richards seriously as a nuclear physicist.
21. Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is the Bond sequel no one asked for. These films really don’t need sequels. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be linked at all save for a few familiar faces and a shiny silver car. But if Daniel Craig’s run as 007 had one major pitfall, it was its continued persistence to tie all his films together into one nice little package, starting unceremoniously in 2008 with this one.
Quantum of Solace‘s first mistake was following Casino Royale. Its second was trying to pigeon hole one of Ian Fleming’s few remaining unused Bond titles into an ill-conceived plot about oil, revenge, and Judi Dench frowning. Worst of all, it boasts the most unremarkable villains in the franchise’s history. The big finale takes place at some random burning hotel in the desert involving a rape attempt and Bond fighting a banker. (Did they really expect us to take Mathieu Amalric as a serious threat to Daniel Craig’s fists?) To top it all off, rather than figure out a way to survive the inferno around him, Bond decides instead to commit suicide. There’s been a lot said about the writer’s strike, the Borne-inspired directorial choices of Marc Foster, and an impossibly tight shooting schedule being to blame, but those are no excuse for making James Bond dull and depressing.
20. Diamonds Are Forever
After swearing off playing the character ever again (and then subsequently playing him again, twice), Sean Connery was lured back into the canonical fold with a then-record $1.25 million payday. Because when was doing something solely for the money not a bad idea? With George Lazenby’s abrupt departure from the series, the producers were left little choice but do whatever they could to get Connery back behind the wheel. For his part, he delivers by far the most uninspired performance of his career.
The Las Vegas-set diamond-smuggling plot of 1971’s Diamonds are Forever was the first true departure of the series from Ian Fleming’s novels and provided a disappointing epilogue for Bond’s greatest arch nemesis, Ernst Stravo Blofeld. The villain’s scheme to obtain world domination using a space-laser has all the makings of a fine film, and there was nothing outwardly bad about Jill St. John (the first American Bond girl) or the sinisterly flamboyant henchmen, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. But somehow, against all odds, the whole thing fell flat. But what do you expect when your lead has other things on his mind, like the new pool he’s going to put in with all that money.
19. Never Say Never Again
After a 12 year hiatus, Sean Connery returns to the world of international intrigue and casual sex in 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Helmed by Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner, this oft-ignored step-child of Bondom was the by-product of a nasty custody battle over the film rights to Ian Fleming’s Thunderball. Essentially nothing more than a modern-day remake with a more talented cast that didn’t really want to be there, Never Say Never Again is a middling affair set in an alternate Bond universe.
Having Sean Connery as James Bond is never a bad thing. That is unless you feature Bond throwing his pee in someone’s face, doing the tango, and playing the most boring video game ever created. You kind of get the feeling that the only reason Connery came back was to give the finger to Eon Productions (and get another massive paycheck). Though Broccoli and Co. had the last laugh, considering Never Say Never Again was released the same year as Octopussy with a far larger budget, yet ended up grossing significantly less at the box office. Oh well, Sean Connery will just have to settle for his pool filled with money as consolation.
18. Tomorrow Never Dies
All the usual refinements are here. A villain trying to start World War III? Check. A car conveniently equipped with the perfect weaponry given the situation? Check. Borderline sexual harassment of Moneypenny? Check. A dead Bond girl? Check. An egregious amount of product placement? Double check. Pierce Brosnan’s 1997 follow-up to Goldeneye feels every bit like Bond, but with little to separate it from the pack.
The standout moments are casting Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin (who is far better at her job than Bond) and the scene-stealing Vincent Schiavelli as the finicky assassin Dr. Kaufman. Also worthwhile are the several high-octane action sequences if for no other reason than to see all the different toys you will never be able to afford. Interestingly enough, the film’s title was inspired by a Beatles song (ironic, given Bond’s dislike of the band). The final result came about because of a faxing typo, as it was originally intended to be “Tomorrow Never Lies,” which makes a lot more sense in the context of the movie. But Tomorrow Never Dies sounds cooler, so here we are.
17. The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun is a movie entirely about third nipples, bad kung-fu, and a passive-aggressive dwarf manservant named Nick Nack. Coming out in 1974, it drew heavily on the current day energy crisis and martial arts craze, then added in a loose adaption of Ian Fleming’s final, unfinished novel. For his part, Christopher Lee created arguably one of the best Bond villains of all-time in Francisco Scaramanga. Unfortunately, a young Count Dooku wasn’t enough to save Roger Moore’s second outing, which was poorly received upon release and had many decreeing the franchise had been dealt a coup de grâce.
Much of the plot revolves around Bond trying to find a device that can harness the power of the sun while avoiding getting killed by a man with a golden gun. Anyone who’s ever played Nintendo 64’s Goldeneye can be forgiven for thinking that this gun has magical powers and instantly kills anyone in a single shot. In actuality, Scaramanga is just a well-trained shooter with a penchant for gold-plated single fire weaponry and an obsession for murdering James Bond. Their final duel is probably the highlight of the film, rivaled only by Bond’s ongoing, albeit slightly offensive, dealings with Nick Nack. Britt Eckland, though gorgeous, is completely useless as a secret agent and embodies everything anyone has ever hated about the Bond girls. Even worse was the illogical reappearance of Sheriff JW Pepper and his bouts of casual racism from Live and Let Die, proving just how far Moore’s films would go for a laugh (cue slide-whistle kazoo sound).
Following the unparalleled success of Skyfall was no easy feat. But ever since Casino Royale revamped the franchise with its lack of gun barrel openings and iconic lines, fans had been anxiously waiting for Daniel Craig’s version of the tried-and-true 007 formula. While Sam Mendes’ second directorial effort delivered on several fronts (Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, a thrilling Moroccan train brawl, the entire Day of the Dead opening), no amount of Aston Martin DB5s or world record-breaking explosions could save Bond 24 from its head smacking plot developments.
First off, nobody cares about Bond’s childhood. They got away with it in Skyfall because those trips down memory lane were entirely inconsequential to the matter at hand, namely Javier Bardem touching Bond’s thighs. And we certainly don’t need a half-baked effort to tie all of Daniel Craig’s films together by way of a thinly construed familial backstory. We need James Bond drinking, sexing, and blowing things up. Stick to that and most fans will go home happy (so long as you don’t cast Denise Richards). However, the most inexcusable thing about 2015’s Spectre isn’t the fact Bond sleeps with a widow on the day of her husband’s funeral, or that the filmmakers tried to moralize the idea of real world government surveillance, rather it is in the unforgivable handling of Blofeld – “the author of all your pain.” Other than that, it’s not a bad film.
Yes, it’s by far the silliest of the James Bond films. Yes, it unabashedly panders to Star Wars fans. Yes, it is basically a remake of The Spy of Who Loved Me. Yes, Holly Goodhead competes with Pussy Galore for the most outlandishly, suggestive name in history. Yes, a pigeon does a double-take of Bond driving a gondola through St. Mark’s Square. But who cares, because James Bond is IN SPAAAACE!
Actually, the majority of 1979’s Moonraker is your typical globetrotting, women seducing, henchmen clobberfest we’ve come to know and love, and despite all marketing efforts, only the last half-hour has anything to do with space travel and laser battles. The villainous plot is probably the series’ most dastardly, attempting to kill off all of humanity in place of an Aryan race masterminded by Hugo Drax, who mesmerizes with his droll voice and love of cucumber sandwiches. In his employ is the steel-mouthed giant, Jaws, one of the more memorable characters to come out of Moore’s tenure. While his awkward romantic relationship and eventual turn to the light side belittles what made the character so great in his previous outing, watching Richard Kiel try to bite Roger Moore to death never gets old. Overall, it’s easy to toss Moonraker aside as being ludicrous beyond all redemption, but watching Bond go from a freefall without a parachute to a final attempt at re-entry is just too much fun.
14. Live and Let Die
Surprisingly 1973’s Live and Let Die is not as controversial as you’d expect for a Bond blaxploitation film in which all the criminals are black and their leader keeps a clairvoyant, white virgin as his concubine. This is probably in part to the fine acting of Yaphet Kotto as main villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big and, like most of Roger Moore’s films, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just ask those crocodiles.
Definitely a by-product of the era in which it was made, Live and Let Die kicked off Bond’s decade-long habit of replicating whatever trend was popular at the moment (right down to Paul McCartney’s franchise high point theme song). Though it is noteworthy for being Moore’s most faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s work, voodoo and all. Other highlights include the mysterious Baron Samedi (who’s still waiting to return) and Jane Seymour’s Solitaire, marred only by the scene when Bond sleazily tricks her into losing her virginity. Even the stereotypical JW Pepper (aka Bond’s Jar Jar) has his moments and at least feels more at home in the backwaters of Louisiana than he does randomly buying a car in Thailand during The Man with the Golden Gun.
13. License to Kill
No other actor embodied Ian Fleming’s creation better than Timothy Dalton. Oft forgotten not because of his interpretation but because his films lacked the cultural cache of other installments, the actor’s tenure was a fresh take on an aging franchise. After watching Daniel Craig throw a tantrum and quit Mi6 in pretty much every one of his films, Bond going rogue might not seem like anything new. But in 1986’s Licence to Kill, 007 trades in his spy credentials for some cold-hearted vengeance after his pal Felix Leiter is fed to a shark and his wife raped and murdered by a drug cartel… on their honeymoon. Obviously, this is not the same Bond that once dressed as a clown.
If you go into Licence to Kill expecting the suavity of Connery or eye-brow raises of Moore, you will leave disappointed. But taken as is, Dalton’s second and final outing is an enjoyably unrelenting tour de force that shows how truly ruthless James Bond can be.
12. For Your Eyes Only
Just for a moment, forget the truly oddball opening when a Blofeld-esque invalid tries to kill Bond using a remote controlled helicopter and ends up begging for his life by offering to buy Bond “a delicatessen in stainless steel.” For Your Eyes Only is actually one of Moore’s best films, and would have made for a perfect exit from the series had he not decided to do two more.
After quite a bit of backlash over the ridiculous premise of Moonraker, Eon productions decided to ground Bond with a more sophisticated spy thriller encased in a revenge tale featuring the leggy, cross-bow wielding Carole Bouquet. (You know this is a more mature Bond because he turns down underage sex with randy ice-skater Bibi.) While it actually wouldn’t happen until Timothy Dalton sulked onto the scene a few years later, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only was an admirable attempt at returning Bond to his gritty roots, relying far less on comedic interludes to get the job done. That is so long as you ignore the bizarre ending, when Bond gets it on during a phone call with Margaret Thatcher.
11. The Living Daylights
Remember that time James Bond joined forces with the Taliban? Only a truly amazing actor could pull that off. In 1967, Timothy Dalton was first asked to play 007, but he felt that at 21, he was too young for the role. When Connery left after Diamonds are Forever, he was asked again, but didn’t like the light-hearted direction the franchise was going in. Jump ahead seven Roger Moore films later, and the Shakespearean actor was finally ready to bring his no-nonsense version of the spy to the big screen.
Dalton’s back to Fleming approach (comma of hair and all) helped 1987’s The Living Daylights infuse a much-needed dose of espionage and realism into Bond (or at least as realistic as sledding down a mountain in a cello case can be). While the film’s lack of style and memorable villains keep it from the upper pantheons of Bondom, we do get to see Bond have one last go around against the Russians and wear harem pants. It says a lot that the hugely popular recent Bond films borrow their tone from this film.
10. You Only Live Twice
You Only Live Twice deserves its spot for no other reason than taking the archetypes invented by Dr. No (villain bent on world domination, perfectly tailored gadgets, women needlessly in bikinis, and an implausibly expensive secret underground lair) and shooting them up with steroids. The script was written by famed children’s author Roald Dahl, which makes about as about as much sense as turning Sean Connery into the most unconvincing Japanese man ever. Yet somehow, it all comes together beautifully, thanks in no small part to the gyrocoptoring Little Nellie.
If you judge Bond’s 5th film solely on its tasteless use of yellow face, you’re missing out, and obviously didn’t see when 007 beat up the Rock’s grandfather with a sofa. Sure the movie spends far too long setting up Bond’s sham marriage to Kissy Suzuki, and you can actually see Sean Connery looking for the door at times, but we finally get the big reveal four films in the making — the man behind the cat — Ernst Stavros Blofeld. Take a cue from the scarry-eyed Donald Pleasance, that’s how you do it, Spectre. We are also treated to the most epic final battle in Bond history as a fleet of ninjas attack Blofeld’s gigantic volcanic rocket-ship base, making 1967’s You Only Live Twice a classic big budget action spectacle that set the Bond blueprint for years to come.
Bond never felt more suave, skilled or misogynistic than he does in 1965’s Thunderball, which is best summed up in the tagline “James Bond does it everywhere!” Tellingly, this is Sean Connery’s favorite of the lot, and is marked by all the exoticism that made 007’s lifestyle so appealing. Bond just feels at home in the Bahamas, and thanks to a bigger budget following the success of Goldfinger, the audience can revel in his world of baccarat, jet packs, and scuba diving sex.
You could argue Bond Girl Domino is a bit dull, the final underwater battle moves at a snail’s pace, and the plot is pushed along by a staggering number of coincidences (even for a Bond film), but none of that takes away from the experience of watching Sean Connery leisurely bask in thwarting yet another SPECTRE extortion scheme. Every moment involving the vastly underrated henchwoman Fiona Volpe is a delight. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but Thunderball is quintessential Bond.
Skyfall is not the best Bond film ever made. It’s not even the best one starring Daniel Craig. But there is a reason it earned over a billion dollars at the box office, grabbed the most Oscars noms of the series, had critics swooning, and made it near impossible to escape Adele — it’s a really, really good movie. Coming out during Bond’s 50th anniversary in 2012, this film schools Die Another Day on how to pay tribute to the past with a little class (tell us you didn’t smile when DB5 daa da-ed into the spotlight), while simultaneously deconstructing his more familiar elements with a nice blend of excitement, emotion, and silhouetted fist fights.
There is no doubt that Skyfall is a well-made film. Roger Deakins cinematography is that good. Sam Mendes’ thematic underpinnings aren’t too shabby either, drawing out not one, not two, but three of the series’ best acting performances from Craig, Javier Bardem, and Judi Dench. As a spy thriller, it’s top notch, though it did tinker with 007 more than some fans would prefer, and Silva goes out with a whimper better suited for a Shakespearean tragedy than an action-packed thriller. But this muted finish is partly what makes Bond finally walking through M’s leathered door so rewarding. That said, we’re not here to discuss fine filmmaking, we’re here to rank Bond. While it certainly has earned its praise, Skyfall is about one white cat and a Diana Rigg shy of reaching the upper echelons of Bondom.
7. The Spy Who Loved Me
If You Only Live Twice created the Bond formula, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me blew it out of the water. (Which is why it’s only fitting both films were directed by Lewis Gilbert.) After spending two films trying to find his groove and nearly killing off the character with The Man With the Golden Gun, Roger Moore came into his own during his third and by far best outing, saving the franchise in the process. From the moment 007 ski-jumps off a cliff with Union Jack parachute in tow to his final romp “keeping the British end up” with Russian KGB Agent Triple X, there is nothing not to like about this movie. What’s more, Roger Moore proved Bond could have some fun while saving the world one pun at a time. Dare we say, nobody did it better.
The plot is ridiculous as you could hope. Evil billionaire Karl Stromberg hijacks two submarines to blow-up the world so he can create a new civilization in his own web-handed image. Joining him in his Atlantean underwater spider-y headquarters is fan favorite Jaws, ready and willing to bite the head off a shark at a moment’s notice. It takes the combined Cold War efforts of the alluring Top 5 Bond girl Anya Amasova (played by Ringo Starr’s future wife Barbara Bach) and our very own James Bond, to stop them. Only problem is 007 killed Anya’s boyfriend and she wants revenge, which she eventually foregoes for a glass of champagne. Throw in a Lotus “Wet Nellie” Espirit transforming into a submarine and Bond ending Stromberg’s dastardly scheme by shooting him in the balls, and we’re left with an explosive essential in Bond canon.
It was six years since the world had last seen James Bond, and many began to wonder if his licence to thrill had finally been revoked for good. Then Pierce Brosnan decided to jump off a cliff after a plane and pull it, along with the rest of the franchise, out of a nose dive and right into the thighs of Xania Onatopp. Brosnan felt as though he had been groomed from birth for the role of 007, ably combining the charismatic swagger of Connery with the wry humor of Moore and cold-blooded darkness of Dalton (sorry Lazenby, you’re one of a kind). Whatever excesses may have come in his subsequent three followups, Pierce brought Ian Fleming’s spy triumphantly into the modern age with 1995’s Goldeneye.
It’s amazing how the filmmakers managed to fit nearly every single Bond trope into the film’s 130 minutes without it ever feeling contrived or overstuffed. Even the Russians found a place in this post-Cold War blowout. Judi Dench’s casting as M was spot-on (as her unwaveringly awesome ten years in the role stand as testament).
Ned Stark’s Sean Bean’s duplicitous Mi6 agent was the perfect anti-Bond. Famke Janssen somehow manages to crush Thunderball’s Luciana Paluzzi for best femme fatale of the series. And even Natasha Simonova, probably the weakest link, manages to still hold her own beside all those “boys with toys.”
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Like a fine wine or Patrick Stewart, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has only gotten better with age. When Australian male model George Lazenby was plucked to replace Sean Connery, James Bond’s sixth go around was pretty much deemed dead on arrival. It only took about a decade’s worth of TBS Bond marathons for the avalanche to clear and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to resurface as one of the best in the series.
The loss of Connery’s safety-net forced the filmmakers to up their spy game considerably, crafting a visually gorgeous film rivaled in scope and sentiment only by Casino Royale. That’s quite the miraculous feat, considering its villainous plot revolves around people with allergies causing plant impotency while Bond pretends to be a genealogist. But that’s just a testament to the effectiveness of Telly Savalas as Blofeld, and how good George Lazenby looks in a kilt. That amazing ski chase atop Piz Gloria doesn’t hurt either (which, coincidentally, Christopher Nolan ripped off for his snow sequences in Batman Begins and Inception).
Of course, if there’s one reason why this film stands out, it’s because Bond falls in love with Tracy di Vincenzo, then watches her get shot in the head on their wedding day. Played wonderfully by Diana Rigg (aka Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones), Tracy is a paragon of Bond girl-edness whose heartbreaking death is a touchstone moment that showed Bond could be so much more than a brute in a well-tailored suit.
4. Dr. No
The one that started it all and shook up a majority of the key ingredients that made James Bond one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Found here are some of the series’ best moments, including the classic name-drop, his endlessly delightful banter with Moneypenny, and definitive Bond girl Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini. Also present are the surreal, futuristic sets created by production designer Ken Adams that would become an unsung hero of the franchise (along with Nikki van der Zyl, who dubbed Honey Ryder and pretty much every other Bond girl of the ’60s). Though as memorable as all that was, they all take an ejector seat to the true star of the show.
No we’re not talking about that tarantula Dr. No sends to kill Bond and 007 in turn beats to death with his slipper. Nor do we speak of the dragon. (Yes, this film is so awesome, it has its own dragon.) Above all else, 1962’s Dr. No is primarily the story of how a working-class Scottish actor went from starring in a musical about leprechauns to becoming the apotheosis of cool. Suffice to say, moviegoers had never seen anything quite like the wry smirk of Sean Connery, and most likely never will again. All who follow are just playing for second, because you don’t kick off a fifty year franchise by not having one heck of an opening act.
3. From Russia With Love
With the Bond formula firmly in place thanks to Dr. No, its successor From Russia with Love wasted no time in throwing it all off the train and supplanting it with a real deal Fleming-esque spy thriller, combining all the excitement of chess with the intrigue of sex tapes. Filled to the brim with gyrating gypsies, Kerim Bey’s sons, and Rosa Kleb’s shin kicks, Bond goes up against a litany of SPECTRE baddies who refreshingly forego world domination in place of making Bond (and MI6) look the fool.
Connery is in fine form, particularly during a brutal Orient Express slugfest the series has yet to top. Tatiana Romonava shows you can look good and still serve an actual purpose to the plot, deserving props for being one of only two Bond girls to kill a main villain. (Can you name the other?) No tricks, no gadgets, no gimmicks, 1963’s From Russia With Love is Bond at his purest.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
It’s only fitting that the first and best book of Fleming’s oeuvre be turned into one of the all-time cinematic greats for his character. The straightforward brutality of the black and white opening, Vesper and Bond’s verbal sparring, a gripping poker game, a wince-inducing torture scene, and a heart sinking finish — Casino Royale is a modern cold-blooded classic with timeless appeal.
While Brosnan’s debut was a fresh take on a tried method, Craig’s brought a much-needed reboot, reinventing the mold while remaining distinctively the same. But unlike his predecessor, few were pleased with Craig’s thuggish stature and blonde hair in the role. It took all of one pair of bulging blue shorts for that to change. Just as impressively, Martin Campbell doubled down on the success of his first directorial triumph in Goldeneye, masterfully piecing together what should have been an overly long, poorly paced film into a well-constructed tour de force. Vesper Lynd is Bond girl royalty, and Eva Green does a fantastic job bringing her to life, blending the strength of Tracy with the feistiness of Anya while still making the character entirely her own. No one thing stands out as wrong, and nearly everything is pitch-perfect.
Welcome to the quintessential James Bond, a film that is quite literally gold from head to toe. While From Russia With Love may have been a better all-around production, Connery judo chopped it right in the face with a far funner one. And really, isn’t that what 007 is all about?
Goldfinger is the Casablanca of James Bond films, a veritable Greatest Hits of iconic film moments that even managed to make golf look cool. Seriously, who wears a white tuxedo under a wetsuit? James Bond, that’s who. The same guy who apparently also turns lesbians straight. (Let’s ignore how he goes about doing it.) The same guy who doesn’t think twice about trashing a DB5. The same guy who is not afraid to publicly insult the Beatles. Oddjob and his bowler hat? Greatest henchmen ever. The laser table and “I expect you to die” comeback? Best Bond moment ever. Auric Goldfinger and his jovial midas touch? Most likable Bond villain ever. Shirley Bassey and her boisterous opening ballad? The gold standard in Bond theme songs.
Sure, there’s plenty wrong with the film, but there is far more right. After all, hits and misses are what Mr. Bond is all about. It seems like every four films or so, some new actor or Dr. No retcon saves the franchise from utter annihilation, only for it to fall back down again soon after. But 1964’s Goldfinger was a hit bigger than most, and thanks to its critical, financial, and fanatical success, we can thankfully always count on one thing — James Bond will return.
What’s your favorite 007 movie? Let us know how our rankings hold up in your eyes in the comments!