Although the James Bond movies are among the most popular in the world, with audiences flocking to the multiplex any time a new globe-trotting 007 spy adventure hits the screen, they haven’t all been masterpieces. As with any long-running franchise with a double-digit number of entries, there are some movies that are great, some that are pretty good, some that are mediocre, some that are bad, and some that are damn-near unwatchable. And after entertaining audiences for more than 50 years, it shouldn't be surprising to say that Bond's movies really vary in quality.
Putting both ends of the spectrum side-by-side makes it seem strange that they even come from the same franchise. So, here are The 5 Best (And 5 Worst) James Bond Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
In the years after Skyfall, fans have been pointing out holes in the plot (Bond’s faked death didn’t make any sense, a lot of Silva’s plan relied on coincidences he couldn’t have predicted etc.), but when it was first released, no one was thinking about that. All anyone was thinking about were the set pieces.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins turned every action scene into a work of art, from the silhouetted fight sequence to the thrilling helicopter attack on Bond’s childhood home. Plus, Skyfall sees the return of 007’s classic Aston Martin. Plot was the last thing on any viewer’s mind.
In a bad way, Die Another Day is the pinnacle of Pierce Brosnan's era of James Bond. It's probably the most ridiculous Bond movie ever made, which is saying a lot. It has the overreliance on bad CGI, the cringeworthily corny one-liners, and the zero-dimensional female characters that defined the Brosnan films.
The third act sees Bond surfing on a tidal wave, while the villain is a North Korean general whose altered his DNA to become a white British businessman. Bond has never really taken itself too seriously, but come on, it needs to take itself more seriously than this.
Back when every franchise was getting Nolan-ized with a gritty reboot, James Bond was reintroduced to audiences as a violent, mentally disturbed, but suave secret agent in a visceral thriller. Casino Royale debuted Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond and despite being the most serious portrayal we’d seen yet, he still drove sports cars, hit on every woman he met, and spouted one-liners in his drink order.
Martin Campbell directed more than enough breathtaking action set pieces, like the parkour sequence on the construction site or the high-speed pursuit at the airport, to make this a Bond movie to remember.
The Pierce Brosnan-starring Bond movies are sort of viewed as the Star Wars prequel trilogy of the 007 franchise. They rely too heavily on CGI effects that dated horribly and look like PS2 action scenes, and not enough on clever plotting and character development.
The plot is just as ridiculous as the other Brosnan movies, with a billionaire planning to set off a nuclear blast on the coast of Istanbul to drive up the price of gasoline and increase his profit margins. Overall, that motivation alone isn’t compelling enough and the villain doesn’t feel like much of a threat.
The very first Bond movie still stands as one of the best ever made. It introduced all the tropes (a megalomaniacal villain, a one-off love interest, a suave attitude etc.) and repeated lines (“The name’s Bond...James Bond,” “Vodka martini – shaken, not stirred,” etc.) that would go on to give the franchise the longevity that it’s enjoyed for more than half a century.
It also has one of the best villains, one of the best Bond girls, and some of the best fight scenes in Bond history, which is impressive, considering they were all the first of their kind.
Apparently, the critics on Rotten Tomatoes really didn’t like Roger Moore's 007 movies. While Christopher Lee does a great job of playing the villain Scaramanga, who is armed with the titular firearm made out of cigarette paraphernalia, the rest of the movie is too absurd to be enjoyable.
The Man with the Golden Gun has that infamous barrel roll, one of the greatest car stunts ever put on film, ruined in the cutting room by adding a stupid slide whistle sound effect. Despite Lee’s impressive contributions, this movie was certainly a low point for the James Bond movies.
The first Bond movie, Dr. No, may have established the formula, but the second one, From Russia with Love, perfected it. By swapping out the Soviet organization S.M.E.R.S.H. from the source material for the vaguer organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E., this movie set up the Bond series’ apolitical outlook, keeping the focus on the action-packed spectacle.
From Russia with Love is a sequel to Dr. No in the truest sense, as opposed to the standalone adventures that the later sequels would be. It follows on from Bond’s killing of Dr. No by having S.P.E.C.T.R.E. come after him for killing one of its members.
The plot of Octopussy hasn’t aged particularly well. Bond chases a general who is stealing from the Soviet government and stumbles upon a rich Afghan prince plotting to use nuclear weapons to enforce disarmament across the entirety of Western Europe. It’s pretty politically sensitive, unlike most Bond movies.
Octopussy also completely bereft of any memorable characters, dialogue, or action scenes, which are key components in making a classic – or at least good – Bond movie. On top of that, its attempts at humor are wholly cringeworthy, with Bond’s “disguises” seeing him dressed as a clown and a gorilla.
The best Bond movie is the one with all the most iconic moments – the woman suffocated by gold paint, the laser beam coming up between 007’s legs, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” etc. – and also an unforgettable villain in Auric Goldfinger, a madman who wants to make his gold collection even more valuable by robbing Fort Knox.
By his third outing, Sean Connery had settled into the role of James Bond and nailed every one of his mannerisms. Goldfinger is also really well-scripted, with an engaging plot and structure with no flabby filler scenes.
The low point of Roger Moore’s tenure as Bond came with his final film in the role, A View to a Kill. Most critics’ problem with Moore’s films is that he was getting old for an action-oriented role. Naturally, this was most prevalent in the movie in which he was the oldest.
In A View to a Kill, it’s clear that Bond is slowing down. He can’t run as fast, he can’t draw his gun as fast – it takes you out of the movie. And on top of that, the story of a business tycoon who wants to flood Silicon Valley to dominate the tech industry is pretty stupid.