There are probably ten thousand “Best Bond Films” lists on the internet. But, without any evidence to back me up, here is THE definitive list of every Bond film, ranked1
hat is it that makes a good bond movie, good? While a majority of the Bond films all share certain themes and tropes in varying degrees of seriousness and absurdity, those don’t necessarily correlate with how good the end product is.
A few things to get out of the way: Sean Connery is, far and away, the best Bond. he is James Bond, forever and always. Anyone who is either an idiot or is at best trying to be contrarian. The biggest impact on the quality of a Bond movie, not surprisingly, is the actor playing James Bond. It’s through that prism that all Bonds are seen.
We’ll do this from worst to best.
DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
I think the best way to describe Die Another Day (if you have to) is: Stale. Pierce Brosnan who, at his best, was a decent Bond, is clearly going through the motions here. The villain is terrible, the gadgets are dumb, even the title sounds like a satirical amalgam of previous titles. The only redeemable note is that it was so bad, Eon had to reboot the series.
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
Grace Jones made for a memorable henchman. That’s the best thing you can say about this one. Christopher Walken as villain Max Zorin and set in the Bay Area, this one is maybe the most disappointing of the franchise.
Roger Moore’s last turn as Bond, and for good reason. Like Die Another Day, this one was past its expiration date and failed to really do anything original.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
Like an aging athlete, almost every Bond actor has gone on too long. This was Brosnan’s third go as Bond, and it was already one-too-many. To be fair, Brosnan is an above-average Bond who, I believe, had the poor timing of taking on the mantle when the franchise was already is desperate need of a retooling, or as is the nom du jour, a reboot. Denise Richards appears as the worst Bond girl of the entire franchise.
TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
There’s a whole lotta Brosnan down here at the bottom, but I swear he’s not the worst Bond. This movie, with a below-threatening Rupert Murdoch/Bill Gates-type villain, is okay. Just okay. But not bad. This is probably the line between Bad (see above) and Average (see below.)
THE BEST BONDS
1. Sean Connery
2. Daniel Craig
3. Pierce Brosnan
4. Roger Moore
5. George Lazenby
6. Timothy Dalton
Okay, this one is really really close to being bad, but part of the charm of the James Bond franchise is a certain amount of campiness that came after the features of the first successful films became trope. The gadgets, the women, the taglines— they all went from signatures, to camp, to worn-out tropes, but they didn’t really become bad until that final stage. The campiness really took hold through the Roger Moore era, and this is a prime example. It’s Bond. With lasers. And space.
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
Another pretty average Roger Moore effort. Curd Jürgens appears as above-average villain Karl Stromberg, and beloved henchman Jaws (played by Richard Kiel) makes his first appearance.
LICENSE TO KILL (1989)
The second and last Bond film starring worst-Bond Timothy Dalton. I think you could argue that this was the Bond Braintrust’s first attempt at taking the series in a different direction. The film sees Bond suspended from MI6 as he pursues a drug lord, who has ordered an attack on his CIA friend Felix Leiter and the rape and murder of Felix’s wife during their honeymoon. It sort of foreshadows the grittiness of the Daniel Craig era, but without pulling it off successfully. License to Kill is, however, at least a little different.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
On the back of the over-the-top and borderline bad Moonraker, the producers made a concerted effort to come back with a more subdued installment. For Your Eyes Only isn’t one of the best in the series, but it’s a welcome change from the camp of the likes of Moonraker.
BEST BOND GIRLS
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
Mid-table Bond. Not offensively bad, not great. Timothy Dalton’s debut in the role. Not much more to say here, sadly.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
If Tomorrow Never Dies is the line between Average and bad, Quantum of Solace is the line between Average and Good. It gives A View to a Kill a run for its money in the “Most Disappointing” category however only because the previous installment was so good and so promising. Largely forgettable, unfortunately.
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
George Lazenby, an Australian model with next to no acting experience was chosen to take over for the venerable Sean Connery after Connery decided he was finished as Bond. Much derided at the time of its release and for many years after, OHMSS has had its reputation restored in the last few decades. It was probably more a case of the first actor to take over for Connery had no chance to succeed. Very Moyes-after-Ferguson.
Pierce Brosnan’s debut as Bond, it shows us what kind of Bond he could have been with the benefit of some better movies being made around him. Robbie Coltrane as one of my favourite Bond colaborators, Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen in one of the best Bond Girl/Henchwoman pairs and Sean Bean as a great Bond villain. Really well executed, and the basis for one of the best video games ever.
BEST BOND VILLAINS
2. Baron Samedi
Live and Let Die
3. Emilio Largo
4. Raoul Silva
5. Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Diamonds Are Forever
7. Alec Trevelyan
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
Even the best Roger Moore-era Bonds felt campy. Maybe it was subversion of the original Connery incarnation, maybe it was the undeniable 1970s mistrust of the prim-and-proper establishment, or just as likely, it could be Roger Moore was a poor choice for the role. Whatever it was, Moore was a very different Bond. Despite starring as Bond seven times, equaling Sean Connery’s tally2, no one would argue for Roger Moore as the best James Bond. This had the cartoony feel that all Moore-era Bonds did, but it wasn’t destroyed by it.
CASINO ROYALE (2006)
I would argue that Die Another Day and the end of the Brosnan era was the inevitable explosion that came at the end of a very long fuse that was lit as far back as the casting of Roger Moore. The moment Roger Moore was cast, James Bond changed. There was something menacing bubbling just under the surface with Connery that assured you Bond could get his hands dirty. With Moore, it was all elegance, no threat. That trend wasn’t completely reversed until Daniel Craig was cast for Casino Royale. An emphasis on a more grounded, more gritty Bond was a very welcome change.
LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
Roger Moore’s debut is a polarizing entry in the series. It’s basically Bond-as-blaxploitation as Live and Let Die sees Bond investigating the deaths of three British agents. His investigation leads him through a strange world of voodoo and mysticism to a Harlem drug lord and a Caribbean dictator. If you don’t like the Blaxploitation classics of the era, this likely won’t be for you, but it features Yaphet Koto, one of the best actors from the entire series; Baron Samedi, one of my favourite henchman from the entire series; and a young Jane Seymour as one of the most beautiful Bond Girls ever. If it were Sean Connery’s final Bond instead of Roger Moore’s first, I think it would be a Top 5 pick.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
Though far from the best of the series, Diamonds Are Forever was Connery’s final turn as 0073 so it’s automatically better than most others.
Thunderball is classic Bond: Connery, girls, martinis, gadgets, baccarat. What more could you ask for? The search for two atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he encounters Emilio Largo, the card-playing, eye patch-wearing SPECTRE Number Two and all-time great Bond Girl Fiona Volpe. Backed by CIA agent Felix Leiter, Bond’s search culminates in an underwater battle with Largo’s henchmen.
Putting a non-Connery Bond in the top five was no easy decision, but Skyfall really was everything you’d want from a Bond movie. Daniel Craig back in full swing after the disappointing Quantum of Solace, with a typically fantastic performance from Javier Bardem as the villain. Judi Dench makes her final appearance as M and the whole movie is a proverbial tug-of-war between schools New and Old. While theme song isn’t something I’d consider important for the series, Adele’s “Skyfall” theme may the best Bond theme song of all time4
DR. NO (1962)
It’s hard to top the one that started it all. Ursula Andress rising from the Caribbean Sea became an absolutely iconic moment as the original, and arguably most quintessential Bond Girl. The movie set up a lot of the 007 signatures still used today.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
Bond fakes his own
death and travels to Japan to investigate the hijacking of an American spacecraft by an unidentified spacecraft. Easily my favourite use of a murphy bed in film, You Only Live Twice also features iconic villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and, playfully racist bits aside, is a thoroughly enjoyable entry.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
A real contender for personal favourite, From Russia With Love has evil organization SPECTRE concocting a plan to kill 007 to avenge the death of their agent, Dr. No. Daniela Bianchi plays Tatiana Romanova, a beautiful Soviet Embassy clerk tricked by SPECTRE into setting Bond up, believing she is working for Mother Russia. While her Bond Girl name isn’t a double entendre, Bianchi is one of my favourite Bond Girls of the series. Despite her English being dubbed, her chemistry with Connery is unmistakable. Throw in settings like Istanbul, Turkey and The Orient Express, From Russia With Love is solidly second-place in the series.
There is only one possible option for Best Bond Movie, and anyone who tells you different isn’t to be trusted. Goldfinger is rife with iconic Bond moments and touchstones: Swiss Gold Magnate Auric Goldfinger himself56; Goldfinger-employee-turned-Bond-girl Jill Masterson, who is killed for her relationship with Bond by being painted gold7; Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with oilslick-shooter, machine guns and ejector seat; Bond nearly being lasered in half while bound on a table; Goldfinger’s Korean manservant Oddjob; and, of course, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, Goldfinger’s personal pilot. Goldfinger is the quintessential Bond movie. Connery is in his pomp, the other actors are all perfectly cast and the film has a nice blend of action-packed set-pieces and tense scenes between 007 and gold-obsessed Goldfinger. When it comes to arguments over the best Bond films, the argument absolutely must start at #2.
Except the non-EON films Casino Royale (1967), because it was a comedy and Never Say Never Again (1983), because it’s weird to see a Bond in his fifties, even if it is Sean Connery↩
Or besting it, if you discount Connery’s one non-Eon Bond film, as we are doing here.↩
Again, not counting Never Say Never Again↩
Certainly it’s in the mix with “Diamonds Are Forever”, “Goldfinger” and “Live and Let Die”↩
Goldfinger is played by German actor Gert Fröbe, who was both a member of the Nazi party before WWII and the abettor of two Jews, whom he hid from the Gestapo in his basement.↩
“Swiss Gold Magnate” may be most Bond occupation possible.↩