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The best James Bond movies of all time

We revisit every film, rating the best and worst Bond girls, 007 theme songs and leading actors with the licence to kill

It’s been 50 years of James Bond action movies: five decades of movie stunts, gadgets, glamour and the coolness of a concept that shows no signs of dying. But does one installment tower over them all? Time Out New York’s film critics revisit childhood memories and six swarthy, eyebrow-arching actors—from Sean Connery’s iconic pioneer to Daniel Craig’s tough remodel—to consider all 23 of the official Eon entries (not including 1967’s intentionally silly Casino Royale and 1983’s independently made Never Say Never Again, a semi-remake of Thunderball). How do all the Bond girls stack up? How about those syrupy theme songs? To highlight the best James Bond movies, we consider these components in ranking each movie. Join us as we count backward toward number one with a bullet. And if your favorite spy didn't get enough love, tell us in the comments. Do you want more great stories about things to do, where to eat, what to watch, and where to party? Obviously you do, follow Time Out New York on Facebook for the good stuff.

RECOMMENDED: Our list of the 100 best movies of all time

Best James Bond movies: 23–16

23

Die Another Day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan bids farewell to Bond with a stinker that can fairly be called the franchise’s Batman & Robin. There’s a kernel of an interesting idea in the plot, about a North Korean general—who remakes himself through surgery as a white Anglo businessman—with plans to harness the sun’s rays for a destructive laser. Actually, no: There’s nothing not ridiculous about that, whatsoever. Ceaseless digital spectacle (parasailing on a tidal wave is a series nadir), barrel-scraping gadgets (an invisible car?) and quite possibly the worst Bond girl ever make this a cringingly tough sit. When Madonna is your most likable performer (she cameos as a fencing instructor), you know something is majorly off.

Theme song: A few eye-rolling lyrics aside (“I’m gonna avoid the cliché”—more like milk it, hon), Madonna’s blood-pumping title tune is one of the film’s few saving graces.

The Bond girl: Halle Berry’s Jinx, a sassy NSA agent, is 100 percent arch line readings and calculatedly sensuous poses without a shred of genuine allure.

The killer moment: Moneypenny consummates her flirtatious relationship with our polyamorous secret agent using Q’s virtual-reality simulator.—Keith Uhlich

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22

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The second Brosnan Bond was a troubled production, with numerous script rewrites, openly unhappy performers (Teri Hatcher took her frustrations to the press) and the absence of hands-on producer Albert R. Broccoli, who’d recently passed away. So it’s kind of a miracle the movie is as watchable as it is, even though it’s still a pale shadow of Brosnan’s inaugural GoldenEye. Monomaniacal media mogul Jonathan Pryce is a splendid villain—an unholy amalgam of Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates—who’s out to use his headline-blaring influence to start a war between Britain and China. And there’s a terrific central action scene, just the right mix of comedy and thrills, involving a motorcycle-helicopter chase through Saigon’s slums.

Theme song: A bizarre mix of torch song, soaring ballad and coffeehouse improvisation, the lackluster title tune by Sheryl Crow immediately dies, and not tomorrow either.

The Bond girl: Hong Kong martial-arts superstar Michelle Yeoh is more equally matched with her male counterpart in terms of brain and brawn than past heroines, and she has a hell of a roundhouse kick.

The killer moment: Bond and his leading lady descend the outside of a skyscraper with the aid of a behemoth billboard of Pryce’s baddie.—Keith Uhlich

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21

A View to a Kill (1985)

How do you screw up a Bond film in which both Christopher Walken and Grace Jones plot to flood Silicon Valley by blowing up the San Andreas Fault? Here’s your blueprint: The constant quips of 58-year-old Roger Moore come off like ossified shtick, and his chemistry with Bond girl Tanya Roberts is nonexistent. Then there’s Walken’s bleach-blond Nazi superman, Max Zorin, who’s more of a petulant child than a terrifying psychopath. Aside from a vertigo-inducing climax involving a zeppelin and the Golden Gate Bridge, the action scenes are a mishmash of shoddy stunt-doubling and eyesore rear projection. Not the best note to go out on, Rog.

Theme song: The only Bond theme to go No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” is a glammy, delirious piece of ’80s cheese.

The Bond girl: Roberts’s bland geologist pales next to the snarling, statuesque Jones, who can kill with a camptastic glare as much as a poisoned fishing rod.

The killer moment: Bond snowboards down a mountain to the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”—a cheeky summation of the Moore era if ever there was one.—Keith Uhlich

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20

Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore started playing secret agent Simon Templar on TV’s The Saint in 1962, the same year Connery ordered his first onscreen shaken-not-stirred martini. In fact, Moore had been suggested as a potential Bond from the get-go. So the London-born actor would seem like a wise choice to take over the reins—a notion his disastrous first Bond film was apparently hell-bent on disproving from start to finish. Moore’s interpretation of 007 as a mobile cardboard cutout isn’t helped by the fact the producers decided to turn his inaugural entry into a blaxploitation movie, spiced with offensive ooga-booga voodoo scenes and cringeworthy comic relief. We’d have been happy to let this one die, frankly.

Theme song: It’s ironic that one of the worst Bond films has one of the franchise’s best theme songs, courtesy of Paul McCartney and Wings in full pop-genius mode.

The Bond girl: Could Jane Seymour’s psychic tarot-card-reader Solitaire be any sexier? No. Could she be a little less bland overall? Definitely.

The killer moment: A fellow agent encounters a parade of New Orleans mourners: “Whose funeral is it?” “Yours!”—David Fear

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19

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Having exhausted the novelty factor of a new 007 by this point, you can feel the producers straining to come up with ways to keep viewers interested in Bond 19: Here’s an even more extreme version of a ski chase, one with helicopters, too. Our oil-pipeline plot is torn straight from today’s headlines. Look, there’s a new Q, and it’s John Cleese. Pierce Brosnan brings a feline grace to the role, but even with Robert Carlyle playing an unfeeling terrorist—literally, as the bullet in his head means he can’t experience pain—this is a Bond film on autopilot. An above-average entry would have been enough.

Theme song: Garbage’s alt-rock take on what otherwise sounds like a typical Bond theme is passable but wanting.

The Bond girl: Sophie Marceau’s bad girl brings the right mix of exotic beauty and predatory danger; the less said about Denise Richards’s nuclear physicist (?!?), the better.

The killer moment: The precredits' set piece has Bond chasing down a comely assassin via speedboats and an explosive hot-air balloon.—David Fear

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18

The Living Daylights (1987)

Roger Moore recedes into a mild, safari-suited haze; Timothy Dalton arrives to fill the tux. There’s no denying the vigor Dalton brings to the action sequences (he did many of these stunts himself), and an aging franchise suddenly feels high-octane. But couldn’t the dour actor have found his way to a little charm? No one leaves the theater shaken or stirred. Real-life world events have since transpired to make this movie’s endgame laughable: Bond joins with heroic mujahideen forces in the Afghanistan desert (pay no attention to those long beards and terrorist intentions) to foil a Soviet counteragent.

Theme song: After the global success of Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill,” producers thought it wise to go with Norwegian pretty boys A-ha, but the resulting title number (composed with John Barry in a reportedly spiteful collaboration) sounds thin.

The Bond girl: Bobbleheaded Maryam d’Abo, playing a Czech cellist and bedroom pawn, never seems comfortable with Dalton’s hard-ass 007 (is it even possible?), plus she’s especially helpless during the chase sequences.

The killer moment: Bond and an evil henchman hang off the back of a cargo plane’s open hatch while soaring thousands of feet over the desert. Oh, and there’s a bomb onboard.—Joshua Rothkopf

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17

Octopussy (1983)

Roger Moore was coming to the end of his run as Bond: This was his sixth and penultimate film as 007, for which he had to be persuaded to return (the producers even screen-tested Timothy Dalton and James Brolin for the role). The plot spins on the usual Cold War shenanigans, with Steve Berkoff typically way-over-the-top as a deranged Russian general. An excursion to India is occasion for puerile curry jokes, a camel doing a double take and scene-stealing Rajasthan locations.

Theme song: Adult-contemporary crooner Rita Coolidge moans her way through series embarrassment “All Time High,” a song with lyrics so awful, Broadway legend Tim Rice should have returned one of his Tony Awards in shame.

The Bond girl: Maud Adams already played a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun, but impressively, she returned to the franchise almost a decade later (good genes) as this film’s title character, the head of a cult.

The killer moment: Some would call it a low point but it’s memorable nonetheless: Bond dismantles a warhead while dressed as a circus clown.—Dave Calhoun

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16

Moonraker (1979)

Cashing in on the Star Wars craze, Bond heads to outer space to foil the plans of an apocalyptic industrialist (Michael Lonsdale) who wants to repopulate the world with Barbie and Ken dolls. Dozens of jumpsuited bad guys dangle from zero-gravity wires, yet the movie rarely gets off the ground—here’s where Roger Moore’s arched eyebrow becomes campier than a pitched tent. Still, the movie inspires awe in its massive metal sets, designed to be exploded (why have merely one space shuttle launching from a secret Brazilian hangar when you can have six?), while composer John Barry unleashes some of his grandest orchestral swells.

Theme song: After Kate Bush declined the gig (damn you, cruel world), Shirley Bassey returned to the franchise for her third outing, following Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever. Alas, she never gets the chance to truly vamp.

The Bond girl: Lois Chiles, playing an undercover CIA agent, benefits from a flinty demeanor and some women’s-lib speechifying, yet she’s seriously undermined by her character’s name, Holly Goodhead.

The killer moment: High above Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain, Bond and returning baddie Jaws (Richard Kiel) grapple while hanging from some shoddy-looking cable cars.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Best James Bond movies: 15–8

15

Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig’s second go as a more bruised and battered Bond suffers from being intricately connected to Casino Royale: Even though it’s a strict continuation, the movie is simply not as fresh. Out to avenge his beloved Vesper Lynd, Bond follows the trail to evil environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Unlike the clean, cohesive Casino, the action sequences here look like jumbled rejects from one of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne movies (don’t get us started on that phony-looking parachute drop). And the aching emotional undercurrents that Craig brought to the role his first time out are almost entirely absent—the better, we suppose, for the character to laughably seduce the head-slappingly-named Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton).

Theme song: The individual elements of the Jack White–Alicia Keys duet “Another Way to Die” are catchy (throbbing drums, fluttering piano, pounding guitar), but make for strangely unharmonic bedfellows.

The Bond girl: Olga Kurylenko’s score-evening Bolivian operative looks great next to Craig’s brooding Bond, but arm candy is as far as she goes.

The killer moment: Judi Dench’s M: “Bond, I need you back.” Bond: “I never left.”—Keith Uhlich

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14

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Vintage middle-of-the-road Bond, Roger Moore’s fifth time in the tux is as fun to watch as it is difficult to identify when you stumble across it during a 007 marathon on TV. Saddled with a dud of a villain—small-fry smuggler Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover), who wants to sell a MacGuffin to the KGB—For Your Eyes Only compensates for its more routine elements with some beautiful Mediterranean locations and a glorious mess of throwaway details. One moment Moore is trying to escape a homicidal East German biathlete, the next he’s being assisted by Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (Topol, as a pistachio-loving comrade), which works perfectly for a Bond movie that’s all about “Tradition!”

Theme song: Sheena Easton’s cheesy slice of Muzak would feel more at home in an elevator than a James Bond movie. This song perfectly encapsulates why 007 and the 1980s were, by and large, a match made in hell.

The Bond girl: Bond narrowly avoids having sex with a thirsty ice-skating prodigy named Bibi Dahl before eventually doing the deed with a more age-appropriate seductress, Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris). But it’s Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) who scores the ultimate quantum of solace: As the daughter of murdered marine archaeologists, Melina has revenge on her mind and 007 in her bed.

The killer moment: A hockey team of henchmen skates out to greet Bond as he tries to shuffle across an ice rink, and it might just be the most absurd fight scene in Bond history—what kind of evil mastermind has a violent hockey team on retainer? The cherry on top: The goal horn goes off every time Bond slap-shoots an unconscious goon into the net.—David Ehrlich

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13

License to Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton came into his own with his second and final take on Bond. Licence to Kill follows our determined operative as he goes rogue, hunting down a Latin American drug lord (Robert Davi) who literally fed Bond’s FBI confidant to the sharks. Dalton’s agonized performance (fueled by the character’s undying loyalty to his friend) anticipates the darker turn the series would take with Daniel Craig; this is one of the few entries where Bond seems truly physically and emotionally vulnerable as opposed to a pun-toting cipher. Almost every action scene—from the opening skydiving sequence to the finale’s gobsmacking truck-convoy assault—is cream of the crop. And a young Benicio Del Toro (playing a henchman) too? It’s a sorely underrated entry.

Theme song: The Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, goes straight for our hearts with this soaringly goofy title ballad. Her attempt to out-Bassey Bassey is a sheer guilty pleasure.

The Bond girl: Though hotly pursued by the drug lord’s concubine, Bond only has eyes for CIA informant and pilot Carey Lowell, whose salty vocabulary and way with a gun are her most distinctive traits.

The killer moment: A slimy henchman meets a head-popping end in a ship’s decompression chamber.—Keith Uhlich

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12

GoldenEye (1995)

Pierce Brosnan was originally set to take over 007 duties when Roger Moore was hanging up his Walther PPK in the ’80s, but he was unable to get out of his Remington Steele contract. When he finally did step into the role with this 1995 entry, the Irish actor immediately established himself as the perfect bridge between the old and the new: sophisticated enough to sell the franchise’s vintage martini-and-tuxedo concept of style, yet sleek and savvy enough for the cyber-espionage age. Even the creaky plot involving rogue agents, Cold War–rejects and a remote-controlled satellite seems thrilling and fresh with Brosnan at the helm.

Theme song: Tina Turner does her best Shirley Bassey impersonation, but her contribution (cowritten by Bono and the Edge) is less than golden.

The Bond girl: Never mind Izabella Scorupco’s mousy computer analyst; we’re all about Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp and her killer thighs.

The killer moment: Bond deftly avoids a ricocheting bullet without batting an eye—a single gesture that sums up Brosnan’s cool.—David Fear

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11

Thunderball (1965)

Following up Goldfinger was no picnic, but Sean Connery’s fourth outing demonstrated the series’ durability, cementing a brash, Playboy-era formula that yielded huge box office (it’s still the highest-grossing Bond, when adjusted for inflation). Return to it now, and the effort is painfully obvious: Yes, we love spooky underwater sequences involving the conveyance of stolen A-bombs, but must there be endless minutes of them? Regardless, there's some essential stuff here: the electric chair that incinerates an underperforming villain at a meeting, the swimming pool with sharks, the widescreen luxury.

Theme song: Tom Jones, already riding high in 1965 with his theme for What’s New Pussycat?, croons an electrifying if schlocky spy song, heavy on John Barry’s brass and ominousness.

The Bond girl: Stronger and more sun-kissed than most of her kin, Claudine Auger’s Domino represents an early evolution of the archetype, handy with a harpoon gun and a playful match with Connery.

The killer moment: The effect is largely achieved via rear projection, but why do we watch Bond films if not for jet packs? This one launches our hero off a chateau, landing him only feet away from his Aston Martin.—Joshua Rothkopf

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10

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

We don’t want to say the Bond films were experiencing franchise fatigue by the time this ninth entry hit theaters. But given its concessions to in-vogue film fads—notably a martial-arts academy sequence lifted from Enter the Dragon—and the return of Clifton James’s embarrassing redneck from Live and Let Die, it’s clear the series was beginning to show its age. The campiness that characterized much of the Moore era here becomes a fixture, slowed only by the presence of Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, the world’s deadliest assassin. He brings a sense of malevolence to his killer-for-hire that almost makes up for the film’s overall softness.

Theme song: When was the last time you started humming Lulu’s manic theme song? Our point exactly.

The Bond girl: Maud Adams would deliver a better Bond-girl performance in Octopussy nine years later; thankfully, Britt Ekland’s Girl Friday picks up the slack.

The killer moment: A final showdown in Scaramanga’s trippy funhouse ends its cat-and-mouse game with a Bond “mannequin” that springs to life.—David Fear

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9

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

With the Playboy era still in its glory phase, you’d expect a new Bond film to reach dizzying heights of straight-boy escapism. But this entry is remarkable for its sexual weirdness: Sean Connery had to be lured back to the role he created with a huge payday, and when he returned, he found a script loaded with gay innuendo—from pinkie-to-mouth bad guy Charles Gray (formerly of Rocky Horror) to doting henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Even one of the Bond girls is named Plenty O’Toole. Still, this has its moments, serving as a time capsule of the dirty old Las Vegas with no children in sight.

Theme song: Shirley Bassey’s belter has taken on new life this past decade courtesy of Kanye West and Jay Z, and the original tune still has boozy potency.

The Bond girl: Jill St. John’s gem thief Tiffany Case barely makes an impression. Even our undercover hero seems bored with her.

The killer moment: Another same-sex couple, the villainous Bambi and Thumper, attacks Bond with long legs, birthing the concept of Fembots.—Joshua Rothkopf

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8

Skyfall (2012)

Casino Royale used the blond and brutish Daniel Craig to reignite the Bond franchise and give 007 the origin story we never knew we wanted. Ignore Craig’s previous Quantum of Solace (2008): Skyfall takes things a step further, bringing the MI6 superspy back to his titular childhood mansion in the Scottish Highlands and inviting psychotic former agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) to come shoot it to pieces. Gorgeously lensed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, the moodiest movie in the franchise is steeped in rare emotional warfare—Bond may never die, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be broken.

Theme song: Best Bond theme ever? Adele’s chart-topping, lung-bursting anthem is definitely up there, a brassy throwback built on a modern pop structure. Bonus points for lyrics that try to make sense of the movie’s title.

The Bond girl: 007 beds Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) and former sex slave Séverine (Bérénice Marlohe), but the real Bond girl here turns out to be M (Judi Dench), as the series kisses her goodbye in style.

The killer moment: Skyfall skips from one brilliant mic drop to the next, but for all of its explosive set pieces, the film peaks with a simple shot of Javier Bardem sauntering toward our hero and regaling him with a story about cannibalistic rats.—David Ehrlich

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Best James Bond movies: 7–1

7

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Don’t feel bad for odd-Bond-out George Lazenby (the unknown Australian was drafted when Connery got cold feet); his sole 007 film is actually one of the series’ finest. Darkly adventurous and romantic, the plot swirls with classic elements: Telly Savalas as the murderous Blofeld, brainwashed babes waging biowarfare, an amazing ski sequence and—most notably—the first sign of our hero’s emotional vulnerability (for the right woman). Also, bar none, this is signature composer John Barry’s most extraordinary Bond score, bursting with psychedelic rock and lush, orchestral menace.

Theme song: “We Have All the Time in the World” has become a standard for its lovely simplicity; it was the last vocal Louis Armstrong recorded before his death.

The Bond girl: Already a well-regarded toughie on British TV in The Avengers, classy Diana Rigg was more substantial than any previous Bond counterpart—and set a standard that’s rarely been met.

The killer moment: After heroically saving Rigg from drowning—and then fighting off goons—only to have her tear off in her car, Lazenby jokes directly to camera, “This never happened to the other fellow.”—Joshua Rothkopf

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6

Dr. No (1962)

Series producers “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were still working out the kinks of translating Ian Fleming’s books to the big screen when they launched this first entry. Yet from the moment Sean Connery first utters the words “Bond…James Bond,” we know we’ve entered a world of glamorous women, grandiose danger and globe-trotting derring-do. This is where everything starts, from that signature spy-a-go-go theme to Maurice Binder’s mind-blowing credits sequences. Also introduced here are centerfold-ready romantic interests and colorful megalomaniacs (Joseph Wiseman’s titular villain deserves more than two scenes). These elements get refined over the years, but you couldn’t ask for a better introduction to Fleming’s international man of mystery.

Theme song: The memorable tunes wouldn’t start for a while, so we have to make due with a so-so calypso ditty, “Underneath the Mango Tree.”

The Bond girl: You can actually hear the sound of male hormones surging when Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder walks out of the sea in that white bikini.

The killer moment: Bond cold-bloodedly confronts a friend who’s betrayed him: “That’s a Smith & Wesson. And you’ve had your six,” says 007, before reminding us he has a license to kill.—David Fear

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5

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Roger Moore’s glib brand of Bond is routinely slagged these days, but if the guy had a high point, it’s right here. Set to the disco-fied strains of a Marvin Hamlisch score, Moore’s white-funky superspy outwits pursuers in a Lotus that turns into a submarine, travels to Egypt to wrestle with metal-toothed Jaws (Richard Kiel) and battles with a nuke-crazy nut who hopes to survive the fallout underwater. Most impressively, there’s money, tons of it spent on cavernous sets (an entire new soundstage was built for this movie) and an amazing spiderlike hideout that rises from the ocean.

Theme song: Carly Simon’s California cool was an uncanny match for Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” (with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager), a staggeringly sexy torch song. Don’t take our word for it—here’s Radiohead.

The Bond girl: Barbara Bach looks exotic enough to play Soviet agent “Triple X” (that’s the humor, folks), but her role is largely one of adornment.

The killer moment: Maybe the best one of the whole franchise: Bond (legendary stuntman Rick Sylvester) skis off a mountain, falling for an uncomfortably long time, until—surprise!—the ripcord is pulled and his parachute sports the Union Jack.—Joshua Rothkopf

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4

You Only Live Twice (1967)

It’s almost a shame that Bond’s fifth adventure is so good, because it’s also so racist. Scripted by legendary children’s author Roald Dahl (hardly the weirdest thing about the film), You Only Live Twice finds everyone’s favorite spy faking his own death and traveling to Tokyo in order to see if the Japanese are behind the hijacking of an American spacecraft. That’s right: James Bond saves the world in yellowface. Beyond that tiny detail, however, this is what we talk about when we talk about Bond: ninja armies, henchman-devouring piranhas and the glorious reveal of baldheaded SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasence).

Theme song: Nancy Sinatra’s languid classic is one of the few Bond tunes good enough to earn a life of its own beyond the movie—those swirling violins will outlive us all.

The Bond girl: Mie Hama plays Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki, a name that’s almost as flagrant as Pussy Galore but twice as lazy. While Kissy does get to pretend to marry Bond, she sadly has as little dialogue as she does clothing.

The killer moment: Bond visits a bathhouse, where the comely employees marvel at his hairy chest and prompt the spy to recite a “Japanese proverb” about how birds don’t nest in bare trees.—David Ehrlich

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3

From Russia with Love (1963)

The second Bond movie has Sean Connery returning as 007, now sucked into a cat-and-mouse plot when he has to travel to Venice and Istanbul to try and retrieve a code-breaking device. Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya are memorable SPECTRE villains, but this first sequel now stands out for its Hitchcock-Le Carré qualities: a slow-burn plot centered on a train ride through Europe. That said, it also introduces elements repeated since: the signature pre-titles action sequence and a penchant for speedboats and helicopters. It’s somehow both leisurely and brutal.

Theme song: Classy British crooner Matt Monro sings Lionel Bart's lyrics. A lounge-lizard favorite.

The Bond girl: Stunning Daniela Bianchi, a former Miss Rome, was cast for her looks; her voice was dubbed afterward. The character, Tatiana Romanova, is blessed with the line, “Oh, James—will you make love to me all the time in England?”

The killer moment: When Lotte Lenya springs her shoe dagger. That, and a thrilling fight in a train cabin.—Dave Calhoun

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2

Goldfinger (1964)

The Bond series already had two films under its belt by the time 007 matched wits with Gert Fröbe’s precious-metal obsessive, but the third time was the charm. This was the movie that perfected the template for what we consider a proper Bond movie: tricked-out sports cars and spy gadgets, eccentric supervillains and quirky sidekicks (the hat-throwing Oddjob), a name-dropping opening song and a fun, flirty, tongue-in-cheek version of Fleming’s hero. The earlier movies established Bond as Her Majesty’s most resourceful secret agent, a lover and a fighter. Goldfinger, however, made him a pop-culture icon that’s endured for decades.

Theme song: It simply doesn’t get any better than Shirley Bassey’s window-rattling tribute to the “man with the Midas touch,” punctuated by those slinky horn blasts.

The Bond girl: Honor Blackman’s rough-and-tumble romantic interest made a good match for Connery’s Bond and had a name that launched a thousand playground jokes: Pussy Galore.

The killer moment: Strapped to the laser table: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”—David Fear

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1

Casino Royale (2006)

The Bond franchise was in a dire need of a shot in the arm after the retirement of Pierce Brosnan and an over-reliance on wonky effects and poor gags. Step up, Daniel Craig, previously best known for films like Layer Cake and Munich. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell returns behind the camera, and the script takes the character right back to the beginning—when Bond first earns his 007 licence—by drawing on Ian Fleming's 1953 novel of the same name. Punchy, serious-faced and infused with tragic romance, this winner became an immediate Bond classic. We have no problem ranking it this high.

Theme song: Soundgarden's Chris Cornell punches in with a workmanlike soft-rock entry in the Bond song canon. Catchy enough, hardly legendary.

The Bond girl: Born to this kind of work, Eva Green is Vesper Lynd, an agent for the British Treasury with whom Bond falls in love. Their relationship offers more than the usual brief moment of eye candy.

The killer moment: A parkour chase on a construction crane showed Craig's Bond to be a no-nonsense physical presence.—Dave Calhoun

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Comments

46 comments
Jim B
Jim B

RUBBISH FROM START TO FINISH! Mind you, an American judging Bond films, is akin to Uncle Joe judging American presidents; pointless, tiresome, and irrelevant! As Wittgenstein said, "If a lion could speak, we still could not understand him."

Two classic, clichéd mistakes have been made here. 1) Connery is the best Bond, hence Connery's films are the best. 2) The latest Bond is the second best Bond. Move away from these banal fallacies, and the list is completely different.

Forget the stilted, meandering, tortuous, dated movies of the Connery era, (as do most TV channels on a bank holiday), and you're left with entertainment from Moore, 'filler' from Dalton, 'apologies' from Brosnan, or the 'zeitgeist', (never a Bond priority, and something that will date these films in the future),  from Craig. The choice is easy, Moore from '......Live Twice', to '......Eyes Only'. NOT bettered by any other era so far. A final observation, amazing how many Connery acolytes/Moore critics, would actually prefer a Moore film on a damp, cold bank holiday afternoon.

Christopher M
Christopher M

This list is incomplete without "Never Say Never Again" even though it was a remake of "Thunderball" -- and the first "Casino Royale" which used the Bond characters to make fun of Bond. After reading the list and the comments though, I agree with John when he says you need to read the Ian Fleming books, and realize Daniel Craig's Bond is about as true to the books (in a Bond genre re-set) as possible. With that in mind, there is NO FREAKIN' WAY "OHMSS" makes this list anywhere but the bottom. There is a scene in the film where George Lazenby is leering at a Playboy. Really? The sound effects sound like someone attacking a naugahide sofa with a ping-pong paddle, and any other actor Bond never plays to the camera like Lazenby did. That speaks volumes about the direction. The secret about many of the Bond films is they introduced and launched the careers of many actresses (Kim Basinger made it really big after "Never Say Never Again", for example) who had to hold their own with Bond in action sequences and be sexy. In "OHMSS" we already knew all of that about Diana Rigg -- I would even say she was TOUGHER than Lazenby's Bond in that film!

And "A View to a Kill" is the worst Roger Moore movie made. The others on the list are highly subjective, but I think "Skyfall" is slightly better in terms of the true Bond character than "Casino Royale." I think "Spectre" will rank right up there, but "Casino Royale" is more watchable (even WITH the ball-sac torture). I also think Connery's "Dr. No" deserves a higher rank just because it was the first in the series and the genre. The "Diamonds Are Forever" description completely missed Connery's bad toupee (and a list that included "Never Say Never Again" would certainly mention it as well as Barbara Carrera's turn as an arch-villain).

Not bad for a first draft of a Bond list, though. Revise, edit, revise, edit, and revise again! 

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Christopher M Eh I agree with some, but not all. I personally felt Skyfall overrated. Didn't feel like a Bond movie to me, the villain was too much like the Joker in his plan and having a facial disfigurement. I also found him having bombs placed to collapse a subway tunnel as Bond was chasing him all set up complete bs. The plan was too perfect, but that's me, I know many will disagree with my opinion. Good film? Yes. Great James Bond film? To me, I'd say no. I'd say Casino Royale being the truest Bond film there, sure it does stray a bit from the book, but it captures what people want in a Bond film. The emotion of Bond with Vesper is still one of the most powerful scenes in Bond history. I'd say Bond is actually the closest portrayed in Quantum of Solace, though. Again, thought, that's just me.

Asada C
Asada C

George Lazenby's Bond near the top? Keith Uhlich, Joshua Rothkopf, Dave Calhoun, David Ehrlich and David Fear need to get a brain transplant because they obviously can't recognize quality at all. I'd be surprised if they've got more than half a brain cell between them after writing a list like this.


Putting any Connery film below Craig is an insult bar none, NONE. Craig is an incomplete Bond, where Connery had it all. Even Ian Fleming acknowledged that, and if any of you knew the 007 world well enough you'd know that. He didn't "get cold feet" for OHMSS, he just just didn't want to do Bond any more.



I'd urge Timeout to delete this horrible excuse for a list.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Asada C Sean Connery as the best? Just because the man was the first in the film series, doesn't make him the best. Great films, terrible interpretation of a character. Sure everyone may want to be him, but connecting with a character is much more realistic and strikes a chord with audiences rather than a perfect killing machine. That's what is great about Craig's Bond: he hurts, he bleeds, he feels emotion when we see him. We realize he isn't perfect, and even after he moves on from Vesper, he isn't perfect, he's only good at concealing his emotions when need be. Connery is too perfect, and his flaws are more visible in a more realistic-character accepting world. 

Persuave B
Persuave B

Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton are Best!

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Persuave B Funny that he's the most accurate portrayal of Fleming's Bond. The only reason the movies happened was because the books and character were successful. He's almost a more realistic Bond, Connery is a fantasy, which while nice to watch, doesn't strike a note with audiences. Daniel Craig has a greater emotional tale and realistic approach to the character.

Ian K
Ian K

Really casino royale as #1? Nothing happens in that movie!! There's a great parkour scene that opens the movie but that's it.  After that its a poker game that never ends.  There is 0 plot and no ending.  The movie is just horrible. In my opinion it is the #1 worst bond movie of all time. 

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Ian K 0 Plot... You're kidding me, right? It's not a movie about non stop action, it's a movie that's about mentality and betrayal, a very suitable plot for espionage. The film is so great, it fleshes out bond unlike any other films besides On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's actually the closest portrayal to Bond as Fleming wrote him. The poker again tests the mentality and shows how lucky/ headstrong Bond is. Great story, better than Skyfall (I hope we can agree on that.)

Kevin H
Kevin H

Ok guys. I'm gonna throw in my two cents by calling out the best bond film done by each actor as follows: (George Lazenby doesn't count)

Daniel Craig - Casino Royale - Loved it.
Pierce Brosnan - Tomorrow Never Dies - What can I say it's an entertaining movie and excellent ending credit song. Surrender - K.D. Lang

Timothy Dalton - Living Daylights - He brought real emotion to the role I thought. Great actor.
Roger Moore - The Spy who Loved Me. - I believe this was the one that introduced the Jaws character.
And finally...
Sean Connery - Thunderball - Which was his favorite also. And lets face it guys, in Hollywood movie making there is nothing more challenging and difficult than filming underwater. It's as real bitch I hear. And what they had accomplished back at that point was incredible. Not to mention being lifted and flown away at the end with a skyhook was the coolest back then. No one had ever seen anything like that before. 

Dorian G
Dorian G

What a shitty list is this..

Robert G
Robert G

What happened to Never Say Never?

Jim A
Jim A

Goldfinger should be ranked no. 1.      

Arek S
Arek S

@Jim A   We all like Roger More as a James bond! The new guy has zero charisma, looks and act as Russian spy, not Western agent.

We aren't watch ANY movies with him! and never will until will be BETTER James Bond character created.

It's a shame that new movies goes more to "bloody sequences" and gave up on entertaining side of this motion movie (which

use to be our FAVORITE!)

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Arek S @Jim A It's a realistic interpretation is better than what Connery brought to the role. The hero is actually human with Craig's performance, not a spy who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, who can escape any situation. Hell even sometimes he doesn't seem like a hero and that sounds more accurate in a story about spies, you can never be too sure who the hero or who the villains are, and experiences can sway peoples faith or allegiances. Moore was way too "clumsily perfect" or a better way to say it would be he was just way too lucky. He just happened to do the right things, and he honestly looked lost to me half the times in the films. He didn't seem to be suitable for a 00 agent, but then again, I can't say I would fair any better. Craig bleeds, feels, and becomes jealous/ vengeful, just like a human under so much pressure would be. Everyone breaks after a certain amount of time, Craig's Bond does exactly that. I'd believe the job being 10x more like what Craig goes through than Moore or Connery.  

Paul S
Paul S

For those who love camp movies, all the Bond series would please. However, as a film that could be taken with a smaller pinch of salt From Russia with Love is the best available.

Manuel
Manuel

What a bullschid ranking, the author must be a star wars fan o0!

Jay
Jay

Casino Royale best Bond of all time ? L M F A O !!!

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Jay You disagree with this? Man you haven't studied Bond then, have you? He's human, not a perfect agent who never messes up and is always 12 steps ahead.

Vincent
Vincent

I disagree with this horrible list on every level, How do u rate quantum of solace above octopussy????? Tht. Was actually 1 of my favorites, and tomorrow nvr dies was actually decent

Vincent
Vincent

I disagree with this horrible list on every level, How do u rate quantum of solace above octopussy????? Tht. Was actually 1 of my favorites, and tomorrow nvr dies was actually decent

Mud
Mud

Casino Royale is the best Bond movie with also one of the best lines. While discussing accommodations and their cover stories..... Craig to Green: "Don't worry, you're not my type." Her response, "What, smart?" haha Now that is witty and a Bond girl for the new millennium. Also on the train, listen to how he pronounces his watch brand, Omega. And her response, "Gorgeous."

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Mud "Beautiful" was actually the reply, but 100% agreed.

Cave Canem
Cave Canem

As a Bond fan I actually didn't like that many now that I look at the list. I agree about Casino Royale, it was fantastic from beginning to end. They managed to update fight and chase scenes. LOVED the opening chase scene on foot and the crumbling Venetian palace at the end. Craig was amazing. Quantum of Solace: WHO can be afraid of Bolivian dictators (except the Bolivian population)?? Skyfall could have been really, really good, but too long and with Javier Bardem playing something too close to Hannibal. Then Goldfinger and From Russia With Love and let's also save Dr. No. Incredibly enough, the worst Bond of all -George Lazenby -- came out in a film that was otherwise really good; Diana Rigg saved it. The Brosnan era, frankly none. Don't buy him for one second, I think he wears hair spray. Until Craig, Timothy Dalton was the only one who brought intensity and the pyschopath edge to the role, but the films look too dated. And Roger Moore really took it to clown territory. They should have burnt every copy of Moonraker and Octopussy. I have a fondness for Live and Let Die -- so 70s, great song, and though he was as expressive as a roast beef I guess I saw it young enough so that it stuck -- and same for The Man with a Golden Gun. Great villain, Scaramanga/Christopher Lee. The rest frankly would be at the bottom of the list...But, let's all agree to disagree.

bob
bob

I totally find that casino royale is the best 007 movie!

Pete
Pete

You have to update this list. Skyfall is the best Bond film of all time.... nothing even comes close. Actually, novelty and sentimentality aside, all the D. Craig Bonds are by far the best Bond films, if you are being serious about this (nothing against Connery, who is one of my mentors). QoS was the weakest of the three D. Craigs, but was still an amazing film. I disagree with everything else on this list however, other than Casino Royale. The rest of this list makes little if any sense to me. Has the writer of this article even seen the films? Oh well, different strokes I suppose.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Pete Actually, Quantum probably has the most realistic approach as Bond out of all the films. He's still a man who can grieve, mess up, and be beaten down but still get up. Skyfall was good, but I disagree personally and found it to be incredibly boring as a Bond film, that's just me. Casino Royale destroyed Skyfall and showed a lot of depth to the character. I loved how Bond is supposed to be out of his game in Skyfall but as soon as he goes up against all of Silva's goons after having a terribly aimed shot with all the time in the world to take aim, he hits all the guys in about a millisecond and instantly reacts to all of them. I liked SPECTRE more in my opinion.

derrick
derrick

The flint moves were better

seyed
seyed

i love this 007 jemes band move andthis site good move good site

Peter Berk
Peter Berk

Okay, for whatever it's worth (not much), here's my ranking of the Bond films on a scale from 000 to 007: Dr. No - 004 - before the series hit its stride, but a great beginning. FRWL - 005 - even better, but not quite there. Goldfinger - 007 - just about perfect. Thunderball - 005 1/2 - very good but slow in parts. YOLT - 005 1/2 - Yes it's overblown, the plot is basically a series of "Kill Bond now!" scenes and SC looks bored, but the sets, the music and the locale make it a gem. OHMSS - 007 - Yes, GL is no SC, but in a way, he was just right for this particular film, far and away the most emotionally resonant of all 23. DAF - 004 - Routine story, non-threatening take on Blofeld, cheesy Vegas settings...and no mention of what went down in the film before! LALD - 002 - My personal least favorite thanks to bizarre voodoo villains and Smokey and the Bandit set pieces. TMWTGG - 003 - Marginally better. TSWLM - 006 - A near perfect Bond film. Moonraker - 005 - Sure, it's absurd at the end, but most everything leading up to the finale works very well. FYEO - 006 - Another expressionless lead actress, but a very well done back-to-basics entry in the series. Octopussy - 004 - Bland villains and clown suits - need I say more? AVTAK - 004 - Enlivened by a genuinely captivating bad guy but brought down by a weak leading lady and aging leading man. TLD - 005 - TD always made me uncomfortable in the role - too intense, even when trying for a light or romantic moment, but a good film nonetheless. LTK - 003 - A good film, but not a Bond film. Goldeneye - 006 - PB's best, though his always-trying-to-look-cool "Bond face" and heavy breathing delivery sometimes got annoying. TND - 005 1/2 - Solid all around. TWINE - 004 1/2 - Brought down by another centerfold-as-rocket-scientist leading lady (a la Tanya Roberts as a geologist in AVTAK). DAD - 005 - Yes, ridiculous gadgets and the awful CGI scene, but - unlike many of you - I like a dose of fantasy in my Bonds, which leads us to the DC era: CR - 005 1/2 - Exquisitely done (if a bit long), but even after seeing Skyfall the other day, I still can't quite buy DC as JB. He's a terrific actor, of course, and this may be more the storylines he's been given than him, but I've had it with intense, brooding, Batman-ish heroes of late; I miss the fun early Bonds of the past that had villains and sets you could never find in one of today's Jason Bourne movies. QOS - 003 - Instantly forgettable save one or two great scenes. Skyfall - 005 1/2 - Beautifully done and I certainly appreciate (a la OHMSS) any effort to give Bond more dimension such as a family back story, but another heavy, dark and downbeat entry in the series (plus I could have done without the Home Alone ending). Let me know what you think - thanks! Peter

Craig M
Craig M

@Peter Berk  It sounds like that you want Austin Powers. The Villains and Sets of yesteryear could not be put into a modern Bond film and pass muster.

Eelnodrog
Eelnodrog

Lots of negative comments made about Quantum of Solace, and while it wasn't nearly as good as Casino Royale it still beats any of the crap put out with Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Eelnodrog QOS has the most realistic portrayal of Bond in my opinion. I do love Goldneye, though. I believed most moments of it, only had a few weird scenes imo.

John
John

TO all the tasteless pigs dumping on Casino Royale for "not having any gadgets" or any of the other bull**** trappings that dragged down previous Bond films, I suggest this: Go read the books. Casino Royale was right on the money as far as Bond showing some emotion, as far as the tone, as far was what a good Bond film should be. To the idiot above in the Facebook comments with the Rambo facebook profile pic (Ryan Hoskins) and the tastelessness to think that the Brosnan atrocities are anything but, I suggest this: Run head-first into a wall as fast as you can because you are simply too stupid to live. The end.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@John Brosnan was a great Bond, just got mostly bad films. I agree Casino Royale is honestly the best one out there. The most accurate portrayal of Bond with Craig, and a believable story that doesn't let gadgets, multiple ladies, or an over the top villain in the story to destroy it. It stays true to the roots of James Bond and doesn't make him the perfect, indestructible Bond that Connery presented us (no hate on his part).

popnfresh
popnfresh

Like most people, I would not have ranked these films the same way. Here's my list: 22. Die Another Day - a huge letdown. 21. Live and Let Die - simply awful. 20. License To Kill - Dalton's low point. 19. A View to a Kill - Roger Moore should have retired long before it. 18. The World is Not Enough - pointless. 17. Diamonds Are Forever - Connery should have stayed away. 16. Moonraker - lousy script and even worse special effects. 15. For Your Eyes Only - tepid plot, but gorgeous Bond girl. 14. Tomorrow Never Dies - Michelle Yeoh makes up for much of the film's shortcomings. 13. The Living Daylights - had its moments, but not great, either. 12. You Only Live Twice - passable, but not up to Connery's previous 4 Bonds. 11. The Spy Who Loved Me - fun, but not especially memorable. 10. Octopussy - goofy fun. Worth it if only to see Moore playing Bond playing a clown. 9. Quantum of Solace - revisionist Bond that doesn't entirely work, but has a very creepy villain. 8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diana Rigg was terrific and Lazenby wasn't half bad. 7. The Man With the Golden Gun - Moore's best Bond. Christopher Lee was perfect. 6. Goldfinger - Connery's previous two and the one after it were better. 5. Goldeneye - Brosnan's best Bond, by far. 4. Dr. No - SPECTRE's auspicious debut. 3. Casino Royale - solid Bond. Fabulous location shots. Eva Green was sensational. 2. From Russia With Love - not one, but three awesome villains. Also had a great John Barry score. 1. Thunderball - hit all the marks. This is also Connery's favorite Bond.

Dan
Dan

You selected Casino Royale as the #1 Bond movie???? Seriously???? It felt like I was watching any number of tired Hollywood action movies, not a Bond movie. It lacked sophistication and Craig was no more than a beefcake thug with about as much charisma and smooth charm as Timothy Dalton. Quantum of Solace was poorly edited and photographed... and to top it off... seemed to be copying the "style" of a Bourne movie. One needed a barf bag to get through those ADHD-fests. Connery and Moore were the best, when they were allowed to be at their best with a good script. Brosnan would be third IMHO. A good portion of his films, sans GoldenEye, were stinkers. He knew it too. And OHMSS is quite overrated with a sillier than usual premise, except for the Mrs. Bond subplot.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@Dan Overrated, and you call Connery and Moore the best Bonds. I give ya Brosnan, but Craig was the best portrayal of Bond at all yet. He's human: he bleeds, hurts, and feels emotion unlike the cold blooded killer that Connery presented that Ian Fleming didn't see playing James Bond; also unlike Moore who's Bond was just way too clumsy and somehow managing to be lucky enough to take down his enemies with perfection because of his clumsiness. Seriously, it looked to me like he was lost in the role half the time, didn't take the job seriously enough with the world or whatever was at stake. 

John Knapp
John Knapp

Good list EXCEPT - move Casino Royale down 15 spots. Come on, an almost non existent cool car, almost no gadgets, below average Bond babe and a sensitive Bond. We can get that in a Jennifer Anniston movie.

Douglas W
Douglas W

@John Knapp You seem to miss the point of James Bond. You seem to not watch for the characters or story.

Roy P
Roy P

@Douglas W I totally agree with you.  Moore and his stupid gadgets were laughable.  Octopussy and Moonraker were absolutely the worst Bond movies.  Moore is the worst Bond, should have stayed with The Saint.  Craig is the best Bond, I do enjoy Connery, Brosnan and Dalton.  

Joe
Joe

It would take about 10 martinis for me to think the mousey French lady from Casino Royale deserves a 10 martini rating. Otherwise a fun list.

Joe
Joe

Decent list, dragged down by some glaring errors. The correct answer is: 1. Casino Royale 2. From Russia with Love 3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service 4. Thunderball 5. GoldenEye 6. Dr. No 7. The Living Daylights 8. Tomorrow Never Dies 9. For Your Eyes Only 10. Goldfinger 11. The Man with the Golden Gun 12. The Spy Who Loved Me 13. License to Kill 14. Moonraker 15. The World Is Not Enough 16. Quantum of Solace 17. You Only Live Twice 18. Diamonds Are Forever 19. Live and Let Die 20. Die Another Day 21. A View to a Kill 22. Octopussy

Adam
Adam

A very good list! But I would put Tomorrow Never Dies a lot higher (it has a great villain and Bond girl, not to mention an excellent k.d. lang alternate theme song) and the ultra-campy Diamonds Are Forever a LOT lower (it's ludicrous in almost every way and creepily homophobic).