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.
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Best James Bond movies: 23–16
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
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 UhlichRead more
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 UhlichRead more
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 FearRead more
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 FearRead more
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 RothkopfRead more
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 CalhounRead more
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 RothkopfRead more
Best James Bond movies: 15–8
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 UhlichRead more
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 EhrlichRead more
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 UhlichRead more
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 FearRead more
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 RothkopfRead more
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 FearRead more
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 RothkopfRead more
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 EhrlichRead more
Best James Bond movies: 7–1
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 RothkopfRead more
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 FearRead more
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 RothkopfRead more
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 EhrlichRead more
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 CalhounRead more
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 FearRead more
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 CalhounRead more