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.
The best and worst James Bond movies: a ranked list
In celebration of the new Skyfall, we return to all 22 official James Bond films in search of the perfect spy cocktail, rating the best and worst Bond girls, 007 theme songs and leading actors with the licence to kill.
Tue Nov 6 2012
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
Quantum of Solace (2008)
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
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The ass-cheek-laden poster was more memorable that the movie itself (those are a pair of panties worn backwards, actually). Still, after the space-junky Moonraker, there’s relief in this film’s return to the basics. Roger Moore’s Bond searches for a nuclear sub’s tracking device, lost in a wreck at sea. En route to reclaiming what looks like a portable Blaupunkt stereo, he skis over some innocent Italians’ picnic lunch, takes out thugs in a hockey rink and scales a mountainside in a windy suspense sequence. Few of the Bond movies approach this film’s sunny Mediterranean allure, with beautiful location work in Greece (plus Fiddler on the Roof’s Topol as a robust, pistachio-loving comrade).
Theme song: Equal parts synth cool and romantic gush, Sheena Easton’s title number fits the mold perfectly, subtly modernizing the gig for future New Wavers.
The Bond girl: Fashion model Carole Bouquet is almost certainly the only Bond girl to have worked with Luis Buñuel. Moreover, she has a real character to play: a nostril-flaring hottie avenging the murder of her parents via her wicked crossbow skills.
The killer moment: In a pre-plot amuse-bouche, the opening sequence has Bond dropping wheelchair-bound villain Blofeld from a helicopter into a factory’s smokestack.—Joshua Rothkopf
Licence to Kill (1989)
Timothy Dalton came into his own with his second and final take on Bond. Licence 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
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 cyberespionage 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
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, adjusting 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, you’ve got 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
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
We don’t want to say that 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 that 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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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
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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).
@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.