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Goldfinger, The 100 best movies on Netflix

The best James Bond movies of all time

Where does ‘No Time to Die’ rank among 007's 25 missions? We rank the theme songs, killer gadgets and iconic leading actors

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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Every James Bond movie is the best James Bond movie to somebody. For nearly 60 years, this has been a franchise that's dependably supplied the goods: the stunts, the gadgets, the girls, the theme songs (the last two of which have won Academy Awards). By now there are so many shades of Bond himself – glib Roger Moore in a safari suit, Sean Connery in utter suavity, Daniel Craig in action-movie muscle. But who's the big dog? In advance of the long-delayed release of Craig's swan song, No Time To Die, we ranked all 24 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).

Written by Joshua Rothkopf, Keith Uhlich, Dave Calhoun, David Ehrlich, David Fear

Best James Bond movies

Casino Royale (2006)
  • Movies

The Bond franchise was in need of a shot in the arm after the retirement of Pierce Brosnan and an over-reliance on wonky effects and bad 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.—DC

Theme song: Soundgarden's late 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 role, 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.

Goldfinger (1964)
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  • Action and adventure

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 film: 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.—DF

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!”

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From Russia with Love (1963)
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  • Action and adventure

The first of many sequels drops the MI6 operative into a tried-and-true plot: A decoding device is stolen, and only Bond can retrieve it—which is what the cat-stroking Blofeld and his SPECTRE comrades are counting on. Though the movie is best known for giving us Robert Shaw’s juggernaut villain and Lotte Lenya’s shoe-knifing henchwoman, this is one of the franchise’s purest espionage entries—it suggests an alternate universe in which Bond was closer to a John le Carré spook than a gadget-wielding action hero. We love that latter version, of course, but Russia proved that a straightforward spy thriller equally suited the secret agent.—DF

Theme song: The number shows up briefly sans lyrics in the credits and as background noise later—which, given Matt Monro’s faux-Sinatra crooning, is probably a good thing.

The Bond girl: A former Miss Rome, Italian starlet Daniela Bianchi makes for a convincing Russian ballerina-turned-mole—though she’s drop-dead gorgeous in any language.

The killer moment: The fight between Shaw’s blond superthug and Bond in a tiny train compartment is one of the most brutal set pieces in the entire series.

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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).—DE

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.

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The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
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  • Thriller

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.—JR

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’s version.

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.

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  • Action and adventure

Beset by a pandemic, a change of directors and the odd on-set injury, the portents weren’t exactly great for Bond 25. It also had the unenviable task of picking up after the half-hearted Spectre, a sleepwalk of a Bond movie. But in the spirit of its hero, the franchise punched its way out of a corner to deliver a genuine all-timer to the Eon canon in Daniel Craig’s final film. Long, but in a way that feels epic rather than baggy, expertly handled by director Cary Fukunaga, and genuinely emotional in a way so few Bond movies are (Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, aside), it gives Craig the send off he deserves. Thanks to some Phoebe Waller-Bridge screenwriting magic, it’s possibly the funniest Bond too.  

Theme song: Preternaturally talented emo chanteuse Billie Eilish delivers a moody title track that sets the tone for the whole movie: spacious, soulful, haunting. ‘Are you death or paradise?’ she sings, a line that neatly captures the enduring appeal of MI6’s finest.

The Bond girl: Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann is closer to Bond’s soulmate in this one. In fact, the movie eschews anything like a traditional ‘Bond girl’. Instead, it offers two fellow spies – Lashana Lynch’s Nomi and Ana de Armas’s Paloma – who meet Bond on equal terms and nowhere near the bedroom. 

The killer moment: The opening sequence, which sees Bond’s romantic getaway with Swann in the Italian hilltop town of Matera go south in a hurry, is up there with Casino Royale’s free-running opener. There’s no one like Spectre to ruin a nice holiday, so it’s lucky 007 took the car with the miniguns fitted as standard. 

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Dr. No (1962)
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  • Action and adventure

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.—DF

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.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
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  • Action and adventure

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.—JR

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.”

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  • Movies
  • Action and adventure

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. Skip Craig’s second round, 2008’s Quantum of Solace: 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.—DE

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.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
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  • Action and adventure

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.—JR

Theme song: Shirley Bassey’s belter has taken on new life during the last 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.

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The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
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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.—DF

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.

Thunderball (1965)
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  • Action and adventure

Following up Goldfinger was no picnic, but Sean Connery’s fourth outing demonstrated the series’ durability, cementing a brash 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.—JR

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.

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GoldenEye (1995)
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  • Action and adventure

Martin Campbell reinvented Bond for the Bourne era with Casino Royale, but the director also raised the bar when he kicked off the Brosnan age. Three decades on, it’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of GoldenEye: It introduced us to the pleasures of Sean Bean dying horribly and upped the ante on action with a tank chase that the Fast saga still has yet to top (to say nothing about the tie-in video game that kicked off the first-person shooter era). At its heart, this is a Bond film that pushed the franchise into modern times, with the former Remington Steele sliding into the tux as if it was tailor-made for him. As with the Craig era, Brosnan’s introduction remains the best thanks to Campbell’s deep understanding of how to balance the silly with the awe-inspiring.—AK

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

The Bond girl: Izabella Scorupco’s skittish computer analyst steals Bond’s affection, but it’s Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatop and her vice-like thighs that score a spot in the hall of fame. 

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

License to Kill (1989)
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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.—KU

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 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.

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For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • Movies
  • Action and adventure

The ass-cheek-laden poster was more memorable that the movie itself (those are a pair of panties worn backwards, actually). Still, after the 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).—JR

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.

Spectre (2015)
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  • Action and adventure

Returning Skyfall director Sam Mendes sputtered in a follow-up that is better remembered for its squandered potential than what actually happens on screen. It’s a shame, too: Spectre opens with a corker of a one-shot chase that tracks Bond from a street-level Day of the Dead parade to a barrel-rolling helicopter. Unfortunately, the rest of the film commits the cardinal sin of casting the great Christoph Waltz as ultimate Bond nemesis Blofeld, then deprives him of the opportunity to chew the scenery. Instead, the Oscar-winner turns Basil Exposition, explaining a senseless plot that basically undoes the buildup of three previous films (at least they gave him a cat to pet while he yammered about being an “architect of pain”). Thank God Craig declined to slash his wrists and signed on for No Time to Die: It would have been a pity to see the blond Bond go out with a whimper.—AK

Theme song: Poor Sam Smith was never poised to top Adele’s towering Skyfall contribution, but “Writing’s on the Wall” is one of the mopiest Bond ballads ever. They gave him an Oscar anyway. 

The Bond Girl: Léa Seydoux found a much better espionage-based use of her icy charms in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: as love interest Madeleine Swann, she’s simply given nothing to do. Ditto for the great Monica Bellucci, who shows up simply to be bedded and is quickly forgotten.  

The killer moment: Bond squares off against Dave Bautista’s bowler-hat-sporting heavy in a fight aboard a moving train that leaves the audience feeling as bruised and battered as 007. Pity it went by so quickly.

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Quantum of Solace (2008)
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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).—KU

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.”

Moonraker
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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.—JR

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.

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Octopussy (1983)
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Merely the idea of a movie named Octopussy proved more suggestive than watching the final product, a formative sexual disappointment for many ’80s teens. This was the vehicle that put Roger Moore’s Bond in a clown costume (redundant?) and also had him running around India searching for priceless Fabergé eggs and the jewel thief who might precipitate a nuclear war. Tennis pro Vijay Amritraj makes for an inert sidekick, while Gigi’s Louis Jordan brings such a swishy suavity to his villain that the whole movie threatens to cave in on its own masculinity. For the first time in franchise history, Bond seemed thoroughly exhausted on every front.—JR

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: It’s a tribute to Maud Adams’s timeless glamour and good nature that this was her second Bond film, almost a decade after The Man with the Golden Gun. Still, her character is a relic of diaphanous female intrigue.

The killer moment: Undeniably, thrills arrive with Bond’s daring escape via personal mini-jet; he pilots it through an open hangar at 150 miles per hour.

The Living Daylights (1987)
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  • Action and adventure

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.—JR

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, 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.

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The World Is Not Enough (1999)
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  • Action and adventure

Brosnan’s penultimate outing became a punching bag thanks to the casting of bombshell Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist (!!) named Christmas Jones (!!!) who definitely comes more than once a year (!!!!), but the film’s biggest travesty is its squandered potential. It does nothing with the maniacal Robert Carlyle as an unfeeling terrorist with a bullet lodged in his brain, opting instead for recycled ski chases and an overabundance of melodrama. John Cleese is fun as Q, but this is the first time that Brosnan seemed to be asleep behind the wheel of the Aston Martin.—AK

The theme song: Mall-goth outfit Garbage gives its vintage Bassey-era theme a slinky edge, but the song feels less like an actual Bond theme than a cover of better tunes. 

The bond girls: Sophie Marceau does a solid stiletto turn in a femme-fatale role that goes nowhere, while Denise Richards… is a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones who comes more than once a year. 

The killer moment: The boats versus hot-air balloon opener makes an action promise that the film cannot keep. 

Live and Let Die (1973)
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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.—DF

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!”

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A View to a Kill (1985)
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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.—KU

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.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
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  • Action and adventure

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 died. 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.—KU

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.

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