You may or may not know this about me, but I am addicted to the James Bond movie series. My dad had a VHS of ‘Dr. No’ in the base of our TV stand and one weekend I found it and watched it. Then I watched it again. I was probably 9 at the time? Then I asked him about it and watched it a third time with him. Every weekend we would go to the local Blockbuster and rent the next movie in the series. At that point we only had to make it to ‘A View To A Kill’, so while Sean Connery was a my first Bond, Pierce Brosnan was my first movie Bond. When a new Bond movie comes out it’s a big deal for us.
Oh, it doesn’t end there. My bar mitzvah theme? You guessed it, James Bond. Every table was named after a different movie and the kid’s table was the Thunderball dias. I currently own every movie on VHS, DVD, and iTunes, have seen them each over 5 or 6 times (including ‘Spectre’), and yet still watch the holiday Bond marathons on TV. My craziness doesn’t end there. As I kid I read through every single Bond encyclopedia I could get my hands on and memorized every fact possible. So, while the blurbs below are short, I could easily go on and on and on in an obnoxious manner about each movie.
Now that ‘Spectre’ was released a few weeks back, I’ve watched it a few times and realized that I’ve never actually sat down and listed out how I rank the Bond movies. Below is that list. I took all 24 Bond movies, ranked them by actor, then meshed together those six lists. So, I give you, the definitive Bryan’s Not Lyin’ Bond Movie Rankings.
- Die Another Day (2002)
It’s a mess of a movie. Brosnan’s final film went so far over the top that it felt like an actual Austin Powers movie. The action sequences are filled with poor GCI and the plot twists are too much, even for a James Bond movie. It also doesn’t help that Madonna’s song and appearance in the film are completely forgettable and that Halle Berry’s Jinx is one of the worst Bond girls to grace the screen. This series needed a true makeover after this dud. MVP: Diamonds in the face and Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost.
- Moonraker (1979)
It’s just–stupid. Granted there are some decent action set pieces and the title song is performed by the great Shirley Bassey, but Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) isn’t a worthy bad guy and a it’s a whole lot of absurdity with only hints of tongue in cheekiness. A dirty bond girl name, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) isn’t going to save your whole, extremely slow and stupid, movie. MVP: I mean, I guess Holly Goodhead and Jaw finding love?
- The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
I have a soft spot in my heart for this movie, despite listing it at 22. Maybe because it’s Bond mano a mano with a three nippled villain or I remember the golden gun fondly from the Goldeneye video game, but regardless of that nostalgia, it’s not the best of these movies. It’s pretty slow all around and the solar panels plot never lands, but it includes a ton of stand out actors (Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize), characters (Scaramanga, Nick Nack, J.W. Pepper), and moments (the end duel with a mannequin). Then again, it also features the dumbest, most frustrating bond girl of all time, Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight. MVP: If it’s not J.W. Pepper’s outlandish racism, it’s probably Lulu’s terrible theme song with the lyric, “Love is required/Whenever he’s hired/It comes just before the kill.”
- The World Is Not Enough (1999)
The fact that this isn’t a low point in the Brosnan years says more about how bad ‘Die Another Day’ is than anything else. The Renard/Elektra King stockholm syndrome situation is a solid baddie duo, the oil pipeline a decent plot base, and another appearance by Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky is always welcome. However, there’s Denise Richards as a nuclear weapons expert named Dr. Christmas Jones. Even though there’s some fun action set pieces it’s hard to get over the overt silliness that starts to make fun of James Bond movies. However, the Garbage theme song isn’t garbage. MVP: It pains me to say it, but the last line of the movie needs some sort of shout out. “I thought Christmas only came once a year.” Thanks, James.
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Considering how relatively recent it is, this movie feels incredibly outdated. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is trying to have his newspaper conglomerate create a world war three? He’s in the wrong business. He doesn’t even pretend to not be a bad guy, yet his performance stands out as one of the better parts of the movie. His henchman, Stamper, is pretty ‘blah’, as is the movie’s third act, but the action sequences early on are fantastic. The handcuffed helicopter chase is a highlight. I also have never liked the Sheryl Crow theme and the lame use of Teri Hatcher. MVP: Michelle Yeoh as Chinese secret agent Wai Lin.
- License To Kill (1989)
The Timothy Dalton years are never ranked that high for most people, but I think that they deserve more credit. This is my least favorite of the two. Robert Davi’s Franz Sanchez, a cameo by Wayne Newton as Professor Joe Butcher, and a young Benicio del Toro (Dario) make fun trio of bad guys, but after the Felix Leiter (David Hedison) shark attack and the Gladys Knight theme opening it’s all forgettable. MVP: Carey Lowell as the kick ass Pam Bouvier and maybe the decompression chamber head explosion.
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Sean Connery’s return (and final stint) as James Bond isn’t his best. It’s clear he’s only doing it for the paycheck because his performance is beyond phoned-in. He’s lucky that everybody else came to play. Jill St. John as Tiffany Case, Charles Gray as Blofeld, and Jimmy Dean as Willard Whyte all play memorable character parts. The Las Vegas setting is fun, the one liners are sharp(ish), and the downtown car chase is great, even if the movie’s diamond plot line loses steam halfway through. MVPs: The gay henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd and the second greatest Bond girl name, Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood).
- Quantum of Solace (2008)
You know, this gets a bad rap because it followed such a great movie in ‘Casino Royale’. It also takes on a Jason Bourne handheld camera feel during action sequences, which doesn’t play as very Bond. The plot also revolves around stealing water, which isn’t that sexy. However, if you watch it directly after after ‘Casino Royale’ it’s a fantastic companion piece and tracks Daniel Craig’s Bond’s emotional journey extremely well. M’s also got some great one liners, Strawberry Fields’ (Gemma Arterton) death is a unique throwback, and Olga Kurylenko is a strong Bond girl. So, as a stand alone movie, it’s okay, but works on whole another level when looked at on a macro level. Oh, the theme song by Alicia Keys and Jack White straight up sucks. MVP: The Quantum opera sequence.
- Octopussy (1983)
This one is just fun. It’s not great, but fun enough. Truly over the top Bond. It also taught me what a faberge egg is! Maude Adams is unstoppable as the Bond girl and part time villain and the Russian circus portion is quintessential Moore. The scenes in India are beautiful and Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan is as smooth as a bad guy you’ll ever see. However, it’s a really long movie with more convoluted plot than most and is quite boring throughout. Great theme with ‘All Time High’. MVP: Did I mention that Russian circus?
- A View To A Kill (1985)
Roger Moore’s last outing as Bond is actually pretty bad, but so incredibly memorable–except for the plot. It’s pretty similar to ‘Goldfinger’, but with Silicon Valley as the stand in for Fort Knox and with way less stakes. However, Christopher Walken as the charismatic Max Zorin and Grace Jones as the tough as nails Mayday? That’s one of the better Bond duos. Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton? Yeah, try again. MVP: Bad guy casting and the finale atop the Golden Gate Bridge in a blimp.
- The Living Daylights (1987)
Of the two Timothy Dalton movies, this is the better one. The action set pieces are killer, especially the viola case chase sequence, but what really works here is Dalton’s no nonsense Bond. While it has its lighter moments, Dalton’s darker Bond feels more at home in this outing than in ‘License to Kill’. KGB, arms dealers, and the defection cold open are made for his type of character. However, in the spectrum of Bond films this one is quite forgettable, albeit a solid movie. MVP: Bond getting help from Al Qaeda and the super 80s ‘A-ha’ theme song.
- Thunderball (1965)
I know a few avid James Bond fans that that rank this movie very high on their own lists. I find it a bit boring and uneven. The funeral cold open with the jetpack sets the tempo for a fun, fast moving film that never comes to fruition. Domino (Claudine Auger) is a dull female lead and despite the sweet eye patch, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) is a lackluster terrorist. It contains a ton of Bond tropes that would become mockeries staples, like Spectre, a one-eyed bad guy, shark attacks, and holding the world hostage with nuclear warheads, so in hindsight this movie may not read well anymore. Still, it just never comes together as cohesive film. MVP: I think the cold open. It’s so fun!
- Spectre (2015)
It’s a great addition to the James Bond canon, especially with a well made opening sequence that draws you in immediately. Tying all of the Craig films together, Spectre brings back more than just the evil organization. The bad guys are well cast and have some stand out scenes, especially Dave Bautista as Hinx on the train and Christoph Waltz as Blofeld towards the film’s end. The movie isn’t without fault though: it’s 20 minutes too long, the secondary story with M, Q, Moneypenny, and C is too predictable even for a Bond movie, the love story never feels justified, the Rome and Austria chase scenes are low stakes, and the Sam Smith theme song is a dud. However, with all of it’s old Bond throwbacks at it’s core, Spectre is still a fun and engaging. MVP: The train fight.
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
This movie takes what ‘Thunderball’ started to do and dialed it up to 10. Russians being pitted against the Americans to start WWIII and Bond works his way to the Sea of Japan to take down the amazing Donald Pleasance as a great Blofeld. It’s so ridiculous that it’s outrageously fun. Volcano lair? Exotic locals? Awesome Nancy Sinatra theme? Roald Dahl screenplay? Sign me up! MVP: Bond having to be disguised as a japanese man, but looks nothing like a Japanese man.
- Goldeneye (1995)
Back to the basics. After the Dalton films weren’t received well it took the Bond team a while to regroup, but they nailed it with this one. Pierce Brosnan’s first outing is a smash hit. The action sequences are top notch. From the dam pre-credits sequence to tank chase to the finale, they fire on all cylinders. The villains (Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan and Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp) and side characters (Alan Cumming’s Boris and Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin) are all incredibly memorable. It’s too bad Brosnan’s movies went downhill from here. MVP: The N64 video game.
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
So this one gets a lot of heat for George Lazenby stepping into the James Bond role post Connery, but watch it again. He’s kind of good and the movie is great. Granted the Blofeld plot sways to the mundane side (germ warfare), but it’s not the true focal point of the movie. Diana Rigg as Tracy plays an amazing foil to Bond and their emotional connection allows for the final moments at Bond’s wedding to really hit home. As good as Telly Savalas is as Blofeld, Rigg and Lazenby carry the film. Until the Craig movies, it was the only movie plot point that semi-carried through to most of the Bond films. Plus, the alps are gorgeous. MVP: How truly psychedelic 60s it feels all around.
- Live And Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore’s first Bond film is so out of the box for a movie in this series, that it works. With the popularity of the blacksploitation of the time, ‘Live and Let Die’ has Bond taking on Harlem, New Orleans, and Jamaica. Jane Seymour as Solitaire is top 10 Bond girl and Gloria Hendry was the first African American Bond girl, a huge step forward at the time. Sure this movie introduced us to J.W. Pepper, but it also gave us a top five theme song by Sir Paul McCartney and Wings. MVP: Jumping on crocs? Baron Samedi? Kanaga’s exploding head? So many options.
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
It’s a pretty simple Bond movie that fires on all cylinders. From the double crossing of Julian Glover’s Aristotle to every well executed action scene (skiing, pulled through coral, scaling St.Cyrill), the movie moves at a brisk pace with all the twists in all the right places. Sure, there are some drawbacks, Bibi and Margaret Thatcher. But Topol as Milos Columbo, Bond’s one-movie side kick, is one of the more memorable pistachio eating characters in the whole series. MVP: Carole Bouquet’s strong Melina Havelock or Topol.
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ got back to what made Bond movies so popular after its two ‘out-of-the-box’ predecessors split the difference in quality (‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’). Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) attempts to secure world domination, while James Bond (Roger Moore) and his Russian counterpart Anya Amasova aka XXX (Barbara Bach) thwart his evil plans and steel toothed henchman, Jaws (Richard Kiel). There’s a lot to love about this kitschy, extremely 70s, Bond iteration–the cars, the spectacle, and action sequences. It’s a little slow in the middle, but overall, a fundamentally great spy adventure. MVP: Jaws. It’s always Jaws.
- Skyfall (2012)
It’s so beautifully shot and intimately personal for Bond (Craig) that I can ignore the fact that he loses on all fronts in the end. He can’t save M (Judi Dench), the true Bond girl of the film, he can’t recover the stolen files, and he blows up his own house, ‘Home Alone’ style. However, director Sam Mendes’ first Bond film captures the suave grit of our favorite spy. The Adele theme song alone makes me love this film. It’s an all time great. The action sequences are excellent, tense in a way that can’t compare to most of the other 23 movies in the series. It’s a haunting film that deals with what makes Bond tick, while it sets up the standard Bond/M/Moneypenny office situation. MVP: Javier Bardem as Silva, especially the one-take monologue.
- Dr. No (1962)
The first. The original. The ultimate Bond movie that started it all. It’s sexy and suave with some great sequences and Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) is just ridiculous enough. Quarrel is the inaugural sidekick, a part that these movies usually nail (see ‘For Your Eyes Only’) and the theme song booming through every scene is core rattling. This may be the best Connery Bond performance. MVP: Ursula Andress coming out of the water or how Connery’s hair is never messed up in the finale sequence. Also, his introduction at the card table.
- Goldfinger (1964)
This is the one truly iconic Bond film. ‘Goldfinger’ is like Bond’s greatest hits in one movie: A scuba suit into a tux opening, a woman painted in gold, memorable henchman (Oddjob), an even more memorable Bond girl, and of course, the attack on Ft. Knox by an over the top bad guy. Then there’s the greatest line in maybe even spy movie history. “Do you expect me to talk Goldfinger?” “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Outrageous and fun all the way around. MVP: The laser beam table or the pool table?
- Casino Royale (2006)
Four years after Brosnan’s lackluster run of Bond films were finished, we were surprised by this reboot. More than surprised, thrilled and reinvigorated. Directed by Martin Campbell (Goldeneye), Daniel Craig’s first movie is injected with so much energy that it oozes off of the screen. The parkour opening sequence, the runway debacle, and the car flip, and the Venice finale act could all be placed in a best of Bond action list. The balance between these action movie staples and the emotionally charged Vesper (Eva Green) and Bond relationship is where the true success of this movie lies. Their chemistry is electric and gives this movie a layer that other films just don’t even come close to matching. MVP: The very end where Monty Norman’s Bond theme finally enters.
- From Russia With Love (1963)
There’s a lot that’s done right with this film. It introduces SPECTRE, Blofeld, Q, and his gadgets while Bond is being hunted as he tries to maneuver his way through Europe with the lovely Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) and the Lektor machine. I mean, who can forget Rosa Klebb’s poison shoe knife and the great boat chase gasoline escape? The movie is low key as compared to the eccentricities this series is known for and yet it’s always thrilling. It’s an excellent spy yarn that is capped off by the one of the best henchmen, Red Grant (Robert Shaw), and the best fight scene in Bond history. MVP: The entire train sequence.
Let me know how this may or may not compare to your favorites!
Keep On Watchin’!
-Plofsky, Bryan Plofsky.