Our month of James Bond comes to an end. For our grand finale, we’re ranking all of the Eon Productions/MGM Studios films. That’s 24 films in total, starting with 1961’s Dr. No and ending with the latest, 2015’s Spectre. During this time, the franchise has seen a lot of sucess, but also has had its fair share of miscues and issues with legal rights. Six actors have played James Bond himself, each with a unique take on the character that has, in turn, led to different styles of films. James Bond is originally based on the character created by British novelest Ian Flemming. Although many of the films borrow their titles from Flemming’s novels, they tend to borrow few aspects from their respetive novels/short stories and have unique plots. Still, for a franchise that has persisted for six decades, it has remained remarkably consistent to the formula established with the films in the 60’s.
24. Octopussy (1983)
James Bond has gone on many exciting adventures, and this just isn’t one of them. The opening sequence is the highlight of this film, and it quickly goes downhill from there. You would think that India would provide an interesting place for Bond to visit, but that’s not the case. There is simply nothing worth remembering about this movie. The action is tame, and the villain is forgettable. Moore’s silly, comedic version of Bond is downright insulting, especially considering the way the British agent continuously makes fun of Indian culture and especially since the tone of the film is actually pretty serious. It is a confliction that makes it so audiences don’t know whether to have fun or not, perfectly illustrated when Bond himself dresses up as a clown.
23. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
The Man With the Golden Gun has some good things going for it, but it also has some very very bad things that all but render the film unwatchable. First, the good: Christopher Lee always makes a good villain, the scenery is amazing, and there are some really good stunts in the film. The bad: everything else. Again, Moore’s comedic approach crosses a line to the point that is is insulting to other cultures. The Bond girl is the worst in the series, and is such a terribly stupid character that this film should be boycotted for that reason alone. The plot is often nonsensical, and the tone is probably one of the most silly in the whole franchise. And don’t even get me started on the embarrassment that is Sheriff J.W. Pepper.
22. Die Another Day (2001)
You can’t fault this film for trying to push the envelope, or well, yes, maybe you can. In order to try an “out-do” previous Bond films, the makes of Die Another Day entered the realm of science fiction. Invisible cars, space lasers, dream machines, surfing through a tsunami – it was all too much. Bond threw away his spy badge and instead became a generic action hero. Further proof was the overabundance of CGI used to create many of the action scenes. This was the case of a Bond film trying to compete with contemporary overblown blockbusters, rather than adhering to its tradition and legacy.
21. A View to A Kill (1985)
A View to A Kill is a very fun film to watch. Grace Jones makes a great Bond girl, and Christopher Walken never lets you down. It has this cool, campy hi-tech feel. The problem is that in order to be fun and light, the film also has to be silly and dumb. This is easily the silliest James Bond film. The painful one-liners never stop, the action is cheesy at best, and the plot is pretty ridiculous. It also hurts that as Moore’s last outing as Bond, he’s an old man. It comes off as creepy when he is twice the age of one of the Bond girls.
20. Spectre (2015)
By itself, Spectre isn’t a bad film. Full of action, beautiful imagery, and Craig always makes for a compelling Bond. However, the film treads on familiar territory and doesn’t really add anything new to the franchise. A familiar villain returns, but he is neither as memorable or important as he should have been. All the action sequences except the opening scene are rip-offs from other films where they were more impactful. Bond is as condescending to women as ever, and the silliness of the franchise creeps back in when we thought it was gone for good.
19. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This is a perfectly average James Bond film, but doesn’t really add much to the franchise. Brosnan shows off his abilities as Bond, and the villain feels more plausible than most, but it is mostly devoid of emotion. The action is exciting and well done, but it doesn’t really build on what Goldeneye did before. Instead, it feels more like just another contemporary action film.
18. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Connery’s last turn as Bond in the Eon Productions/MGM Studios Bond films is also his worst. Sillier and cruder than the first five Bond films, this one previewed how the franchise was moving towards a more fun, carefree Bond. Gone is the style and timeless class that the 60’s films were known for. The fact that this film pretty much ignored the events in the previous film to be more like a direct sequel to You Only Live Twice feels a bit odd and makes the franchise a little messy for the first time. The film has plenty of interesting moments, but this isn’t Bond at his most memorable or entertaining.
17. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Solace was an effort to try something new with the Bond franchise. It was the first direct sequel, and one of the only films to diverge from the formula substantially. This, the shortest Bond film to date, was meant to be a fast-paced, hard-hitting follow up. It feels like a spy movie, but not necessarily a Bond movie. It has some genuinely interesting moments, and Craig continues to impress as Bond, but the execution is downright terrible. The choice to edit the action scenes into short, unstable clips makes them difficult to watch.
16. Live and Let Die (1973)
Moore’s first outing as Bond has a lot to like, but isn’t quite as well-rounded as it should have been. The film’s efforts to play off of the popularity of blaxploitation films of the time was a risk, but it showed how the series could evolve with the times and that there could be plenty of variety. Moore brought his own interpretation of the character, one that seemed to echo the sentiments of audiences at the time. The problem is that the film ended up being not all that exciting. It feels long, and the locales aren’t all that interesting like they were in previous films.
15. The World is Not Enough (1999)
This is proof that a film can be ruined almost single-handedly by the casting of a single character. The World is Not Enough has a lot going for it. The Bond-girl turned super villain is a unique and interesting turn, having more of a role for M added variation, and the film’s locales and action sequences are unique and well-executed. However, Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist did not fool anyone, and as a result this poor casting made the rest of the film less compelling. It’s not without other faults, but one glaring issue leaves a bad taste.
14. Moonraker (1979)
To combat Star Wars, the James Bond franchise went to space. Moonraker is easily the most entertaining James Bond film, at least until the finale. Bond galivants through California and the amazon, having all sorts of adventures along the way. Moore has a steady confidence through it all and the return of Jaws makes for some very memorable moments. However, the choice to take the spy into the realm of science fiction for the final conflict almost sabotages everything that had been accomplished up into that point. The special effects turned out downright campy, which makes it feel like a poor attempt to cash in on a craze, rather than a more creative than usual outing for Bond.
13. The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton’s more realistic, gritty, and serious version of Bond was apparent right from the start. An opening scene which mocks the change in actor is the start of an action-packed film. Finally, the franchise had abandoned the formula it had used for the last decade and a half. As audience tastes were changing, so to did the Bond franchise. Dalton’s Bond would be more straightforward than his predecessors, but in doing so the series lost some of its charm. This makes The Living Daylights exciting, but not as complete a package as it should be.
12. You Only Live Twice (1967)
This is a Bond film where the spectacle outshines the plot and the characters. Connery brings his swagger and his charisma, but with the larger scale of the film, he doesn’t feel as impressive. Still, You Only Live Twice is full of classic and memorable moments (and maybe one or two questionable ones). The first encounter of Bond versus his nemesis Blofeld is something that had been eagerly awaited, the huge set pieces forever changed the approach of the franchise, and the finale is not a letdown. You Only Live Twice is a creative, beautiful, and different film than any previous Bond adventure.
11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
After going big with Moonraker, the Bond franchise dialed it back for the follow up. This choice was a good one, although it didn’t necessarily create the most exciting or memorable Bond outing. Moore still gets to inject his charm and humor, but the more serious storyline and more down to Earth approach is refreshing. It was a return to the more classic style of Bond film, but the need to compete with more adventurous blockbusters in the 80’s meant that the reprieve from overindulgence was short-lived.
10. Goldeneye (1995)
Brosnan’s first turn as Bond was his most memorable Bond film and the franchise’s first reboot. Instead of just continuing the adventures of Bond, the filmmakers made a lot of changes, which really paid off. First, Brosnan brought more of the charm back to the role that Dalton did without. Second, a new cast helped to make the franchise young again. Finally, the production values of the film were notably increased versus the last bond film, License to Kill. The approach was still more action-oriented like Dalton’s films, but with more polish and pace. The first post-Soviet Union Bond film found Bond travelling to Russia, something we had not seen before. The villain, a former MI6 agent, was also a very creative twist on traditional Bond villains.
9. License to Kill (1989)
License to Kill earns its top-ten spot because it is really one of the few Bond films that diverged from the formula. More importantly, it was successful in its divergence, which allowed for more varied and diverse films in the 90’s and beyond. License to Kill has our hero as a fugitive, something that worked well for Dalton’s more hard-hitting portrayal of the character. As an agent on the run, we see Bond as more desperate, determined, and, human. It was also refreshing to have a villain that wasn’t a meglomaniac with some sort of complicated plot to destroy civilization. License to Kill just seemed more plausible and realistic, something that previous Bond films just did not put much value in.
8. Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall brought a lot of new things to the Bond franchise that we hadn’t seen before. First, director Sam Mendes added an artistry that gave the film a sophisticated and stylish feel. Not since the 60’s has there been a Bond film that has been both beautiful and dangerous. Next, the story was still focused on Bond, but the supporting characters had more involvement. Showing that MI6 is a team rather than a one man show makes everything more realistic. Bond is not just an unstoppable killing machine, he needs help. Skyfall also brings us a memorable villain, which did not rely on tried and true characteristics in order to become a worthy nemesis. It’s said that a hero is as good as his villain, and Skyfall’s villain elevated Bond to a new level.
7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The first change of actor portraying James Bond was also a good opportunity to change the formula. Although OHMSS maintained much of the style and class of Connery’s early films, it made Bond himself more human. Here he falls in love, something that Connery’s Bond could never believably pull off. This love interest (via one of the best Bond girls, played by Diana Rigg) not only allows the audience to relate more, but increases the stakes. With Blofeld returning, Bond has a worthy, and proven adversary with which to wager these stakes. Blofeld’s scheme of blackmail is a bit kooky, Lazenby is definately the worst James Bond, and the film has some campy moments, but rather than harm the film’s reputation, these aspects make it a fun romp.
6. Thunderball (1965)
A spectacular final action sequence and lavish set pieces are the highlight of this impressive Bond film. SPECTRE is as menacing as ever, but Connery is up to the task as Bond. His swagger and style really help to anchor the film as the stakes are raised and the scope expands beyond what we had seen in the previous films. This installment saw a change in approach to a more action-oriented film, a trend that would continue and serve the franchise well to meet with changing audience tastes. With a sleeker story, there’s not as much detail and intrigue as in previous films, but the benefit is a more entertaining experience for the viewer.
5. Dr. No (1962)
This is where it all started. A film that established Bond and set off a spy-film craze in the 1960’s. There’s a good reason that Dr. No has been imitated so often, even by its own franchise. Traditionally, spy films had been dark, but Dr. No reinvented them for a new generation. Bond was a hero for many young people. Handsome, smart, and deadly. Bond showed how entertaining sex and violence could be. The film itself is full of great scenery, a classic soundtrack, and a plot that echoed the world’s tension due to the Cold War. This was a film for the time, and even looking back at it today, we can appreciate it.
4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Moore’s best film saw the introduction of a love interest. This had proven successful in the past (OHMSS) and would prove successful again in the future (Casino Royale). Having said love interest be an enemy agent was a clever twist and a challenge that we had not seen Bond face before. The villain was clearly meant to be Blofeld before legal issues regarding the character got in the way, but still Stromberg is memorable. This is also the film where we are introduced to Jaws, the king of all henchmen. Jaws made for a formidable adversary to Bond, which made the film interesting and more dangerous. Gadgets, cars, and girls all played a major part in this film, and as a Bond fan you can’t ask for anything else.
3. Casino Royale (2006)
A reboot for the franchise is exactly what it needed. Basing that remake on the first of Ian Fleming’s novel was a great idea, and that great idea which bridged the gap between old and new was executed well. Daniel Craig’s James Bond is a Bond for the 21st century. Immediacy and brute force are required, but there’s also a sense of brooding and angst that Bond had not exhibited before. Casino Royale gave us a more human Bond, and because of this, the audience is drawn in. There is more drama here than we’re used to seeing in a Bond flick. Again we have a love interest, which had been a successful technique when utilized in the past. This more emotional-based approach is combined with an expansive plot. James Bond adventurously jumps to many brilliantly detailed locales without treading on any familiar territory.
2. From Russia With Love (1963)
While not the most visually exciting Bond film, From Russia With Love is easily the most well-rounded and consistent. As the second entry into the series, Bond isn’t some sort of invincible pop-culture icon. Bond’s adversaries are his equal, which gives the film a dangerous feel. The audience rightly fears for their hero’s life. The film’s Cold War derived plot works towards its finale from opposite ends. We see that SPECTRE is setting up an elaborate plan to ensnare Bond, as retribution for what had happened in Dr. No. On the other hand, we get to follow Bond on his mission as he springs these traps with style and class. Despite being more low-key than later films, it still features some amazing action sequences.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger is not only the most exceptional Bond film, it is a staple of 60’s pop-culture. Like Star Wars, it helped spark a film phenomenon that birthed many inferior imitators. James Bond was THE film protagonist of the decade, and Goldfinger firmly established this. He defined a sense of style and adventure that many young people of the time admired. They also admired Goldfinger‘s depiction of sex and violence, which had been substantially stepped up from the previous two films. This in turn resulted in more substantial action sequences and catapulted the Aston Martin DB5 to movie prop legend status. Throw in memorable female counterparts, a quoteworthy villain, and a formiddable well-dressed henchman and you have all the makings for a legendary Bond film.
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