The Ultimate James Bond Movie Ranking

On the eve of the release of the newest James Bond film, we look back on the franchise with an analytical eye to determine which films best represented the unique qualities of the franchise and which ones did not…

The James Bond movie franchise is approaching its 60th year. No Time to Die marks the franchises’ 25th official entry, and it marks the end of the term for the sixth actor to play the main role. With so many films, and so many different generations who grew up watching them, it is understandable that we may get differing opinions about how we could rank them from worst to best. While many outlets (including this one) have done their best to rank the Bond films, each is somewhat flawed by the singular perspective of the person who is making the ranking. 

Voting on a ranking is one way to provide more impartiality into the mix. But what if you wanted to go further? What if you wanted a way to determine which James Bond film does the best job at those things we most closely associate with James Bond films? And most importantly, it has to be as objective as possible. We want a verifiable, irrefutable answer as to which James Bond film is the best, and which is the worst. 

Thankfully, math has the solution! The algorithm is a mighty tool that gives us the means to compare different criteria in a manner that is more fair and balanced. I have created a James Bond algorithm which compares various attributes of the franchise in order to provide a final, definitive ranking that will be backed by science. I’ve used algorithms like these before to determine the best summer movie season, and to rank the best films of the first quarter of the 21st century.

But now I’ve turned my spreadsheets towards the realm of the most popular spy in the world. I’ve collected a bunch of data on 24 James Bond films (I’m excluding No Time to Die for this exercise because I don’t have all the data yet on that film), and compiled it to provide a rating for each film in 5 weighted categories. Below I have outlined the five categories, and all of the information I used to determine those values. The final score of each film is the total score of all 5 category scores added together. I then ranked the 24 films based on their total score in order to provide a final, definitive, undeniable, Ultimate James Bond Ranking (UJBR). 

The 5 categories utilized to compare the films were selected to showcase the most important attributes of the franchise. 

  1. Box Office (worth 10 pts) = I compared box office proceeds and profit, the bond film with the best balance sheet scored the most points. I included a modifier to account for higher budgets on more modern films. 

Maybe how much money a movie makes isn’t 100% dependent on the quality of the film, but certainly better-made films should have better box office results and more profitability. Better box office results showcase more popularity with the viewing public at the time of the film’s release, and solid profits allow the franchise to continue. Films with lower profits are indications of struggles in terms of achieving a creative vision, or audiences embracing that vision. 

2. Critical Consensus (50 pts) = I compared Rotten Tomatoes Scores, Metacritic scores, and my own personal ranking

This category is weighted heavily because it gives us the best indication of how well the film’s creative team met or exceeded expectations of critics and audiences who saw the film. Similarly, sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes allow us to view the older films with a more modern perspective and judge them accordingly. In addition there is a small deduction for films which exude an old-fashioned sexism or else the age difference between the leading man and woman is uncomfortably large. 

3. Car Factor (10 pts) = How cool/iconic are the cars that are featured in the film? 

The Bond films were among the first action movies to focus on the automobile, and as such they have had a huge impact on the industry. Films earn more points for featuring an iconic James Bond car, and using it in an entertaining way, such as a high-stakes action scene. 

4. Villain Factor (15 pts) = It is often said that a movie is only as good as its villain, and that applies here. Movies with higher points in this category have an iconic villain, and the villain’s evil scheme seems to be more believable, or at least memorable.

5. Theme Factor (15 pts) = A comparison between the theme song of each film, the opening title sequence, and the general production style. All of these attributes are very important to the franchise, and make Bond unique as an action film. 

I utilized my rankings and song ratings from this previous article

Scroll to the bottom to see how each film fared in these 5 categories. Now, let’s get to the ranking: 

#24 – The Man with the Golden Gun (26.44 UJBR Points)

The lowest-ranked James Bond film doesn’t do anything well. Despite a notable villain, he has a stupid evil scheme. Despite some awesome car chases, the cars are some of the most forgettable in the entire series. 

#23 – A View to A Kill (32.34 UJBR Points)

The film with the greatest age difference between Bond and the main Bond girl (30 years!) understandably doesn’t play well with critics, but it does have a strong theme song and opening intro. 

#22 – Octopussy (35.18 UJBR Points)

The most redeeming quality of this film is its cars. There are some great car chases, and car-chase like scenes. The film is basically one long chase, but it doesn’t make up for the lackluster plot, villain, and questionable view towards women. 

#21 – Moonraker (38.46 UJBR Points)

Here the franchise tries to compete with Star Wars by going into space, but in the process it goes a bit too far. There aren’t really any cars in this film, and the villain feels more like something out of Superman than a spy thriller. 

#20 – Die Another Day (41.46 UJBR Points)

The silliest Pierce Brosnan Bond film gets an understandably low rating because of a poor theme, low critical consensus, and a cartoonish villain. On the plus side it does have some good (if ridiculous) car action. 

#19 –  License to Kill (43.32 UJBR Points)

Despite a good critical consensus, I think this film ranks low here because it diverges from the franchise’s formula. It is one of the worst performers at the box office, and it feels like the producers were struggling to find a way to make Bond relevant in a time when action movies were reinventing themselves. That doesn’t make it as bad as this ranking may lead you to believe, but since this algorithm is looking at how well the film represents the elements of the franchise, it was always going to struggle. 

#18 – Live and Let Die (44.30 UJBR Points)

Roger Moore’s introduction as Bond was a bit floundering despite the unique style and great theme song. The villain is kind of run-of-the-mill and lack of good car-action leaves us wanting more. 

#17 – The World is Not Enough (44.52 UJBR Points)

A notable villain with a feasible evil scheme, and good intro title sequence are the highlights of this Brosnan-led Bond film.

#16 – Quantum of Solace (46.18 UJBR Points)

The high-stakes opening car chase sequence is basically responsible for this ranking because although the film has an average critical consensus score and earns decent marks for its theme, nothing else really stands out. 

#15 – Tomorrow Never Dies (48.65 UJBR Points)

The ranking may seem a little high, but the film’s Theme Factor was high, and it has some of the best car-related action scenes in the entire franchise. 

#14 – Diamonds Are Forever (48.81 UJBR Points)

Sean Connery’s return to the series did not achieve the critical consensus as his previous outings, but the return of Blofeld was appreciated, as is the memorable (if silly) car-oriented action. 

#13 – The Living Daylights (49.52 UJBR Points)

Timothy Dalton’s highest ranked Bond film has lots of action, including a welcome return of the gadget-laden Aston Martin. Unfortunately the villain is not memorable, and the box office performance was one of the weakest in the series. 

#12 – For Your Eyes Only (51.70 UJBR Points)

An underrated Bond adventure. High marks for a unique car chase sequence, and decent critical consensus. 

#11 – Spectre (52.04 ULBR Points)

Despite a middeling critical consensus, this film makes up for it with some good car action, and the heralded return of Blofeld to the franchise. 

#10 – You Only Live Twice (54.33 UJBR Points)

Decent critical consensus, but earns high points for its action, the first appearance of Blofeld, and a memorable convertible Toyota 2000GT. 

#9 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (58.80 UJBR Points)

Well received by critics, with some good car action, and a memorable appearance by the ultimate James Bond villain (Blofeld), even if his evil scheme seems very silly. 

#8 – Thunderball (60.58 UJBR Points)

The film with the biggest box office haul until Skyfall, but it also has a high critical consensus and memorable villain. The opening scene has some car action, but otherwise the film’s action highlight takes place underwater. 

#7 – From Russia With Love (64.39 UJBR Points) 

The film that earned the highest score in Critical Consensus, also had a large profit and a memorable villain. Those attributes helped to make up for the film’s lack of cars and less action-oriented plot. 

#6 – The Spy Who Loved Me (65.70 UJBR Points)

Roger Moore’s turn as Bond has more lowlights than highlights, but this one has stood the test of time because of a high critical consensus, an unforgettable evil scheme, and a Lotus Esprit that can turn into a submarine, which is one of the most iconic Bond cars ever. 

#5 – Goldeneye (65.94 UJBR Points)

Pierce Brosnan’s best outing as Bond gets a high ranking because of a good villain that sets himself apart from the others, and great action sequences (like an unforgettable tank chase which I am counting as a car chase!). 

#4 – Dr. No (67.91 UJBR Points)

The original Bond film achieves a high spot because it started many of the traditions of the series, but more importantly it has a very high critic consensus (the second highest!), and was the most profitable Bond film. 

#3 – Skyfall (76.35 UJBR Points)

This was the film that ended up with the highest villain factor, because Raoul Silva gets under the audience’s skin, and his evil plan feels more authentic than we are used to. The film’s high critical consensus also helped make up for its mediocre car factor. 

#2 – Casino Royale (80.75 UJBR Points)

Casino Royale was a huge deal because it reinvented the series for the 21st century, while not losing out on anything that made the franchise famous in the first place. It misses out on the #1 spot because it wasn’t as profitable as the #1 film, and it isn’t (yet) as iconic. 

#1 – Goldfinger (82.68 UJBR Points)

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Danjaq/EON/UA/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886267cu)
Sean Connery

Goldfinger received high marks across the board, but what put it over the top was its high critical consensus and iconic villain. This film has everything you could want in a James Bond film and it was a huge hit at the box office.

Here’s a look at the numbers:

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