Of Human BOND-age: Matt ranks and blurbs the 24 Bond Films
First posted - 11/15/15
Well we've spent the last 3 months screening, re-screening, discussing, ranking, qualifying, justifying, condemning, and championing Bond films. It was illuminating, inspiring, and invigorating geekdom of the highest order. Then a little film called SPECTRE came along and took a sledge hammer to all of the good will and furious expectation we had concocted leading up to the 24th film in the franchise. It was probably inevitable that we be disappointed. After all, film franchise history is populated with far more PHANTOM MENACEs, MATRIX RELOADEDs, QUANTUM OF SOLACEs and SPECTREs than it is with SKYFALLs. That being said, this disappointment hit especially hard and felt somehow more personal to me than other recent deflations. This one was painful. And it hit me like a gut punch I wasn't prepared to defend myself from.
So, after 3 unpleasant viewings of the new film and a week to muse on it I've decided that I refuse to let this tragic missed opportunity on the part of the filmmakers ruin my "Autumn Of Bond". It will take a lot more than a mediocre entry (lord knows the series has had its share) to ruin the high that my recent viewings of the previous 23 other entries inspired in me. There's been so many lists, so many podcasts, so many blurbs, and so many celebrations of the series compiled over the last 3 months on this website that I felt compelled to collect them all onto one easily accessible page for all of our convenience. So scroll down to find: 10 podcast links, all 24 films in the series ranked, and a few fun "Top 5" lists that oscar and I made corresponding to Bondian tropes.
Thanks for all of the lovely feedback, positive reinforcement, and words of encouragement you've privileged us with during this delirious escapade down the Bond rabbit hole, dear listeners and readers. It's been the single most fun and rewarding project I've been lucky enough to have been involved with since the creation of this website. Thanks for being a part of it!
24. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
Bond: 'You know, you're cleverer than you look.'
Q: 'Still, better than looking cleverer than you are.'
Legitimately the only Bond film that retains zero re-watchability. Features the abysmal hat trick of worst girl/worst villain/worst action sequence. The next worst on the list is at least enjoyable trash worthy of a “so bad it’s good” qualification. DIE ANOTHER DAY rests squarely in “so bad it’s sad” territory. Make it stop. Please.
23. A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
“So, anyone else want to drop out?” - Max Zorin
The Bond film that conjures simultaneous confusion and revulsion at an almost minute-to-minute consistency. Grace Jones skydives off the Eiffel Tower, Christopher Walken swan dives off the Golden Gate Bridge, and senior citizen Roger Moore (the oldest Bond in the series history) pilots a fire truck away from a roaring inferno. Oh, and 007 invents snowboarding. Seriously.
22. MOONRAKER (1979)
“Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.” - Hugo Drax
“Fail Big” seems to be the motto of the first (and thus far last) film to literally rocket James Bond into space. “Dr. Holly Goodhead” waves at “Pussy Galore” as she dives past her into the annuls of suggestive character name bad taste. There’s a gondola hovercraft AND a pigeon doing a double-take but, mercifully, they pool their resources in the same embarrassing sequence. Lot of series’ lows to be found here.
21. LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
"Señor Bond, you got big cojones. You come here, to my place, without references, carrying a piece, throwing around a lot of money... but you should know something: nobody saw you come in, so nobody has to see you go out." - Franz Sanchez
Slow, cheap, empty, and repugnantly violent, Timothy Dalton’s second and last outing as 007 is dead on arrival. Robert Davi and Benicio Del Toro hurtle hilariously into camp territory as villainous drug smugglers. But the tonal shifts are whiplash-inducing and there’s nary a memorable moment in the whole film.
20. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
“I’m not interested in your sordid escapades. Let’s get on with it, shall we?” - Q
Pierce Brosnan’s sophomore outing starts off with charm, polish, and an above average central conceit (a media mogul engineers a war so that he can be the first to provide news coverage on it) then deteriorates almost immediately into a collection of overblown, under-designed action sequences of diminishing returns. If any of us were having nearly as much fun watching this film as villain Johnathan Pryce is having chewing the scenery this would have a been a contender for one of the best in the series. It's not.
19. QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
"There is something horribly efficient about you." - Camille
Starts out impressively with hands-down the best car chase in the series. But QUANTUM OF SOLACE quickly gets lost in the desert- so dependent on leaching off of its superior predecessor CASINO ROYALE that it never finds its own identity. Daniel Craig is game at every turn but his second film as 007 is aggressively forgettable, offering few pleasures after the first act.
18. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (2008)
"There's no point living, if you can't feel alive." - Elektra King
Unfairly maligned as bottom of the barrel Bond, partly due to Denise Richards’ regrettable and distracting turn as Dr. Christmas Jones (she of the infamous, forehead-smacking pun that closes the film). But some of the most exciting sequences of the Brosnan era can be found buried in this film (a cracker jack opening boat chase, the exploding caviar factory, the vertical submarine in Istanbul) if one is willing to wait them out. This is Brosnan's second best outing as Bond but it is, admittedly, a distant second.
17. SPECTRE (2015)
Bond: 'I'll send you a postcard.'
Q: 'Please don't.'
The relative failure of the 24th installment in the series was especially demoralizing due to the fact that it squandered one of the great opportunities ever afforded to a Bond filmmaking team: reintroducing Blofeld and his titular organization to modern audiences. Given the dramatic, visual, and conceptual possibilities inherent in this set-up, the film should have been one of the series’ best. Instead it fails to stick a single landing following the above average cold open in Mexico City. Tragic.
16. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
“Fascinating anatomical tidbit. But probably the most useless piece of information I ever heard.”
One of the gamest and most endearing entries in the series is unfortunately also one of the sloppiest. A film that can’t stop stepping on its own toes is ultimately redeemed by Christopher Lee, an iconic villain, Herve Villechaize, his iconic henchman, and Khao Phing Kan (known as “Bond Island” today, even to the locals), Thailand- debatably the most iconic location in the history of the franchise.
15. DR. NO (1962)
Moneypenny: 'You never take me to dinner, period.'
Bond: 'I would you know. Only M would have me court-martialed for illegal use of government property.'
It would be impossible for a 5 decade old genre exercise that was produced modestly and embraced attitude and experimentation over polish and narrative complexity to not show its age. And Dr. NO certainly does. But it’s also compulsively watchable, smoothly paced, and features the greatest character introduction in film history- a scene that does NOT show its age.
14. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
"We've nothing to declare!" - Bond
An expansive, globetrotting epic, short on humor but long on inventive set pieces, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS is surprisingly serviceable. The franchise welcomes Timothy Dalton with open arms, as the 4th actor to play James Bond, then immediately puts him to work. The insecure narrative disappears down a convoluted rabbitt hole by the 2nd act but the film remains pacey and unpretentious throughout.
13. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
“Well, that’s quite a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing." - Bond
Sean Connery’s “I’m only here for the money” aloofness, the surreality of seeing Bond in 1970s Las Vegas, and the inspired inclusion of the 2 most gloriously flamboyant henchmen in the history of the series somehow collide to create something wacky and wonderful. A legitimate contender for “most bonkers Bond entry”, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER skates by on swagger, eccentricity, and and endless barrage Connery quips (most of which somehow all seem to land). “The poor man’s GOLDFINGER”.
12. OCTOPUSSY (1983)
"Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed... soon to be made extinct." - Kamal Khan
While Roger Moore’s age is apparent on his face in his 6th turn as Bond, his charm and infectious enthusiasm are as apparent here as in any of his other performances in the series. The plot machinations, which split Bond’s time between India and East Berlin, are as absurd as the series gets (Fabrege Eggs, Russian fanaticism, and circus animals feature prominently). But the film is so eager to please, so willing to try anything to get your attention (yes this is the one where Bond dresses up as a clown to disarm a nuclear weapon) that it’s hard to actively dislike.
11. THUNDERBALL (1965)
Bond: 'That gun. Looks more fitting for a woman.'
Largo: 'You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?'
Bond: 'No. I know a little about women.'
While it’s easy to poke fun at mid 60s time-capsule THUNDERBALL, (its obsession with scuba sequences and over-cranked action are infamous, even to the film’s defenders) it still maintains an easy charm and confidence that comes with being the 5th film in a series that had yet to hit a creative or financial snag. Connery was never more virile than he is here- spending most of the film shirtless and flanked by 2 of the most memorable and breath-taking women in the history of the series- one a classic Bond beauty (Claudine Auger), the other a scenery-chewing Femme Fatale (Lucianna Paluzzi).
10. LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
"Do you think you could gift wrap it for me? Length-wise if you don't mind."' - Bond
The infamous “Blaxploitation Bond” entry takes a low-tech, unpolished approach to reinventing the franchise and inaugurates Roger Moore into his tenure as 007 with winking charm and brazen supernatural undertones. The definition of a “love it or hate it” installment, it features one of the few songs everyone seems to agree is a classic. Sharks AND alligators feature prominently. ‘Nuff said.
9. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
“The things I do for England...” - Bond
If GOLDFINGER invented the Bond “formula” then YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE turned it up to 11 and galvanized it. Bond’s mission this time around is described as “the big one” by M, Blofeld’s face is revealed for the first time, and production designer Ken Adam’s Volcanic Lair (a legendary set rumored to have cost more than the entire budget of DR. NO) changes large scale set design forever. Nancy Sinatra’s title track has been unfairly forgotten. It deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Shirley Bassey’s best.
8. GOLDENEYE (1995)
“As you can see, I have no problem with female authority.”
Bond number 5 Pierce Brosnan and 2 time series savior Martin Campbell break a sweat struggling to update the franchise for the 90s and are largely successful in their endeavors. The breezy, good-natured GOLDENEYE wows with breathtaking stunts even while hampered by Eric Serra’s sticky-synth score which badly dates an otherwise solid outing in the same manner as Bill Conti’s regrettable FOR YOUR EYES ONLY disco beats. Watch for Minnie Driver in a goofy cameo.
7. SKYFALL (2012)
Raoul Silva: 'There's always a first time...'
Bond: 'What makes you think this is my first time?'
The single greatest argument for throwing out the Bond formula since ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, SKYFALL is an unexpected triumph of style and substance. The most critically and commercially successful film in the franchise (released on the 50th anniversary of DR. NO), it’s also one of the riskiest. The film loses footing in the 3rd act but it has more than enough magical highlights (series best cinematography, an instantly iconic title track, elegant fan service, Javier Bardem’s serpentine villain..) to cement it as one of the best.
6. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
Bond: 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.'
Q: 'That's putting it mildly, 007.'
A dramatic creative reaction to the bloated, vacuous circus of its predecessor MOONRAKER, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY is an endlessly charming exercise in low-tech, high-concept distraction. Roger Moore, perched on the precipice of aging out of playing Bond (despite the fact that he would go on to make 2 more films in the series), turns in his best performance as the character. His approach is as matter-of-fact and workmanlike as the film he inhabits. What FOR YOUR EYES ONLY lacks in pizazz and gadgets it more than makes up for in set pieces and stunts. The climactic mountain climbing sequence in Greece and a delightfully protracted winter sports chase in Italy (ski jumps, bobsleds, motorcycles on snow!) are timeless and iconic. It's a shame the same can't be said for the disco-centric Bill Conti score that accompanies these scenes. In fact, the less said about it the better.
5. ON HER MAJESTY's SECRET SERVICE (1969)
"It's all right. It's quite all right, really. She's having a rest. We'll be going on soon. There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world." - Bond
Simultaneously one of the most beloved and reviled installments in the franchise, OHMSS was the first of many series reinventions and is still likely the boldest. Bond number 2 George Lazenby accepts the thankless task of following Sean Connery and blunders through much of his first (and only) outing. But he finds his center in the film’s pivotal moments- those between Bond and his bride-to-be Tracy Di Vincenzo, played by the incomparable Diana Rigg. The scene following their wedding represents the greatest epilogue in the series.
4. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
“Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.”
In many ways THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is the “perfect” Bond film due in no small part to the slick, satisfying manner in which it checks formula boxes with practiced efficiency: Fun, frivolous cold open ending with a gasp-inducing stunt? CHECK (maybe the best of the series in fact). Breathtakingly beautiful heroine with her own agenda? CHECK. Eccentric, billionaire supervillain with a kickass underwater lair? CHECK. Car that changes into a submarine. CHECK. And so on… This is Bond comfort food of the highest order.
3. GOLDFINGER (1964)
Bond: 'Ingenious. Useful too. Allow a man to stop off for a quick one en route.'
Q: 'It has not been perfected out of years of patient research entirely for that purpose, 007.”
While THE SPY WHO LOVE ME represents the efficacy of the well-oiled Bond narrative it never quite gets to the core of the character at the center the way GOLDFINGER does. Sure GOLDFINGER invented the Bond formula. But, more importantly, it invented the legend. Ultimately the film, Sean Connery’s 3rd outing, is often an uncomfortably dated bauble of a pop distraction. But there’s resplendent pleasures resonating from the core of this bauble- particularly the the way in which Connery and director Guy Hamilton seem to anoint everything they touch with pop iconography. Few images in the franchise or the history of cinema itself are as recognizable as Shirley Eaton’s lifeless, glistening golden body, few sounds as goosebump-inducing as the brassy opening cords of John Barry’s theme, few representations of masculinity as relatable to generations of moviegoers as the grey-suited Bond, astride his silver Aston Martin chariot. It’s all here. It’s all classic.
2. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
Bond: 'Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.'
Red Grant: 'You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees.'
The Bond movie you introduce to those who claim to “hate Bond movies”, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is sharp, sophisticated, stylish, and, most importantly, simple. Bond is dispatched to seduce a Russian consulate clerk into leading him to an electronic code breaker. That’s the setup- streamlined and clean. From here the narrative blossoms into a cat and mouse chase between Bond and the agents of S.P.E.C.T.R.E (the infamous shadow organization makes its series debut here) from the cistern canals beneath Istanbul to the cramped quarters of the Orient Express (the sight of one of the greatest fight sequences in the history of the franchise) to the island-speckled maze of the Adriatic Sea. There’s not a false note, a boring sequence, or a cringe-worthy moment to be found. This is Bond filmmaking at its most mature and satisfying.
1. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
"The job's done. The bitch is dead." - Bond
So many things went right in the execution of the 21st Bond film that it’s easy to forget how many gambles were involved in its production: Bringing in a brash, controversial choice to succeed Pierce Brosnan as 007 (a blonde Bond no less!), adapting a 53 year old novel in a series that’s always been insecure about its contemporary cultural relevance, abandoning gadgets and quips for vulnerability and torture… et. al. But the film is an unqualified success and an artistic embarrassment of riches due in no small part to its commitment to the source material. “When you get stuck, go back to the books” Albert Broccoli was often heard to tell his daughter Barbara when he was grooming her to succeed him as series producer and de facto protector of the Bond legacy. She and step-brother/co-producer Michael Wilson took these words to heart. The 2nd and 3rd acts of the film are staggeringly faithful to the book and the final moments are cynical and tragic, the way Fleming intended. 44 years after Sean Connery first uttered his iconic character introduction, Daniel Craig closes CASINO ROYALE with the same words. In that moment he not only becomes every bit the heir apparent to Connery, but, quite possibly, the ultimate example of Fleming’s enduring creation.
Matt & Oscar's Favorites:
1. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, "Skiing and Union Jack".
2. GOLDFINGER, "Shocking"
3. CASINO ROYALE, "2 kills"
4. SKYFALL, "Take The Shot"
5. GOLDENEYE, "Bungee and sky dive"
Worst - THUNDERBALL, "Jetpacks and firehoses"
1. SKYFALL, "Take The Shot"
2. GOLDENEYE, "Bungee and sky dive"
3. CASINO ROYALE, "2 kills"
4. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, "Training Exercise"
5. OCTOPUSSY, "Miniature airplane"
Worst- DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, "Bond punching people"
1. Diamonds Are Forever, Shirley Bassey
2. Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey
3. Skyfall, Adele
4. Live And Let Die, Paul McCartney
5. You Only Live Twice, Nancy Sinatra
Worst - Die Aother Day, Madonna / The Living Daylights, a-ha
1. Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey
2. Thunderball, Tom Jones
3. Live And Let Die, Paul McCartney
4. You Only Live Twice, Nancy Sinatra
5. Skyfall, Adele
Worst - Die Aother Day, Madonna
1. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), CASINO ROYALE
2. Theresa Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
3. Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), THUNDERBALL
4. Solitaire (Jane Seymour), LIVE AND LET DIE
5. Domino Derval (Claudine Auger), THUNDERBALL
Honorable Mention - Dink (Margaret Nolan), GOLDFINGER
Worst - Jinx (Halle Berry), DIE ANOTHER DAY
1. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), CASINO ROYALE
2. Theresa Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
3. Solitaire (Jane Seymour), LIVE AND LET DIE
4.Domino Derval (Claudine Auger), THUNDERBALL
5. Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi), FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Worst - Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), LIVE AND LET DIE
1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savales), ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
2. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
3. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), CASINO ROYALE
4. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), GOLDFINGER
5. Emil Largo (Adolpho Celi), THUNDERBALL / Raul Silva (Javier Bardem), SKYFALL
Worst - Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), DIE ANOTHER DAY
1. Raul Silva (Javier Bardem), SKYFALL
2. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), GOLDFINGER
3. Alec Trevelyn (Sean Bean), GOLDENEYE
4. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
5. Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens), THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
Worst -Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), DIE ANOTHER DAY/ Elliot Carver (Johnathan Pryce), TOMORROW NEVER DIES
1. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
2. Odd Job (Harold Sakata), GOLDFINGER
3. Red Grant (Robert Shaw), FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
4. Kick Knack (Herve Villechaize), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
5. Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), LIVE AND LET DIE
Worst - Chang (Toshiro Suga), MOONRAKER
1. Red Grant (Robert Shaw), FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
2. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), GOLDENEYE
3. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
4. Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), LIVE AND LET DIE
5. Kick Knack (Herve Villechaize), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
Worst - Jaws (Richard Kiel), MOONRAKER
1. Daniel Craig (4 films)
2. Sean Connery (6 films)
3. Roger Moore (7 films)
4. Pierce Brosnan (4 films)
5. Timothy Dalton (2 films)
6. George Lazenby (1 film)
1. Daniel Craig (4 films)
2. Sean Connery (6 films)
3. Pierce Brosnan (4 films)
3. Timothy Dalton (2 films)
4. Roger Moore (7 films)
5. George Lazenby (1 film)