I was planning to rewatch the Daniel Craig era Bond films before No Time To Die was released, however circumstances intervened and it got pushed back to April. What that did give a chance to do however was watch the entire Bond series, many for the very first time. So now I’m able to offer my definitive ranking of all the Eon Produced Bond films. That does mean I won’t be including the 1967 David Niven Casino Royale or Connery’s unofficial return to the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.
24) A View to a Kill – Most of the Roger Moore era was a bit of a slog, but none more so than A View To Kill. The film didn’t actually start too bad, seeming like just a forgettable Moore instalment of the franchise. But once we get to America it all goes wrong, and badly. Moore struggled with the action sequences from quite early on, but by 1985 he was far too old to be believable, making every set piece an excruciating watch. Coupled with a boring lame duck of a plot, wasting Christopher Walken and Grace Jone, and the terrible performance from Tanya Reynolds and you’ve got a true disaster. The film does feature Dolph Lundgren in his very first film role a couple of months before Rocky IV, so does that make it worthwhile? No. Don’t do it to yourself.
23) Moonraker – Oof this was a rough one. Bond going to space is bad enough. But making Jaws, who had previously been one of the great Bond antagonists, a figure of ridicule and eventually a good guy after randomly falling in love was a terrible decision. Apparently this was inspired by fan mail from young children, which is why we don’t let kids write movies. Equally frustrating was the set up for a number of good action sequences, but none of them were delivered on, because Moore just couldn’t handle them. I think the only notable aspect of Moonraker is that it actually contains the line “play it again Sam”, which is often a misquote attributed to Casablanca.
22) The World Is Not Enough – What’s really frustrating is that the initial set up for The World Is Not Enough has a lot of promise. But what we end up with is a messy and convoluted story that is mainly dolled out through periodic exposition dumps between forgettable action sequences. So forgettable that the only one I really remember (having finished the film about a minute ago upon writing this short review) is Bond driving a boat through the streets of London, and that isn’t for a good reason, but because it’s utterly ridiculous. Not helping things is how bad Denise Richards is, and how unbelievable she is as a nuclear physicist, which the screenwriter only knew how to convey by constantly telling us she’s a nuclear physicist. There are a couple of worse Bond films, but not many.
21) Die Another Day – Many people regard Die Another Day as the worst Bond film, and I can certainly see the arguments. The criticisms that are levied at the majority of major blockbuster action films these days can probably be applied to here. In particular the over reliance on CGI in an attempt to create big action spectacle. It seriously doesn’t hold up, and Director Lee Tamahori went for it big time. His direction also comes across strongly as John Woo-light, and given that John Woo really needs the right film to be tolerable, a second rate version in a Bond film doesn’t work. Brosnan’s Bond is becoming more and more Moore like in this one, something that started in The World Is Not Enough, and I’m not a fan of that. Really the only major positive is Rosamund Pike, and her being a traitor was a twist you could see a mile off. Also just let me say, that as a massive Lord of the Rings nerd I was heartbroken to see Lawrence Makoare wasted so badly. The saddest thing about Die Another Day though is how it doesn’t feel like a Bond film at all, but just a boring and generic action spy film.
20) Octopussy – Octopussy is a film with some good action set pieces. However that really doesn’t help make up for the extremely muddled plot that jumps all over the place with almost no real tonal consistency. Even more egregious is the fact that the film has 7 or 8 different significant antagonists, including henchmen. People obviously talk about how some superhero films with 3 villains feel overstuffed, and that’s nothing compared to Octopussy. This is a proper mess of a film, but somehow not nearly as bad the 4 below it on this list.
19) Quantum of Solace – Quantum of Solace suffers for a few different reasons. Firstly there was a writer’s strike that left them with a threadbare script that had to be worked into something manageable. The second is that this came out when the Bourne franchise was at its peak, and director Marc Forster attempted to copy the style of action with quick cutting and close ups, which doesn’t really have the effect of bringing you into the scenes and making you feel the blows like it does in Bourne. On top of that neither Dominic Greene or General Medrano are in any way memorable villains. That said Craig is still a fantastic Bond, and one of the standout aspects of Quantum. There are also a few great moments and scenes. The opera scene is the one that always springs to mind. But most of the film just isn’t that interesting, thanks to the lack of solid script and action sequences that don’t hold up. I know there were some things beyond the film’s control, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film just isn’t good. At least it’s relatively short though.
18) Live and Let Die – Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond truly brings out campiness that defined his era. Past all the ridiculousness however there is actually a far more relatable villain plot from Mr Big, rather than the world ending plots Blofeld had spearheaded in the previous few. Some of Live and Let Die is entertaining enough, but far too much of the film is taken up by a speed boat chase in which we inexplicably follow some inept police officers for a big chunk of the film’s runtime, principally the atrocious J. W. Pepper. If that had been cut then Live and Let Die could’ve been quite good. As it is, not a great first outing for Moore, but not awful, and it has an absolute bop of a theme song.
17) You Only Live Twice – In You Only Live Twice there are some great action sequences, particularly the helicopter fight. This is also the film where a lot of the Bond/spy movie tropes that have been heavily parodied in things like Austin Powers were born. We’ve got the secret volcano lair, and the first proper appearance of Blofeld, rather than just a silhouette. However there’s a number of racially insensitive moments given the Japanese setting that are really hard to watch, and make this comfortably the worst of Connery’s outings.
16) Spectre – Spectre is actually a really solid film until the wheels fall off completely in the third act. The first two thirds of the movie, which sees Bond beginning to infiltrate the titular Spectre, is highly entertaining and contains some great action sequences. The opening sequence in Mexico is a particular stand out, with some stunning cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema, who had the unenviable task of taking over from Roger Deakins. The plotline involving Andrew Scott, which turns out to be Spectre’s big plan for world domination, is definitely the weakest aspect, and I wish we had got a bit more of a focus on Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx. However, when it starts hamfistedly forcing all the previous films together it begins to go wrong. The reveal that Christoph Waltz’s character was Blofeld was already hamfisted enough, but by tying his childhood into Bond’s the film really loses any goodwill it had built up, which is a damn shame.
15) The Man With the Golden Gun – The Man With the Golden Gun is a film that really feels uninspired until the final confrontation with Scaramanga, although Christopher Lee is doing his best. That finale though is a lot of fun, and it is just a shame that the film leading up to it wasn’t great. The biggest problem with the film however is their decision to bring J.W. Pepper back for this one after Live or Let Die. I have no idea who thought that would be a good idea, because he may just be the most aggravating character ever, and certainly not one who fits in the Bond series.
14) For Your Eyes Only – Could have been a really good entry in the series as it gets back to the feeling of a Bond film, something that had mostly been missing for Moore’s tenure. Unfortunately the film has a truly dreadful pre-credit sequence, why you would bring Blofeld in for that is beyond me, and shoehorned in Marget Thatcher (not the actual one thankfully, but it is still unpleasant) at the end. The problem of Moore being hopeless during action scenes however was nicely navigated by having Bond covered in most of them, meaning a stunt double could essentially always be used. But the core of the film, outside the first and last scenes, is just a fun Bond movie.
13) Diamonds are Forever – Connery’s final Eon produced outing as Bond is certainly nothing special, but it’s a good time. It goes through the Connery Bond formula that really started in Goldfinger, and whilst it doesn’t feel original, I still enjoyed it. The fact that they basically breeze over Tracey’s death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a real shame, as it seems to have had no emotional impact on Bond at all. Charles Gray is a far more classic Blofeld than we saw in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But Mr. Wint and Mr. Smith are a great pair of antagonists as Blofeld’s henchmen, it’s just a shame they mostly disappear in the second half of the film.
12) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – George Lazenby’s sole outing as Bond. If all you want are spy thrills then this one takes a while to get going as it instead spends much of the opening half hour focusing on Bond’s relationship with Diana Rigg’s Tracey. Lazenby himself is a mixed bag in the role. He lacks the charm and swagger that Connery brought to the role of Bond. But is clearly a talented actor, particularly when undercover as Sir Hilary Bray. But I think if Lazenby was going to be in any Bond film, this was the perfect one, particularly given the final scene. However, there was one issue that did hurt the film for me. Peter R. Hunt’s direction in action sequences isn’t great. It feels as though he is trying so hard to make them feel more kinetic and exciting, that it just becomes a bit off putting. I think most of the sequences have more cuts than watching Liam Neeson jump a fence in Taken.
11) Thunderball – The opening sequence for Thunderball is a bit of a ridiculous scene with the jetpack, that doesn’t look good, and the Colonel dressed as his own widow. However once you actually get into Thunderball it’s really solid. There’s one or two too many underwater action sequences, and you have to feel as though one of those could have been cut in order to make the film a little shorter. But some of them are really solid action sequences, particularly the big final underwater showdown. And in Emilio Largo the film has a very strong villain.
10) The Spy Who Loved Me – The Spy Who Loved Me mostly drops the cheesy and comedic tone of Moore’s first couple of outings and the film is all the better for it. Karl Stromberg is a really solid primary villain, and in Jaws they created one of the great secondary villains, up there with the likes of Oddjob in terms of great henchman. Added onto that there’s a genuinely compelling story between Bond and Anya Amasova, although Barbara Bach’s performance is a little weak in some of the more emotional moments. But this is probably the one Moore film that I’d say was good.
9) The Living Daylights – The Living Daylights is the first proper reboot of the Bond series, and is a really good Bond film that probably came out about 20 years too early. Coming off the back of the Moore era it’s easy to see why some were put off. Dalton brings a more serious and grounded Bond, in the vein of Daniel Craig, and the film fits that tone. Andreas Wisniewski is a great villain as Necros. However the third act is a bit forgettable, and not as great as the first two. I started losing some interest once they arrive in Afghanistan, which keeps it from being an all timer.
8) Goldeneye – A blast of pure nostalgia, largely because of the classic game that went along with it. But Brosnan’s first Bond outing does stand up on its own as a good entry into the series. Brosnan’s 007 is somewhere between Dalton’s more serious Bond and the charming quipster that was Moore. The Alec Trevelyan twist, and Sean Bean’s performance are fantastic. But there are a couple of things that hold Goldeneye back from being great, mainly the fact that a bunch of the supporting performances, principally Famke Janssen are excruciatingly over the top. And these come from some great actors, which suggests that its something that came from the director.
7) Tomorrow Never Dies – Bond teams up with Wai Lin, a Chinese spy to take on Rupert Murdoch and News Corp… sorry Elliot Carver and the Carver Media Group, who wants to start a war between Britain and China in order to bolster profits. It also turns out that I never knew until I watched Tomorrow Never Dies recently that Michelle Yeoh was in a Bond film, and as the badass Wai Lin. Jonathan Pryce is suitably loathsome as the thinly veiled Murdoch allegory. Also as much as I love Bernard Lee’s M you just don’t get anyone close to Judi Dench in the role. There are a couple of duller sequences, but I was glad to see a Bond film that didn’t try to force in an extra 10/15 minutes to make the usual run time of 2 hours 10, and kept this one sub 2 hours.
6) Dr. No – Dr. No is a solid enough introduction for Bond that defined many of the classic Bond images to come, but it is held back by a couple of things. The one thing that is truly great in the film is Sean Connery. He has so much charm and charisma, and he was born for the role, and his presence alone bumps the film up a few places. The film has a bit of a lacklustre final act, probably as a result an uninspiring villain who doesn’t appear until the last 20ish minutes of the film. I like his scene with Professor Dent, but he really has no impact until that last 20 minutes. The first two thirds of the film are really good, but much like The Living Daylights the finale is a bit disappointing.
5) Licence To Kill – Dalton’s second Bond film is another excellent entry, even better than the first. It does a great job of adding some real personal stakes for 007 with the attack on Felix Leiter. Licence to Kill deals with him losing someone he cares about much better than Diamonds Are Forever did, which just blew it off. Dalton’s performance is fantastic, really bringing out Bond’s pain. On top of that there are a number of spectacular action sequences, probably topping anything in the franchise up until this point. Dalton’s Bond films always seem to get forgotten, but both of them are really strong, and the fact that there’s only two probably makes him the most constant Bond to date.
4) Goldfinger – Goldfinger is a film with a lot of great and iconic moments. The interrogation scene is iconic for a reason, with the classic Goldfinger riposte “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”. On top of that the film has one of the greatest Bond villains ever in Oddjob, even though he’s only Goldfinger’s henchman, he’s the character that really makes an impact, even becoming the final antagonist that Bond has to fight in Fort Knox. However, there are some questionable moments as well, particularly with Pussy Galore. Also the gas attack sequence looks stupid as hell. But this is widely considered one of the best Bond films ever and it’s clear to see why.
3) From Russia With Love – Really great Bond film. From Russia With Love Introduces SPECTRE, Blofeld, and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, all of which would come to define the Connery era, and Llewlyn playing the role until The World is Not Enough. Best of all though is Robert Shaw’s Grant, a great villain, who really feels like Bond’s match. His protection of Bond through the first half of the film as a figure operating in shadows is good, but when he meets Bond pretending to be his contact, that is great. The whole train sequence is fantastic, with two great actors going head to head, and a great fight scene. The film isn’t perfect and certainly shows its age, but it is pretty damn great.
2) Skyfall – Right from the exhilarating opening Skyfall is a brilliant ride. The final act really feels like it breaks away from the usual Bond film tropes as we go back to James’ childhood home, and I know that put some people off, but not me. The film introduces Naomi Harris’ Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Ralph Fiennes as the new M, all of whom are fantastic additions to the franchise. But the real heart of the story is Judi Dench’s final outing as M. I like when the franchise adds personal stakes for the major characters, usually Bond, but in this case M. Her relationship with Raoul Silva really makes Skyfall come alive, and so much more impactful. Add on to that Sam Mendes’ stunning direction. I mean the Shanghai sequence is probably the most beautifully shot action scene in Bond history. Deciding the best Bond film between Skyfall and Casino Royale is just splitting hairs, they’re both fantastic.
1) Casino Royale – Easily the best Bond film for me to date. From the opening where Bond earns his Double 0 status, to the parkour action scene, to the look into Bond’s psyche and attitude to the job, to brilliant casino scenes, and Bond’s relationship with Vespa this is just brilliant. Seeing this is the moment I began to appreciate what Bond could be, having had the misfortune to watch Moonraker and Octopussy as a kid. It helps that Craig is exceptional in the role. As charming as Connery, but with that harder edge of Dalton. Maybe Casino Royale is a touch long coming in at nearly 2 and a half hours, if anything could be trimmed it might be the airport scene, but I’m never bored by any moment of the film. It’s thrilling, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s Bond at its best.