Best Bond Flicks: Where does ‘No Time to Die’ rank?
27. ‘Casino Royale’ (1967)
Unable to get the official EON producers to pony up for the rights to Ian Fleming’s first book, Charles K. Feldman decides to compete with Sean Connery and the “official series” by churning out a 007 parody. Think “Austin Powers” 30 years before the fact — and nowhere near as successful.
Pros: Quite a bit of talent on the screen: David Niven as Bond, Orson Welles as LeChiffre and Ursula Andress (the original Bond girl from “Dr. No”) as Vesper Lynd. Woody Allen as Dr. Noah? Jacqueline Bisset as Miss Goodthighs? Peter Sellers and John Huston? Where could you go wrong?
Cons: It’s the 1967 version and not the Daniel Craig film of 2006. Six directors helmed the project and an unnecessarily complicated plot dissolves into a slapstick romp involving Frankenstein’s monster, a posse of cowboys and the Keystone Cops. At the end, an atomic bomb swallowed by Woody Allen explodes and kills everyone — sadly it didn’t happen at the start of the film.
What You Might Not Know: The film is filled with 007 crossovers. In addition to Andress, Angela Scoular (Ruby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), Vladek Sheybal (Kronsteen in “From Russia with Love”) and Burt Kwouk (Mr. Ling in “Goldfinger”) are all better known for their EON work.
Money Moment: Orson Welles’ character gets killed by his own people … from a television set he’s watching. After sitting through two-plus hours, I feel he was the lucky one.
What Will Make You Cringe: Woody Allen’s Dr. Noah is kind of creepy as he tries to charm an agent — and not even in the “awkwardly creepy” way from “Bananas” or Take the Money and Run.”
26. ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ (1974)
The British are looking for the Solex Agitator, which converts solar power to energy, but Bond is given a golden bullet engraved with the digits “007.” This sends the agent after super-assassin Scaramanga. But just who is chasing whom?
Pros: Christopher Lee plays a dignified assassin as Scaramanga. Herve Villechaize (Tattoo from “Fantasy Island”) is a creative variation of the big, silent henchman. And the Golden Gun (cigarette and case plus lighter) is cooler than any other gadget used in the film.
Cons: A flat story doesn’t even have huge set pieces to pump it up. Making maters worse, Britt Ekland’s Mary Goodnight isn’t a helpful agent in the field, but rather a bubble-brained klutz.
What You Might Not Know: Maud Adams as Andrea Anders may look familiar, because nine years later she’d play the title role in “Octopussy.”
Money Moment: This film’s car chase involves a corkscrew effect as the car jumps over a river –landing cleanly on a bridge. Pretty cool.
What Will Make You Cringe: Whatever cool that jump provided is quickly deflated with a slide-whistle. Oh, and redneck Sheriff J.W. Pepper from “Live and Let Die” just happens to be in the car with Bond. Naturally, he was sitting in an AMC Hornet at a dealership showroom while on vacation to Bangkok with his wife when 007 needed a car to tail Scaramanga.
25. ‘Moonraker’ (1979)
If you loved “Star Wars,” get ready! Bond goes into outer space and uses lasers! Remember the henchman Jaws? He’s back! With a girlfriend! Buy the action figures and playsets please!
Pros: Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax is the best villain since Telly Savalas as Blofeld in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” His best line: “Look after Mister Bond. See that some harm comes to him.”
Cons: The plot feels like a pinball machine, sending 007 all over the globe, while juvenile humor is played for cheap laughs. The script feels like an excuse to go from one stunt to another.
What You Might Not Know: “James Bond Will Return in ‘For Your Eyes Only’” was the original tagline at the end of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” but after the success of “Star Wars,” the producers wanted to capitalize on the sci-fi craze with a space-friendly title. Thank goodness they didn’t take a cue from the No. 1 film in 1979 and follow “Moonraker” with a Bond adventure about a custody case.
Money Moment: 007 is being marked by one of Drax’s minions hidden up in a tree as the two are pheasant hunting. Bond aims at a flock of birds…only to miss. Or did he? We get the answer as the henchman falls from the tree after meeting a Bond bullet.
What Will Make You Cringe: Jaws gets a girlfriend! Not only was Richard Kiel’s menacing henchman turned into a Wile E. Coyote type — he meets a pint-sized blonde and for multiple sappy moments.
24. ‘Die Another Day’ (2002)
Bond is captured by the North Koreans…only to be exchanged because they believe he’s giving away information. He has to find where the leak actually is before the latest Korean crisis gets out of hand.
Pros: Halle Berry is more than just a sight in a bikini. Her character Jinx is an able ally that you wish had been spun off into her own series. Gustav Graves/Colonel Moon is a villain who serves as a nice counterpoint to Pierce Brosnan’s 007. And you can’t go more than five minutes without seeing or hearing a Bond reference. After all, it was the 20th by EON on the 40th anniversary no less!
Cons: The constant Bond references get to the point where the film almost feels like a clips show for “Friends.” Also, 007 orders a Mojito in Cuba. Can you get any trendier? Why not order a Cosmo?
What You Might Not Know: Gustav Graves may say he “imitates” Bond, but his portrayer Toby Stephens actually plays 007 in multiple BBC radio plays. Very cool thing to check out on YouTube.
Money Moment: The swordfight between Bond and Graves was shot at a slower speed so they appear to be fighting faster.
What Will Make You Cringe: Oh yes, the invisible car. Even Roger Moore — not exactly the most serious actor involved with the series — felt that was a bit over the top.
23. ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985)
Computer chips are the passing fad this time, as 007 shadows Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin. His plans couldn’t be more than meets the eye, could they?
Pros: Duran Duran delivers one of the best theme songs, Walken is pretty amusing as the crazy villain, and Grace Jones steals the film as May Day, the henchwoman turned Bond girl.
Cons: Roger Moore is way too old to be playing Bond — and even makes a quiche at one point of the film. Sean Connery would never eat quiche, let alone make it! The series appears to be on fumes in a semi-pale rewrite of “Goldfinger.” Tanya Roberts as Stacy Sutton is less than ideal as a Bond-girl, and her “geologist” casting rivals “Denise Richards is a Nuclear scientist” for misguided leaps of faith.
What You Might Not Know: They wrote the role of Zorin for David Bowie, who would’ve been pretty cool squaring off with 007.
Money Moment: The scene at the Eiffel Tower where the agents kill each other with telescopes and accordions. Oh wait, that was the Duran Duran video for the title song. Never mind.
What Will Make You Cringe: Q Branch has a miniature robot called “The Snooper Dog,” worse than the robot from “Rocky IV.” This gadget appears at the end of the film trying to track down Bond and Sutton — with predictably un-funny results.
22. ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008)
Starting immediately after “Casino Royale” ends, Bond has captured the man he shot at the end of the previous film. But this Mr. White isn’t working alone and 007 is only beginning to uncover a whole new sinister organization.
Pros: Daniel Craig continues to grow in the role and gives the series a serious spin. The action scenes also don’t disappoint. Jeffrey Wright is the best Felix Leiter in the series. And the end of the film ties up Vesper’s storyline from the previous film.
Cons: There’s minimal chemistry between 007 and the Bond Girl, there’s almost too much action and not enough setup, and the villain’s plan involves controlling Bolivia’s water supply. How 21st century.
What You Might Not Know: The writer’s strike forced Daniel Craig to actually contribute to the script — although he wouldn’t receive credit.
Money Moment: Bond’s chase and fight with M’s bodyguard amidst the backdrop of a horse race has you at the edge of your seat as the two race across rooftops.
What Will Make You Cringe: Bond’s field assistant is named Mrs. Fields. First name: Strawberry. The Roger Moore days live on.
21. ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987)
Agents are being targeted and a Soviet defector says the new KGB head is a loose cannon. Bond teams up with a sniper/cellist and winds up uncovering a renegade arms dealer, another silent but deadly henchman, and an extremely boring movie.
Pros: Timothy Dalton brings a sense of seriousness not seen in the series since 1969. The Aston Martin is also back and even more souped up. It’s tough not to be a sucker for Maryam d’Abo as the cellist/sniper.
Cons: Joe Don Baker’s villain Brad Whitaker is not well-written, and the country-hopping gets tiring after a bit. The bait-and-switch plot feels overly confusing. There’s only one girl — Bond is monogamous? Oh, that’s right — the late 80’s.
What You Might Not Know: Director John Glen has fun introducing Dalton as 007. In the pre-credits sequence, the other two 00 agents are portrayed by actors who resemble previous Bonds, Roger Moore and George Lazenby.
Money Moment: The pre-credits sequence remains the highlight of the film. How do you top skydiving with a truck chase, multiple deaths and landing on a beautiful woman’s boat? Instead of watching the rest of the film, just rewind and repeat the Gibraltar sequence.
What Will Make You Cringe: So much for saying goodbye to the Roger Moore Era. Bond’s main gadget is a key ring, activated by a “wolf whistle.” When he infiltrates the villain’s headquarters, you can see how the key ring comes into play a mile away.
20. ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
Voodoo serves as this movie’s motif as Roger Moore takes on the role, investigating a heroin smuggling operation involving tarot cards and a villain who might be more than meets the eye.
Pros: Solid storytelling with the cards as a backdrop. The boat chase in the bayou is pretty cool, too.
Cons: Moore is kind of cardboard in his debut. Yaphet Kotto’s Mr. Big/Kananga duality is superfluous. The pre-credits sequence is one of the weakest in the series — with no 007 to be found.
What You Might Not Know: When attending the premiere in South Africa, Roger Moore was shocked to see his Bond’s love scenes with African American CIA Agent Rosie Carver edited out of the shown cut.
Money Moment: 007 is trapped on a crocodile farm (with the sign “trespassers will be eaten”) and has to run across a few crocs’ backs from an island to shore. Naturally he’s wearing alligator shoes.
What Will Make You Cringe: Redneck sheriff J.W. Pepper brings out the worst in all stereotypes and deflates a very cool boat chase.
19. ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971)
Connery is back! This time it’s a diamond operation that might not be what it seems — with the usual suspects (Blofeld and SPECTRE) and their usual plot (hijacking a space satellite to offer nuclear supremacy to the highest bidder). Did we say Connery returns?!?
Pros: Sean Connery is having much more fun in this film and it shows. Las Vegas co-stars in all its glitter, and there are more than a few witty one-liners.
Cons: Charles Gray is the worst Blofeld in the series and isn’t menacing at all. The storytelling seems to have lost whatever edge was in place during the ’60s films.
What You Might Not Know: Reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes was the inspiration for the “Willard Whyte” character, allowing the producers to shoot at his hotels in Las Vegas in return for a print of the film. Hughes was portrayed by the late Jimmy Dean. As in Jimmy Dean Sausage.
Money Moment: While masquerading as a diamond smuggler, Bond runs into said smuggler in an elevator. What ensues is Connery’s last great fight as 007.
What Will Make You Cringe: Some of the one-liners are a little too witty for taste, such as when Bond smuggles the diamonds inside a smuggler he’s killed. His contact asks, “Where are the diamonds?” His reply: “Alimentary, Doctor Leiter.”
18. ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983)
Sean Connery returns to his signature role as “Thunderball” co-writer Kevin McClory produces a remake of the original screenplay with a handful of alterations.
Pros: Connery may be 12 years older than he was in “Diamonds Are Forever,” but he looks a heck of a lot better and appears to be enjoying himself a lot more. Taking 007 out of his ‘60s world and placing him in the ‘80s bureaucracy is a nice touch. Kim Basinger is fantastic as Bond-Girl Domino, and Barbara Carrera rocks as villainess Fatima Blush.
Cons: As it was a non-EON film, the filmmakers were prohibited from using the gun-barrel logo as well as the James Bond theme. While those are simply trimmings, you miss those little things. And did they have to remake of “Thunderball?” Couldn’t they have been a little creative?
What You Might Not Know: Connery’s wife titled the film, as he previously said he would “never” return to the role that made him famous.
Money Moment: When knew he was a dancer? Connery notifies Basinger that her brother has been killed whilst tangoing on the dance floor. Shaken or stirred? Always smooth, 007.
What Will Make You Cringe: Rowan Atkinson attempts to provide comic relief as “Nigel Small-Fawcett” — with non-comic results.
17. ‘GoldenEye’ (1995)
Bond is back after a six-year absence — and this time he’s being portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. Can a series that seemed to be dragging over its last few films adjust to the post-Cold War ’90s? Or will this be “Remington Steele: The Movie?” The result was immortalized by the Nintendo 64 video game.
Pros: Bond is back. Shouldn’t that be enough? Brosnan brings the right mix of nastiness and fun to the role, and there’s just the right combination of thrills, chills and spills in the script. Sean Bean is a nice “other side of the coin” type of villain as Alec Trevelyan.
Cons: 007 with a Walther PPK? Awesome. Bond with a machine-gun? Not as cool. The gadget of the film is a ball-point click pen that doubles as a grenade? Didn’t they have enough money in the budget for one of those four-color pens?
What You Might Not Know: If you can’t be him, try to kill him. Bean was in contention for the role for 007 before Brosnan was cast.
Money Moment The pre-credits sequence involves killings, explosions, a race against the clock and a motorcycle-airplane chase that involves a free-fall. Bond is back!
What Will Make You Cringe: Famke Janssen is a little “over the top” as a kills-guys-with-her-thighs henchwoman “Xenia Onatopp.” Evidently there were unused character names left over from the Roger Moore era.
16. ‘Spectre’ (2015)
After a thrilling chase in Mexico City, Bond confronts his past and tries to uncover who is behind all of the terrorism he’s confronted over the last four movies. It can’t be that simple — or is it?
Pros: The pre-credits sequence is a non-stop thrill ride. I was half expecting Charlton Heston to show up during the continuous long shot — like in Orson Welles’ film-noir classic “Touch of Evil” (1958) — and the action sequences throughout the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Cons: The big reveal smacks of “Dougie Evil” in the third Austin Powers flick “Goldmember” (2002), as the villain’s motivation generates a shrug. The attempt to tie all of the Craig movies together dumbs down the big picture. Why can’t we have a simple caper? And how do you not have the title of the film in the theme song? “SPECTRE” rhymes with so many words that the song writes itself:
You better watch out for the defector…
He tries to act like he’s a protector…
His evil comes with extra texture…
And you know he works for … SPECTRE!
What You Might Not Know: The name Oberhauser is pulled from the short story “Octopussy.”
Money Moment: There’s just something special about Bond fighting on a train. “From Russia With Love” and “The Spy Who Loved Me” did it right — and it’s great here too in “Spectre.”
What Will Make You Cringe: The torture scene this time involves needles. I’d turn away.
15. ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)
SPECTRE hijacks American and Soviet rockets in space, as 007 must fake his death to get to the bottom of things in Japan.
Pros: Visually spectacular. The “Little Nellie” Gyrocopter scene is pretty cool stuff, and the final battle at the villain’s lair is even bigger this time.
Cons: Connery was visibly tired of the role at this time. After the buildup of four films, Donald Pleasance as Blofeld is kind of underwhelming.
What You Might Not Know: Roald Dahl — yes, the author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” –wrote the screenplay. Could you see Connery as Willy Wonka? “Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination! Shaken not stirred.”
Money Moment: During the ninja training scenes on the island, there’s this guy with a sword who just goes off. They let him reprise his swordmanship during the attack on SPECTRE’s volcano.
What Will Make You Cringe: The whole “turning Bond into a Japanese man” scene smacks of poor movie makeup. It’s not to the level of Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), but still…
14. ‘The World is Not Enough’ (1999)
A British billionaire is killed and M thinks his daughter may be the next target. Bond learns that she might not actually be the one needing saving, as a nuclear device (what else?) and a pipeline come into play. Mandatory viewing for those debating the Keystone Pipeline.
Pros: Electra King’s switcheroo is one of the better twists in the series and affirms Bond’s role as executioner. Istanbul has always been nice to the 007 series (“From Russia With Love”). And Garbage delivers a killer theme song.
Cons: A scantily clad nuclear physicist named “Christmas Jones” is played by Denise Richards — a character/casting sentence that gets worse by the word.
What You Might Not Know: The final link to the 007 of the ’60s takes a bow, as the late Desmond Llewellyn performs for the final time as Q. Llewellyn appeared in 17 Bond films — three more than Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny and six more than Bernard Lee as M.
Money Moment: Bond has been betrayed and a nuke is about to blow. No matter how emotionally involved he was with Electra King, when duty calls to shoot the villain in the heart, 007 complies.
What Will Make You Cringe: You know it’s coming. At the end of the film after all of the villains have been disposed of, Bond and Dr. Jones get physical. Before the credits roll, 007 gets to remark: “I thought Christmas only came once a year.”
13. ‘License to Kill’ (1989)
Bond and Felix Leiter capture drug lord Sanchez, only to see Sanchez escape, kill Leiter’s wife and nearly finish Felix off with a shark. James goes rogue on a revenge-minded mission.
Pros: Angry Bond brings a lot of fury in tracking down the bad guys here. Benicio del Toro makes a compelling henchman, and Carrie Lowell is a credible ally/Bond Girl, although I would have preferred Jill Shaughnessy in that role.
Cons: It was the first Bond to not be filmed at all in Britain. This makes it feel more like an ’80s action-adventure film with James Bond tacked on, as opposed to a Bond film with action undertones. Gladys Knight’s theme song isn’t as bad as “All Time High” from “Octopussy,” but it’s pretty awful.
What You Might Not Know: Portraying Sanchez’s financial adviser is Anthony Starke, a.k.a. “Jimmy” from “Seinfeld,” a.k.a. the guy who referred to himself in the third person. “Jimmy’s gonna make Sanchez a lot of money.” “Jimmy’s gonna do a little evil.” “Jimmy’s gonna get shot by the bad guys!”
Money Moment: Wayne Newton plays a televangelist. Danke Schoen, indeed.
What Will Make You Cringe: NOT VIOLENT ENOUGH! Kidding. From an off-screen heart removal to blowing up somebody in a pressurized chamber, this is one messy film.
12. ‘Octopussy’ (1983)
009 is found dead in Berlin holding a fake Faberge Egg. Bond locates the real one and uncovers a plot that would lead to Soviet expansion in Central Europe. There’s also an octopus involved somehow.
Pros: An intriguing detective story that unravels each layer of the villain’s plot. Louis Jourdan brings it as villain Kamal Khan, while Maud Adams radiates charisma as the title character. Bond getting together with a woman within 20 years of his age? How novel!
Cons: The fight at Khan’s palace feels tacked-on. The theme song (although thankfully it doesn’t revolve around the film’s title) makes you think you accidentally stumbled into a lifetime movie.
What You Might Not Know: Roger Moore was ready to retire after “For Your Eyes Only,” and James Brolin was penciled in as his replacement after shooting several screen tests. However, the announcement of Sean Connery’s return in the non-EON film “Never Say Never Again” prompted the EON producers to re-up with Moore — and Brolin had to settle for starring in TV’s “Hotel.”
Money Moment: There’s nothing like a yo-yo saw. Khan’s henchman has a habit of killing people with one — and almost has 007 sized up for incision. The well-staged fight not only features a death by alligator, it also sees a henchman meet his maker by an octopus to the face.
What Will Make You Cringe: While being chased by Khan’s men, Bond swings like Tarzan on a vine. What’s worse, you actually hear the Tarzan sound effect. It’s not pleasant.
11. ‘Skyfall’ (2012)
007 is shot off a bridge and has to go to Shanghai to find out who has stolen information regarding agents. Oh yeah, and Adele sings…
Pros: A lot more fun than “Quantum of Solace.” Javier Bardem is fantastic as MI6 agent Raoul Silva, a former MI6 with more than just a simple plot on his mind. Judi Dench shines in her final turn as M.
Cons: This is the third of the Daniel Craig “reboot” trilogy, but we’re still meeting the new Q, Moneypenny and M? Couldn’t you have recast these roles for “Casino Royale?” Enough with the origin stories! Can we get a traditional plot once a decade?
What You Might Not Know: Producers originally reached out to Sean Connery for the role of Kincade, the groundskeeper of Bond’s family estate.
Money Moment: “Take the bloody shot!” M directs a field agent to shoot at 007 and his adversary while the two are tumbling on a moving train, proving that the Secret Service is more concerned with the safety of its secrets than it is the safety of its servicemen.
What Will Make You Cringe: When Javier Bardem takes his jaw prosthetic out. It’s not pleasant to watch.
10. ‘Thunderball’ (1965)
SPECTRE is at it again, this time stealing nuclear bombs from NATO. Bond races against time to prevent disaster of the highest order.
Pros: Fantastic fight scenes, Alolfo Celi makes a stellar villain, and Luciana Paluzzi steals the show as SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe.
Cons: Bad continuity mistakes as 007’s scuba mask changes colors multiple times, while the amount of gadgets begins to overwhelm the storyline.
What You Might Not Know: While singing the theme song, Tom Jones allegedly passed out holding the final “Thunder–BALLLLL.” There were actually multiple versions of theme songs, from a Johnny Cash-penned “Thunderball” to Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey belting “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”
Money Moment: Volpe and her henchmen chase Bond through the streets during Nassau’s Junkanoo parade. There’s panic in Connery’s face — and you believe it. She finally catches him and sets up Bond for a final fall, only to be set up herself.
What Will Make You Cringe: While 007 is recovering from injuries in a Spa, he hits on one of the nurses and creepily threatens blackmail. You’re better than that, Bond!
9. ‘No Time to Die’ (2021)
Daniel Craig’s final turn’s release was delayed due to the pandemic, and deals with a villain’s plot that involves biological warfare. Too close for comfort?
Bond is retired before being brought back into the fray and is reunited with former friends, colleagues, and lovers. Not to mention with duty to Queen and country as 007 has to save the world once more.
Pros: Bang-up pre-credits sequence, or should I say sequences. Ana de Armas (Craig’s co-star in “Knives Out”) more than delivers in a minor role as a CIA agent who’s much stronger than she seems. There are plenty of great action sequences throughout. And it’s a fitting end to the Craig era.
Cons: For those used to a certain formula, the ending might be difficult to stomach. The run-time of two hours and 43 minutes, even adjusted for 21st century inflation, is a little long. And while Rami Malek is a solid villain, he’s introduced as the big baddie much later than he should have been.
What You Might Not Know: Fans of the films will be rewarded in the credits with callbacks to “Dr. No” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” while readers of the novels will recognize a few storyline strands of “You Only Live Twice” (especially M’s quoting of Jack London at the end of the film).
Money Moment: Ana de Armas goes from awkward to awesome in one incredible action sequence. I hope she gets spun off in her own series, just like Halle Berry’s Jinx wasn’t 20 years ago.
What Will Make You Cringe: Christoph Waltz is back as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but in prison and will only see psychiatrist Madeline Swan (Bond’s paramour from SPECTRE). Hannibal Lecter he is not…and he’s missing an eye this time.
8. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977)
Submarines from the UK and USSR are hijacked. Can Bond work with a Soviet agent whose lover he just happened to kill during his most recent mission?
Pros: After a pair of modest efforts, Big Bond is back. Huge sets (underwater headquarters), sweet gadgets (the Lotus Espirit that turns into a sub), the plan for world domination and the obligatory battle royale — all followed by the final showdown between 007 and the villain.
Cons: The plot feels recycled from earlier efforts, especially “You Only Live Twice.” Henchman Jaws starts off as an ominous adversary, only to be reduced to a cartoon in the end.
What You Might Not Know: The villain Karl Stromberg was originally supposed to be Blofeld, and SPECTRE was going to return. Unfortunately, rights to the character and organization reverted to Kevin McClory (who co-wrote “Thunderball”) and the filmmakers had to change names mid-stream.
Money Moment: After two less than satisfying pre-credits sequences, the producers pull out all the stops here. A sub is captured? A deadly ski chase? How do you top that? By a death-defying free-fall.
What Will Make You Cringe: The first of many endings where Bond gets together with the girl, only for M and the other officials to “inadvertently” catch them in the act.
7. ‘Dr. No’ (1962)
Fittingly at #007 on our list is the original 007: “Dr. No.” Bond’s first adventure sends the superspy to Jamaica, where he investigates the deaths of two field agents only to find something sinister threatening America’s space program.
Pros: Bond actually does detective work, we’re introduced to series mainstays like Felix Leiter and SPECTRE, the visuals in Ocho Rios are fantastic, the villain delivers a fantastic speech and Ursula Andress is phenomenal, emerging from the water in legendary fashion.
Cons: There are continuity errors that see Bond winding up with one hand and punching a henchman with the other, while an awkwardly placed glass sheet makes it obvious the spider is not on his arm.
What You Might Not Know: Connery technically wasn’t the first Bond. The first person to actually appear as Bond on film was Bill Simmons, the stuntman/stunt coordinator who appears as the figure shooting his gun in the opening gun barrel sequence of “Dr. No.”
Money Moment: At the gaming table, Sylvia Trench looks to press her bets. Someone says off-camera, “I admire your courage…miss?” She responds, “Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck…mister?” At that moment, we see Sean Connery for the first time: “Bond. James Bond.”
What Will Make You Cringe: There’s a fight 007 has with Quarrel before he realizes they’re working on the same side. As bodies are thrown, boxes of Red Stripe Jamaican Lager are knocked over — but not before you recognize the labeling. The First Bond Product Placement, everyone!
6. ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997)
Someone is trying to stir up tensions between Great Britain and China — and there’s a cable news network prepared to cover the story. But where does the newsmaker end and the newscaster begin?
Pros: Nice update of the villain’s plot into the cable age. It’s also amusing to see 007’s active past come into play with an ex-girlfriend married to the bad guy. Michelle Yeoh more than holds her own as Wai Lin, another ally turned love interest (shouldn’t HR get involved at some point?).
Cons: Joe Don Baker is underwhelming again as CIA liaison Jack Wade. For some reason, Bond films just aren’t his bag. And just what would happen if the villain’s plot works and Carver Media Group is the new cable system for China? Do we still have to pay extra for HBO?
What You Might Not Know: “SPECTRE” Bond Girl Monica Bellucci almost landed the role of Paris Carver, a thankless sacrificial-lamb role. Sometimes not being cast pays off in the long run.
Money Moment: While handcuffed to each other, Bond and Wai Lin escape via motorcycle (I’m sure they got the “tangled driving” idea from a CHiPs episode). Can two agents sent to kill each other make this awkward situation work? Nice finale involving a helicopter take-down.
What Will Make You Cringe: Early in the film, 007 is interrupted while “brushing up on his Danish” at Oxford, aka carrying on with a Danish professor. Moneypenny gets the money line here: “You always were a cunning linguist.”
5. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981)
A British ship sinks off the coast of Greece with a nuclear submarine communicator (ATAC) on board. Can Bond beat the Soviets to the device? And has he fully washed off the smell of cheese from the previous movie “Moonraker?”
Pros: It’s a sharp Cold War yarn and much more grounded in reality than other recent efforts. Roger Moore gives his best performance as 007, and the subplot question (“Which Greek agent should he trust?”) is well-cast.
Cons: Lynn-Holly Johnson is annoying as “Bibi Dahl,” a teenage figure skater smitten with fifty-something Roger Moore. She has maybe five scenes too many.
What You Might Not Know: Julian Glover plays Kristatos — two thirds of his way to a movie series triple crown. Glover previously portrayed General Veers in “The Empire Strikes Back” (he commanded one of the Snow Walkers) and would go on to appear in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” as antagonist Walter Donovan (“he chose unwisely”).
Money Moment: SPOILER ALERT: Bond finally tracks down the ATAC system only to be confronted by the Soviets who are armed. He chucks the device off a cliff (it detonates upon impact) and calmly says to the KGB Chief, “That’s détente, comrade. You don’t have it — I don’t have it.” Amidst the backdrop of a Cold War still raging, it’s probably Moore at his coolest.
What Will Make You Cringe: The pre-credits sequence begins interestingly enough, with 007 in a hijacked helicopter. There’s even a bald man with a cat in the mix, only it’s not Blofeld as they didn’t have the rights to the character at the time. After some fancy stuntwork, Bond disables the helicopter and chases down the man with the cat in the wheelchair (presumably because of injuries sustained at the end of “Diamonds Are Forever,” which is odd because this is not Blofeld). As he scoops him up, the stuntman who is obviously wearing an ill-fitting skullcap says, “We can do a deal! I’ll give you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!” Way to undermine what was an exciting sequence.
4. ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969)
Bond finds romance with a gangster’s daughter while hunting down Blofeld and trying to foil the mastermind’s latest scheme. Can a spy find love and save the world at the same time without having to put in for overtime? By the way, this is the one with “the other fella” George Lazenby.
Pros: Diana Rigg is first-rate as Tracy DiVicenzo, and Telly Savalas is the best of the Blofelds. The story follows the book up to the tragic ending. And Lazenby isn’t that bad; he’s actually very believable in the fight scenes. During a screen test, he actually broke a stuntman’s nose (the stuntman would be cast as henchman Gunther).
Cons: There’s a romantic scene montage over Louis B. Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World” that smacks of a bad Hallmark/Lifetime/ABC Family movie, grinding the film to a halt. Schedule any bathroom breaks right there.
What You Might Not Know: Lazenby wasn’t the only person playing Bond in this movie per se, as George Baker– who plays genealogist Hillary Bray — is dubbed over Lazenby while 007 is masquerading as Bray in Blofeld’s lair.
Money Moment: Best ski chase ever with twists, turns, broken skis and long drops.
What Will Make You Cringe: In training his “angels of death,” Blofeld puts his agents under hypnosis to cure their allergies. Thus the motivational tapes (“I’ve taught you to love chickens, to love their flesh”) play right after Bond gets together with one of the girls. Nothing like cuddling with Telly Savalas talking in the background.
3. ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)
Bond has to fly to Istanbul in order to secure a cipher machine from the Russians. Problem is, the Russian woman handing over the decoder doesn’t know she’s working for SPECTRE.
Pros: The film is very faithful to the book, down to a swarm of rats in a Turkish sewer. The series’ first gadget makes its appearance in the form of a deadly attache case. There’s also a stellar supporting cast with Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya as villains, while Pedro Armindariz Jr. shines as 007’s contact.
Cons: It’s tough to find a blemish here. This film has it all and doesn’t go over the top.
What You Might Not Know: In the novel, Bond gets kicked by Rose Klebb’s poisoned-tipped shoe and loses consciousness on the final page (he was resuscitated and returned for nine more books).
Money Moment: The fight between Bond and SPECTRE agent Red Grant on the Orient Express. Even before the fight, Grant tells the entire plan (steal the Lektor for sale back to the Russians while embarrassing the British and Soviet secret services). Then comes the fight. And that briefcase.
What Will Make You Cringe: 007 and his contact spend an evening at a gypsy camp just as two women announce their intentions of marrying the chief’s son. Naturally, it turns into a scantily-clad fight between the women.
2. ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
Bond is back! Only this time, it’s the beginning. But it’s set in the present. Daniel Craig debuts but with Pierce Brosnan’s M — Judi Dench. Instead of a Russian agent misappropriating funds, it’s a terrorist financier who needs to win money at the gambling table.
Pros: Origin stories are always interesting — and they don’t overdo it here. Craig takes the role with authority. Mads Mikkelsen gives villain Le Chiffre a nice understated evil presence. The chase scenes prove that you don’t need a fancy car.
Cons: How do you bail on baccarat? Seriously, Texas Hold Em? It kind of dumbs down the plot. I was waiting for one of the players to wear a backwards hat with sunglasses.
What You Might Not Know: The story actually made its debut on the ’50s anthology show “Climax.” Believing nobody would ever be interested in a British agent, they made “Jimmy” Bond an American and turned Felix Leither into British agent “Clarence Leiter.” They also morphed the Mathis/Vesper roles into “Valerie Mathis.” Peter Lorre is actually pretty good as Le Chiffre.
Money Moment: The film begins in black and white. Bond is in Prague with the assignment of disposing a corrupt agent. The ensuing conversation shows his first two official kills — and ends with 007 shooting in the gun-barrel logo we’re so familiar with.
What Will Make You Cringe: Torture scenes are never ideal. You want to show that Bond is in danger of bodily harm. They achieve that here in spades. Actually in the original novel, the producers don’t temper it one bit.
1. ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
007 investigates an importer/exporter who may be manipulating the gold market, only to stumble upon a far sinister way to increase the value of one’s own gold.
Pros: The template for every big-budget Bond that followed: elaborate gadgets, larger-than-life villains with elaborate plans, super-strong henchmen who rarely speak, female characters with double-entendre names who become putty in Bond’s hands, and a final battle between the good and bad guys. Gert Frobe as Goldfinger and Harold Sakata as Oddjob raise the bar impossibly high.
Cons: Cec Linder is one of the lamer Felix Leiters, you can see strings attached to the model plane at the end, and Pussy Galore is not the most enlightened name for an accomplished female pilot.
What You Might Not Know: The producers weren’t allowed in Fort Knox, so Ken Adam designed the vaults out of his imagination; sticklers will point out that gold bars cannot be stacked in that manner.
Money Moment: Bond is knocked unconscious in Miami by Oddjob — and wakes up in a haze. He struggles to the lightswitch. When he finally flips it, a gold-painted Jill Masterton is lying dead, painted in gold, recalling Shirley Bassey’s legendary theme song.
What Will Make You Cringe: After Bassey finishes singing the theme song, please turn away. It’s here that 007 sports a terrycloth jumper actually called a “Toweling Playsuit” complete with zipper and belt. It’s worse than it sounds.
Click here to reach the table of contents for all Bond rankings.
Dave Preston & Jason Fraley talk 007 on today’s “Beyond the Fame” podcast.
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