Here we are! The final, definitive ranking of the twenty-four Eon-produced James Bond films. And by definitive, I mean I’ve changed individual rankings a couple dozen times before I finally became content enough to go with this. Although this is probably flawed because I’m the one who did it, I’m actually pretty happy with the work that I did on this, and I’m grateful for you for spending time with me as I watched all of these movies over the last year, and then wrote about them. It’s been an adventure and this ranking feels like the appropriate culmination of everything that I have done.
As a reminder, the equation that gave me the final score is below (if you want the full explanation, go here). JB is where that particular iteration of James Bond ranked amongst the rest, V is that villain’s ranking, G is that film’s lead girl’s ranking, R is that film’s rewatchability ranking, St is that film’s story ranking, H is that film’s henchperson’s ranking, and So is that film’s song ranking. If you want to see the individual rankings, go here. As a reference, the highest possible score a movie could get is a 24.
.25(25-JB) + .15(25-V) + .15(25-G) + .15(25-R) + .1(25-St) + .1(25-H) + .1(25-So)
24. Thunderball– Final Score 4.9
JB- 24, V- 19, G- 17, R- 24, St- 23, H- 12, So- 16
This movie suffers from a couple of major things, not all of it entirely its fault. The amount of time this movie spends underwater seriously leaves me with an overall pretty negative opinion of this movie and the story that it has to tell. The “SPECTRE steals weapons and threatens major countries with them” plot is done better in the next movie in the chronology and the fact that movie gets to have Blofeld as a villain only lifts it even more. This movie also sees James Bond at his absolute worst, as Connery has started to check out of the character a little bit, and he basically forces a woman to have sex with him in order to save her job. The best things this movie has going for it are a run-of-the-mill song from Tom Jones and then an impressive henchperson turn from Fiona Volpe, the only female henchperson who has sex with James and doesn’t change sides because of it. It’s sad that a woman not having her morality changed because of sex with James is one of the most noteworthy things in a movie, but that’s Thunderball.
23. Die Another Day– Final Score 5.1
JB- 18, V- 24, G- 20, R- 15, St- 24, H- 16, So- 24
This movie is bottom of the barrel on villain (the absurd Gustav Graves), song (the unlistenable Madonna title track), and story (dude changes race, builds a satellite with the power of the second sun, which he calls Icarus, so that he can use the ensuing laser beam to destroy the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea), and has one of the worst female leads in the franchise (Halle Berry, fresh off an Oscar, doing some just terrible work here). But it’s only the second worst movie. Where did it go right? Primarily, it’s my love for deeply stupid movies. I could see myself wanting to watch this movie again just to enjoy how absurd it is. The main henchperson has diamonds in his face! There’s a person named Mr. Kil! Rosamund Pike uses the phrase “death for breakfast,” which, notably, isn’t a phrase! The villain changes his race (!), builds a satellite with the power of the second sun, which he calls Icarus (!) so that he can use the ensuing laser beam to destroy the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea! It’s terrifically stupid, which is a trait I appreciate every now and then in this franchise.
22. Diamonds Are Forever– Final Score 7.95
JB- 21, V- 20, G- 20, R- 18, St- 21, H- 2, So- 8
Almost everything in this movie is in the bottom third of the franchise. Connery returns, donating his salary to a charity of his own creation, but obviously doesn’t want to be here. Charles Gray gives the strangest interpretation of Blofeld that I have ever seen, and his plan somehow involves cloning himself. Tiffany Case is an absolute moron, who reacts to death staring her in the face as if she saw a caterpillar crawling near her. Something about diamonds creating a laser beam? As you can see, there’s a pretty significant jump in scores between Die Another Day and this film, and the main reasons are an all-time song from Shirley Bassey (it says a lot about her that a song like this is only her second best in the franchise) and then the perfection of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (pictured above). I talked about it in my original write-up of this movie, but these two actors are on completely opposite ends of the acting spectrum, one chewing every piece of scenery around him (Bruce Glover), the other clearly not knowing how to act at all (Putter Smith), and the combination of the two is just so excellent, I couldn’t help but fall in love. These two beat some of the most famous henchpeople in this franchise, including Oddjob and Jaws, and I don’t have a single regret about it. They really lift up a movie that easily could have been the worst in the franchise.
21. Moonraker– Final Score 8.05
JB- 10, V- 17, G- 19, R- 23, St- 18, H- 19, So- 19
For whatever reason, despite this being the movie where James Bond goes to space, the silliness of it did not really come through for me. This movie is probably one of the blandest watches for me because even where the movie goes wrong, it’s not particularly entertaining. Other than some fun lines, Drax is not an interesting villain to me. The absurdly named Dr. Goodhead is a serviceable enough female lead, representing a CIA agent who should have some fun competition with Bond, like Anya in The Spy Who Loved Me, but the two characters spend very little time together, and she’s actually not a very good agent, leaving Bond alone with an organization that she is investigating for being evil. Where this movie does work is having a genuinely enjoyable performance from Roger Moore as Bond (I almost always enjoy him in his movies), and he isn’t a terrible person (again, a general trend in Moore’s film, although he isn’t perfect). But he isn’t enough to bring up a bunch of nothingness around him, including an unfortunately bland Shirley Bassey song. At least we’ll always have the pigeon double take.
20. The World Is Not Enough– Final Score 8.65
JB- 17, V- 6, G- 22, R- 20, St- 8, H- 23, So- 18
This movie has the makings to be a great Bond movie. It has a really interesting lead villain with Elektra King, and even her co-villain Renard actually feels like a human being, instead of just a bland antagonist. The fact that for the first half of the movie, we’re led to believe that James is meant to protect Elektra from Renard, before she turns on MI6 and, more specifically M. But a forgettable turn from Brosnan (although this one might be better blamed on writers who really don’t give him a whole lot to do in this one), and the bafflingly bad female lead of Christmas Jones, really causes this movie to plummet. Honestly, this mostly falls on Jones. Her entire character exists for the grossest one-liner this franchise has ever offered, and Denise Richards’ performance somehow makes it all the worse.
19. You Only Live Twice– Final Score 9.05
JB- 20, V- 9, G- 18, R- 14, St- 15, H- 21, So- 12
Officially introducing us to Blofeld carries what would have been an otherwise bland film outside of the bottom five. Although Donald Pleasance is not my favorite iteration of Bond’s greatest nemesis, he has the prototypical Blofeld look, and he really does some good work in this movie, and having him in the movie goes a long way into making this movie worth watching again (I’d also be interested in watching that cat try to escape this movie, as seen above). Also, this is the movie that most competently executes the “bad people steal things in the cold open in order to start a war” plotline, again with it being Blofeld supporting that story pretty well. Other than that, and some really strong strings in the title song, this movie really falls flat. Sean Connery is sleepwalking. The female lead doesn’t really show up until the end of the movie, and at that point, Connery is acting like an Asian person, including some kind of skin dye, so, that’s pretty gross. It also has one of the least competent henchpeople this franchise has to offer (Helga Brant). The only reason she isn’t last is that I can recall her existence/she actually gets to do something, even if it isn’t particularly interesting.
18. A View To A Kill– Final Score 9.85
JB- 14, V- 10, G- 23, R- 22, St- 20, H- 13, So- 1
Duran Duran has the best song in this franchise, and I don’t care who knows it. It’s so much fun to listen to, and it awesomely is focused on the phrase “Dance into the fire,” and somehow gets an overly wordy film title into its melody with ease. It’s one of the many things this movie actually does right. Christopher Walken is giving a gloriously Christopher Walken performance in this movie, and him chuckling before plummeting to his death is a standout moment in this franchise. Grace Jones’ Mayday is a whole lot of fun and gets extra points for sacrificing herself in order to ruin her former boss’s plan (after he leaves her for dead). Roger Moore, even at 57, is fairly charming in the role, although he does creep into a woman’s bathroom as she is taking a shower, an unfortunate return to creepy Bond to end his career. Everything else in this movie is terrible. Stacey Sutton is constantly in damsel in distress mode, and at one point she gets snuck up on by a blimp. And Zorin’s plan is laughably nonsensical. I know that for some people this movie falls into the “so stupid it’s wonderful category” but that doesn’t really hold true for me. It’s just stupid.
17. The Man With The Golden Gun– Final Score 9.95
JB- 22, V- 2, G- 24, R- 13, St- 22, H- 5, So- 10
Let me be clear. This movie is bad, and it shows Roger Moore’s Bond at his absolute worst. He sneaks up on a woman in a shower, a woman he ends up slapping multiple times because he doesn’t believe the information that she is giving him. It features a racist sheriff who, for some reason, is visiting Thailand on vacation. Also, he’s looking to buy a car. While in Thailand. It features a fellow agent who gets kidnapped by the villain and just kind of chills on the island, making no real effort to escape. But it includes one of the coolest stunts in the franchise (weird slide whistle effect notwithstanding). It features a kicking and goofy song by Lulu. It has Knick Knack, who at one point munches on popcorn while holding a man at gunpoint. And, most importantly, it has the amazing Christopher Lee as the titular assassin, Scaramanga, and a man who held my the ranking of my favorite villain until I rewatched Skyfall. Lee is the epitome of cool in this movie, and he for sure deserved a better movie, but he at least gets the opportunity to elevate what should be a forgettable trip into something I’d be perfectly happy rewatching.
16. Spectre– Final Score 10.15
JB- 19, V- 14, G- 8, R- 16, St- 16, H- 7, So- 21
This movie should not be at the bottom of the middle third of this franchise. It reintroduced us to Blofeld and SPECTRE after a 44-year absence. It gives us a relationship that is meant to be the new James/Tracy pairing. It brings in the MI6 cast the series so seamlessly introduced in the previous film. It brings in Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz to play Blofeld. But a script that does not do justice to Blofeld, whose entire life is an attempt at getting revenge on his father for loving an adopted James more than him, or Madeline Swann, it’s female lead, who simply does not get enough time to really develop into a believable love interest (although Lea Seydoux does enough work on her own to make it mostly work), combined with the choice to connect the previous three films as all part of Blofeld’s plan, really causes this movie to plummet. The fact that James backs a woman, whose husband he killed, effectively signing her death warrant, against a wall in order to make out with her and take off her dress just pours salt in the wound. At least Craig will get one more chance to leave on a positive note, and, in context of this movie, at least we get to watch Dave Bautista fight Daniel Craig on a train. That alone makes this movie at least moderately worthwhile.
15. Octopussy– Final Score 10.15
JB- 16, V- 21, G- 16, R- 10, St- 19, H- 8, So- 11
This movie’s three biggest characters (Bond, Kamal Khan, the villain, and the Lead Girl, the titular Octopussy, ugh) all leave something to be desired. You really start to feel Moore’s age here, even though he’s paired with a more appropriately aged love interest, and he force kisses her at one point, which is pretty uncomfortable. Khan is just kind of bland and really doesn’t get a whole lot to do, and kind of gets overshadowed by an egregiously scene-chewy performance from his co-villain in this movie. The story itself is very complicated, and I still don’t understand what Khan gets from the bombing of an American military base. And yet, it’s in the top ten for rewatchability for me, and this is where that “so stupid, it’s wonderful” category comes in. There’s an extended chase on a rickshaw, that briefly includes a man yelling “get off my bed!” to a man that has just been impaled on a bed of nails. James sneaks into a base using a crocodile submarine. An American military base has a circus come to entertain them! A circus! These are hardened adults! At one point, James, while disguised in a gorilla costume, scratches his face, despite the fact he should be not moving at all. James, in a time-sensitive situation, puts on full clown makeup, even including a tear! This movie is so absurd, I adore it so much. But, in a ranking of how good it is, it very much belongs in the back half of this franchise.
14. For Your Eyes Only– Final Score 11.45
JB- 9, V- 18, G- 5, R- 21, St- 17, H- 17, So- 13
So this is a movie that I think is typically fairly well-regarded among the Roger Moore years, but for some reason, it just does not do a lot for me. I check out pretty hard in the third act, especially when I imagine that rock-climbing scene that seems to go on forever and includes Bond stumbling three or four times, including once after being startled by a bird. James Bond. Super Spy. Startled by a bird. The World is Not Enough, despite its many issues, would later do the “friend is actually the main villain” twist in a way more interesting and emotionally effective way than this movie. I think if this movie felt more focused on the girl, a revenge-driven Melina Havelock (look at those eyes!), played by Carole Bouquet, who if she hadn’t needed ADR (which really takes away from a lot of performances in this franchise), probably could have made a run for my favorite Bond girl, this movie would work much better. Instead, she disappears for a good chunk of the movie, and I lose interest along with it. At least we have one of the better Bond performances in this movie (which might benefit from him staying away from Bouquet, who was obviously thirty years his junior), to get you through Melina’s time away. I wouldn’t be in any rush to rewatch it, but Melina’s arc at the very least makes it worth talking about.
13. Tomorrow Never Dies– Final Score 12.2
JB- 8, V- 12, G- 12, R- 12, St- 14, H- 18, So- 22
This movie is so middle of the road, that it’s basically exactly where I would expect it to be on the list. Other than featuring Pierce Brosnan when he is clearly having the most fun of his career as this character, this movie really does not have anything particularly special about it. Jonathan Pryce has a lot of fun as his villain, and the stat World War III in order to get broadcasting rights in China is kind of kooky fun, but a lot of villains are just more interesting/feel more like people. Michelle Yeoh does a solid take on the “female spy from another organization begrudgingly works with Bond” well enough, but doesn’t really get enough time to make it work as well as other movies have. It really is a fine movie and doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, it’s just other movies do things so much better than it just kind of ends up in the middle.
12. The Living Daylights– Final Score 12.25
JB- 15, V- 16, G- 11, R- 11, St- 9, H- 10, So- 14
Everything I say about the above basically comes through here for me. Dalton makes a strong impression as a dry run for what the producers and writers would later master with Daniel Craig, a dark and serious Bond. However, his comedic abilities are lacking here, and he basically traps a woman on a Ferris Wheel so that he can kiss her, and then uses another woman’s naked body as a distraction, both of which are not ideal. Koskov is an interesting enough villain, whose joy at lying at least allows him to stand out a little bit. I really like Kara (Maryam d’Abo), who is a female lead who kind of gets thrust into this situation but handles it with aplomb, at once point hijacking a horse and a gun in order to try to help James in the film’s climax. Throw in a crazed henchperson who jams to The Pretenders while he kills people and an incredibly tense fight outside of a flying cargo plane, and this movie does just enough to crack into the top half of the franchise.
11. Quantum of Solace– Final Score 12.6
JB- 6, V- 15, G- 10, R- 9, St- 13, H- 22, So- 23
I think of the movies that crack the top half of this list, this is the one of two that most people will be surprised by/have some issues with, but I really enjoy this movie. If it weren’t for the Craig films’ penchant for non-existent henchpeople, an entirely unmelodic song from Jack White and Alicia Keyes, and a villain who is trying to monopolize water, this movie could have plausibly been a top five movie in this list. James is out for revenge after Vesper is killed at the end of Casino Royale and this is a perfect arc for the brutish Daniel Craig Bond. It also has some really intense and enjoyable action sequences, from a cold open car chase that instantly throws you into heart-pounding thrills to a fight on construction scaffolding, that includes an upside-down James, suspended only by a wire, finally pulling the trigger on his assailant. Camille Montes, the female lead, played by Olga Kurylenko, is on a revenge mission of her own, wanting to kill the crazed Bolivian general who raped and murdered her family, and who doesn’t seem interested in James on a romantic level, at least until he gets his obvious psychological issues figured out. The direction during the action sequences can be a bit scattered, and it’s certainly darker than most other films in this franchise, but neither of these really bother me as much as they would bother Bond purists, and this movie ends up as genuinely one of my favorites in the franchise.
10. The Spy Who Loved Me– Final Score 12.8
JB- 13, V- 22, G- 6, R- 19, St- 11, H- 3, So- 5
Despite appearing in the top ten, these next two films are both ranked pretty low on how likely I am to want to rewatch them, and I think an uninteresting villain and a lackluster performance of an otherwise great female lead are at fault here. Karl Stromberg just wants to create an underwater utopia because he prefers life under the sea, which, again, I’ll just watch The Little Mermaid. Barbara Bach just does not come off as an engaging performer in this movie, which is a shame, because this is one of the few times that I feel like one of these film’s scripts does the proper amount of work to make me believe that James and his female counterpart (here named Anya Amasova) could plausibly fall in love. Add the fact that she is a competent agent for another agency, and that she and Bond are basically competing in order to get to Stromberg, and you have the recipe for an all-time female lead, but it just falls short because of a lacking performance. However, that lacking performance is made up for, in some ways, with the introduction of Richard Kiel’s Jaws, one of the most iconic actors in this franchise. From his terrifying size to his metal teeth, Jaws is simply one of the greatest characters that this franchise has ever given us, and is one of the few characters that I ever thought could plausibly kill Britain’s greatest spy (he’s for sure gonna crush a windpipe in the above picture).
9. Dr. No– Final Score 14.1
JB- 3, V- 11, G- 15, R- 17, St- 10, H- 20, So- 7
Dr. No falls on the rewatchability scale simply because of weird pacing/editing issues that are logically to come from a movie in the early 1960s. This movie spends so much time just showing people walking, including showing every moment of James walking through airport security, and stuff like this just makes it so hard to get through. Which is a shame, because almost everything else works in this movie. The debut of the character is one of the best versions of James Bond in the entire franchise, with Connery performing the hell out of the roll, including the best introduction to a character I have ever seen (above), and the best version of the famous “Bond. James Bond” line delivery. The titular villain (played by Joseph Wiseman) becomes memorable because of the “misfortune” of his incredibly strong arm and just how relaxed he seems. After he kidnaps James and Honey Ryder (the female lead of this film, played by Ursula Andress, who has her own iconic introduction, as she exists the sea, dressed only in a beige bikini), Dr. No basically welcomes them into a resort. They’re escorted into a pretty nice suite, which, considering that they are being held hostage, is not a bad deal. And, of course, the theme song here is the James Bond theme that is heard in every film that follows, and for good reason. It’s amazing. None of this is really enough to make up for the product of its time editing techniques that really make this movie a slog to get through, but they are enough to make this a top ten film in the franchise (where it belongs).
8. Goldfinger– Final Score 14.7
JB- 23, V- 4, G- 9, R- 8, St- 4, H- 4, So- 6
One scene. One scene is what stops this movie from being in the top five. One scene in this movie ruins this iteration of the character of James Bond for me. One scene made me angrier than I’ve been in a very long while because of a movie. This movie has so much going for it. It’s basically the James Bond movie of all James Bond movies. It has a classic villain (played by Gert Frobe), with a classic villain plan of wanting to poison the gold in Ft. Knox in order to make his gold supply the best in the world. It has one of the most famous interactions between Bond and a villain (giffed above). It has a classic henchperson, the nearly silent Oddjob (Harold Sakata) who has a weaponized hat that can decapitate statues and murder people. It has the incredible title track from Shirley Bassey that few songs have lived up to, and even the songs that I like more than it, like Adele’s “Skyfall,” owe a lot to Bassey’s track. It gives us the unfortunately named Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), who starts out as a henchperson for Goldfinger who eventually realizes the evil of his plan and decides to help James. However, it’s the moment that leads up to Galore changing sides that blow this movie’s shot at being Top Ten in every category (something that no movie does). Listen. I mentioned it in the original write-up. I understand that 1964 was a different time, but that does not forgive what amounts to a rape scene. James literally throws Pussy Galore around in a barn and force kisses her, even as she tells him not to. The direction at the moment is meant to be playful, but in 2017, when I watched it, it’s outright disgusting and so frustrating. We are supposed to root for James, but having to watch this scene, as he physically fights a woman in order to have sex with her against her will, simply makes it impossible. Honestly, the fact that this Bond is only second last goes to show how awful the scene in Thunderball is. It’s a damn shame that this scene exists. This movie really should be higher than eighth place. It’s great. But I refuse to let it get away with that scene.
7. License To Kill– Final Score 15.75
JB- 4, V- 13, G- 13, R- 5, St- 7, H- 9, So- 20
If Quantum of Solace cracking the top half of the franchise surprised people, this cracking the top ten, and actually flirting with the top five, is probably really going to surprise people. This is often seen as one of the absolute worst in the franchise. I love this movie. It doesn’t particularly feel like a James Bond movie, because of how brutally violent and dark that it is, but I appreciate something feeling different from the franchise every now and then as long as the pieces are strong enough to support it. Rest assured, the pieces support this movie, at least for me. The darkness of the film allows Dalton to focus on what makes him work as a Bond, and that’s the fact that he’s a killer. He isn’t a man of charm or one of any kind of suaveness. He has a license to kill, and he will use it in order to get revenge on the man who killed his best friend’s wife, and badly maimed his best friend. This film’s conclusion really makes you believe that Bond is at the end of the rope, and the fact that it’s a gift from his friend that allows him to finally get the upper hand, as he sets the villain on fire with a lighter from Felix Leiter, is a tremendous cathartic moment. Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) is an appropriately slimy villain for the film’s plot, and although his plan involves some strange drug dealing, the only thing we as the audience really care about is the fact that he went after people James loved, and he will pay for it. Add in a gloriously bonkers performance from a young Benicio Del Toro as the henchperson Dario (his delivery of the word “Honeymoooooooooon” is so strange, I will never forget it. I hope it’s the last word I speak before I die), combined with the brutal death that he gets, as well as a pretty strong female lead (who really wants us to know how strong she is, which, show, don’t tell), and you get a really intense action film. It may not feel like a Bond movie to some, but to me, it’s one of the best.
6. From Russia With Love– Final Score 16.4
JB- 2, V- 23, G- 14, R- 3, St- 3, H- 1, So- 17
Score-wise, this movie gets hurt by the decision to make Red Grant a henchperson instead of a villain, based on the idea that he is operating on the orders of the film’s villain, Rosa Klebb. Although it helps Red, who easily is the best henchperson this franchise has had to offer, it hurts the film, who has a villain who barely exists in this movie account for 15% of its score. Which is a shame, because this movie is so good on its own. Sean Connery is excellent as the spy, and only one iteration of the character bests this one. He’s charming, clearly enjoying his life as a spy, but also an intelligent spy, as both he and M instantly know that the mission they have been given is a kind of strap from SPECTRE. The female lead, Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi), is generally kind of bland, as she does not get a whole lot to do as this character, but her one big scene, where she seduces James, certainly makes an impression (it’s now the screen test that all eventual Bond actors have to perform before they are officially named as the famous British spy). But so much of why this movie works and is so inherently rewatchable is because of Red Grant. The great Robert Shaw is just as physically imposing as you want a henchperson to be, as he stalks Bond from a small distance, waiting for his moment to strike. Beyond that he actually gets to be charming and do some acting, pretending to be a friend of Bond’s when the two characters finally meet. When the truth is revealed, Grant gets a few moments to taunt the great spy, constantly calling him “old man.” Once James catches him off guard for a moment, the audience is treated with the train fight to end all train fights (above). Just like Spectre, the film cuts out all score and just lets the sound of two talented fighters hitting each other be the only sound we are treated to. The fact that the fight ends with James victorious, and spitting “old man” at Grant before he leaves, is just sweet, sweet icing on the cake. Even a year after Dr. No’s release, this movie is so much fun to rewatch and is unfortunately overshadowed by Goldfinger as the best film of the Connery years. I’m glad it at least got the edge on my list because it really does deserve to be discussed as one of the best the franchise has ever had to offer, and easily my favorite of Connery’s tenure.
Before I dive into the top five, I do want to note, that of the five movies remaining, four different James Bond actors are represented (sorry, Sean and Timothy). I think that says a lot about why this franchise has lasted over 50 years. They can come through with something great when they really need to.
5. Live And Let Die– Final Score 16.8
JB- 12, V- 8, G- 7, R- 7, St- 6, H- 11, So- 2
Roger Moore’s debut is far and away the most enjoyable of his tenure, even if it isn’t my favorite of his performances. I think he’s still trying to find his footing as the character, and that, combined with a scene where he basically tricks a woman into having sex with him, Bond is probably the worst part of this movie, and I still mostly like him (Moore has a lot of fun as this character). From there, you have Yaphet Koto as the simultaneously lovely and terrifying Kananga. When he wants his smile to elicit joy, he can make it work (he’s genuinely quite charming as Bond stumbles on his base at film’s end). When he wants to be threatening, he does it with ease. Although his death is kind of absurd (a silly effect that the 1970s just were not ready for, above), Kananga himself, and his alter ego, Mr. Big (“Death is for tombstones, baby!), really make a wonderful impression in this movie. As does Jane Seymour as tarot card reader Solitaire. Although she basically becomes sex obsessed after James tricks her into bed, the scenes she gets leading up to that moment show a woman terrified of her employer, as well as a woman who is afraid of losing her power, but feels compelled based on what the tarot cards are telling her. Combine two memorable henchpeople, the ranked TeeHee, with his delirious smile and obviously fake metal arm, and the actual voodoo spirit Baron Samedi, and you have a handful of wonderfully memorable characters alongside a solid debut from Moore, all backed by the genuinely rocking title song by Paul McCartney and Wings (this probably should be my number one for the franchise, because it is amazing, but I am an “A View To A Kill” stan, and I can blame the weird reggae bridge this song has). I really did enjoy watching Roger Moore throughout all seven of his movies, but nothing else in his time even came close to bringing me as much genuine joy as this film did.
4. Skyfall– Final Score 18.05
JB- 11, V- 1, G- 3, R- 4, St- 12, H- 14, So- 4
This movie easily falls into the top five in four categories, and if it weren’t for an unnecessary scene where James invites himself into the shower of a woman he correctly deduced had been sold into sex slavery as a child, and an overly convenient and detailed villain plan (dude knows the schedule of every train in The Tube, and when one is going to crash through an equally convenient cellar that both he and James happen to be in), this movie would be even further up this list. As silly as his plan is, Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva is far and away the best villain of this franchise, whose revenge plot is executed in a more believable way than Blofeld’s in Spectre and isn’t clouded by a bland monopoly plot-line like in The World is Not Enough. He was betrayed by M, and the only thing he wants in this world, the one thing that has kept him alive, is his need to see her one last time before he kills her. Like I mentioned, the amount of detail his plan goes into is a bit far-fetched, but I’m willing to overlook it, at least in terms of his ranking, because of Bardem’s wonderfully scene chewy performance. His introduction is easily my favorite villain scene in this franchise (although the “I expect you to die” scene from Goldfinger is a close second). More than that, we get one of the best female leads in this movie, with Dame Judi Dench’s M, who had been with the franchise since 1995’s GoldenEye, giving one hell of a swan song. She may get a little bit of a leg up on most of the other women in this franchise, just because of the relationship that prior films were able to build between her and James, especially Daniel Craig, but this movie executes in the ways that you would want to execute. From the witty back and forth the two have always had, to her heartbreaking final words (“I did get one thing right”), this movie gives the best iteration of any MI6 employee (sorry Desmond Llewellyn) the perfect goodbye that she deserves. Throw in Adele’s killer Academy Award-winning song, and you have an exquisite movie and a pretty amazing introduction to the franchise that I was given when I saw this in the theaters six years ago. And the joy I held then, still holds now. (Bone points for that Roger Deakins cinematography, example above)
3. GoldenEye– Final Score 18.6
JB- 5, V- 7, G- 4, R- 6, St- 5, H- 6, So- 15
If I had seen this movie when I was a kid, it’s safe to say that this past year would not have been the first time I watched this franchise. This movie has everything that you could possibly want from a James Bond movie, and it does each of those things pretty excellently. Even outside of the things I ranked, this movie’s cold open would have had me hooked, including a stellar base-jumping stunt, as well as Bond driving a motorcycle off a cliff in order to land in a falling plane, allowing him to fly off to safety. From there, the movie never really slows down or falls flat in any way (even the Tina Turner song is pretty good, just not as great as some of the other things in this franchise). After a false start almost a decade prior, Pierce Brosnan finally gets to play James Bond, and he nails the roll right out of the gate (something that would continue for one other movie before the scripts really started to let him down). With the right look and the right amount of humor (him describing his transportation’s tendency to explode a “standard operating procedure” earned a solid laugh from me during my watch), Brosnan feels perfect in the role. Surrounding him are several other great characters, including the introduction of Judi Dench’s M, as mentioned above. From there, you have Sean Bean’s betrayed Alex Trevelyan, seeking revenge for the way the British ruined his parents after World War II, who turns in an impressive dramatic performance throughout the film, up until he and James exchange a twist on their favorite dialogue one last time (“For England, James?” “No. For me”) before he falls onto some cement and has a satellite crush him, a death that you want from the man who famously dies in basically everything he does. The female lead, Natalya, played by Izabella Scorupco, is a talented computer programmer whose skills are essential to Bond’s success, and who gets a glorious upper hand on her misogynistic coworker. Throw in a brilliantly weird and nutso performance from Famke Jansen, whose Xenia Onatopp, is a henchperson who uses her skills in the bedroom to kill her marks, and you get the third best Bond film, one I wished I had in my life earlier than I got it.
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service– Final Score 20.2
JB- 7, V- 3, G- 2, R- 2, St- 2, H- 15, So- 3
Looking back at Spectre, I realize that some of my disappointment with that movie is that I so badly wanted it to be another attempt at this one. Even before I saw this movie, I knew how it led you to believe that James would get a true “walking into the sunset” moment, where he is with the woman he loves and that he is finished with the spy game. I knew that moment was cut short when Blofeld and his henchwoman (an otherwise kind of forgettable Erma Bundt) roll up next to James and Tracy and fire a machine gun, fatally striking Tracy. Even knowing that the moment was coming, it works on a dramatic and emotional level. This movie, despite some weird pacing/editing issues (mostly action sequences that go on a tad too long and are cut in a jarring way), is executed perfectly in just about every way. Diana Rigg as Tracy basically exists, alongside the female lead of our final movie, in her own category of characters. She’s strong-willed and hesitant towards James at the beginning of the film but thaws to him in a believable way. In a moment of hopelessness in the film’s second act, James, on the ground, hiding from the people out to kill him, looks up to find Tracy’s smiling, calming face. She’s able to distract Blofeld (an absolutely terrifying Telly Savalas) in order to help James and her father lead a siege on the mastermind’s mountaintop clinic. As much as I like some of the other leads in this franchise (Melina, Natalya, and Anya) none of them close to the characterization of Tracy or the beautiful and engaging performance of Diana Rigg, let alone in one single film (M got a head start). If it were not for George Lazenby, I would guarantee you that this would be the James Bond movie of the franchise. Alas, the producers took a risk on a model who apparently knew how to throw a punch, and it just doesn’t really work. I do think ADR is at least partially to blame here, because Lazenby very clearly had to go back and record a lot of his dialogue, and when you can tell the words are not being said at that moment, it’s just an added level of disconnect that you have to get over to believe the performance. It’s a shame because this is one of the best-written Bond characters, it’s just the circumstances of the situation cause the character to fall flatter than it should. At least Diana Rigg does enough heavy lifting to make their relationship work, and with the help of my favorite Blofeld performance (by far), this movie works, even without a strong Bond performance. The song, one of two instrumentals in the franchise, kicks, too.
1. Casino Royale– Final Score 20.3
JB- 1, V- 5, G- 1, R- 1, St- 1, H- 24, So- 9
This is one of my favorite movies, full stop. This movie gets everything right. It doesn’t even necessarily get the henchperson wrong, it just doesn’t concern itself with that type of character, to the point that Kratt basically doesn’t exist. And it’s still the best movie in this franchise. James has never been better. Craig bursts into this role, and any doubt that he could play the ultra-cool spy is basically demolished as he cooly sits in a chair, executing an MI6 executive gone rogue, intercut with him brutally murdering a man in a bathroom. As he pulls the trigger to kill bathroom man, the film sends us through the gun barrel sequence and into Chris Cornell’s underrated banger of a theme song. From there, the film just does not stop. We’re introduced to Le Chiffre, played by an appropriately creepy, yet engaging, Mads Mikkelsen with a bleeding eye (y’all, Hannibal is my fifth favorite villain in this franchise. Use that gauge to understand how good Silva, Scaramanga, Savalas’ Blofeld and Goldfinger are). He’s a banker for terrorists who has to win back hundreds of millions of dollars in a poker game after James thwarts his attempt to short sell an airline’s stock. This movie gives us Jeffrey Wright as the only Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA counterpart, who is worth a damn. We’re also gifted with my favorite female lead, Eva Green’s tragic Vesper Lynd. Although I think it’s an assist from having an actually competent actor in the role of James Bond that allows her to become the best Bond Girl, the fact that she was in the position to leap over Rigg’s Tracy says a lot about how this character is written and performed. She’s endlessly charming and can verbally spar with Bond like few others have ever had the opportunity to do. The fact that this movie is able to pull off the difficult combination of showing James enter MI6 as a Double 0 agent, young and ready to kill some bad guys, and then make me believe that he would be willing to leave that all behind after a singular mission says so much about how tight their relationship is written, and how brilliantly Craig and Green execute their respective roles, but also the chemistry between these two characters. The way this movie pulls off Vesper’s death is way more emotionally effective than in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as well, although, again, the difference between Craig’s performance and Lazenby’s is laughable. You believe that James is heartbroken in her betrayal, but also heartbroken to have to hold the woman he adored in his arms after she has died. This movie basically does everything that OHMSS does, but better. It even gives us the only “Bond, James Bond” that even comes close to Connery’s first (above). Watching this franchise, beginning to end, had its ups and downs, but I’d do it all again if it meant I got to interact with these last two movies again.
Photo Credits Cover Photo https://data.whicdn.com/images/172766569/large.jpg Thunderball http://nerdsontherocks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/thunderball_ver4_xlg.jpg Die Another Day https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3d/Die_another_Day_-_UK_cinema_poster.jpg Wint and Kidd http://www.writeups.org/wp-content/uploads/Wint-Kidd-James-Bond-Glover-Smith-h1.jpg Pigeon Double Take https://78.media.tumblr.com/890fce9f51951d04a034b4f58bdff019/tumblr_nutie4oTbM1s2wio8o1_1280.gif The World Is Not Enough https://cdn.empireonline.com/jpg/80/0/0/1000/563/0/north/0/0/0/0/0/t/films/36643/images/4xAb2zAe5Pmno928hBQqff4RVwr.jpg Upset Kitty Cat http://i.imgur.com/3sWklNp.gif "A View To A Kill" Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmMIgIygzdA Christopher Lee https://theredlist.com/media/database/settings/cinema/1970-1980/the-man-with-the-golden-gun/012-the-man-with-the-golden-gun-theredlist.jpg Spectre Train Fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_eZw262fhM Bond in Clown Make-up http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Octopussy-Clown-Suit.jpg Melina's Eyes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghd7xz4AcqU Tomorrow Never Dies https://i.ytimg.com/vi/E_ek282zu1E/maxresdefault.jpg The Living Daylights https://www.007james.com/i/movies/ld/living_daylights_poster.jpg Quantum of Solace https://thestudioexec.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/quantum.jpg Jaws Choking Bond https://enjoythecrawl.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/screen-shot-2014-11-14-at-2-51-28-am.png?w=676 Bond, James Bond https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xDj3NRYTU8 Goldfinger Laser Scene https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/goldfinger-laser-scene-bond-connery-154919548.html License To Kill https://i.ytimg.com/vi/J5qn9PVDneo/maxresdefault.jpg From Russia with Love Train Fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBiLSCP95Nk Kananga Balloon http://www.cultfilmfreaks.com/2012/10/yaphet-kotto-kills-live-and-let-die.html Skyfall Fight https://nofilmschool.com/sites/default/files/styles/article_wide/public/roger_deakins_skyfall.jpg?itok=mtEJfka1 GoldenEye https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/24/GoldenEye_-_UK_cinema_poster.jpg Diana Rigg as Tracy http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/jamesbond/images/9/99/Tracy_Bond_%28Diana_Rigg%29_-_Profile.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130506231349 Casino Royale Final Scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKysEIVJfBs