From Guns and Gadgets to Vodka Martinis and Women: A Millennial’s Ranking of Every 007 James Bond Movie
The name’s Bond. James Bond.
There, now you can add my article to the list of thousands who have started every James Bond article out with his signature line. Not to diminish my article, or the line, but it is pretty iconic. The tuxedo wearing, brash and brazen, gun-toting, wild driving, smooth talking, secret agent sure has his moments, if I do say (er, write).
With the recent news of the latest James Bond movie “No Time To Die” getting pushed back AGAIN (eye roll, ugh), we’re left to wonder; what next? I mean, can we really keep counting down the days until it is released? This has been the 007th time it has been pushed back already. Ok, maybe not 7 times, but it sure seems like it. I’ve stopped counting.
Therefore, I’m going to do something I have never done before; I’m going to rank every James Bond movie, from worst to first. Well, every “official” Bond movie. This counts only the EON Produced movies, so the original Casino Royale (released in 1967) is out and so is the very dreadful Never Say Never Again (released in 1983) — which would have been dead last, by the way.
We begin with Dr. No (1962) and end with Spectre (2015), as the movies to rank. 24 in total. Holy cannonballs, I just realized it’s already been five years since the last Bond movie has been released! Unacceptable. Very unacceptable.
Since I don’t want to get my tuxedo in a bunch and keep spending my time waiting, or waste yours, let’s get down to business. Once again, I am going to rank the EON Produced James Bond movies, from worst to first. Vodka martini me (shaken, not stirred).
Some things to take into consideration before I’m moonrakered into space, I want you to know I am a millennial, with 25 years experience watching 007 movies. I grew up on the Nintendo 64 video game Goldeneye, and was into the Duran Duran theme song “A View to a Kill” more than Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” So get ready for a much-misaligned list. I welcome all feedback. Let’s get to it.
24. Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Yup, this is exactly when Connery lost respect with his turn as 007. It was a mailed in performance by Sir Sean, and the “Bond Girls” were actually very dim-witted. Even for the standards back then. Jill St. John had her moments, but then she goes and shoots herself off a boat. Seriously, she shoots a gun and it’s so powerful she completely sidesteps until she falls over. Ugh. The redeeming qualities were the two lovebird(?) villains Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd and Wayne Newton. I wish I was kidding.
23. Octopussy (1983): Just as Sean Connery stayed on one movie too long, Roger Moore begins to show his age in this one. As a younger teen, I could appreciate the vagrant Bond character, as he goes from toting a Fabergé egg around to dressing up as a clown… wait, no I couldn’t. Next.
22. Moonraker (1979): I know, I know, some of you already hate me and we’re only three movies deep. This one just does not hold up well for me. Yeah space is cool and all, but you know what was even cooler back then? Star Wars. Moonraker gave us Jaws (the beloved metal mouthed villain played by Richard Kiel) and that’s about it; there’s very little action otherwise. Even the ol’ Roger Moore smirk and charm couldn’t laser his way out of this one. Shame.
21. Licence To Kill (1989): A lot of Bond purists aren’t going to like this ranking. It was either ahead of its time (see, Daniel Craig’s Bond portrayals) or too little too late from actor Timothy Dalton. It gave us a VERY early Benicio Del Toro (youngest to ever play a Bond henchman), who went on to a have a great career and a made-for-TV-movie-villain feel from Robert Davi… which is ironic because that became his specialty.
20. Quantum Of Solace (2008): It’s been twelve years since I’ve been so amped up and then simultaneously disappointed in a Bond movie. Instead of capitalizing on the enormous success of Casino Royale (rebooted in 2006), they gave us gallons of oil and not much else. It felt forced and rushed. Watching this one feels like I’m trying to drink oil. Very, viscous, indeed.
19. A View To A Kill (1985): When I was a teenager, this one seemed so cool to me. It had Christopher Walken. It was Roger Moore’s swan song (he was my favorite for a time) and introduced us to a bevy of blondes (actresses Tanya Roberts and Alison Doody, respectively) along with fan favorite, actress Grace Jones. My all time favorite band, Duran Duran, even sang the theme song. But… over time, it does not age well. The plot sucks (Silicon Valley tycoon doing what exactly?!). That, and Roger Moore being paired up with a woman 30 years his younger is almost cringeworthy. No, wait, it is.
18. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974): In theory, it seemed like such a cool idea; James Bond adversary proves to be a better shot than the man himself. The golden gun is a classic weapon and a staple in the Nintendo 64 videogame, Goldeneye, but it ends there. The legendary Christopher Lee played Scaramanga beautifully, but when the two best parts of the movie involve the villain and that’s about it, not too much to get excited about. His little (and yes, I do mean little) sidekick Nick Nack is a help too. The idea about a marksman with a literal golden gun still appeals to me, though, which is why it’s ranked as high as it is.
17. Thunderball (1965): If ever there was a Bond movie I had no idea on where to rank it, it’s this one. I seriously moved it from the back end at one point, to nearly the top ten. I decided to split the difference. While the underwater scenes are majestic, there are A LOT of them. The plot is total 60’s James Bond, with the SPECTRE organization in full bloom with their numbered villains (literally, they go by Number Two, Three, etc.). While there just isn’t a “wow scene” for me to rank it any higher, it’s still classic Connery.
16. Die Another Day (2002): This one has “Millennial Bond Fan” written all over it. And I love it. The one Bond movie that will make you laugh and eye roll the entire way through for how effects-centric it is, yet, you can’t help but watch. Where do I begin? The surfing scene. An invisible car. Madonna. A gigantic laser from space. Transforming a Korean man into an American man (literally). It’s so cheesy. Pierce Brosnan’s final bow is his worst, but it brings me back to a time when Bond fever was at an all time high for me, and I’d rather watch this one over the previous ones listed. Nostalgia counts for something, right? Right!?
15. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): You either love this one or hate it. I fall somewhere in the middle. George Lazenby wasn’t a terrible Bond by any means. He just didn’t want to do it after his first attempt. No, seriously, Hulu made a whole documentary about it (Becoming Bond, 2017). The documentary might be better than the movie, actually. I appreciate the snowy locale and James Bond galavanting around the mountains, but the effects are terrible. I also don’t mind Bond falling in love either, but outside of the few SPECTRE attempts on his life, there really isn’t much else. A lot of talk with fake accents and kilts. That’s not James Bond.
14. The Living Daylights (1987): Timothy Dalton’s first go at playing James Bond went rather well, I thought. He had this badass look to him, who could care less about who he offended and which brick wall he had to run through. While he didn’t have very much charm (ok, none), he still scored with the ladies and used his Q-given gadgets to total 80’s perfection. I mean, c’mon, that first car chase scene ending with the cello ride? Pure gold. Even though it’s a bit on the long side, it’s enough to keep me entertained still to this day. Extra props for the theme song, too (I love my eighties music).
13. For Your Eyes Only (1981): It’s not peak Roger Moore, but it’s pretty darn close. While the plot doesn’t bring you in as well as other Bond movies, the locations certainly do. Ranging from a favorite of mine (underwater) to a close second (snow and skiing) to Italy to ending in a very suspenseful climax built around a mountain climb. The theme song rocked and Bond met his match with actress Carole Bouquet, a crossbow-toting, marine biologist heiress. An all around solid watch, which isn’t amazing, but isn’t bad by any means.
12. You Only Live Twice (1967): So many to list for why this one succeeds, which is why I’m still as shocked as to how low I have it. The theme song is amazing (Nancy Sinatra, yes please). The plot is pretty neat, the gadgets are even better (Little Nellie, anyone?) and it showcases Blofeld’s face for the first time. It even uses a volcano for the villain’s lair. Amazing.
11. Spectre (2015): Five years ago, I was as pumped for Spectre as I’ve ever been for a Bond movie in my life. Skyfall (2012) was about the biggest and best in a long time, and Spectre was supposed to be even BIGGER and BETTER than that. It was not. While the Day of the Dead opening scene was among my favorites of 007 lore, the rest of the movie just kept teasing and leading you on. I felt like Mr. Hinx (WWE Wrestler Batista) was one of the lone bright spots. Blofeld’s reveal (actor Christoph Waltz) of being the one behind everything we just watched Daniel Craig’s character go through in the previous three outings were not believable to me. Because of course he was (eye roll). A wasted opportunity with such a brilliant character of old. The theme song is haunting and sets you up for a whole lot of… nothing. Quite the letdown.
10. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): The second term of Pierce Brosnan’s 007 brought a cleaner look, along with a more daring Bond (jumping down a skyscraper and still riding a motorcycle with his hands tied, er cuffed) and an even better car chase scene. The main villain was pretty weak (Elliot Carver, really? Pathetic), but his henchmen were the real scene stealers. Mr. Stamper and Dr. Kaufman sure scare me a heck of a lot more than a senior citizen wanting to control the world’s news. The Bond Women were also gorgeous and kick ass. Win win. If not for Titanic also being released during this time, this movie would have shattered records in 1997. I’m that confident in it.
9. Live And Let Die (1973): Roger Moore’s very first Bond role, played to near perfection. The villains are so over the top, they continue to keep you guessing until the very end on which one has 007’s number (Mr. Big? Dr. Kanaga? Tee Hee? Baron Samedi?). The uber-wonderful Solitaire (played by a little actress named Jane Seymour) keeps his interest throughout each visit, and ours as well. The theme song is truly a stroke of genius by Paul McCartney and there’s nothing better than Bond looking lost at times in New Orleans in the early 70’s. That’s just good clean fun.
8. The World Is Not Enough (1999): Everything Tomorrow Never Dies did, “TWINE” did better. Pierce Brosnan has taken full command of the James Bond role by this point, mixing in innuendos with killing in cold blood. There’s even a scene based upon it (see, “one last screw”). Renard, the villain, while not too threatening looking, is perfect for late 90’s scare; an unbeatable psycho who feels no pain that just wants to destroy the world with plutonium. If that’s not a pre-Y2K movie plot to a tee, I don’t know what is. This was the first Bond movie I saw in theaters (Thanksgiving 1999) and I haven’t missed one since. Nostalgia, indeed.
7. Dr. No (1962): Jamaican me crazy, Ursula Andress! “Underneath the mango tree…” Including one of the most iconic shots in movie history, the scenes with Honey Ryder (played by Andress) and James Bond are matched by very few combos in all of the 007 movies. To get to that point though, Sean Connery wheels and deals in casinos, kills on boats and in beach houses, but not before uttering his most famous line, “Bond. James Bond.” It’s the first Bond movie, played by the first Bond (Sean Connery), and still among the best. The only thing missing is an actual theme song, but I digress.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Nobody does it better. Roger Moore came to play in this one. As my first sentence alludes to (also the theme song), nobody does it better. Roger Moore is at his best in this one. The giant underwater/above water lair is humongous, with Stromberg (the main villain, played by Curd Jurgens) and Jaws (his first appearance) forming a tough twosome. Yes, Jaws steals the show, but Agent XXX (actress Barbara Bach), is just as formidable as she is gorgeous. The iconic Lotus Espirit car is also featured here, as it transforms from car to submarine all at once. The scenes in Cairo are also pretty nerve-wracking. Again, Jaws.
5. From Russia With Love (1963): This one comes very close to being perfect for me. It’s a little dated, being that it is 57 years old, but still pits Connery at his almost best (one more movie to rank of his, wink wink). From the opening scene with us thinking Bond is killed, to a train ride that rivets, to an explosive boat chase ending, this 007 DELIVERED on the promise that Dr. No (released 1962) gave us that the best was yet to come. This movie was also the introduction to the world of “Q,” James’ gadget-creating secret partner from the Secret Service. Actor Desmond Llewelyn would play Q up until his passing in 1999 (The World Is Not Enough was his goodbye, ironically enough). If it seems weird that a theme song helps my ranking, well, this one makes me a little bit weirder then.
4. Casino Royale (2006): I have a very hard time putting Casino Royale fourth. Really, I do. For so long it was among my top one or two favorite Bond movies. Time, though, has a way of changing opinions. While it has everything I’d want (great theme song, poker playing, beach scenes, badass fights and a killer villain), it does everything very well. It may end up as a classic over time, but for now, it just does not surpass my next few. You could scramble my top five and you wouldn’t be wrong, but I have to go with longevity in my list today. This was the reboot the franchise sorely needed and Daniel Craig is everything today’s 007 should be. I had my doubts early on, but he erased those quickly, and turned me into a believer. Craig may just be the best James Bond when it’s all said and done.
3. Goldfinger (1964): The quintessential Sean Connery turn as James Bond. The eerily sung theme song starts it out, and then the actors carry us the rest of the way through a classic plot. Auric Goldfinger (played by Gert Frobe) is on a mission to hoard all of the world’s gold, thus raising his value and power, and jabs everyone along the way. From cheating a man at gin rummy in Miami, to dousing a woman in gold (literally, her whole body is covered in gold), to cheating Bond at golf, and even aiming a laser at 007's, well, nether region (hehe). This movie truly has it all. I could watch this movie over and over. And I have.
2. Goldeneye (1995): Shocked? You thought I was going to put Goldeneye number one didn’t you? I actually went through my top five like a mad man. At one point I had each one in the top spot. Goldeneye is just the one that started it all for me. It was the N64 videogame first, and then the movie. Well, technically the movie came out first, but for me, I played the game before I saw the movie. After I had rented it, finally, I was hooked. Forever. Pierce Brosnan couldn’t have been a more perfect choice at the time for James Bond, and he came in with a bang. The plot had 006 (Alec Trevelyan played by Sean Bean) double crossing 007 and forming alliances with Soviet Union traitors Ourumov and Xenia Onatopp. This one may not be a Bond purist type movie, but for me, there’s so much history and pureness there. Pierce Brosnan was born to play James Bond, and he proved it with every shot he took.
1. Skyfall (2012): This is the end… as Adele delivers the best James Bond theme song. Sam Mendes directed the best 007 movie. Javier Bardem played the best bond villain (in a great while). Daniel Craig gave everything he had, and this will stand to be his best role ever. In any movie. The depth behind Skyfall still has me wanting to go back and glean every little secret. Every scene matters. There’s the death and semi-retirement of James Bond (!?). There’s even the more shocking death of M (actress Judi Dench, who was so good throughout the years). There’s sex, there’s guns, there’s martinis and gadgets, but there’s also heart, above it all. Arguably the best James Bond movie to the rest of the world, nothing but the best for me. Nobody did it better than Daniel Craig. Not here, not then, not ever again. Let the sky fall…
I know this ranking is going to rile a few of you up. Almost no one is going to agree with my list. I’m not even sure I agree with it. I feel fairly confident in my bottom ten. The middle few you could mix up and I’d be fine with it. The top five, as I mentioned, were extremely tough to rank. Casino Royale fourth only!? Ugh. Skyfall being the best ever!? Wow.
With that being said, I hope this sparks some conversation and kept you entertained for a bit. I’m a James Bond fanatic and will always watch every movie, so to me, there’s not one that I’m truly against, I just have my favorites, as we all do. Let me know your favorites in the comments section below. And remember, the name’s Bond. James Bond.