With the release of the 24th film in the James Bond canon ‘Spectre’, now seems right to reflect on the series as a whole. Here I rank my Top Ten James Bond films:
10) You Only Live Twice
I really battled with what should have been 10th place. Numbers 1-9 were not hard to pick at all but in my opinion, 3 films are worthy and to be honest, depending on the mood I’m in, I could quite easily interchange them. It was a toss up between ‘Goldfinger’, ‘A View To A Kill’ but in the end, ‘You Only Live Twice’ prevailed. The unveiling of Donald Pleasance as arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld was fantastically done and having Bond in Japan provided a refreshing change to the series. It’s also Sean Connery’s best work as the spy, this being his 5th film and he begrudgingly returned to make ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ in 1971 which was an utter disaster. A really solid film.
Despite being overrated, ‘Skyfall’ is still extremely entertaining and Javier Bardem as the memorable villain, Raoul Silva was very sinister. There are some extremely giddy action sequences here and reintroducing Moneypenny and Q back into the series provided a sense of familiarity. My issue with the film and why it is ultimately the weakest of Daniel Craig’s quadrilogy thus far is it overlong and there is a lot of excess padding to the film.
A hair better than ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ is much more playful in tone and harkens back to the days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The performances are excellent with Christoph Waltz being the standout as the villain and Dave Bautista is the most effective and sinister henchman in a Bond film in a long time. Ben Whishaw is also excellent in his developed role as Q. The locations and cinematography are also mesmerising. ‘Spectre’ is not without its flaws – it has a slow middle section in its lengthy 148 minute run time and the ending is extremely predictable.
7) The Man With The Golden Gun
Granted, ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ is extremely silly but it is so entertaining. Roger Moore ups-the-ante in his second film as 007 and there are some giddy stunts and inventive action sequences. The iconic Christopher Lee as the villain, Francisco Scaramanga and Herve Villechaize as the henchman are a perfect pairing and are suitable nemeses for Bond. This film was an absolute ball from start to finish and there is not one dull moment.
6) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby’s solo outing as 007 proved to be one of the best Bond films, despite his horrific performance. The story was extremely well crafted and the action sequences superbly shot. This film has given inspiration to many blockbusters of today for its Alpine sequences. The film is a little overlong, but intellectually, it is one of the most challenging films of the entire series. Just a shame that Sean Connery didn’t want to continue with the role and it’s also a shame that the producers didn’t want to carry on the story of this film where it leaves off. An excellent film.
5) Casino Royale
Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond was extremely dark and serious, contrary to Pierce Brosnan’s disappointing quadrilogy. The tone is very dark and the story is one of the best of the entire series. The crane sequence and torture scene cement the film’s darker tone and are a spectacle to behold on-screen. Mads Mikkelsen is a perfect villain and extremely sinister. Unfortunately, it does step down a notch in its third act but ‘Casino Royale’ is ultimately an extremely good entry.
4) Quantum Of Solace
A controversial choice, but I preferred ‘Quantum Of Solace’ to its predecessor, ‘Casino Royale’. It’s much better paced and the 105 minutes fly by. The action sequences are extremely well crafted (the shaky cam makes it more frenetic) although I do think the best action sequence in Craig’s career is the crane sequence from ‘Casino Royale’. The Bond girls are much better here and aren’t just used for their looks and sex – Olga Kurylenko is extremely feisty and Gemma Arterton is sound in one of her first roles before she went into the big leagues. Mathieu Amalric is a brilliant villain, despite being physically weak. An excellent sequel and in my opinion, the best of Craig’s films so far – a shame that no-one else seems to agree.
3) From Russia With Love
The 2nd Bond film was a classic and is Sean Connery’s best work as 007. It was a much bigger film in budget than ‘Dr No’ and for the best, a much better story and script. ‘From Russia With Love’ starts out slow, but develops into a fast paced and satisfying action film and the villains are fantastic, the standout being Robert Shaw. Daniela Bianchi makes for a fantastic Bond girl and the film is also Desmond Llewelyn’s debut as Q.
2) Licence To Kill
A controversial choice, but Timothy Dalton is phenomenal here and makes for a really gritty, no-nonsense Bond. ‘Licence To Kill’ was the first Bond film to receive a 15 certificate from the BBFC and this makes for outstanding action sequences that are much more violent than any of its predecessors and it’s for the better. Mexico as a location really works and Robert Davi is an extremely effective villain and is bolstered by a young Benicio Del Toro as a henchman. The Bond girls are also well played by Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto. It’s a shame that ‘The Living Daylights’, Dalton’s debut wasn’t as exciting as this and a shame that he couldn’t carry on with the role.
1) Live And Let Die
In my opinion, ‘Live And Let Die’ is the ultimate James Bond film. Roger Moore’s first outing as 007 is sublime and this is his best performance in all of his 7 films. The tone is much darker than its predecessors but it is also much more witty which makes for the perfect balance. Yaphet Kotto is a fantastic villain and the action sequences here are amazing, the highlight being the crocodile farm. The film is also complimented by the series best theme song penned by Paul McCartney and Wings.
3) Die Another Day
Pierce Brosnan’s worst film by a long shot, this film was implausible and the action sequences are very choppy but that said, it’s still perfectly watchable. Halle Berry is awful and John Cleese makes for an extremely irritating Q (although he is named R). It’s good that Brosnan went when he did.
The film was still rather entertaining, but it’s utterly implausible. Bond in space. Really? The first half is good enough and there are a couple of not bad action sequences but the film just goes off the rails and the film becomes really tedious and laughable, especially once Bond arrives in space. Henchman Jaws, who was iconic in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ is brought down to embarrassment as he finds love in a woman called Dolly who happens to be short. What was everyone thinking when they made this?
1) Diamonds Are Forever
There have been some real disasters in the series but the worst film of them all is undoubtedly, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. Sean Connery looks completely bored and the story is a complete mess. The film is devoid of any fun, except for a good car chase sequence mid-way through the film. Charles Gray is a horrendous Blofeld and the Bond girls were not much better. The henchman, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are just plain laughable. Awful!
The James Bond series is still growing strong with 24 instalments to its name. Save for a handful of bad ones, all of them are very entertaining and the series has cemented itself as the 3rd highest grossing film series of all time, behind Harry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s hoping for many more entertaining memories with our favourite secret agent!