Ranking the James Bond Films

 With No Time to Die hitting theatres soon I thought now was a good time to rank all of the James Bond films. There is a funny kind of symmetry to the list, 24 films have been released so far (I'm not counting No Time to Die) and 12 of the 24 came before I was born and 12 have come since I was born. I was introduced to the Bond series by my father, I am not even sure of the first Bond film I saw in a theatre. If I didn't see The Living Daylights or Licence to Kill in the theatres, then I know the first film I watched in a theatre was Golden Eye. I remember Golden Eye because I saw it with my dad and my sister, we went to a theatre in Markham, and I really enjoyed the film. Golden Eye was not the first Bond film I watched, I already knew the character and was familiar with a lot of the tropes. The most debated Bond topic has been "who is your favourite Bond", I like them all, but Daniel Craig's performance is far and away the best to me. I think Craig plays his Bond closest to Connery's, a killer who can be cold, but in Craig we go to see more emotion and humanity. The Bond character was created by Ian Fleming who was a Naval intelligence officer during WWII. Fleming's novels are less over the top than the films, but the character in the novels is closer the version played by Connery and Craig. Timothy Dalton only got to play Bond in two films Licence to Kill and The Living Daylights, but he also deserves more credit for his portrayal. Dalton's two films were not well received and as result Pierce Brosnan was cast as Bond. Roger Moore probably played the similar to the book's version of Bond, Moore's films were campier but a lot of fun. I went through a period where I disliked the Moore starring films, I eventually got over my issues and I was able to really appreciate a few of them. 

I mentioned earlier about the Bond film tropes which features gadgets, cars, locations and women and in the Daniel Craig films I feel the tropes have taken more of a back seat. The franchise has needed to update to align with the modern times for a long time, and I hope they continue to push the franchise forward. No Time to Die is Daniel Craig's last adventure as Bond, and when the next film debuts, we will see a new actor playing 007. I have no thoughts on who should play the role, I don't care if it is a man, a woman or an actor that is not white. My main concern is to find someone capable of continuing a long the same line as Daniel Craig, I do not want to go back to the campy era of Bond films. I have enjoyed the Daniel Craig era because it feels modern, his films have felt as though they are approaching realism. The Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan era went with more of a campy approach and the films relied on humor far too often. I do enjoy the films of the Moore and Brosnan era, but I find the films I do not like to be really hard to enjoy. There are things I enjoy in every Bond film, but the way the character treats women, especially in the earlier films is now hard to watch. There needed to be an evolution in the series, and I think the Daniel Craig films delivered; it is exciting to see where the series goes from here. 

There are more than 24 films, but I don't consider the 1967 Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again (1983) as part of the series. Both of those films were not produced by Eon Productions, I have never seen the 1967 Casino Royale and I don't think I ever will. The 1967 Casino Royale was more of comedy that featured an ensemble cast, it was not well received. Never Say Never Again was a remake of Thunderball that featured Sean Connery playing James Bond a final time after a 12-year absence. The film was generally praised by critics, but Connery was way too old to play the role. The movie featured James Bond playing a video game against the main bad guy, I need to rewatch it, but I do not consider it part of the main series since it is a remake of an already made film. The film was made because of a lawsuit that resulted in one of the co-authors of the Thunderball novel being given control of the rights to the novel. I am not a huge fan of Thunderball so a remake featuring Grandpa Connery (only 53 years old) just felt odd to me, seeing an old man flirt with really young women is just gross. Funny thing is Daniel Craig is now 53 years old too, but when you see him, he doesn't give off the grandpa vibes that I felt Connery did in Never Say Never again. I think there are things to enjoy in Never Say Never Again, it has enough action, and it is an 80's film so there are 80's moment and music in the film. There was also a live TV movie made of Casino Royale in 1954 that turned James Bond into Jimmy Bond an agent of the CIA. 

24. Moonraker (1979)

The middle of the Roger Moore era was a franchise low point for me, Moonraker is a very bad movie, and I am disappointed that in my youth I thought it was one of the best. The plot features James Bond heading to space, it seemed cool when I was younger, but now it is cheesey. Roger Moore was never good at selling the physicality of James Bond, he had the charm and humor, but he lacked the menace of all the other actors who took on the mantle of 007. The villain of Moonraker had a plan that was ridiculous, but I enjoyed the performance by Michael Lonsdale, and it was the second appearance by Jaws (Richard Kiel) one of the cooler Bond movie henchmen. The movie can be fun at different points, but the plot is so stupid that I find I need to fast forward through chunks of the film. Moonraker, I am sure has its fans, but I am not one of them. I think you can have fun watching it especially if you have never seen it but watch the preceding film (The Spy Who Love Me) first.

23. You Only Live Twice (1967)

This movie has its issues, especially when Bond is given a makeover to make him appear more Japanese. I had to rank this near the bottom because of the racial insensitivity, but the film does have one of the coolest villain bases every created. The film has okay action, good spy work and great locations, but I do find it a little boring. The film's opening sequence involves Bond being killed so he can go undercover to investigate the disappearance of a spacecraft. It does some really cool moments like when Q delivers a mini-helicopter to Bond and when we see the villain lair is inside a volcano. The film like I said has good moments, but there are too many moments where I am bored or uncomfortable with choices. I think the only reason to watch You Only Live Twice is because of volcano lair, besides that there is little enjoy.

22. Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever featured the return of Sean Connery to playing the role of James Bond, but it was also his final (official) performance of 007. I feel the film is hampered by Connery being a little too old, and the villains plan being very uninteresting. The best part of the film is the villains, Charles Gray as the main bad guy and Bruce Glover and Putter Smith as the henchmen. It has some really good moments, but I now find myself not even watching the climax. The very end of the film is good because we see our two henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd make another appearance. I think Connery gives a good performance, but the plot of film does not deliver. I said I felt Connery was too old, but he still had a menacing feel to him, which was something I often found lacking in both Brosnan and especially Moore. I think I might have Diamonds Are Forever lower than anyone else who watched the film, but when I did my rankings there were just things in the other films that stood out more for me.

21. Die Another Day (2002)

The film that ended Pierce Brosnan's run as James Bond is an absolutely bonkers film, it features some of the best and worst moments of the entire series. This film features James Bond surfing, a space laser, a hovercraft chase, an ice palace, a sword fight, a Madonna song, and a Madonna acting role. There is more craziness that I am not including. Halle Berry stars as an agent of the CIA (there was even a spinoff film featuring Berry's character). Rosamund Pike also stars as an undercover MI6 agent and Toby Stephens plays the films villains. I wish the film was better, but some of the choices ruin the film, but there are things I really liked too. Die Another Day is a big and bold 007 film that is a must see, but it is overall one of the weaker films in the series

20. Thunderball (1965)

There is one 007 film that I always have felt is boring, Thunderball is not a bad film at all, but I just find the film's pace to be too languid. The novel that Ian Fleming wrote was based on a story he cowrote, the rights to the film went to one of the other authors and so the story was told again in 1983. The 1983 film to me was more exciting, but it also had the benefit of correcting the issues of the original film. Thunderball was made using some breathtaking underwater scenes, but those scenes while amazing at the time now feels tiresome. The one thing that makes Thunderball great is it features Connery in his prime, the opening sequence shows a fight between Bond and an enemy agent, and it is brutal and ends with Bond escaping using a jet pack. That fight is something that is less convincing 18 years later with Connery much older. Thunderball is a solid film that just doesn't work for me, I have to rank it lower because I just don't find the story very interesting. It is still a well-made film and deserves to be seen at least once, it might connect with you more than it did for me.

19. Dr. No (1962)

The first Eon Productions Bond film released, was Dr. No and unfortunately the film that started the series, is to me one of the worst. If it was not the first film in the series I might have ranked it even lower, but since it was first, I give it a break because the following films had time to refine the formula. Dr. No was one of the earliest films to tackle the spy genre, from a spy perspective the film is good at keeping things simple. James Bond is introduced as 007, the film is a little boring when compared to what will follow. The familiar characters are here, but the actors are all different except for Connery, Connery himself is not at his best yet. I am not sure if Dr. No is a must-see Bond film, it is not the worst or the best, but it is the first. Connery is still good, and the film has some good espionage moments, if you have the time, I think Dr. No can be an enjoyable film since it is only one hour and fifty minutes long.

18. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The only reason this film is not ranked 23 is because of Christopher Lee's performance as the villain. This was surprisingly Moore's second appearance as James Bond, if I didn't look it up, I would have assumed it was towards the end of his time playing Bond. The quality of the film feels so removed from Live and Let Die, Christopher Lee is easily one of the best Bond villains. The opening sequence feature Lee having to kill an assassin he has hired to challenge himself; we see that Lee wishes to challenge Bond. The film not working has nothing to do with Moore or Lee, they are both great, but the tone of the film went to far into comedy for my liking. I know Moore is my least favourite actor that portrayed Bond, but I never felt that was Moore's fault. The Roger Moore era leaned too heavily on comedy and the films suffered from that, but he was charming as Bond. This is one of the only Bond films to have a plot that is very low key, no world altering events just Bond chasing down a hitman. For Lee's performance alone I think The Man with the Golden Gun is a must watch for fans of the series.

17. The World is Not Enough (1999)

I have very complicated thoughts about The World is Not Enough, there is so much to enjoy in the film, but one really bad character ruins the entire film for me. Denise Richards is playing Dr. Christmas Jones a nuclear physicist; Richards has never been a good actress and expecting to believe she is a nuclear physicist is almost laughable. The rest of the cast is great, and the action is very solid, but Christmas Jones is possibly my least favourite character in the entire series. It is a shame that one bad character has forced me to put a very solid film so low on this list. The World is Not Enough is easily the second best Brosnan era film, and it is very good and is a must watch. I will be curious if anybody is as annoyed by Christmas Jones as I was, maybe if they cast a more believable actress I might not have as many issues with the film.

16. Octopussy (1983)

Octopussy features a great opening sequence involving Bond escaping in a minjet, the follow up sequence featuring 009 attempting to flee assassins is also well done. The film's main undoing is the villain is not as interesting, and Moore was starting to show his age (56). The female character of Octopussy is quite good and I think she might have been one of the best parts of the film. The plot is typical but has an interesting twist that makes the final act more exciting. Once an actor no longer can be convincing as an action hero it is hard to believe the action you see on screen, if this film happened five years earlier, I think it might have been more enjoyable. Octopussy is a must watch for the opening and ending alone, beyond those scenes it is kind of bland.

15. The Living Daylights (1987)

Timothy Dalton's first film as Bond is a very solid film that is only held back by a lackluster villain that is played well. The film has some really great scenes and features an assassin henchman that is quite intimidating. Dalton is good as Bond; he plays Bond with a lot less humor and mirth than Moore did. The film is very 1980's and I think that is a good thing, I think this might have been the first Bond film I saw in theatres (maybe not). The Living Daylights has a tone that is quite different than the Moore era which I think was intentional, I liked it, but I think some wanted to get back to the good-natured fun. I think the film might be one of the least appreciated Bond films and is a very easy recommend. 

14. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The second film of the Brosnan era starts off with bond infiltrating a terrorist's arms garage sale and stealing a jet. Tomorrow Never Dies is a solid Bond film, Jonathan Pryce is a good villain and Michelle Yeoh is a lot of fun as a Chinese secret agent. Brosnan is solid as Bond here, he does not look as physically intimidating as Connery, but he has Moore's charm and more of an edge than Moore did. I think the first three Brosnan era films are very strong entries in the series, but the fourth film really faltered. Brosnan's take on Bond is underappreciated, and I think Connery gets too much credit. Tomorrow never dies keeps the pace going for the entire run time and is very enjoyable, I think it is one the easiest films to watch in the series. The villain's plan is a little weird, but when you think of the media cycle works now it also kind of makes sense. I highly recommend Tomorrow Never Dies, when I think of the film now, I am surprised by how much more I appreciate it now then when I first saw it.

13. A View to a Kill (1985)

This film seems to hold a special place in people's hearts, the final film in the Moore era was not a good movie but there is some stuff I really enjoy about it. Christopher Walken is fantastic as the main villain; he is having a blast and it makes the whole movie work better than it should. The opening song by Duran Duran is also one of the best Bond songs, it is a really fun song and is something I wish more of the films went for. Tanya Roberts plays a character who is probably second on the list of most annoying Bond characters, but she is more forgettable than Dr. Christmas Jones was. Two podcasts I listen to How Did This Get Made, and James Bonding did an episode where they all joined together to talk about A View to a Kill it is a really fun listen. The film should be lower on this list given Moore's age (58) and Tanya Robert's character. I just enjoy the song and Christopher Walken chewing all of the scenery too much to rank this film lower. If you decide to watch the film just know you cannot take the film seriously, just focus on Walken and I think you will enjoy yourself.

12. Licence to Kill (1989)

I remember thinking this film was the first and only Bond film to be rated R, but I was wrong even though the tone of the film is very dark. I confuse the rating because the film at times gets graphic in its violence and the film feels sleazier which I think is a good thing. Licence to Kill feels like a film where the influence in the style and material was the TV show Miami Vice. The film is about Bond avenging Felix Leiter who is maimed and Leiter's wife Della who is raped and murdered. The villain of the film is a drug lord who was captured by Bond and Leiter in the opening scene of the movie. The movie is a Bond film that never feels like a Bond film, and I think that is one of its strengths. Licence to Kill is a great entry in the series and it deserves more credit for shaking up the formula and tone. Unfortunately, the film marked the final appearance with Timothy Dalton as Bond. A lawsuit between MGM and Eon Productions caused his contract to expire and the series to take a hiatus. There were three more Dalton films planned after Licence to Kill, and it is a shame that Dalton only got to do two movies. Watch Licence to Kill, it is one of most unique films in the series and it deserves more appreciation for the risks it took.

11. Spectre (2015)

When Spectre was released, it felt like the final appearance of Daniel Craig as 007, and the film did not work for me then and it does not now. Spectre is a very solid film on all levels, but it is held down by some creative choices that ruin the film for me. Daniel Craig is great, the villain played by Oscar winning Christoph Waltz is fantastic. Spectre looks great, has amazing set pieces and performances, but a simple creative choice ruined the film. The choice to make Blofeld and Bond connected was just terrible, it did not need to happen. That choice was done to retroactively tie all of the Daniel Craig films together; Spectre was an evil organization from the novels. However, the lawsuit that saw Fleming lose control over Thunderball also saw the films not be able to use Spectre. Eon was able to get Spectre back and they decided to tie the Craig series to Spectre, the choice was good, but the execution was severely lacking. There is one nitpick from the ending that involves using his gun to hit a target very far away that also ruined the ending for me too. Spectre is still a great Bond film and if the reveal may not bother some people, so Spectre is a must watch especially if you are planning to watch No Time to Die.

10. From Russia with Love (1963)

The second film in the Bond series is a much improved-film on Dr. No, we see Connery owning the role of Bond. From Russia with Love also gave Bond one of his best adversaries in Donald Grant played by the amazing Robert Shaw. The plot of the film is simple, SPECTRE wants Bond dead for his role in the defeat of Dr. No so they lure him into a trap. The film does not all of the tropes, but it is a spy film, and his adversary is truly worthy. From Russia with Love is proof that the Bond series is something special, when you take the film's release date into perspective (almost 60 years old) it is surprising how good it is. The film has a very spy like atmosphere that just gives me the good cold war vibes, I think any Bond film will find it hard to not enjoy From Russia with Love. 

9. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

There is only one actor in the Eon Productions Bond film that ever played the role of James Bond once, that honor belongs to George Lazenby. Lazenby was selected to replace Connery, Connery gave up the role (but would come back when offered more money). Lazenby was a model, but he turns in a very good performance in a really good film. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS) has the grimmest ending of any Bond film, it is a shame that the end of the movie never was picked up properly. Lazenby deserved more films, but his refusal to meet the demand of the studio led to Connery coming back for Diamonds Are Forever. Telly Savalas plays the villain Blofeld, and Dianna Rigg plays Bond's love interest Tracy. The film has great action, spy work and amazing locations making it one of the better films in the series. 

8. Goldfinger (1964)

Perhaps the most iconic Bond film of all time, the title, the villain, the song, the plot, the character names and the style. For people who were able to watch these film in theaters when they first came out, I can't imagine what it must have been like. I think From Russia with Love is fantastic, but there is something special about Goldfinger. Goldfinger is the film that I believe turned the Bond series into a true franchise, a lot of the tropes of the series started here. It is an old movie, but for the time it came out it is very well made. Goldfinger is the best film of the Connery era, and it is easily the most entertaining of the Connery era films.  Goldfinger is the most successful Bond film in terms of box office, Thunderball and Skyfall are the only other films to make more.  Skyfall we will get to later, but Goldfinger is a lot better than Thunderball, but Thunderball came after Goldfinger, so I think it got a bump because of how good Goldfinger was. The only reason the film is not higher is because the films ahead I enjoy more, but I think this is a top three film in terms of quality.

7. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

For Your Eyes Only is one of the films I have always had a huge soft spot for, it is a great blend of action and humor. The film is just so much fun, it has cool gadgets, a couple of great chase sequences, and some good characters. The villain and the plot are not all that important, it is weird that I can't justify why I like this film so much, but I do. For Your Eyes Only is possibly the most relaxed of all the James Bond films, which could be a bad thing, but the lighter tone makes the time fly while you're watching. Take my word and give the movie a chance, it might Moore's last performance where I didn't notice how old he had gotten.

6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The film has one of the most iconic opening scenes in the series, and the events of that opening lead to other events in the film. Bond is forced to team up with a female KGM agent code named Triple X (get it), the movie is also the first appearance by the villainous Jaws (Richard Kiel). The film has some amazing locations and plenty of action, the main antagonist is rather boring, but his base of operations is awesome. The base is called Atlantis and is located in the ocean, it has a unique look and a trap elevator that feeds the sharks. The Spy Who Loved Me is a film that I did originally appreciate, it took the James Bonding podcast to convince to give it another chance and since then it has become a new favorite of mine.

5. Live and Let Die (1973)

The first 007 appearance of Roger Moore has always been my favourite performance during his Bond era. The film is great, it has a great opening song, some awesome action, locations and characters. The villain played by Yaphet Kotto is great and Jane Seymour is solid as Solitaire Kotto's psychic and Bond's lover. Live and Let Die has a lot of 007 iconic moments and a character called Baron Samedi who would become so popular he got a video game appearance. Moore gave a different interpretation on the character of Bond, I ended up not enjoying it as much, but as I mentioned earlier it had nothing to do with Moore. Live and Let Die is the first and best film in the Roger Moore era, it is a must watch for anyone.

4. GoldenEye (1995)

I know I saw GoldenEye in theatres, and I was blown away, from the opening sequence to the climax I came out thinking I had just seen the best Bond film to date. It turned out to be true, looking back at all of the films I realized GoldenEye is just awesome. The reason the film is still so awesome is in part because of the Nintendo64 game of the same name based on the film. That game is still one of the best games ever made, it also had one of the best multiplayer functions too. GoldenEye is Pierce Brosnan's first film of his Bond era, and it is his best film. The villain is played my Sean (Ned Stark/Boromir) Bean, he is great in the role and his villainous partner played by Famke Janssen is equally fantastic. Judi Dench makes her first appearance as M and so does Robbie Coltrane. The movie just full of action and fun, it does not hold up as much now that Daniel Craig has done his thing, but it is still such a fantastic Bond film.

3. Quantum of Solace (2008)

The follow up film to Casino Royale picks up right where the previous film left off and it just cruises from there. It took a few watches for me to fully appreciate the quality of the film and I give it some slack because it was made during a writer's strike, so they kind of had to improvise while shooting. Craig is great and even though the villain is kind of weak and the plot is vague I still enjoy the movie, it is the shortest Bond film and so the time just flies. Considering the circumstances, they had to deal with (writer's strike) I am surprised the film turned out so good, the film is very stylish and pays homage to some of the classic films in the series. Bond is like a bull in a China shop in this film and it is amazing to behold. The song by Jack White and Alicia Keys is also not as bad as some people say, it isn't one of the better songs though. Quantum of Solace is not as good as Casino Royale, but it is a great sequel to it and one of the best Bond films to watch because of it's short runtime. 

2. Skyfall (2012)

This was a very tough decision to move Skyfall down to number two, it such an amazing film and easily deserved all the adulation it received. Skyfall is the most visually stunning of all of the Bond films, the cinematography was done by the legendary Roger Deakins. Javier Bardem was brought in to play one of the most weird and interesting villains in the series, his portrayal of Silva was phenomenal. The film introduced us to Naomie Harris and Ralph Fiennes in their iconic roles, said goodbye the incredible Judi Dench and gave us a new Q in Ben Whishaw. Adele got an Oscar for her song, and the film was nominated for five Academy Awards, and it won two. Skyfall is also the most box office successful Bond film, which is proof that the film had a lot of popularity amongst fans. I cannot recommend Skyfall enough; it is the first Bond film that I feel is a work of art. It is hard to put into words how different Skyfall feels to most other Bond films, it is something unique and exceptional. 

1. Casino Royale (2006)

The first film of the Daniel Craig era started things off with a bang, it introduced us to a grittier Bond. The film never really takes its foot off the gas a lot, and when it does it is in service of the characters. Daniel Craig gives Bond a little bit Connery, but he adds a vulnerability that makes him human and someone you can cheer for. The villain played by Mads Mikkelsen is a very interesting character, and Eva Green is a great foil for Bond to play off of. Casino Royale was a shock to the system when it came out, it revitalized the series and has given us five great Daniel Craig starring Bond films. There is no better way to get into the Bond series then by watching Casino Royale, it pairs perfectly with No Time to Die.

Thank you for reading my ranking of the James Bond films, stay tuned for my review for No Time to Die (spoiler alert it is fantastic). 

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