Rants, Reviews, Musings, and otherwise unconstructive critisisms of what you like and why I'm always right.

Bond, James Bond: Ranking 50 years of the world’s most famous spy.

The November release of “Skyfall” will mark the 23rd official James Bond production, so I’m taking a look back at the history of the gargantuan series. It spans 5 lead actors, some truly great films, some truly terrible ones, but through it all has provided countless memorable scenes, villains, henchmen, girls, and other universally recognized tropes.

I recently went back and watched all 22 films as part of the “Bond 50” blu-ray set, some for the first time. It was fun seeing how the series has changed, and how the entries I hadn’t caught seen influenced the ones I knew well. Above all else, it’s interesting how the films fit together as products of their time and with the series as a whole. It seems that whenever things start veering off into a point of no return, a strong reboot ensures some stability.

How long with the Bond franchise live on for? It doesn’t seem like audiences will tire of it anytime soon. Yes, they often feature meaningless macguffin’s, plot for plot’s sake, ridiculous physics defying stunts, and more than a few head slappers. They also are routinely hugely entertaining thrill rides that entertain and delight, providing humor along with explosive action. I highly recommend the “Bond 50” set, by the way, as the films have never looked or sounded better.

What follows is my own person ranking of the series with a short blurb reviewing the title. I’ve included the rotten tomato scores for each as well. I found their scores interesting, as it gives us a look into how it was received initially. Of course, when I ranked the movies I had the benefit of having seen all of them first, and also taking into account how they’ve aged.

After we’re done with the movies, we will cover my picks for favorite Song/Credits, Girl, Villain, Henchmen, and finally, my pick for favorite Bond himself. This will come in my next blog entry.

If you want, comment with your personal ranking (for as many as you’ve seen)! Now, without anything further, let’s hit the movies! Starting with my least favorite (which may surprise you)….

RANKING THE BOND MOVIES:

22. Diamonds are Forever

Year: 1971

Bond Film #:  7

Rotten Tomato Score: 64%

Sean Connery was, simply put, way too old to play Bond by the time he agreed to come back for “Diamonds are Forever” (a theme that reared its head again later on in the series). After the George Lazenby experiment was pulled, the thought was an old Connery is still better than another new actor. However, the age issue is even worse here than with Moore in “A View to a Kill”. This is partially because Connery was more well known as an actor, and partially because the tone of the Moore films at least fits those kind of goofy situations a bit better. Then there’s the leading lady. No offense to Tiffany Case, but this film features the least appealing Bond girl in the entire series, which hurts it quite a bit. The face-palming silliness the movies would become more and more known for rears its ugly head in one of the worst scenes in the series, in which an Elephant actually gambles on a slot machine, wins, then screams in excitement. The moon buggy chase is similarly misguided, if less offensively dumb.

After 5 other films with Connery, everything here just feels horribly tired and uninteresting. Our Bond girl turns from a semi-decent partner into a bumbling damsel in distress for no reason other than to provide some filler moments. The laser satellite plot is done here, like it is in a lot of Bond films, but the ending is shockingly anti-climactic. Worst of all, the plot line for our main villain, whom Bond has been dueling with for 6 movies at this point, doesn’t even get a proper resolution, and never would. If you’re going to drag something out for that long (to the point that I don’t even care anymore), it’s insult to injury to finish it off in such a way.

It’s not that Diamond are Forever is such a horrible film, but I find it agonizingly boring and inconsequential  At least in the critically worse Bond films, they could be exciting  (or at least entertaining) with their misfires and bad decisions. Diamonds are Forever is mediocre Bond, but much less so. It’s an entry that is easily forgotten, and that makes it the least likely for me to watch again.

21. Die Another Day

Year: 2002

Bond Film #: 20

Rotten Tomato Score: 57%

The real tragedy of the Pierce Brosnan-era of Bond is that its failures seemed to become bigger due to trying too hard, rather than simply being lazy (as had been the case in the Moore years). Never was this more evident than in 2002’s “Die Another Day”. Much like with the previous entry “The World is not Enough”, this one starts off fairly strong and earns credit for attempting new ideas with the Bond character. In this case, Bond is actually captured and tortured for over a year following a solid opening action sequence. Since it came out as the 20th Bond film and it commemorated the 40th anniversary of Bond, a lot of effort was made to make references to the previous movies. Some of these instances work very well (such as the secret collection of old Bond gadgets), but some are just too “wink-wink” to take seriously (the line about Bond’s 20th watch comes to mind). All in all, though, the first hour is a solid movie with not a lot to complain about other than the miscast of Halle Berry as “Jinx”, Bonds supposed equal from the CIA. Her performance is simply awful, but alone it would have been forgivable. Sadly, this is not the case.

It’s not too often that you can pinpoint the exact moment a film goes off the rails, but here it’s right around the hour mark when Bond is given his new invisible car (For those that haven’t seen it, you read that correctly). From this moment on, it feels like an entirely different movie, as the camp and ridiculousness snowballs into a mess so bad it boggles the mind. You will wonder how this made it onto theater screens at some point, whether it’s during a sequence involving CGI lasers shooting around a room amidst a fist-fight, or perhaps when an all CGI-Bond rides an all-CGI tidal wave to safety. It’s about as bad as special effects have ever looked in a properly budgeted blockbuster franchise, and just flat-out embarrassing. Let’s not even talk about our villains apparent sith-lightning powers. All of this is an unfortunate side effect of the time it was made, as most movies had been hopping on the CGI-bandwagon and the producers clearly decided to emulate it instead of sticking to what wasn’t broken. As a result, “Die Another Day” comes off as a bad rip-off of other generic action flicks of the 2000’s that just happens to have James Bond in it. What’s worse is that Brosnan is doing everything he can in the role, but is acting in a film that wouldn’t be appropriate for Roger Moore in his worst years. The solid first hour keeps this from being the absolute worst Bond movie, but only just barely. I do also have to take a moment to mention that I place just as much blame on the direction as on the script. The director fills the movie with an abundance of distracting “speed-ramping” (slowing down or speeding up the action randomly and suddenly, then returning to normal speed) and circle shots that try transparently to be hip and modern, but just come off as desperate.

The decision to counter the traditional formula for a while only makes the second half that much more painful, as it’s a generic, by-the-numbers modern action flick combining a nonsensical plot, horrible effects, predictable twists, and characters that lose any depth or promise they showed earlier. On the plus side, the result of the increasingly diminishing returns forced the producers to once-again try the more serious, gritty route with “Casino Royale”, and for that we can thank DAD.

20. Live and Let Die

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Year: 1973

Bond Film #: 8

Rotten Tomato Score: 65%

The first Bond entry for Roger Moore had the tall task of replacing Sean Connery once and for all. What’s unfortunate is that Moore is actually pretty solid here, it’s just the movie around him that is severely lacking. It fails largely due to the obsession with making this a “Blaxploitation” Bond film, dating it considerably and adding unnecessary racial undertones. The evil plot revealed towards the end is rather lame, and the action is poorly done (a staple of the Moore era), with clumsy stunts and unimaginative gadgets. One of the worst moments is the laughably bad way the main villain is taken out during the climax by literally being blown up like a balloon.

The biggest issue with the film itself  is the change in tone, as the Moore-era would frequently derail with tasteless comedy, often worrying more about giving him horrible puns to deliver with a wink than a credible world to inhabit. And that damn JW Pepper, wow, does he ruin this movie every time he appears onscreen. He features prominently as the “comic relief  during an agonizing boat chase that features some neat stunts but is far too long to be worth the time we spend with it. Elsewhere, the secondary Bond girl is grating on the nerves and even ironically states how pointless she is to the story. One of the worst offenders of the “leave Bond to die and don’t bother sticking around to make sure the plan succeeds” trope happens towards the end when Bond is left on a tiny island surrounded by crocodiles. I did somehow enjoy the “frogger” part that ensues, but I feel sort of bad about it. I also really hate the henchmen with the robotic arm. The catchy title tune ends up being the best part of “Live and Let Die”, sadly. Roger Moore is a likable James Bond, but the movie itself is too clumsy, boring, obnoxious and dated to recommend. It sits near the bottom of the Bond barrel.

19. A View to a Kill

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Year: 1985

Bond Film #: 14

Rotten Tomato Score: 36%

The issues I had with Moore’s previous outing in “Octopussy” are compounded here by the fact that he is worse in the role, and even more unable to provide any convincing action due to his age. The lame plot is also frequently cited as a reason why this entry sits towards the bottom of the list. When your big bad villain’s plan is to cause earthquakes in California in order to take over the technology industry, it’s a bit hard to take seriously. It’s not a total loss though. Christopher Walken is mishandled but not completely uninteresting, as is his “henchwoman” May Day. They have their moments, and there are indeed some fun stunts involved in the film. The opening scene would be great if not for “California Girls” playing over it so randomly. The excessively 80’s feel serves to date the film about as much as you’d expect, and too much of the plot seems to happen because it has to, not because there’s any good reason for it (This happens a lot in the Moore and Brosnan films). The series had been narrowly avoiding self-parody in its quest to stay relevant, and this was one of the weaker efforts. Scenes like Moore desperately trying hide being not fit enough to do action scenes on the Eiffel Tower come to mind, as well that whole fire truck sequence, the worst sequence in a very mediocre film.

18. Moonraker

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Year: 1979

Bond Film #: 11

Rotten Tomato Score: 62%

The Roger Moore-era relied heavily on stunt work to avoid putting him in many action scenes that showed his face, so it’s no surprise that as a response to the success of “Star Wars” the producers went with this “Bond in space” entry. What’s funny, though, is that the vast majority of the film is pretty much like every other Bond, with him snooping around and engaging in various chase scenes (And who could forget the “double-take pigeon”?). This one loses points for the big cheesy space action climax, a lackluster “evil plan” for the villain, and the unceremonious way in which famous villain “Jaws” is reduced to comic relief. I still can’t explain who thought the love story with Jaws and a random “nerdy” girl was a good idea. It’s not a total loss though, and though I can’t quite explain it, “Moonraker” is more fun to watch than it should have been given its premise. The villain himself provides some effective moments of monologue and there are a few fun scenes that don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s even an objectively well-directed sequence when Bond first enters outer space that serves as a nod to “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and who’d have expected that? Although “Moonraker” ends up on the bottom of many of these lists, I’m inclined to give it a bit of a break.

17. The Man With The Golden Gun

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Year: 1974

Bond Film #: 9

Rotten Tomato Score: 46%

So much about TMWTGG works well that it’s a shame it has to be so far down on the list. Unfortunately, although it’s bookended by some great scenes featuring Christopher Lee as the villain, there is a lot of lame filler. This includes bringing back JW Pepper, one of the absolute worst characters from any Bond film. His presence makes all around him seem that much worse. Also, a special shout out to the absolutely dreadful decision to put a comical sound effect to a “Dukes of Hazzard”-esque car stunt. Points must be added back for the innovative “fun house” of a villain’s lair, unlike anything in other Bond pictures that provides some bizarre entertainment. Despite having one of the strongest villains in the series, the film is hurt considerably by the middle section. There’s random ninjas, some nonsensical plot turns, and to put it bluntly, Bond just seems to be more of a dick than usual in this one. In the end, TMWTGG is just too inconsistent and at-times annoying to rank any higher, which is a shame.

 

 

16.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Year: 1969

Bond Film #: 6

Rotten Tomato Score: 81%

This was the first Bond film to use a different actor other than Sean Connery, and unfortunately for George Lazenby he never got another chance. Luckily, his one film isn’t a disaster, though it’s not one of my favorites either. There’s some issues (read: plot holes) due to the filmmakers following the book and not taking into account events from the previous movies, which bothers me because at this point in the series there had always been recurring characters and references to previous events. OHMSS does feature a strong climactic sequence in the snow and ice and a truly unique ending which involves Bond getting married. Ironically, it ends up being the opposite of most of the Brosnan films, in that the leading actor is weaker than the film surrounding him.

15. You Only Live Twice

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Year: 1967

Bond Film #: 5

Rotten Tomato Score: 70%

“You Only Live Twice” is the least worthy of the original run of Connery films, but still boasts their most memorable villain finally being promoted to a more starring role. It also gets credit for the huge sets which provide some of the biggest scaled action sequences up to that point. On the flip side: This is the entry, more than any other, where the gadgets/vehicles started to overshadow the plot and sometimes Bond himself. The Bond girl this time around is pretty uninteresting, and his Japanese makeup job is just laughably bad, but that volcano lair kind-of sort-of makes up for it. I also didn’t care for a lot of the clumsy action (although this was a staple of a lot of the Bond films). On the bright side, Connery is the definitive Bond for a reason, and this film has some of the same charm as the others, even if it follows the routine a too blatantly.

14. The World Is Not Enough

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Year: 1999

Bond Film #: 19

Rotten Tomato Score: 51%

“The World is not Enough” is disappointing film for a few different reasons. For one, the producers clearly put effort into this one, and you can tell when watching that they intended to make a strong film. They weren’t content with making another “Tomorrow Never Dies” and some risks were taken, which I will usually applaud. There is a plot that attempts to provide new avenues for the James Bond character as well as “M”, and it actually features a plot twist for the villain instead of revealing all in the first act. It was also the 3rd film for Brosnan, typically when the previous actors achieved their best outings as Bond.

Things start off well with one of the best and most exciting openings in the series, but the film falls apart as it goes on. Not only do the internal logic of the scenes not hold up at all even on face value, but the action consistently commits the unforgivable sin of being boring. The direction does not suit these scenes in the slightest, with little urgency and no sense of danger when there’s no reason for this to have happened. The biggest mistake, however, is the character of Dr. Christmas Jones (Nuclear Scientist Barbie, as I call her), who drags the film down in horrible puns and pathetic line readings. There is an enjoyable quality to the cheesiness on some level, which thankfully propels this one out of the depths of the worst Bonds. And there are some positive aspects in the form of said development for Bond himself, along with an interesting villain, and of course that opening sequence. It’s too bad this is the home of perhaps the single worst pun in the history of cinema, made all the worse because you know it’s coming, and that the character was named just to throw it in at the end. Overall, this isn’t the worst of Bond, but it’s undoubtedly one of the biggest missed opportunities of the series.

13. Octopussy

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Year: 1983

Bond Film #: 13

Rotten Tomato Score: 43%

“Octopussy” finds Roger Moore becoming too old to play the part effectively (not that his action scenes were very believable to begin with). Luckily the actual film is much better than the unfortunate title would imply. It features a solid plot and some memorable “gadgets'” (I have to admit enjoying the fake crocodile). This is also another example of a strong Bond girl that’s not completely useless and holds her own. The opening scene featuring Moore’s tiny plane blowing up the bad guys, then pulling up to a gas station with a smile and a cheerful “fill her up!” is pretty much all you need to know about the Moore years. You either like the camp, or you learn to live with it.

12. For Your Eyes Only

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Year: 1981

Bond Film #: 12

Rotten Tomato Score: 73%

As a result of the excesses displayed in “Moonraker”, the decision was wisely made to tone things down, bringing Bond back to earth both literally and figuratively.  This makes “For Your Eyes Only” very enjoyable as a departure from the over-the-top silliness that marked most of the Moore films. It features a low key plot with a stronger Bond girl than usual, as she actually gets a back-story and character motivations of her own. There is some genuine suspense achieved, particularly after the skiing set-piece when Bond engages in a battle of wits with a sniper. The film is paced rather well, but yes there is some Moore-era silliness. It is brought down by the often terrible disco-influenced score and the awkward opening sequence. That opening scene has quite an interesting behind-the-scenes story to it, but regardless it’s still overtly silly and doesn’t hold the same tone as the rest of the film. The recurring parrot can be annoying and there’s a plot point early on involving a girl wanting to be a famous figure skater who tries desperately to get with Bond, even though she is too young even by Bond girl standards. I did appreciate the nod to continuity in the opening shot when Bond is visiting the graveyard, and I enjoyed the location of the villain’s base and the ensuing travel up the mountain. Moore’s version of Bond even shows some signs of bad-assery when he kicks a car off a cliff in one of the film’s finest moments. This isn’t one of the best Bond films, but it’s one of the better entries of the Moore era and holds up well, unfortunately the very beginning and end are the worst parts.

11. Tomorrow Never Dies

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Year:  1997

Bond Film #: 18

Rotten Tomato Score: 57%

Although “Tomorrow Never Dies” was a  let down compared to the strong start “Goldeneye” gave the Brosnan era, this is a decent Bond picture and a fun action flick. The action scenes are generally thrilling and well done, and the Bond girl is one of the best of the series. Michelle Yoaw provides a character that can match and sometimes even better Bond, saving him more times than he saves her. The dialogue is also consistently amusing with only a few missteps  So while this isn’t in the elite Bond camp, it’s a worthwhile entry. The biggest issue with these middle-of-the-road Bond pictures is typically playing it too safe and routine, and if nothing else, “Tomorrow Never Dies” is the definition of the average Bond film.

10. Quantum of Solace

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Year: 2008

Bond Film #: 22

Rotten Tomato Score: 64%

Much like the drop between “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker” or the one between “Goldeneye” and “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the second Daniel Craig outing was definitely not as strong as the first. However, it has developed somewhat of an unfair reputation. For starters, Daniel Craig is still in fine form and gives his all to the role. He definitely doesn’t come off as playing a character, he has truly become this new version of Bond. The plot is a bit over complicated, and it will be a turnoff to many, but there are still plenty of great action scenes as the emotional weight is naturally progressed. The biggest issues with Solace start with the fact that it is a lot of set-up as this series continues to reboot. Its goal is essentially two-fold: to close the emotional arc for Bond started in “Casino Royale”, and to put in place the pieces that will shape the following entries. Most of this is involving the secret organization Quantum, though we aren’t given many answers here, only hints and references. This film does require knowledge and a good memory of the previous one to follow along with the plot developments and twists, which makes this the first true Bond sequel. This is not something the franchise was known for, and coupled with the subdued ending, many fans felt left out. Where “Casino Royale” left on a “I can’t wait for more!”, Solace ends with a “that’s it?”

Which leads me into the other biggest issue with the film: if Casino Royale didn’t feel like a traditional Bond film, Quantum of Solace doesn’t feel like a Bond film at all. It is not hard to understand why this entry comes off more like it was meant for Jason Bourne: the only sex happens completely offscreen, gadgets are nowhere to be seen, and there are virtually no after-kill quips. The action is gritty, frenetic, and grounded in (attempted) realistic physics, which makes it exciting but definitely not lightweight fun. Indeed, this is a dark movie, darker than Casino Royale especially because there aren’t many moments to breathe, laugh, and ease the tension. The intensity is kept up from beginning to end, with little variety in tone or style. As for the other Bond traditions, the opening song is a huge disappointment after the excellent “You Know My Name”. A reference to “Goldfinger” is made, that, while I personally loved it, does have the unfortunate side effect of pointing out just how different this movie is than that well-loved classic. The main Bond girl doesn’t even end up with Bond, and the villain, while convincing and well portrayed, lacks the memorable moments that a classic villain needs. So while this is a great action movie, it fails to deliver many of the things a Bond movie used to promise.

As good as it can be at times, “Quantum of Solace” ends up feeling like less than the sum of its parts. All the pieces are competent successes: the dialogue sharp, the action thrilling, the emotional scenes moving. But due to the nature of the plot, it seems somewhat inconsequential for now. I have a feeling it will pay off much more in future installments, but that kind of patience is not something to expect from an audience that just paid a full price ticket. So while I understand some of the backlash against “Quantum of Solace”, I must defend it to that end, for it is an entertaining and solid bridge between chapters for this new, darker, emotionally charged Bond.

9. The Spy Who Loved Me

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Year: 1977

Bond Film #: 11

Rotten Tomato Score: 78%

Widely considered Roger Moore’s best Bond picture, “The Spy Who Loved Me” featured a great balance of campiness and seriousness, good action and a lack of annoying side characters. The villain is lacking too much intensity to consider this one of the best Bond pictures, and the plot motivations are a little too unclear, however everything else consistently clicks, including the memorable henchman “Jaws” and some exciting sequences. The direction made a big difference in this one, nailing the tone and providing some beautiful shots that the series had no been known for. And the opening ski chase remains one of the most iconic of the franchise.

8. Dr. No

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Year: 1962

Bond Film #: 1

Rotten Tomato Score: 98%

The first Bond picture did a great job of introducing us to the character and establishing a great tone, with a fun plot and featuring the charismatic Connery Bond that is still most popular today. One interesting thing to note is it’s basically gadget free and much more of a standard spy thriller than the series would become. Although it can’t avoid being a bit dated after 50 years (especially in regards to the limited action, and that spider scene), it’s all in all a great start to the series with an effective performances. Also note that the villain doesn’t appear until well into the movie, different from most of the Bond series.

 

7. The Living Daylights

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Year: 1987

Bond Film #: 15

Rotten Tomato Score: 75%

After Roger Moore was replaced with Timothy Dalton, the response after the cartoony camp tone of the series went overboard to ground things a little more in reality. The only problem here was the film was written without knowing who would play Bond. As a result, there are moments of Moore-era quips and silly gags, but there’s also a distinctly more serious side, with a plot that eschews the excesses of the past and Dalton playing a far more ruthless and less womanizing Bond. One disappointing change is the new version of Moneypenny, whom is essentially degraded to desperate schoolgirl with a crush. Regardless, it’s one of the stronger Bond pictures and usually overlooked. Dalton is finding his footing, but this is an effective spy thriller.

6. Thunderball

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Year: 1965

Bond Film #: 4

Rotten Tomato Score: 85%

Although the Bond formula had been effectively put in stone with the previous entry, “Thunderball” still had things clicking. Connery is at his most fun to watch and the adventure features some new variety with the underwater sequences. Some aren’t a fan of it, but I found the underwater action well choreographed and believable enough. “Thunderball” is another great example of why people love the original Bond, although signs of the series getting too gadget friendly were seen here, particularly the  jet-pack.

 

5. From Russia With Love

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Year: 1963

Bond Film #: 2

Rotten Tomato Score: 96%

FSWL is a lot like “Dr. No”, in that the early years didn’t feature the gadgets and huge stunts the series would later become known for. This is still Bond in his lower-key, spying best, featuring suspense, a solid story and Connery with another iconic performance. This film does  introduce his famous briefcase, which provides some of the best moments. The successful prop led to more gadgets being introduced in later entries. The multiple villains are very effective and make up for the lack of big action, including a scene that blatantly rips off “North by Northwest” (but oh well). This is still a great Bond film and a very strong picture for its era, with some excellent performances that stand the test of time.

4. Licence To Kill

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Year: 1989

Bond Film #: 16

Rotten Tomato Score: 74%

My easy choice for most underrated Bond movie, Licence to Kill finds Timothy Dalton continuing to channel a darker, more serious Bond. The plot is typically 80’s, but the action and characters resonate like few Bond’s have even attempted. While this is far from the lightweight popcorn fare the series is known for, it wins many points for delivering a more adult Bond way ahead of its time. The pacing is excellent, the action scenes are smart and avoid cheesy cliches, and the villain is effective (if unspectacular). I appreciated the storyline of a rogue Bond on the run, as it had not been done to this point. The foreshadowing works well here and does not beat the audience over the head like in other Bond films. The biggest knock on “Licence to Kill” is that it really doesn’t feel like a Bond movie, which is why it is typically so under-appreciated. Timothy Dalton doesn’t give the best performance, but it is more than adequate and he feels more comfortable than he did in “The Living Daylights”. It’s fortunate that we can look back and reevaluate the Dalton-era, as it was less popular at the time and does not get the credit for steering the franchise back into the real world as it should.

3. Goldeneye

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Year: 1995

Bond Film #: 17

Rotten Tomato Score: 82%

The longest break between films led to one of the strongest entries, as Pierce Brosnan successfully combined the best parts of the Connery, Moore, and Dalton iterations into a fun, entertaining adventure. Though the Dalton-era was not well received, Brosnan got things off to a roaring start. By keeping the more grounded approach that the last few films had used, yet updating it for the 90’s, the film resonated with audiences and ensured Bond films were as popular as ever.  The plot is engaging and not too simplistic, and it also features a couple of the best gadgets of the series (that grenade pen!), along with one of the very best villains (the always dependable Sean Bean).

Goldeneye features one of the best opening of any Bond film, featuring two exciting stunts, witty banter, and thrilling action. The rest of the big sequences are memorable, including the tank chase, while the side characters provide personality and some effective humor. It doesn’t hurt that the video game adaptation happened to be awesome, too. Giving the villain a more believable backstory and personal connection to Bond is put to good use, and the line is successfully bridged between Bond being a brutal, cold-blooded killer while still giving him time to show off his suave class. A successful update of Bond for the 90’s that got the series back on course, if only briefly.

2. Goldfinger

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Year: 1964

Bond Film #: 3

Rotten Tomato Score: 96%

“Goldfinger” is credited as the Bond movie that established the formula that would be followed most often from then on, for better or for worse. Either way, the well-known Bond tropes were never executed better than here. The gadgets, villain, and action all fit in smoothly and were the perfect vehicle for Connery’s enthusiasm and charisma. This one features one of the most memorable henchmen in Oddjob, and a great climactic sequence inside Fort Knox. Despite a few unfortunately campy moments (what Bond film is that not true for?) it’s very rewatchable and has stood the test of time well. I really struggled with whether or not to deduct points for the shot at the Beatles, but we’ll give ol’ James a pass. And though I kind of hate how the villain is dispatched, the pluses far outweigh the minuses in this classic film that set the standard for the series.

Which brings us to…

1. Casino Royale

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Year: 2006

Bond Film #: 21

Rotten Tomato Score: 95%

It’s fitting that it took what is probably the objectively worst Bond film (“Die Another Day”, although it’s not my least favorite, by a hair) to prompt the producers to deliver the strongest. When the series was retooled and rebooted for the 21st entry in 2006, some smart choices were made. First, a new Bond was chosen, and he was nothing like any of the previous actors in both look and style. This allowed newcomer Daniel Craig to put his own take on the character without having to emulate anyone. Secondly, “Casino Royale” has a much more adult feel, with gritty, realistic action unlike ever before seen in the series. Lastly, the series would be literally rebooted from the start, as this is the only film in which we begin before Bond has received 007 status. By starting things completely over, the character development could treat Bond as a real human being. When he is hurt, you feel it. When he loves, you believe it.

The into is done brilliantly, with style and substance as Bond gets his first kills. It transitions in a familiar way into one of the very best Bond songs and intros, featuring Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”, used often in the musical score throughout in place of the traditional music (this was done for a reason, and the payoff is beautiful). The first action scene is breathtaking and really let’s the audience know that this is not the same Bond they were used to. There is no cheesy CGI, no unconvincing fight scenes, but rather one of the most intense and exciting chases I’ve ever seen. The art of parkour is used to great effect and Daniel Craig is able to show off this new brutal side to his character. As the film goes on, the well-done plot unfolds with great pacing and some truly intense and emotional moments. Never before has Bond been so a accessible and yet so bad-ass. The dialogue is sharp, witty, and thankfully quite funny at times to offset the intensity of the plot and action. This is not a Bond who forces trite puns after a spectacular kill, all it takes is a sly smile.

The film expertly weaves in some familiar characters and tropes into the proceedings, and always in a natural and clever way. Bond makes up his favorite drink and gives it a name that makes perfect sense within the context, he wins his prized Aston-Martin car after starting out with a Ford. CIA agent Felix Leiter appears with a new actor, and he steals the moments he is given. The supporting cast is phenomenal  including the only returning member Judi Dench, who is allowed to portray a harder-edged M. The way “Casino Royale” manages to include so many elements of the Bond formula while also subverting it is simply a treat. Between the exhilirating action sequences, the intense middle act of the poker game, and the magnificent final sequence, I have really nothing bad to say about this film. The ending promised the familiar tag line of “James Bond will return”, and for the first time in many years, no one wanted to wait.

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Stay tuned next time as my Bond tribute continues. We will go over my awards for Best Song/Credits, Girl, Henchman, Villain, and finally, my choice for the Best Bond!

5 responses

  1. Great list.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm

  2. Pingback: Ben’s Top Ten Movies of 2012 « Life In Rewind

  3. Pingback: Best of Bond continued | Life In Rewind

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  5. Interesting list. Some I agree with. Some I disagree with. Starting at the bottom has to be moonraker, octopussy and a view to a kill. You nailed it. Action had disappeared from main character and heavy makeup was being applied. Moore stayed on for 3 films too many. And in 1983 connery came back in never say never again which was equal to for your eyes only and better than the 3 before mentioned moore films. You rated the Dalton movies very high. License to kill is the better of the 2. One thing to consider is that Dalton as bond almost killed the series. The biggest gap in bond movies from 1989 to 1995 when brosnan(goldeneye) revived the franchise with an awesome bond movie. I know brosnan is down after viewing the craig bond movies. Don’t be. Timing is everything- brosnan was the right bond at the right time- the world is not enough is the weakest of the brosnan movies due to Richards presence in the film. Otherwise would be good. The producers always wanted an action Bond- especially after bourne came on the scene. Quantum of Solace is the ultimate bond/bourne movie, and the critics/fans complain do to no bondisms in the film. But it was action start to finish and done awesomely. Sorry bondisms were left out- it was still an awesome film. Early bond with connery- put the franchise on the map- and for the most part all were awesome. Which brings me to craig. Off the charts, knows what bond is about and what the fans want. Yes Casino Royale is probably the best bond film- though goldfinger has to be right there. Skyfall is done awesome as well- mendes/craig know there stuff. Cannot wait for November 2015 and Spectre. Expectations are high.

    February 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

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