Best of Bond continued
Sorry for the delay! (To the 5 of you that read my original Bond post last month)
In the first part of my James Bond retrospective, I gave my thoughts on each movie in the series and ranked them in my order of worst to best. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t! In this entry, we will cover the best of the best in the most famous Bond tropes. These are the categories that every recognizes due to them appearing in all but one or two Bond films. Everyone has their favorites, of course, and these are merely mine:
Best Bond Song/Credits:
“You Know My Name” – Chris Cornell, Casino Royale
It was a tough decision, but the instant classic that is “You Know My Name”, coupled with the perfectly done credits sequence, won me over. In addition to being my favorite Bond film, it’s on another level in the opening credits. The new gun barrel shot is transitioned into brilliantly, and the song rocks. It gets you pumped for the film to follow, and this just seems to be the most appropriate opener to accompany the new Bond himself. The way the film uses the melody as the main motif in its score just solidifies its importance.
“Live and Let Die” – Paul McCartney & Wings, Live and Let Die
A close runner up, “Live and Let Die” is a classic that is still a ton of fun to listen to. Although I pretty much hated the film it appeared in, the song and credits were a highlight of the franchise.
Best Bond Girl:
Natalya Simonova (GoldenEye)
There’s been many Bond girls. Many beautiful ones. Some useful to the plot, some absolutely pointless. Some that can match Bond in combat, some that serve as the damsel that needs rescuing. In addition to appearing in one of my favorite Bond films, Natalya is probably my favorite love interest. She’s one of the very few to call Bond out for his misogynistic shenanigans but still has fun and believable chemistry with Brosnan. She relies on a little bit of luck (bet she’s glad she got that caffeine craving), a smart sense of wit, and is happy to help out Bond in action when she needs to. She provides her damsel moment too, but without being helpless or annoying, and gets it out of the way early enough to not affect the big climax. As one of the few girls with a personality of her own, she would be a welcome addition to any Bond film. Her only flaw? Come on Natalya, the passcode was clearly “chair”.
Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)
In addition to the clever way the writers had her inspire Bond’s favorite drink, Vesper is probably the only Bond girl to ever get us to see the untapped emotional side of James. She’s a strong woman, quick with the wit, willing to do what needs to be done to complete the job. She succeeds in making Bond do what has only happened to one other woman: truly fall in love. It’s no coincidence that my two favorite Bond girls appear in my two favorite Bond films, but Vesper is fantastic the moment she comes onscreen until the moment she exits. Deliciously complicated, beautiful, smart, and essential to the plot, this is what all Bond girls should aspire to.
Best Bond Villain:
Alec Trevelyan (GoldenEye)
Sean Bean has a history of playing awesome villains, so it’s no surprise his turn as Agent 006 in 1995’s “Goldeneye” was a hit. He added so much to the film in subtle ways. The opening scene effectively convinces us that Bond and Alec are old friends, and the eerie middle scene where the big reveal takes place is simply awesome. Trevelyan has a number of fantastic lines and some great quips at the expense of Bond. He also manages to be one of the smarter Bond villain. He has a smart enough plan that you feel Brosnan is outsmarting him more than just taking advantage of Alec’s stupidity. Sean Bean brings a great prescence to the role, with a unique backstory that makes him a more empathetic villain. He’s a great counter to Bond in most ways, and is a big reason “Goldeneye” is so popular.
Best line: “I might as well ask you if all those vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed… or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women…for all the dead ones you failed to protect.”
Francisco Scaramanga (The Man With The Golden Gun)
Odd plot point of the 3rd nipple aside, Christopher Lee is another actor that seems like a perfect fit for a Bond villain, and he delivered. Even though the film he is in is spectacularly mediocre, Lee is by far the best aspect. He brings his distinguished class to the character, showing his intelligence and cunning in only a few short minutes early on. One of the best scenes of the film is when Scaramanga and Bond share a drink before their climactic duel. The class of Lee actually helps rub off on Moore, and it serves to give legitimacy to the Bond character in that regard. And the duel itself is thrilling considering the slow pace. Lee is such a good villain that I found myself rooting for him instead of Bond, one of the few times that has happened. His fun house is one of the most unique sets in the entire franchise, a dash of bizarre that served the film well and helped it overcome the parts where Lee is nowhere to be found.
Best line: “You see, Mr Bond, like all great artists I want to create one indisputable masterpiece: the death of 007.”
Best Bond henchman:
Oddjob was our first look at the great James Bond Henchmen formula. He provided the muscle for the main villain, but he also had a great gimmick that gave him a personality without so much as saying a word. He is a formidable foe for Bond without being too over the top or unbelievable. His famous razor sharp hat combined with impeccable marksmanship was a great way to make an impression on the audience. He also only is beaten by Bond through Bond’s intellect, showing that he is no throwaway character. Oddjob is one of the top iconic characters from the franchise, and set the standard which was never truly outdone.
Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker)
Gimmicky? Over the top? Unbelievable? Forget everything I just said about Oddjob, because all the things that made him a great henchman were thrown about with Jaws. And yet, somehow, it just works. Nailing a perfect balance between loony fun and dangerous foe, Jaws was a big part of why “The Spy Who Loved Me” was Roger Moore’s most acclaimed turn as Bond, and more than made up for the main villain (you know, ol’ whats-his-name) not being as memorable. Featuring superhuman strength in the form of his giant metal teeth, Jaws could overpower Bond physically and also overcome some tricky situation due to his unique gimmick. Although he was brought back with diminishing returns in “Moonraker”, Jaws still stands as one of the very best Bond henchmen.
Best James Bond:
So here we go. So much to consider when asking the question “Who was the best actor to play Bond?” For my choice, I did not take into account the quality of films to a huge extent. After all, it’s not the actor’s fault if they were handed a bad script or if the supporting cast under-performed So number one, likability is a huge part of it. On the flip side, how the actor portrayed Bond, how he made the character his own, and how he fit into the intent of the character were important aspects as well. In the end, I just had to go with who I enjoyed watching as Bond the most, separate from how the movies overall ended up being. I know there will be plenty of disagreements here, so without anymore stalling:
6. George Lazenby (1969)
Although I still like Lazenby, and he probably got an unfair shake at things, it’s clear to me that he was least effective in the role. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was a serviceable Bond flick that tried some new things, but Lazenby was often forgettable in the role. The good news is that there was never a terrible actor to play Bond. Someone has to be last, though, and that’s where George lands.
Best Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Best Quip: “He had a lot of guts.”
5. Timothy Dalton (1987-1989)
Dalton was another example of an actor that probably didn’t get a fair shake with playing Bond. The two films he appeared in were both transitional and unique and didn’t fit the Bond formula like most of the others, and were therefore not as well received. Dalton played the spy/action side of Bond brilliantly, creating an intense and effective on-screen presence He didn’t do as well in the love department, however, which holds him back.
Best film: License To Kill
Best Quip: “I hope you don’t snore, Q.”
4. Roger Moore (1973-1985)
Best film: The Spy Who Loved Me
Best Quip: “I hope you don’t snore, Q.”
3. Daniel Craig (2006-Present)
Best film: Casino Royale
Best Quip: “Now the whole world’s gonna know that you died scratching my balls!”
2. Sean Connery (1962-1971)
The original actor to play James Bond definitely set the standard for the character. Although he played things a bit different than the source material, he was an iconic presence for the film world. Although a product of his time, he was likable, tough, and provided many of the series best and most memorable moments, making him a hugely recognizable worldwide star.
Best film: Goldfinger
Honey Ryder: Looking for shells?
Bond: No. I’m just looking.
Pierce Brosnan (1995-2002)
Was Pierce in the best Bond movies? Outside of Goldeneye, absolutely not. Because of this, it’s relatively rare to see someone put him as #1. But despite the lack of overall quality for Bond in the Brosnan era, I’ve always felt Pierce best combines the best parts of the Bond character. He is capable of convincing action and ass-kickery, yet completely nails the womanizing, suave side of Bond. He also exudes the distinguished, classy demeanor and taste that really sell the character. When it’s time for one-liners or comic relief, Brosnan made it work, even when saddled with some of the dumbest dialogue of the series. This is someone you could see saving the world from the baddies while still having any woman he wanted. Brosnan showed a great knack for the character through his time, even when the scripts let him down. “Die Another Day”, for instance, was terrible overall, yet the intro in which Brosnan is kept in a room and tortured for a year is surprisingly effective. Bond’s interplay with the villain in “Goldeneye” is another strong example of riding that line between a serious Bond but still find time for fun.
Best film: Goldeneye
Best Quip: “That depends on your definition of safe sex.”
So there you have it. 50 years of Bond completed! See ya next time.