So here we are… The conclusion of 00 Saturdays. The original intention was to review both the movies and music of all 25 Bond films, and then finish out with the rankings of the theme songs and movies. However, of course, that didn’t quite work out. No Time to Die will not be out until 2021, but that’s okay! I still completed the 52-week series and replaced reviews for No Time to Die with additional countdown pieces, but now it’s time to really get down to the nitty gritty and rank the films of the series. So from 24th best to 1st best, here comes how I rank the films in one of the most influential series ever.
I’ve said this before, but this is just one dude’s opinion. I’m just one fan. I’m sure there will be some movies you won’t like as much as I do just as there are movies that you like most that I don’t like as much. This isn’t meant to be a contentious list. To each their own, but maybe some of my blurbs about each movie will make you realize that some of my favorites are pretty great too. So let’s do it!
DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
Okay, so I don’t like this movie that much – as a Bond film. Being one of the 24 Bond films, it still ranks very highly overall, but as a Bond film, Die Another Day is just a mess. It’s got a bizarrely over the top retro plot that comes off as campy in the style of some of the not so great Roger Moore films. There are good pieces of the movie with Bond being captured and tortured by the North Koreans, face swapping scheme that leaves the main henchman looking like a monster, Halle Berry, and a really cool stealth Aston Martin. However, it was poorly stitched together by a director, Lee Tamahori, who made some huge miscalculations and just didn’t get that fans of the series didn’t want this much camp.
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
Okay, so I know a lot of people who really like this movie, but only through the scope of nostalgia. This is a movie that relies too much on concepts that made the Roger Moore films of the 70s fun, but looked badly out of date in the mid 80s. On top of that, Moore was getting very long in the tooth causing the action scenes to feel very slow and his relationship with Bond Girl Tanya Roberts look very uncomfortable with both the actors and the audience. While both the main villains played by Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are compelling, the story just wasn’t. Let’s not even talk about the fact that the plan Walken’s Zorin cooks up to flood Silicon Valley wouldn’t do what he thinks it would in the real world. I can let that go in a series that finds Bond going to space at one point.
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
Just one year after Roger Moore arrived on the scene as Bond in Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun hit theaters. Roger Moore was settling into his role (and we start seeing things that will make Moore an entire generation’s Bond in the five films that follow right here), Christopher Lee was the villain Scaramanga, and the film uses its locations almost perfectly… But there’s the comedy bits. Moore’s Bond films will be much lighter in tone than everyone else’s in the series. It works well when Moore can wink at us and use his natural playful demeanor for his benefit, but it was turned up a little too highly in this film that ends up being way too out of place. Ditzy Bond Girl, slide whistle on the greatest car stunt in film history, and the return of a really dumb racist cop from the previous film all reveal that the movie was just not sharp and, unlike the title character, misses the target.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
How could this have gone wrong? Sean Connery comes back to the series and character he had set the standard for. It’s hot on the heels of one of the best films in the series that had the most shocking ending of any of the films in the series. Diamond Are Forever fails though by just being a slog. It’s too complicated with the diamond smuggling story mixed with Blofeld mixed with the bad girl going straight mixed with hidden identities mixed with a character who is only there for a very specific joke line for Connery to deliver for her to end up killed off screen later. It’s just overcompensating when it didn’t need to and that’s unfortunate because it sends Connery out on a low point.
TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
This one falls into the same trap that The Man With the Golden Gun did. Pierce Brosnan hit it big with 1995’s GoldenEye. Bond was back. Brosnan was exactly what we expected him to be. GoldenEye was an incredible film. I will give Tomorrow Never Dies credit for being awesomely prescient with how television news media was beginning to shape our lives and ideas a little too much. Jonathan Pryce was a good choice to play a villain but he’s a bit too cheeky in the part and he comes off fairly annoying. Plus, Roger Spottiswoode just feels lost in this movie and misses the mark too often on shots, editing, and cuts. It uses bad slow motion too often which totally takes me out of the moment when it rears its ugly head in action scenes. It gets the credit for being 20 years ahead of its time to predict the news media stuff, but it’s just not a great entry.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
This film is a first for the Bond series – it’s a sequel. The Bond films previously rarely kept any deep continuity. Sometimes things would crop up that would be a call back to a past film, but it was never a huge impact on the plot. The entire plot of Quantum of Solace is rolling directly off Casino Royale. It feels more like Casino Royale was over four hours long and what they cut out was at the end which they then repackaged as a special edition sequel from the deleted scenes. It’s the start of something that a lot of Bond fans started complaining about after Spectre – Bond was now going down the road of an interconnected universe of films like the extremely popular Marvel films. We’re four films deep in trying to make Bond a better agent. We tend to like Bond to just be Bond. We don’t need to see him learning lessons all this time later. Also, notice that I’ve not really said too much about Quantum of Solace directly? Yeah, because there isn’t a lot to say about it. It flies by and just happens.
Ooh boy… This one is polarizing. So Quantum of Solace began this whole idea that all of Daniel Craig’s entries would be interconnected into this much larger story, and this is sort of the payoff. It’s unsatisfying. I love the idea of bringing back a good old fashioned henchman in the form of Dave Bautista. I like the idea of seeing SPECTRE again. I love that Christoph Waltz is playing Blofeld. I hate that Blofeld is revealed to be an adopted brother for Bond. That’s not necessary. We don’t need a familial connection to juice the drama and tension. There are decent action sets and solid acting from Craig, Waltz, and Bond Girl Lea Seydoux, but it just fails on the big reveal of Bond and Blofeld’s connection.
Octopussy is maybe one of the most famous of the films in my time. Part of it is the snickers you made when you said the title. Part of it is that it was constantly on TV in the mid to late 80s. It starts with a pretty grand little pre-title sequence that finds Bond flying a teeny tiny jet after escaping some Cuban bad guys. Louis Jourdan appears to be having the time of his life as baddie Kamal Khan and there’s Steven Berkoff hamming it all the way up as General Orlov. The Bond Girl, played by Maud Adams, feels appropriate opposite the aging Roger Moore. That helps, but it also reveals the problem… Moore is getting a little too old to be Bond. It’s only exacerbated by having him disarm a nuclear warhead at a circus dressed as a clown. It’s one of those 50/50 movies that has good, fun stuff, but gets cut off at the knees by the bad stuff.
Oh, I bet I can already hear you typing your indignant comments about how much of a jerk I am or how much of a not fan of the series I am for ranking Goldfinger so low. Look… I get it. Goldfinger is one of the tentpole films in the franchise that helped set all the tone for future films, set into motion so many traditions that I, and all fans of the series, hold dear. But… It’s not especially well made. It’s not especially compelling. It’s light on tense scenes (outside that one with the laser and Bond’s balls, but that’s a standout scene). Plus, there are moments in this movie that Sean Connery’s Bond is dreadfully unlikable compared to the previous two films in the series. It did feature a different director who likely leaned a little more on those unfortunate character traits that I find troubling in my enjoyment. It’s a significant film, yes, but it is also quite dated and there are other films in the series I would much rather watch and have much more enjoyment in doing so.
DR. NO (1962)
This is where it all began in the series. Dr. No was unlike any action spy drama seen before. Bond was explosive, Dr. No was mysterious (and only appeared in the final act of the movie despite casting a shadow over the entire film), and the babes were beautiful. It’s a film that didn’t have a lot of the things we come to expect in the later films, but it stands alone as a pretty solid action flick from the early 60s. Much like the next entry, and in comparison to the previous entry in this countdown, Sean Connery and director Terence Young built the Bond character from the ground up that made him a true gentleman hero for the Cold War.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
This one is my dad’s favorite and I can see why. Bond came back one year after smashing the box office in his first film. From Russia With Love is unique in the series as almost the entire film is a thriller. A chunk of it deals with meeting a beautiful (VERY beautiful) Russian defector who will give secrets and whatnot to the West and Bond has to hang out in Istanbul to receive her and avoid Soviet baddies. A chunk of the movie takes place on the Orient Express in which Bond and the defecting Tatiana Romanova are in direct presence of their pursuing assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw). A chunk of the movie features Bond having to duck and dodge assassins from the air and on water before a really solid final showdown with a villainess with a dagger built into her shoe. It’s one of the more pure exciting entries from the 60s.
What? Moonraker finishes a few spots ahead of Goldfinger? Yeah. Yeah it does. Why do I defend this film so much? Well, first and foremost, Bond went to space before any other franchise dared attempt it. Why not? What else are you going to do with the character that has already done just about everything? It’s a fun movie in the series and not one that deserves the derision it receives from so many people. It’s a product of its time and incredibly well-made. It’s got fantastic models and sets. Roger Moore is fully in control of his character and perfectly plays the lighthearted cards about as well as he ever did at this period in his run. Plus, it’s my favorite score and villain from the series. It’s one that I actually probably enjoy watching more than some of the others that even land in the top 10, but it usually finds itself right in the middle of the list.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
This is a slightly controversial pick at this stage in the countdown too. Frankly, I probably actually don’t like it as much as Moonraker, but there is something I very much appreciate about this film. It has an emotional weight that I really like. It’s an earthy revenge story that hits some personal notes. Roger Moore has not yet gotten too old for the part, but he is a little out of his depth as he is dealing with Greek smugglers and their interpersonal issues. It almost feels like it could easily fit in with the future eras of Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan if it wasn’t made in the time it was. It’s also another, like Octopussy, that played on TV a bunch during my youth. It’s a perfect way to bring Bond back to Earth after Moonraker.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
Here’s another one that gets a lot of crap that I don’t agree with. I think most of the crap is squarely placed on Denise Richards, but she’s hardly an issue honestly. This is a pretty good culmination of the trio of films that were released in the 90s. It’s dealing with the issue of nuclear weapons cleanup from former Soviet states, it’s dealing with the competition of and dependency on oil, it’s got a pretty solid twist on who the main villain really is, and it’s a little sexy with Sophie Marceau just oozing seductive charm all over the place whenever she enters a scene. It’s a far more solid entry than people give it credit for. I also call this the “last of the classic James Bond films” as the next film, Die Another Day, had a different feel and look as it charged into the 21st century. The Daniel Craig films, then, became their own thing. The World Is Not Enough is a final reminder of the better Roger Moore films.
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
New Bond. New Era. Times were different in the 80s and that necessitated a new look and feel. Timothy Dalton added a new gravitas to the role that hadn’t been seen before. Even though he wasn’t a huge hit with audiences in the 80s, I’m glad to see his two films have since been re-evaluated to see how they compare to the Daniel Craig films. What’s great about The Living Daylights is that Dalton straps this movie to his back and carries it from start to finish. This isn’t a movie with a particularly great villain. It’s got a somewhat complicated plot. The Bond Girl, Maryiam d’Abo, for as beautiful as she is, is maybe the most obtainable by normal people as we’ve ever seen in the series. Outside the pre-title sequence, it’s not exactly shot in any kind of unique way. It’s purely Dalton that carries this movie and makes it one of the better films in the entire series. He captures the spirit of the character from Ian Fleming’s novels. You can tell he doesn’t like his job, but is good at it anyway, and is damaged by it enough to not know what to do if he wasn’t England’s top spy and assassin. This was such a breath of fresh air after the aging Moore limped through the last two entries in the series.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
You Only Live Twice is maybe the film I have the most nostalgic love for its design and the beauty of its locations. Not to mention, the music is wonderful too. In what should have been Sean Connery’s final film as Bond (if George Lazenby didn’t become difficult for the producers), Bond goes to Japan to face off with his greatest villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It’s got a saucy redhead villainess. We have lots of pretty Japanese girls. It’s got a goddamn volcano hideout that ninjas infiltrate in the final action sequence. Is there anything more you could want for a Bond film? This benefits from that time from Thunderball in 1965 to Moonraker in 1979 in which most of the films ended up having action sequences on sets that were only limited by the production designer’s imagination and it benefits from it heavily.
LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
Once upon a time, this was my favorite film in the series. It’s almost too cool for the rest of the series in how it used George Martin and Paul McCartney music and that whole blaxploitation element to it. However, in time, it slipped to #8 because I can see some of the reasons why this isn’t as good as the films that we’ve yet to see in the list. But it still has a lot of good in it. Roger Moore almost naturally slips right into the role of 007. Jane Seymour is great in her first big screen performance as the kept woman and soothsayer of our main villain played by Yaphet Kotto. It’s still kinda cool and lots of fun which helps make up for the slightly lacking production design and not so stellar cinematography.
This is one that I think some people have soured on over time, but I have always thought to be the best of the Connery era. Thunderball was a huge Bond film, becoming one of the highest grossing films of its decade. It also cost a lot, but all of the money was on screen and it served as a huge forward leap in underwater film-making. It was so much an important advancement that it won an Academy Award for its effects and underwater scenes. It also was one of the longest films in the series to make up for those underwater sequences. I think that led to many finding it a little more boring than exciting, but I connect with the technical stuff and it doesn’t hurt that my favorite Bond Girl, Domino (Claudine Auger), is in it and had a significant emotional play in the story as a whole that Bond gets to use to his advantage to bring down baddie Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi).
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
As with the two Timothy Dalton films, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the black sheep entries in the series. It is the only film starring George Lazenby who was not an actor, but certainly looked the part. However, much like with the Dalton films, this one has been re-evaluated over the years and gone from dreadfully underrated to appropriately appreciated. Bond is softer, more modern, and falls in love with the lovely Countess Teresa, Diana Rigg. It’s a film that sees Bond properly struggle against his foe Blofeld and sees a Bond Girl truly equal to him in almost every way. If you have not seen this because of the unfortunate situation of it being Lazenby’s only entry, and therefore almost comes across as “that bad one”, then you do not know what you’re missing.
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
By far, this is Roger Moore’s crowning achievement. It’s his most serious entry of his seven films. It features a fantastic villain in Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) who wants to kill every person on Earth while he waits out the impending apocalypse in an underwater lair. He has one of the most recognizable henchmen ever in Jaws (Richard Kiel). Bond is teamed up with a Russian KGB agent, XXX (Barbara Bach), who is his equal, and the lover of someone he killed early in the film. All in all, it’s a great overall film that is shot exceptionally well, full of great locations, and has some really solid Academy Award nominated set design. Oh, and it has the finest of all the theme songs ever. So… It’s got that going for it too! Overall, I think most everyone believes this to be the finest of all the Moore entries and one of the greatest of all the films in the series.
Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s first film in the series takes us all the way back to the origins of Bond as a character in a brand new continuity (as if that really ever mattered). Using Ian Fleming’s first novel as its basis, the film actually follows it fairly well while still adding some new elements to the story. Daniel Craig is a sledgehammer in this film and a brand new 00 agent. In fact, we get no Bond theme until the very end when he finally says, “Bond, James Bond”. Even the gun barrel is handled in a completely different way too. Sometimes you just have to start all over after doing just about everything you can imagine for the previous 20 films. Craig gets a big boost from Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Le Chiffre too which helps make the film that much more compelling. When you handle it with this much weight and fill it with a truly dramatic story centered around one character and one game, it just seals the deal for it to be one of the greatest in the entire series.
LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
What’s that you say? You heard this one was one of the “bad” ones? No, it really isn’t. I will grant you that this ranking so high on the list is a bit of a nostalgia play as it was the first I ever saw in the theater (not the first overall, just the first I was old enough to see in a theater and be able to sit through). It’s almost unapologetic in how terse the film plays out. Timothy Dalton’s second entry in his all-too-brief era is a straight up revenge flick as he takes out his anger on a Central/South American drug dealer, Sanchez (Robert Davi), after his henchman (Benecio Del Toro) killed long time friend Felix Leiter’s new wife and Sanchez mutilated Leiter. It’s Bond against an army of Sanchez’s henchmen without any of Bond’s usual support system or typical endless resources. Bond is bruised, battered, and beaten before he literally lights the bad guy on fire to finally get his payback for his friend’s mutilation. It’s not like any of the other Bond films before it, and not a style seen until later in the Daniel Craig era which helped this underrated gem get its due re-evaluation.
Man, I was so ready for GoldenEye after six long years of no Bond. After Licence to Kill didn’t do so hot at the box office and financial troubles with MGM and United Artists forced the series to go into hiatus, director Martin Campbell gave us exactly what we needed, a good old fashioned Bond adventure. Timothy Dalton might have been gone, but Pierce Brosnan finally got his long-overdue chance to be 007. GoldenEye had to also contend with a shifting political landscape since the conclusion of the Cold War. Bond was more of a relic than a contemporary hero of the present era. What we get is Bond going up against an old friend and former ally and having to stop a devious plan to send the world into economic chaos. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of Russian bad guys and explosions to fill the movie. It’s not the best or most original plot in the series, but dammit if it isn’t just what we needed in the mid 90s. It’s exciting, it’s got a lot of what we expect to see, and it gives us what we want. It brought Bond into a new time and he’s hardly slowed down since.
No one was more surprised than I was that 2012’s Skyfall would dethrone GoldenEye as my favorite film in the series, but here we are. I figured Skyfall would be a solid entry, but as I watched the film, I realized something very special had been made. This, more than any time ever before, explored Bond’s past, his present, and his relationships – in particular, with his boss M (Judi Dench). So much so, I would argue M IS the Bond Girl of this film. Through the film, he is faced with understanding the incredible weight she has to bear for her agents, that he is incredibly mortal, and that he must also understand that his teachers won’t always be there for him to lean on. Judi Dench had gotten increasingly larger and larger parts since her first film, GoldenEye, and here she plays second to Craig’s Bond in a true supporting, co-starring role. Our villain, Javier Bardem’s Silva, is a ghost of M’s past come to wreak havoc and is downright terrifying as a man with as much resources and will to kill M as Bond has to protect her. It’s a film full of emotion and heart, and wonderfully photographed by the great Roger Deakins who elevates this film to a stand alone fantastic action film separate from the series itself.
With that, I conclude 00 Saturdays. When No Time to Die finally releases, I’ll be there to review it. Until then, go watch some Bond movies and tell me what your favorites are! This has been a pretty strange year, but I hope these little essays leading up to the four countdowns helped you through the struggle that was 2020. Be sure to check out new episodes of Film Seizure each Wednesday and new Monster Mondays each Monday!