Every James Bond Movie Ranked Worst To Best
To mark No Time To Die‘s release, we’ve ranked every single James Bond movie – for your eyes only, of course.
In 2002, Bond fans didn’t realise they were saying goodbye to Pierce Brosnan with Die Another Day. This week is a different story, with fans readily anticipating the chronically delayed, momentous No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007. After 15 years in the tux, it’s time to say goodbye.
It’s been a definitive era for the franchise; not just for its box office-busting movies, but the actor truly evolved Bond for a new generation. He’ll be remembered as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – in the character’s history.
To celebrate the release of the 25th film in the series, we’ve ranked every movie from worst to best. However, we’ve only included the ‘official’ ones, so don’t expect to find David Niven’s Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery’s Thunderball remake with Taliafilm. Pour yourself a martini – shaken, not stirred, mind – and settle in.
24. Quantum of Solace
Plagued by the writer’s strike, the weight of its predecessor’s success and ugly, shaky direction, Quantum of Solace is a frenzied mess of a movie that feels utterly at odds with itself. Also, Another Way To Die is a cracking song, but a terrible Bond theme.
Roger Moore is pivotal to Bond’s history, shepherding a staunch sense of humour and campy thrills. Alas, Octopussy may be high if we’re just ranking names, but it’s too generic, silly and has the actor running around like a clown – literally.
22. Diamonds Are Forever
With Sean Connery dragging his way through an unexpected, extortionate return to the role after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds are Forever represents Bond at its most meagre; an unnecessary, sleepy reset with the all the motions and little of the fun.
21. The World Is Not Enough
As a Brosnan loyalist and apologist, it brings me no pleasure to declare The World Is Not Enough as his worst movie; a handful of dazzling moments (the Thames chase) are lost to the ether of its post-watch amnesia – seriously, can you thoroughly remember what happens, except the gluttony of double entendres? ‘I thought Christmas only comes once a year.’
20. Die Another Day
Perhaps Brosnan’s most notorious outing; though not without its own charms, like the actor’s smarmy charisma, the gall to open in North Korea and the invisible car (yes, I like it!), it very much feels like a Bond out of time. Note, even for the time, the CGI was awful – lest we forget the infamous tsunami surfing.
19. A View To A Kill
Moore’s final adventure as Bond lacks the usual zing of his run. At 58 years old, his age showed in overuse of stunt doubles, and there’s just a general lifelessness, aside from a compelling climax, an unhinged Christopher Walken and Grace Jones, and Duran Duran’s whopper of a theme.
18. For Your Eyes Only
For the Moore naysayers, For Your Eyes Only should have marked the turning of the tide. With a return to some variant of realism, ditching the outrageous theatrics for a more self-serious mission, it’s a fascinating, sometimes thrilling segment of his tenure. It just wasn’t quite enough.
The one where James Bond goes to space, basically, and Jaws biting down on the cable car wire. There’s fun to be had in a very familiar, unspectacular kind of way, though the gargantuan-feeling runtime really hinders one’s awe at the massive, impressive sets of its time.
16. You Only Live Twice
Not just for Bond, but You Only Live Twice – the result of a questionable, no-less novel script from Roald Dahl – is defining for cheesy, B-movie cinema (and Austin Powers): the villain’s lair in a volcano; the cunning spacecraft plot for the east and west; and Donald Pleasance’s iconic, cat-stroking, scarred Blofeld.
Spectre is particularly painful. After crafting one of the best Bond movies of all time, Sam Mendes managed to retain all of the style sans Roger Deakins – seriously, this is a beautiful movie – but fumbled its muddled plot. Dave Bautista’s henchman is the highlight of an emotionally convincing, yet disappointing effort overall.
Bond movies in their early eras are products of their time – so, try to roll with an iffy beginning and appreciate a Bond classic, what with its pioneering underwater sequences, jet pack, a swimming pool with sharks and Connery operating at his peak 007 magnetism. It’s all downhill from here.
13. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s debut is distinctive if also divisive; a blaxploitation-influenced actioner that takes Bond from 1970s Harlem to the Caribbean, running across alligators and facing off against voodoo. One thing can’t be denied: that theme by Paul McCartney and Wings slaps hard above them all.
12. The Man With The Golden Gun
Three words: Christopher Lee, Scaramanga. The Man With The Golden Gun may be a low-key Bond – in spite of its pre-Die Another Day solar-powered laser – but it’s among Moore’s most memorable, pitting 007 against the best assassin in the world, with flourishes of psychedelia, attempts at martial arts, and that car stunt.
11. The Living Daylights
Timothy Dalton always deserved better. His Fleming-literate take on Bond is not only the most accurate, but one of seductive, steely charisma. It’s a shame his first of two doesn’t soar as high as it should – despite a blinding opening sequence with an all-time reveal shot – but it’s still an underrated intro to one of the greats. Also, A-Ha!
10. Tomorrow Never Dies
Has it aged the worst, or the best? Cries of ‘fake news’ evoke a toupee-tainted eye roll now, but Jonathan Pryce’s Elliot Carver is a fiendish villain for today’s age of dis/misinformation. That, and it’s a rollicking Bond adventure with Brosnan at the height of his powers and one of my favourite openings in the franchise.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me
The crème de la crème of Moore’s era, boasting a staggering ski jump from the off, a Lotus Esprit S1 submarine, Richard Kiel as Jaws and the actor at his most purringly commanding. For a moment, it felt like nobody did it better.
8. Dr. No
Who needs an opening song when you’ve got John Barry’s eternal, effortlessly cool theme? With a signature Scottish drawl and just enough merciless tact to be wicked and hot, Connery’s cinema-changing debut as the world’s favourite spy would never be replicated; only imitated and reshaped.
7. From Russia With Love
From Russia With Love opens like a Mission: Impossible movie, seemingly killing off Bond in its first minutes, before revealing it to be a henchman in a mask. As an adaptation, it soulfully captures Fleming’s original novel, with a stylish, exhilarating grip on its brashness and thrills and Connery arguably at his grittiest, before more silliness crept in.
6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby wasn’t the best Bond; handsome, yes, but lacking Connery’s wit. Yet, in his one shot at the role, he landed one of the finest films to grace the series; romantically resonant, heart-breaking and in terms of pure craft, almost unmatched. It shouldn’t be one for the ‘purists’ only – it’s just bloody good. Don’t worry, we have all the time in the world for people to catch up.
5. Licence to Kill
Dalton really was ahead of his time. Before Quantum of Solace botched Bond in revenge mode, Licence To Kill sees him go rogue in pursuit of Robert Davi’s electric drug lord Franz Sanchez. With the franchise’s first and only 15 rating, it’s delectably seedy, violent and hard-edged. It’s still the lowest grossing film in series – aren’t people just the worst?
You can hone in on moments and components, but Goldfinger is the reason for Bond’s cultural ubiquity. It’s the 007 we know to heart: the debut appearance of the Aston Martin DB5; the martini order; the first great theme from Shirley Bassey; a henchwoman called Pussy Galore; and arguably the best line, ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ ‘No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.’
Craig’s third outing is the franchise’s box office king, the first to break a billion. It’s the most beautiful Bond film ever made, thanks to Roger Deakins’ devastating cinematography, but even with plot conveniences you desperately have to exile from consideration, Skyfall makes its thematically epic, sneakily radical narrative feel classic.
2. Casino Royale
Four years after Brosnan rode a sea of CGI waves, Casino Royale opened with not one, but two bleak black-and-white assassinations. Craig defied the naysayers with a barnstorming debut that feels just as fresh and exciting on your 100th watch as it did your first; it’ll remain the benchmark by which all freshman Bonds are measured. There really is still a palpable sense of event cinema from the barrel shot to ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond.’
In GoldenEye, Brosnan chases a car through Moscow in a tank, drifting around street corners and demolishing walls, vehicles and buildings in his wake. After one crash, he collects himself, adjusts his tie and races on. That golden moment is the very essence of James Bond.
The Irishman brought a little bit of everything: Connery’s womanising, Moore’s gadgets, Dalton’s virility, while adding his own signature charm. He’s not the brute we’d see later in Craig, but a more sophisticated, suave commander. From that jaw-dropping bungee jump to ‘For England, James?’ ‘No, for me’, a legend was born.
No Time To Die hits UK cinemas tomorrow, September 30.
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