The Bond franchise, like Bond himself, can’t seem to die even when it seems like he is about to. When Connery left the franchise the first time after You Only Live Twice, it seemed like the franchise might not last too long. But it did, enough for him to come back for one final go round. And when he left that second time after Diamonds Are Forever, it seemed like they were courting danger yet again, as the first replacement Bond film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) was not received too warmly. But 13 years of Roger Moore proved that Bond, no matter how low (ahem Moonraker ahem) the series got, he would survive. Only in 2002 when Die Another Day came out did we get the first real sign that maybe the boat had sprung a leak. Even though the franchise seemed like it was strapped to a table with it’s junk about to be cut off by a laser, it broke out and hit new highs with current Bond Daniel Craig. It’s still going strong, with the 24th Bond flick and Daniel Craigs 4th entry coming out this weekend. Spectre is highly anticipated and you can expect a review soon, but for now let me lay out the pre Spectre ranking for you guys. And maybe in a year, you can expect an updated version of this list with Spectre included.
23. Die Another Day( 2002)
In the landscape of James Bond fandom, there are very few topics with widespread agreement. Favorite movie, favorite Bond, favorite song and all such are filled with many different answers based on the person and when they came into the Bond world. But there is one thing that has widespread agreement. Die Another Day is the worst Bond movie by a country mile and there’s no argument. Nothing in this movie is good. Every Bond movie before it, no matter how bad, has at least one cool element to at least make it watchable. This is devoid of any of that and it makes the movie an insufferable slog. It feels like a fugazzi, like someone trying to make a Bond ripoff when they’ve only seen an Austin Powers movie and thought it was serious. It has the worst song and the worst Bond girl. Hell, it has the worst everything and it snowballed into a movie so bad that the producers of this series that never cared about continuity too much decided to reboot the whole thing and go back to Bonds first mission for the movie that followed this. This movie is cancer and should be avoided like the plague.
22. A View To A Kill (1985)
The absolute nadir of the Roger Moore, and thankfully it was the last one he got to make. The man was 57 when he made this and had a moment of clarity when he realized he was older than the mother of the Bond girl in this. That important because his age is all over this movie, making it the most slow and creepy movie in the franchise. Slow because he is too old to make an action scene look like it’s anything more strenuous than a clipping out coupons for a trip to the market. And creepy because he’s old enough to be the grandfather of the Bond girl and they don’t realize that some of the shit he does comes off very predatorily. It’s slow and too long and way too convoluted for a plot that boils down to the bad guy wanting to control the microchips industry, which even that they screw up on a basic level. But it at least has Christopher Walken doing his scenery chewing best as zeppelin riding villain Max Zorin, so the movie isn’t a complete waste. This one also has the biggest disparity between song and movie, as the song by Duran Duran is great where the movie is absolute dog shit. In the scheme of things, this is a fitting end to the worst Bonds run. Overlong, bloated and entirely too decrepit to be interesting. It’s astounding this was bested as worse Bond movie.
21. Moonraker (1979)
How do you follow up the first good entry in Roger Moore’s tenure as Bond, one of the best Bond adventures yet? Why, you forget everything good about moviemaking and what was good about the last one and send Bond to space. Yep, the infamous Bond movie that sends him to space for no better reason than the fact that Star Wars happened. It’s, like most of the worst Bond flicks, too long and too silly to even comprehend before adding a nonsensical plot to it. Roger Moore finally looks like shit in his old age, making you question how he isn’t hurting himself the entire movie. The Bond girl is given the most lazy Bond girl name, Holly Goodhead. The villain is a fat piece of shit with no sense of danger to him. They even bring back Jaws, the giant henchman from the last one to totally ruin him to. It’s a bore of a movie that starts with a, frankly, amazing stunt that involved free falling from a plane. Other than that, all of the action is mediocre at best, and ends up in laughable territory when a space battle breaks out. This movie is such a piece of crap that it even manages to make Shirley Bassey, the originator of the Bond song, boring with her title song. Only good to watch in an ironical sense.
20. Octopussy (1983)
Bond gets dressed up like a circus clown. I don’t really need to say much more to highlight what a piece of dung this movie is, but I can go a little deeper into it. Fitting with the pattern of the majority of Roger Moore movies, this is nothing more than a campy joke. The humor is absolute crap and totally misguided, like the other Moore movies. A movie that involves a Bond girl with the name Octopussy, a plot that somehow involves a circus with nuclear disarmament, and a severe lack of any entertaining elements to at least keep you entertained. Even the song by Rita Coolidge is crap, only gaining any sort of positivity by the act of getting shit on by Seth MacFarlane in Ted. Seriously, this movie is a big stinker and it’s a backhanded compliment to it to say that it’s better than Moonraker before it.
Roger Moore’s first entry as Bond is a sad moment for the Bond franchise, as people had unknowingly seen the next 13 years of Bond they’d have to endure. The camp was no longer charming and had evolved into obnoxious. Not as bad as it would become, but it’s all here. The plot is overly complicated nonsense that just ends up being simple drug trade shit, complicated even further with the addition of supernatural elements that go nowhere. It’s also kinda racist too, making all black people either really stupid or really evil. The villain isn’t bad, with Yaphet Kotto doing what he can to make him formidable on an intellectual way. But the writing undercuts him, and his demise by inflation may be the worst moment in the franchise. The song by Paul McCartney is a favorite amongst Bond fans, but it does nothing for me. This one at least has some decent action in it and a Bond girl that’s decent to look at if nothing else. A sad sign of what was to come, it isn’t the worst thing to happen to this series but not it’s shining moment by a long shot.
18. The Man With The Golden Gun (1975)
The best worst Moore movie, if only because it has Christopher Lee in it. The man can elevate anything he’s in to at least watchable, as his appearance in Star Wars Episode II proves. His role is only good because of him, since it’s an underwritten role who’s only defining characteristics is that he has a gold gun and a third nipple. What ruins this movie is a cheap, TV movie aesthetic. A series that has gotten on by the look of it, they ruin that for the most part by filming like crap. Roger Moore is saddled with some absolute awful shit to, as he could have been a good Bond. But the reliance of the humor Bond has hampers this movie. The song is crap too, feeling way too out of date with a song by Lulu. The Bond girl is just awful, a terribly stupid secret agent as played by the pretty consistently awful Britt Ekland. But the worst part of this movie? An amazing car chase being ruined by shitass redneck sheriff JW Pepper, and a fucking slide flute. Just a joke and the issues with Moore’s run distilled down to one scene. Has it’s moments and Lee is amazing, but this is an overall disappointment.
17. The World is Not Enough (1999)
This is the start of this list where we get into a run of movies that, even if flawed, I can watch multiple times. This one has some grade A terrible moments in it, but has some pretty damn good stuff too. It’s a Brosnan movie, so it’s working with the disadvantage of having Brosnan. But unlike Moore, this one can at least thrill enough with some damn good action to make it watchable. And the villains in this movie are legitimately great, with a nice twist in it that still works and a villain in Robert Carlisle’s role as a man who can’t feel pain. Somehow the Bond girl in here was bested as the worst, since Denise Richards is an absolute piece of sorrow in human skin. But Die Another Day would see to it that she looked golden in comparison to Halle Berry. The plot becomes too overblown to be serious and there’s some flat humor in it, but the movie works for the most part. And its got the best song in a Brosnan flick, so there’s that.
16. License To Kill (1989)
A controversial pick on my part since it isn’t in dead last and many narrow minded Bond fans will dislike that fact, but I honestly like this movie. Most dislike Dalton and his movies completely but this one is entertaining as hell. A disclaimer though. This is not a very good Bond movie. But it works as a good 80s action flicks with some great action. There is some ridiculous humor moments mixed throughout that hinders the movie’s full potential. But this is a nasty little movie that doesn’t pull punches. The song isn’t great though. The Bond girl is fine. It’s a little too tonally weird to be the best of them and too off the track of what makes a Bond movie, but this stands much taller compared to other movies in this franchise.
15. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The epic one and done return of Connery, this movie is a weird entry in the franchise. The first half of it is a really good Bond flick, with Connery’s returning bringing back that old school sense of badass sexiness. But it’s in the second half where things take a bizarre turn into camp, going so overboard as to be too ruinous to the flick. Connery is great in the role, not as bored as he was in the last two he did. It looks pretty good and the song is great. The Bond girls, not so much. Blofeld is in it and while he isn’t the best one, he’s good enough. And the two henchmen, Wint and Kidd are gloriously weird. The first half is strong enough to elevate the weak second half.
14. Quantum Of Solace (2008)
The much maligned entry by Bond fans who forget about 5 of Moore’s movies and Die Another Day when talking about the worst Bond movie. This is by far not the worst Bond movie. Not even close. It’s only in the bottom ten on account of there being 23 Bond movies at the time of this writing. Is it too rushed and convoluted? No doubt. Is the camera work too frantic? Yes sir. The plot too low stakes? Pretty much. But what makes this movie stand apart from the movies behind this on the list is the very idea it presents us with. What is Bond like when he’s grieving? Picking up moments after Casino Royale ended, this movie is an extended third act to that movie. And the results, while a little muddled due to the writers strike, is interesting enough to warrant it’s place here. And honestly, the rest of the movie works as a badass action movie. It’s got some cool action in it and a dedication to the idea of Bond as an unleashed animal while grieving. It’s a bit messy around the edges but works without the nostalgia blinders that Bond fans like to wear.
13. You Only Live Twice (1967)
This movie is so beyond racist that a new word needs to be invented. Connery is tasked with being made up to look Asian by painting his skin, wearing a sillier wig than usual, slanting his eyes and hunching over to look shorter. It’s fucking nuts, and there’s the sense throughout the movie of these filmmakers looking at Asian people as so gloriously quirky as to be like cute pets. But it’s fucked up to say that that dedication to such a misguided idea that it has to be seen to be believed. It’s not like Live and Let Dies racism, which was just boring in it’s conception. No, this is too bonkers to be boring. But even looking past that stuff, this movie is pretty damn fun. It’s got some great action (one of the best climaxes in the series) and a lush look. This is also the grand introduction of Blofeld, finally being unveiled to us after 4 movies of being a faceless badguy. And its an iconic performance and look as played by Donald Pleasance and immortalized by Mike Meyers in the role of Dr. Evil. It’s got the campy moments that hurt the movie and the racism is a double edged sword in regards to quality. But it’s immensely watchable.
12. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
I don’t like Brosnan as Bond too much, but 3/4th of his movies are pretty entertaining for me. And this one is pretty damn entertaining just based on the fact that it is trying desperately to be like the mid 90s action movies like Con Air or The Rock, asian influenced cinema with nonsensical plots but nonstop balletic action. The movie has a mediocre song, not very memorable Bond girls, and a villain/plot that is hilariously stupid. All kinda like those movies it wants to be. And like those movies, the action is amazing. That alone makes it immensely watchable and better than many before it.
11. Dr. No (1962)
This deep into the franchise, this movie doesn’t work very much anymore. It’s slow and drawn out with very little action to keep you entertained. But as a historical landmark, this movie is too important to not be this high up. This is the movie that started it all. Not just Bond, but pretty much the entire action genre. Connery is great in the role and it looks gorgeous. And it’s funny that it lacks the now trademarked opening credits song. Ursula Andress is a gorgeous woman, fitting for the Bond girl. But the character is a non entity. This is the building block of the series and it makes sense that it is supremely rough around the edges. But it’s too iconic, from Dr No himself to the set design by Ken Adam, to be ignored.
10. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For all my bitching about Roger Moore, it’s crazy that a movie of his is the 10th movie on the list. This is his most under appreciated movie and, frankly, one of the best in the series. After the cartoonish Moonraker, the series righted itself by getting more serious with 007. Moore doesn’t become Dalton in terms of seriousness or anything. But this feels like it’s trying to be the sequel that The Spy Who Loved Me should have had. Moore, even if we see his age, feels much better in the series than he did last time round. The action is great and the villain is a good one. I even think this Bond girl is one of the best, a highlight for me. It’s under appreciated and kinda forgotten since it isn’t a trainwreck or instantly iconic. But for me, as a movie, this is one of the best ones. The song ain’t great, but that’s fine when the movie feels like a fresh rebound. Even if the series would immediately fumble 3 times after it.
9. Thunderball (1965)
This is one of the most iconic entries in the series. For that reason alone it ranks pretty high here. But aside from a good deal of fat on this movies bones, this is a fun as hell movie. The plot is overly complicated, probably the first one in this series to become too convoluted for it’s own good. But that’s fine, since the movie is set around exotic locales and has some good looking ladies about. Connery is also doing some really good work here, just totally into it as Bond. He makes it look easy. The opening is great, with Bond decking a woman who is actually a man and flying away on a jetpack. This is pure entertainment despite a good deal of rockiness.
8. The Living Daylights (1987)
Probably the most controversial pick on this list, since it’s a Dalton entry. His first time at bat in the role of Bond, this is a god damned good movie. It’s got it’s issues, like many Bond movies do. Too convoluted for it’s own good plotting, overlong and some flat humor. But overall, this is one of the most solid entries in the series. After years of failed attempts to make watchable movies in the franchise, the producers realized they needed to batten down the hatches and fix all the problems. And they did. Dalton’s Bond may have leaned a little too seriously for the role, especially when the movie had some out of place humor within the more serious leaning world. But what does it for me? The action is top notch, some of the best the franchise would ever do. It’s big and bold and very much of the 80s without falling too deep into the style the way License To Kill did. The Bond girl is alright, nothing special and the song is the same. Just whatever. But looking at the actual movie, it’s really good. And despite what the Bond fanboys would say, Dalton is not bad. Not even close to the worst and is actually pretty good. Probably the most underrated entry in the series.
7. Goldeneye (1995)
After a 6 year absence following License To Kill thanks to some legal doings, James Bond returned in one of the best movies in the series. It also features the introduction to the world of Pierce Brosnan as the iconic spy, in easily his best movie. I may have a soft spot for Tomorrow Never Dies, but it isn’t a particularly good movie. This though is and it is like a shotgun blast. But this one, like many Bond movies, has some bad stuff in it that is luckily overcome with alot of great stuff. The techno music is absolutely out of place and really just garbage. It’s way too long, another Bond box to check off. But the action is superb, and it has one of the best villains in the franchise. 006 is amazing, given a superb backstory and motivation for his deeds. The Bond girl, Natalia, isn’t great. She’s very much a Russian office drone, ie very bland. But the secondary Bond girl is a villain, Xenia Onatopp, and she’s great. This is a great return for the series. Not really a return to form, as License To Kill wasn’t the franchise killer that Die Another Day would become. But just a nice welcome home.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Easily the best entry in Roger Moore’s run, the entry that manages to balance out what they never were able to. It’s funny and thrilling. The story is very ridiculous but in a lesser way than the others, not as aggressively stupid. Roger Moore gives his best performance as Bond, giving us his first real argument that he could have made a good Bond. The song is amazing, one of the best they’d ever have. It’s got a decent villain but an amazing henchman in Jaws. And the cold open with Bond jumping off a mountain with a union Jack flag on his parachute is not just an amazing stunt, but an instantly iconic moment for the UK. Seriously just one of the best damn movies in the series, and it makes me even angrier at Moore for having such a poor run.
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
At one point this would have been a controversial pick, but time has been kind to this movie. The respect this movie has gotten is well deserved because this is a high point for the series after Connery’s run, taking close to 40 years to be bested. Lazenby is an interesting footnote in the franchise, getting shit because he was the first replacement for Connery. And he isn’t amazing, that much has to be said. He isn’t great. But he isn’t bad and he comes off much better in comparison to Moore and Brosnan. This one has one of the worst cold opens, making everyone pause with fear that the franchise had fallen apart. But after the credit sequences, with a great instrumental track, the movie gets rolling. It’s a bonkers movie that comes down to mass hypnosis and some really crazy racist/sexist elements as was part of the series back then. Also the continuity busting element than Bond and Blofeld don’t know each other despite having met in the last one is a bit crazy. Yet two elements elevate this quite high. One is the amazing action sequences, including an ending that Christopher Nolan would crib for Inception. The second is that this is the movie with the Bond girl that would only be bested by Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Tracy is the one that is so great that she manages to make Bond settle down. And it works. You buy it. So much so that it is just absolutely crazy and kinda heartbreaking when she is gunned down in the end. It’s a singular movie in the franchise, one that’s really interesting within the franchises history and one that reaches some immense highs.
4. Goldfinger (1964)
The movie that made Bond iconic. All of the pleasures of the Bond franchise, all of the elements that we’d go on to love is either introduced or perfected here. We get the first Bond song in the series high from Shirley Bassey. Auric Goldfinger is a great supervillain. We get the best Bond girl name that managed to just throw Connery for a loop, in the amazingly named Pussy Galore. The plot is perfectly calibrated insanity, a plan to irradiate gold. It’s got a little too much meat on the bones and Bond is a little too bumbling in the movie, flitting into the plot. But that’s also the introduction of that, having Bond just stumble into shit. But none of that matters. This movie is slick, sexy and thrilling. Just a big barrel of fun.
3. Skyfall (2012)
This movie is the one that solidified Daniel Craig as a worthy Bond and the entry that broke new ground for success in the franchise. And that’s all good, because this movie is absolutely amazing. This is like a nice thesis statement for the franchise as a whole, bringing all the disparate elements together to make for the perfect Bond flick. Craig as better than ever here and is matched by an equally great turn by Judi Dench in her final appearance as M. We get an all timer villain in Javier Bardem’s Silva, the perfect dark foil to Bond. Sam Mendes brings amazing fun and some amazing thematic weight to the franchise. He also brings cinematographer Roger Deakins along to make the best looking Bond movie ever. What brings this down to 3rd place is that it contains some massive logic leaps to get to the end. But it’s all executed so well you don’t really question it. And this is a singular movie in the franchise because this is the one where Bond loses. That doesn’t happen but it had to here to get Bond back to normal. Just an amazing movie, a transcendent movie in the series. An absolute highpoint, yet amazingly not Craigs best entry.
2. From Russia With Love (1963)
It may not be the most iconic movie in the series, but this is the gold standard in terms of quality for the franchise. This is Connerys best outing and the best outing in the Bond oeuvre in general until 2006. It’s different than many of the movies in the series as this is a very small movie. No crazy plot to destroy/take over the world, no mass destruction of any kind. It’s a heist movie, with the bad guys plotting to make Bond steal something for them without knowing it. Hell, the villain in the flick is basically the henchman for SPECTRE. And what a villain Red Grant is. He isn’t in too much of the movie but he makes every appearance count, culminating in the series highlight train fight between Bond and Grant. The Bond girl isn’t bad, but doesn’t get too much to do. This is Bonds show, getting to futz around Turkey and have a grand ole time of it. It’s a thrilling movie and a more personal movie than you would get from Bond for a while. There’s little fat and it all works. An amazing piece of cinema that still works today.
1. Casino Royale (2006)
Maybe the most controversial opinion here? Well I don’t give a damn, cause this is easily the best movie in the franchise. It works on every level. The narrative is perfect and flows with ease. The action is the best in the franchise still, making it one of the best action movies ever made. The acting is great all around, with Bond rookie Daniel Craig making an instant impact. Eva Green makes Vesper Lynd the best Bond girl we’ve had thus far. Mads Mikkelsen is not the most threatening villain in the world, but he’s unique in that he is the most desperate villain we’ve ever seen. And he makes the blood crying baddie work. It’s a thematically hefty movie, with tons of work that goes beyond anything a Bond movie had done by a mile. It’s thrilling and emotional, culminating in an amazing ending that promised the young Bond we’d seen thus far had graduated to the big leagues. It’s a masterpiece, the most complete package in the series. Going back to Fleming and making it better seems like it was a great idea.