An ongoing series of movie selections that I consider to be overlooked & underappreciated.
Sometimes, when a new Bond movie is released, I’ll do a franchise re-watch, going through and watching all the movies before seeing the new one. With all the delays and very nearly the biggest break in the films as the result of covid, it seemed like a good time to do another re-watch of all the other films. Sometimes, I also include the two “unofficial” Bond movies, 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, as I did in this re-watch. When I started watching the movies, I decided to finally work up a ranking list of the films. This list is, of course, my own personal ranking of the movies in terms of how much I personally enjoy them, and less of an attempt to objectively critique them. I’m sure my fellow Bond fans will be annoyed with how I rank some of these. 🙂
While I was at it, I also decided to work up a few other ranking lists, found at the bottom of this post, along with a spreadsheet of the numbers to go with it all. I’ve included the trailer for each film for the heck of it, and you can click the title of each entry to go to their WikiPedia pages.
#1 – Casino Royale (2006)
It’s difficult for me to pick my all-time favorite Bond movie. I can occasionally change my mind depending on when I’m asked. But I must admit that every time I see this movie, I’m very impressed. It kinda nails everything. It’s got tight pacing and editing. The production is top notch. David Arnold’s music score is excellent. Mads Mikkelsen is firing on all cylinders as the main bad guy. Eva Green is spot on and fantastic as Vesper Lynd. And you have the likes of Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright doing a fantastic job in supporting roles with Judi Dench thankfully returning as M. And then there’s Daniel Craig, who steps into the role of Bond and absolutely nails it. Like, he REALLY nails it. For a first time in the role, he owns it surprisingly fast. We have the first Bond movie taken from a Fleming book since, uh……. Moonraker (kinda)? This is a solid script that gives ample opportunity for a great cast and director to run with it. Thankfully, they went back to Martin Campbell, who also did a great job launching Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye. If there’s one bit of weakness to point out, it’s that Vesper Lynd feels a tiny bit off in the final reel, but Eva Green is able to make it work. Craig and Green have undeniable chemistry in every single scene. Watch their first scene together on the train and pay close attention to it. The performances, the direction, the editing, the script – it’s pure perfection. This is simply a fantastic Bond movie, and I’m just going to go ahead and give it my top spot.
#2 – For Your Eyes Only (1981)
This is a top contender for being my favorite Bond film, and on occasion is my answer to that question. After the insanity of Moonraker (in terms of budget, production and plot), this movie set out to ground the franchise again and bring it back to something far more sane. The only complaints I would have about this movie are very minimal, such as the “identigraph” scene of Bond working up a suspect sketch with the help of Q and a “futuristic” (AKA dated) bit of computer tech. Still, at least Bond & Q have a bit of silly and fun banter to go with it. But it’s just little bits like that which are brief so-so moments. Otherwise, this is a movie full of solid-to-fantastic material. The production is top notch, with fantastic second unit material from start to finish (surely thanks to John Glen, a former stunt and second unit director for the franchise taking over as director), and it features plenty of nice location work. Bill Conti’s music score is something Bond fans tend to single out as a problem with this movie and make fun of, but I have to admit that I love it. A good chunk of it is VERY dated and late-era disco, and is similar to some stuff that Conti would do for TV at the time, but I’m a sucker for the score anyway. Sheena Easton’s title song is pretty good. The Bond girls are very good in this one. Carole Bouquet is easily one of the best Bond girls in the franchise. Lynn-Holly Johnson somehow walks the fine line of playing a total brat who is somehow still endearing (and one of the only girls to throw herself at Bond that he turns down). In terms of bad guys, there’s some fun bait-n-switch done by initially setting up the always-fantastic Topol as the potential big bad, only to pull out the rug and reveal that the supposed ally, Kristatos, actually is (oops, spoilers). Julian Glover really downplays the role and makes him a very ordinary man, which is a huge downshift from the ridiculous megalomaniacs of many previous Bond baddies (particularly the previous two movies). The entire movie is much more grounded in reality. The plot is much more tradecraft than saving the entire world. One of the only sillier plot bits is a helicopter sequence where Bond actually kills off Blofeld, in what was surely a giant middle finger from EON Productions to Kevin McClory. But even with some of its sillier aspects, the scene is very good with some fantastic second unit work, just like the rest of the film. And the first opening bit of Bond visiting his wife’s grave is a great little touch. I’ve probably seen this movie more times than any other Bond movie, and I still like it just as much each time.
#3 – GoldenEye (1995)
After ending up in a half dozen year hiatus while EON finally worked out its legal battles, the franchise hit a bit of a modernization reset button, unceremoniously dropping Timothy Dalton from the role and giving it to Pierce Brosnan, who had been up for the role more than once in previous decades. Under the steady hand of director Martin Campbell, the film brought Bond back with a bang. Brosnan proved to be an excellent Bond, and he was put up against a great performance by Sean Bean as the big bad. They play off each other very well, with Bean getting some great bits of monolog. Alan Cumming hams it up as Boris, the lackie to Bean’s big bad. Joe Don Baker returns to the franchise as a completely different character from his bad guy role in The Living Daylights, this time as fun CIA agent Jack Wade. Izabella Scorupco is a solid female lead who plays very well off of Brosnan. The great Judi Dench kicks off her excellent 20-year portrayal of “M”. We get great performances in smaller roles by Robbie Coltrane, Tchéky Karyo and Gottfried John. But the real standout in this case is Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, who is, in my opinion, the all-time best female baddie of the franchise. The biggest fail of the movie is Eric Serra’s music score. While I enjoy many of Serra’s other scores, he was a total mismatch for doing a Bond score. I get that they were trying to modernize the franchise and breathe new life into it, and I appreciate them thinking outside the box, it just didn’t work. It has its moments, and some of it works well enough outside of the movie, but it was ultimately a bad call. Thankfully, the main title song by Tina Turner is one of the best of the franchise.
#4 – The Living Daylights (1987)
For the record, I recognize that I have a soft spot for this movie due to nostalgia. I was 12-ish when it came out, and I saw it a good number of times during my teenage years. Even having said that, this is objectively a solid Bond movie. Timothy Dalton is underappreciated as Bond, and his debut here is great. Maryam d’Abo is one of my favorite Bond girls in the franchise. The bad guys are a bit of a curious mix, and they work well enough. The movie is one of a handful of action films of the time (along with the likes of Rambo III) that portray the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in a friendly way (thanks to the anti-Soviet position they occupied at the time), which in retrospect is just a tad unfortunate. Personally, I absolutely love John Barry’s score to this one, and a-ha’s main title song is also one of my favorites of the franchise. All-in-all, one of my personal favorites of the franchise.
#5 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Of course, this movie is most notable for being George Lazenby’s only film in the role of Bond. Unlike many fans, I think he does a perfectly decent job in the role. Yeah, maybe not as good as Connery, who was a key reason for the success of the earlier Bond movies, but all things considered, he does a decent job with it. The other uniquely significant thing the movie has going for it is the “Bond girl” and the ending, which would be very spoilery to mention for those who haven’t seen it (wait, now I care about spoilers?). But here’s the thing – even excluding these two unique aspects of the movie, I think it’s still one of the best of the earlier Bond films. It has an interesting sense of confidence in pacing and style. Add in a fantastic John Barry score (and opening title queue) and some great production, and you’ve got a winner. I really wish they would have stopped doing the awful framerate stuff to the fight scenes, because the fights in this movie are impressively brutal, but the framerate speed-up idiocy goes and hurts the sequences. Still, a great outing for Bond.
#6 – Skyfall (2012)
After the mess that was Quantum Of Solace, we get a great return to form for Daniel Craig’s series of Bond movies. We get more Bond franchise staples added back in, such as Q and Miss Moneypenny (in a new form). We get a great bad guy performance from Javier Bardem, despite his plot being a bit obvious. Daniel Craig is back in top form, arguable as good as he was in Casino Royale. Judi Dench is nailing it as M, in what’s the largest role that the character has had. The Bond girls are one area where the film lacks a bit, but it’s nothing bad. But then again, you could almost consider Judi Dench to be one of them in this one? In terms of Q, Ben Whishaw seems to really be having fun with the role, making it very much his own. And Ralph Fiennes is great here as what would become the new M. Add in the likes of Albert Finney and the return of those like Rory Kinnear and it’s a great cast. Thomas Newman, who surely got the job due to always working with Sam Mendes, does a solid job with the music score. Not as good as David Arnold had been doing for the previous 5 films, but still pretty good. Adele’s main title song is also quite good. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is beyond top-notch, and surely the best the Bond franchise has had. Overall, a great film in the franchise.
#7 – Goldfinger (1964)
After the first two films of the franchise started building the world of James Bond, this film is the one where it all came into focus. I think it’s a little bit overrated in most Bond fans’ lists, but it is a good entry in the series, and I understand why there’s as much nostalgia for it as there is. The cast is quite good, with a script that works pretty well and a solid production that would kinda dictate how the Bond movie series would work going forward. I’ve seen this one plenty of times, and it’s always quite enjoyable.
#8 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
A good recovery after the misfire of The Man With The Golden Gun. It has its awkward moments here and there, and the script is pretty standard for the franchise, but it’s solid enough thanks largely to a nice final act. The big highlight is the lavish set design by franchise vet Ken Adam. Roger Moore has definitely found his footing in the role by this point. I have a soft spot for Marvin Hamlisch’s music score, as heavily disco as much of it is. Heck, it’s the disco style that helps make it extra fun. And sometimes, it’s the datedness of the gadgets that’s most entertaining, like Bond’s watch that prints out messages on ticker-style embossed label strips. Where does it even store the label strip material? 🙂
#9 – Licence To Kill (1989)
Certainly one of the darkest and most brutal of the Bond movies, with Bond going rogue to avenge his CIA buddy, Felix. It’s definitely a product of its time, in a number of ways. The Bond franchise was often influenced by other movies of its respective eras. As much as Moonraker was the result of Star Wars, this movie was the result of a variety of drug & crime action movies, such as Lethal Weapon. It hardly comes as a surprise for it to feature things like a (moderately successful) music score from Michael Kamen, which made it feel even more like those films that influenced it. Another thing that helps give it that feel of the time is the casting of Robert Davi as the main bad guy, and he does a good job in the role. The real scene stealer is Benicio del Toro in an early role. He plays the psychotic qualities of the character very well. Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto do a great job in their roles. And Anthony Zerbe does a fine job as a supplemental baddie. Also, it’s fun to have Desmond Llewelyn in an expanded role as Q. Add in a silly but fun bit part for none-other-than Wayne Newton and you have a well rounded cast. The production is solid, with some nice action scenes and stunt work. It’s an underrated Bond movie, though it comes with the caveat that it’s a bit less like a Bond movie than others – at least until the last act of the movie. Oh, and the Gladys Knight main title song is AWFUL.
#10 – No Time To Die (2021)
The writers of this movie had an unenviable job. They had to follow the total mess that was SPECTRE and try to wrap that up while knowing that this was their final entry in the Daniel Craig series of films. I must admit, I had little hope of them being able to pull that off. But somehow, they manage it. Part of that is thanks to a kinda fun scene of them just saying screw it and killing off nearly everybody in SPECTRE at one time, essentially just tossing a hand grenade into that entire mess of a narrative that the previous film had tried to make happen (and failed). While it’s a kinda lazy move on the part of the writers, I totally understand why they did it, and they had some inventive fun with it in the process. On the flipside, we get a more traditional Bond villain in Lyutsifer Safin, who even has his own island lair HQ, and is helping clean up the whole SPECTRE narrative mess from another angle. And the role mostly works, thanks in large part to a subtle performance from the great Rami Malek, who can do more with a slight smile than most other Bond villains do while completely chewing the scenery. That and his nice make-up work helps make what is a kinda low-key villain work quite well. We also get some nice backstory to the Madeleine Swann role. While I don’t think Léa Seydoux has particularly great chemistry with Daniel Craig in either of her films (nowhere near as good as Eva Green did), this attempt at giving her better backstory helps make her role finally work well enough. We have a wonderful array of cast in supporting roles, including the return of those like Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear. But we also get some wonderful new additions from Lashana Lynch as the “new” 007 and a WONDERFUL performance by Ana de Armas in the criminally too-short role as Paloma. The production is very good, and everybody really seems to be giving it their best. Hans Zimmer comes through with a solid score. It may not be a great one, but it pulls things together nicely, and I was delighted to not only hear him using “We Have All The Time In The World” (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) in the score, but we even get the original Louis Armstrong song over the end credits. Zimmer also quotes John Barry’s music from OHMSS in other ways. The Billie Eilish main title song is a fail. I definitely don’t like Eilish’s performance. With a better vocalist, it would at least be a so-so title song.
And then there’s the ending. This gets a major spoiler warning, so don’t read the rest of this entry without having seen the movie. OK, you’ve been warned. So, the decision to kill Bond by having him sacrifice himself for Madeleine and his newly-discovered daughter, Mathilde. As they started to build up to that in the final moments, I thought, “they wouldn’t……..”. Then as it became clear that they were going to actually do it, I had to appreciate the audacity of the choice. It’s Daniel Craig’s final film in the role, and they knew that going in (heck, it’s probably how they convinced him to do another one), so why not be daring. After all, this is kinda the first Bond film that’s actually been specifically designed to be the final movie for the actor in the role. If they were gonna do it, now was the time. And it actually works. Craig is milking it for all its worth, and the rest of the cast is all in for it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not just Bond they kill. They even do something that Licence To Kill ultimately chickened out on, which is actually killing Felix Leiter. If you’re gonna kill Bond, why not add in some more finality by actually killing Felix, too. As it happens earlier in the movie, it’s also a great setup for when they build up to Bond’s death. “Well, they actually already killed Felix – maybe they’re really gonna do this…”. So, I’ve only seen the movie once at the time of this writing on the movie’s opening weekend. I may change my opinions a bit, and/or adjust its scores and ranking. But for now, here’s where it sits.
#11 – From Russia With Love (1963)
A little more polished than Dr. No, but not quite as fully formed as Goldfinger, this movie bridges the evolution of the franchise as it got its footing. One of the awkward things that always annoys me when watching this film and Dr. No is how they continue to “needle drop” the same Dr. No main title performance of the James Bond Theme throughout the movie in places where it just doesn’t fit. Though John Barry taking over scoring duties is a big benefit to the film. The fight scenes are pretty good. Daniele Bianchi is overrated as the Bond girl.
#12 – You Only Live Twice (1967)
When it comes to things like Austin Powers or the Derek Flint movies, this movie is probably the most directly satired and parodied target. The Bond stereotypes are pretty much fully formed by this point in the series, and this movie is firing on those stereotype thrusters. The plot is thoroughly ridiculous, the sets and production design are ambitious and elaborate, and John Barry is really honing his skills at scoring a Bond movie by this point.
#13 – Live And Let Die (1973)
This script is bonkers in ways you don’t expect a Bond script to be bonkers, but it’s also bonkers in ways you DO expect one to be. For the first part of the movie, you’re wondering how this is a James Bond plot, then it meanders around during the second act, and suddenly it has a Bond style finale stapled onto it awkwardly. The more you try to dig into this plot, the more it unravels. But the movie is so doggone watchable. While Roger Moore is clearly still finding his footing in this one, his performance is an interesting breath of fresh air. He lends it a certain sense of light touch that really works. Yaphet Kotto is fantastic, though he’s given some mind blowingly odd scenes, particularly as his Mr. Big alter-ego. He also has the dumbest death scenes in movie history. The stunts and action scenes, however, are a franchise best up to that point. This is the first Bond movie that John Barry did not score since From Russia With Love, and it kinda shows. It’s a decent score, but it’s mostly variations on Paul McCartney’s main title theme, Live & Let Die. What saves the score is the fact that the song is absolutely fantastic, and the best Bond vocal title song still to date. Also, one of the things I appreciate most about the production of this movie is how it avoids all the terrible rear-projection stuff that the previous Bond movies (and pretty much all movies of that era) used. But then it goes and uses one on the train at the end of the film. Overall, a fun and very watchable movie, despite its many flaws.
#14 – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
While I get what they were going for with this script, it never comes off any better than a poorly constructed set of action built around a single plot idea that never develops particularly well. The cast is good for the most part. While I generally enjoy Jonathan Pryce as an actor, he can’t manage to save the one-note role he’s given. Michelle Yeoh is a nice partner for Bond and works pretty well. Teri Hatcher is so-so in her role. It’s fun to see the great Ricky Jay in a supporting baddie role, and the always-fantastic Vincent Schiavelli milks his role for all its worth. Also fun to have Joe Don Baker back as CIA agent Jack Wade. One of the key bits of success is David Arnold, who comes out swinging with a fantastic music score, making up for the misfire of Eric Serra’s score for GoldenEye. Unfortunately, the Sheryl Crow main title song sucks. What makes matters worse is that David Arnold wrote a great one that KD Lang performed, which ended up getting used for the end credits instead. The production is solid, with tons of great second unit stunt work. Though the helicopter blade stuff is ridiculously stupid.
#15 – Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The most notable thing about this movie, of course, is them convincing Sean Connery to return after the one-off performance by George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While this movie is not as good as OHMSS, it’s nice to have Connery back again for one more film (well, until the unofficial Never Say Never Again more than a decade later). The script for this one is so-so. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. The biggest problem is the villains. The worst part is Charles Gray’s performance as Blofeld, which is absolutely inferior to the previous performances by Donald Pleasence & Telly Savalas. And the Bond girls range from absolutely awful with the (thankfully) small role for Lana Wood and the unimpressive job by Jill St. John. While it’s interesting to have Bond in Vegas, they don’t really use Vegas enough as a setting or set piece.
#16 – Moonraker (1979)
It’s hard to know where to even begin with this one. It’s no secret why this movie got made: Star Wars. Sure, let’s send Bond into space. To do it, they essentially took the plot from The Spy Who Loved Me and made it outer space rather than underwater. Drax is a slightly better rehash of the The Spy Who Love Me’s Stromberg, but the character is still kinda cookie-cutter. Jaws makes a comeback, and is weirdly turned into a good guy by the end. John Barry, however, is firing on all thrusters, turning in a great score. This movie fell between The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, which are the two movies during the disco era that had definite disco music style. In such a silly movie like this, had this one not been John Barry, I can only imagine how disco this score would have been. Overall, the movie is a pretty decent, if cliche, Bond movie right up until Bond goes into space for the last act. Then the movie becomes incredibly stupid. Once it goes into full on pew-pew-pew mode, it’s downright embarrassing. But here’s the thing, it’s SOOOOOOOO stupid, it’s kinda entertaining at the same time, somehow. I don’t know, this movie should not work, but despite itself, it kinda does, in a very silly way. Great Bond movie? No. Passable and entertaining? Yeah, sure.
#17 – The World Is Not Enough (1999)
The key problem with this movie is the script. The plot never works, with some of the action feeling very forced – and barely justified by said plot. The whole “inside job” plot and the way they try to tie “M” into it on a personal level falls on its face, despite best efforts by Judi Dench. Brosnan is still nailing it as Bond, with the role feeling confidently his own. While I like Sophie Marceau in things like Bravehart, her character is a mess here and she isn’t able to help it. None of her dynamics with Dench, Brosnan or Robert Carlyle’s bad guy particularly work well. On the subject of Carlyle, his bad guy role has just one interesting thing going for it – the bullet lodged in his brain making him unable to feel pain. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make the character interesting. In the end, all the character motivations just seem off. Here’s the thing that I differ greatly on with other Bond fans, and would probably get me slapped by them. I kinda like Denise Richards as nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones. It’s a 100% thoroughly ridiculous piece of casting, but I think it works in a ridiculous way. She’s the one bit of casting in the movie that seems to actually be having fun with it (well, her and Robbie Coltrane making a nice return as Valentin). As far as the production goes, the action scenes are competently done with some decent second unit work. David Arnold nails the music score in his second outing. The main title song performed by Garbage is pretty good. This movie does have one sad note: this is Desmond Llewelyn’s final performance as Q, as he unfortunately died in a car crash shortly after the movie premiered. What makes it particularly creepy is how he ends his scene, stating that one should “always have an exit plan” as he slowly descends into the floor. And while I’m a big John Cleese fan, his role of “R” never manages to be anything more than a mild amusement. Overall, a movie that still manages to kinda work despite a weak script. But here’s the thing, despite all those weaknesses, I still like this movie. The opening boat chase is great. Some of the other action scenes are quite enjoyable. The production is kinda nailing it, with a proper amount of style and solid fun. I don’t know, it’s one I can’t really properly defend liking.
#18 – A View To A Kill (1985)
A smaller scale version of a vintage Bond plot like Goldfinger, with gold being replaced by microchips. It’s a fairly lazy script. It works without being overly stupid. Roger Moore is aging out of the role of Bond a bit too much (there’s a heck of a lot of CLEARLY visible stunt doubles). Christopher Walken works decently well as big bad, Zorin, but he doesn’t completely nail it. The highlight of the cast in this one goes to Grace Jones, who is great. Tanya Roberts isn’t given any favors in the script, and falls short. John Barry’s score is fantastic, and the Duran Duran title song is one of the best of the franchise.
#19 – Dr. No (1962)
Like the other early Connery films, this one suffers from some low budget, dated scenes. While Goldfinger was the first Bond movie that truly felt like what would be a traditional Bond film, this first film of the franchise does a decent job of introducing the character and is solid enough. Many elements seem kinda half baked, like the weird combination of songs over the so-so main titles – but then again, that’s our first introduction to the James Bond theme, so there’s that.
#20 – Thunderball (1965)
A hit-or-miss film for the franchise. When it is working, it’s great. It has its weak points, though. And for some reason, the pacing of the editing in this one feels off to me too often. Also, the sped-up framerate stuff in this one is particularly stupid looking (particularly during the fight on the boat at the end). It’s also notorious as the film involving the whole Kevin McClory controversy that would haunt the franchise production for decades. A highlight of this one for me is that this is the first film in the franchise to be shot in anamorphic widescreen.
#21 – Octopussy (1983)
This is one where things just can’t seem to properly gel. It has some stunt scenes that work pretty well, and some nice location work, but the oddly silly script just can’t hold it together. The cast is decent enough, and Roger Moore kinda hits the proper light tone for the odd script. I could go into detail, but it would be a lot of “meh” kinds of comments. It’s one of those Bond movies that I only ever watch when I’m doing a full-franchise viewing.
#22 – The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
After a solid enough start in Live & Let Die, Roger Moore’s next outing as Bond definitely hit a number of speed bumps. The movie was rushed into production, and the weak script is certainly a result. The highlight is absolutely Christopher Lee as Scaramanga. That about sums up the highlights of the movie. Even John Barry is kinda phoning it in with this one. The low point is very definitely them bringing back Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper. He was barely tolerable in Live & Let Die, and is definitely not tolerable in an inexplicably stupid appearance here.
#23 – SPECTRE (2015)
This movie is a mess. It has good scenes and bad scenes. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. The biggest mistake they made, by far, was trying to bring back SPECTRE in a way that used it to tie together everything in the previous Bond movies. It just doesn’t work, at all. Not even a tiny little bit. And in doing that, it robs characters like Blofeld from having any proper weight in this movie itself. While I’m a big fan of Christoph Waltz, I think he was miscast in the role. Not that the role would have worked with proper casting. And their attempt to make it seem like he’s not Blofeld is just stupid (like Trek’s attempt to hide Khan in Into Darkness). I won’t go into details on the script and why it doesn’t work, because that would take too much time. Sam Mendes returns as director, which might have been a bit of a mistake with it having followed on as directly as it did from his work on Skyfall. Then again, the amazing opening sequence is something of a dry-run for Mendes’ masterpiece, 1917, being a long take flowing all the way through the action. It’s an amazing sequence, and is by far the best part of the movie. The rest of it, well…………. The whole MI5 thing, in its whole Edward Snowden aspect, is uninteresting, and is resolved too easily. I don’t know, this whole script just fails. In terms of music, Thomas Newman’s score is not as good as his work on Skyfalls. And the opening title song is unbearably awful. Add in a big romantic interest with Léa Seydoux, who doesn’t have any proper chemistry with Daniel Craig, never mind them having to tie it all into SPECTRE, too, and it’s yet another problem. I’ve seen this movie a few times now, and it keeps failing every time. It’s got plenty of nice individual bits, but in the big picture, it doesn’t work.
#24 – Die Another Day (2002)
OK, so this movie is notoriously disliked by most Bond fans. Well, they’re fairly right. Let’s get the good parts out of the way. Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike. Both of them work quite well. The opening scene is pretty good, and it has a handful of other decent scenes. While David Arnold’s score is good, it’s his weakest effort for the franchise. Toby Stephens is absolutely awful as the bad guy – seriously, truly terrible. The script is extremely weak. It has the overly silly and ridiculous invisible car. And it has the tidal wave action scene – which is easily the worst action scene in Bond movie history and is an absolute embarrassment to everybody involved. Overall, a sadly pathetic swan song for Pierce Brosnan.
#25 – Quantum Of Solace (2008)
I bet the opening scene had some impressive stunt work. It’s impossible to tell because it’s edited by a chimpanzee hopped up on PCP, utterly destroying the scene. Then we get to the opening title sequence, featuring Alicia Keys absolutely slaughtering a song that’s already so-so, at best. So, the movie is already problematic from the get go. Then more of the chimpanzee editing kicks in. I absolutely hate the editing of this movie. I can’t possibly stress that enough. I can’t pay attention to anything else in this movie because the editing turned it into garbage. It drove me crazy on first viewing, and it does even more so on repeated viewings. It makes Michael Bay movies look competently edited. I don’t think I can stand watching this one again after this. It was a real struggle for me to get to the end. It’s not a huge loss, as the script for the movie is kinda so-so (partially the result of a writer’s strike) and the cast is merely passable, though Olga Kurylenko is pretty good as Camille Montes and Giancarlo Giannini makes a welcome return as Mathis, reprising his Casino Royale role. The most disappointing thing, though, is that the set design and production of the desert building and the final reel in general is fantastic stuff, but like the rest of the movie it’s held back by destroyed by the incompetent editing. Possibly the worst edited action movie I’ve ever seen, Bond or otherwise.
#26 – Casino Royale (1967)
This movie is just plain weird, in so many ways. To try to explain what it is to somebody who didn’t know it existed is an exercise in futility. I’ve seen it at least a few times over the decades, and I still can’t explain it properly. So many of the scenes are theoretically playing things for comedy, as it is intended as a Bond parody, but it falls so completely flat it almost seems like they’re trying to be serious with the material. It’s essentially a very weak framework to hang some silly sketches on, almost none of which work. Then there’s the fact that this thing was directed by 5 different people (well, more like 6, actually). Never mind having upwards of a dozen writers. It’s simply a total mess, which also runs too long. The stories of the production (and Peter Sellers in particular) are legendary, and not in a good way. Seriously, Sellers was off his rockers when making this thing. Somehow, the film has a massive cast, featuring no less than David Niven, Orson Welles, William Holden, John Huston, freakin’ Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, many other high profile actors and, of course, Peter Sellers (which is very incomplete, having never finished a number of his scenes). While it has a few fun moments, nearly every bit of humor in this movie lands with a thud. And while it has a top notch cast, most of them can’t save this thing in any way. At least David Niven gives it a sense of style, and Woody Allen manages to land a few bits of humor that actually work. Though there is a certain kind of entertainment to seeing a cast of this caliber struggling through material like this. If there’s one thing that does kinda work in the movie, it’s Burt Bacharach’s music score – which make no mistake is extremely silly and dated but still entertainingly fun.
#27 – Never Say Never Again (1983)
I hadn’t watched this one in a couple decades, but as part of this franchise re-watch, I decided to give it a fresh chance. Could it possibly be as bad as I remembered? Well, the answer is yes. In fact, it was somehow even worse than I remembered. There is one, and only one, even remotely good thing about this movie, and that’s the fact that Sean Connery actually seems to be having fun with the role. Everything else about this movie is just plain awful. It’s fortunate that this is an unofficial Bond movie and isn’t properly part of franchise canon. Despite actually having a huge budget (I still find that impossible to believe), this thing feels like some crappy Italian knock off of the Bond franchise that somehow cast Sean Connery when he was drunk and accidentally said yes. It feels much more like the actual knock offs that featured the likes of Connery’s brother, Neil. At BEST, this thing feels like a lame TV movie adaptation of Thunderball. Despite having some names in the cast, even that falls flat. Max Von Sydow, who very well knows how to chew scenes and give fantastic over the top performances, is completely dead weight as Blofeld. I half expect him to fall asleep in the chair as he holds the cat. Klaus Brandauer is completely uninteresting as Largo. In fact, he comes off as such a loser, I almost feel sorry for the character. Not a quality you want in a main Bond bad guy. Kim Basinger is, uh… well, she’s in the movie. The weirdest role and performance comes from Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush (apparently this movie’s version of Thunderball’s Volpe?). Her final scene is jaw-droppingly odd, with her holding Bond at gunpoint to force him to write a declaration of her being the best he ever slept with, like the most psychopathic fangirl ever, then Bond freaking blows her to smithereens – as in high explosives shot into her torso. Like, he doesn’t just kill her – they’re going to be spraying and sponging the ooze that used to be her off the stone walls for days.
The editing in this film is uneven and very lazy. The direction lacks any kind of style whatsoever. The movie feels like it will never end. And then there’s the single worst thing about this movie… the music. The score is “how in the WORLD wasn’t this rejected and replaced” levels of awful. Picking Eric Serra to score GoldenEye may have been a mistake, but at least that score had some sense of style and production quality and was at least trying, with some good moments – and could work very well in a different movie. Michel Legrand’s score to this movie, however, is absolutely abysmal, in every possible way. It pops in briefly at random places, oftentimes at odds with the scene stylistically, and is absolutely nowhere to be found for most of the scenes that need to be scored. And when it’s there, it is the cheesiest, cheapest sounding, piece of crap score one could put against a Bond movie, or any other film. Nothing in this movie makes it feel like a zero-budget Italian knock off more than Legrand’s atrocious music score. And if THAT wasn’t bad enough, the title song is even worse. It makes Licence To Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies and SPECTRE’s The Writing’s On The Wall sound like the greatest songs ever written. And unlike in the EON Bond films, it’s not some stylistic opening title sequence it plays over. This “cheesiest attempt at an easy listening love song” is somehow playing over Bond in an action scene opening. To say that it’s stylistically at odds with the scene it plays over is one heck of an understatement. OK, I could continue to rant about how awful this movie is for a long time. Heck, the 1966 version of Casino Royale is better than this abomination. I will NEVER make the mistake of watching this turkey again. And in this case, unlike Connery, I mean it when I say never. 🙂
Music Score Ranking
- The Living Daylights (John Barry)
- A View To A Kill (John Barry)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (John Barry)
- Moonraker (John Barry)
- Tomorrow Never Dies (David Arnold)
- The World Is Not Enough (David Arnold)
- Casino Royale (David Arnold)
- For Your Eyes Only (Bill Conti)
- You Only Live Twice (John Barry)
- Thunderball (John Barry)
- Goldfinger (John Barry)
- Diamonds Are Forever (John Barry)
- From Russia With Love (John Barry)
- No Time To Die (Hans Zimmer)
- Skyfall (Thomas Newman)
- Quantum Of Solace (David Arnold)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (Marvin Hamlisch)
- Octopussy (John Barry)
- Die Another Day (David Arnold)
- Licence To Kill (Michael Kamen)
- Live & Let Die (George Martin)
- The Man With The Golden Gun (John Barry)
- SPECTRE (Thomas Newman)
- Casino Royale (1967) (Burt Bacharach)
- Dr. No (Monty Norman)
- GoldenEye (Eric Serra)
- Never Say Never Again (Michel Legrand)
Main Title Song Ranking
I’m not including the James Bond Theme from Dr. No or John Barry’s instrumental main titles from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as they aren’t technically songs. If I were to, however, they would be at the top of the list.
- Live & Let Die – Paul McCartney & Wings (Live & Let Die)
- GoldenEye – Tina Turner (GoldenEye)
- A View To A Kill – Duran Duran (A View To A Kill)
- The Living Daylights – a-ha (The Living Daylights)
- Skyfall – Adele (Skyfall)
- Thunderball – Tom Jones (Thunderball)
- Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger)
- From Russia With Love – Matt Monro (From Russia With Love)
- We Have All The Time In The World – Louis Armstrong (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
- Diamonds Are Forever – Shirley Bassey (Diamonds Are Forever)
- For Your Eyes Only – Sheena Easton (For Your Eyes Only)
- Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me)
- You Only Live Twice – Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice)
- The World Is Not Enough – Garbage (The World Is Not Enough)
- Moonraker – Shirley Bassey (Moonraker)
- The Man With The Golden Gun – Lulu (The Man With The Golden Gun)
- You Know My Name – Chris Cornell (Casino Royale)
- All Time High – Rita Coolidge (Octopussy)
- No Time To Die – Billie Eilish (No Time To Die)
- Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow (Tomorrow Never Dies)
- Another Way To Die – Jack White & Alicia Keys (Quantum Of Solace)
- Licence To Kill – Gladys Knight (Licence To Kill)
- The Writing’s On The Wall – Sam Smith (SPECTRE)
- Never Say Never Again – Lani Hall (Never Say Never Again)
James Bond Actor Ranking
Now, for the part that’ll surely annoy fellow Bond fans in some way. For the record, I like all of the actors who have played the role. Yes, even including George Lazenby. So, don’t take any of them being lower on the list to mean I don’t like them in the role. As for Pierce Brosnan being as low as he is, it’s as much a result of him just not getting the material for the character that he deserved in his later films and falling a bit short as a result.
- Daniel Craig
- Sean Connery
- Timothy Dalton
- Roger Moore
- Pierce Brosnan
- George Lazenby
Raw Spreadsheet Data
And here’s the spreadsheet containing the raw scores of various aspects for each film.