I'm a James Bond fan. I was introduced to the films by my dad over 20 years ago. My dad showed me one of Roger Moore's films, and I loved it. With this, I've seen each Bond film since 2002 in the theaters, and have much love for the franchise. That being said, not all of the films are winners. Here, I'll be ranking the Bond films, from worst to best. This first article will be covering my #25 film, down to #11.
The James Bond Criteria
The list is purely based on my own enjoyment of the films. It'll only be comprised of the Eon films, so no jokey Casino Royale, or the dogwater Never Say Never Again. This list is my opinion, not based on some objective fact. I've also recently watched all of the films again, as to best have a frame of reference for each movie. Oh, and spoilers aplenty, so if you haven't seen a specific film, skip that section.
Now, this ranking isn't concrete. As time goes on, I come to appreciate some films more, and some a little less. This time next year, plenty of the films will shift around a bit. That's normal, and it's something that happens for most Bond fans.
The idea to do this article came from messages and conversations I had after my Walther PP article from last year. The PP & PPK are very much tied to the Bond franchise, which lead to people asking for my opinion on the films. As stated in the first subheading, this will just be the "bottom" 15 films. Despite that sounding harsh, I still deeply enjoy the majority of the bottom 15 films.
Unless otherwise noted, all of the photos used here are owned by MGM and Eon Productions.
Let's get into the list!
25 - A View To A Kill (1985)
1985's A View To A Kill sucks. It is easily the worst film in the franchise, and is a Bond film that I skip when marathoning the series. Roger Moore (and most of the cast) is far too old, making this film feel geriatric at best. All of the action sequences feature obvious stuntmen, making any scene with Moore unbelievable. I'll give props to Christopher Walken and Grace Jones for their generally great performances, but nearly everything else is bad.
The Beach Boys song playing during the opening might be one of the most out of place, and out of touch things I've seen put to cinema.
I will say that the original John Barry soundtrack, along with the Duran Duran title track are fantastic, and are easily the best parts of the film.
24 - Die Another Day (2002)
Die Another Day was the first Bond film that I saw in theaters. This may make you thing that I've got some nostalgia for it, but alas, I don't. This film, (for the most part), is quite bad. I think that Pierce Brosnan is a highlight in the film, but it's otherwise a rough movie. The plot is lame, and really dated despite only being about two decades old (ethnicity swapping). On top of a mediocre screenplay, a lot of the actors just give poor performances. Halle Berry is just so absolutely horrid. There are also some bad action scenes, notably the surfing scene near the end of the film.
Despite the roughness, I still enjoy parts of the film. The first half is generally pretty good, and a lot of the action is enjoyable. The opening action scene and the ice car chase are really fun. I might get flak for it, but I actually enjoy the Madonna song for the film. Sue me, but I think it's pretty catchy.
23 - Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Sean Connery returned to the role of Bond for this film. Oh, what a messy film. Diamonds Are Forever is a Bond film, in which Bond is the least interesting part of the film.
Connery is disinterested with the character in the film, and it shows. His acting is sloppy and half-hearted, and for half of the film, he's playing another character. His lack of desire to play Bond, let alone masquerading as a diamond mule, really makes this film rank low for me. I do enjoy certain parts, namely the location of Las Vegas, and the showing of casinos in the golden age of the city. Charles Gray is excellent as Blofeld, and is easily the highlight of the film. Some of the action, such as the moon rover chase and Vegas car chase are fun, but the rest of the movie is meh.
I place Diamonds higher than Die Another Day, purely on the element that I don't cringe at this film nearly as much as I do in DAD. Shirley Bassey's title track for the film is a certified banger, and it's a shame that it is tied to this film.
22 - Moonraker (1979)
At the end of 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, the credits state that James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only. However, the next film was not that one, but was rather Moonraker. When Star Wars was released, it made Eon change their tone, and switch to the space-themed Bond screenplay, based on the Fleming book of the same name. What we got was essentially a remake of Goldfinger, but worse, and in space.
Moonraker is a fairly goofy, kind of boring Bond film. This marked the change of the Moore films becoming a bit more overtly goofy, and I do not really like it. We've got some goofy action scenes, notably the Venice canal boat chase, and some wooden characters. I don't much like Hugo Drax as our villain, as he feels like a low-rent Goldfinger. The main bond girl, "Dr. Holly Goodhead" is alright, but far from a favorite of mine. I don't like the filmmakers bringing Jaws back from the previous film, as they just make him a cartoon caricature.
I enjoy parts of Moore's performance in this film, but it's lopsided. Some parts are good, some parts are bad. The pre-title action scenes are great, and I like some of the space shootouts towards the end of the film, but it's very uneven for my enjoyment. I'm not a fan of the title track for the film personally. For me, this is a mediocre film. However, if you want to take a nap, I'd recommend this film.
21 - Spectre (2015)
Spectre was the cinematic return to the evil organization, SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion (SPECTRE), was featured prominently in the 1960s Bond films. However, due to copywrite issues tied to the screenplay for Thunderball, the organization was left out of Bond films post-Diamonds.
Spectre is mediocre. I would argue that it is less bad, and more boring. Daniel Craig is great as Bond, but the biggest issue is the plot. The plot is very, very dumb in this film. Characters make strange choices throughout the film, and the writing generally feels poor. The biggest gripe is the main twist of the film; we find out that Bond is the step-brother of the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This Bond film pulled a gag from an Austin Powers film, which is just terrible.
Aside from the horrible plot, I generally enjoy much of the film. It is a beautifully shot film, and the style and callbacks to prior Bond films are a nice touch. The action is generally good, such as the train fight, and the pre-title sequence. However, there are parts that are hair-pullingly poor, such as the escape from Blofeld's lair, and the final action scene of the film.
Some may dislike the vocal track for the film, Writings On The Wall by Sam Smith, but I find it to be fine. Not the best song, but far from the worst. I don't hate this film, and thankfully the follow up to it was much, much better.
20 - You Only Live Twice (1967)
1967's You Only Live Twice was the sign of Connery's waning interest in the Bond films. The production of the film is infamous for Connery's burnout, and how much he was harassed by the media while filming in Japan. Well, it shows in his performance. While he puts in a better job than in his last official portrayal, Connery still seems rather disinterested as Bond in this film.
The plot of YOLT is alright, but nothing great. It really feels like a "Bond in Japan" type of movie, as it really pushes the elements of the foreign nature of Japan into the film. We've also got a really rough plot point of Bond "becoming Japanese" to blend in better for the latter half of the film, which is an incredibly dated, and somewhat distasteful element. I look at films through the lens of the year they came out, and I think that plot element must have been bad back then too.
I do dig the set design by Ken Adams, especially Blofeld's volcano lair at the end of the film. The cinematography is generally great too, as much of this film is very pretty to look at. The two Bond girls, Aki & Kissy Suzuki are a bit jarring. Aki is a powerful spy, while Kissy kind of exists just to be a plot point to push the film along. The title track by Nancy Sinatra is pretty good, one that I don't mind hearing.
This was meant to be Connery's last film, and it would have been a decent sendoff. However, enough money will bring any actor back, as Diamonds Are Forever shows.
19 - Octopussy (1983)
From this point forwards, the list is comprised of films that I enjoy. While the prior films are ones that I don't dislike, I don't really like them either. However, that changes with Octopussy. This film, (in the words of David at The Bond Experience), is like gooey pizza. It's very cheesy, but who doesn't like some junk food every so often?
Octopussy is Roger Moore's goofiest film. A plot featuring clowns, Indian dancers, Tarzan yells, Faberge Eggs, smuggling nukes into West Germany, and Q in a hot air balloon. This is a rollercoaster of a film, with a lot of comedic gags, wonky action, and the cheesiest of lines. This feels like a comedic cut of a Hitchcock film, with the movie going from goody to serious at the flip of a switch.
Standout parts of the film are the titular Octopussy, and one of her girls, Magda. Octopussy, (as portrayed by Maud Adams) runs a circus, with her girls acting as gymnasts and aerial performers. As such, we've got a ton of physicality in this film, including a scene in which Magda leaves Bond's hotel room via an unwinding fabric hanky. The action varies from goofy to good, with notable parts being the opening sequence, and the train sequence near the finale. I think that Moore's performance is the perfect amount of cheese, however it's far from my favorite of his performances.
I don't like the song for the film, as All Time High by Rita Coolidge is just too lovey-dovey for me. The score is generally fine, but nothing outstanding. Overall, while I'm not the biggest Octopussy fan, I still appreciate the film, especially at its 40th anniversary.
18 - Licence To Kill (1989)
Licence To Kill is the second Bond film starring Timothy Dalton. While many people loathe this film, a lot view it as a premonition of the Craig era of Bond. In this film, Bond goes rogue, looking for revenge, something that we'd see in the Craig tenure. CIA agent Felix Leiter and his wife are attacked after their wedding, and Bond wants to get vengeance on the South American druglord that did it. This leads to a film that I enjoy, but not in its whole.
LTK is a very spotty film. I love the pre-title sequence, the boating and skiing scenes, and the end truck chase, but lots of the film just feels meh. The villain Sanchez is interesting and well done, and half of the Bond girls are great. I really enjoy Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, and think that Dalton's performance is spot on, but a lot of this film just feels cheap. Well, it was made as a lower budget film, and looks it. LTK feels like a 1980s TV film, akin to Lethal Weapon, but with spy stuff. It sounds like I'm being harsh, but again, I enjoy this film. A recent re-watch made me realize that I liked it more than I did in the past, but I can't overlook the issues. If you want a darker Bond, more centered in a form of reality, this is a solid film.
Oh, and the barfight scene is total schlock, but the interaction between Bond and Pam regarding the shotgun makes me chuckle every time. Gladys Knight's titular song is also something that I really, really enjoy. She belts it out so damn well.
17 - The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
1974's The Man with the Golden Gun is a black sheep in the Bond franchise. It was received worse than the prior year's film, and for a lot of fans, this one ranks lowly for them. For me, I found that the harder, slightly darker Moore outings were what I preferred. In this film, we're pitting Moore's Bond against master assassin Francisco Scaramanga, played by Sir Christopher Lee. I absolutely love Lee's performance in this film, as it meshes extremely well with Moore's darker Bond.
Moore is threating people for information, sneaking into locations, fighting people, and generally being badass. This movie has its uneven parts, mostly the poorly done comedy with Sheriff JW Pepper from Live and Let Die. Now. I think that this detracts from the film, but I can still enjoy it regardless. The action is generally well done, and the car chase between Bond and Scaramanga is excellent, barring the slide whistle. The gunfight at the end is suspenseful, albeit the solar laser at the end is kind of dull. I'm not a fan of the Bond girls in this film, however, I don't think that they hurt the good parts all that much. Scaramanga's henchman, Nick-Nack is gimmicky, but Hervé Villechaize's performance works well.
While this is far from my favorite Bond film, it's surprisingly good. My recent viewing made me realize that this film was much, much better than I remembered from my childhood.
16 - Dr. No (1962)
Dr. No is the first Bond film, and boy, was it a great start to the series. While the early films were based on Fleming's books, they were not filmed in any sort of specific order. Dr. No is not the first Bond book, but as a starting film, it works extremely well. The plot is fairly simple; the titular Dr. No is trying to disrupt American space rocket launches from his base in Jamaica, and Bond has to stop him. We open with a British intelligence agent being killed, and Bond begins the detective trail.
This film is packed full of "Bond moments". We get a lot of shots of Sean Connery acting like a spy, and doing spy stuff. Compared to many later films, Dr. No really feels like a detective/espionage film. Bond fighting bad guys right from the start of his time in Jamaica, working with the CIA, and exploring Crab Key really feel Bond-y. Connery's performance is fantastic too, with him both fitting into the character, and really looking the part. Jack Lord as Felix Leiter is great too, and the majority of the supporting good & evil cast are great. Quarrel, Dr. Dent, and the 3 Blind Mice Hitmen are great too.
Now, it's hard to talk about this film without discussing the famous scene of Ursula Andress coming out of the water. Her character, Honey Ryder, has a great look, and motivations to help Bond stop the villain. Dr. No, as played by Joseph Wiseman, is performed well too, with his goals and motivations clear. Despite all of my praise, I do have some problems with this film. While it looks great, was shot well, and is acted well, I am immensely bored by the last 25 minutes of the film. When Bond and gang meet the "dragon" of Crab Key, I lose interest in the film, until the end. It is basic, which was good for the first film, but I very much find the first 70% of the film significantly better than the last chunk.
While I've got some issues with it, Dr. No is a film that I love to put on and enjoy.
15 - The World Is Not Enough (1999)
When discussing 1999's The World Is Not Enough, I have to immediately gush about the pre-title sequence. From Bond rappelling from a building, to MI6 being attacked, to a boat chase through London, TWINE has one of the strongest openings in the series. However, the rest of the film is a little lopsided.
The plot of this film is fairly straightforward, with a terrorist trying to destroy oil pipelines. However, it turns out that the new oil baroness Electra King is colluding with terrorist Renard, who had kidnapped her prior to the start of the film. An interesting plot, with Stockholm Syndrome being a major element. This leads to some interesting action sequences, but some dull acting.
Pierce Brosnan is excellent as Bond here. He's carrying large chunks of the film, along with the MI6 crew. Judi Dench as M is fantastic as always, and Sophie Marceau as Electra King is great too. However, there are two dull thuds, at least for me. Denise Richards as Christmas Jones is just OK. This character seems more fit for a Moore film, and just seems out of place here. I also think that Renard, portrayed by Robert Carlyle, is also meh. I just do not buy the relationship between King and Renard, as it feels very fake. Two villains in the film leads to a non-starter, as when Electra is killed, that seems like a good end point for the film.
Despite some strange plot decisions and suspect acting, the action is generally great. The opening, the ski chase, and the caviar factory scenes come to mind for me. The soundtrack and title song are fantastic too.
As a child, I loved this film. This is the first "current" Bond film that came out when I was able to remember, and I loved it to death. However, 20+ years later, I've got a more critical eye. I still enjoy this film quite a bit though.
14 - For Your Eyes Only (1981)
1981's For Your Eyes Only is a Bond film that I've only recently begun to really enjoy. The premise is fairly simple; a British missile guidance device is missing, and Bond has to work with Greek smugglers to prevent it from being sold to the Soviets. We've got double-crossing, and a strong revenge plot. Now, this film is quite lumpy for me. There are parts that I really love (basically all of the action of the film), but then there are some parts that just don't gel so well.
The pre-title sequence of Bond killing "not Blofeld" feels really out of place in this film. There's also a lot of downtime throughout the film, in which we've got mediocre characters taking up screen time. A lot of it exists to set up the twist, that Greek smuggler Kristatos is actually the bad guy, and that he's trying to get Bond to kill his competition. However, whenever the skater Bibi Dahl is on screen, I want to tear my hair out. Now, most of the actors give excellent portrayals here. Moore is on point as Bond, more serious than in Moonraker. Carole Bouquet's Melina is a great character too, as Bond assists her on her revenge journey. Chaim Topol as Columbo is a great foil to Bond too, acting as a sidekick with great screen presence.
I do enjoy the action in this film, notably the car chase near the start, and the underwater scenes. This kind of feels like a TV film, but in a very cozy way.
Personally, I find the romance between Bond and Melina a bit creepy, due to the massive age gap. This is the point in the franchise that Moore really seemed to be getting too old for the character. Regardless, this is certainly an enjoyable Bond romp, and one that I'm happy that I've come to love.
13 - Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Well, Quantum of Solace is a polarizing film. As a follow-up to 2006's Casino Royale, QoS is a direct sequel, literally starting right where Casino ends. We begin in a car chase, with some frenetic editing. Now, I really enjoy QoS (hence it being 13/25 for me), however, that's in spite of the editing.
To understand this film is to understand 2008. The Jason Bourne films were extremely popular, and QoS is very much a response to that. We've got an extremely brutal and violent Bond, with a revenge story being told here. The action and editing are very quick, albeit a bit baffling at parts. However, this leads to the fastest paced film in the series.
Craig is excellent as Bond, and generally, the whole cast gives fantastic performances. The plot is a continuation of Casino, with Bond going after the organization that killed Vesper at the end of the previous film. This leads to a plot to swindle Bolivian people out of water, and a chase across a large swath of the world. We've also got a separate revenge plot, in which Bond girl Camille desires to avenge her family. Overall, the plot is basic, but I dig that.
Yeah, the editing in the start of the film is rough, and the plot is fairly basic, but the execution is great. The action is on-point, and Craig is deadly as ever. We are privy to a scene in which Bond kills a man by stabbing him, then elevating his leg high so that he bleeds out faster. This is a brutal Bond, and I love it. The soundtrack is fantastic too, barring the quite horrible Alicia Keys & Jack White title sequence song. While far from perfect, QoS is enjoyable, especially if you watch it right after Casino Royale.
12 - Live And Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore's first Bond film is one of my favorites. 1973's Live And Let Die is a lot of things. It's a Bond blaxploitation film, with voodoo magic, boat chases, and a darker, violent Roger Moore.
The plot to LALD is fairly simple. Dr. Kananga is the dictator of a small country in the Caribbean, while living a double life as Mr. Big, a drug kingpin. After two British agents are killed, Bond is on the case to figure out who did it. During his investigation, Bond is captured multiple times, and finds Solitaire, Dr. Kananga's tarot reader. The spiritual elements are on full display here, as Solitaire sees into the future for Kananga. We've got romance, alligator farm chases, an amazing boat chase, snake fights, and Dr. Kananga getting blown up by a shark gun pellet.
Well, this movie is a great opener to Moore's tenure as Bond, and is certainly a classic. The title track by Wings may be the most popular Bond song in the franchise, and it is tied to an excellent film. For my gripes, I'm just not a massive fan of Solitaire. The occult parts are great, but the relationship between Bond and Solitaire is not one that I really like. However, all of the acting from Moore, Yaphet Kotto, and all of the other actors are fantastic. Tee Hee is one of my favorite henchmen, with his claw hand and charm. Baron Samedi is a creepy, yet cool character too.
The action is fantastic. The car and boat chases are amazing, and very real feeling. While goofy, the airplane chase is great too. Moore seems at his deadliest here, especially when sporting a black sweater and .44 magnum at the end of the film. The score in the film is fantastic too, composed by George Martin. While distinct from the Barry scores, Martin's has a very 70's blaxploitation sound. It's funky, groovy, and fitting. Paul & Linda McCartney's title track is incredibly iconic too, possibly being the most famous song ever made for a Bond film.
If you are reading this far, you've likely already seen this film. On the off chance that you haven't, I'd recommend that you watch it when you can, as it is excellent.
11 - The Living Daylights (1987)
I really, really enjoy 1987's The Living Daylights. In Timothy Dalton's first Bond film, we see a harder, gruff Bond, in contrast to Moore's. Dalton is cool, he's violent, and has a globetrotting adventure. This film is very espionage heavy, with Bond foiling a fake Soviet plan to kill British spies. Now, the plot does have some issues, namely that it has too many villains. We've got a Russian defector/triple agent, an expat American arms dealer, and the entire Soviet army. In spite of the lack of a clear villain, there's still a fun experience to be had.
Dalton is perfect as Bond. He studied all of the Fleming works before filming, and it shows. He's suave and lethal, something that we'd see quite often during the Craig era. While this film isn't nearly as "hard" as LTK, it certainly feels more Bond than the follow-up would. Excellent gadgets, thrilling action, and massive set pieces fill this film. The pre-title sequence in Gibraltar is one of my favorites, and the snow chase with the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and cello case are amazing too. While the film does globetrot a lot, it serves a purpose for the plot. Bond in Afghanistan working with the Mujahedeen has aged like milk, however it works in a film from 36 years ago.
Maryam d'Abo plays the love interest for the film, Kara Milovy. I'm not the biggest fan of this character in the film, but on repeat viewings, I come to enjoy her more and more. Kara grabbing an AK and riding a horse to chase after Bond in Afghanistan is certainly a highlight. Now, for the villains, we've got a highlight, and a wet fart. General Koskov, as portrayed by Jeroen Krabb, is a fun villain. He's a conniving and charming triple agent, working for himself by the end of the film. In contrast, Brad Whitaker, as played by Joe Don Baker, is terrible. He exists to just push the plot along, and is generally a forgettable character. The henchman Necros is a fun henchman, although he is another big blonde baddie in a long line of them in this film series.
The cinematography and editing of TLD is very good. We've got a lot of globetrotting in the film, and each locale looks wonderful. From Gibraltar to Afghanistan, this is generally quite a pretty film. The opening in Gibraltar, car chase through Czechoslovakia, and the fight on the C130 are standout scenes, in regards to technical quality. Dovetailing into the look, the sound of the film is really quite sublime. John Barry and A-ha created a killer score, up in my top 3 for the series. It's one that I enjoy listening to in my daily life.
The Living Daylights is great, and despite some spotty writing, is an amazing film.
If you've read this far, thank you. You're likely a Bond fan, or aspiring to get into the series. While this is my bottom 15 list, nearly all of these films are worth watching. There's a lot of fun in the James Bond series, and some of the schlockier entries can be a fun cheese fest.
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