James Bond Film Rankings
Below is a list of my Bond film rankings from worst to best:
No 27. No Time to Die.
No. 26. Quantum of Solace.
No. 25. Spectre.
I consider Spectre, Quantum of Solace, and No Time to Die to be the "anti-Bonds." Some people may find the subversion of traditional Bond tropes endearing, but I do not.
No. 24. Casino Royale (1967) - An early attempt at satire that ultimately misfired (though one could argue that the film is a satire of the 1960s spy craze in general). Some of the set pieces are interesting (particularly the spy school which leans heavily into German Expressionist cinema), but ultimately there are better satires out there.
No. 23. A View to a Kill - This is a sloppy film. It is clear that after twenty years and thirteen official films, the Bond team had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Clearly, some revitalization was needed.
No. 22. Moonraker - A silly film that takes James Bond to the one place he should never go: outer space! This is a childish and superficial film, though the special effects are truly impressive.
No. 21. You Only Live Twice - The first truly awful film of the official Bond canon. The cinematography, music (particularly the title song by Nancy Sinatra), titles, and Japanese location are truly awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, the rest of the film comes across more like an episode of Thunderbirds than a Bond movie. Perhaps my biggest problem with this film is that Bond is stripped of all agency. He is told where to go and what to do - something that is antithetical to his character.
No. 20. Never Say Never Again - If ever there was a missed opportunity, it was Never Say Never Again. Rather than taking the opportunity to provide audiences with an alternative Bond movie, Kevin McClory was more concerned with chasing box office bucks.
No. 19. Tomorrow Never Dies - Personally, I find the near non-stop action of this film to be tiresome. This film is a video game without the player interaction.
No. 18. Die Another Day - Something of a mixed bag. Personally, I find the concept of Bond getting captured, tortured, and held prisoner for more than a year to be a bold - and ultimately brilliant - move on the part of the filmmakers. Sadly, the film is marred by over-reliance on fantasy and camp humour.
No. 17. The Man with the Golden Gun - A very muddled film that represents a missed opportunity. If it had been an assassin versus assassin story filmed with Timothy Dalton as Bond (i.e., swap this film with The Living Daylights), this would have been one of the best Bond films. Sadly, it is marred by its camp humour and a lacklustre plot.
No. 16. Diamonds are Forever - The Las Vegas setting, plot twist with Blofeld masquerading as Willard Whyte, and razor-sharp dialogue are highlights of this film. Unfortunately, a weak plot featuring a diamond laser in space, mostly lacklustre villains, and an over-reliance on camp humour make this one of the weaker Bond entries.
No. 15. The Living Daylights - Like the Man with the Golden Gun, this is a muddled film. The Cold War spy thriller aspects of the film work brilliantly - especially the defection scene. However, the film quickly goes downhill once it reaches Afghanistan. Lacklustre villains don't make things any better, either.
No. 14. Skyfall - One of the more overrated Bond films out there. This film features a great story poorly told. For example, the film tells us multiple times that Bond is an orphan rather than selecting the one moment that would have the most dramatic impact. This film would have been ten times better if it had been tighter and more succinct. The cinematography, however, is breathtaking.
No. 13 - Licence to Kill - Arguably the most violent and ruthless of all the Bonds (even more so than Casino Royale). The film's harder, more realistic edge is a welcome improvement. Sadly, the film suffers from a lack of Bond moments and therefore comes across less like a Bond film and more like a generic 1980s action film.
No. 12 - Goldfinger - The film that put Bond on the map. Sean Connery's portrayal of Bond, a great villain in Auric Goldfinger, and a brilliant pre-title sequence make this a Bond film for the ages. However, this film also suffers from a number of problems that keep it from the top ten. Namely, the early signs of camp humour that would plague that Bond films for several decades, and the fact that Bond spends a significant portion of the film in captivity.
No. 11. Live and Let Die - This is my guilty pleasure Bond film, though even I'm wise enough to realise it doesn't belong in the top ten. Put simply, this film has swagger. Sadly, it also has a reasonably weak plot and an array of villains that would perhaps better be suited to a comic book.
No. 10. Dr. No - This film established Bond as a kind of modern mythology. Some people have referred to the first Bond film as "vanilla." I tend to agree, but only because I think this film established most of the themes and motifs that would characterise the Bond films.
No. 09. The World is Not Enough - One of the more underrated Bond films. Sure, it has its problems. Robert Carlyle is underused as Renard, Denise Richards is unconvincing as a nuclear scientist, and Zukovsky is reduced to comic relief (to name but a few problems). However, Bond's complicated relationship with the central character Elektra makes this one of the more compelling Bond films.
No. 08. Octopussy - One of the few Cold War spy thrillers in the Bond film canon. This film mixes the intrigue of From Russia with Love with the fantasy of Goldfinger. The film's quality declines during its Indian sequences. However, it quickly builds momentum when it reaches Germany.
No. 7. Casino Royale - The film that rebooted and revitalised the series. Although I think this film could have been improved in a number of ways (mostly by re-writing the script), the central subtext of how a man (Bond) loses the last vestiges of his humanity is a fascinating one. It's just a shame that none of Daniel Craig's subsequence Bond films lived up to the mantle set by this film.
No. 6. Thunderball - A Bond classic that ticks almost all of the boxes. Unfortunately, one can see the early signs of excessiveness that would bog the series down in later films, and the underwater sequences are like watching paint dry. Despite its faults, however, this is still much to like about this film. Most notable is the competition between Bond and Largo for Domino's affections which underscores this entire film.
No. 5. For Your Eyes Only - Easily the most serious of all the Roger Moore films. This film owes more to From Russia with Love than any other movie in the Bond canon. The film's use of intrigue and betrayal coupled with brilliant performances by Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover, and Topol make for a great James Bond film.
No. 4. Goldeneye - The Bond film that reintroduced James Bond to a new audience in a new era. Without denigrating the character (something which sadly cannot be said about the Daniel Craig era), this film shows how a man like Bond adapts to a post-Cold War world where their particular set of skills may no longer be required. Indeed, the central difference between Bond and Trevelyan is that Bond can adapt whereas Trevelyan can't.
No. 3. The Spy Who Loved Me - This is one of the few Bond films that manages to maintain its integrity despite its grandiosity. This is a larger-than-life Bond film with huge sets, big action sequences, and a fantasy plot. However, because the filmmakers and the actors/characters believe in the reality of what they are doing, the audience is prepared to believe it, too - no matter how ridiculous it might get.
No. 2. From Russia with Love - This film has the best plot in the entire series, mostly because it is the most believable. Every actor and actress gives a great performance and the train fight is, in my mind, the best in film history. Amazing to think they got things so right so early.
No. 1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - My favourite Bond film in the series. If From Russia with Love has the best story, then this film has the best characters. George Lazenby plays Bond with a certain amount of petulance (though credit for this can only also be given to Peter Hunt), Diana Rigg plays Tracy as a woman teetering on the edge of mental collapse, Telly Savalas plays Blofeld as a man suffering from barely disguised insecurity, and Draco is one of the best allies in the series. Then there's the filmmaking credentials. Clearly, Peter Hunt set out to make a great film rather than just a great Bond film. This is a truly great motion picture.