1. CASINO ROYALE
— Just, wow! Campbell got it right with Goldeneye and even ‘righter’ with this, from the B/W prologue to the tragic epilogue.
The fight scenes pack real punch and the drama has real grit and bite to it. Mads nails Le Chiffre without chewing scenery, while Green does the impossible - a 3-dimensional Bond girl - even more so than Rigg.
— The plot holes and a couple of terrible 50th anniversary old school Bond gags (“He’s in a rush to get home!”) can’t diminish what Mendes & Deakins achieved here. Plus, the chemistry between Craig and Bardem is sublime, particularly in their tense yet witty first encounter.
Skyfall’s in a class of it’s own - a tonally rich piece of filmmaking that lacks only Fleming’s masterful pen scribing the narrative.
3. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
— Lazenby is underrated and Sevalas is perfectly cast. Barry’s score in unsurpassed, blending modern visceral thrills with the romantic melancholic, yet optimistic elements of Amrstrong’s All The Time In The World.
As proven above with Casino Royale, when the screenplay adheres to the novel it reaps rewards - a lesson i wish Eon would learn to this day and make those novels that have been squandered (YOLT comes to mind).
4. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
— Even if this movie consisted of just the Train set piece it would still be this high - Shaw and Connery are perfectly matched in both brains and brawn.
— The cinematic Bond formula was perfected and in terms of this formula has never been bettered - the above titles may be superior movies to my mind, but this is the quintessential Bond movie.
— A glorious day for Bond fans - at last we had our hero back, saving the world without need of flattering lighting and with a team eager to make a movie rather than a product. This set out to please and to thrill and won on both scores. It bravely put lazy stereotypes to bed, whilst cleverly having bundles of fun with those very tropes.
The only Bond film i’ve seen in which the audience gave a standing ovation at the end, as though they’d finally witnessed England win the World Cup again, so happy where they to have genuinely enjoyed without caveat this British mascot for the first time in well over a decade.
— If i pretend the final, diabolically penned act in London didn’t happen, then this is a tour de force in style.
After the success of Skyfall the team appear to have been given licence to stretch the boundaries of the formula even further into the arts. Despite being mooted in advance as a return to the old Bond formula, it turned out to be much more t’boot; not just an action movie, but a true thriller, with mystery and depth, allowing for real tonal exposition (rather dialogue driven exposition) and a far more nuanced sense of character introspection.
There are haunting moments that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best prestige Oscar bait that Hollywood and Europe can offer (the funeral scene, the creepy as hell cabalistic meeting of SPECTRE, and Bellecci’s Bond-canon-topping operatic salvation). This movie’s sense of mystery and something always waiting just beyond the senses is the nearest we’ll get to a Hitchcock Bond movie.
I can live with the contrivance of Blofeld and Bond having entwined history (just about). But i draw the line at the retro-fitting of all previous Craig films’ villains as having been managed by Blofeld. It’s a great idea – if they’d had it up front when they wrote CR; how wonderful that big reveal might have been if it had connected clues left throughout Craig’s Bond films.
But alas it was horribly obvious from the slapdash way it was written that this was a last minute idea cooked up to please some twat in a suit who’d complained that the end wasn’t ‘big’ enough. Well it was big - a great big pile of…
It may have been my number 2, or 3 if it hadn’t resorted to the pre-Craig P&W M.O. of ‘lets throw all our ideas on screen - more is better, right?’ They may as well had Craig kite-surf along the Thames in pursuit of Blofeld in it’s tv-Spooks worthy finale.
But, i’m speculating - i have not the foggiest who’s really responsible for that cock-up. One thing’s for sure, the style, panache and shear class of everything that preceded this final act means that Spectre is still pretty high up my list.
8. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
— Nobody does it better… For at least one movie, Moore, Hamlish and Gilbert ruled Britania. It was a great year to be a Bond fan, despite being virtually eclipsed by Star Wars.
9. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
— The template for TSWLM, Roald Dahl adapted Fleming’s darkest novel into the first Fantasy-Bond movie. Where the novel was heavy, this was light, where the novel was disturbingly intoxicated this was fiendishly fun. It shouldn’t have worked, but with Dhal’s genius and Connery’s presence it’s still to this day such joyous delight.
And the best part - it’s left Fleming’s YOLT and it’s villain Shatterhand (Blofeld) conveniently un-filmed and perfect for this era of Bond.
— Connery is Bond, in his stride, somehow managing to make a tin jetpack seem feasible. Beating up transvestites, evading sharks and allowing a female dance partner (assassin, Volpe) to take a bullet, this is a deceptively dark Bond movie.
This darkness is counterpointed with such great lines as ‘She’s just dead’ and ‘He got the point’, really nailing Connery’s sardonic Bond - no one since has delivered such lines so well. Just a shame that Largo was a little flaccid and his denouement underwhelming.
11. LIVE AND LET DIE
— What a score! Just when it seemed that no one could ever match Barry, along comes George Martin to give us the funkiest and second best (after OHMSS) score in the canon. Not just that, but the very best title song by his long time collaborator Paul McCartney.
When Bond is lucky enough to get such experienced collaborations, such as Mendes and Deakins (and no doubt Villinueve and Deakins somewhere down the pipeline), Bond can really exceed expectations. No Bond debut has ever had such classy sounds to ride in on.
Yaphet Kotto nails it, the locations feel fresh with 70s gritt 'n glamour in NY and the Caribbean. Somehow they manage to keep the ration of blaxploitation that was inevitable with source material like this, being shot in the early 70s, without making the affair wholly repugnant with racial stereotypes.
12. DR. NO
— Despite the shoddy pacing and tour guide nature shackled to such movies of this era it delivers an element of modernism way ahead of it’s time. Much is down to the counter intuitive casting of an unrecognised Scotsman in the lead and Ken Adams bold set work.
The direction and delivery of the line “You’ve had your six” set a rule for how to keep Fleming’s Bond in the picture and was a benchmark for every one-liner that followed.
13. QUANTUM OF SOLACE
— The Marmite of Bond movies (if this were a world in which most people hated Marmite). Well, in that world i’m fairly partial to Marmite and forgiving of its bitter aftertaste. I see real genius and ambition in QoS and i also see a half-finished script that allows that potential to remain unfulfilled.
To my mind the film’s much derided action set-pieces try to work on an artistic, expressionistic level, as is Forster’s style.
This is inadequate when it comes to the big action set pieces, such as the motor bike/harbour rescue of Camille and the hack handed aerial dog fight and freefall into a conveniently placed pothole. However it works well for the opening car chase and pretty well for the scaffolding dual with Mitchell.
But it really does work during the shootout at the Opera house; audio killed to allow the opera to score it, this is an arthouse action scene and Forster proves here it can indeed be done - one of the canon’s highlights imho.
While the hotel finale lacks oomph, I love the low key epilogues of sending Green into the desert with only oil to drink, and then the resolution of Vesper’s story in the snow. Pitty they didn’t keep the rumoured surprise ending of Mr White sniping Bond down in the snow, but i guess they recycled that idea in the pre-titles of the next movie. A shame, as a Fleming-esque cliffhanger would be an exciting first for a Bond movie.
14. LICENCE TO KILL
— Great villain and Dalton is far more comfortable. Dalton seemed to be trying too hard to be a 3-dimensional Bond in TLD, which he portrayed as an earnest man who cares. But ironically it’s that gentility which sets him apart from Fleming’s Bond. Now he’s darker, less apologetic for being a killer and it pays dividends.
The villains are great and the plot forces Dalton into being crueler and more self-serving, facilitating his better performance. But this movie is terribly let down by unimaginative direction and cinematography, at times feeling like a tv show, rather than a Bond movie.
Likewise the script has moments, but generally feels hackneyed. Unfortunately for Dalton he came along as the Bond factory were on autopilot and the audience had grown bored with the same old product every couple of years. In the current era of Bond that we’re enjoying i think Dalton may have been served and faired far better.
15. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
— Though TSWLM is his best Bond movie, this is perhaps Moore’s most exciting performance. They go out on a limb to recast Moore as a ruthless operator - even going to the lengths of crowbarring deceased wife Tracy into the pre-titles to set the tone for a darker version of Moore. And against the odds they pull it off - at least as well as a Moore movie released in 1981 could.
Moore was given the chance to prove critics wrong, thanks to Eon jumping the shark with Moonraker previously. A pity they returned to the ‘Carry On Bond’ approach thereafter with Octopussy, featuring swinging on vines with a Tarzan holla, telling a tiger to ‘sit’ and shooting off a bannister knob before sliding over it. But i digress… Well, i guess the rubbish that followed only makes FYEO that much more special.
16. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
— Fleming’s very own cousin, Lee is the perfect nemesis and Thailand affords such amazing locations that they reused them in TND. But ultimately it’s a tame affair with too much comic relief in Ekland’s character.
However, Moore’s effortless retort to the belly dancer’s genius line “I’ve lost my charm!” is an absolute classic, and i’m a big fan of the epilogue’s reprise of the title song at the very end, so it’s placed higher in my chart than it probably deserves.
17. TOMORROW NEVER DIES
— With the intended Hopkins as the villain and anyone but Hatcher it could’ve been top 5. The tone and pacing are great and Brosnan is nailing it, particularly while screwing on his gun’s silencer awaiting unwelcome visitors. And that preceding fight with a few henchmen in a sound proof booth is also a cracker - no superhero stuff, just tough and gritty, just like the fist fight with Bean at the end of Goldeneye and foreshadowing the direction taken with Craig throughout his era.
The assassin, Droctor -‘I could shoot you from Stuttgart’- Kaufman steals the movie - LOL funny and sinister at the same time, it’s perfectly pitched. The pre-titles are pretty damned great too; having M et al watch the proceedings adds an extra layer of both tension and coolness as they witness Bond’s ‘bad-assery’ unable to help.
At the time i thought they missed a trick not using Lang’s song at the top, but in hindsight i think they got it right - Crow’s tune establishes a lamentable melancholia that gives context to the sombre moments in the Paris Carver story line.
I’ve taken umbrage at Hatcher’s casting (as did many), but it’ not all her fought; Brosnan deserves some of the blame, as does Spottiswood and the cinematography in the hotel love scene. The whole thing is cringeworthy in it’s Mills’n Boone melodramatic dialogue, delivery and lighting. In this scene TND is suddenly a tv movie, or worst still a perfume ad and this saps any credulity out of this key relationship in the story, bringing the whole movie down to it’s cheesorama depths.
18. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
— Bland, by the numbers anti-climax to the casting of a new Bond. It has some entertaining moments, but too few to make it memorable. The villains are… well, who are they - not sure i care! It’s an OK Bond movie, but that’s not good enough, especially when it introduces the world to a new Bond. Dalton was very poorly served in his debut.
19. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
— Such potential here! A double crossing femme fatal and a terrorist henchman with a death sentence ticking away in his brain and unreceptive to any pain. How could they have made it so lacklustre?
By having 2 directors…
But Apted directed it, i hear you say. Well, he certainly directed the ‘talkie bits’, while it’s glaringly obvious that he stepped aside to let Armstrong direct the action. Both these fellows are mighty talented in their respective specialised fields, but those fields and their styles couldn’t be more different. Thus what we get is a schitzo movie that jarringly handbrake turns us from dialogue to action and back again.
Marceau superbly convinces us that she’s capable of stringing everyone along to suit her purpose, but Carlyle’s villain is a total waste. Carlyle is good when he gets the opportunity (maybe just once, or twice), but despite his characters excellent set up with the 3D bullet in the brain briefing we then see nothing of this, apart from him intimidating a member of staff by holding a hot rock…Oh, and a little S&M with Marceau and some glass (eek!)
Then off course the finale in the submarine is more Poseidon Adventure than Bond movie.
But it does have a great one-liner when Maceau is killed: “I never miss”, which Brosnan manages not to ham - kudos to him.
— As a 9 year old, Bond’s answer to Star Wars was the most exciting thing i could imagine. As an adult it’s still a lot of fun, but little else. Oh, and they really did jump the shark with Jaws this time round.
21. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
—One of the best title songs – one of the lamest finales… Connery effortlessly proves that he’s still Bond. Wint and Kidd are the creepiest henchman in cinematic history and Charles Grey is a ton of fun. However, it all wraps up with Bond in a crane, bashing Blofeld’s boat…
Where Sprectre’s ending tried way too hard and got it all wrong, this ending didn’t try at all - as though they just stopped rolling and said, 'Ah, that’ll do, now lets go spend all the cash this’ll make 'cos it’s got ‘Bond’ above the title…’
Great villains and really great locations in India (i’ve been to Udaipur and highly recommend it to all Bond fans). The train roof fight was thrilling and Maud was great as a more age appropriate Bond girl. But the title song is by far the weakest in the canon and lets be honest, some serious questions needed to be asked in the Eon office after the crocadile disguise and the Tarzan and tiger moments in the jungle before making the next movie. They obviously didn’t get asked.
23. DIE ANOTHER DAY
—Talk about a film of two-halves! First half is great; beardy Bond is tortured, goes rogue, causes havoc in Cuba, then sword fights the villain in London. It treads a fine line between fun and ludicrous, but just about keeps it’s balance and tension.
Then… it took one giant leap over that line into Disneyland with an invisible car, an ice palace, and worst of all, resorting to slo-mo in fight scenes… awe sh*t Bond is better than this!
But just in case anyone in the audience was still onboard with this sudden decent into Bond-hell they hit you with the most LOL piece of cgi crap i’ve ever seen; and believe me there was no shortages of audible laughs from the audience the moment that infamous image hit the cinema screen. And not only was it bad cgi, but they put Bond at the centre of it, kite surfing that tsunami.
They’d totally discredited not only the brand, but the actor playing him with that indelible image - now forever inked onto the consciousness of anyone who might’ve gone to see Brosnan in the next Bond movie. In that one moment Brossa’a fate was sealed.
24. A VIEW TO A KILL
In retrospect it must’ve been obvious to all that the wonderful Sir Roger Moore was too old to play Bond.
Now, if they’d gone back to the tone of FYEO and written a Bond movie that recognised his age - was about one last mission - then Moore would’ve probably delivered the goods.
But instead, in all their wisdom, Eon and the honchos buried their heads in the sand hoping that no one notice how bonkers it was to have Moore jump from action set-piece to action set-piece, along the way sleeping with women young enough to be his grand daughters.
It’s fair to say that at the time no one really cared - i know at 14 years old i didn’t care - i thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and i’m sure tickets sold well enough. After all Bond was now just a fun comic book character - realism had gone to the dogs.
But now, sadly it has to be at the bottom of my list - even lower than Die Another Day, which at least had a decent first half before the travesty ensued. AVTAK alas never had a chance to be anything other than ‘Cacoon Meets Bond’.
I take some solace in the thought that if anyone less charming and likeable than Moore had tried to pull that off it may well have killed the franchise forever, so thank god for him. But what a waste of Walken, who was born to be an outstanding Bond villain and delivers with aplomb. Oh well, at least AVTAK has a really great title song that i’ll never get bored of hearing.
Here’s to Bond 25 being top of all of our lists…