This post is a little delayed due to this past week being busier than expected, and I spent my little free time catching up on some video games. Finally finished all of the Witcher 3 DLC, which means I can find the time to play through Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted: Lost Legacy and a couple other shorter games before I start either Spider-Man or Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Oh, and Horizon: Dawn Zero is also on my list. In fact I should probably play that before Spider-Man since I already own it.
Anyway, let’s kick this new year of movie posts off by looking back at all the James Bond movie posts I did last year, in order of my personal preference.
There aren’t too many movies that I actively dislike. Even with the bad movies I’ve looked at on this blog, most of the time I just don’t care. For example, I often exaggerate how much I dislike Disney’s Home On the Range, partly as a joke. It was really just mildly annoying while I watched it, and I’ve barely thought about it since. Of the movies I do actively dislike, there’s Man Of Steel (no other movie has ever made me angrier), A Good Day To Die Hard (betrays pretty much everything that made the first Die Hard special), Garbage Pail Kids (physically painful to watch), That’s My Boy (starts with a scene that thinks pedophilia is funny) and Nukie (a foreign ET rip-off that was almost impossible to sit through). Relevant to this list, Die Another Day is one of those movies I actively dislike. I could write a novel-sized book on everything wrong with this movie and how it in no way belongs in the James Bond franchise, and I will most likely never watch it again.
Octopussy has a couple ironically amusing moments, and its love story is fairly well done. That said, Octopussy is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Sometimes it tries to be a slapstick comedy, sometimes it tries to be a genuinely dramatic love story, and sometimes it tries to be a straight thriller. It comes across as a mess, best summed up by the scene where James Bond disarms a bomb while dressed as a clown.
Out of all the Bond movies, this is the one where the lead actor is the most bored. Sean Connery is clearly done as James Bond by the time this movie released. The forgettable story, boring Bond girl, lame villains and the beginning of comedic direction the Roger Moore era took only add to this movie’s problems. This is the most forgettable movie in the series.
Already we’re getting to the point where all of the following movies have at least something going for them. Live and Let Die has a really catchy soundtrack, Roger Moore puts in a competent performance as his first time as James Bond, and Baron Samedi is an entertaining villain. That said, nothing about this movie feels like Bond movie. It doesn’t even make sense for Bond to be working against a criminal organization in the United States (at least this movie doesn’t make sense of it). It cashes in on the Blaxploitation craze in a way that’s just weird.
I might get some hate for this, but I’m putting Goldfinger here because I’ve never really enjoyed it. I can tell why it’s popular, and it firmly established a number of James Bond tropes that have been prevalent since, but I just don’t like this movie. There are aspects of this movie that, when you really think about it, they just don’t add up. There’s no good reason for Goldfinger to not kill Bond when he’s strapped to that table. Goldfinger’s plot doesn’t even involve the biggest gold deposit in the United States. Everyone acts like idiots at some point in the movie. I don’t dislike Goldfinger and I do kind of enjoy the first act, but I’m just not a fan. I feel that besides Diamonds Are Forever, all of the other Sean Connery movies are better.
This movie is a guilty pleasure for me. Sure, it’s overly slow at times, and sure, the plot is ridiculous, but it’s entertaining in its stupidity. Moonraker is an intentional self-parody, and it’s one that’s impossible to take seriously. You need to be in the right mood to watch Moonraker, but if you are, you’ll probably have a blast.
I like this movie for some of the same reasons I like Moonraker. Parts of it are ridiculous, one of those being that Roger Moore was 59 at the time of filming. In fact he was older than the lead Bond Girl’s mother, a fact that weirded him out. But at the same time, Christopher Walken is genuinely entertaining as the lead villain, and despite Moore’s age, he did fairly well with the physical aspects of the movie. In fact I’m pretty sure he was in better shape than either of the previous two Bond movies. Not a bad way to go out, even if Moore probably starred in the role a few too many years. So I like this movie about the same as I do Moonraker, but it’s not as ironically entertaining. Parts of it are actually good.
Now we come to the original Bond movie. By no means is Dr. No good, but it’s charming in its simplicity. I also can’t help but laugh that Bond basically wins by causing a nuclear meltdown just off of Jamaica.
There are multiple reasons why this movie is nostalgic to me. I don’t like this movie as much as I used to (there was a time when I’d say this is my favourite Bond movie), and some of the comedic bits are more annoying than they are funny, but I can’t help but enjoy this train wreck anyway. Despite this movie’s problems though, the story is fascinating – assassin working for the British government vs freelance assassin. The duel between Bond and Scaramanga feels really intense, with both of them using their brains just as much as their skills. Objectively this is one of the weaker Bond movies, but it’s fun anyway.
Several aspects of this movie work very well. Most of the movie takes place in Japan, and You Only Live Twice takes full advantage of its settings with cultural references, a soundtrack that sounds vaguely Eastern, and even giving Bond his first alternate drink in the movie series. On the downside, Sean Connery doesn’t put as much energy into this movie as he did in the previous three. The movie gets a bit silly and over the top at times. It’s also probably the slowest of the Connery era Bond movies. As a whole though, it feels like a good conclusion to the SPECTER story arc.
This is by far the darkest, most serious of the Roger Moore Bond movies, and it’s all the better for it. There’s one particularly tense scene where Bond looks genuinely terrified, no doubt helped by the fact that Moore had a lifelong fear of heights. The action is on a much smaller scale than normal, but in a way that works. This movie’s main downside is that it’s slow. Some might call it boring. Personally, I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would.
My feelings on this movie are very mixed. On the one hand, it’s the shortest of the movies, and considering it’s a direct follow up to Casino Royale, that actually works in the movie’s favour. It’s a very fast-paced movie. It’s almost the most dramatic entry in the series, also in a way that works in the movie’s favour. However, the story is a bit overly complicated for such a short length, and it features the worst shaky cam I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame, because I’m sure the action would at least be competent if you could see it.
That opera scene though …
Here’s another movie in which my feelings are mixed. It’s the longest movie in the series, and it feels too long for its own good. The movie thinks it’s more epic and important than it really is, not helped by the fact that Daniel Craig looks bored the whole time. However, it’s got some very impressive action set pieces (even if some are over the top in an otherwise down to earth era of James Bond), David Bautista is awesome as a silent villain, and the plot is arguably a better follow up of its predecessor than Quantum of Solace was. But the overly long running time and Craig’s boredom is enough to stop this movie from being any higher on the list.
There’s a lot about this movie that works really well. This is Pierce Brosna’s best performance as Bond, and he was good from the start. There’s a multi-layered twist with the villains that works fairly well. There’s some great action that strikes a good balance between over the top 90’s shootouts and down to earth fist fights. Even the theme song is among the best in the franchise. What holds this back more than anything else is Denise Richards trying to portray a nuclear scientist. She’s easily the worst casting choice in the entire franchise. If not for her, this movie would probably be at least a couple spots higher on this list. It might have even cracked the top 6.
Thunderball features the manliest theme song in the franchise, and that tone carries through most of the movie. It’s got an intriguing plot, creative action scenes that still feel relatively grounded, and this is Sean Connery is at his best in the role. The biggest downside is that some of the underwater action scenes are both hard to follow and overly long.
This is by intention the least Bondy Bond movie of them all. It’s instead a straight action thriller/revenge plot. It’s also by far the darkest movie in the franchise. For those reasons, this won’t be for every fan of the James Bond series. As for me though, I really like this movie. I for one feel that Timothy Dalton’s 2 movie outing as James Bond was far too short. He’s got a lot of the same strengths that Daniel Craig does, but he’s a more ranged actor.
I like this movie for a lot of the same reasons I like Licence To Kill. Dalton is fantastic in the role, giving us the closest thing we’ve got to the James Bond of the original books. The political thriller aspect of this movie, while sometimes overstuffed and confusing, is a great story of corruption and betrayals. The action is exciting. There’s also a strong 80’s vibe that works in the movie’s favour.
This was my first James Bond movie, and I’m fairly nostalgic towards it. Even ignoring that, the story that focuses on a corrupt media organization actually feels more relevant today than it did when it first released. Whichever side of the political spectrum you fall under, accusations of newspapers and broadcasters fabricating stories (not entirely unwarranted) is running rampant lately. It’s also the most action heavy Bond movie by far, but there’s a lot of variety. One such scene may be the greatest car chase in the franchise, and that’s saying a lot. It’s hard to get bored watching this movie, even if you’re not a fan of the story. Elliot Carver is also the last entertaining villain we’ve had in these movies so far. Jonathan Pryce is clearly loving the role and it’s hard not to have fun with him. While not quite great, Tomorrow Never Dies is a competent Bond movie with no major faults.
All of the remaining movies are great, and should be watched by every James Bond fan at least once.
I mentioned earlier that Quantum of Solace is almost the franchises most dramatic movie. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the only movie in the Bond series that’s more dramatic. There’s a smartly written plot about SPECTER trying to enact a subtle form of control over the world, one that leads to some great espionage and action set pieces. The focus on one location works in the movie’s favour. The tragic love story between James and Contessa adds a lot of weight to the story. It doesn’t hurt that Contessa is easily the best Bond girl in the series. While George Lazenby is easily the least charismatic Bond actor, he’s also the best dramatic actor, which serves the movie’s tone well. It kind of makes me wish Lazenby at least tried one more outing as Bond, to see if he could find more charisma and charm with more experience.
This is easily the best of the Roger Moore Bond movies. It’s got a bit of everything you want in a Bond movie. Great set pieces, a fantastic lead henchman for the villain, awesome gadget cars, genuinely tense political intrigue, and brilliantly choreographed action. Sure, it’s one of those over-the-top movies, but it’s done in a way that works. The subtle disco inspired soundtrack is groovy too. And last but not least, The Spy Who Loved Me features the greatest Bond theme song of all-time. Well, save for the Bond theme.
Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond is awesome. It’s got arguably the two greatest action scenes in the franchise, with the running chase through the construction yard and the shootout in the sinking building in Venice. The plot moves quickly, yet it’s never hard to follow. Vesper is the second best Bond girl in the franchise, and one who adds a couple great plot twists. The closest thing this movie has to a weakness is that it ends with a cliffhanger, one that was continued with Quantum of Solace.
Most people tend to agree that either Goldfinger or From Russia With Love is the best Sean Connery Bond movie. For me, there’s no question about it. From Russia With Love firmly established the core Bond formula, it introduced Q (with subtle gadgets this time), it’s got a great political thriller within its espionage plot, and the love story is well told. The filmmakers had a fairly low budget with this movie, yet they made a movie that doesn’t feel small. From Russia With Love is a great movie all-round –possibly even the best from a pure quality standpoint. It’s just not quite my personal favourite.
Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond is by far his best Bond film. He started off the role already confident as the British secret agent, to the point where it might be the best first time performance. The plot reinvents the franchise in a post-cold war era with people on both sides betraying their countries, former enemies becoming allies and former best friends becoming bitter rivals. Throw in the best fist fight in the series, the legendary tank chase through St. Petersburg and the inspiration for that fabulous Nintendo 64 game, and you’ve got yourself a movie that will likely stand the test of time. Too bad the soundtrack sucks – the movie’s only real problem.
None of the Bond movies are perfect. Goldeneye has a weak soundtrack, From Russia With Love, while good, is still clearly effected by its low budget, and Die Another Day, well … nobody in their right mind would call that one perfect. The only complaint I can think of with Skyfall is that sometimes, the villain’s plan seems a bit too precise. Apart from that, Skyfall is an incredible entry in the series. You’ve got the strongest plot in the series, taking a deep look into questionable MI6 practices and how they can affect agents. The plot serves multiple allegories and character studies at once. While the action isn’t as good as Casino Royale, it’s not far behind. It’s got by far the greatest cinematography in the series. In fact it got nominated for the cinematography Oscar and arguably should have won. It’s got a beautifully haunting theme song that perfectly sets the tone. This movie is just awesome, and it totally deserved its $1.1 billion box office performance.
Anyway, that’s my order of preference for the Bond movies. Let me know which are your favourites and least favourites in the comments.
I do plan on comparing all of the Bond actors to try to objectively figure out the best one in the future, but I figured it’s probably better to write this post first, being something that’s quick and simple. I also want to look at some of the unofficial entries in the Bond series, like the Casino Royale movie that somehow stars British comedian Peter Sellers.
Ther’es also the movie that stars Neil Connery instead of his older brother Sean (Operation Kid Brother) and Never Say Never Again. Maybe someday I’ll even do a movie month where I just look at Bond parodies. But before that, I’m planning on a Marvel Cinematic Universe blogathon, and hopefully I’ll do at least a few more DreamWorks movies as well.