What’s your No. 1 007?
It’s a deeply personal question influenced by many uncontrollable factors: Who played James Bond when you were a kid? Which movies did your dad make you watch? Are you pro-gadget or anti-gadget? Can the main character even call himself 007 if Shirley Bassey doesn’t sing his theme song?
What makes a great — or horrible — Bond film is hugely subjective. But that ain’t gonna stop me! Here, I rank the 007 franchise’s 25 movies, from worst to best.
25. ‘Die Another Day’ (2002)
And fans complained about the excessiveness of Roger Moore’s later films! Pierce Brosnan’s final outing from 2002 begins with Bond being tortured in a North Korean prison camp for a year and only gets worse from there.
24. ‘A View To A Kill’ (1985)
You’ll start to notice a trend that an actor’s last time playing Bond is often his worst. Writers throw everything at the wall to distract from the fact that their 007 is disenchanted, sleepy and, frankly, a bit long in the tooth. Roger Moore was 58 while he was making out with 29-year-old Bond girl Tanya Roberts, who died this year. Sure we get Grace Jones’ incredible May Day and Duran Duran’s fantastic title track, but the plot about a San Francisco real estate tycoon is impossible to follow.
23. ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008)
Daniel Craig’s second movie was a crumpled up compromise tossed into the trash and then fished out by a dumpster diver. The secret organization Quantum, which we later learn — ugh — is a sub-sect of SPECTRE, was vague and uninvolving. It also set up Craig’s 007 as this angry dude who seeks revenge a lot.
22. ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997)
I know the Brits hate the press, but a media mogul as a Bond villain? Blech.
21. ‘The World Is Not Enough’ (1999)
The Bond girl is Dr. Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards (“Christmas came early!” Bond says at one point), and the villain is a Frenchman who cannot feel pain because he has a bullet lodged in his skull. The movie is best described by the band that sings the title track: Garbage.
20. ‘Spectre’ (2015)
“Spectre” tricks us with a galvanizing opening action sequence set in Mexico City during Día de los Muertos festivities. Then it pops an Ambien. Craig’s fourth movie is not an incompetent miss like “Quantum of Solace” is — just a snooze.
19. ‘Diamonds are Forever’ (1971)
Sean Connery returned to the franchise for big bucks after Australian actor George Lazenby skedaddled. But you get the impression that his era had ended. The seedy old Las Vegas scenes don’t square with the actor’s refined persona. What speaks loudest is that the most enduring part of “Diamonds” is Bassey’s famous title track.
18. ‘License To Kill’ (1989)
The end of the Cold War was tough on Bond, and we’re still seeing the effects of it today in the many series villains that have a personal score to settle, rather than a grand cause. The baddie here is Franz Sanchez, a Latin American drug lord. Ripped from the headlines? Yes. A rollicking good time? No.
17. ‘Octopussy’ (1983)
“Octopussy” was the moment we knew it was time for Moore to bow out, as his films started to look more like lost Season 9 episodes of “Dynasty.” Maud Adams returns here to play a Bond girl for the second time in a decade (what?!) and a very important plot point involves Fabergé eggs. The pre-title scene is a riot, however: Moore’s suave Bond lands a small plane next to a Southern gas station and says, “Fill her up, please.”
16. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974)
Folks like to come down hard on “The Man with the Golden Gun,” Moore’s second go-round, but it’s harmless, stupid fun. Honestly, I’ll take an eccentric rich sharp-shooter (the phenomenal Christopher Lee) and the “Ze plane! Ze plane!” guy from “Fantasy Island” over whatever the hell “Quantum” was.
15. ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
“Live and Let Die” would stand up as a terrific Bond movie were it not so retrospectively offensive. Set mostly in the Caribbean and New York’s Harlem, the film borrows 1970s Blaxploitation tropes and includes a whole lotta voodoo. Still, Yaphet Kotto, who died in March, was an imposing bad guy as Dr. Kananga. And Jane Seymour’s tarot card-reading Solitaire ranks as one of the most unusual Bond girls ever.
14. ‘Dr. No’ (1962)
It’s never easy going first, and Connery hadn’t figured out the role yet. The movie is best known for a bikini-clad Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean off Jamaica.
13. ‘No Time To Die’ (2021)
Craig’s last move is an explosive game-changer, and a respectable way for the blond Bond to bow out.
12. ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987)
Let’s talk about Timothy Dalton. He’s a much better super spy than you think. Was he more serious than his predecessors? Sure, but next to Craig he’s Ronald McDonald. He made just two entries and his first, “The Living Daylights,” was his best. The most fun is when Bond and his KGB agent/cellist friend sled right over national borders in her cello case.
11. ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967)
Before travel was made affordable for average humans, and any suggestion of the internet was practically witchcraft, the Bond movies played an important role in helping viewers escape to faraway locales. “You Only Live Twice” — the screenplay for which was randomly penned by Roald Dahl — is one of the best for jet-setting from the couch. We’re whisked off to Gibraltar, the Bahamas and beautiful Japan.
10. ‘Moonraker’ (1979)
“Moonraker” is an unfairly vilified movie. Reviews at the time were quite positive, but today people can’t seem to get over the fact that Bond goes into space for a few minutes. Never mind that it features the series’ best henchman since Oddjob in “Goldfinger” — Jaws — and a jaw-dropping aerial opening sequence.
9. ‘Thunderball’ (1965)
Admittedly “Thunderball” is not my personal favorite, but it did propel Bond into megahit status at the box office. And the Aston Martin DB5 is a kickass car.
8. ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
Bond fans have never heaved a sigh of relief so loud as after “Casino Royale.” Our hope and faith had been dashed by the miserable “Die Another Day” and we wondered if there were any drops of vodka left in the old martini glass. Oh, yes there were. Craig’s inaugural brawl resuscitated the franchise while bringing it back to its roots and introduced the fabulous Eva Green as Vesper Lynd.
7. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981)
“For Your Eyes Only” doesn’t get a lot of ink, but it’s Moore’s most cut-throat and high-stakes film. The plot is par for the course — a British ship controlling a weapons defense system is sunk — but the determination of Carole Bouquet’s Melina Havelock to avenge her parents’ death is scorching.
6. ‘Skyfall’ (2012)
Bond the person had not been explored so deeply since “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” and “Skyfall,” which ends at his boyhood home, allowed Craig to do the real acting that he’d always craved. That it was also Judi Dench’s final turn as M and boasted a title track by Adele made “Skyfall” feel like a bona fide event in a way that Bond hadn’t in years.
5. ‘GoldenEye’ (1995)
It all started out so well! Brosnan’s first Bond film was a return to form for the series, ending a six year hiatus after Dalton’s departure. There were Russian villains, a nymphomaniac henchwoman cheekily named Xenia Onatopp and a strong infusion of Brosnan’s “Remington Steel” charm that Dalton had none of. Too bad it’s the only successful Bond movie he made.
4. ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)
Connery hit his stride with his second film, which introduces us to SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, fleetingly. Also, you don’t often find an actress as good at Lotte Lenya in the Bond franchise, but here the legend is playing Blofeld’s No. 3, Rosa Klebb.
3. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977)
After “Live and Let Die” (more offensive by the minute) and “The Man with the Golden Gun” (fun but silly), Moore finally earned his place in the Bond firmament with the excellent “The Spy Who Loved Me.” To this day, its opening sequence, in which Bond perilously skis off a cliff only to open a Union Jack parachute, is the series’ most exhilarating. Karl Stromberg’s underwater lair, the Lotus Esprit; the introduction of Jaws — all brilliant.
2. ‘Goldfinger’ (1964)
When most people think of 007, “Goldfinger” comes to mind: the gold-plated bombshell in the Miami hotel bed; Bassey’s forceful theme music; “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”; and, of course, Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore (“I must be dreaming!”). It’s Connery’s No. 1.
1. ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969)
The best Bond movie is one that most casual fans have never heard of. They certainly don’t know squat about Lazenby, who played 007 just once. (Check out the documentary about him, “Becoming Bond,” on Hulu.) But it’s the connoisseur’s pick for the top spot. The writing and plot, in which Bond infiltrates Blofeld’s Alps hideaway by pretending to be a genealogist, are the series’ finest. Diana Rigg’s Tracy is the most layered and lovable Bond girl of all time. And no 007 will ever end as poignantly as “OHMSS” did. Oh, and by the way, Lazenby made a swell Bond. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t fired — the movie made a boatload of money. He just didn’t want to come back.