In honour of the half-century anniversary of the release of the original Bond film (Dr. No) and the release of the latest film (Skyfall), I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the best Bond films of all-time. The once controversial choice of actor Daniel Craig to play Bond has livened up the series with two of the best films in the franchise. Craig is under contract to do at least two more movies, so it looks like the most successful franchise in film history remains healthier than ever.
1. Casino Royale (2006)
A very tough decision. In the end I chose Casino Royale because it is the best overall in terms of story and character development. It is credited with reviving the series after it became so stale and repetitive. Though it does run a bit long in its final chapter, Casino Royale received universal critical acclaim. Everything from the opening sequence, to a terrific Daniel Craig, to Eva Green and Mads Mikkelson makes this one simply the best.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
Though Casino Royale might be the best overall film, Goldfinger still stands as the most influential. Shirley Bassey’s theme is one of the most famous in cinematic history. It includes the “Do you expect me to talk?” laser scene and Jill Masterson’s (Shirley Easton) gold-covered body scene which rank as the most memorable in the franchise. For me, Pussy Galore’s (Honor Blackman) Flying Circus flying over Fort Knox is what makes this one great.
3. From Russia With Love (1963)
The second Bond outing resembles a Cold War espionage thriller in the John Le Carre mode. This is the film where Bond does the most spying by both infiltrating a SPECTRE-sponsored assassination plot, while at the same time trying to get his hands on a Soviet decoding device before they do. The last third is an exciting cat and mouse game taking place mainly on a moving train. Robert Shaw (From Jaws fame) is particularly effective as a menacing gun-for-hire named Grant, to say nothing of the iconic Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya).
4. SkyFall (2012)
Daniel Craig’s third effort erased the memories of the mediocre Quantum of Solace which threatened to undo the gains of Casino Royale. Bond’s loyalty to M is tested after MI6 is attacked by a former agent named Silva played by the amazingly versatile Javier Bardem. Like Casino Royale, it updates Bond to new 21st century threats like cyber terrorism. Adele’s theme and the reintroduction of gadget expert Q, played by terrific young actor Ben Whishaw are just some of the many highlights.
5. Golden Eye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan’s best film and the only one of his on the list. Golden Eye reinvigorated the series after Timothy Dalton’s exit from the role. Bond teams up with Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), to prevent the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a former secret agent with a vendetta against him. Alec Trevelyan is played with tremendous skill by underappreciated actor Sean Bean (See The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones). An action-packed thrill ride.
6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
George Lazenby’s only outing as Bond. It also happens to be the most underrated in the franchise possibly because Lazenby never gained the same following as the others. This time Bond goes undercover to unravel the secret of Blofeld’s (Telly Savalas) allergy research lab in the Swiss Alps. This outing has some great action sequences in the Alps as well as some beautiful shots of Portugal (My Birthplace!). It also shows a more human side of Bond not seen again until Casino Royale (2006).
7. Dr. No (1962)
The one that started the phenomenon. Dr. No embodied everything cool about the post-war generation. Bond is sent to Jamaica after a colleague goes missing. Fifty years on, this film might seem a bit underwhelming given its lack of action scenes. However, it does include the famous scene of Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder on the beach, who would become the standard for every Bond girl since.
8. Thunderball (1965)
In this one, James Bond is sent to one of his favourite destinations, The Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by the SPECTRE organization. Adolfo Celi proves to be one of the best early Bond villains as Largo. The shark pool scene is like something out of Jaws. The conclusion does drag on a little too much but Thunderball is explosive fun.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The only Roger Moore film on the list but it holds up well in the James Bond canon. Bond is called into to investigate the hijacking of British and Russian nuclear submarines. This film is one of the most visually stunning and thoroughly entertaining. It has a good performance by Barbara Bach as supersexy Russian spy Anya Amasova, as well as the iconic sports car/submarine scene. The quality of the series started to dip after this one but this is Roger Moore at his best.
10. You Only Live Twice (1967)
One of Sean Connery’s later films. Agent 007 is called upon to prevent World War Three when an American space capsule is allegedly confiscated by the Russians during the Cold War. It is not often held up as one of the best in the series, but it does have several good fight sequences and a good performance by Donald Pleasence as Blofeld. Worth a look for sure.