Ranking the James Bond Movies

I’ve gone through all 22 James Bond films pretty thoroughly over the past month, and with the release of Skyfall, it’s time to see where they stack up against one another. There might not be many surprises found here, but I hope you enjoy and appreciate my rankings. Feel free to comment and share yours!

23.) Die Another Day

Space lasers, invisible cars, and ice palaces. Oh my!

22.) The Man with the Golden Gun

One of Bond’s most cunning and interesting adversaries (Scaramanga) is wasted in this hot mess of a film that amps up the cheese and dials down the tension.

21.) You Only Live Twice

Japan is an unusual and well-utilized setting (ditto Blofeld’s massive volcano lair), but so much of this film is inert. Even the two I think are worse have a standout moment or two. This one’s just so blah.

20.) Octopussy

My former least favorite Bond moves up the list a bit after a rewatch. Yes, the plot is still impenetrable, and attempts to be humorous fall completely flat. But at least we get to see Bond disarm a nuclear bomb wearing a clown’s suit.

19.) Moonraker

Though it’s in my bottom 5, I think I’m probably more generous than most others. That it rips off The Spy Who Loved Me‘s plot doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is lifelessness while on Earth and the repetitiveness of its space sequences.

18.) A View to a Kill

“St-John Smythe, James St-John Smythe.” Best Bond alias ever. This one’s surprisingly good until Tanya Roberts enters the picture. Careens off a cliff after that.

17.) Tomorrow Never Dies

Bond at his sleepiest. No passion, no excitement, and career-worst work from Jonathan Pryce as the looniest newspaperman in history.

16.) Thunderball

As impressive as the big underwater climax looks, it’s not exactly engaging. That said, Connery gives perhaps his best performance in the role, and ginger temptress Fiona Volpe is unforgettable.

15.) Quantum of Solace

Shaky-cam nearly destroys Bond’s 22nd outing; The continuation of the Vesper storyline salvages it.

14.) Diamonds Are Forever

A fun, complex first half gives way to ridiculous “Blofeldness.” Still, more good than bad here.

13.) The World Is Not Enough

Elektra King is an all-time great Bond character. Dr. Christmas Jones is not.

12.) The Living Daylights

Dalton’s first go-around as 007 is mostly a triumph. The opening act is tremendous. Things take a dip when Bond heads to Afghanistan, but this atypical adventure is a memorable one.

11.) Live and Let Die

The craziness of the Moore era doesn’t show its face in the actor’s debut (at least for the most part). This is a pretty low-key entry in the canon with a solid villain, memorable Bond girl, and a dynamite boat chase.

10.) For Your Eyes Only

Moore’s other low-key film. This one features some terrific set pieces and a lot of villain-related intrigue and misdirection. Great stuff.

9.) Dr. No

Bond’s first outing is much smaller than most of the others, but it’s immensely watchable and a perfect introduction to the character. Plus, Honey Ryder and the famous white bikini!

8.) License to Kill

Bond goes rogue. Not the first time it happened, nor the last time, but the one time it actually drove the plot forward. And it was a big success (just not financially).

7.) Goldeneye

Brosnan’s debut features terrific characters (including the first appearance of Judi Dench’s M), a relatively believable plot, and a killer tank chase through St. Petersburg. If only it was indicative of the rest of the Brosnan era…

6.) The Spy Who Loved Me

Moore gives his best Bond performance in his best Bond film by quite a considerable margin. Jaws, Atlantis, Agent XXX, the Union Jack parachute—all iconic stuff.

5.) Skyfall

Bond 23 features the finest filmmaking of the series (including Roger Deakins’ indescribably beautiful cinematography). The action component is missing, which makes it feel a little long in the tooth, but Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of Bond’s fiercest adversaries, and Judi Dench gives a series-best performance as M.

4.) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Bond gets married. It’s a little shocking, right? Well, not nearly as shocking as the end, which sees the man’s wife shot dead right after their wedding. It’s just unheard of nowadays. What a brilliant risk that pays off so incredibly well. This film does a lot of things right, but, for better or worse, it will always be remembered for that final, gut-wrenching shot.

3.) Goldfinger

Featuring some of the series’ most unforgettable images (dead girl painted gold!), moments (Oddjob and his hat!), and lines (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), this is the defining Bond film in a lot of ways—not the least of which is because it’s the one that really defined the “Bond formula.”

2.) From Russia with Love

My favorite old-school Bond works because it’s simple. No plans for world domination, just a cat-and-mouse game over a small decoding device. It’s highlight is the brilliant fight on the train between Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Red Grant. Just great stuff.

1.) Casino Royale

Not just the best James Bond film, but also the ultimate origin story. Craig’s Bond is an incredible breath of fresh air, love story between he and Eva Green’s Vesper feels tender and genuine, and the action sequences easily outshine anything in the 21 other films. A modern action masterpiece, and an easy choice to top this list.

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