Editor’s note: This article was updated in November 2021 to include the latest Bond movie, No Time to Die.
No Time to Die, the 25th 007 film, was set to open this month, after two pandemic-induced delays. Well, those plans went out the window, again because of COVID-19, and we won’t see the new adventures of Bond, James Bond, until April 2021. But I thought fans of the movies would still like to celebrate Bond this week — especially in light of the death of the greatest Bond, Sean Connery — so I’ve ranked all of the films from worst to best (not including the original Casino Royale from 1967 or 1983’s Never Say Never Again because they’re not part of the official Bond canon).
25. Spectre (2015)
To be honest, there are worse Bond movies, quality-wise (like the next four on this list), but I give Spectre the nod for worst because it’s illogical, silly, and frustrating, with a needless plot involving arch-nemesis Blofeld that makes no sense (and practically ruins the other Daniel Craig-era Bond films). He’s Bond’s…foster brother? And they give him an alias just because it will trick viewers but in reality means nothing to Bond or anyone else in the film? Sigh.
I don’t know why the most recent Bond movies feel the need to give Bond either an origin story or an “I quit” story almost every time but it’s getting ridiculous. It also has a boring car chase and one of the worst theme songs too.
(They even screw up the film’s title. It should be SPECTRE.)
24. A View to a Kill (1985)
At this point, Roger Moore could barely walk let alone run or fight bad guys. It was his final Bond film. Christopher Walken is a great villain though. Too bad the movie that surrounds him is one of the worst.
23. Moonraker (1979)
Because of the success of movies like Star Wars, Bond had to travel to outer space, which tells you all you need to know about Moonraker. It has a good opening scene though, where Bond is pushed out of a plane without a parachute.
22. Live and Let Die (1973)
Moore’s first 007 outing just isn’t much fun, with a dreary plot involving drugs and voodoo. The best thing about it is the theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings.
21. Die Another Day (2002)
Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond movie has a great opening sequence, but it also has Madonna as a fencing instructor, CGI action scenes that look more like a video game, and a freakin’ invisible car.
20. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Christopher Lee could have been the greatest Bond villain of all-time; too bad the rest of the movie is rather lame. The best thing about it is a spectacular car stunt I still don’t know how they pulled off.
19. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This has one of my favorite opening scenes — Bond has to steal a plane armed with nuclear bombs — but also one of the worst endings. In between there’s an invigorating action scene with a remote-controlled car in a parking garage, but that’s about it. I don’t believe for one second that Teri Hatcher was the love of Bond’s life.
The story goes that the title was supposed to be Tomorrow Never Lies but the fax with the title was smudged and they misread it. It certainly would have made more sense.
18. The World is Not Enough (1999)
The Brosnan entries all have great opening scenes but then they get worse and worse as the movie goes along. Why is that?
17: The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton’s first outing (of only two) isn’t bad, it’s just a little “meh,” even if he is a solid choice after the Moore years. Great soundtrack.
16. Octopussy (1983)
There are a couple of good action sequences, and Louis Jourdan is a fun villain, but you should also be aware that during the film, Bond dresses as a clown and swings on a vine like Tarzan.
15. No Time to Die (2021)
The first hour or so of Daniel Craig’s last 007 film is great. The last hour or so is a bit of a drag, like a by-the-numbers video game where a player goes around shooting people in doorways and blowing up things. The movie is too long, even if it is stylishly directed, gorgeous to look at, and has some terrific individual scenes (Ana de Armas completely steals the movie and I’d watch a spinoff franchise featuring her character). This could have been one of the great Bond films, but the movie wants to be EPIC and IMPORTANT and provide closure, and that leads to one of the stupidest endings in the history of pop culture (I won’t spoil it here), so ultimately it doesn’t matter how well-made it is.
14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Connery quit the franchise after You Only Live Twice but was convinced to come back when George Lazenby didn’t return for a second film. And it’s…not bad! Not great, but not bad!
13. Quantum of Solace (2008)
This didn’t get great reviews — maybe people were expecting too much after Casino Royale — but I think it’s the Bond movie that will be looked upon more and more kindly as the years go by, even if the theme song by Jack White and Alicia Keys is horrendous.
12. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
This has a nice balance of the serious and the silly, but I feel it has always been a bit overrated.
11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Many consider this Moore’s best, because it takes things a little more seriously after all of the goofiness of the ’70’s films. Except for a truly bizarre opening where Bond drops Blofeld down a smokestack, the villain pleading for his life by promising to buy Bond a delicatessen, “in stainless steel!”
10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Many people consider this the best 007 film. It’s not, but it’s quite good, and Lazenby, a model plucked out of nowhere for the role, is underrated. This is the one where Bond gets married.
Trivia: Lazenby was once married to tennis player/commentator Pam Shriver.
9. Thunderball (1965)
This film is a bit overlong — and there are probably too many underwater scenes — but it’s undeniably fun.
8. You Only Live Twice (1967)
When you think of big, epic Bond adventures, this is the movie you’re thinking of, with its outrageous villain’s-lair-hidden-in-a-volcano set.
7. Dr. No (1962)
The first 007 big-screen adventure, more low-key and with no opening theme song but a great introduction to the character and his world. Oh, and it has this iconic scene.
6. From Russia with Love (1963)
This is also often cited as the best Bond movie, and it’s not a bad choice. It’s a serious spy story with just enough crazy elements (Rosa Klebb and her poison-tipped shoes) to make it classic fun. It includes the first appearance of Blofeld (called Number 1 here) and a great scene on a train where Bond fights henchman Robert Shaw.
5. License to Kill (1989)
The most underrated 007 film. Some people think it’s too action-oriented (?), too gritty (!), too ’80’s. Those people are nuts. It’s actually one of the more satisfying entries in the series, as Bond infiltrates a drug cartel to avenge the murder of a friend’s wife.
4. Goldeneye (1995)
Brosnan’s first Bond film is his best Bond film, a stylish and fun adventure that feels both ’60’s-ish and ’90’s-ish, a throwback to the Connery era and a new vision for the future. I’ve seen many 007 films in the theater, but this is still the only one where the audience actually applauded after a scene (where Bond flies off the cliff and takes control of a plane).
By the way, this movie inspired one of the greatest video games of all-time.
3. Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s first Bond film has not one but two great opening scenes, a black-and-white meeting with another agent that shows how Bond got his 007 status, and a terrific scene where Bond chases a rather athletic bad guy through a construction area. This is a return that makes you forget all about Brosnan’s last film.
2. Skyfall (2012)
I didn’t think the makers of the Bond movies could top Craig’s first film, but they did it with Skyfall. It’s really a tie between the two. If they had decided to end the Bond series for some reason, this would have made for a great send-off. It introduces Moneypenny and Q, gives Bond a “comeback” story and emotional scenes with Judi Dench, and is exquisitely shot and directed.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
This is number one on most lists for a reason, because it really sets up all of the Bond elements for the rest of the series: the big theme song, the evil villain with the master plan, the henchman Bond has to fight, the sexy girl with the crazy name (Pussy Galore!). A film so good you don’t care how ridiculous it is (I’ve seen it 20 times and I still don’t get why Goldfinger kills the mob guys) or how many mistakes there are.
Featured image: RichartPhotos / Shutterstock
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