Hello readers! It’s literally been years since I’ve written anything under the Queued Up banner. My grand experiment worked for a while, but was ultimately abandoned. I’m bringing this blog back for one reason - James Bond. I got the 50th anniversary BluRay set for Christmas and just finished watching every James Bond movie. I’m a Bond nut, but it had been a while since I’d seen most of them.
Because I invested so much time, I felt that I had to do something to mark the end of my marathon. If only so that I can have something to show for my laziness. So I figured you, my former film buff readers, would be the least annoyed at my presentation of:
James Bond: From Worst to Best (A Complete Ranking of All 23 Official 007 Movies)
23. Die Another Day (2002) - They say you’re always partial to your first James Bond. That’s definitely true in my case (as you’ll see later). Pierce Brosnan is kind of the perfect Bond: the swagger of Connery, the humor of Moore, the edge of Dalton and Craig. But he got the part about five years too late. By this movie (his fourth and last), he was too old. Throw in ridiculous gadgets (invisible car!), horrifically bad CGI, shameful amounts of product placement and a forgettable villain and you get the worst Bond ever. Sorry, Pierce.
22. Moonraker (1979) - Bond! In! Space! Listen, I don’t think Roger Moore is the worst Bond. But he made a lot of the worst Bond movies. The great Bond movies thrive on their originality. Moonraker was rushed into production to capitalize on the Star Wars craze. It’s ridiculously over the top and marks the point where the Moore films turned irreversibly towards stupid humor and over-the-top gadgets. Really bad.
21. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) - aka Sean Connery’s last Bond. The producers knew they were in trouble after the George Lazenby fiasco (see #7) and were able to lure Connery back with lots of cash. And it shows. Connery is way too old, out of shape, and basically sleepwalks through the movie. Most of the story is set in Vegas and the campiness practically bleeds off the screen. A very sad way for Connery to say goodbye to the (official) 007 films.
20. Octopussy (1983) - Worst title, that’s for sure. This is the movie where Roger Moore officially becomes too old for the part. Plus, his efforts to turn James Bond into a clown culminate with a scene in this movie where James Bond literally becomes a clown. Ugh.
19. Quantum of Solace (2008) - Daniel Craig’s two stellar Bond films sandwich this formless mess, his second outing as 007. The script for this film was rushed to completion due to the 2007 writers’ strike and it shows. There’s not much of a plot, characters appear and disappear with no explanation - it’s basically just a pastiche of action scenes. Plus, this easily has the worst Bond theme song ever.
18. A View to a Kill (1985) - Oh man, Roger Moore is so old in this movie. He was 58. 58! The Duran Duran theme song is awesome, Christopher Walken’s a good villain, and there’s a good fight on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of campy humor and obvious stunt doubles for Moore, who, I will repeat, was playing James Bond at almost 60 years old.
17. The Living Daylights (1987) - Timothy Dalton got a raw deal. This movie was written for Roger Moore, so Dalton is forced to deliver horribly corny jokes (not his specialty). But the writers also tried to play to Dalton’s strengths and give it an edge, and the combination doesn’t work. There’s some great action, but a too-convoluted plot and forgettable villains make for a very low-key debut for Dalton.
16. For Your Eyes Only (1981) - The least offensive of the later Roger Moore films. The producers actually scaled back the gadgetry after complaints that Moonraker was too cartoonish. There’s nothing really wrong with this one. Just not much to remember either.
15. Live and Let Die (1973) - Roger Moore’s debut Bond film hasn’t aged well. The series tries to capitalize on the blaxploitation trend and comes off looking horribly dated in the process. Moore does begin to carve out his niche, though, and Jane Seymour makes a great Bond girl. Bonus points for Yaphet Kotto’s death by exploding air pellet and Paul McCartney’s kick-ass theme song.
14. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) - Pierce Brosnan’s second turn as 007 defines mediocre. Jonathan Pryce makes a campy villain, but nothing much stands out about this one apart from some great action sequences.
13. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) - Moore’s second Bond film is much-maligned but I actually like it. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga is a memorable villain, Herve Villechaize’s Nick Nack is a great henchman, there’s an island base, cool gadgets, a space laser. What’s not to like? Apart from the loathsome character of J.W. Pepper, a redneck sheriff who thankfully never again popped up again in a Bond film.
12. Thunderball (1965) - This is often lumped in as a classic Bond film simply because it has Sean Connery and it was hugely successful. Watch it again. It’s actually pretty…boring. But great action saves the day - the underwater sequences still hold up.
11. Licence to Kill (1989) - Another much-maligned entry, this was Timothy Dalton’s second and final Bond film. Most people knock it for being too dark, but given the direction the franchise has taken, I’d argue that it was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Dalton wouldn’t get another crack at playing 007 and cementing his legacy.
10. Dr.No (1962) - The very first James Bond film is definitely iconic (it contains Connery’s first and most famous “Bond. James Bond.”) but it’s also not very compelling. The formula was still being perfected, so the action is bookended with expository scenes that often slow things down to a crawl. Still, it is a fantastic preview of what’s to come.
9. From Russia with Love (1963) - The second Bond film brings together more of the elements that have made the Bond films iconic. Q and his gadgetry make their first appearances. Robert Shaw plays Red Grant, the first great Bond henchman. We’re introduced to Blofeld and his white cat. In all, a solid entry that announces that Bond is here to stay.
8. You Only Live Twice (1967) - This is the Bond film that everyone parodies. Donald Pleasance’s Blofeld is essentially Dr. Evil, complete with scar, Nehru jacket, and hollowed out volcano lair. The scale of this movie is immense and Connery gives his last great performance as James Bond. He would leave the series for the first time after this movie.
7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) - This is the best James Bond story of all the films to date. Bond falls in love, gets married, then loses the love of his life. It informs his character for the rest of the series. Unfortunately, first-time Bond George Lazenby isn’t cut out for the job. It’s not his fault. He was facing an impossible task in replacing Sean Connery. He isn’t helped by the horrifically dated mod 60’s style. Or the fact that he never reprised the role. Of all the Bond films that could be remade, this is the best candidate.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - The only truly great Roger Moore Bond film. Carly Simon’s theme song is one of the series’ best. The action is great, most notably Bond’s now-legendary Union Jack parachute jump. Richard Kiel’s Jaws is one of the two or three best Bond henchmen of all time. The Bond girls are sexy, Moore is at his most charmingly witty, and Karl Stromberg’s world domination plot is all you could ask for from a Bond villain. Roger Moore’s high water mark, bar none.
5. Goldeneye (1995) - Pierce Brosnan’s debut Bond is also one of his best. He was born to play James Bond and it shows. Sean Bean proves a worthy adversary as 007’s friend-turned-foe. And Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp gives the series an iconic villainess and an iconic character name. Solid from start to finish, Goldeneye brought Bond back from the (near) dead.
4. The World Is Not Enough (1999) - This Bond movie is almost universally hated. I love it. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Brosnan, but all the elements for a great Bond movie are here for me. The opening boat chase is possibly the best action sequence in any Bond movie. Robert Carlyle’s villain Renard has a great backstory (he has a bullet lodged in his brain and can’t feel pain). The only weak spot is Denise Richards, who is truly horrible as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones. But her ridiculous character name also provides the best closing line in any Bond movie ever. I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
3. Skyfall (2012) - Granted, this one is freshest in my mind, so it could fluctuate over time. But the top three movies on this list all transcend the sliding scale of judging these movies as “Bond films.” They’re just great movies. Although about 20 minutes too long, Skyfall is just a fantastic movie. Daniel Craig really owns the role of James Bond at this point. And Javier Bardem is one of the all-time great Bond villains.
2. Casino Royale (2006) - Craig’s debut Bond film reintroduced the character to modern audiences without alienating the existing fans of 007. Again, this is just a great movie, period.
1. Goldfinger (1964) - Hands down, the best 007 adventure of all time. Everything is there: a fantastic villain, kick-ass gadgets (including the debut of Bond’s Astin Martin, complete with ejector seat), snappy dialogue, beautiful women (Pussy Galore!), the greatest henchman ever (Oddjob and his killer bowler hat), Sean Connery at his best, and the most famous line in James Bond history (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”). If you haven’t seen a Bond movie, this is the place to start.
So there you go. If you’ve read this far, you’re as sick in the head as I am. Here’s to 50 years of 007 - and hopefully 50 more.