13 QUICK THOUGHTS: The Best JAMES BOND Movies Ever

OK, OK, maybe not the best ever, but these are my favorites.

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UPDATED 11/25/16: There’s a James Bond Marathon this weekend on EPIX and I have it on because how can I not? Especially since they’re really focusing on a lot of my faves. So, with that in mind, check out this unassailable list that I put together during our last 007 WEEK … — Dan

Contributor Rob Kelly penned a piece earlier in 007 WEEK about For Your Eyes Only, the movie and comic-book adaptation. In it, he explained that despite the movie’s shortcomings, it’s his favorite.

I wholeheartedly agree with his general assessment that the Bond you see at a certain young age will be among your favorites for the rest of your life. That’s how I feel about The Man With The Golden Gun. I know why people don’t like it — just as I know why I love it.

So when I sat down to do this list for 007 WEEK, it quickly became apparent that a rational listing of The 0013 Best Bond Films made little sense. I can’t be completely objective.

Instead, I give you My 0013 Favorite James Bond Movies Ever.

(Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below or in whatever social-media thread you found this!)

0013. License to Kill. Not a good movie. Actually, a pretty bad one. But it has Wayne Newton for some reason and a cool hideaway. Plus I remember having a good time going to see it at the movies. It’s pretty much one of the better bad ones. (And I have to include Timothy Dalton somewhere, right? Right?)

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0012. Die Another Day. This is the token Pierce Brosnan entry. His Bond had so much wasted promise. Anyway, a lot of people hate this one because it’s so over the top. I’m OK with it. I’m also OK with Halle Berry as one of the best Bond Women ever.

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0011. Live and Let Die. This one has a lot going for it. Roger Moore’s not too campy yet and it has a killer theme song and some exotic locales. I love Yaphet Kotto but here he’s, I dunno, just not that great. And the Blaxploitation riffs are hard to stomach. The weakest of the good Roger Moore movies.

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0010. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. George Lazenby no longer gets the bad rap he was saddled with for so long, but his mere presence takes you out of this one. Not that he’s bad — he’s not. It’s just that he makes the whole movie feel like a weird footnote. That said, it has some wonderfully ’60s touches like the mod clothes, Blofeld’s “Angels of Death” and one of the best Bond Women, Diana Rigg.

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009. From Russia With Love. My father loved this one and I think he called it the best. But I always found this one a little lacking, despite Rosa Klebb, Red Grant and that fight on the train. The weakest of the good Sean Connery Bond films.

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008. The Spy Who Loved Me. This one could go up a few slots depending on my mood, I suppose. It has so many of the right elements — superb locales, great Bond Women (Barbara Bach and Caroline Munro), spectacular evil lair and extremely memorable, smash theme song. The villain? Solid but really should have been Blofeld. But this one just doesn’t age that well. I know a lot of people consider this Moore’s high point, but it’s not quite that high up for me.

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007. Skyfall. This is an excellent James Bond movie except for the last 20 minutes or so. Daniel Craig is my second favorite 007 and the best actor of the bunch. The modern films have dispensed with so much of the old-school Bond but this one walks the line perfectly. Terrific villain, terrific action, terrific theme and terrific locales. Wonderful callbacks and jokes. (“Oh, go on then, eject me. See if I care.”) Judi Dench is tied for first as the best M. (Bernard Lee is right there with her.) And Berenice Marlohe is one of the most stunning Bond Women ever. Probably the most beautifully filmed entry of the entire series. But that final battle is just a little too pedestrian. So, so close to being one of the absolute best.

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006. Thunderball. Points off for being a little slow. Lousy Leiter. Great locales, though, and a solid villain made even more memorable because of Austin Powers. I love the bombastic Tom Jones theme. Not because it’s that great but because it’s so Tom Jones. Only Ursula Andress was more striking than Claudine Auger as a Bond Woman. Skyfall is overall probably better, but sentimentality makes a difference.

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005. Casino Royale. Daniel Craig’s first is still his best, even if the movie understandably goes out of its way to dispense with most of the classic 007 tropes. He’s a great James Bond — a mean bastard with a heart of gold. Eva Green makes my heart race faster. Tremendous theme song and superb opening credits. Of course, the story hews closely to the book so it’s a little densely structured but it’s an outstanding film, Bond or otherwise. And, again, I love Judi Dench.

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004. Goldfinger. Paint me in gold if you want, but this one’s actually overrated. Goldfinger’s scheme isn’t the most interesting and the locales are really underwhelming. I mean, Fort Knox? Really? And since they’re in Kentucky, we actually see a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the background at one point. But I’m putting it this high up for the obvious reasons: Fantastic villain and the series’ best evil sidekick, Oddjob. Pussy Galore. Shirley Bassey. Jill Masterson’s demise. The greatest exchange in Bond history: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Last but not least? THAT CAR. THAT CAR. THAT CAR. The second-greatest car in popular culture, behind only this one.

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003. You Only Live Twice. I know there’s some lag time in there and I know there are some highly questionable cultural insensitivities. But no Bond film nails scope like this one. Donald Pleasance remains the best Blofeld — therefore, he’s the Best Bond Villain Ever — and the finale in the evillest of lairs sets a standard that remains unparalleled, with proportionately global stakes. I love the look of this one. (Any Bond film that takes place in Asia or in a beachy, tropical locale gets extra points.) Shirley Bassey’s wonderful but the theme to this one, sung by Nancy Sinatra, is the best. In all, if you needed to show someone what a James Bond movie is, you have to show them this one.

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002. The Man With the Golden Gun. Hey, the heart wants what the heart wants, y’know? Most of my reasons can be found in my tribute to Christopher Lee, here.

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001. Doctor No. I love this movie and can watch it over and over and over. It’s usually my first pick if I’m in the mood for some Bond in the background. I know almost every line. It may not have all the elements we associate with Bond movies (no cold open, no fancy car, no awesome gadgets) but it has everything else in spades: The theme song, the best Bond, the best Bond Woman (Ursula Andress), one of the best villains, one of the best locales and one of the best evil lairs. Moneypenny and M. Quarrel. Even the best Felix LeiterJack Lord and those awesome shades! Great, great, great. They got it right the first time.

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Where will Spectre fit in? Well, I can’t wait to see it, I’ll tell you that!

Author: Dan Greenfield

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2 Comments

  1. I actually would have put Goldeneye on the list. Also On Her Majesty Secret Service is the most underrated Bond movie of them all. Though I am one who loves all the Bond movies. Yes some are weaker than others. I think For Your Eyes Only should be on the list. If for no other reason they were trying to get back the basics with Bond. That is why I love the Dalton movies. With the Dalton movie they were trying to get closer to the Bond in the books much like they have been doing with the Daniel Craig movies.

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  2. The campy “Diamonds Are Forever” is on my list, largely because it was the first Bond film I remember well. Connery was back, thankfully. I liked the vehicles — the moon buggy, tiny sub and that ’71 Mustang. I also enjoyed Bassey’s title song. Bond was a pretend diamond smuggler … but I didn’t follow the plot carefully back then. It was just pure Bond fun. And I just have a feeling “Spectre” will be underwhelming. Hope I’m wrong! But Bond is still Bond, so I’ll enjoy every minute.

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