10 Best Bond Films Ever

Mar 3, 2002

The Bottom Line Connery. Lazenby. Moore. Dalton. Brosnan. For 40 years, the Bond franchise has brought the world the exploits of the world's greatest secret agent. But which missions were the best?

I've been a 007 fan for years, and now as Bond 20 is in production, and the 40th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No, is rapidly approaching, it's a fine time to list the 10 best films from the series. More specifically, I'll make my choices from the official series, produced by UA. That means Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale are out of the running (not that they'd crack the top ten anyway). My list is in no particular order, but at the end I'll make my pick for best 007 flick, guaranteed to tick off many other Bond afficianados.

Now, pay attention, 007...

1. Goldfinger -- Sean Connery's third entry as 007 and considered by many to be the best of the series. There's no doubting any film that includes a gadget-filled Aston Martin, a plot to nuke America's gold supply, and gold painted beauties. Wonderfully directed, acted, and written, this one is the blue print for most of the subsequent entries. A classic.

2. From Russia, With Love -- The second Bond flick, and possibly the most low key entry. No grandiose schemes threatening the world. No meglomaniacs aching for world domination. Simply put, Bond is dispatched to steal a decoder machine from the Soviets. SPECTRE, Bond's nemesis, plays an important role behind the scenes. Lavishly filmed. Wonderful stuff.

3. Goldeneye -- Remington Steele finally gets a crack at Bond, and he does a superlative job. Perfectly balancing the cold-bloodedness of Connery and the humor of Moore, Brosnan firmly plants his mark on the franchise. Film plays like a greatest hit collection from the series: Russian enemy, outrageously-named femme fatale, blunt M, bumbling Q, beautiful Bond girl, casino scene, and big giant explosions. This is one to see again and again.

4. Licence to Kill -- Many Bond fans hate this one. And you know what? They're wrong. Bond is not a super hero. He's a man thrust into extraordinary scenarios. He must use his wits and his natural strength to survive. He bleeds. He grieves. He feels pain. Timothy Dalton IS the Bond from the books, and in this entry, 007 avenges the attack on his good friend, Felix Leiter. The most mature and serious Bond film, LTK is awesome.

5. The Spy Who Loved Me -- It's film #3 for Roger Moore, and he finally comes into his own. It's a new era for the British super-agent: lots of nifty gadgets, arch-enemies hell-bent on destroying the world, lots and lots of random and beautiful women, and of course, stunt men galore. Don't get me wrong: Roger Moore did a lot for the Bond franchise, and this one is possibly his best. If you like larger than life action, this Spy is for you.

6. Octopussy -- Roger may be a bit long in the tooth, but for my money, this is his best film. It's not silly like Moonraker, and it's a bit lighter than the ultra-serious For Your Eyes Only. Steven Berkoff makes for an excellent Soviet zealot, and Louis Jordan pronounces the title character's name better than anyone else in the universe.

7. On Her Majesty's Secret Service -- I'm prepared for a great deal of back lash for this one. George Lazenby was a very good Bond. Yep, I said it. And I mean it. Lazenby was no actor, granted, but he performed better than any other actor in the role when it came to stunts. Of course, he needed work on dialogue scenes, but the man could the move. And the best plot of the entire series helps out. If he had been sane and accept further missions, he would have easily filled Connery's shoes.

8. The Living Daylights -- The most dangerous Bond makes his stunning debut in this story concerning drug-running, arms-dealing, double crosses, and war in Afghanistan. Of course, back then, we sympathized with Afghanistan. Timothy Dalton blasts through the movie in a strict interpretation of the character from the books, and he proves how good a serious 007 can be. I love this one.

9. For Your Eyes Only -- So serious, so lacking in gadgets, so unfunny, so few Bond chickies, you'd think this one had nothing to do with the Moore-era, but you'd be incorrect. The producers bring Bond back to earth after the debacle of Moonraker, and bless them, they've brought us an excellent entry. Look for Mrs. Pierce Brosnan as a Countess, and the bad guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Kristatos, the Bond villain. If you prefer a darker Bond, cast your eyes on Eyes.

10. Dr. No -- Before the extravagant budgets, before the millions of Bond afficianados, before Ms. Galore, there was Dr. No, the very first Bond entry. There wasn't a lot of money, there weren't any big names, and Desmond Llewellyn isn't even in it, but dammit, it's wonderful. It's got a deadly-serious Bond, beautiful locales, and an arch-villain with metal hands. Need I mention the lovely Ursula Andress? Bond launches himself out of the cinematic gate with this one. Say Yes to No.

Okay. It's time for the moment of truth. Of the 19 UA Bond films, which one is the best? Drum roll please...

Licence to Kill

Timothy Dalton's second and last Bond is serious in tone, dark in atmosphere, and oozing with passion, revenge, and realistic violence. When Bond gets hit, he bleeds. When his best friend is attacked by a shark, he grieves. When he is denied permission to pursue the culprits, he seethes with venom. Dalton is the best Bond ever. Connery is a classic, I'll grant you, but Dalton is the secret agent Ian Fleming created lo those many years ago. It's too bad Dalton didn't do more, because his two entries are among the best. Licence to Kill is, for my money, the superlative Bond film.

And which are the three worst Bond films?

1. Diamonds are Forever -- Look! Sean Connery is old and fat. See! He did it simply for the money. Behold! The director and writer obviously didn't care about a coherent plot. Observe! 1970s America was a scary place to be. Watch! There's an oil rig at the end for no apparent reason. There are only two redeeming factors for this one: Plenty O'Toole.

2. Moonraker -- Luke, I am your father. But Roger, you're 117 years old. Yes, everyone's favorite British agent is back, and this time he's armed with laser guns and a space shuttle. Oh, dear. I know Star Wars and Star Trek were burning up the movie screens when this one was in production, but did Albert Broccoli completely loose all of his senses? Lackluster enemy, bland girl, and so many blue screens, you'll wonder if Moore actually went on location at any time. Moon walk away from this one.

3. A View to a Kill -- Take the plot of Goldfinger, substitute gold for microchips, and strip it of any thought, coherence, and charm, and what do you get? Roger Moore's last mission as 007. Christopher Walken is terrific as the bad guy, but the rest of the production falls apart. What in the world did horse racing have to do with anything? And Tanya Roberts? Good grief. She does an adequate job on That 70s Show, but as a Bond girl, she is definitely the worst one ever. Moore should have bowed out with Octopussy. A travesty.

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