With Skyfall being released today and receiving nothing but glowing reviews from the critics and fans alike I felt it was only appropriate to take a look back and see what other films starring the British Secret Agent were a cut above the rest. Bond . . . James Bond has appeared in 22 previous action packed adventures that stem from writer Ian Fleming’s popular books. Over the years the films have garnered over $12 billion dollars and have spawned fans all across the world. The film series was officially launched in 1961 thanks to Albert R. Broccoli (also known as “Cubby”) and Harry Saltzman when they formed EON Productions. A year later the tuxedo suit wearing, Aston Martin driving, and martini drinking spy stepped out onto the big screen. Some of the films released since 1962 were “shaken not stirred” into the perfect concoction of espionage, intrigue, and excitement, while others were forgettable adventures for the agent with a license to kill. I have composed a list below of the seven films starring 007 and why they still remain the best over the character’s 50 year career. It is worth noting that I have NOT assembled them in a particular ranking. They are listed by release date only. I haven’t seen Skyfall yet so this list will include only the films that came before it. As an added bonus I have a couple of extra bonus awards for certain films below the list. Enjoy and feel free to chime in on the comments below with your favorites.
James Bond: Sean Connery
The film that started it all still remains one of the best. And for good reason. From the colorful and geometric credit sequence (which inspired the recent credits for X-Men:First Class) to the reveal of the first among a long future list of iconic villains, Dr. No paved the way for so many Bond films to come after. There are two iconic sequences in this film that have always jumped out at me as a kid and continue to do today. One being the first time James Bond enters his hotel room. He looks behind picture frames and under lamp shades for hidden recording devices and leaves a licked piece of hair in place over the closet doors when he leaves to see if anyone comes into his room when he’s gone. These were the days before Bond got many of his iconic gadgets that the series became known for, and scenes like this one show his true spy roots. Finally, the other scene worth applauding – and one that many fans still look to as one of the best in the series – is when he arrives at the cliff side home after being presumed dead. The sequence plays out in a cunning cat and mouse game before ending in a cold-blooded shooting of a man who is summoned to kill Bond in his sleep. You can view part of this scene at the 2:00 minute mark on the trailer below. It’s a simple sequence but one that showed audiences he wasn’t just a dashing guy in a suit. He had a license to kill.
James Bond: Sean Connery
Connery made two other Bond features between this one and Dr. No, but neither matched the excitement and imagination that this entry had. Things kick off with a funeral sequence that erupts into an all-out brawl where Bond and an assassin end up throwing vases and furniture at one another. It’s a brutal fight that rivals a similar hand-to-hand fight in the previous film From Russia With Love. Thunderball is most known for two things: The jet-pack at the end of the opening scene and the under-water finale. Some may find these sequences to be over-the-top and hokey, but the significance they play in the history of the Bond franchise is a big one. So many of the stunts and elaborate action sequences we see in the 007 films today were as a result of this film raising the bar in terms of the action sequences seen here. By today’s standards the film may come across as a little tame, but it’s hard not to love a film when Bond is pitted against a main villain with an eye patch.
James Bond: George Lazenby
The James Bond film and actor that no one talks about. Which is really a damn shame since this is one of the best films. George Lazenby may not have looked or acted the part, but this film makes up for it in its script and direction. Diana Rigg, known for her role in the British TV show The Avengers, makes for a stunningly beautiful and intelligent Bond girl. Almost the entire film is free of any major action set-pieces. That is until you get to the end. There’s a reason why Christopher Nolan was inspired by this film to create the finale in Inception. OHMSS delivers one sequence which is a jaw-dropping chase down a snowy mountain. Bond is being perused by dozens of henchman on skis. For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me both later included icy chases following this one but failed to top it. What will surprise many though with this Bond adventure is how much of a punch to the gut the ending delivers. I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it, but never will you find a more heartbreaking ending in the entire Bond series.
James Bond: Roger Moore
Roger Moore first stepped into the black tux following Sean Connery and the short-lived George Lazenby with the “Blaxploitation” inspired (and mildly racist) entry Live and Let Die. While that film isn’t as bad as it was initially received and would probably be in my top three Roger Moore Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me is without a doubt his best film. He has always been considered the weakest Bond of them all by many due to his goofy and jovial sense of humor; not to mention the more ridiculous gadgets and silly action that plagued many of his films from the 70’s into the 80’s. This film is most commonly known as being the introduction to the henchman Jaws. A killer hired by the main villain Stromberg, Jaws is 7 ft. tall and contains a metal mouth that is both intimidating and a slight nod to Dracula. A scene early on in the film even shows him biting another man on the neck inside of a pyramid under the guise of the moonlight. This Bond film borrows a little bit from previous ones by including the already mentioned ski chase, a train attack that was previously done in From Russia With Love, and by having yet another tricked-out car like the one in Goldfinger which this time can miraculously turn into a submarine. All this considered, The Spy Who Loved Me is easily one of the best Bond films to date. After the credits, it was teased that Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only. However, with the popularity of the villain Jaws and the success of a little film called Star Wars, that film would be pushed back till after fans were treated to Bond in space fighting Jaws in Moonraker.
James Bond: Timothy Dalton
It’s really hard to even think about this film as a James Bond entry. With all the blood and violence, cocaine dealing, and Bond getting his 007 title revoked, you’d be hard pressed to find a more brutal entry in the series. In a lot of ways Timothy Dalton plays the British Secret Service agent as more like Charles Bronson or Stallone in the 1986 cop flick Cobra. Benicio Del Toro even shows up as a drugged-out assistant to Robert Davi (Goonies, Die Hard). To this day, the oil tanker chase is one of the best action scenes in the Bond franchise and comes off as even more impressive considering it was all done without CGI. Most people who prefer the classiness from the Sean Connery days might not warm-up to this very unconventional Bond. Dalton only appeared in this and one other Bond film: The Living Daylights. While Daylights delivers a strong first half but falters quite a bit in the middle and the end, License to Kill delivers a solid film all the way through and shows that Bond can be edgy and dangerous.
James Bond: Pierce Brosnan
A lot of critics applauded this first outing for Brosnan but still prefer the other film that uses the shiny metal in its name: Goldfinger. There’s certainly a number of memorable moments in Goldfinger, but it’s pacing is dreadful compared to Goldeneye. With any new actor stepping into an iconic role there is going to be some apprehension from the public. Not even ten minutes in, Brosnan and director Martin Campbell put fans trepidation to rest and throw us on a roller coaster of a film that is nothing short of breath taking. The 90’s is a decade not known for having very memorable films. This is one of the exceptions. Goldeneye is so good that you almost forget about the mediocre Roger Moore films that plagued the series in the years prior and the fact that the previous film – License To Kill – was the lowest grossing Bond film in the series. With an amazing cast that actually includes some of the best performances in the entire series, Goldeneye surprised many as a smart and fun Bond entry even when it’s showing such over-the-top stunts as a huge tank crushing through buildings in the middle of a city. And who could forget the opening bungee jump sequence. This unbelievable sight is one of several stunts in Pierce Brosnan’s best film as James Bond.
James Bond: Daniel Craig
Last but certainly not least, we have our current 007. Quantum of Solace may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations because this initial film starring Daniel Craig as Bond is just so unbelievably perfect. Debate has already begun whether or not Skyfall surpasses the bar set by this film. Only time will really tell which film will prevail. Like what Brosnan’s Goldeneye did for the Bond legacy, Casino Royale reinvigorated the James Bond name after several disappointing and just flat-out bad films that tarnished the rest of the Brosnan years. There were three bad Bond adventures and one good one before Eon Productions rebooted the franchise with this entry. In the opening scene we see James Bond first gain his 007 title. From there, the film feels more like a classic Bond film but doesn’t get too caught up in retelling his entire back story like most reboots stumble through. Craig displays a rugged manliness while also maintaining the classiness as the secret agent in the tux sipping a martini. Plus, Eva Green plays one of the most stunningly beautiful girls the spy has ever been with. It should be noted that Martin Campbell directed both this and the previously mentioned Goldeneye. I have high expectations for Skyfall but wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t quite match this spectacular reboot to the series.
Best Bond Girl: Daniela Bianchi – Tatiana Romanova, From Russia With Love
Best Villain: Christopher Lee – Scaramanga, The Man With The Golden Gun
Best Action Sequence: Pre-credit Sequence in Goldeneye
Best Dialogue Exchange: When James Bond wakes up in Goldfinger
Bond, “Who are you?“
Unknown woman, “My name is Pussy Galore.”
Bond, “I must be dreaming.“
Thank you for reading! I hope everyone enjoyed the list and hopefully it might encourage those who haven’t seen some of these films to check them out. For the avid fans, make sure to leave your thoughts and personal picks in the comments below. Skyfall is in theaters now.