Nov 15, 2012

Ranking Bond, James Bond

I consider myself a fan of James Bond films, but upon reflection of the twenty three, well twenty five if you count Never Say Never Again and the parody Casino Royale, films I really only like a handful of them. I've seen all of them at least once, maybe 98% of them twice, but most are forgettable, sadly. It's kind of amazing to me that a series with so many bad films can be the longest running in Hollywood history, and most never grow tired of the British Secret Agent. Still even at the series worst audiences get what they pay for, exotic locales, hot women, compelling action, and to marvel at the charms of 007 as he globetrots along killing anyone that inconveniences him.
So here is my ranking of the James Bond films, from worst to best:
25 - Live and Let Die: Roger Moore's first outing as Bond ends up being the worst on this list. The supernatural theme of the plot that involves 007 fighting a drug kingpin hell bent on cornering the heroin market while using voodoo magic to meet his ends was a bit much for me, and seemed really out of place for a spy thriller. Released partly because of the blaxplotation films that were so popular at the time, it hasn't really aged well, and it can best be described as goofy. Best reason(s) to watch this: Jane Seymour is just beautiful and the 7-up guy is novel seeing him be all bad ass. The main villian, Mr Big, is actually pretty threatening as well. The title theme is one of the best in the series.
24 - Never Say Never Again: While not an EON produced film, and it was just a remake of Thunderball, it really suffers from being humorless and uninteresting. While fans were excited to see Connery back in the role after a long absence, his age really showed and his performance made it obvious he just wanted to get the shoot over with. The characters, sans Largo, were much weaker and less developed than the original, and overall it's murky, dark (and not in a good way), and just doesn't have the charm or excitement of previous Bond outings. Given that it doesn't really fit in with the Bond cannon, it's largely superfluous. Best reason(s) to watch this: The motorcycle is pretty cool. While Domino's character fell flat, Kim Bassinger was nice to look at.
23 - The Man with the Golden Gun: Audiences expected a better film considering how awful Live and Let Die is, but sadly they got stuck with one of the stupidest films in the franchise. Bond takes on a hitman with a gun that's, wait for it, gold. In this adventure he fights midgets and other non-threatening henchmen before he has his moment of truth with the main villain, played far better than what the role was worth by Christopher Lee. It's just silly, dull, and is largely forgettable. Best reason(s) to watch this: Midgets and a great performance by the already mentioned Christopher Lee.
22 - Diamonds are Forever: It's strange that the person who directed what is largely considered the best Bond film (Goldfinger) also helmed three of the worst Bond films (Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Diamonds are Forever). This one sees the return of Blofeld, head of SPECTRE, who steals diamonds to build a super laser *yawn*. Connery's last appearance in an EON produced Bond film is hands down his worst of them. Most of the films problems is how dated it is, with locales that look anything but exotic by today's standards, given Las Vegas at the time was nowhere near as impressive as it is today. The henchmen were cartoonish at best, and really don't look like they could kick anyone's ass, and the character of Blofeld was anything but threatening or even interesting. The Bond girls, normally known for their competence and sophistication, offered nothing to the film except to be annoying and fill out their outfits, which granted they did a great job at that. Given the last film ended on such a down note it's no surprise that producers wanted to lighten things up, but this film is just largely silly. Best reason(s) to watch this: Jill St John can really fill out a bikini and Lana Wood is some of the best eye candy in the series, you'll just have to look past their acting ability.
21 - Moonraker: A lot of people consider this one to be the worst Bond film, if not worst Moore era Bond film, and it's hard to argue with them. The plot was clearly a result of the booming popularity of sci-fi films at the time, which a little film called Star Wars played no small part in. The story is about a forgettable villain wanting to build a master race in space, destroy the earth, then once the planet is habitable again to let the perfect humans breed and do what us flawed creatures couldn't. The motivation behind this is unclear, and it doesn't matter as most of the film makes no sense. Action sequences could've been exciting if they weren't hampered down by stupid sight gags. And the unwanted return of Jaws and his storyline made things even more stupid. It's sad because this film had real potential to be different, unique, but instead it tries to be a action comedy with a sci-fi element to it, and it fails on every level and is just a big bag of dumb. Best reason(s) to watch this: It's more fun than killing yourself.
20 - A View to a Kill: This is Roger Moore's last outing as Bond, James Bond, and in my opinion his exit from the series was long overdue. I know he's very popular with a lot of 007 fans, but not only was he not a good actor, he made a piss poor action star as he couldn't even throw a punch convincingly. Some say he played a better lover than Connery, as Moore was a good looking chap, but still in the record setting seven films he made, maybe two of them are actually watchable. He probably could've carried another three had he been more versed in the art of acting, but sadly this was not the case. This story takes us from France to the Bay Area as it basically rips off the plot of Godfinder, except instead of crashing the gold standard market by destroying Fort Knox, this film has a villain who wants to corner the microchip market by doing the same to Silicon Valley. This movie suffered from Moore showing his age, struggling to be believable in each and every scene. Tanya Roberts was given the laborious task of portraying one of the most annoying Bond girls to date, and it's not her fault as the script gives her little to do but just scream. Bond would also never sleep with Grace Jones, even if he consumed eight martinis. It's a movie that has no laughs nor thrills, and it's a sad send off to an actor who dedicated a large amount of his life to the role. Best reason(s) to watch this: It's not the worst Bond film Moore did, but that's like saying your most recent bout with hemorrhoids wasn't as bad as the last. The theme song by Duran Duran is pretty cool. It's kind of fun to think of how many drugs were consumed when the filmmakers thought putting a Beach Boys song in the middle of a ski chase sequence was a good idea.
19 - Die Another Day: There must be some kind of curse amongst actors who portray Bond, well sans Lazenby, and their last films being the among the, if not the, worst of them. Pierce Brosnan's last portrayal of the British Super Spy was by far his silliest, which is sad mostly because it had so much potential. The film starts seeing Bond being captured and tortured by North Koreans, and finally gets released in a prisoner exchange. Working his way back to double o status, he finds himself fighting a North Korean, who has plastic surgery to look like a Brit, and who exchanges conflict diamonds to build a super satellite that will destroy all the land mines in the demilitarized zone, which is all controlled by a robotic Robocop-like suit, and then it gets dumb. Yeah, it's as big as it is stupid, and it was a piss poor way to see Brosnan end his tenure. Best reason(s) to watch this: Halle Berry in a bikini, a cool sword fight, and hoping Madonna dies on screen.
18 - Casino Royale (1967): One of the two Bond films not EON produced, this parody of Bond, and spy films in general, is just not funny. Has a great cast, but it is a large waste of talent. Out of all the films on this list, this one is only memorable because it's such a mystery as to why it was made. Best reason(s) to watch this: You can get drunk and give it the MST3K treatment.
17 - The World is not Enough: Pierce Brosnan's third time portraying the famous secret agent is a somewhat dull affair, but largely watchable by the somewhat engaging plot. Bond is protecting an oil heiress from a murderous villain that cannot feel pain for largely implausible reasons. It's interesting how after over a dozen movies they finally gave M something to do besides sit behind a desk and gripe about MI6's favorite agent being late. Still where this movie suffers is some of the cheesiest lines in franchise history, and what ranks as some of the worst acting of any Bond girl thanks to Denise Richards. Best reason(s) to watch this: While casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist is laughable, looking at her in her prime is a pleasant task, but she gets shadowed by the elegant Sophie Marceau. The action is fun and somewhat engaging. The exit of Desmond Llewelyn is kind of touching I'll admit.
16 - Octopussy: Roger Moore once again plays the agent with a license to kill, and this time it he has a more dense plot than the others. 009 is killed carrying a Fabrege egg, and Bond tracks the owner of an identical one to uncover an elaborate plot by a Soviet General to lead Europe into a state of vulnerability so the Bolshevics can finally rule the continent. Not exactly a terrible movie, as it has some engaging action and a somewhat interesting plot, but some of the moments in Octopussy is just too damn stupid and really takes you out of the story. It's horribly uneven, with Bond dressed as a clown, him yelling like Tarzan, and a deadly yo-yo just keeps one from really being involved with the characters. It's a disappointing venture at best. Best reason(s) to watch this: Oh I don't know, it's not really terrible so it beats playing strip pinochle with fat Pentecostals.
15 - Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond, James Bond is fighting a media mogul who is trying to start World War III so he can see his information empire grow. Yeah, it's a silly plot, but the action, when you're not rolling your eyes, is fun and the acting isn't that bad. Pierce Brosnan made for a competent, as well as safe, Bond, so it's a shame that out of the five he did, only one was decent, and the best praise I can give this one is it didn't make me want to cut myself. Best reason(s) to watch this: Teri Hatcher's performance and character is so jaw droppingly bad it has to be seen to believed and a cool opening action sequence. Bond actually meets an agent who's actually more competent than him, which is an interesting twist.
14 - Quantum of Solace: 007 is on a mission to fight evil environmentalists and seek revenge on those responsible for the death of the woman he actually brought himself to love. A true sequel to the impressive Casino Royale (2006), Daniel Craig returns to the role after he exceeded expectations in his previous outing. Sadly this movie did more than disappoint, as it tried to go back to the ridiculous plots of previous Bond films. Still it has its moments, as it solidified that this reboot of the series is on a quest to make it more character driven than the previous films, and Daniel Craig got more comfortable as the character originally written as little more than an assassin. That being said the plot just drags at times as it tries to be a revenge film, a spy thriller, an action film, and a internal political struggle all at once, and fails at all of them. Best reason(s) to watch this: Daniel Craig is really good in the role, and it fun to watch.
13 - You Only Live Twice: The MI6 super agent who has infiltrated the world's largest criminal organization and kept humanity safe from it is now burdened with the task of faking his own death and going undercover as a Japanese man to unravel the plot of rogue astronauts (or is it cosmonauts?) going into space and kidnapping American space pioneers. Yeah, it has Sean Connery try to pass himself off as Japanese, which involves shaving his chest and getting a bad haircut. So yeah. Best reason(s) to watch this: The sets are really cool, especially the volcano lair and the giant battle at the end is a lot of fun. While this movie doesn't take itself that seriously, it does have a good balance of comedy and action. Plus, seeing Blofeld's face for the first time is kind of a treat.
12 - License to Kill - A darker outing in the Bond catalogue, as Felix gets tortured and maimed by a drug lord, leading 007 to leave MI6 to seek revenge on his friend's attacker. I've yet to meet a person who finds Timothy Dalton to be their favorite person to portray the super spy, but I don't think he deserves the scorn many have given him and the two films he starred in. He's a fine actor and he really brings an edginess to the role not seen since Connery. Granted he's not the masculine figure Connery is, nor was he the ladies man Moore was, but he did do some fine work in these movies, and it should not go ignored. License to Kill is interesting as it's the first time the series gave the character Felix something to do besides trade information with his British counterpart for all of five minutes of screen time. It's a decent revenge film with some good acting and more violence than you'd expect. Best reason(s) to watch this: Benecio DelToro is genuinely good in this movie, and Carey Lowell plays a great Bond girl, who's actually a fleshed out character rather than a bumbling beauty.
11 - The Living Daylights: James Bond helps a KGB agent defect by thwarting an assassination attempt, and not surprisingly a few twists happen in the plot. Timothy Dalton's first time playing Bond, James Bond is a good film, although most won't agree with me, which is understandable. He's not the wise cracking secret agent audiences and fans were used to. He brought a more brooding Bond to the mix, one I find welcome. Still this film does have its light moments and brings some colorful characters to offset the now thoughtful secret agent. By today's standards it seems dated with the Cold War being over for over two decades now, but it's still enjoyable. Best reasons to watch this: It's good old fashioned fun fighting evil Russians, and this film delivers. The car is kind of cool and the stunts, while implausible, are pretty cool.
10 - The Spy Who Loved Me: Bond, James Bond and a KGB agent team up to go underwater to fight an evil anarchist who wants to see the world nuked by the then two superpowers so he can rebuild human civilization anew. One of the two Moore films I actually enjoy, The Spy Who Loved Me has a lot of what you'd expect out of the franchise, beautiful women who do more than just look good, crazy gadgets, exciting action, and a compelling villain. One of the few Moore films that balances light hearted humor with action reasonably well. This Bond, James Bond film does not disappoint its fans. Best reason(s) to see this: The underwater lair is awesome. Jaws' first and best appearance is him being bad ass and not a silly clown. Barbara Bach is just so damn pretty, as is Caroline Munro.
9 - For Your Eyes Only: The British and the Russians are racing to find a targeting computer, which has the players give all sorts of twists and turns, and who better to solve all the riddles than 007? Bond, James Bond finally takes his revenge on Blofeld, which sets the pace for a more gritty, realistic adventure after the corny, over the top Moonraker. The high water mark of Roger Moore as Bond, For Your Eyes Only really has everything, ski chases, underwater action, and scenes in Greece, Spain, and Italy. Best reason(s) to see this: It's one of the few movies where I actually like Moore as Bond, and it has some of the best action in the series.
8 - Goldeneye: With the Cold War over Bond, James Bond seems to live in a world that doesn't need him, but of course his skills are required to take down a once thought dead double o agent who plans on crashing the worlds' markets for whatever reason. I like Goldeneye, but it's highly overrated. Given that the Dalton films were on a serious tone, Brosnan's first 007 film is a little more light with some really fun action, and fans rank this as one of the better Bond films. It's clearly the best of the Brosnan era sure, but that's not saying a whole lot. Bond returns with his wise cracks and his smooth, uber coolness in the face of danger. It's a welcome change, but some of it's a bit much for me. Still as an action film it works really well, even if some of the stunts are laughable and there are some questionable plot holes. It's also nice to see 007 take on an equal, instead of a bumbling cartoonish villain who mostly sits behind a desk. Most of the humor falls as flat as a seven day old soda. Oh the dialogue is banal as all hell, even by the low standards of this series. It tries to appeal to all fans of the series, and it mostly succeeds. Best reason(s) to see this: Famke Jannsen is really really hot, and it's cool seeing the movie again after playing the immensely popular video game of the same name. Sean Bean plays a great villain.
7 - Thunderball: Bond, James Bond goes on a mission to locate missing nuclear warheads, which were stolen by a man named Largo, who works for SPECTRE, and is holding the world hostage with them. Thunderball is an exciting adventure and probably the last of the Connery era that I actually enjoy. Set back in the Bahamas for most of the film, Connery plays the secret agent as we've come to expect, smooth, cool, and charisma little seen throughout the series. Sadly, it's the first Bond film that gets really silly and bogged down with stupid, and even somewhat impractical gadgets, which leaves little room to suspend disbelief. Thankfully, the story and the femme fatal hold the movie together. Best reason(s) to see this: It's Connery as Bond in his prime. Lucianna Paluzzi plays a great seductress villain, and the humor is actually funny.
6 - Dr. No: Bond, James Bond's first adventure takes him to Jamaica to fight an evil SPECTRE agent who plans on thwarting a space launch. The movie that started it all sets a great pace for the series. Sean Connery is almost perfect in the role as the secret agent who doesn't mind putting a bullet into anyone who tries to disrupt his mission. It's one of the first films to portray a hero killing someone in cold blood, a scene my father reminded me of how shocking it was to audiences at the time. It's simple, it's fun, and it really feels like an Ian Flemming novel. Best reason(s) to watch this: Ursula Andress, enough said.
5 - Goldfinger: The British secret agent is taken capture by a man determined to destroy Fort Knox to make his own stash of gold nearly priceless. Some say this is the best Bond film ever, but I disagree. While it can be fun, it's mostly dull considering most of the film you see the seemingly invincible 007 just hang around with the villain, trying to extract as much information as he can. Still it has some memorable sequences, such as the Aston Martin, the fight with Odd Job, and Bond's seduction of a lesbian. The performances and the action sequences make up for the weak story, and it's of little wonder why most fans look back on this film fondly. Best reason(s) to watch this: The "I must be dreaming" line, the performance of Gert Frobe, and the Dink scene, which has the dubious honor of being the most misogynist sequence in all the series.
4 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service: The famous spy travels to the mountains to encounter Blofeld, head of SPECTRE, who's using hypnosis on beautiful vixens so they can carry out his nefarious plans. George Lazenby is by far my least favorite Bond, as the only trait he has my sold on is his voice. Otherwise, he wasn't very good in the role, but thankfully the material rises above his lack of talent. Granted the plot isn't great, but Terry Savalis makes for a great Blofeld, the best in the series. Watching Bond fall in love is actually more compelling than what one would expect, and the ending is one of the most powerful in all the films. They got rid of the silly gadgets and made this film very character driven, which audiences didn't seem to want since they abandoned that idea until the Dalton films. Given all its flaws I love this movie and wish the series reflected the tone this film has. Best reason(s) to watch this: The action is great, as well as both the title and love themes. As mentioned before, Savalis really sells it and Diana Riggs is great as the first, and so far only, Bond wife.
3 - Skyfall: After his lust for revenge satisfied, Bond, James Bond is now after a former MI6 agent hell bent on killing M for turning her back on him years before. After the highly disappointing second film in the Bond reboot, Skyfall delivers what audiences expect from the crowd pleasing series. Daniel Craig returns as the somewhat brooding, tough as nails, no nonsense 007, and plays him more as I believe Flemming envisioned, a hitman more than a spy. This film delivers all kinds of fan pleasers, with a truly sadistic and threatening villain, a beautiful and tragic Bond girl, and various throwbacks to earlier films, which some are subtle while others not so much. The action sequences are exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Best reason(s) to watch this: Daniel Craig really comes into his own in the role of Bond, and really looks comfortable playing him. Javier Bardem may be one of the best actors to portray a 007 villain, and he doesn't disappoint here. The pacing is some of the best you'll find in the series, and really the film as a whole works not only as a spy thriller, but as one of the best action films in years. It was also nice to see M actually be a co-star.
2 - Casino Royale: After the last few dismal Bond films the producers decide to start again from scratch, with Bond first obtaining his license to kill, he plays a high stakes game of poker to thwart the nefarious plans of an arms dealer. The famous Bond, James Bond reboot is one that exceeded everyones' expectations, well maybe not everyone, but anyone with good taste at least. From the film's satisfying opening to the impressive end in Venice, it's still the globetrotting assassin/spy you know and love, but with an edge not yet seen. This Bond bleeds, is vulnerable, but tough, gritty, and isn't the Superman most portrayed him as. He's more believable, relatable, and compelling. He doesn't have the good looks as Moore or Brosnan had, but he's just as masculine, if not more, than Connery, and finally after many years we have a Bond that actually looks like he can fight. It's a great action movie and a good love story as well. Finally the series learned something from the lessons of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and made an even better film. Best reason(s) to watch this: It's one of the best in the series, and it warrants repeated viewings. This film, while a great spy thriller, has a lot of heart, and is exciting as it is tragic. Eva Green is my favorite Bond girl of all time, and she had great chemistry with Craig. Just overall a great movie.
1 - From Russia with Love: In Bond, James Bond's second mission, MI6 and the KGB are both after a decoding device, and unbeknownst to both SPECTRE is hoping to beat them both to the punch. As you're probably already aware, I'm more of a fan of the realistic Bond films, rather than the silly, gadget driven Moore and Brosnan films. This film really feels like what all spy thrillers should have, great villians, exciting and realistic fight sequences, and a simple, yet effective plot. From Russia with Love is Connery's favorite Bond film out of all of them he did, and it's my favorite of all time. Granted some of it's dated for today's audience, as there's no KGB and SPECTRE seems more Legion of Doom-ish than a sophisticated organized crime syndicate it tried to come off as, but that never bothered me. The locations are exotic, as is the KGB agent Tatiana, and the fight with 007 and Grant is one of the best in not just the series, but ever on celluloid. Best reason(s) to watch this: It's just good.

Fun fact: Barry Nelson was actually the first person to portray Bond, James Bond on screen in a televised version of Casino Royale. That may win you a few bar bets.

"I care about Bond and what happens to him. You cannot be connected with a character for this long and not have an interest. All the Bond films had their good points." - Sean Connery

1 comment:

Miss Ash said...

I've never been into Bond films! I saw my first 2 a few years ago as part of my goal list and they were okay but not really my cup of tea.