Monday, January 31, 2011

Ranking the Bond Films

Over the last few months, I've watched all 22 of the James Bond films in order, usually one a week. Bond is one of my favorite film franchises, and I figured since I had now seen them all pretty recently, I would go through and rank them. I'll also provide a few of my thoughts for each movie, along with who played Bond and what year that film came out. So, here is my list, in order from worst (#22) to best (#1):

22. Die Another Day - Pierce Brosnan, 2002

Nothing they did to Bond while he was a prisoner in North Korea for 14 months is worse than watching this movie.

21. The Man With the Golden Gun - Roger Moore, 1974

This movie has a cool premise, and the way Bond defeats the villain at the end is great. Unfortunately the rest of the movie is not so great and all the acting besides Moore is pretty awful. I would love to see a remake of this one with Daniel Craig and another great actor as Scaramanga (the villain).

20. A View to a Kill - Roger Moore, 1985

Roger Moore was 57 when he filmed this (his last Bond movie). He actually aged pretty well, but still... come on. The plot is pretty lame and the main Bond girl is annoying. This is the 80's at its worst. The only redeeming thing about this movie is Christopher Walken as the villain. Everything he says cracks me up, even when he's a bad guy. It's just the way he talks. He could be saying he's about to burn down an orphanage with everyone inside and I wouldn't be able to help myself. Hilarious.

19. Live and Let Die - Roger Moore, 1973

Roger Moore's first Bond film, while having some good parts, falls short overall. The movie drags out way too long with a 30 minute boat chase through Louisiana that is more reminiscent of something you'd see in "The Dukes of Hazard" (and I mean that in the worst way possible), and the American redneck sheriff (who returns in The Man With the Golden Gun) is the worst character to appear in all 22 Bond films. And that includes Halle Berry. On the plus side, Jane Seymour is pretty fine as Solitaire, and this film has my favorite Bond theme-song of all, "Live and Let Die" by Wings.

18. Octopussy - Roger Moore, 1983

This film, while not awful, is also not especially memorable. And I say that because I really can't remember that much about it now. Although I liked the female lead (Octopussy), the whole "hot girl cult" thing was pretty lame and far-fetched (yes, even for a Bond movie), and Roger Moore "saves the day" while in full clown makeup. Yes, you read that right. Dressed as a clown. So let's move on.

17. Tomorrow Never Dies - Pierce Brosnan, 1997

Bond takes on an evil media tyrant that wants to start World War III between the US and China so that his company can have exclusive media coverage of the war. AKA Fox News. This movie is alright, but once again not especially memorable or cool. Although it's not a great movie, it does hold a special place in my heart as the first Bond movie I ever saw on the big screen.

16. License to Kill - Timothy Dalton, 1989

Without giving away too much, what makes this movie ultimately fail is that it strays too far from the usual Bond formula, as Bond breaks with MI6 to go on a revenge mission to kill the man that hurt one of his closest friends. That sounds like it might not necessarily be a bad thing, but throw in some poor acting and the 1980's and you've got a movie that just doesn't make the cut. It's not all bad though, as there are some cool moments.

15. Moonraker - Roger Moore, 1979

Bond in space. If those three words don't set off alarms in your head, then consider yourself lucky you've obviously never seen the end of this film. After the huge success of the first Star Wars film, the makers of Bond decided they would try to piggyback off of that to make some extra money. I actually like the first 2/3 of this movie, but the end gets awfully ridiculous. Poor Roger Moore: he was a good Bond, but most of his scripts put him in plots that were just unsalvageable (and you can say the same thing about Pierce Brosnan).

14. Diamonds Are Forever - Sean Connery, 1971

Sean Connery returns after a one-movie break for his last (official) Bond movie, and manages to keep most of his style although noticeably older. A decent Bond movie - not bad, but not great.

13. The World is Not Enough - Pierce Brosnan, 1999

Brosnan does a good job, I absolutely love the girl villain in this film (played by Sophie Marceau), and we get to see more of Judi Dench as M (which is a good thing).The male villain is ok, but what really kills this film is Denise Richards as nuclear physicist "Christmas Jones". She was awful and completely unbelievable in the role: no one smart enough to be a physicist would marry Charlie Sheen.

12. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - George Lazenby, 1969

George Lazenby's only Bond film; many people aren't even aware this movie exists. Connery "retired" after You Only Live Twice, and Lazenby was chosen to be the next Bond. He does an okay job and the movie is actually pretty solid, if not spectacular. As soon as the movie was finished however, Lazenby announced he also was retiring from being Bond, because of the hard filming schedule and because he was sure that now he had made it and could get other big roles. How'd that work out for you, George?

11. You Only Live Twice - Sean Connery, 1967

James Bond goes to Japan and other parts of eastern Asia to hunt down and try to infiltrate Spectre. This movie has some good and some bad. We first meet Blofeld in this movie, and there are a lot of cool gadgets. The movie drags on though, and while they made a noble effort to make Sean Connery look Japanese, I didn't really think it worked that well.

10. The Spy Who Loved Me - Roger Moore, 1977

One of Moore's better movies, this one has a great opening and a good female lead (who happens to be Ringo Starr's wife). We also first meet Jaws, and the locations they used were all cool. The middle-ish of this movie drags on for too long though (the long, drawn out battle on the ship).

9. The Living Daylights - Timothy Dalton, 1987

A solid action movie with some good plot twists. The acting is all pretty good too. As Dalton's first Bond film (out of only two), he plays a more introspective and quiet Bond, while still maintaining Bond's suave and lethality. This is Bond film that tends to get somewhat forgotten, but I would definitely recommend it if you haven't seen it.

8. Quantum of Solace - Daniel Craig, 2008

The most recent Bond film and a direct sequel to Casino Royale (Craig's first film). As far as action and cinematography go, this is the best Bond of the whole series. It lacks a great plot like Casino Royale had, but the story is still good enough to hold its own and not get in the way of a great action movie. Craig also gives another very good performance.

7. Thunderball - Sean Connery, 1965

A little too much of this film takes place underwater for my taste (especially at the end), but overall it's a very good Bond film. The female villain is great, and this movie has some classic moments in it. And the main Bond girl, Domino, is one of the best looking in the whole series.

6. For Your Eyes Only - Roger Moore, 1981

In my opinion Moore's best film, it has a good story, good characters, a great plot twist, and I love the ending. Sure, the American ice skater girl is annoying as hell, but no movie is perfect.

5. Goldfinger - Sean Connery, 1964

Many people rank this as the best Bond, and while I don't fully agree with that I will say that it's up there. Connery is probably at his prime as Bond in this one, and you have a great villain with genius plan and an awesome henchman (Oddjob). My two gripes with this movie are: 1) Bond spends most of the movie as Goldfinger's prisoner who oddly continues to keep him around despite all his mischief, and 2) I'm not a big fan of "Pussy Galore" as a Bond girl, or a name for that matter (I just think it's stupid). Overall Goldfinger is definitely one of the finest Bond films though.

4. GoldenEye - Pierce Brosnan, 1995

My favorite Brosnan film, and one of my favorites overall. GoldenEye had a large task: it had to show the world that Bond could still be relevant and entertaining in a post-Soviet-Russia world, and it did the job wonderfully. Sean Bean plays a great and complex character, Brosnan does a great job as Bond, and it has a great script and supporting cast.

3. Dr. No - Sean Connery, 1962

The first "official" Bond film, Sean Connery took the role and never looked back. He managed to be suave and cool while still being a beast, and set the precedent by which all future Bonds would be judged (whether fairly or not). This movie also features Honey Rider, who is my personal favorite Bond girl, and the movie has one of my favorite quotes in all the Bonds: "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six." The banter between Dr. No and Bond is some of the best in any Bond movie as well.

2. Casino Royale - Daniel Craig, 2006

Daniel Craig's first Bond film is a beyond-triumphant return for the British spy after some pretty bad Brosnan movies. The movie is dark and gritty and doesn't try to hide it, while still keeping a great sense of humor and wit. As a reboot of the franchise, we see Bond as a newly appointed "double-0" agent on his first assignment which turns out to be a very important one. Throw in some great villains, lots of intrigue and poker, and one of the best Bond girls in Vesper Lynd (who is not only gorgeous, but also smart and complex), and an outstanding performance by Craig, and you've got the second best Bond movie ever. The opening of this movie is also my favorite of any Bond film, and they all usually have pretty good openings.

1. From Russia With Love - Sean Connery, 1963

My personal favorite Bond. The plot is great with plenty of intrigue and suspense without going overboard. Just the right amount of comic relief and dialog, and one of the best fight scenes in all of Bond (the one in the train car). Along with Goldfinger, Connery (also my personal favorite Bond) was at his peak as Bond in this film. The Bond girl, while not a particularly strong personality, is one of the best looking, and Connery has more than enough personality for both of them anyway. The "briefcase" gadget Bond gets from Q, while not highly futuristic or anything, is also one of the best overall gadgets in the series. This is the closest Bond gets to being perfect, and it also has a great opening theme song.

There are my rankings for all the official Bond movies. And since I'm on the subject I'll also quickly list how I rank the actors who have played Bond:

1. Sean Connery
2. Daniel Craig
3. Pierce Brosnan
4. Timothy Dalton
5. Roger Moore
6. George Lazenby

I think all the Bonds had their strong points and were good in their own way. George Lazenby gets the short end of the stick just because it's so difficult to judge based on only one movie. For the same reason it's hard to place Timothy Dalton (2 movies) and Daniel Craig (2 movies so far, with a 3rd in the works).

I hope you found this enlightening and/or fairly amusing. I'd love to hear from any Bond fans out there and get your thoughts. Let me know what you think, even if you've only seen a few of the movies.