Attention Thrill Seekers: the 25th film in the billion dollar James Bond franchise is coming out very soon. Just not as soon as originally planned due to Global Pandemic. So we here at ECR have decided to take a moment and rank them all in order. This list has a license to kill other inferior lists. That’s right thrill seekers! That means that this list is the official Econoclash Review Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 Eon productions franchise list. (we are not affiliated with the franchise) We will not include any movie not part of the Harry Saltzman/Cubby Broccoli/Broccoli Family Canon. (sorry, not sorry Never Say Never Again and 1967 Casino Royale as well as earlier made for tv Casino Royale with Americna Jimmy Bond) Enough of our monkey junk let’s breakdown the winners (Connery, Lazenby, Craig) from the losers (Brosnan) And everyone in between, (Moore, Dalton)
I’ve been a life long Bond fan. Yes, I am aware that it is straight male wish fulfillment increased beyond the level of ten. The cool dry wit of its one-liners, the bevy of beautiful ladies, the cold blooded killing of your enemies, nice clothes, gambling, gadgetry, and groovy tunes. But as a whole Bond movies tend to sway between two distinct poles: Down and Dirty Hardboiled Action/Thrillers to Overwrought and Overbudgeted Foolish Action/cartoons.
To compile this list ECR looked at several judging criteria. Acting Performance, Overall Tone, Bond Girl, Super Villain, Henchmen, Action Scenes, Musical Score, and finally Opening Title Sequence.
24. MOONRAKER: You know the one in outer space. It does have really cool stunts, and Jaws finally finds love, this is the weakest film because of its overall silliness. Not to say that James Bond was never silly–Moonraker takes it to eleven. Ex-Nazi Super Villain Drax minces around the exotic sets like a man who just awoke five minutes before the cameras rolled. Don’t get me started on the laser battle in Space! Dr. Holly Goodhead, the defacto bond girl, is fun to look at and that’s about it. I don’t believe three things about her nome de plume. The opening titles are phoned in. Completely designed to compete with Star Wars in the seventies. Sorry Moonraker, if this was a case of Marry, Boff, Kill…you get the latter. Strangely enough…not directed by John Glen. It seems that whenever Bond needs to go to outer space they called in Lewis Gilbert to go down with the star ship. Ludicrous is taken to astronomical levels and goes beyond the infinite. It’s not even fun to watch and drink to…it just sucks.
23. DIE ANOTHER DAY: Or Surf’s Up Buttercup. This is the Brosnan hit…his Thunderball…really big…thanks in part to the beautiful Halle Berry recreating that scene form Dr. No. It’s the only Bond film that feels like a complete pastiche of everything that is wrong with the franchise. After a fantastic pretitle sequence that sees Bond getting tortured, Madonna starts singing and it is literally down hill from there…this martini got stirred and we all know it.
22. SPECTRE: Or the one I really wanted to be the best one ever but oh my goodness what a waste of movie. Excellent Bad Guy, amazing pre title Day of the Dead sequence, and then flatness. Radiohead should’ve gotten the chance to do the song, it’s a stone cold groove. It’s a shame that Daniel Craig is 50/50 in his outings as bond.
21. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN: Superfluous nipples aside, this movie has its charms. But those include comparisons to Fantasy Island: The Plane! The Plane! The title sequence is really top notch work by Maurice Binder. And this movie contains the hands down best practical stunt every recorded. Guy Hamilton added a slid whistle to that awesome jump over the broken bridge and ruins it. A wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, waste of Christopher Lee as Scaramanga. Mary Goodnight, as the bumbling Bond Girl, who can’t help but be comic relief, turns in a flat performance. This was the last one produced by Harry Saltzman, the showman extraordinatrie who helped launch the film franchise in 1962.
20. A VIEW TO A KILL: Or Old Dirty Grandpa Bond. This movie could both be higher or lower on the list depending on how you consider this particular Martini. In one glass you have a bat-shit crazy Christopher Walken performance as the Super Villain as well as his freaky hench-woman/sidepiece, Grace Jones. And in the other glass, you have an embarrassment of riches in the inexplicable categories: Killer butterfly puppets, runaway fire engines, racehorse steroids, and don’t get me started on the obviously not Roger Moore opening ski sequence to an obviously not Beach Boys song. You literally worry about James Bond’s hips breaking in every action scene. The ending fight atop the Golden Gate Bridge and the Duran Duran theme song are definite highlights of this comically terrible movie…not just a bad Bond movie…just a bad movie. Highly recommend for party viewing, because despite its flaws it can be fun to laugh at. The one that ended the Roger Moore years. Unfortunately, it didn’t end director, John Glen, as he will continue to helm the next two films in the sequence.
19. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH: And neither is this movie. I enjoyed the video game on Nintendo 64 and that’s about it. Cool villain wasted here. Mrs. Charlie Sheen Denise Richards fresh from her WILD THINGS fame is an inexplicable scientist. It could’ve worked, but there’s too many things blowing up before the audience is allowed to get a handle on her um…character. She’s basically an info dump on two legs for the first half of the movie. Brosnan channels a full on Roger Moore rip-off performance. It just doesn’t work.
18. QUANTUM OF SOLACE: The We Don’t Need Writers Bond. As you read through this list you will see that the straight ahead hardboiled Bond tends to be the one that ratchets up the list. QOS is cool in theory but feels like a Jason Bourne ripoff. And James Bond should never feel like anything other than a James Bond Movie. Cool Jack White song though. Seriously looks like it was shot on a shakey-cam or worse the effect was added in post production. If QOS hadn’t been so rushed during the writer’s strike things probably would’ve been better. Besides it’s revenge plotline was done a tad better in the ten minute opening of Diamonds Are Forever. If only there was a nice middle ground between this film and DAF, it might’ve been higher on this list.
17. OCTOPUSSY: Or Lets Hide in Animals. Besides having the dirtiest title, it’s literally a circus clown car of boring after James Bond jumps from the airplane in the pre-title sequence. The India setting feels like the producers were trying to race Spielberg to Temple of Doom. Cool train scenes snake throughout, but ultimately as forgettable as the crocodile submarine and horse trailer mini-jet. Octopussy herself played by Scaramanga’s squeeze in Man with the Gold Gun. She’s the head of a circus company of hot girls…this film feels like the story meetings that concocted it. You can almost smell the take-out and hear the screenwriter’s snorting lines as they phone in the script to Cubby. This is yet another forgettable entry in the canon by John Glen. The King of the bad bond movie.
16. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER: Sean Connery returns. But his hair does not. It’s no secret that Sir Sean had worn a hair piece since Dr. No. But it is never as obvious as it is in DAF. Hair styles be damned as we are treated with bushy sideburns at nearly every turn. This film is the worst of the Connery vehicles and it’s partly due to its ludicrous plot involving yet another actor playing the Ernst Stavro Blofield, this time by Charles Gray who was killed in You Only Live Twice. However some of the highlights include the pre-title scene where an unseen James Bond pumps criminals for information. This is an extension of the ending of the last bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where the Telly Savalas, Blofeld assassinates Bond’s new bride. It’s gritty and comical and does involve Bond choking an informant with her own bikini top. It climaxes with Bond drowning a Blofeld lookalike in a vat of hot peanut butter, or something. The entire film could’ve been built around this opening, but sadly it is not. It would’ve been cool to have Sean Connery in a Quantum of Solace style storyline. The film logic moves like the sparkle in a diamond ring. Shiny in places and distorted in others. It is cool to see FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS era Vegas in full force. Besides that, the major draw for me involves the weirdo henchmen pair who are obviously in love with each other. One of them’s played by Crispin Glover’s dad. However, Guy Hamilton the director of Goldfinger and the next five bond films has already showing signs of ramping up the cartoonish buffoonery of his mise en-scene.
15. TOMORROW NEVER DIES: Or TV Killed The Movie Franchise Wait…cool riffs to the Beatles in the title. The opening sequence is pitched very high, in fact there’s nowhere else for this movie to go but off the rails. Johnathan Pryce as Rupert Murdoch gives us a silly info dump of an opening monologue. While the stunts are cool it is definitely worthy of being in the top 15 for its prescience. The film deals with propaganda as a world take over device and just like License to Kill was a bit too far ahead of its time. ECR recommends you watch it in the background while you do other things.
14. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME: Most people’s favorite Roger Moore Bond…and they are wrong. Mrs. Ringo Starr plays the Russian version of Bond as they team up to bring down a super villain obsessed with Aquaman or something. This movie is for kids, as much as one of these films can be for kids. Hey son! Yeah Dad? What’s something you’d want to see in a Bond movie? Seriously, a car that turns into a submarine? Carol King’s Nobody does it better in the title sequence is one of the best James Bond theme songs. Then again, it does include one of the best henchmen too, the indestructible twelve-foot tall metal mouthed menace, Jaws. He was so popular that he came back for Moonraker. And became a highlight of that unfortunate film.
13. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE: I Think Bond’s Turning Japanese. I Think Bond’s Turning Japanese. I Think Bond’s Turning Japanese. I really think so. Roald Dahl gets credit for penning this piece of nastiness. This movie is problematic for today’s audiences, because Scotsman Sean Connery is given a Japanese makeover…and it’s still as cringy as it sounds. However, as film overall, that one transformation sequence is not what keeps it out of the top ten. No, sadly it’s that Sean Connery’s performance is the beginning of the end. However, that takes away from the technical elements of YOLT. Ken Adams’s sets are so awe inspiring that Mike Myers will out right steal most of it. Including Piranha pool and bald guy with a cat. John Barry’s score is topnotch, Maurice Bender’s title sequence is excellent, and it has one terrified kitty in the third act. Seriously, once Blofeld introduces himself to Bond, keep close eye on some of the most natural WTF acting ever done by a feline performer. Supposedly, the cat was so scared it would never do another shoot. Too bad. YOLT is good, but not great. For all the reasons previously stated.
12. LICENSE TO KILL: Bond Goes Rogue or The Ultimate Ahead of its Time Bond film! This film is so dark and gritty it needs a spotlight and a bath. After the tongue in cheek opening arrest of a drug dealer and barely making it to a wedding on time, this film goes hardboiled in the most excellent way. Felix Leiter, bond’s CIA contact since Dr. No gets married and he and his beautiful bride honeymoon in a shark tank. Leiter loses both his bride and a leg and Bond immediately gets to work hunting down the culprit, Sanchez. Benecio Del Toro appears as the callous henchman with his bedroom eyes and sinister snark. Also WAYNE NEWTON plays an evil televangelist. Did I mention this film was ahead of its time? The fight scenes are great and the tanker truck climax is straight dope for the grittiest Bond film since the Sean Connery went to Crab Key. It is the end of the mission for not only Dalton, but also Cubby Broccoli, Richard Maibaum, and Maurice Bender. It’s a fine swan song. Unfortunately the pieces surrounding Timothy Dalton’s final performance save for del Toro are what keeps this flick from being in the top ten. Although it is a near miss.
11. GOLDENEYE: You Know The One With The Video Game! This film is a changing of the guard at EON. New Bond, New Producers, New writers. Tina Turner singing the opening. It’s a bit of a return to form for 007 as Pierce Brosnan brings a lighter touch to the world’s favorite super spy, while maintaining the Early-Connery/Lazenby/Dalton edge. The plot is simple: 006 is killed on a mission and Bond gets sucked into a plot involving satellite weapons. SPOILER ALERT: 006 turns out to not only be alive but also running an international criminal syndicate. Things get personal with a henchwoman with incredibly strong thighs who enjoys crushing her enemies between them. The Bond Girl is fun to look at, and Alan Cummings delivers comic relief in the role of computer genius, Boris. Joe Don Baker shows back up in a different role…since Leiter is out of commission. The stunts are cool, the action is packed, the Martinis are shaken, however I would like to point out that if the film didn’t have such a successful tie-in video game it may not have the lasting power for people in my generation. I expect this film to move down the list as the franchise continues.
10. THUNDERBALL: The Underwater Bond! This was the biggest hit of the Sean Connery era. However, it is LORD OF THE RINGS slow. After the thrilling opening where Bond fights a man dressed like a woman in mourning clothes and escapes wearing a jet pack, and Tom Jones hits that long note in the title song, the next forty minutes should be skipped. Bond goes to a health spa and does Bond things, while the slow plot is launched? Seriously, the underwater cinematography is still pretty stunning, but it does indeed slow everything down. Skip Act One for an excellent Bond film. Domino Deverall is an excellent Bond Girl as well as Largo being an excellent eye patched Bond Villain. The controversy surrounding the making of this film is punctuated by Ian Fleming’s own note to the cover artist complaining about the pace of his own book. Pacing is the only complaint about this movie and its strange journey to the screen.
09. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: Bond Gets to the Greek. I know what you are thinking…why in the hell is this movie in the top ten? Because it’s good. It’s the only Roger Moore performance that is in the least gritty and hardboiled. The plot zips along like a runaway train. It is the best John Glen directed movie. The Bond Girl is deadly and assertive and beautiful. Topol arrives to add some color to the bleakness of the story. Also, the under rated acting of Michael Gothard is given the oppurtunity to provide menace behind rimless spectacles. (If you’ve never seen Ken Russell’s The Devils you don’t really understand just how good Gothard is) The movie contains the famous keelhauling scene, and the climb up the cliffsides are harrowing. If you have never given this flick a chance, I believe that it is due for a critical reexamination.
08. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS: The New Bond Takes on the Communists. Dalton’s best performance as 007 is an attempt to bridge the gap between Connery and Moore. Doing dashing dirty deeds while also riffing one liners. There’s something familiar and yet groovy at the same time about this 1987 entry into the franchise. The climax fight on the cargo plane is breathtaking and Joe Don Baker (Mitchell himself) plays a great bad guy obsessed with war. Afghanistan serves as the main setting for the action, as Bond must help a Taliban like group of freedom fighters hold off the Soviets. The escape in a cello case is a silly highlight, however it is fun to watch and not much feels inorganic. A good entry into the franchise, besides Timothy Dalton doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
07. LIVE AND LET DIE: Bond goes to Harlem. I know what you are thinking, how can an obvious Blaxploitation rip-off be in the top ten of your list? It’s in the top ten because despite it’s mishandling of its subject matter this movie kicks ass. It has one of the best pre-title sequences where we go around the world watching spies get executed in startling strange ways, ending with a voodoo snake bite. Then launching into the best James Bond movie theme provided by Sir Paul McCartney and Sir George Martin. It rips and grooves for the next two hours. There’s a ridiculous plot involving a Harlem gangster named Mr. Big and his scary clawed henchman, Teehee. LALD soon finds its rhythm and doesn’t stop. When we go from a Louisiana alligator ranch to Smokey and the Bandit riff with speedboats, you cannot help but hold on for the wild ride. Yaphet Koto turns in an excellent performance as Bond’s heavy, showing that actors of substance can play in this universe. Jane Seymour is introduced as the tarot card reading squeeze who is tricked into sleeping with the master spy. However, it’s where you begin to wonder how he can be the world’s best secret agent when everyone seems to all ready know his name. When you were young, your heart was an open book. I saw this one as a kid and because of it I sought out other films like Shaft, Superfly, and Cotton Comes to Harlem. And those flicks opened my eyes to another world that felt a tad more authentic than the one I lived in.
06. SKYFALL: Revenge is dish best served cold. M has a secret and Bond must do everything in his power to keep it from getting out. Oscar winning director, Sam Mendes brings a full range of emotional palates to the character that hasn’t been seen since OHMSS in 1969. It also helps that it is the best looking of all the Bond films thanks to the fantastic cinematography of Roger Deakins. This film is definitely an improvement over Daniel Craig’s second outing as 007, it too suffers from being another high water mark in the franchise that becomes difficult to match or even top by it’s successor. This is another hardboiled entry into the franchise and worth watching by everyone.
05. GOLDFINGER: Arm the Passenger Ejector Seat! This is the one that kid’s find to be the easiest entry into the series. That Aston Martin DB-5 decked out with a ton of gadgets and a memorable henchman in the Korea Man-Servant, Oddjob and his hat of death. But lets be honest outside of the iconic moments found inside its running time, this movie clanks along poorly on repeated viewings. The last third of the film slows down considerably, especially compared with the two previous entries. However, Goldfinger bridges the gap between hardboiled thriller and broad audience popcorn fodder. Admit it, in the pre-title sequence when Bond pulls off his wetsuit revealing a full tuxedo underneath you know you are not in Kansas anymore.
04. Dr. NO: The first one was shot on a shoestring budget, starring a relative unknown Scotsman. It would go on to launch the franchise. Despite its faults: poor over dubbing of actor’s lines, not so convincing visual effects (i.e. the Spider scene), lack of bond gimmicks and gadgetry and theme song stings. This movie moves across the screen with both swagger and speed. For a movie released in 1962 it really doesn’t waste any screen time thanks to the editing of Peter Hunt. While the restrained subtlety of the set pieces has more to do with the limits of the budget, however the team will turn in a five million dollar movie on only a million. James Bond is established as a refined yet hardboiled sleuth hot on the trail of the murderer of a fellow spy. It also helps that Ursula Andress rising from the sea in the iconic scene on Crab Key. It happens to also be very funny, but not overtly. When I was a kid Dr. No was my least favorite in the franchise. Now that I am older I find it to be very well produced lacking in all of the nonsense that will plague the series from Goldfinger until Daniel Craig. This is mandatory viewing for any fan of the franchise or hardboiled cinema.
03. CASINO ROYALE: The Prequel. This is another no-nonsense hardboiled entry into the franchise. Starting the film in black & white flashbacks to show just how Bond earned his license to kill, we immediately jump into an excellent title sequence to “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell. After another extended chase scene, this movie sticks pretty close to the book that launched the character. The game has been changed to Texas Hold’em, in which Bond must bankrupt Le Chiffre. With the help of Felix Leiter and a double agent named Vesper Lind. The car wreck that leads to the torture scene is top notch entertainment, guaranteed to set audiences on the edge of their seats. It also has a reverse Dr. No scene with the new muscled-up hollywood Bond emerging from the sea foam like Venus in a Botticelli painting. The book ends with, “The bitch is dead.” This movie sets a bar high enough it becomes difficult to top.
02. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE: The One And Done Bond. If it starred Sean Connery it would move up the list to first place. Alas, George Lazenby an Aussie model who bluffed his way into the part turns in a pretty solid Sean Connery impression and then because of outside hippy influences calls it quits. The plot involves Bond tracking Blofeld to the Swiss Alps and a school for girls with neuroses. It’s just an excuse to let Bond be Bond and bed a bevy of beautiful ladies. But carnality aside, OHMSS has the best action scenes. Every punch thrown hits the audience in the nose. It also helps that Lazenby did his own stunts for most of it. Directed by long time editor Peter Hunt, the frame rates are cranked high as Bond punches through torrents of bad guys on his way to confront his bald nemesis. The B Story has Bond falling in love with a gangster’s headstrong daughter, Teresa. Their romance pulses along to the second best score by John Barry. All leading to the world’s greatest secret agent retiring and getting married to the beautiful Dianna Rigg, which ends tragically. The first 007 movie that hits you in the feels along with the chills. The Bobsled chase scene is one of the best no nonsense sequences in the entire canon. It rivals Russ Meyer in frenetic cutting speed. However, it saves it’s biggest thrill for the end, with the most heartbreaking line of dialogue Bond has ever uttered on screen, “We have all the time in the world.” TOP NOTCH! To learn more about the making of this film watch Becoming Bond which is a hilarious look at the life of one time 007 George Lazenby.
01. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: The Best One Of All. Not only did it set the standard for all the other sequels it is the granddaddy of all spy movies. It’s stylish, thrilling, funny, and hard as nails. The terrorists have put Bond on their radar and the plot jumps into high gear. Spectre wants revenge for what 007 did to Dr. No and hash an evil plan. With a sexy sleeper agent sending Bond love notes. He must escort this beauty to England all the while dodging Quint from Jaws and a poison-knife in shoe lady hell bent on bringing him down. The fight on the train ranks as one of the best fights on a train in the canon. The girl on girl fight at the gypsy party is exceptionally strange. The boat chase with the captain’s hat. All of it is hands down excellent filmmaking at its best. The soundtrack stirs you from the opening notes. There are gadgets here…but they seem grounded in reality, which helps this film feel more like a hardboiled noir than a trope filled action franchise.
There you have it Thrill Seekers…the ultimate James Bond Movie list. If you enjoyed it and would like to further explore the world of James Bond, watch the movies and form your own opinions.
ECR recommends reading this James Bond pastiche, here.
If you agree or disagree be sure to leave us a comment below or reach out and say hi on the tweeter over @econoclashrevue