Isolation. It can do funny things to a man. We write our own screenplay, finally, at least up to about page seven. Then we give up and scroll listlessly through a list of Netflix shows we have already seen. Then we round out another fifteen minutes by buying some shit we don’t really need on Amazon.
Eventually we end up in strange, exotic corners of the internet, sometimes seeing things no mortal man was ever meant to witness.
This is why we need work. It stops us doing silly things. The Devil makes work for idle hands. And so, he does for me!
Before COVID19 we would have been just over a week away from the release of a new James Bond movie, always a cinematic event. Now as theaters close and release dates shuffle many of us are stuck at home.
So to fill the 007 shaped hole in the cinematic world right now, not to mention occupy some of my time, I decided to rank all official Bond movies in order of preference and give each one a mini review. God help me!
So the chronological order of the Bond movies is as follows:
- Dr No (1962 – Connery)
- From Russia With Love (1963 – Connery)
- Goldfinger (1964 – Connery)
- Thunderball (1965 – Connery)
- You Only Live Twice (1967 – Connery)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969 – Lazenby)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971 – Connery)
- Live And Let Die (1973 – Moore)
- The Man With The Golden Gun (1974 – Moore)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977 – Moore)
- Moonraker (1979 – Moore)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981 – Moore)
- Octopussy (1983 – Moore)
- A View To A Kill (1985 – Moore)
- The Living Daylights (1987 – Dalton)
- Licence To Kill (1989 – Dalton)
- GoldenEye (1995 – Brosnan)
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997 – Brosnan)
- The World Is Not Enough (1999 – Brosnan)
- Die Another Day (2002 – Brosnan)
- Casino Royale (2006 – Craig)
- Quantum Of Solace (2008 – Craig)
- Skyfall (2012 – Craig)
- Spectre (2015 – Craig)
But what order did we put them in here at The Last Movie Outpost? What order will you put them in when you are unleashed on this list in the Disqus below? Read on.
24. Diamonds Are Forever
Look, I am as surprised as anyone to find Sean Connery propping up this list. I didn’t expect it any more than you did. However my method was simply putting a movie on the list and then asking myself if I enjoyed the next movie on the list more, or less, than the one next to it and moved them accordingly. Foolproof! And it brings us to this.
There is no getting away from it. This entry is weak. Connery is only there because Lazenby quit and he was offered a ridiculous amount of money to come back. He’s bored and practically sleepwalking through the role.
It’s overly camp, it’s un-glamorous (70s Vegas? Really?) and the villain is the weakest Blofeld of the series. The two hyper-gay hitmen weren’t funny even in the 1970s and the finale assault on an oil rig is as uninspired as the series gets.
Finally it is guilty of the single biggest crime a Bond movie can be guilty of.
23. Die Another Day
The schizophrenic stepchild of Bond movies. It was the 40th anniversary movie so set itself up to be something of a greatest hits collection of Bond. In the process it’s a mess that satisfies nobody.
An interesting set-up with 007 captured in North Korea and tortured for months, conflict diamonds and a Bond suspected of cracking under pressure while captured, determined to clear his name gives us a pretty tight first half of the movie. Good espionage themes, mustache twirling villain, a bit of glamor in the travelogue. This half feels pure Fleming at times and Brosnan is excellent.
Then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong as it pivots 180 degrees into a Moonraker and You Only Live Twice pastiche while failing at being as good as both of those.
An unconvincing VR fakeout leads to the most jarring gadget in Bond history, the invisible car. Once the action moves to Iceland the whole thing is lost in a blizzard of unconvincing CGI and horrific character choices.
The first half saves it from propping up this list, but only just.
22. A View To A Kill
This movie suffers from the two biggest flaws that came to characterize the later Moore era. Firstly, the leading man Roger Moore is starting to look a little long in the tooth, being older than Connery when he was cast.
Secondly, despite a really, really good plot it just can’t quite get out of its own way. This comes up again and again with these later Moore entries.
The first example of this is one of the biggest. What could, and should, have been a pulse pounding ski-chase is interrupted by the Beach Boys. Moore’s desire to play the clown, as well as the Producers willingness to facilitate this by tongue-in-cheek choices, hurt this movie as it would a number of Moore’s entries.
Memorable villain and a decent theme tune, though.
Another example of a Moore movie having a really strong central premise, ruined by its inability to take itself seriously. Rogue Soviet general plotting to cause a nuclear accident in order to force disarmament. A double-crossed diamond smuggler. An exiled Afghan prince. A murdered agent with a clue.
Berlin to India and back to Germany in a race against time. Soviet border checkpoint tension. Barry doing the music. It even borrows strongly from two Fleming short stories – The Property Of A Lady and Octopussy – as a foundation.
All the ingredients are there. Once again the camp and the comedy undermine the whole effort.
And that depiction of India? Ooof!!
James Bond in Space. JAMES BOND IN SPACE!? It’s either the most stupid idea ever conceived or the most awesome thing ever in the history of Bond. When I was a child it was column B all the way. I loved Star Wars. I was getting into Bond. It’s like they had made my perfect movie!
Even as an adult I can’t bring myself to dislike it strongly. The first two thirds are solid Bond, if once again hamstrung by Moore and the Producers clownish instincts – hover gondola and double taking pigeon, anyone? – with 007 picking apart a mystery.
The villain is incredibly good, with Michael Lonsdale as a chillingly straightforward Hugo Drax.
By the time it surrenders to its own ludicrous nature it has kind of done enough to win you over. Probably the closest Bond has ever been to a comedy but at least it’s all contained in one place.
19. The World Is Not Enough
This movie is a good opportunity, squandered. Big decisions were made here regarding the choice of a female villain and to bring M further into things. A strong opening, a good return for Valentin Zhukovsky, a plan for a Q replacement in the form of John Cleese. Robert Carlisle on board. Reads like a great recipe!
So what went wrong? It is all just a bit lifeless. At times it feels like a very expensive TV movie. Brosnan does the best with what he has but you get the feeling a really big time action director, as opposed to TV’s Michael Apted, could maybe have made this one really special. Maybe cast a different actress as Dr. Christmas Jones too.
18. The Man With The Golden Gun
In only his second outing as Bond, Roger Moore got one of the best villains in the series. A dark, mirror image of Bond. Played chillingly by the best Dracula ever in the form of Christopher Lee. So why is it not higher?
Well, it’s all just a little bit lazy. After Bond went Blaxsploitation for Live And Let Die they decided to follow another movie trend of the time, Kung Fu.
Where Bond made fashion, this marked the start of a period of Bond, at times, following fashion. The excellent villain can’t take away the taste of chop-sockey hilarity, one of the weakest Bond girls in Mary Goodnight, and a henchman who wears out his diminutive welcome on screen within the pre-opening title sequence.
17. You Only Live Twice
Possibly another unpopular choice for this movie to be ranked so far down when many view it as a classic. However hold your horses there! It represents everything that could became a problem in Bond movies wrapped up in a single bow.
That classic volcano lair? Ridiculous. Bond turning Japanese? Laughable. The ninja academy. Weak henchman. Little Nellie is nowhere near as iconic as fanboys believe.
The piranha pool is nicely eeeeevil though and Pleasance is a Blofeld for the ages.
To me, this was the first inkling of Bond starting its shift towards Moore like values and tendencies.
Now we are getting somewhere! This film sits right on the cusp. When it is good, it is very very good – The opening tracking shot. Helicopter fight. Bond being sent into action by a recorded message from his dead boss. Bond stalking the hitmen through the Italian villa. Mr White. The rise of Spectre from within Quantum. Bond’s developing relationship with his new boss coming to understand what a useful tool 007 can be. The team of Bond, Q, Tanner, M and Moneypenny working together. Bond contemplating his next move in the Tangier hotel while drinking heavily.
The train fight is a series highlight with Bond throwing everything he can at his hulking opponent but nothing working. The increasing pain and tiredness on his face, eventually giving away to desperation and then fear as he actually tries to run away is completely and convincingly sold by Craig.
The only trouble is that when it is bad, it’s noticeable. And then there is that Blofeld “twist”? How did that make it into the final edit? A monkey could have told them it was a mistake. Alone that undoes so many good things and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Mainly for that reason, Spectre will only ever be average Bond. If they had any clue they would find a narrative way to retcon that out of existence in No Time To Die.
15. Live And Let Die
”Take this honky out back and waste him!”
And just like that Bond enters the Moore era in a blaze of Blaxploitation!
One of the best theme tunes, weaved expertly into the score, underpins some memorable set-pieces. While this veered wildly from the source material, as had become traditional at this point, there is something endlessly entertaining about watching Bond navigate Harlem and New Orleans.
Moore had not yet submitted to his more gentle tendencies and this 007 still has a little edge from earlier in the series and the movie is better for it. There are some laughs but little slapstick.
14. Licence To Kill
When Dalton took over the role it was on the strict understanding that he could move the character back towards Fleming and away from the Moore years that had become something of a parody of themselves. After The Living Daylights took the first step, his second outing was specifically written to play to his strengths, adapting a single incident from the novel Live And Let Die, weaving in characters from the short stories with a splash of late 80’s action sensibilities.
It works. Revisiting it today, it’s surprising what a taught and moody tale is stretched across the 007 framework. It’s downright nasty in places. Bond’s cold and calculating immersion into Sanchez’ operation, then turning them against each other, is a sight to behold. It hasn’t dated badly either.
13. For Your Eyes Only
Bond attempts to return to Earth with a bump. In one of the series’ famous course corrections, the wild outlandishness of the previous Moore entries was followed by this tight story of Greek smugglers and Russian agents seeking a targeting macguffin.
Written specifically to introduce a new actor in the role of 007 when Moore’s contract was done after Moonraker, he chose to stay on. However the different tone largely remained and the movie is better for it.
Moore’s clearly advancing years, and the disco score a little too much of its time, are in the negative column. However ruthless KGB hitmen, crossbow wielding Greek goddesses on a revenge mission and a welcome harder edge make this near the top of Moore’s efforts, even if it does shit it’s own bed with a comedy interlude at the very close.
Blasphemy! Sacrilege! How very dare I? If this ever gets out then I will never be welcome in another Bond forum ever again. How can Goldfinger, many people’s favorite and established of much of the classic format, be ranked in lowly 12th?
Well I am going to stick my neck out here and say it’s over-rated. There. I said it! Phew. Miami and Kentucky are dull locations and the movies stand out scene is a golf game.
More to the point Bond is just a passenger in his own movie who gets repeatedly bested and captured and actually achieves nothing in the end. It’s Pussy Galore who alerts the authorities.
Then again she was a committed lesbian before Bond came along, so maybe he did actually save the global gold market purely though the power of his cock.
11. Quantum Of Solace
There are a couple of underrated belters in the Bond canon and this is one of them. You can always tell whether the person you are talking about Bond with actually knows or understands anything about the character from their attitude towards this entry. The only thing this movie is guilty of is not being Casino Royale.
It is basically the extended third act to that movie, starting less than an hour after that movie finished. It’s tight. It moves like a bullet. It never stops and it certainly doesn’t ask your permission. You have to keep up as Bond cuts his way through whoever is in front of him to get rip apart the organisation behind the death of Vesper. The final confrontation with Vesper’s boyfriend, turning his tricks on another agent, is a goosebumps moment.
The fight scenes are top notch, the villains plan is ahead of its time, the Tosca scene is a franchise highlight and the frenetic editing adds to the feeling of pace.
This movie is the great leveller of the Bond franchise. If you don’t like it, it’s on you.
“In a minute that phone is going to ring. Do me a favour and tell them I was heading for Cairo.”
In fact I think I might be changing my mind and am tempted to rank this even higher.
10. Tomorrow Never Dies
From one underrated belter to another. Brosnan relaxes into the role magnificently with a cracking adventure that shares the pace of Quantum Of Solace.
From the opening scene which features the magnificent Dench really owning her role as M, through to the very end, it does not stop and there is zero fat. That urgency comes through in well chosen scenes such as the M briefing being in her official limo, racing through the streets of London with motorcycle outriders, almost as a metaphor for the urgency of Bond’s mission.
The lack time for messing around carries through as Bond walks into villain Carver’s own party and practically goads him in front of his friends that Bond is on to him.
The Kaufman scene is pure Fleming as a palette cleanser before the fantastical later stages take hold but by then you don’t care, you are along for the ride.
Brosnan should have been given more of this stuff to do.
Many complain the underwater scenes slow this movie down. Many are wrong. They are technically brilliant and nothing like this had ever been done before. The sheer scale of this movie was unlike anything seen at the time.
Connery is relaxed in the role without being bored or going through the motions. Tom Jones delivers an all time classic theme as a tale of stolen nukes and evil Spectre operatives holding the world to ransom unfolds. In time honored tradition only one man can stop them.
Tropical locations, gadgets, beautiful women, evil villains, a global threat. This movie is like a text book essay on why we love Bond.
A masterful introduction to a new Bond in a new era, however with enough instantly recognisable “formula” moments to make it feel like putting on a comfortable and much loved pair of slippers that you haven’t worn for a while. It was a while too. 6 years had passed due to legal wrangling. Dalton had walked away and the usual snipers were out claiming Bond was outdated and couldn’t work anymore.
After six years? Six! I have underpants older than that! These people, as ever, are proved wrong. M even acts as a proxy for them in an excellent Judi Dench scene.
The villain pulls on Bond’s strings, deliberately getting into his head as only an ex-colleague could, with well placed jibes about the women that have died on Bond’s watch.
It’s so clearly Bond but manages to dance a fine line staying on just the right side of the outlandish. A trick that other movies have tried to pull off, and failed. I am looking at you Die Another Day.
Everything just kind of works, even the strange score choice by Eric Serra, and after six years away it feels like welcoming back an old friend.
I loved this movie when it first came out. Then I fell out of love with it for a number of reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A chance encounter one evening with it on TV reminded me that it’s very good and, in places, quite brilliant.
It sets its stall out from shot one with an opening scene that takes this into new territory with 007 presumed dead and MI6 at the centre of an international espionage embarrassment. M needs her top agent and he’s KIA.
The personal stakes for M allow Judi Dench to own this movie. It’s telling that there isn’t really a Bond girl in this outing as it’s all about her.
This plays brilliantly against the backdrop of a broken Bond, off the pace and with his sharp skills seriously blunted as a villain is one step ahead of the good guys at every turn.
We learn more about Bond’s past, ripped straight from the pages of Fleming. The curmudgeonly respect and, dare I say, affection between Bond and his boss adds an emotional layer to the finale that nobody was expecting.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
It can’t be over-stated. This movie saved Bond. The franchise was in trouble. After the Connery, Lazenby, Connery, Moore switch the identity of the leading man was diluted. The strong reception to Live And Let Die was not repeated for The Man With The Golden Gun. The Brocolli / Saltzman partnership had dissolved in acrimony. Bond was very nearly finished.
Brocolli doubled down and threw all the money at the screen. Veteran Bond director Lewis Gilbert found a way to let Moore finally own the role and put his foot on the ball.
With a mountain ski-jump, a submarine car, an underwater lair, swallowed submarines and a hulking henchman with steel teeth it delivers everything we have ever wanted in the Bond blueprint. Yet it never feels forced, it’s fantastical yet somehow doesn’t lose itself among its own deliberate cliches.
To this day I am still not quite sure how they pulled it off. But thank God they did. A near masterpiece.
5. The Living Daylights
Another top drawer entry. As mentioned previously, Dalton’s conditions on taking the role were a re-pivot back to Fleming. This took the short story The Living Daylights and used it, practically beat for beat as the foundation of the story. Exactly as in the original text a weary, cynical Bond refuses a kill mission when it becomes clear his target is no professional assassin.
From there it spins out a classic 007 tale spanning the world and allowing Dalton to show Bond’s human side while making him seem more dangerous than the Moore portrayal ever did.
Of course we now have the awkward historical hindsight of the Mujahideen scenes to deal with just like Rambo III. That doesn’t detract from a cracking adventure, with an amazing score for a final time by John Barry, assisted by that A-Ha theme.
Bond reborn yet again after, at the time, the longest incumbent in the role is a triumph.
4. Dr No
Where it all started and, even today, with something of a timeless quality about it. Connery simply IS James Bond from his first moment on screen. From his summoning to action from the casino through to his final showdown with Doctor Julius No of Spectre, this is endlessly rewatchable.
It is hard to fathom how nobody had ever really seen anything quite like this on the big screen at the time. With its heady mix of exotic locations, sex, violence and style it was something completely different to anything else around.
British cinema was Ealing comedies, gentle farces and musicals. Then this came along and blew it all away before going global. Audiences were instantly drawn to this world.
Iconic images abound from a laconic 007 at the baccarat table to a stunning Ursula Andress emerging from the sea.
This is still one of those movies where you can be channel surfing and find it, then it demands you stop and watch it.
3. Casino Royale
Not just great Bond, but a flat out great movie. Nobody was sure what to expect going in. From the first frame it is clear this is very different to what went before in the world of 007.
The opening scene is brutal, blunt, brilliant and leaves you in no doubt that shit just got real by the time Chris Cornell’s top tier theme song rips across the opening titles.
Owning every inch of its own reboot and seemingly fearless in forcing you to accept that everything you think you knew about Bond has changed. Everyone walked out of the theater stunned at first, and then buzzing with what they had just seen. This wasn’t your Grandparents Bond. This wasn’t your Dad’s cheesy Moore escapism. This was new and exciting.
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
If ever in doubt, go back to Fleming. That was the mantra that served the producers well for decades. Faced with an established leading man leaving the iconic role and a new man in the tux, an unknown who isn’t even a seasoned actor, it was the case again here.
Read the book and it stands out that this is possibly the closest adaption of a Fleming original. Bond finds happiness at last with a woman able to tame him, only to have that happiness cruelly taken from him by his arch-nemesis in the final moments of the film.
The journey to get there is a classic adventure full of globetrotting, casino visits, beautiful women, ski chases and punch-ups. The most memorable sequence, to me, is Bond finally admitting to himself that he is beaten. He has failed to escape from Piz Gloria despite his best efforts and is pinned down at the ice rink soon to be discovered and recaptured… until a certain intervention.
At the time nobody had ever seen anything quite like the ski-chase. Diana Rigg is more than a match for Bond, showing up all those who claim that Bond girls have always been female objectification. Lazenby grows into the role as the movie progresses. What could a sequel with him hunting down Blofeld have been like? We can only dream.
1. From Russia With Love
So here we are. The big one! Not just a great Bond movie but a classic espionage tale. The plot is direct and simple. Bond and MI6 want the latest Soviet encoding device and a girl at the Soviet embassy in Istanbul claims to be in love with 007 and wants to defect, bringing it with her.
Bond and MI6 know this is clearly a honeytrap but Bond is sent anyway. It is a trap, but not by the Soviets. They have been infiltrated by Spectre and they want Bond dead for stopping Dr No in the previous movie. So begins a gripping tale of spy vs spy vs assassin through the espionage crossroads of Istanbul where Asia meets Europe, and then across the Balkans back to Italy.
Pre-Quint Robert Shaw gives a menacing performance as Soviet/Spectre assassin and go-to hard man Red Grant. In an amazing moment of classic snobbery Bond smells a rat when Grant, undercover as a British agent, orders red wine with fish. This leads to a fight in a confined compartment aboard the Orient Express that redefined fight choreography and the level of violence that could be shown onscreen for the 1960s.
This movie put Bond on the global map and was the driving force to making these movies the global phenomenon they are today. Even as an older movie it feels like a timeless window back to the depths of the Cold War and shifting loyalties in far away places, while spies and agents fight a covert, deadly, battle in the shadows.
So this should be fun. People are bound to disagree with my rankings. Have at it, Outposters! To the Disqus!!