THE FIVE BEST BOND MOVIES
…in order of release:
From Russia with Love has some pacing issues, but there’s no denying its place here. While the Bond series (and Bond himself) were still finding their footing, From Russia with Love is an upgrade from the relatively low-key Dr. No. The plot is more espionage than straight-up action, but many of the series’ more outlandish staples are introduced here. We get the first appearance of Q, who presents Bond with a very unorthodox suitcase. We get the first semi-appearance of Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE and nemesis of Bond for the next several entries, as well as Rosa Klepp (the crazy bitch with the poison-tipped knife in her shoe) and henchman Robert Shaw, who likes ordering red wine with fish, and slugs it out with Bond on a train in one of the movie’s best scenes. Though it was largely eclipsed by Goldfinger, From Russia with Love is an important Bond entry, and not to be missed.
Goldfinger makes just about every Bond best-of list, and why the fuck not? Though it’s the third Bond movie, it’s the first to truly establish the formula that would become a template for most future installments: an outlandish plot, exotic locales, plenty of action, women, gadgets, one-liners, a catchy theme song and a larger-than-life villain and henchman. Sean Connery knew Bond like the back of his hand by this point, but had not yet grown tired of the role like he had by You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. It’s filled with many of what would become iconic moments and lines (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!“), the title villain is suitably crazy, and his henchman Oddjob is one of the series’ most memorable. Goldfinger has it all.
The Spy Who Loved Me Roger Moore’s 15-year tenure as Bond brought about some of the franchise’s worst entries, but count this one among the best. After two ridiculous and silly movies (Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun), the campiness was toned down in favor of a legit (though still plenty over-the-top) spy adventure. Like Connery in Goldfinger, Moore was fully settled into the role by this point, and he exhibits the sort of daft charm that makes you realize why producers chose him after losing Connery. While the main villain is pretty standard-order (neat underwater lair aside), the movie introduces Jaws, who ends up being the most memorable henchman since Oddjob. The pre-credit sequence is among the series’ best, leading into Carly Simon’s theme song, which is also among the series’ best. A lot of Connery devotees (and casual Bond fans in general) tend to overlook or dismiss the Roger Moore movies, and in doing so miss out on one of Bond’s best outings.
GoldenEye was a small miracle in ways. After the lackluster box office performance of Licence to Kill and the legal troubles of MGM put Bond on ice for several years, producers faced the daunting task of reintroducing the superspy in the post-Cold War ’90s. Pierce Brosnan made a formidable Bond, after initially being offered the role following Roger Moore’s departure but unable to commit due to his work on Remington Steele. Sean Bean is equally great as a former 00 agent-turned villain, and the personal connection between hero and villain is a first for the series. Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming chew up half of the scenery, but the rest of the movie hits all the right notes, with Judi Dench (as the first memorable M since Bernard Lee) calling Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur”, and Desmond Llewelyn returning as Q, who sadly had aged quite a bit in the six-year layoff.
Casino Royale Of course this would make the list – what did you expect? After bringing the franchise back from the dead in 1995 with GoldenEye, director Martin Campbell did it again in 2006 (seriously, why in the fuck don’t they just hire him to direct every movie?). Some were up in arms over Daniel Craig’s casting (a blond Bond? wtf) but all were pretty much silenced once they saw the end product. Though some over-excited people have claimed it’s the perfect Bond movie, it’s not; it runs too long, and while the third-act romantic vacation is necessary to set up the tragic ending, it feels clunky and out of place. In short, the movie dies with Le Chiffre, but until then it’s a taut rollercoaster of a movie, that manages to make a game of poker just as exciting as a shootout.