Personal Ranking of the James Bond Films (Including Skyfall)

Skyfall has been a major success both in the box office and critically.  If there were any doubts about Daniel Craig as James Bond, they have surely been laid to rest thanks to some brilliant writing.  How does Skyfall stack up to the preceding 22 Bond movies?  That depends on who you ask but here is how I would rank them from the ones I revisit least often to my favorites of the franchise.  (For the record I like all of them but with 23 movies to choose from you cannot help but play favorites.)

23.     Die Another Day

I was only twelve years old when this movie came out and was the first Bond movie I ever caught on the big screen.  At the time thought this movie was great but now as an adult I realized it has such a ridiculous all the technology is in this movie:  people making over their identity including their DNA, invisible cars, lasers from the sky, para-surfing (yeah guess that’s a thing), and more lasers.  It makes a real joke of the franchise with the beyond silly action.  Brosnan was said to have been upset that they were not bringing him back but I do not think they chose another actor because of Brosnan’s performance but they needed a fresh start meaning a fresh Bond.  I did love John Cleese as Q for the record, a replacement that nearly matches the original quartermaster.

22.     You Only Live Twice

Despite having the top villain performance from Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, I felt so dissatisfied with this installment.  I have always thought of Sean Connery’s Bond as the Bond that always wore a suit and confronted his enemies head on.  Then we see him here undergoing surgery to appear “oriental” to solidify his cover for maybe ten minutes of the movie then back to normal.  I did not see the point of him doing that.  Then I found the ninja assault at the end uneventful and not ninja-like except for the star disc thrown at Blofeld’s hand at the end.

21.     Quantum Of Solace

Starting with the obvious, all other James Bond movies flirt with or surpass the two hour mark and Quantum of Solace wraps up at around the hour-forty mark.  And it was not short due to a lack of action.  That means there was not much time spent on developing a plot that goes somewhere.  Not to say there was not a plot but revenge movies need a little something more to keep you interested but maybe I am being too harsh considering they made this during the writer’s strike.  And finally the villain was not menacing to say the least.  He was more of a whiner to be frank.  We knew Casino Royale would have been tough to follow but they could have done a little better.

 20.     Octopussy

This one had all the criteria to be a great Bond movie of gadgets, beautiful Bond girls, big intimidating henchman, fun chase scenes, and humor…. but something just does not feel right about it.  I am not going to cop out behind what other suggest of Roger Moore really showing his age because it is not necessarily about what Bond looks like but how the character is portrayed or treated.  I think I did not care for it much because (kind of like the final scenes of the movie) it was like watching a circus act, a mish-mosh of creative ideas thrown together with no coherency.  Plus Moore disguised as a clown is just an insult to the James Bond character.

19.     The World Is Not Enough

This was full of potential.  I mean they had a villain that cannot feel pain and they did not take complete advantage of it.  What I am getting at is there could have been a much better ending fight scene between Renard and Bond so I felt ultimately let down.  The beginning features one of the best action scenes of the franchise but sadly deflates a lot of the action that follows.  And as other blogs have mentioned Denis Richards is that bad in this movie but I also found Sophie Marceau overrated especially with how often she would wink at the fact that she was involved with the devious plot before the big reveal.  Plus I think I get a little sad with Desmond Llewelyn’s exit when watching this.

 18.     Diamonds Are Forever

Even at the 18th spot on my list, this is better than where a lot of other blogs have placed Diamonds Are Forever.  Blofeld is put to shame but I want the throw this out there:  if they had given him a different name he would have been a somewhat more tolerable villain but instead when you see and hear Blofeld’s name you kind of cringe while thinking ‘this is not Blofeld.’  I thought Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint were possibly some of the best henchman of the franchise and not for the homophobic reasons a lot of people think but because of how effortlessly effective they were at taking out targets… except for Sean Connery.  By the way, this is not the Connery-Bond we are used to seeing.  He comes off as more light hearted which opens the door for Roger Moore.

17.     A View To A Kill

Another film I have higher than most other bloggers, but it is low for a lot of the same reasons.  As pretty as Tanya Roberts is she easily gets the nod for most annoying and least helpful Bond girl that was in constant need of being saved.  The action scenes were fun like most other Moore films.  The one that comes to my mind is Bond driving in just the front half of a car.  Then you have Christopher Walken who nailed his role as Zorn even if his scheme was simple and not one that necessarily required Bond’s involvement – he did not really benefit England by stopping Zorn.

16.     Tomorrow Never Dies

Communications as an enemy and world threat is a plausible thing especially now with the power of social media.  But it was not that exciting to me.  Staging “attacks” to pin countries at war with each other, you would think the countries would do better research than to simply listen to the headlines of some newspapers.  Jonathon Pryce was great in the role but came off laughable at times along with the rest of the movie.  What most bothered me was Michelle Yeoh’s character.  Every time she was about to shoot her gun or run she would grunt, “yahh!”  Pryce’s character even mocks it at one point which was great.

15.     Live & Let Die

Roger Moore’s debut as Bond definitely brought new light on the Bond everyone had become familiar with and made him more comedic.  There are plenty of quality laughs as intended but it is kept in check with the needed espionage feel.  The theme by Paul McCartney is iconic as well as the credits.  Not sure how I felt about the villain of Mr. Big and his voodoo cover though.  The boat chase scene after the alligator hopping was a cheap way of getting Bond out of a sticky situation.  Unlike others I was a fan of the southern, blue-collar Sheriff Pepper.

14.     The Man With The Golden Gun

First off, the sheriff was back which was good to me.  And I liked the idea of the premise about a highly precise assassin that ultimately goes toe-to-toe with Bond.  Christopher Lee is a great as Scaramanga even if the action bits leading up to it are rather forgettable.  My main quarrel was with the beginning when we are shown the model of Bond in Scaramanga’s practice labyrinth.  Did Scaramanga know from the beginning that Bond would come after him?  It just kind of bothered me when I watched it.

13.     Moonraker

As much as everyone likes pegging Moonraker as the least realistic of the Bond films to me that does not make it any less fun.  They also want to point out the “mistreatment” of Jaws.  I must say Jaws is the best part of this movie because of three scenes.  First scene is the one in the alley where Jaws gets taken away from Bond by the partiers in the parade and he ends up going along with it by dancing.  Second, I love the fight on top of the lift.  Then finally, the scene when Bond points out that Jaws does not fit Drax’s mold for his “Arian” race that he plans to create.  That brings me to my main complaint, Drax was one of the weakest villains to me.  He shoots skeet, quail, of turkeys.  Big whoop.  One bullet in the stomach and he pretty much willingly walks into space.

12.     On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

It is unfortunate the Lazenby did not have the option to put his own spin of the character, instead he was told to play Bond the way Connery did.  But maybe that was better than how Lazenby would have if he had the choice.  This is a very well done story and the plot is one of the best of the franchise.  So what is the main draw back? It is starved of excitement.  There a good ski chase but there are such long stretches of no action that at times it is hard to stay focused, especially with the dreadful Sir Hilary cover.  Plus it has the one element that subsequent Bond films must keep in mind.  It is the one where Bond became a married man and widower in the same day.

11.     From Russia With Love

My positives and negatives for this one are along the lines of #12 on my list.  It has a well developed plot and easily the most plausible of the espionage genre about foreign spies working together but not really – if that makes sense.  Plus Robert Shaw and Sean Connery’s fight scene is hands down the best hand-to-hand fight scenes of that generation of cinema and probably of the franchise.  Sad to admit though, there is a share of slow parts.  As much as it pains me as a guy to say this, the fight scene between the two gypsy girls was lame.  I get it was part of the culture Bond was visiting but it was plain dumb, almost as dumb as the threat of being run over by an airborne plain.

10.     The Living Daylights

A much underrated film in the eye of the public.  Timothy Dalton did not have the cinematic draw that Connery and Moore did so movie goers were not as friendly to Dalton even though he was arguably the Bond that most closely acts as the character in Ian Fleming’s original novels.  The Living Daylights has one of the more memorable scenes chase that starts in the Aston Martin then ends in the cello case.  It also has a great Bond girl, Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milvoy.  She starts out as this innocent musician caught up in something bad because of a friend but then she morphs into a little more of a fighter.  Then you have the trademark of a Dalton-Bond film of turning enemies on themselves.

9.       The Spy Who Loved Me

What is most memorable about this movie is that Moore’s Bond has met his perfect opposite gender match with the clever Barbara Bach.  Just when Bond thinks he has seduced her, turns out she has seduced him for the benefit of her spy agency.  It also introduces the unstoppable Jaws, this silver grinned monster even wrestles and takes a bite out of an actual shark – legendary character.  Another major plus is how well choreographed the battle at the end was.  Last but certainly not least this movie has the best theme song of the franchise because honestly “nobody does it better” than James Bond.

8.       Skyfall

Skyfall welcomes Daniel Craig into the luxuries of what all the other Bonds had:  technology and humor.  The introduction of Q was a must for this movie and was done successful by making the technology he has to offer Bond more in line with the times by focusing more on computers/networks than on weaponry.  That combined with Craig’s cold and tough as nails reinvention of Bond makes this one of the top films of the franchise alone.  Next throw in a villain that used to be an agent with expert computer knowledge and vengeance on the brain you get a top-notch thriller.  Click here for my full review.

7.       Dr. No

There is no arguing with the movie that set the standard for Bond movies to come.  After this movie there is no other way for this character to introduce himself than to say “Bond.  James Bond.”  A beautiful Bond girl in Ursula Andres as Honey Ryder and Bond delivers the perfect line for the situation when questioned if he was looking for shells:  “No.  I’m just looking.”  Even though there are plenty of lines like this in the movie it never feels silly and maintains the serious tone.  Dr. No, the villain, I memorable not just because he was in the first film but because of his mechanical hands that was the result of his own mistakes.  You got to love a villain with a gimmick in a Bond movie.

6.       For Your Eyes Only

I know I will catch flack for not only putting this one in my top ten but ahead of Moore’s most popular film The Spy Who Loved Me.  The main draw for me is that Moore’s light-hearted and playful humor is there but is tame.  Kristatos is one of the more underrated villains in my opinion because of all the Bond movies he is one villain that comes as a surprise.  This we discover after we are initially lead to believe Topol is the villain.  Guess we should have known because how could Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof be a bad guy?  Inconceivable.  Plus I appreciated seeing Bond pull out some MacGyver moves with his shoe laces to help him climb back up the rope at the end of the movie.  That proved that Bond can be resourceful to get out of a mess without the use of a gadget that just happens to be perfect for the situation.

5.       Licence To Kill

I think this will be the biggest shock to most people reading my list.  As much as I love witty remarks, I prefer a Bond that is darker and more hard edged especially when he is seeking vengeance.  Quantum Of Solace could have taken a lesson from Licence to Kill on how to do a Bond movie where he is seeking revenge against orders.  The main reason I am such a fan of this installment is because of how realistically Bond takes out his enemy.  Now let me explain.  I know the action and explosions are not realistic but what I am referring to is the method.  He takes out who he can on his own but he also plants a lot of seeds that turns Sanchez on his own henchman.  Speak of Sanchez, Robert Davi nails this performance of a high rolling drug cartel leader that hides his profits in stocks and bonds.  To top it off we have the two Bond girls of Licence To Kill:  Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora and Cary Lowell as Pam Bouvier.  The latter Bond girl I will go on record as saying she is my favorite of the franchise.  Not only is Lowell/Bouvier gorgeous but she a fighter and an expert army pilot that aids Bond in the end of the movie.  What I think hurt this movie most was the unnecessary “R” rating it got from the MPAA which may have kept potential viewers away.

4.       Casino Royale

This was a complete reinvention of James Bond back to his roots which needed to be done after the ridiculous joke of a Bond movie that was Die Another Day.  Daniel Craig brought Bond back to his hard-nosed, ruthless roots.  This is the one James Bond novel I have read and was shocked to see how closely the movie followed the novel.  They changed the card game which was fine because I had no clue what cards he needed or why.  But anyway, Daniel Craig does not meet the physical description but definitely nailed the demeanor of a killer agent with no restraints for his personal well being.  Eva Green was the perfect Vesper and made her mark in Bond girl history by being nearly as much a fit as to Bond just as Bach’s character was in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Plus after the science fiction bummer that was Die Another Day, this features a more grounded experience.  Casino Royale’s first twenty minutes alone is some of the most exciting action I have seen in any movie.  Only thing missing was some of those classic little gadgets (poison cure injection hardly counts) and you have a great Bond movie.

3.       Goldfinger

Most consider Goldfinger the quintessential James Bond movie because of all the iconic images and sayings associated with it:  the dead woman smothered in gold paint, a competitive round of golf, Bond’s fight with Oddjob with his blade-brimmed top hat, legendary Bond girl named Pussy Galore, Auric Goldfinger saying “No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die.”  The list is endless really.  Something else noteworthy is that this was the first instance of a GPS in a car.  Granted it is fictional but it is fun to toy with the idea that the James bond gadgets have inspired some real life technology of the future.

2.       Goldeneye

Brosnan’s first film as Bond and hands down his best as his take on a Bond that is cool, calm, and witty with a near blank expression that says a lot about what he is thinking.  The main reason I prefer this movie over most of the rest is the fact that is a battle between two double-O agents is a trust test about whether Bond really is the best of the best in the British secret service.  I mean we have seen him work/compete with spies from of countries but never against one that was trained like he was.  Agent 006/Alec Trevelyan was also a friend of Bond’s which adds another depth of drama after Bond leaves him for dead.  Goldeneye’s conclusion of these two slugging it out on the satellite is one of my favorite fight scenes of the franchise; only second to Connery vs Shaw in From Russia With Love.  Throw in a Bond girl that is also a great henchwoman, Xenia Onatopp, who is a brilliant character.  Knowing Bond’s weakness for sex, Onatopp manages to make a near sexual encounter painfully terrifying for Bond making it a joy to watch on screen.  What this all suggest is the amount of time that was spent writing Goldeneye.  The jokes are original and are delivered perfectly by Brosnan.

1.       Thunderball

For a movie made in 1965 Thunderball is an action movie far ahead of its time.  First off the opening sequences feature Bond sparring with a cross dressing spy and an escape by jet pack.  That is right a jet pack.  Then cue the music of Tom Jones singing the theme of Thunderball.  I have no clue what the song is about but the last note Jones hits is plain epic.  Thunderball also set a Bond film high of three women that he sleeps with and one of which he has sex with at the bottom of the ocean.  Not in submarine or an underwater liar, it was in the water amongst the sand, coral, and fish.  That is legendary to me.  Plus Domino was one of the most beautiful Bond girls of the franchise.  For those of you that are fans of the Austin Powers films, you can thank Largo for being the inspiration for No. 2, eye-patch and all.  The last thing worth mentioning is the underwater battle between Largo’s men and the British officers.  In a documentary on Thunderball, they said they did not want to limit themselves when filming it so they shot every possible  fight scenario they could think of and hope to assemble something coherent.  Now some get bogged down in the duration of the fight and that there seemed like a lot more people dying than there were initially in the water but I cannot help admiring what was accomplished.  They filmed this in 1965 and it appears better than some of the underwater fights we see today.

So there is my list.  It is one that not many people will agree with but one that I will stand by.  Feel free to post comments of criticisms if you want.  I am always open to hear other bloggers’ opinions.  Sorry if this was too long.  This was a long and daunting task so I hope you all enjoy looking through it.

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  1. #1 by Fogs' Movie Reviews on November 14, 2012 - 12:34 PM

    Glad to see the love for Thunderball, its so awesome! 😀 Nice list… as always, with 23 films, there’s bound to be some we’d rank differently… but all in all, this is a pretty sound ranking. I honestly dont see anything here that makes me want to holler or anything. 😀

    I personally dislike For Your Eyes Only pretty strongly, but I may hold the minority opinion on that one.

    • #2 by rochpikey on November 14, 2012 - 8:36 PM

      Yeah I don’t think you are in the minority on For Your Eyes Only. I’d say it is pretty 50/50 of those who do and do not like it. I certainly see why many don’t but it is just a fun watch to me despite the flaws. Kind of a guilty pleasure I guess. Thanks for the comment I appreciate it!

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