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James Bond movies revisited:  All 26 superspy flicks ranked

The release date of No Time To Die, the latest James Bond film, has been postponed, tentatively, to November 11 due to COVID-19.  Here is a ranking of the Bond movies in the reverse order of how much I liked them. Happy watching!

In a pre-COVID world, No Time To Die, the 25th James Bond movie and Daniel Craig's last outing as 007, would have been released in the summer. Now the date has been pushed, tentatively, to November 11.

My schooling at the movies began with Bond. When I was six, my dad took me to watch Never Say Never Again -- thrice in the same week. It is today not considered to be part of the official canon, but I understood quite a bit about the superspy. And, for a while, I considered Sean Connery to be the biggest actor in all of Hollywood.

Of course, I got plenty of things wrong. Never Say Never Again is nearly not as good as Thunderball, the movie on which it is based. When I watched Thunderball later, I fell in love with it. That began a cherished relationship with the Bond movies.


Here is a ranking of the Bond movies in the reverse order of how much I liked them. Happy watching!

26. Octopussy

Bond came to India -- and two well-known Indians, the actor Kabir Khan and ace tennis player Vijay Amritraj were part of the cast. Quite a bit of the action was set in Rajasthan. We should be proud of the movie since it is set in India, but this one turned out to be the worst in the franchise. This flick has the additional dishonour of having one of worst titles ever.

25. Casino Royale (1967)

This film was meant as a parody of spy-movie cliches. The all-star cast including David Niven, Orsen Welles, Ursala Andress and the inimitable Peter Sellers was totally wasted on a meandering, gagless script. Not to be confused with Daniel Craig’s turn as 007 in 2006.

24. A View To A Kill

Has a memorable climactic sequence on top of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Christopher Walken too makes an impression as a villain Max Zorin. But the jokes are terrible and Roger Moore is visibly tired in his last role as the world’s best-known spy.

23. Die Another Day

The worst film from Pierce Brosnan’s days as Bond. The plot is unbelievable and the stunt sequences are all highly improbable including one set in North Korea. Both Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike bring a highly sexy dose to the interpersonal proceedings. This film came as an antidote to the Austin Powers movies and had fewer jokes and more action.

22. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

This must be the last Bond movie I ever caught on DVD. The romance part was a bit nauseating and was redeemed by the anti-climactic ending. George Lazenby, a model and unknown actor, made his only turn as James Bond. He was only the second actor to play 007. It really was no one’s favourite upon release, with critics giving it a thumbs down. But over time, the film’s reputation has considerably increased.

21. You Only Live Twice

At first viewing, it’s a brilliant movie with Bond coming out all guns blazing against SPECTRE and supervillain Blofeld. However, the story is improbable even for a Bond flick. While the special effects are neatly done, the make-up is terrible as Bond goes undercover as a Japanese man.

20. The Living Daylights

The Cold War could not be more on your face in this 1987 movie featuring Timothy Dalton in his first role as James Bond. The plot unfolds as Bond is tasked with aiding the defection of a high-ranking KGB officer. The film has a strong plot but is low on action and humour.

19. Never Say Never Again

The only remake in the franchise, this movie is loosely based on Thunderball. And, it turned out to be a bomb. It remains a mystery why Sean Connery agreed to this comeback. This was not made by Eon Productions as other Bond movies are. Connery’s lack of energy is a blight on the film.

18. Live And Let Die

This was Roger Moore’s first turn as the fictional MI6 agent. His acting was mature, comic and sprightly. Directed by Guy Hamilton, who made three other Bond movies, this film was different in that it didn’t have super villains. The spectacular title song was nominated for an Oscar.

17. Spectre

There was no reason to make this movie so bad. This flick is slow, pretentious, boring and dull. Sam Mendes cannot be faulted as he is saddled with a bad screenplay from John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. The opening sequence is below par. However, Ben Whishaw steals the show as the geeky Q.

16. Licence To Kill

John Glen made five Bond movies and this was the last one. This is also the one in which Dalton takes a bow out. The flick has Bond going rogue to help his friend and CIA agent, Felix Leiter. Darker in tone than previous Bond movies, this film has Benicio del Toro in a bit part.

15. The World Is Not Enough

Starring Sophie Marceau and Robert Carlyle alongside Pierce Brosnan, this film explores the much-maligned angle of Stockholm syndrome. In some of the film’s most memorable scenes, the tension between  Brosnan and Marceau is palpable. Upon second viewing, some of the fizzes are gone.

14. The Man With The Golden Gun

Though Christopher Lee’s performance as Francisco Scaramanga is still sizzling, this movie was among the least-grossing of the series. The 1973 Energy Crisis and the dominance of martial arts at the movies were major influences on this script.

13. Quantum Of Solace

Bond takes revenge for the murder of Vesper Lynd and this film is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006). The title drew quite a bit of flak but this critic thought it was the best part of the movie. The appalling part was the poor climax, which was a major letdown.

12. Diamonds Are Forever

They don’t get campier than this. Sean Connery made his final turn as 007 for a hefty pay packet. I think the movie works better on paper than on film.  Bond has to combat not one but multiple Blofelds (actor Charles Gray).

11. For Your Eyes Only

Directed by Bond veteran John Glen, this film features a well-shot climactic sequence involving the breaking into an abandoned monastery on top of a mountain. However, this is hardly Roger Moore’s best turn as 007. The plot features a talking parrot which goes against the makers’ attempt to make Bond gritty and real.

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10. Tomorrow Never Dies

This snarky tale based on the media dominance of Rupert Murdoch had to compete with Titanic at the BO. Features a swoony turn by Michelle Yeoh and Jonathan Pryce digging into his role as Elliot Carver. The film was reliant on special effects and the stunts were over the top even for a Bond movie.

9. Skyfall

A favourite featuring a fantastic opening sequence in which Bond is shot with a sniper rifle by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), who is then grounded. This has Judi Dench in her last role as M after she is shot dead in the thrill pill of a climatic sequence.

8. The Spy Who Loved Me

One of the better Roger Moore movies out there. Featured a dreamy scene in which a car turns into an underwater vehicle as Bond and his lady friend make a getaway from the henchmen of the villains. Barbara Bach is pretty and keeps up the tradition of beautiful women playing Bond girls.

7. Moonraker

There is a nerve-racking stunt scene involving a parachute jump off a plane at the beginning of the flick. This sequence also prominently features Richard Kiel as Jaws. The film is one of the few in the series to be entirely set in Britain.

6. From Russia With Love

The flick may look like it lacks gadgets now, but Q’s efforts to equip Bond with the latest were seen with a wide-eyed surprise back in 1963. The downbeat film was also a blockbuster success against expectations.

5. Thunderball

Ian Fleming’s greatest literary creation returns to reign supreme underwater. Some of the sequences shot underwater are long as they were the first of the kind ever made. When viewed for the first time, these scenes are gratifying but later audiences were unhappy that over a quarter of the film ended up being shot underwater.

4. Goldfinger

“Do you expect me to talk?” “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die.” The one-liners never got any sleeker. It also established the tradition in which automated set-ups were devised by villains for Bond to escape from. Directed by Guy Hamilton, this is an eternal favourite of Bond buffs. Also, the Bond girl is called Pussy Galore. “I must be dreaming,” says Bond. Shirley Bassey performs during the main title sequence and was so impressive they used her again for Diamonds Are Forever.

3. Dr No

Rarely does a movie get to define an entire sub-genre like this one. When you re-watch it, you appreciate how cracking the dialogues really are and how smoothly they are delivered by Connery. The man with the licence to kill made his first appearance in 1962 in true style. Joseph Wiseman is Dr No and he is as evil as they come. Mandatory watching for Bond fans.

2. GoldenEye

I am partial to this film. I thought it had the tensest opening sequence for a Bond film. This is the first movie to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent. Izabella Scorupco is among the prettiest women to play a Bond girl. This was the first Bond film to be made after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Also, the most memorable Bond outing at the theatres for me. Tina Turner’s song during the main title sequence is also dishy.

1. Casino Royale

The best stunts ever. The best Bond in a long time. The sexiest Bond girl in Eva Green. Electrifying chemistry between Daniel Craig, in his first turn as Bond, and Judi Dench as M. Bond falls and falls hard for Vesper Lynd even as he plays a high stakes poker game against Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, who is a terrorist financier. The opening Parkour sequence is out of the world but so is the sequence set at the Miami airport. Directed by Martin Campbell, this film is easily the best in the series.

Nandhu Sundaram is a journalist based in Chennai.
First Published on Jul 25, 2020 02:47 pm