It has been confirmed that after four outings Daniel Craig will be doing a fifth Bond film and, thankfully, will not be slitting his wrists. This will be the 25th film in the more than 50 year-old spy franchise and there is an even a reported leaked script floating around out there.
So it is a great time to take a look back at some of the best and worst Bond films over the more than five decades. This list will be by Bond actor and excluding George Lazenby because he was in only one movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), which was a decent outing. With a SPOILER ALERT and a shaken not stirred medium dry vodka martini in hand, let’s get to it:
#10 Best Sean Connery – Goldfinger (1964)
Connery’s third Bond outing is not only his best but one of the greatest films of the entire franchise. Bond is suave and brutal, Goldfinger and Odd Job are cracking villains and Pussy Galore (oh what a name) is a most formidable Bond girl. Throw in superb action, car chases and cool gadgets and you have the quintessential Bond flick.
The moment when a laser is about to hit Bond’s crown jewels and he asks Goldfinger if he expects him to talk and the villain replies “No Mr Bond I expect you to die” I fell in love with the character. Perfection. Connery’s second outing, From Russia with Love, comes in a very close second.
#9 Worst Sean Connery – Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever share a director in Guy Hamilton and magnificent titular theme songs by the incredible Dame Shirley Bassey but that’s about all they have in common. Connery was wooed back for this outing after turning down On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and he seems bored throughout.
Tiffany Case is a dull Bond girl whose most memorable scene is hiding a computer disk in her bikini bottom. Charles Taylor’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld is hammy and both Telly Savalas and Donald Pleasance did the character better. The glamazons Bambi and Thumper are ridiculous, the plot is supervillain-of-the-week generic and there is little to no action. The murderous duo of Wint and Kidd are interesting but everything else feels tired and cheesy.
#8 Best Roger Moore – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
There is so much to love about this third outing by third Bond actor Roger Moore. Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova/Agent Triple X is one of the best Bond girls of all time and up there with the likes of Pussy Galore, Solitaire and Vesper Lynd. She is a smart, capable agent who can give James a run for his money and one ups him on more than one occasion. Definitely not a damsel in distress.
The main villain is a bit run of the mill but the unstoppable Jaws is such a fun, classic henchman. The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the most action heavy of all Bond films and the submarine assault in the third act is superb. And the cherry on top is a car that turns into a freaking submarine! Moore never did it better.
#7 Worst Roger Moore – A View to a Kill (1985)
This was Moore’s final Bond film and, though he is charming as always, at 57 he was clearly too old to still be playing the role. It was especially creepy seeing him romance actress Tanya Roberts, who was almost 30 years his junior. The action scenes were lame and the plot of a Nazi-engineered industrialist plotting to flood Silicon Valley was meh. And Christopher Walken hams it up horribly as the aforementioned villain, Max Zorin.
The sole bright spot in this tired, uninspired affair is Grace Jones as sexy and deadly henchwoman May Day. This is the third Moore Bond film by director John Glen but easily his worst. Glen is the most prolific of all Bond directors – Guy Hamilton is one less – and would redeem himself with the Timothy Dalton Bond films The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989).
#6 Best Timothy Dalton – Licence to Kill (1989)
And speaking of Dalton the fourth Bond actor is next up. Licence to Kill seems to be divisive among fans likely because it is so different from your average film in the franchise. But this tale of revenge and Bond going rogue is a spectacular action affair. Dalton is wonderful as the steely, determined 007. Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier is a strong willed Bond girl with agency and Desmond Llewelyn as gadget master Q gets more screen time and is hilarious. Robert Davi’s drug lord Sanchez is downright chilling and a young Benicio Del Toro gleefully plays bloodthirsty henchman Dario.
The movie is gritty and bloody and dark but so well done. It features some of the best action scenes of the franchise, terrific chemistry between Dalton and Lowell and even a few doses of humour. If you asked me to I would tell you this is a stellar Bond film and easily the best of Dalton’s two outings. Bless your heart.
#5 Worst Timothy Dalton – The Living Daylights (1987)
Dalton only made two Bond films and unlike the other worst entries on this list The Living Daylights is not that bad. We see Bond tangle with spies and a corrupt KGB officer named General Koskov. There are some cool action scenes including the plane fight and the final showdown with arms dealer Brad Whitaker, played by a scenery-chewing Joe Don Baker. Maryam d’Abo’s Bond girl though is mayo on white toast bland though and the film does suffer from some pacing issues. Not the best Bond film and not the worst. Just okay.
#4 Best Pierce Brosnan – GoldenEye (1995)
After six years without a Bond film – the longest period ever – our favourite super spy returned with this entry and it was glorious. Brosnan, who had been touted for the role since his days of playing charming TV thief Remington Steele, slides into the role like a pair of old bedroom slippers. He is suave, cool and lethal. He is ably supported by the gorgeous Izabella Scorupco as programmer Natalya Simonova and Dame Judi Dench as the first female Mi6 head M.
Sean Bean is delightful as rogue agent Alec Trevelyan and Famke Jensen’s lustful henchwoman Xenia Onatopp is delicious. And she gives new meaning to the term “clingy.” From the opening base attack to the tank chase to the final showdown the action is pulse pounding. Throw in a soulful theme song by the ageless Tina Turner and you have a film that brought Bond back with multiple bangs. Sadly Brosnan’s future Bond outings would never match the brilliance of GoldenEye.
#3 Worst Pierce Brosnan – Die Another Day (2002)
And speaking of those future outings we have Brosnan’s final entry and the nadir of the franchise. With the exception of the decent opening scene absolutely nothing works in Die Another Day. The laser-satellite-mine-destroying-face-swapping-plot is stupid. The over reliance on gadgets, including a freaking invisible car and a robo suit, turns the film from spy thriller to sci fi romp, and not a good one. The absurd action scenes are made even more awful by piss poor CGI. Bond parasailing to escape a giant fake wave anyone?
Brosnan pretty much phones in his performance. Halle Berry’s Jinx is just forgettable, Miranda Frost’s deception could be seen a mile away and the two main villains are as interesting as plain yellow paper on a plain yellow wall. There is even a henchman called Mr Kill. I wonder how long it took them to come up with that one. Madonna’s theme song is bubble gum pop generic and her cameo way too wink wink nudge nudge obvious. Die Another Day was franchise killing bad but thankfully old James would rise to glory again.
#2 Best Daniel Craig – Casino Royale (2006)
And that glory would come in the form Casino Royale and new Bond actor Daniel Craig. If everything failed in Die Another Day everything clicked in this film. Based on the first ever Bond novel by Ian Fleming, in this entry 007 battles terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played with flair by Mads Mikkelsen. Craig’s Bond is dry witted, cold hearted and with a skin of flint, arguably the closest portrayal to his novel counterpart. In the film we first meet him assasinating a dude. We are far removed from the sci fi schlock of the previous outing. Craig’s chemistry with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is funny, beautiful and heart breaking.
Director Martin Campbell, who also helmed the reinvigorated Bond in GoldenEye, knows action and delivers it in spades. From the explosive opening parkour chase to the sweat inducing poker match to the thrilling final Venice battle Casino Royale will grip you and never let you go. But the film’s greatest triumph is the exploration of the psyche of a character we had seen for decades but only knew on the surface. This Bond was not superhuman but a man, with weakness and frailties. Craig’s third outing Skyfall would also delve into the mind of the man and, while that was a fantastic outing, it cannot beat the perfection of Casino Royale.
#1 Worst Daniel Craig – Quantum of Solace (2008)
After Casino Royale expectations were high for Bond’s next outing. And we were disappointed. Very disappointed. Quantum of Solace was just so boring. Ostensibly it is Bond seeking vengeance for Lynd’s suicide in the previous film. But the film gets bogged down with a Bolivian woman named Camille Montes (played by the very Ukranian Olga Kurylenko) seeking revenge on an evil general and Bond battling an evil businessman who wants to steal water or some crap like that.
Craig and Kurylenko have zero chemistry, the villains are poor, the action is meh and the climax is anti-climactic. It is not the worst Bond ever but is one of the most forgettable. Thankfully Craig had a vastly improved outing with Skyfall and then dropped a few points again with 2015’s Spectre. We will have to wait until 2019 to see how Craig (reportedly) ends his run as Bond, James Bond.
So that’s my list. What’s your favourite and least favourite Bond film by actor?
For my Top 7 Roger Moore Bond films you can click here.