Last year around this time, we were all obsessing over James Bond leading up to the release of Skyfall and ran a series covering our favorite 007 movies. Well, it's November again, and I'm back to being deep in the throes of geeking out on Bond. Seems like a good time to revisit some of my picks for favorite and least favorite aspects of all things James Bond.
These choices may or may not reflect your own tastes. More likely "not."
This list is fluid and totally subject to change. A year, six months, a week from now it might look totally different. There are some that will never make the list, but one of the things I like about the Bond franchise is how I can fall in and out of love with certain movies as I age and revisit them.
1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) I'm keeping this in the number one slot for now because it does so many things right. Forget Lazenby (who I should call LAZY-B), who isn't very good but isn't bad enough to ruin my favorite Bond movie. There is so much that's so great about this movie, which stands apart from the rest of the Bond films for a number of reasons (only one to star Lazenby, only one to be directed by stunt coordinator Peter Hunt, the only movie to have a purely instrumental theme, etc.). It has emotional stakes, great stunts, fights that feel real (when they're not being artificially sped up) and Diana Rigg.
2. From Russia With Love (196?) The second Bond movie is fast becoming my favorite, and even by the end of this kick I'm on could easily end up unseating OHMSS. Great in every way, and very much the template for every Bond movie I really love.
3. The Living Daylights (1987) Every time I watch this one, it goes higher up my list. It's never going to be my favorite, but I really do love it. That's ironic, because growing up I thought this was the "boring" of the two Dalton Bonds -- proof that I was too young to appreciate all of the things that The Living Daylights does well and even greater proof that Licence to Kill is made for 12-year olds.Goldfinger (1964) - If aliens landed on Earth and wanted to see the best single example of everything that makes a James Bond movie, this is the one I would show them. As JB has pointed out, this is the installment that bridges the "two Bonds" -- the gritty espionage action of Dr. No and From Russia With Love and the comic book bombast of You Only Live Twice and most of Roger Moore's run. Great villain, great title song, arguably the best Bond girl and lots of larger-than-life stuff that borders on camp, it's grounded just enough to keep it from becoming completely ridiculous.
5. Skyfall (2012) - Yes, this is the newest Bond movie and the one I've lived with the least, so there is every possibility that it falls out of the top five in the future. I'm still riding the high, though, of a Bond movie that plays like a "greatest hits" of so many things I love about the series while getting rid of a lot of the jokey one-liners I like less than other fans. I know that Sean Connery IS James Bond, but Daniel Craig continues to be my favorite. Unlike past Bonds (save maybe for Timothy Dalton), being a secret agent doesn't just feel like part of a lifestyle for Craig. It feels like HIS LIFE. He is a bullet just waiting to be pointed at the thing that needs to be killed. I love that.
Worst Bond Movies I Love
1. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) Loving Bond means having to love some of the goofy installments, and there might not be a goofier Bond movie than this one. Notice I said "goofy" and not "retarded," which is why Moonraker won't make any lists. Though Britt Eklund's character is insultingly awful, it's hard to argue with the one-two combo of her and Maude Adams, and Christopher Lee is terrific as the three-nippled assassin Scaramenga. I also love the theme song by LuLu (imitating Shirley Bassey). It's the perfect complement to this ridiculous movie. Fuck you.
GoldenEye from Tomorrow Never Dies from The World is Not Enough. The latter is probably the lest respected of those three films, primarily because of Denise Richards and all the terrible Christmas puns. Fair enough, those are garbage. But I don't think Denise Richards (playing an astrophysicist, because HOW DARE SHE, RIGHT EVERYONE??) is a dealbreaker. First of all, those shorts are adorable. Second, she's not even in the movie that much. And the other stuff is good, like Sophie Marceau as the bad Bond Girl, or Robert Carlyle as the villain who can't feel pain. It's still the third-best of the Brosnan movies, but I like it.
3. A View to a Kill (1985) This one gets sentimental points because it's the Bond movie on which I grew up. It was the one that showed on cable all the time -- well, this and Never Say Never Again. This was the one with the theme song from a band I knew and a cool music video to go along with it. As an adult, I enjoy it for all the reasons that have nothing to do with Roger Moore, who embarrasses himself playing Bond at 57. There's Grace Jones, there's Dolph Lundgren, there's Christopher Walken, there's a blimp, there's Tanya Roberts visibly trying to remember her lines. This would win the title for the Most '80s Bond if not for Licence to Kill four years later.
1. Die Another Day (2002) No contest. Even the worst of the Roger Moore movies can't compete with this miserable drag, which can't even be enjoyed as a parody of Bond movies even though it mostly behaves like one. Every time a Bond run gets this shitty, it demands a reset. Hence, Casino Royale -- the only good thing to come out of this garbage movie.
2. Octopussy (1983) I can forgive and even enjoy a lot of the terrible Roger Moore Bond movies. Not this one. It's so fucking lifeless and boring.
3. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) After taking a one-movie break, Sean Connery returned for one more terrible James Bond movie. He should have stayed retired. He's bored, the movie is dumb. I don't like Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) or her stupid up-do. This is the movie that ruins Connery's legacy as Bond, enough that he had to come back to play the role one more time in Never Say Never Again. But the real reason for that is so he could make a bunch of money and stick it to Cubby Broccoli.
1. "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra
2. "Nobody Does it Better" by Carly Simon
3. "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey
4. "Skyfall" by Adele
5. "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran
6. "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow
7. "Thunderball" by Tom Jones
8. "The World is Not Enough" by Garbage
1. "Another Way to Die" by Jack White & Alicia Keyes
2. "Licence to Kill" by Gladys Knight
3. "The Man With the Golden Gun" by LuLu
1. "Die Another Day" by Madonna
2. "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge
3. "Moonraker" by Shirley Bassey
1. Daniel Craig - We'll see if he stays at the top after a few more movies, but his take on the character remains my favorite.
2. Sean Connery
3. Timothy Dalton
4. Pierce Brosnan
5. George Lazenby
6. Roger Moore
1. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger
2. Tanya Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), From Russia With Love
3. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), GoldenEye
4. Theresa Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), Dr. No
6. Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), Tomorrow Never Dies
7. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Casino Royale
1. Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), For Your Eyes Only
2. Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), A View to a Kill
2. Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), Diamonds are Forever
3. Jynx (Halle Berry), Die Another Day
4. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), Moonraker
Bond Movies That Are Growing On Me
1. You Only Live Twice (1967)
2. Quantum of Solace (2008)
3. Dr. No (1962)
Bond Movie That Will Probably Never Grow On Me
1. Live and Let Die (1973)