PG Cooper: The James Bond Films Ranked

Posted: November 7, 2012 by PG Cooper in Lists

Closing out my Bond lists, this is my list of the entire series ranked.

22. Moonraker (1979)

James Bond goes to space. That right there is one of the primary issues with the film. James Bond going to space is beyond stupid and doesn’t fit the character at all. But what’s worse is the film isn’t even fun. It’s painfully boring through most of the run time. The film also loses major points for their treatment of Jaws.

21. Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s great cliffhanger, Diamonds had a lot of potential. They even managed to get Sean Connery back as Bond. Too bad the final product is a horrible turd of a film. The loose ends of Majesty are tied up in the opening scene and after that the movie is a typical Bond adventure. Only instead of being an enjoyable Bond adventure, it sucks. The villain is crap, the henchmen are crap, the Bond girl is crap, and most of the scenes are terrible. There are small positives scattered throughout, and the theme song is phenomenal, but as a film, Diamonds are Forever fails hard.

20. A View to A Kill (1985)

This is one of the most trashed entries in the series and is widely considered the worst by fans. It’s easy to see why. Roger Moore is pushing 60 here and while I enjoyed his time as Bond, the man is clearly past his prime by this point. The plot is a complete mess and features completely pointless divergences. Not to mention the film has my least favourite Bond girl in the series. The only thing that saves this film is Christopher Walken’s amusing performance.

19. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun has such a great premise for a Bond film. James Bond faces the world’s greatest assassin. It’s a concept with awesome possibilities  The result is less awesome. This film is just all over the place. First off, Roger Moore’s Bond comes off as a huge asshole in certain scenes and you almost start to turn on him. The film has another terrible Bond girl in Mary Goodnight and also features the return of J.W. Pepper (who was in Live and Let Die) A.K.A. the racist cop, A.K.A the worst character in the series’ history. The opening credits are pretty bad too. So what do I enjoy here? Christopher Lee is pretty damn cool as Scaramanga, and this Bond film doesn’t quite match the stupidity of the entries listed below it.

18. Octopussy (1983)

I know a lot of people find this film so cheesy that it’s awesome. I think it’s a good film for catching up on my sleep because this thing is boring. Horrendously so. The opening action set piece is great, but after that it’s boring credits, boring villain, boring action, and one of the most convoluted plots in the series. I will say, Maud Adams is a solid Bond girl and this is the most respectable film in the list so far. Still, I’m not a fan.

17. Die Another Day (2002)

Even though I have Die Another Day ranked extremely low, most fans still probably think I have it too high. Let me clarify something right now: I kn0w this movie sucks. It’s stupid, obnoxious, poorly written, poorly acted, has way too much CGI, and the few good ideas the film has are wasted. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a bad film. And yet, there’s something fascinating about it. This is a film that’s so bad it actually becomes entertaining. Just when you think it can’t get any stupider, the film manages to surprise you. I don’t find it very far removed from something like The Room or Troll 2. I know that’s not exactly high praise, but still. Also, I know a lot of fans found the constant referencing to previous films a bit annoying, but I thought it was fun. Terrible film, but it’s horrid quality comes full circle into being watchable.

16. Live and Let Die (1973)

I know a lot of people actually really like this one. I’m not too sure why. The film is sort of awkward througout. There’s some great things. The opening credits, Baron Samedi, and I like Moore’s first performance. But there’s also J.W. Pepper, a werid plot that doesn’t really work, a poorly conceived villain, and a few cringe worthy scenes. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t very good either.

15. The World is Not Enough (1999)

The World is Not Enough is a mixed bag. The positives? Sophie Marceau is one of the greatest Bond girls of the series and could also be called one of the best villains. The opening action scene is highly entertaining, the opening credits well done, and Q’s final appearance is amusing but also touching. The negatives? Denise Richards is one of the worst Bond girls of the series, none of the action can match the opening scene, and the villain’s potential is completely wasted. There’s some good ideas here and a few great scenes, but the film could have been a lot better. Still, at least they were trying.

14. Quantum of  Solace (2008)

Quantum suffered a lot of unwarranted backlash as a result of following they highly acclaimed Casino Royale. I say unwarranted because Quantum isn’t really a bad film. The problem isn’t that the film is bad, the problem is the film isn’t very memorable. The villain, the Bond girl, the action, none of it really stands out. In many ways, the film is the opposite of something like The World is Not EnoughWorld is a film that tried a lot with mixed results. Quantum is a film that excels in few areas but also doesn’t have any major weak links. So why is Quantum ranked higher? Because I like the relationship between Bond and M here and I think Daniel Craig and Judi Dench play it very well.

13. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The film has a weak villain, but Tomorrow benefits from a strong Bond girl, a good opening, entertaining and frequent action, fun gadgets, and some really strong scenes. It’s not a great Bond film. It has a lot of problems and is pretty much run of the mill. Still, the film is entertaining and works for what it is.

12. The Living Daylights (1987)

The Living Daylights is a pretty good Bond film. Timothy Dalton makes a strong debut, the action scenes are a lot of fun, the henchman is pretty cool, I like the Bond girl, and I really enjoy the title song. In fact, The Living Daylights almost makes my top ten, there’s only one major flaw keeping it out; the villains. Remember when I ranked the top 24 Bond villains? None of the villains from The Living Daylights made the cut. This wasn’t a deliberate choice I just completely forgot about them. They’re extremely boring, nonthreatening  and unmemorable. They’re the main obstacle keeping The Living Daylights from being a great Bond film.

11. You Only Live Twice (1966)

This is an incredibly silly Bond film, and it has a lot of problems. For example, there’s a part in the film involving Bond going through surgery to look more Japanese. After the surgery, Connery looks the exact same. What a stupid waste of time. At the same time, the film has some great sets created by Peter Lamont, Donald Pleasance chilling performance as Blofeld, and a climax that involves ninjas with assault riffles storming a secret volcano lair. That’s awesome.

10. License to Kill (1989)

Poor misunderstood License to Kill. Back in the 1980s, audiences weren’t ready for the dark and serious Bond film, thus the slightly negative reception the film received. License was also unfortunate enough to have to come out the same year as big blockbusters like BatmanLethal Weapon 2, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s sad that License got lost in the shuffle because it’s actually one of the stronger Bond films.  The plot involves Bond seeking revenge for Felix Leiter. Him taking the mission too personally leads to him being disavowed by MI6. The plot gives the film an interesting hook, and Daton gives a great performance. The villain is also great and there’s some cool action scenes. The movie isn’t perfect mind you. I’m not a fan of either of the film’s Bond girls and I also fee the ending is a bit too happy given everything that went down. Still, this is a very good Bond film. Also, Benicio del Torro.

9. Thunderball (1965)

 Adjusted for inflation, Thunderball is the highest grossing James Bond film. Watching the film, it’s easy to see why. In many ways, Thunderball is the ultimate Bond film. Multiple hot chicks, a menacing and deformed villain, exciting gadgets, Bond being suave and awesome, great one liners, and tons of spectacular action. There’s a lot to love here. Unfortunately Thunderball has never been able to climb into the top echelon of Bond films for me. Maybe it’s because I fee the underwater sequences go on too long, maybe it’s because I don’t find the film as engaging as the previous entries in the series. Oh well, Thunderball is still an awesome film.

8. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1968)

Majesty is one of the most divisive films among fans. Some think it’s an underrated classic, others think it’s pure garbage. I clearly belong to the former group. Let’s start with what most people criticize; George Lazenby. People hate Lazenby as Bond. He isn’t a great Bond, but I don’t think he’s that bad. The problem is the idea of recasting Bond was new at the time, thus Lazenby doesn’t give it his own take. People also criticize the many references to previous Bond films, but I like those too.  I think they’re fun and they also establish that this is still the same character Sean Connery played. This may seem redundant, but again, this was the first time they had to recast Bond so it was necessary. Even if you hate those elements though, Majesty still has several strong elements. Telly Savalas is great as Blofeld and Diana Rigg plays one of the greatest Bond girls of all time. The film also has a lot of entertaining action in the third half, a strong emotional core, and a great ending. Granted, the plot is a bit hokey and I do think this film would have been better with Connery, but on the whole On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best entries in the series.

7. Goldeneye (1995)

Goldeneye is easily Pierce Brosnan’s finest outing as Bond. The film is one of the most loved of the franchise and while I don’t lavish the film with as much praise as some, there’s still a lot to love. Brosnan makes a good Bond, the film has several great action set pieces, Xenia Onatopp an awesome henchwoman, Natalya Simonova is a great Bond girl, and Sean Bean’s performance makes Alec Trevelyan one of the series’ best villains. Though like I said, I don’t love this movie as much as everyone else. For one, the film tries to analyze Bond as a character but none of it really amounts to anything, there’s some weird inconsistencies, and the film’s score is hilariously bad. But even with those problems, Goldeneye is still a great Bond film.

6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Of all of the extravagant, over-the-top, epic James Bond films, The Spy Who Loved Me is the best. The movie is just a ton of fun from beginning to end. After two weak films, Roger Moore finally gets a classic. This is also the film where Moore perfected his performance. The film is full of memorable scenes, some of the best action in series history, cool gadgets, and Anya Anasova being one of the best and hottest Bond girls of all. The film also gave the world Jaws, one of the best henchman ever. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a Bond film…except a great villain. It’s the one element that’s always kept The Spy Who Loved Me out of my top five. It’s a shame that a film that gets so many things right would get a crucial element so wrong.

5. Dr. No (1962)

The film that started it all; Dr. No still remains one of the best Bond films ever. First time viewers may find the film a little dated and slow, I did on first viewing, but over time I’ve come to not only appreciate the change in pace, but love it. Instead of being an epic action extravaganza, Dr. No is more of a hard-boiled detective story. There are action scenes, but they’re much more low-key. There’s also a certain grit to Dr. No, particularly a scene where Bond shoots an unarmed man point-blank. The film features one of the most iconic villains of all time in the title character. Dr. No is one of the series’ best villains. He’s fun to watch, and his dinner scene with Bond is one of my favourite scenes in Bond history. The Bond girl Honey Ryder is also insanely iconic. You also have Sean Connery delivering the performance which every subsequent Bond actor would try to emulate. Finally, it’s important to consider how revolutionary Dr. No is. Dr. No got the ball rolling for the rest of the series. The action, the girls, the villains, Bond himself, influenced heavily by director Terrence Young, it’s all there. These elements would evolve over time, but there’s no denying that Dr. No laid the groundwork for each subsequent film. However the film can be appreciated as more than a historical curiosity. Dr. No is an engaging and well-made film, in addition to being an important moment in cinema.

4. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Some may find it blasphemous that I rank For Your Eyes Only above The Spy Who Love Me. After all, it’s the latter film that is considered to be Moore’s masterpiece. But I’ve always preferred For Your Eyes Only for two main reasons. First off, I feel Eyes is more consistent. Unlike Spy, it doesn’t flounder in the villain department. In fact, I feel Kristatos is a great villain. He feels more realistic than other villains in the series and it is genuinely surprising when he’s revealed to be the villain. Eyes also has one of my favourite Bond girls in Melina Havelock. Stunningly beautiful, but also an interesting character who’s purpose extended beyond being “the hot chick”. I also love the action scenes here. The rock climbing scene is extremely tense and exciting. There’s a great car chase which goes against the norm with the car being kind of crappy. There’s also a great ski chase, and I love me some ski chases. Second, For Your Eyes Only is a more grounded Bond adventure, and those are the type of Bond films I lean towards. Not to say I don’t enjoy the over the top Bond films, but I prefer the more hard edged ones. For Your Eyes Only is such a film. There aren’t any gadgets and the action, while very exciting, never descends into utter lunacy. Moore’s performance is also great here. Despite being known as the comedic James Bond, Moore does a great job portraying Bond in a more serious light. The film is also full of memorable scenes and set pieces, and it’s one I find myself revisiting frequently. My only real problems are the very beginning and the very end. The end feels too light and silly, and the beginning with Blofeld is just stupid. I’m more than willing to overlook those though, given how much I enjoy everything else.

3. Goldfinger (1964)

Science and mathematics would say Goldfinger would be my number one. The film topped my gadgets and henchmen list, came third in my openings list, ninth on my Bond girls list, and second on my villains list. Everything suggested Goldfinger would come out on top in the rankings. Well, for what it’s worth it use to rank second, but clearly that changed. I’ll explain why it isn’t ranked higher later, but first, the good stuff. Goldfinger is full of awesome elements. So many of the film’s components have become classic in Bond lore. Goldfinger himself is one of the series most well-regarded villains, and my second favourite. He’s not an equal to Bond, but he’s able to one up Bond on several occasions  Pussy Galore is also one of the most iconic Bond girls, not just because of the character, but because of the name. Though the Bond series had already used innuendo, Pussy Galore took things to a whole new level. The film is also jam packed with memorable scenes. From the pre credits scene, to Shirley Bassey belting out the theme song, to the gold paint, to golf between Bond and Goldfinger, to the amazing car chases, to the laser, to the climax. Goldfinger is almost bleeding with greatness. And yet despite saying all that, it’s still only third. Why? Well, because of the scene where Bond practically rapes Pussy Galore. That may sound shocking, but I’ll bet most fans know exactly what I’m talking about. The scene in the barn where Bond forces himself on Pussy. People can make some arguments, like that rape isn’t what the filmmakers intended, or that it was a different time, or that Bond’s actions were to save lives, but it doesn’t change the fact that the scene is more or less rape. I’ve always found it uncomfortable to watch and every time I see the film it gets worse. I’m not going to make a claim like the scene ruins the film, Goldfinger is still classic, but it certainly has an impact. I still love Goldfinger, but that scene is too problematic to ignore.

2. Casino Royale (2006)

In 1995, Martin Campbell revived James Bond with Goldeneye, and he did it again in 2006 with Casino Royale. Despite skepticism going into the film, audiences, critics, and fans were absolutely floored by Casino Royale. The film took Bond back to basics. Gone are the gadgets, over the top villains, silly humour, and sexually explicit names. Instead, Bond relies on his own ingenuity, the villain feels more realistic, the Bond girl extremely respectable, and while the film maintains a sense of humour, it is a lot more subtle and less “winking at the audience”. Daniel Craig knocks it out of the park in his freshman performance as Bond and instantly establishes himself as one of the best actors to carry a double 0 number. The film also explores Bond’s character and history better than any of the other films. In fact, the emotional core of the film is one of its biggest strengths. You genuinely care about Bond’s relationship with Vesper. Speaking of Vesper, in my opinion she’s the best Bond girl of all, in large part thanks to Eva Green’s performance. Casino Royale also features a great villain, and is loaded with awesome action and memorable moments. All around, it is one of the most well-crafted and consistent Bond films of all. Well acted, well written, and well directed, Casino Royale is an excellent film.

1. From Russia With Love (1963)

 Topping my list is Terrence Young’s 1963 film From Russia With Love. Why does it deserve to be number one? Well for starters, it has everything you could ever want in a James Bond film. Beautiful women, exotic locations, gadgets, action, memorable scenes, evil villains, and a great Bond. Not only does From Russia With Love have all these elements, but it excels in them. The Istanbul setting is used to great effect, the briefcase from Q is one of my favourite gadgets, the action scenes have the right balance of being grounded but also fantastical. The villains are all awesome, and Robert Shaw’s Red Grant is easily my favourite villain of the series. It’s also important not to underestimate the importance of Sean Connery who is awesome here. Having already played the role in Dr. No, Connery perfected his craft here, making Bond even more suave and likable than before. The only element that isn’t completely phenomenal is the Bond girl, Tatianna. But even she’s good, she just isn’t as great as everything else. So it has all the elements that make a great Bond film, but so do a lot of the films in the series, what sets From Russia With Love apart? The fact that not only is it a great Bond film, but it’s just a great film, period. The film functions extremely well as a straight cold war/spy thriller. Director Terrence Young and editor Peter Hunt create an atmosphere of constant tension. From Russia With Love manages to perfectly capture all the things you want from a Bond adventure while also being a great film in it’s own right. Of course, some would say that it isn’t the only Bond film that accomplishes this, that others are great films beyond being about James Bond. This is true, so I suppose I should reveal the ultimate reason why From Russia With Love tops my list. Simply because I can watch it everyday and never get bored. To me, From Russia With Love is one of the most re-watchable films of all time. I can put it on at anytime and be entertained. I’ve watched it several times and it’s never dipped in quality. I’d even say From Russia With Love is one of the best escapist films of all time, rivaling Raiders of the Lost Ark. Bottom line, every aspect of From Russia With Love works. To me, it is a perfect movie, and easily the best Bond film ever made.

 

And that concludes my Bond lists. I hope you enjoyed reading! Please, chime in with your thoughts. Is my list solid, or is it utter bullshit? Let me know in the comments!

Comments
  1. Its not utter bullshit but I don’t think Moonraker should be located at the bottom. It still has some entertaining moments.
    My bottom 4 (stand-outs):
    Die Another Day
    Quantum of Solace
    Diamonds are Forever
    The World is not Enough

    As for my top 5 rank it goes like this:
    1. License to Kill, my thoughts on it here: http://www.joelburman.com/2012/11/license-to-kill-and-why-i-effing-love-it/
    2. From Russia with Love, very solid and almost Hichcockian-esque, think North by Northwest
    3. Goldeneye, very impressive re-boot but also Brosnan’s only real good installment
    4. Goldfinger, classic in so many ways even-though it drags quite a bit toward the middle, agree about the rape scene but also the seduction that turns the finale feels contrived
    5. A View to a Kill, most people hate it but I find entertaining as hell. Though Tanya Roberts is by far the worst female in the franchise she is only there as the damsel in distress. Also points for the blimp in the finale and Walken massacring the mine workers. :)

    Otherwise really cool to read a total rank like this. In general I think you have Brosnan’s and Craig’s films a little to high. Also the final question remains where do you put Skyfall on it?

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      Can’t really argue with your bottom four, even though I like the majority of those films more than you. Props for having a great top five and an unconventional but deserving number one. A View to a Kill is a bit surprising though :P

      As for Skyfall, I haven’t seen it yet. I’m fascinated to see where it will land.

  2. A solid list. With 22 opportunities, we’re going to differ, certainly. I would drop OHMSS and For Your Eyes Only wayyyyyy down the list. Take everything you said about For Your Eyes Only and say the exact opposite, and thats how I feel about that one. Right down to Havelock, who I think is one of the worst. And of course, From Russia with love isnt as high for me, though its still (probably low) top ten.

    That said, with 22 movies, I’d have to say that 19 of them are right about right. I’d bump a few here or there, but generally I couldn’t argue much out of the placement of the majority of this list (the specific exceptions above excluded).

    Great job, PG! I’ll be doing my own list post Skyfall next week, so you’ll have plenty of chance to counter!

  3. r361n4 says:

    I’m very ashamed to say I’ve only seen about 6 of these, I need to change that soon. As of right now Craig is my favorite bond, but maybe that’s because I didn’t grow up with any of the others and I like him as more of a serious character. So excited for Skyfall!

  4. brikhaus says:

    Thanks for an entertaining read, PG. Obviously, with so many Bond fans, no two lists are going to be alike. At least we agree that From Russia with Love is the best Bond movie ever, and is unlikely to ever be dethroned.

  5. rochpikey says:

    Like previous comments suggest, there are so many combinations matching lists are few and far between. But two things I must point out that you and I agree about but many do not. I too found For Your Eyes only to be the best of Roger Moore movie – I got a lot of flack for that too. And second I also find License To Kill to be a very misunderstood installment and easily one of my top picks as well. Great write up! I just saw Skyfall so I have to right a review for that then I am going to do a post like this so it may take a day or two so definitely check out mine sometime next week.

    One last thing, I am tempted to include Never Say Never Again. I know it is not an official Bond movie but it has Sean Connery and I actually kind of enjoyed it even though many won’t even acknowledge it exists. Think I should include it or not?

  6. vinnieh says:

    Great list, FRWL is classic Bond.

  7. [...] Daniel over at his fine blog had the entire series ranked in early November with his article: PG Cooper: The James Bond Films Ranked. Our movie confederate, the shaken-not-stirred Fogs, published his shortly thereafter with The FMR [...]

  8. Nikki says:

    My husband and I want to watch all of these, but the early ones all have PG ratings. I was wondering if you would please give me a modern rating for the early films so I can have an idea on how appropriate they’d be for me (I’m pretty conservative) as well as younger family members? I would appreciate it so much. In other words – in general, do you think they are all about PG-13 or are the earlier ones more like R rated due to adult scenes? Or if each movie is different? Thank you so much! Loved the review.

    • PG Cooper says:

      PG-13 seems about right. There are action and sex scenes, but most are very tame, particularly by today’s standards. Really the most offensive aspects of the film come from dated elements like how women are treated at certain points. Still, most scenes are not very graphic and I imagine a lot of people would even consider the early Bond films quaint.

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