Happy James Bond week, everyone.
"Skyfall," the 23rd official James Bond film, will be in theaters on Friday — and "Bond 50," a 22-movie Blu-ray collection has just hit shelves. For serious 007 fans, these events mean just one thing: time to start debating which movie is best.
That's because the only thing a James Bond fan likes more than a James Bond movie is the chance to argue with other fans over which films are great, which films suck and which films shouldn't even be eligible for the list. (Hint: One of them is on our list!)
With that in mind, we thought we'd settle the debate once and for all by sharing the only opinion that really matters: ours. So rev up your Blu-ray players and get ready to argue, because here's our official ranking of all the James Bond movies.
23. "Moonraker" — Coming in dead last, to nobody's surprise, is this 1979 effort featuring Roger Moore. The word "effort" gives it a little too much credit, though, as nobody involved with this fiasco seemed to be trying very hard at all. A blatant attempt to cash in on the "Star Wars" craze, production on "Moonraker" was so rushed that they basically took the plot from the previous Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me," and set it in outer space. A complete stinker.
22. "Die Another Day" — We loved Pierce Brosnan as Bond, but after this terrible 2002 installment, it was clear that his time as 007 was up. That's what having CGI-overloaded action sequences — including the infamous invisible car — will do for a franchise traditionally grounded in some semblance of realism. The only highlight of the movie is Halle Berry paying tribute to Ursula Andress in "Dr. No" by wearing a hot bathing suit. That's cool. Dueling cars inside an ice palace, on the other hand? Save that crap for "G. I. Joe."
21. "Never Say Never Again" — Considered officially unofficial by most fans, 1983's "Never Say Never Again" brought Sean Connery back as Bond 12 full years after his previous entry, "Diamonds Are Forever." Two problems: Connery was in his mid-fifties and the film was an adaptation of "Thunderball," which Connery had already filmed nearly 20 years earlier. Fail. Produced by "Thunderball" co-writer Kevin McClory, who won a legal battle to retain the film's rights, "Never Say Never Again" was unsanctioned by anyone else involved with Bond. And for good reason.
20. "A View To A Kill" — This 1985 feature was the final go-round for Roger Moore, who was getting a bit long in the tooth. It's not very good, but it does have one major redeeming factor: Christopher Walken plays the bad guy. And man, does he go all-in with it, firing machine guns, dropping people out of airplanes and just being a giant jerk. Worth watching for Walken if nothing else, which you can kind of say about almost every film Walken has been in.
19. "Thunderball" — Considered by many to be a classic, the 1965 Connery effort "Thunderball" is indeed a great film, assuming you need a nap. That's because it's basically two hours and ten minutes of underwater footage from a lost Jacques Cousteau expedition. One highlight: 007 uses a cool jet pack. Unless you're really into fish, we suggest getting out your pillow before you turn this one on.
18. "Tomorrow Never Dies" — Pierce Brosnan's second turn as Bond didn't go quite as well as his first, though 1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" does have a couple of things going for it. And those things are Terri Hatcher and especially Michelle Yeoh, who plays the most bad ass Bond girl ever. On the other hand, the bad guy (the terminally unscary Jonathan Pryce) sails around inside a giant submarine that looks like a prototype for "Battleship." So close to being a decent movie.
17. "The Living Daylights" — Timothy Dalton gets kind of a short shrift from fans and it's too bad, because the main knock against him — that he's not very flashy — is the exact reason he was hired in the first place following Moore's descent into self-parody. "The Living Daylights" isn't great, but it's not a joke either, and that's what Bond needed in 1987. Highlight: 007's craziest chase scene ever, riding a cello down a snow-covered mountain.
16. "Diamonds Are Forever" — After quitting the franchise and briefly being replaced by George Lazenby, Connery returned one last time (or… kind of last) for 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever." The story and action aren't particularly interesting, but the movie is filled with bizarre quirks, like the ambiguously snarky assassin duo of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. It's not the best Bond film, but it's definitely among the most memorable.
15. "Quantum of Solace" — Daniel Craig's second foray into the world of 007 hit a few bumps in the road, starting with the title itself, which even etymologists are still puzzling over. The 2008 film has bigger issues, though, mainly the fact that halfway through the movie the main plot line is abandoned and never returned to. Craig and Bond girl Gemma Arterton deserve a more coherent story.
14. "You Only Live Twice" — If you've ever wondered what Sean Connery would look like in a kimono, well, that just means you haven't seen this 1967 installment, which features Bond heading to Japan. Highlights include a miniature helicopter and an evil secret headquarters inside a volcano. Oh, and a laser satellite set to blow up Earth. "Austin Powers" wouldn't have been possible without this film, which by itself is enough to recommend it.
13. "The Man with the Golden Gun" — Here's what you need to know about 1974's "The Man with the Golden Gun": It stars Christopher Lee (aka Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) as an assassin who has three nipples, a midget sidekick played by Herve Villechaize and a maze of funhouse mirrors in his apartment. Honestly, if that's not the most incredible thing you've ever heard, maybe movies just aren't for you.
12. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" — One of the most hotly debated films in the Bond oeuvre, 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" stars George Lazenby in his one and only appearance as Bond. Some fans can't stand him. Others point towards co-star Diana Rigg as the ultimate Bond girl; heck, her character even marries Bond before dying tragically in the most shocking moment in the entire series. Plus, at one point Bond escapes from Telly Savalas by riding down a mountainside bobsled run. Win.
11. "Live and Let Die" — Roger Moore took over the reins of the Bond franchise in 1973 and immediately made his mark by bringing the globe-trotting series to its most exotic location yet: New Orleans. Famous for its crazy boat-chase sequence, the blaxploitation-tinged "Live and Let Die" boasts the most famous theme song in Bond history (by Sir Paul McCartney, of course) and one of the most oddball casts, including Yaphet Kotto ("Alien") as a voodoo priest/drug lord and Jane Seymour as the Bond girl. Yes, "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" was a Bond girl.
10. "Octopussy" — By the time "Octopussy" came out in 1983, Roger Moore's Bond had developed a bit of a reputation for maybe being a little too tongue in cheek for everyone's taste, so those people probably weren't too thrilled to see 007 in a clown outfit or wearing a gorilla suit. We happen to love the way "Octopussy" embraces every ridiculous plot twist with gusto, including the title character, a beautiful thief who lives in a floating palace and oversees an octopus cult. Because why not? Movies are supposed to be fun, after all.
9. "The World is Not Enough" — Probably the most flawed film in the entire Bond series, 1999's "The World is Not Enough" comes this close (and we're holding our fingers really close together) to being a truly great movie. Bond shows real emotion in this one, as Brosnan turns in possibly his best performance. There's just one problem, and it's a big one: someone decided to make Denise Richard the Bond girl and then cast her as a nuclear physicist. Named Christmas. She's terrible, and it's a testament to how good the rest of the film is that this still ranks so high.
8. "License to Kill" — Another controversial film in the long annals of James Bond is Timothy Dalton's second and final turn as 007, 1989's "License to Kill." This one, you see, is less a spy thriller and more a hard-boiled revenge flick. When Bond's CIA buddy Felix is viciously attacked, Bond goes off the deep end and drops out of MI6 to pursue personal revenge. And he gets it in some of the most brutal sequences in Bond history. Bonus: A young Benicio Del Toro plays one of the bad guys.
7. "Dr. No" — The film that started it all, 1962's "Dr. No" is a bit tame by today's standards, particularly in its pacing. It's less action and more tension. But that slower pace allowed fans to really get to know Connery, who took a quantum leap to A-list superstardom with this role. And the movie does have its share of memorable moments, the most famous of which is Ursula Andress climbing out of the water in a white bikini. Still a classic.
6. "GoldenEye" — Six long years after Timothy Dalton's final go-round as Bond, 1995's "GoldenEye" introduced the world to Pierce Brosnan's take on 007. And frankly, the world loved it. Revamping the series for a modern world, "GoldenEye" features more action and a world-class bad guy in Sean Bean, who was Bond's erstwhile best friend and partner, 006. Plus, it spawned one of the best video games ever made. The fact that there is still a Bond franchise today is due in large part to the success of this film.
5. "Casino Royale" — Speaking of revitalizing the franchise, that duty fell to Daniel Craig in 2006 after four years of dormancy following Brosnan's poorly received final effort, "Die Another Day." Going back to the basics for a down and dirty prequel, Craig plays a Bond who is not yet the suave and sophisticated gent we know and love. Instead, he's a bruising and emotionally scarred force of nature. As a result, a whole new generation discovered and fell in love with Bond.
4. "The Spy Who Loved Me" — Unquestionably the best Bond film of its decade, 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me" grabs you right from its opening chase scene — an instantly iconic skiing sequence capped by a cliff-jumping parachute to safety — and never lets go. Moore does his finest acting of the series here, as he falls for an enemy agent whose lover he killed. That would be enough for any film, but "The Spy Who Loved Me" also introduces Bond's best villain ever, the metal-toothed man-mountain called Jaws. A great, great movie.
3. "Goldfinger" — 1964's "Goldfinger" has it all: a great villain who spouts memorable one-liners ("No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"), a cool plot (they're going to steal all the gold from Fort Knox!) and perhaps the best Bond girl ever (Honor Blackman's iconic Pussy Galore). It also features the most memorable death in the series, namely Jill Masterson (actress Shirley Eaton) being covered in gold paint. Considered by many fans to be the best Bond film ever.
2. "For Your Eyes Only" — Right from the 1981 film's opening sequence, which finds Moore's Bond laying flowers on his dead wife's grave, it's clear this film means business. And boy, does it, with a grim and vengeful Bond not only taking out arch-enemy Blofeld once and for all, but also helping a crossbow-wielding valkyrie avenge the murder of her parents. Oh, and then there's the part where they save the world from nuclear Armageddon by assaulting an amazing cliff-top fortress in the most awesome sequence in Bond history. This film deserves to be seen by everyone's eyes.
1. "From Russia with Love" — Everything is better on a train, especially romance and murder. That's just one of the takeaways from 1963's "From Russia with Love." In the second Bond film, Connery does his level best to aid a beautiful Soviet agent defect. Opposing him are the forces of the nefarious secret organization called SPECTRE, as well as their top agent, a deadly assassin played by the great Robert Shaw (Quint from "Jaws"). A damn near perfect espionage thriller.
(Originally published on Oct. 5, 2012)