Welcome to another addition of Top Ten Tuesday which I run in conjunction with The Artsy Reader Girl. This is actually my second Top Ten Tuesday of the week, but I only just saw the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and it kind of inspired me. To that end, I thought I would take this opportunity to rank all 25 of the official (Eon) James Bond films in order from my least favourite to absolute favourite. This is a bit of a continuation of some recent lists where I have ranked some of my other favourite film franchises (including Star Wars, MCU and DC Comics films), and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
I have long been a major fan of the James Bond franchise of films as my brother and I really enjoyed them when we were young. Something about the awesome combination of action, over-the-top characters, incredible gadgets and elaborate scenarios really appealed to us (lets face it, we were teenage boys), and we had an absolute blast watching and re-watching them again and again. This love of the franchise has continued well into the present and they remain some of my absolute favourite movies. However, not all James Bond films are created equal.
After some major consideration (and multiple changes), I was eventually able to settle on a ranking, which I think reflects my opinions about this franchise. This list is based on my personal preferences, and I have taken several factors into consideration, including overall quality, impact, creativity, my personal nostalgia, and how well it has stood the test of time. I might put a little bit of preference towards some of the Pierce Brosnan films, as he was my favourite Bond growing up, but overall I think that this is a fair assessment of all 25 films. I have also excluded the two unofficial films, Never Say Never Again and the comedic Casino Royale, which are frankly terrible. Let us see where each of these brilliant spy masterpieces ended up.
List (ranked by descending order):
25. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
There has to be a bottom to this list, and in this case it is the unfortunate On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Featuring the only Australian James Bond, George Lazenby (which makes this a little harder to say), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a pretty terrible film, especially compared to the rest of the franchise. Not only does Lazenby do a poor imitation of Connery’s Bond rather than doing his own thing, but the story is also extremely silly. I generally skip over it every time I do a big James Bond rewatch. Still, the impacts of this film are felt to this day, especially as it features the death of Bond’s first wife, and is the origin of the line “We have all the time in the world”, which was used to such great effect in No Time to Die. Also, my wife gives this one points for featuring Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley.
24. A View to a Kill (1985)
There is a pretty big gap in quality between On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the rest of the entries on this list, but my next least favourite is probably the last Roger Moore film, A View to a Kill. While this film has some great elements, especially Christopher Walken as the villain, it was a bit of a low point in the franchise. While still giving a game performance, Moore was nearly 60 in this film, and it shows. I also think the viewers’ tolerance for the more zany aspects of the Moore films kind of wanes at this point, making it a bit harder to watch. As such, I have to chuck it towards the bottom of this list, although it is still a fun and compelling entry in this series.
23. Live and Let Die (1973)
From the last Roger Moore film to the very first. Live and Let Die is an interesting entry in this franchise, although it really is not one of my favourite due to its mediocre storyline, the uninspired supporting cast, and the somewhat problematic portrayal of the antagonists. Still, this movie does have some high points, notably that banger of a title song by Paul and Linda McCartney, and the fun scene with the crocodiles (with subsequent boat chase). A great introduction to Moore as the character, but not one of his strongest films.
22. Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Sean Connery’s movies are rightly lauded as classics, but out of all of them, Diamonds are Forever is probably my least favourite. Forced to bring back Connery after Lazenby’s sudden departure, the film faced some major issues, namely a resentful lead actor. Still, this ended up being a fun and clever film that harkened back to the original classics. Charles Gray plays a great Blofeld, and you have to love the fun tandem of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd. While I did dislike the way that Bond pretty much got over his dear, departed wife in five seconds flat, this film ends the initial SPECTRE storyline rather well. Not the best film, but pretty watchable, and it lives on in the original Austin Powers film which parodied many elements from it.
21. Spectre (2015)
The first Daniel Craig film to feature on this list is the very disappointing Spectre. While an okay film, Spectre was unable to live up to its highly regarded predecessor, Skyfall, and proved to be a bit of a let-down. While Craig was amazing and the film had its excellent recurring cast firmly in place (Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris), the rest of the characters were not great. I was severely disappointed by Christoph Waltz as Blofeld, Dave Bautista’s Mr Hinx was killed too early and Léa Seydoux was only an okay Bond Girl here. I also rather disliked its ending that saw Blofeld captured and Bond run off with a girl for a happy future. Still, it had some great scenes, especially that opening sequence with the continuous shot, as well as that fun car chase that was very reminiscent of the classic films. I just wish it had lived up to some of the other Craig films.
20. Octopussy (1983)
Next on this list, we have peak Roger Moore with the classic Octopussy. This fun film takes the audience on a great adventure throughout India as Bond attempts to stop a nuclear attack. This film has many enjoyable elements, from the tense bomb defusing scene, the interesting supporting cast, that cool opening scene with the mini-jet plan, and the final battle that sees Bond assist a group of female circus performers assault a fortress. While not my favourite Moore film, it is a great addition to the franchise that I have enjoyed multiple times.
19. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Another classic film from Connery’s era, You Only Live Twice is interesting entry in the franchise that has its ups and downs. I quite like the fun story, the over-the-top action, the inclusion of some fun gadgets (that helicopter), the first encounter with Blofeld, and the massive attack on the volcano lair. However, it is very hard to look past the extremely inappropriate portrayals of Japanese people in this film, as the creators succeed in hitting every stereotype they could. Add in that terrible “disguise” for Connery, and it makes You Only Live Twice one of the most problematic James Bond films out there. Still, it is an exciting classic; just try not to think too hard about it.
18. Moonraker (1979)
To me, nothing better represents the absurdity of the Roger Moore era than Moonraker. This film is an absolute masterpiece in over-the-top spy stuff, with larger-than-life characters, complex plots, and futuristic space travel. The entire space eugenics storyline is just bonkers, especially as it leads up to an elaborate battle in space between laser-wielding bad guys and US Marines. Add in the return of Richard Kiel’s Jaws, and you have yourself an absolutely insane film that should not work at all, but, it does! Moonraker is easily one of the most entertaining James Bond films of all time, as long as you can overlook its many quirks and just have fun with it.
17. From Russia with Love (1963)
Hot off the success of the first film From Russia with Love sends Bond on a covert action to Istanbul. What follows is a brilliant old-school spy film that experiments with some classic Bond elements, such as gadgets and the recurring villains SPECTRE. While nominally a Cold War thriller, the creators throw in the machinations of the villainous organisation to see Bond surrounded by enemies on all fronts while forced to protect a valuable asset. This has a lot of great elements to it, including some impressive villains and a clever story. One of the more underrated James Bond films; it is a brilliant classic that I have a lot of fun watching.
16. Die Another Day (2002)
As I mentioned above, the Pierce Brosnan films are some of my absolute favourite entries in the James Bond franchise. However, Die Another Day is probably the worst of them, despite its all-star cast and great use of nostalgia. While the film has a very promising start, with Bond captured by North Korea and tortured for years, the plot starts to get more and more ridiculous the further you get in, with face-changing technology, giant sun-wielding satellites, and cybernetic suits. The creative team really focused more on action and CGI than substance, and it results in some stupid sequences, including Bond wind-surfing a tidal wave. However, I also love many elements about this film, from the two amazing Bond Girls, Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike, the multiple homages to the previous films (Die Another Day was the 20th overall entry in the franchise), Madonna’s theme song, and that brilliant car chase sequence on the ice that saw two gadget-laden cars face off. While this was an explosive way to end Brosnan’s tenure, it could have been better. Still, it is extremely watchable and jammed full of exciting scenes that still mostly hold up.
15. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Next, we have the second Daniel Craig James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. Quantum of Solace is a solid James Bond movie that maintains the gritty feel established in Casino Royale while also continuing several great storylines from it. Craig, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright continue to shine, and there are some other impressive performances, including Olga Kurylenko and a slimy David Harbour. I also deeply appreciated the continuation from Casino Royale, especially when it comes to Bond’s unresolved grief for Vesper. However, Quantum of Solace is a somewhat unmemorable film, mainly because it sits between two of the best James Bond movies of all time. While some story elements do come up in later entries like Spectre, you can easily skip this film and still enjoy the rest of the interconnected Daniel Craig movies without missing anything. I also found the villains to be pretty underwhelming, except Jesper Christensen’s Mr White, who barely appears after his initial appearance. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great moments, including the opening sequence, the interrogation in Spain, and the opera sequence, but it really could have been so much more.
14. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
At number 14 we have the underrated Roger Moore classic, For Your Eyes Only. This fun entry in the franchise contains a taught and clever story that harkens back to the classic spy elements of its predecessors, rather than the over-the-top elements of the rest of Moore’s run. This film is brilliant, with a fantastic espionage storyline that sees Bond try and recover a stolen piece of military hardware. Set throughout Europe, this film makes great use of multiple settings, including that awesome mountaintop monastery, and has one of the more inventive car chases. For Your Eyes Only doesn’t always get the love and attention it deserves.
13. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Next up we have The Spy Who Loved Me, the exciting and slightly crazy James Bond film that really helped to set the tone for all of Moore’s subsequent entries. Featuring an over-the-top villain, an underwater base, and Bond’s female Russian counterpart, The Spy Who Loved Me is an absolute classic, with some of the most iconic Bond moments and characters. Not only do you have the brilliant underwater car sequence, but this film also sees the introduction of Jaws, one of the best henchmen ever. This film has so much fun stuff going on within it, and is an absolute must-watch for all James Bond fans.
12. The World is Not Enough (1999)
Another great Pierce Brosnan Bond film, The World is Not Enough is an awesome entry and it was actually the first James Bond film I ever saw at the cinemas. Brosnan continues to shine as the suavest Bond, with some fantastic and defining moments, including an impressive opening sequence in the Thames. While I love Brosnan here, he is let down by some of his co-stars, especially Denise Richards, who is easily the worst Bond Girl of all time (oh the Christmas puns). That being said, Judi Dench is once again brilliant, and Robbie Coltrane has some great moments reprising Valentine Zukovsky. This film also notable for containing the last appearance of Desmond Llewwlyn’s Q, whose retirement has some extreme emotional potency after the actor’s premature death. While not one of Brosnan’s best efforts, this is still an amazing film, and there is a lot to love about it
11. No Time to Die (2021)
The latest James Bond film and the final one to feature Daniel Craig in the titular role, No Time to Die was a long time coming. This film has a brilliant story that seeks to bring together all the preceding films and wrap them up properly after the disappointing outing that was Spectre. I found myself getting really drawn into the very clever story of No Time to Die, which made use of some outstanding action sequences and interesting call-backs to Craig’s prior films. While the antagonist is nothing to write home about, the rest of the cast is brilliant, especially Craig, whose brooding veteran spy is perfectly portrayed. Léa Seydoux is a vastly better character in her second outing, Jeffrey Wright gets a fitting final outing as Felix Leiter, Lashana Lynch is an interesting new 007, and I found Ana de Armas’s Paloma to be a lot of fun. This film all leads up to a surprising and memorable conclusion, which I rather liked, although I understand some established fans were less keen. An exceptional film that redeems the franchise after Spectre, the next Bond has some big shoes to fill after Craig’s final performance.
10. Thunderball (1965)
One of the all-time classic Connery performances, this fourth James Bond film is a compelling and exciting tale of espionage and villainy in the Bahamas. Featuring some outstanding sequences, including a massive underwater battle between henchmen and the Navy, this is a brilliant film and one of the better Connery performances. A favourite of all James Bond fans, it is a shame its legacy has been tarnished by the infamous Never Say Never Again.
9. Dr. No (1962)
The original James Bond film Dr. No is a masterpiece that expertly introduces the character and the villainous figures he fights. Connery shines here as Bond, playing the character perfectly and giving the spy all the dignity and intensity it required. While it does get more outrageous towards the end, especially with its no-handed villain, for the most part Dr. No comes across as a hard-nosed spy thriller, and I think they got the right blend of classic espionage and fun Bond elements. An excellent film that perfectly started this entire franchise.
8. Licence to Kill (1989)
I have always believed that the two Timothy Dalton films are some of the most underappreciated entries in the entire franchise. This is particularly true for his first film, Licence to Kill, which was way ahead of its time. Licence to Kill is a clever and intense film that sees Bond go rogue and engage on a revenge mission after his best friend is fed to a shark on his wedding day. This fantastic film has the sort of intense grittiness which would not become common in the James Bond films until the Daniel Craig era. Not only are several villains killed in some incredibly brutal ways, but the horrifying fates of Felix and his wife are surprisingly dark for this period of the franchise. While the audience of the time disliked this intense violence, I think it works from a more contemporary perspective and I really appreciated the way in which the creative team tried to modernise the franchise. This film has a brilliant cast to it, and I loved Dalton’s take on the titular character. Robert Davi serves as a sinister South American drug lord with a love of bloody revenge, and it was very satisfying to see him taken down. I also enjoyed Carey Lowell as a badass Bond Girl, especially after that fantastic introduction in the bar. Throw in a brilliant turn from Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, who shows up on vacation to help his wayward “nephew”, and a young Benicio del Toro as a deadly henchman, and this turned out to be a powerful and memorable entry in the franchise.
7. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Out of all of Roger Moore’s Bond films, my favourite has to be The Man with the Golden Gun. The Man with the Golden Gun is a brilliant outing that sees Bond take on the ruthless and talented assassin Francisco Scaramanga. Scaramanga is easily one of the best and most iconic antagonists ever featured in a Bond film, due to the charismatic portrayal by the late, great Christopher Lee. Lee, who was one of Fleming’s inspirations for James Bond thanks to his time in the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, brings some real style and depth to this villainous role, and he definitely comes across as a villain even more skilled than Bond. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast really cannot stand up in comparison. I am not a fan of Britt Ekland’s Mary Goodnight, Nick Nack is a problematic henchman, and why did they bring back Clifton Jame’s racist J. W. Pepper? A fun and exciting entry in the franchise, I loved this film and Lee remains as one of the best James Bond villains out there.
6. The Living Daylights (1987)
The other Dalton film that is extremely underrated is the 1987 action-packed thriller, The Living Daylights, which dials back the intense violence of Licence to Kill and attempts a more classic outing. This film sees Bond forced into a battle with the KGB by villainous forces, which eventually leads to a massive battle in Afghanistan. This awesome film never slows down and features an impressive supporting cast of characters. I love several of the fun sequences in this movie, from the fantastic car chase sequence in Russia, to the continuous adventures in Afghanistan, whose historical inclusion as the good guys is very interesting in light of contemporary events. I am also a big fan of that whistle-activated key finder gadget, which opened up many fun moments. I really wish that Dalton had been given more films to work with, although that would have affected the next entry on this list.
5. GoldenEye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan’s initial outing as Bond sets him against a dangerous foe, a rogue former 00 agent with a vendetta against England who manages to obtain a dangerous EMP space weapon. I have a lot of love for GoldenEye, and it is probably the entry I have watched the most over the years. Its plot is pretty perfect, making full use of being the first Bond film produced after the fall of the Soviet Union, and featuring a hacker-based story with some impressive scenes and great characters. Not only is Brosnan perfect as a smooth and exciting Bond, but Sean Bean is one of my favourite villains as Alec Trevelyan (006). Throw in great performances from Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming (“I am invincible!”), and Judi Dench as the new M, and you have one of the strongest casts out there. I love so much about this film, especially that fun tank chase through Moscow, and it perfectly revitalised the series after a long hiatus.
4. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
To my mind, Tomorrow Never Dies is easily one of the best and most entertaining James Bond films out there, and if this list were based purely on my nostalgic joy, it would easily be number one. Tomorrow Never Dies was the first Bond film I ever saw, and it sparked a lifetime of love and enjoyment that lasts until this day. This cool film features an intriguing tale of a crazed media baron who attempts to start a war between Britain and China in order to boost his ratings and get television access into China (it sounds silly, but we all know Rupert Murdoch has done worse). There is so much awesome things about this film, especially as it has one of the best opening sequences of all time: “What the hell is he doing?”, “His job!” The film takes a bit of a darker turn with the attack on the British frigate (that drill torpedo gave me nightmares), which forces Bond right into the middle of a deadly situation. The subsequent massive scenes, such as the hilarious remote control car chase, the motorcycle scene in Ho Chi Minh City, and the final assault on the stealth boat, are all well paced out and perfectly choreographed, and you are not short of action or fun here. Michelle Yeoh and Teri Hatcher shine as the Bond Girls (especially Yeoh), while Jonathan Pryce is a pretty funny and crazed villain. There is honestly not a single thing that I dislike about this film, and I will watch this without hesitation anytime it shows up on the TV.
3. Casino Royale (2006)
While many people had their doubts about Casino Royale before it was released, thanks to the combination of a blonde Bond and the film serving as a reboot of the franchise, it ended up being an absolute masterpiece that perfectly adapted the classic James Bond novel of the same name into an official Eon production. I deeply enjoyed the fresh new take, with a modern and dark look at espionage, with Bond a new agent who is already a little disturbed and a tad psychotic. Craig is incredible here, and I loved his brooding take on the character, which was so different from the classic portrayals. At the same time, Mads Mikkelsen is an outstanding villain as always, bringing a real sinisterness to the role, while not being too over-the-top. I also enjoyed Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, who proves to a real match to Bond in the female lead, while also leaving a lasting impression on the protagonist. Throw in excellent supporting performances from Giancarlo Giannini, Judi Dench and Jeffrey Wright, and this film perfectly introduced viewers to a new era of the franchise and easily silenced all doubters. Easily the best first-Bond film of all time, it set Craig up perfectly, and I loved how story elements from here would be reutilised in the rest of Craig’s outings.
2. Skyfall (2012)
In the penultimate spot, we have the 2012 epic, Skyfall. This epic Craig film sees Judi Dench’s M face the consequences of her past mistakes when a dangerous villain reappears. There are so many exceptional elements to Skyfall, including the amazing title song by Adele, the dark and clever story, and some exceptionally crafted sequences. Craig plays an even more damaged Bond in this film, forced to come out of a self-imposed retirement to save the day, while Javier Bardem shines as Rauol Silva, a terrifying villain. Judi Dench’s final outing is one of her best, and you really get a feel for the relationship she has formed with both Bond and the franchise. There are also some outstanding introductions to the new recurring cast of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw, whose performances helped to round this film out extremely well. I loved everything about this film, from the perfect opening sequence, to the fantastic siege of Bond’s childhood home, and I get a gut-punch every time I see that powerful final sequence with M. Pure excellence and the best of the modern James Bond films.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
While some of the more recent films are exceptional in a modern sense, I had to include the absolute classic Goldfinger in top position. The third film in the franchise, Goldfinger, is peak James Bond which still holds up to this day, introducing iconic elements that would be used for years to come (even in the latest film), and engaging audiences like never before. Featuring a brilliant plot that evolves from a simple investigation into gold smuggling to an assault on Fort Knox, this is a clever and perfectly paced narrative which has some extremely fun and clever highs, while also adding in gadgets and the outrageous characters we would all come to know and love. There are so many iconic elements to this film, including Harold Sakata’s incredible turn as Oddjob, the hilariously named Pussy Galore, the iconic Aston Martin DB5 car (with an ejector seat), to the massive action sequence at the end. It also features one of the best and most memorable exchanges in film history: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die”, which remains one of my all-time favourite quotes. An outstanding and epic film that perfectly captures everything great about the James Bond franchise. I think any future James Bond films will need to do something extremely special to have a hope of dislodging Goldfinger from the top of this list, although I really hope they try.
As you can see, I have put a lot of thought into this list, and I think this captures my feelings and opinions about this incredible franchise. I will plan come back to this list at some point in the future once some new James Bond films are released, although I may end up revaluating a few rankings. I cannot wait to see what the future of this awesome film series will hold, and I look forward to finding out who the new Bond will be (I would personally love Idris Elba). Let me know what you think about my choices in the comments below, and I will be interested to find out which James Bond film is your absolute favourite.