Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ask JKM a Question: Rank all the 007 Movies and Choose the Next Bond?

Great friend and regular reader SGB writes a follow-up to the question I answered on Monday of this week:

“Hi John,

I thoroughly enjoyed your "How would you rank the Bond movies by actor" post and agree with it with the exception of Moonraker only because I am fond of the extensive use of the NASA Space Shuttle Orbiters a.k.a. Moonrakers. 

I do agree that it was not a reality-grounded Bond film and thus the script was weaker.  At the end of the The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) it stated in the credits the next Bond film was to be For Your Eyes Only so we know Moonraker was made abruptly to exploit the success of Star Wars (1977). 

My challenge is in two questions:

1-Rank all the Bond movies mixed together from best to worst from Dr. No to SPECTRE
2-If Daniel Craig departs the Bond role, then which actors make your top ten list to be the next OO7 ?

Thank you.

SGB, those are two great challenges, for certain.  Thank you for posing the question.   

And by the way, I agree with you about Moonraker (1979). I enjoy it as a post-Star Wars fantasy, but not as a James Bond film if that makes any sense at all.  I also loved seeing those shuttles launch, dock, and carry troops into space.

So, my Bond movie rankings, top to bottom, eh? I will, but with the understanding that some of the titles in the middle of the pack may move up or down, based on re-watch, or my mood.

All right, here goes:

The Great:

1. From Russia with Love (1963): Greatest fight in the series (Train Car); greatest soldier villain (Red Grant), and Sean Connery at his most charming/fit.

2. Goldfinger (1964): Greatest villain (Auric Goldfinger), greatest car (Aston Martin), great pre-title sequence prototype, great car (Aston Martin with ejector seat!), great sacrificial lambs (Jill and Tilly Masterson), and greatest overall leitmotif or organizing principle (gold).

3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): The most human Bond film. The first “re-grounding” effort in the saga, and one that considers Bond as a person, not just an agent.  Greatest Bond Girl Ever: Diana Rigg’s Tracy Bond. Greatest ending in the series, too.

4. Casino Royale (2006): Another great “re-grounding” effort, after the ludicrous Die Another Day (2002) gives us the most physically-fit, believable Bond in Daniel Craig, and offers a solid villain (Mads Mikkelsen) and great Bond Girl, to rival Tracy: Eva Green’s Vesper. In a way, a great “origin story,” and in the 20-something other films, we’ve never really had that.

5. Licence to Kill (1989): Timothy Dalton’s final film was only twenty-five years ahead of its time, giving us a bloody, serious, tortured Bond on a mission of vengeance. Features one of the franchise’s all-time great villains, the quasi-Shakespearean Sanchez (Robert Davi), and a remarkable action scene involving trucks on a winding highway.

6. For Your Eyes Only (1981): The Bond re-grounding film -- following the excesses of Moonraker (1979) -- that proved Roger Moore can be a great James Bond. The film eschews fantasy, and shows how resourceful Bond can be. The car chase with the junky old Citroen proves it’s not the car mode itself that matters, it’s the man behind the wheel. The film also features the most suspenseful action scene in all the canon, with Moore’s 007 scaling a sheer mountainside as villains attempt to send him plummeting to his doom. That scene is absolutely nail-baiting.

The Good:

7. Skyfall (2012): Who knew Bond had a Mommy Complex? This film, in keeping with the Craig Era, gives us more insight into the creation of Bond’s world, adding flesh to the bones of Moneypenny, Q, and even the new M.

8. Dr. No (1962): The first Bond film, and the one to set the tone/style for the series.  Features a great villain, an amazing Bond girl  (Ursula Andress), and made Sean Connery a star.

9. The Living Daylights (1987): Another re-grounding film (this time after A View to a Kill), giving us a younger, more vigorous Bond in Timothy Dalton. The film speaks meaningfully to then current events (the Reagan Administrations’ shadowy arms deal with the Iranians), and gives the audience the most human, flawed 007 since Lazenby’s in 1969.

10. Never Say Never Again (1983): Overall, this one gets high marks from me because the film acknowledges that Bond (Sean Connery) has aged, and must now rely on his wits and cunning. The film’s villains are of the 1980s “push button” age, playing video games and remotely detonating bombs, but Bond is a moving human target, relying on his instincts and physicality.  Great antagonists here, too.

11. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): A veritable remake of You Only Live Twice (1967), only with nuclear submarines instead of rockets. But this movie features a great Bond car (the Lotus Esprit) and the finest pre-title sequence of the saga, with Moore’s Bond skiing off a mountainside and deploying a parachute.

12. Live and Let Die (1973): This Bond, the first starring Roger Moore, apes the Blaxploitation movie trend of the time period, but still holds together well.  Features the best title song of the franchise, and one of the finest Bond girls, Jane Seymour’s Solitaire.  The presence of Baron Samedi – Death Himself – also adds a layer of visual and thematic artistry to the affair.

13. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Brosnan’s best Bond; a rip-roaring social critique of the 24-hour news cycle, and the rise of cable news at the turn of last century. Michelle Yeoh is a fantastic ally for Bond, and Brosnan seems especially committed to the proceedings, notably in his scenes with (sacrificial lamb) Teri Hatcher.

14. Goldeneye (1995): After the ahead-of-its-time Licence to Kill, Pierce Brosnan’s first outing is a perfectly entertaining -- and perfectly bland -- re-establishment of the series’ spectacular side.  Unlike other re-grounding Bond films, this one is all about re-establishing the series’ “big,” outrageous moments. One huge downside is the funeral dirge-like soundtrack, which casts a pall over what should be a fun, buoyant, Bond film.

The Fair:

15. Quantum of Solace (2008): Craig’s sophomore outing in the 007 role is best enjoyed as the second half of Casino Royale (2006). On that basis – as well as its pastiche-style recycling of classic Bond images (girl in oil; girl in gold; Quantum = SPECTRE) -- the film is worth revisiting.

16. Thunderball (1965): This Bond film is over-long, edited poorly, and features one of the dullest villains ever: Largo. By this time, it’s also clear that Sean Connery is also getting bored in the role of 007. This is the “tipping” Bond in his era, the film that starts the descent towards utter crap (see: Diamonds are Forever.)  The fight scenes lose their effectiveness too, by the over-use of fast-motion editing to make them seem more pacey.

17. You Only Live Twice (1967): Features a great villain (Donald Pleasence), a great gadget (Little Nellie), and a great villain headquarters (inside a volcano), but also feels bloated, and is weighted down by Connery’s apparent disinterest in the whole enterprise. Also, there’s his terrible Japanese make-up…

18. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): Roger Moore’s second film is fun but pretty unmemorable, overall.  A low point in the film is the return of Live and Let Die’s bigoted Southern sheriff. A high point is Maude Adams.

19. Spectre (2015): After starting out with real flair (and remarkable cinematography), this (final?) Craig effort peters out quickly. A villain’s headquarters is shown briefly, and then literally exploded with one well-placed shot.  And the retcon of Blofeld’s back-story is ludicrous, cringe-inducing and wrong-headed on a near cosmic scale. The film’s most interesting female character is played by Monica Bellucci and she gets almost no screen time.  Craig is still impressive, however.

20. Octopussy (1983): Another disposable entry in the Moore Era. Not bad, but nothing special either (except for the pre-title sequence with the AcroStar mini-jet). Roger Moore looks old and disinterested, and the last thing the series needed at this juncture was to feature his 007 dressed as a circus clown.

21. The World is Not Enough (1999): Sophie Marceau is fantastic in this film as Bond’s lover/nemesis, but Denise Richards isn’t exactly cut out to be a nuclear physicist. More than Brosnan’s first two Bond films, this one feels like little more than re-shuffled elements (another boat chase, another ski chase, another submarine set-piece…).

Below Average:

21. Moonraker (1979): Pardon my schizophrenia. As a Star Wars kid I love this film without reservation.  As a Bond fan, this film is low-points of source, made so by the campy, tongue-in-cheek approach and every single scene featuring Jaws (Richard Kiel).  That said, I could watch this any day and be thoroughly entertained. Still,I could do without the pigeon doing a double-take, and the gondola-turned hover-craft.

22. A View to a Kill (1985): I should look as good as Roger Moore does in this filmwhen I’m his age. That said, he’s still way too old to be a convincing James Bond at this point.  The film is bloated and slow, and Tanya Robert’s Stacy Sutton is the most annoying Bond Girl of the series.  Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, and Duran Duran are all “fresh” ingredients in the franchise that nonetheless utterly fail to enliven this beached-whale of an epic.

23. Diamonds are Forever (1971): Terrible, awful, no-good effort that sees Connery’s retirement from the role until 1983. The film’s steadfast refusal to connect itself to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is insulting, as is Blofeld’s death scene.  Overlong and with a confusing plot.  The seventies lounge-lizard look hasn’t exactly aged well, either.

24. Die Another Day (2002): The first twenty or so minutes of this Bond film -- which see 007 (Pierce Brosnan) captured, tortured, and humiliated in North Korea -- are great; a fresh launching point for the saga. But then -- after a serious first act -- the film devolves rapidly into fantasy excess: ice palaces, invisible cars, power gloves, and Bond surfing CGI tsunamis. Excessive, stupid, and a sad end for Brosnan’s era.

Now, who are my choices to be the next 007?

I have to break that down into answers, actually.  

If the goal is to go with a non-traditional choice, as many fans and movie-goers seem to desire at this point, my top choice is Gillian Anderson, and second: Idris Elba. 

If we go the traditional route my top ten choices are (in order):

1.          Tom Hiddleston.

2.          Hugh Dancy

3.          Michael Fassbender

4.          Ewan McGregor

5.          Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

6.          Clive Owen

7.          Timothy Dalton (he looks fantastic, and has experience, right?)

8.          Tom Hardy

9.          Aiden Turner

10.        Gerard Butler


  1. John,

    Thank you for taking the time and thoroughly answering my questions. Your ranking of all Bond films are spot-on with my feelings and as I revisit these films my rankings do shift too, just a little. Your "Great" Bond films are truly the best of Bond and like a fine wine they do get even better with age.

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a great grounded Bond film with Lazenby and ,of course, Diana Rigg Since I was a boy in the '70s, I always loved her as Emma Peel in the original THE AVENGERS. Not to take anything away from Lazenby, but I always wished that Connery would have been in this film opposite Diana Rigg instead. Timothy Dalton's Licence to Kill and Daniel Craig's Casino Royale prove they could deliver as Bond like Sean Connery's OO7. Roger Moore's For Your Eyes Only got to follow up On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by visiting Bond's late wife's grave and finally killing Blofeld by dropping him from the helicopter. All Bond films grounded in reality.

    John you validate all your rankings and I do agree with them. Even the "Below Average" Bond films such as Moonraker belong there with the campy pigeon doing a double-take, and the gondola-turned hover-craft[extremely cringe worthy]. Like you, I am a Star Wars kid and a fan of the NASA Space Shuttle Orbiters, so I am a fan of this film, but not as a good OO7 film.

    Your choices for the next OO7 actor are valid and let's hope the producers take a proper look at all the potential Bond actors. Of your list, I like Idris Elba, Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Timothy Dalton and Tom Hardy.


  2. Since you discuss Never Say Never Again (which is generally seen as having only unofficial status at best) as a Bond film (albeit with my favorite of the Bond actors), do you have a ranking for the spoof version of Casino Royale, that did feature one of the many proposed "original" Bonds, the great (but definitely past his prime for super-spying) David Niven? :) You know, I've just thought of an "Ask JKM..."