There is no such thing as a perfect James Bond movie. Like diamonds, they all have their flaws, even the ones that sparkle brightest. And even though Bond himself may have changed over the years and the actors, the core remains remarkably untouched. He still drives an Aston Martin, still orders drinks shaken not stirred (sort of), and still introduces himself the same way he did when he first sauntered into U.S. theaters 43 years ago in Dr. No, last name first. ”The simple fact is, the character was pretty much fully formed from the start,” explains Mr. Bond himself, Daniel Craig. ”Sean Connery nailed it from the beginning. Bond’s single-mindedness. His toughness. His ruthlessness. He wasn’t infallible, but he always knew the answer, always knew exactly what to do in any situation. And he always knew how to wear a suit.”
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21. The World Is Not Enough
Ranking the Bond films: The World Is Not Enough
Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Robert Carlyle as a terrorist impervious to pain. A plot so convoluted even Pierce Brosnan has admitted to being mystified. Not even Blofeld could do more damage to 007’s fans.
20. Licence To Kill
Ranking the Bond films: Licence To Kill
Timothy Dalton’s second assignment, this time fighting drug lords in South America. Not even Benicio Del Toro in an early role as a henchman is enough to pep up the action. And what’s up with that Wayne Newton cameo?
Ranking the Bond films: Octopussy
The movie that literally turned 007 into a clown. Worst disguise ever.
18. The Man With the Golden Gun
Ranking the Bond films: The Man With the Golden Gun
The plot is almost as puny as the sidekick: Bond must battle an infamous hitman (Christopher Lee as Scaramanga) and his little-person pal (Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack) to recover a solar-powered secret weapon. The thrills are equally small.
17. The Living Daylights
Ranking the Bond films: The Living Daylights
Bland, James Bland. Granted, Timothy Dalton wasn’t well served by his material — a script that made 007 more PC and even (gasp!) monogamous — but still. The actor had double-zero charisma in the role.
16. A View to a Kill
Ranking the Bond films: A View to a Kill
Roger Moore’s last Bond outing, and none too soon (he was 57 at the time). A good cast — Christopher Walken as an evil computer wizard and Grace Jones as his sidekick, May Day — but otherwise a feeble attempt to cash in on the technology boom.
15. Tomorrow Never Dies
Ranking the Bond films: Tomorrow Never Dies
Michelle Yeoh as a butt-kicking Chinese spy was a nice touch, but Jonathan Pryce (as a Rupert Murdoch-like villain trying to start World War III) chewed up more scenery than even Jaws could chomp. And note to the producers: If you’re going to put Teri Hatcher in a movie, don’t kill her off in the first hour.
Ranking the Bond films: Moonraker
Bond’s answer to Star Wars, featuring a space shuttle battle sequence. By far the campiest of all 007 movies (even Jaws falls in love!), it also suffers from one of the worst theme songs (not even Shirley Bassey’s vocals could give it zing).
13. Die Another Day
Ranking the Bond films: Die Another Day
Totally incomprehensible story — something about conflict diamonds and a giant laser in outer space — but it has one thing going for it: Halle Berry. In fact, for a while there was even talk of giving her character, Jinx, a spin-off franchise of her own. The most preposterous Bond gadget of all time: that ridiculous invisible car.
12. Diamonds Are Forever
Ranking the Bond films: Diamonds Are Forever
The extra weight Sean Connery is carrying comes in handy during that car chase in Vegas (when he tilts his Mustang on two wheels), but it’s clear he has outgrown the character. Only 41 when this was released, Connery doesn’t look a day over 55.
11. For Your Eyes Only
Ranking the Bond films: For Your Eyes Only
Roger Moore’s most serious Bond outing — the plot revolves around nothing fancier than the recovery of a code machine — but it packs a few thrills. Like that yellow subcompact chase scene and harrowing cliff-climbing sequence. The undercover parrot is neat too.
10. The Spy Who Loved Me
Ranking the Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me
You Only Live Twice with submarines instead of spaceships. But it has one of Moore’s best openers — skiing off a cliff, popping a Union Jack parachute — and introduces one of the series’ most beloved sidekicks, the orthodontically amazing Jaws.
9. From Russia With Love
Ranking the Bond films: From Russia With Love
A super opening sequence (Bond getting garroted in a topiary), an unforgettable baddie (Rosa Klebb, with her poison-tipped shoes), and some truly exotic locations (the sewers of Istanbul). But the pacing is sometimes slower than that train trip Bond takes in the third act.
Ranking the Bond films: GoldenEye
For Pierce Brosnan’s first turn as 007, the franchise went back to basics. Gambling in Monte Carlo. The return of Bond’s DB5. A plot that almost makes sense (something about destroying Britain’s economic infrastructure with a space-based pulse magnet weapon). By far the best, most comprehensible of the Brosnan Bonds.
7. Dr. No
Ranking the Bond films: Dr. No
Bond’s first foray onto the screen was his most modest, in a movie costing less than a million dollars to make. His character is still rough around the edges — ”Just a stupid policeman,” the butter-clawed villain calls him — but the stripped-down look sure worked for Ursula Andress. And Monty Norman’s zippy theme music is awesome in almost every scene.
6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Ranking the Bond films: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The movie that nearly proved there wasn’t life after Connery. But watch it again: George Lazenby isn’t that bad (for that bad, see Timothy Dalton). It’s also the only Bond movie with an actual love story — as a central part of the plot, no less — with Diana Rigg breaking 007’s heart.
5. Casino Royale
Ranking the Bond movies: ”Casino Royale”
Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to conceive of all the griping that came from 007 aficionados way back when, calling Daniel Craig a nobody and ”James Bland” and so on — not after this edgy, sleek, sexy reimagining, which, thanks largely to the new man in the tuxedo, put a fresh face on what had become a tired franchise. To paraphrase the film’s theme song, there’s no doubt: Now we know his name.
Ranking the Bond films: Thunderball
Such a catchy plot — the terrorist organization SPECTRE holds atomic weapons for ransom — it’s been copied and spoofed for 40 years (see Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery). The underwater battle sequences don’t seem quite as spectacular as they once did (impressive enough back then to win a special-effects Oscar), but Bond in the Bahamas remains hard to beat and that flying jetpack is still one of 007’s suavest exits.
3. Live and Let Die
Ranking the Bond films: Live and Let Die
The movie that proved there would be life after Sean Connery. Roger Moore slipped into 007’s tuxedo so comfortably, he was able to keep the vodka martinis flowing over two decades. But never with more aplomb than in this first turn. Ignore the uncomfortable racial undertones (the movie was supposed to be Bond’s answer to Shaft) and savor some of the niftiest gadgets (a bullet-deflecting, chainsaw wristwatch) and cleverest action beats (Bond hopscotching through an alligator pond) of the entire series.
2. You Only Live Twice
Ranking the Bond films: You Only Live Twice
It goes to the top of the list if only for that hollowed-out volcano, Blofeld’s best lair ever. In fact, every stop in this slickest of Bond flicks — from exotic Japanese islands to M’s submarine office — pushes the series to the outer edge of coolness without once slipping too far into camp (except maybe those cheesy space-capsule effects).
Ranking the Bond films: Goldfinger
The Aston Martin blowing its top. The gold-plated girl. The golf caddie with the lethal bowler. You don’t get much cooler than that in the entire 007 oeuvre. It’s only the third film, but it’s packed with some of the most iconic moments (like Bond’s near bris by laser beam) and quotable lines (”No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”) in the whole franchise. An international sensation at the time of its release, Goldfinger helped launch the modern tie-in industry with toys like 007 board games and model DB5s. Of course, nowadays those Oddjob action figures are worth their weight in precious metal — but the picture is as priceless as ever.