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James Bond: Highs and Lows

If there’s anything 007 can do, it’s survive franchise missteps

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HIGH POINT
”Bond…James Bond”
Not the greatest 007 film — or even the best Sean Connery installment — but 1962’s Dr. No is where it all begins. The modern Hollywood action hero is born.

HIGH POINT
The Gold Standard
The best Bond movie, hands down. 1964’s Goldfinger features great villains (bowler-tossing Oddjob), feisty femmes fatales (Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore), and classic lines (”No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”); Shirley Eaton covered in gold paint doesn’t hurt either.

HIGH POINT
An Underrated 007
Aussie George Lazenby steps in for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And despite the haters, he’s surprisingly good as a more tortured, emotionally complex Bond.

HIGH POINT
The Tongue-in-Cheek Years
With a cocked eyebrow, a smirk, and an arsenal of saucy one-liners, Roger Moore is the ideal man for the caddish ’70s. But he also shows he can fend off even the nastiest Bond villains, like Richard Kiel’s Jaws in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me — arguably Moore’s best turn in the tux.

LOW POINT
Houston, We Have a Problem
In a lame attempt to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon, Moore’s 007 travels to outer space in 1979’s Moonraker (with Lois Chiles). The result: the worst Bond movie by a light-year. Truly an intergalactic turd.

LOW POINT
Grumpy Old Bond
After a 12-year hiatus, Connery returns for 1983’s unsanctioned dud Never Say Never Again. With a receding hairline and graying temples, he’s more creepy than cool romancing Kim Basinger.

LOW POINT
Broccoli in a Pickle
By the mid-’80s, the 007 franchise is looking lethargic. It’s up to series honcho Albert R. ”Cubby” Broccoli to reinvent and reenergize it. And the answer is…

LOW POINT
…Timothy Dalton!?
Dalton’s double-O debut in 1987’s The Living Daylights is colored by public fears about AIDS. This time the lady-killer is a politically correct, one-woman man (with Maryam d’Abo, below).

NEUTRAL
Brosnan Rides In
Following Dalton’s unceremonious exit after two mediocre films, Pierce Brosnan ushers Bond into the post-Cold War era with 1995’s GoldenEye . Things look promising. That is, until 2002’s Die Another Day, where fans wince at the most ludicrous Q-branch gizmo ever: a silly invisible car.

HIGH POINT
Craig Joins the Family Business
After Cubby Broccoli passes away in 1996, his daughter Barbara and stepson, Michael G. Wilson, officially take the reins. Their greatest triumph: hiring bare-knuckle Brit Daniel Craig to replace Brosnan.

HIGH POINT
Bond Is Reborn Again

Craig proves to be a 007 brute with both brains and box office brawn. His two Bond outings, 2006’s Casino Royale (in which he shares the screen with Eva Green) and 2008’s Quantum of Solace, combine to pull in more than a billion dollars worldwide.