Whenever a new James Bond movie hits theaters, it’s an opportunity to bring up one of the greatest questions in the history of popular cinema: Which film about the dapper British superspy is the very best film. Which leads to a natural follow-up question: Which one is the worst? I grew up in a solidly pro-Connery household, and my personal favorite is the film that initially ended Connery’s run with the character: You Only Live Twice. After starting off with one of the series’ best openings (Bond gets killed!) and my personal favorite Bond theme song (sung by Nancy Sinatra and recently sampled to great effect on Mad Men), Twice turns into the adventure every 12-year-old boy dreams of taking. There’s the fake-lake missile silo, and a helicopter fight, and freaking ninjas. Even more than most of Connery’s films, Twice is ludicrously un-PC, but it does feature one of Bond’s best sidekicks: Tiger Tanaka. Conversely, my pick for worst would be The World is Not Enough. (Denise Richards is the best thing about that movie. And she’s terrible.)
I threw the question out to my fellow Bond-obsessed staffers: What’s your fave and least-fave? Here are the responses. Some of them may surprise you. Some disagreements may ensue. Some friendships might be ruined.
Tara Fowler: I will defend Timothy Dalton! He’s my second favorite Bond (after Connery, obviously.) Licence to Kill: Bond goes rogue to avenge an attack on his BFFL Felix Leiter in Dalton’s second and final outing as 007. Drugs, sharks, and a bigger role for Desmond Llewelyn’s Q all make Licence to Kill one of the best entries in the Bond franchise, but it’s Dalton’s performance that’s the real standout. Sure, he gets a lot of flack for being “dark,” but the man was just ahead of his time. Daniel Craig, you don’t know how good you have it!
Martin Schwartz: Not in the official catalog, but Never Say Never Again is Connery taking the helm again. More than that, it has Kim Basinger. But most of all, it has Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush. Of all the Bond villains in any Bond movie ever, she takes the most joy in her work. She follows the rules of “Do what you want and the money will follow” so well. Morals be damned.
Dennis Huynh: BEST: Casino Royale. Kicked-off objectifying male bodies to the delight and confusion of women, gays, and the cast of the Jersey Shore. WORST: The World is Not Enough. This movie is so heinous. If Christmas only comes once a year, I’m converting.
Jeff Labrecque: The world of James Bond has always been delightfully ridiculous, but Goldfinger was masterful in making gold-plated naked ladies, lethal bowler caps, and a laser-beam bris all feel like an organic part of 007’s universe. A huge blockbuster — only Thunderball was bigger for its time — it also shaped the franchise more than any other Bond film, introducing the iconic pre-credit sequence, Bond’s beloved Aston Martin DB5, and an endless fascination with Q’s gadgets. Whenever a new Bond film arrives, the measuring stick remains Goldfinger, Sean Connery’s finest.
Kyle Anderson: BEST: A View to a Kill. Easily the best of the Roger Moore films (though Octopussy is certainly up there as well). Also features the best non-brassy-lady Bond theme in Duran Duran’s hallucinogenic title track. Oh, and also, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN!
WORST: Never Say Never Again. Okay, I know it’s not necessarily canonical, but man, that whole “health club” sequence at the beginning is the most ridiculous, interminable hour of my life. Also, this was a remake of Thunderball, which isn’t the best story to begin with (though the original gets a nod because its theme song was by Tom Jones; the theme to Never Say Never Again was performed by Lani Hall. Who’s Lani Hall, you ask? EXACTLY.)
Paul Dovell: You Only Live Twice is my favorite — and I’d add that ultralight helicopter battle is awesome, too.
James Hibberd: One title, often praised, that’s rather awful is Diamonds are Forever. Great title. Had Connery (in his last “official” Bond role). But it’s nearly as campy as Moonraker, and has one of the most annoying Bond girls of all time — the screechy diamond-lover Tiffany Case (who is, I think, the series’ first attempt at an American Bond girl). Also: Possibly the lamest chase scene ever — a “moon buggy.” Never has poor Connery been more emasculated than when driving this. It’s the anti-Aston Martin. And speaking of un-PC, those stereotypical ’70s-gay-sinister assassins Wint and Kidd haven’t aged well either. If you’re going to put Bond in Vegas for nearly an entire movie, surely you can find cooler settings than Circus Circus.
One title, often slammed, that holds up surprisingly well is For Your Eyes Only. After the ridiculous Moonraker, the producers did a more serious back-to-basics take on Bond and the result is arguably Roger Moore’s second-best effort behind The Spy Who Loved Me. Gorgeous locations in Greece and the Bahamas, an awesome theme song, a rather suspenseful rock climbing sequences. Plus it has that great moment (supposedly protested by Moore) where Bond kills a henchman in cold blood by kicking his car off the cliff.
Hillary Busis: Can I nominate Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery? [Editor’s note: Yes.]
Now it’s your turn, readers: What’s your favorite Bond movie? What’s your least favorite Bond movie? Which one will you defend to your dying day? Am I the only one who thinks Licence to Kill is the most important movie of the 1980s? Don’t answer that!
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