An obsessive fan's guide to all 22 films in the 007 saga

By Chris Nashawaty and Christian Blauvelt
August 03, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Dr. No 1962
Box Office $16.1 million domestic/$59.6 million worldwide
DirectorTerence Young
Theme Song Performed By John Barry & Orchestra
Plot This is where it all begins, and where the formula for the 50-year spy saga is laid out: the shot-through-a-gun-barrel opening, composer Monty Norman’s slinky 007 theme music, etc. Sean Connery handles his introduction with the high-thread-count smoothness we’ve come to expect (”Bond…James Bond”) at a London casino, where he’s lucky with the cards and the ladies. Meanwhile, the Chinese überbaddie of the title (Joseph Wiseman) is out to foil an American space launch with a radio beam. Dr. No isn’t the best Bond film, but it’s a pistol of a debut, as the man with the license to kill heads to Jamaica, eludes a tarantula in his bed, and stumbles upon a beachcombing beauty (Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder) on his way to saving the world. B
Fun Fact After watching the film, Bond creator Ian Fleming reportedly called it ”Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”

From Russia With Love 1963
Box Office $24.8 million/$78.9 million
DirectorTerence Young
Theme Song Performed By Matt Monro
Plot Shadowy criminal cabal SPECTRE (a.k.a. the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) brings the Cold War to a boil by duping Bond and a Russian Mata Hari (Daniela Bianchi) into stealing a much-coveted Lektor decoding device on its behalf. The brainy story pits 007 against two of his most fearsome adversaries: Robert Shaw’s stocky hitman Red Grant, whose Orient Express showdown is a slow-burn corker, and Bertolt Brecht veteran Lotte Lenya (of ”Mack the Knife” fame) as unforgettable shoe-dagger-wielding Rosa Klebb. A

Goldfinger 1964
Box Office $51.1 million/$124.9 million
DirectorGuy Hamilton
Theme Song Performed By Shirley Bassey
PlotIt’s the film that most 007 aficionados consider the gold standard of the series. Bullion-hoarding bad guy Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) attempts to attack Fort Knox after aiming a laser at 007’s royal jewels (”No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”). Goldfinger is festooned with indelible flourishes: the bowler-hatted henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata), a shapely corpse covered in 24-karat paint, the first appearance of Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 (with ejector seat), and, of course, a lethal lady called Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) — a naughty name the producers had to lobby the MPAA to keep. What’s not to love? A
fun Before picking up his deadly bowler as Oddjob, the Hawaii-born Sakata won a silver medal in weightlifting for the U.S. at the 1948 Olympics.
Fun Fact President John F. Kennedy listed Fleming’s original novel as one of his 10 favorite books. From Russia With Love was also the last film he ever saw — it was screened at the White House on Nov. 20, 1963.

Thunderball 1965
Box Office $63.6 million/$141.2 million
DirectorTerence Young
Theme Song Performed By Tom Jones
Plot Even Bond might admire the elegance of SPECTRE’s fiendish plan: Hijack a NATO bomber, steal its nuclear warheads, then blackmail the British and American governments for £100 million. A kaleidoscopic catalog of iconic images follows — a villain with an eye patch (Adolfo Celi’s lusty SPECTRE No. 2, Emilio Largo), a jet-pack escape, a henchman shot with a speargun, a swimming pool full of sharks, gorgeous underwater battles, and Bond twirling evil Fiona Volpe (redhead scorcher Luciana Paluzzi) into the path of her fellow assassin’s bullet. Thunderball also introduces the famous ”Bond-girl formula,” which dictates that our hero is likely to tangle with three types of women: an early ally who dies (Martine Beswick’s MI6 agent Paula Caplan), the villain’s henchwoman who dies (Volpe), and the ”Bond girl” proper who usually survives to the end (Largo’s mistress-turned-nemesis Domino Derval, played by Claudine Auger). A-
Fun Fact Connery’s life was really in jeopardy during Bond’s shark-tank plunge, since a protective Plexiglas partition had an alarming four-foot gap.

You Only Live Twice 1967
Box Office $43.1 million/$111.6 million
Director Lewis Gilbert
Theme Song Performed By Nancy Sinatra
Plot Roald Dahl, creator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, adapted what he felt was pal Ian Fleming’s ”worst” 007 book. He ditched most of the original plot and sent Bond nearly to the final frontier — and the outer limits of plausibility. To thwart SPECTRE from hijacking space capsules, Connery’s undercover, presumed-dead Bond ”becomes” Japanese, a process that amounts to little more than shaving his chest hair. With help from two of Tokyo’s sexiest secret agents (Akiko Wakabayashi’s Aki and Mie Hama’s Kissy Suzuki), he finally meets Nehru-jacketed, white-kitten-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence). But the evil mastermind is not the only one to say ”Goodbye, Mr. Bond.” Connery also left the series (temporarily) after this stylish, if parody-ripe, entry. B-
Fun Fact Built at Pinewood Studios outside London, the set for Blofeld’s iconic volcano lair stood 148 feet tall and included an operating helipad and monorail.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969
Box Office $22.8 million/$82 million
DirectorPeter Hunt
Theme Song Performed By Louis Armstrong (”We Have All the Time in the World”)
Plot Best remembered as the film in which Australian George Lazenby stepped in for Connery, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has unfairly been tarred as a turkey and Lazenby as the franchise’s equivalent of fifth Beatle Pete Best. Both charges couldn’t be more off. The sixth installment in the 007 saga is actually one of the best — and most emotionally complex. Bond doesn’t just fall into bed with Diana Rigg’s Contessa Teresa di Vincenzo, he falls in love (they exchange I do’s before she’s gunned down). Telly Savalas hams it up perfectly as Blofeld, SPECTRE’s capo di tutti capi, scheming to hold the world’s food supply hostage with the help of his comely ”angels of death.” This is our first look at Bond as existential hero, and the man can’t catch a break. As Lazenby famously quips, ”This never happened to the other fellow.” A-
Fun Fact To explain the appearance of a new leading man, the filmmakers flirted with the idea of Bond getting plastic surgery.

Diamonds Are Forever 1971
Box Office $43.8 million/$116 million
DirectorGuy Hamilton
Theme Song Performed By Shirley Bassey
Plot Connery fans breathed a sigh of relief as the suave Scot reluctantly returned. And not a moment too soon. After all, there’s the little matter of payback for the murder of 007’s wife. In addition, SPECTRE’s out to get its nefarious mitts on South African diamonds while blackmailing the world with a laser-armed satellite. Jill St. John got male moviegoers hot and bothered as the sassy, sex-kitten smuggler Tiffany Case, but we prefer Lana Wood’s Plenty O’Toole. With its byzantine oil-rig battle, absurd moon-buggy chase, and homoerotic henchmen Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), Diamonds has its tongue a bit too far in its cheek, but Connery diehards were too busy cheering for their hero to nitpick. B
Fun Fact After Lazenby passed on re-upping as Bond, the producers signed John Gavin, but the studio lured Connery back for a then-record salary of $1.25 million.

Live and Let Die 1973
Box Office $35.4 million/$161.8 million
DirectorGuy Hamilton
Theme Song Performed By Paul McCartney and Wings
Plot The Roger Moore era begins with a blaxploitation bang. The debonair heir to the 007 mantle tones down Connery’s brutality and cocks an amused eyebrow at the international-man-of-mystery proceedings — usually accompanied by a saucy double entendre. When Yaphet Kotto’s Dr. Kananga (a.k.a. Mr. Big) hatches a plan to corner the world heroin market, Bond heads to Harlem (where he looks mighty uncomfortable) before jetting down to the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique, home of voodoo rituals and a metal-clawed killer. Jane Seymour is lovely and tragic as the tarot-reading Solitaire. And Kananga’s demise (he explodes after being force-fed a shark-gun bullet) is one for the ages. B
Fun Fact Moore’s love scene with African-American actress Gloria Hendry was cut from the film when it was shown in South Africa.

The Man with the Golden Gun 1974
Box Office $21 million/$97.6 million
DirectorGuy Hamilton
Theme Song Performed By BY Lulu
Plot Bond receives an unexpected gift in the mail: a gold bullet with 007 engraved on it. He seems to be the next target on the hit list of Christopher Lee’s dastardly Scaramanga. Lee adds a touch of class (and a superfluous third nipple) to the colorful menagerie of big-screen Bond villains with his solar death ray. And after a silly kung fu detour, Bond faces off against his foe — as well as Scaramanga’s pint-size sidekick, Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) — at a mod island hideout in the South China Sea. Britt Ekland and Maud Adams don’t add much besides eye candy, but the climactic shoot-out in Scaramanga’s hall-of-mirrors fun house is a thrilling homage to Orson Welles’ 1948 film The Lady From Shanghai. B
Fun FactMaud Adams would later go on to star in 1983’s Octopussy as well.

The Spy Who Loved Me 1977
Box Office $46.8 million/$185.4 million
DirectorLewis Gilbert
Theme Song Performed By Carly Simon (”Nobody Does It Better”)
Plot It’s a dose of double-0 détente after Russian and British submarines are hijacked by the sinister Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Bond and Barbara Bach’s KGB knockout Anya Amasova (a.k.a. Agent Triple X) head off to exotic Egypt looking for a highly classified microfilm and cross paths with the razor-toothed assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel). With his third time in the tux, Roger Moore finally hits his stride as 007 and makes the role his own, thanks in no small part to an amphibious Lotus sports car and a rousing pre-opening-credits ski chase that ends with Bond jumping off a cliff and releasing a Union Jack parachute. Moore’s best Bond performance. A-
Fun Fact The closing credits promise that ”James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only.” But after the success of 1977’s Star Wars, Moonraker was fast-tracked as the follow-up.

Moonraker 1979
Box Office $70.3 million/$210.3 million
DirectorLewis Gilbert
Theme Song Performed By Shirley Bassey
Plot Longtime Bond producer Albert R. ”Cubby” Broccoli’s cash-in on the late-’70s resurgence of sci-fi spliced the narrative DNA of The Spy Who Loved Me with a space battle straight out of Star Wars. With the help of CIA agent/astronaut Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), 007 crosses laser pistols with billionaire Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), who seeks to destroy all life on earth save for a genetically perfect few. Drax intends to start a new master race that doesn’t even include his own iron-dentured henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel again). So guess who becomes Bond’s ally? Played for broad comedy and featuring bizarre pop culture references (the Magnificent Seven theme plays when Roger Moore dresses like a gaucho), Moonraker finds the franchise parodying itself. C-
Fun Fact The opening aerial sequence required 88 skydives.

For Your Eyes Only 1981
Box Office $54.8 million/$195.3 million
DirectorJohn Glen
Theme Song Performed By Sheena Easton
Plot Following the silly space schlock of Moonraker, Bond gets back to basics. After a British spy ship carrying a top secret transmitter is sunk off the Albanian coast, 007 races to salvage the wreck before the Russians do. But when a marine archaeologist working for MI6 is gunned down, his daughter (Carole Bouquet, deadly with a crossbow) is out for payback with Bond’s help. Bond beds an ill-fated countess (Cassandra Harris), gets chased by Aryans on motorcycles down the Italian Alps, and storms a vertiginous mountaintop aerie in Greece. You’ll love it, as long as you turn it off before the Margaret Thatcher impersonator (Janet Brown) appears at the end. B+
Fun Fact Early in the film’s shoot, Bond conquest Harris married future 007 Pierce Brosnan.

Octopussy 1983
Box Office $67.9 million/$187.5 million
DirectorJohn Glen
Theme Song Performed By Rita Coolidge (”All Time High”)
Plot One of the most woefully underappreciated Bond films, Octopussy was released four months before Connery’s unofficial 007 flick Never Say Never Again (a non-Broccoli-produced remake of Thunderball). Octopussy is a classic cloak-and-dagger nail-biter about a scheme by a rogue Russian general (Steven Berkoff) to detonate a nuke on an American military base in Germany. Along the way, Bond faces plenty of diversions: an assassin with a yo-yo buzz saw, Louis Jourdan’s backgammon-cheating heavy Kamal Khan, Maud Adams as the thinking man’s Bond girl with a squad of female acrobat warriors in skintight red spandex catsuits, and a nifty switcheroo with a Fabergé egg. B+
Fun FactBefore Moore re-upped at the last minute, James Brolin screen-tested for the role.

A View To a Kill 1985
Box Office $50.3 million/$152.6 million
DirectorJohn Glen
Theme Song Performed By Duran Duran (it was the only Bond theme to top the Billboard Hot 100)
Plot Roger Moore was 56 in his seventh and last outing. It shows. In real life, he was even older than the mother of his costar Tanya Roberts. Still, he kicks butt. Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin, the freak offspring of a Nazi eugenics experiment, rigs horse races, attempts the destruction of Silicon Valley with his Amazonian henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones), and holds Roberts’ breathy geologist hostage aboard a blimp, building to a sky-high climax atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the top? Sure. Entertaining? No question. B+
Fun Fact Dolph Lundgren, who was then dating Jones, made his film debut as a bodyguard of Russian general Gogol (Walter Gotell).

The Living Daylights 1987
Box Office $51.2 million/$191.2 million
DirectorJohn Glen
Theme Song Performed By a-ha
Plot Reagan-era Bond fans weaned on Moore’s effervescent charm cried, “Bland! James Bland!” over Dalton’s brooding portrayal of the character. But Dalton’s approach perfectly suited the topical, Iran-contra-influenced story about a dizzying diamonds-for-drugs-for-arms plot involving a beautiful cellist (Maryam d’Abo) duped into aiding a diabolical Soviet general (Jeroen Krabbé). The film’s politics now seem radically dated — Bond rides with the mujahideen in Afghanistan! — but its darker tone was well ahead of its time. B-
Fun Fact A 24-year-old Dalton was supposed to replace Connery in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but was nixed because he was deemed too young. Brosnan was going to take over for Moore in The Living Daylights, but Dalton got the job when NBC exercised a last-minute option for one final season of Remington Steele.

Licence to Kill 1989
Box Office $34.7 million/$156.2 million
DirectorJohn Glen
Theme Song Performed By Gladys Knight
Plot This time it’s personal. 007 goes rogue to investigate the sadistic banana-republic drug lord (Robert Davi) who fed his CIA pal Felix Leiter (David Hedison) to a shark. In this brutally violent revenge thriller, deaths are inflicted by fire, industrial shredder, pressure chamber, and electric eel. But it’s Dalton’s Bond who inspires true dread when he goes undercover as a thug for hire. Assisted by scrappy, sexy CIA agent Pam Bouvier (future Law & Order prosecutor Carey Lowell), he pits a gallery of magnificent rogues against one another, including a sleazy boat captain (Anthony Zerbe), a psychotic hitman (Benicio del Toro), and a crooked televangelist (Wayne Newton). B+
Fun Fact Because of a change to the tax code that made U.K. production prohibitively expensive, this was the first Bond film with no scenes shot in Britain.

GoldenEye 1995
Box Office $106.4 million/$356.4 million
DirectorMartin Campbell
Theme Song Performed By Tina Turner
Plot Brosnan’s debut doesn’t merely rehabilitate Bond for a post-Cold War world — it renews his license to thrill. 007 faces former MI6 colleague Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), who’s brimming with rage over a failed mission in Russia nine years before (Bond managed to escape alone, mistakenly assuming his colleague was offed). ”I might as well ask you if all those vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed,” Trevelyan says. ”Or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.” Count us shaken and disturbed. But Bond gets his cyberpunk on with Russian hacker Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), and together they foil Trevelyan’s techno-terror plot to destroy the world economy. A-
Fun Fact The title derives from the name of Fleming’s Jamaica estate, where he created James Bond and wrote all the novels.

Tomorrow Never Dies 1997
Box Office $125.3 million/$339.5 million
DirectorRoger Spottiswoode
Theme Song Performed By Sheryl Crow PlotA power-drunk, Murdoch-like media baron named Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) seeks to ignite World War III for no reason other than to boost TV ratings and newspaper sales. Bond intervenes to maintain peace, avenge his murdered old flame Paris (Teri Hatcher), woo Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), and restore journalistic integrity. On at least three out of four counts, mission accomplished. B
Fun Fact Twelve years before creating Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes played Britain’s minister of defense.

The World Is Not Enough 1999
Box Office $126.9 million/$361.7 million
DirectorMichael Apted
Theme Song Performed By Garbage
Plot A mix of the sublime and the downright silly, Brosnan’s third outing becomes less an action film than a character study about post-traumatic stress disorder, oil politics, and the nature of evil. World introduces the franchise’s first true female supervillain, Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King, a teenage kidnapping victim-turned-terrorist who may still be suffering from Stockholm syndrome as an adult. Considering that MI6 helped make King a villain by failing to rescue her from her captor (Robert Carlyle’s bald, pain-immune Renard), Bond’s final confrontation with her is complex and almost bittersweet. Unfortunately, whenever Denise Richards appears as nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones — she recites her lines as if she learned them phonetically — the movie pretty much melts down. B-
Fun Fact The title is the English translation of the Bond family motto: Orbis non sufficit.

Die Another Day 2002
Box Office $160.9 million/$431.9 million
DirectorLee Tamahori
Theme Song Performed ByMadonna
PlotBrosnan’s fourth and final film as 007 pushes plausibility to its breaking point and gives us the showstopping sight of Halle Berry in an orange bikini. After being tortured in a North Korean prison, Bond is released and goes off-mission to Cuba, trying to find out who betrayed him and win back his rescinded license to kill. Berry adds some feisty spice, but the villain (Toby Stephens’ Gustav Graves) is a bit forgettable and the invisible car chase at his Icelandic Ice Palace is double-0 hooey. C+
Fun Fact Madge is the only theme-song performer to have a cameo in a Bond film — she plays a fencing instructor.

Casino Royale 2006
Box Office $167.4 million/$596.4 million
DirectorMartin Campbell
Theme Song Performed ByChris Cornell (”You Know My Name”)
PlotA back-to-basics reboot for the ages, Casino Royale reinvents 007 as a blunt instrument with a soul. In his first turn in Bond’s tux, Daniel Craig brings a macho directness to the familiar role. But for all its eye-popping action, the movie doesn’t just appeal to the adrenal glands — witness Bond’s broken heart over doomed love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and the high-stakes Montenegro poker game with blood-weeping terror financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) that became the series’ most suspenseful showdown in years. A-
Fun FactTsai Chin, who portrays one of Bond’s fellow poker players, was the lover who helped Connery’s 007 fake his death at the beginning of You Only Live Twice.

Quantum of Solace 2008
Box Office $169.4 million/$591.7 million
DirectorMarc Forster
Theme Song Performed By Jack White and Alicia Keys (”Another Way to Die”)
PlotPicking up right where Casino Royale ended, Quantum is a true sequel that kicks off with a high-speed Aston Martin car chase, an MI6 double cross that almost gets Judi Dench’s M snuffed, and a Bourne-esque foot chase across the red-tile roofs of Siena. From there, things get complicated fast. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is a seemingly squeaky-clean eco-entrepreneur who’s wrapped up in a SPECTRE-like organization called Quantum. There’s an opera-house shootout in Austria, a cool drowning-in-crude-oil death in Bolivia, and two easy-on-the-eyes Bond girls (Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton) for the price of one. Still, it’s no Casino Royale. B-
Fun Fact In a Goldfinger homage, Bond discovers the oil-coated corpse of Arterton’s Strawberry Fields sprawled on a bed.