The Best and Worst of 007 Films

The Best and Worst of 007

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With 25 films under his belt already and another one on the way this year (Skyfall, 2012), James Bond is an action movie icon who spans the movie watching lifetime of many film buffs (1954's Casino Royale through 2008's Quantum of Solace). With eight actors having played 007, lots of gadgets, dozens of villains and even more 'Bond girls', it's tough to rank the films from best to worst as each film has something great and not so great about it. So, I shall rank the films in categories instead. If you would pick different rankings, let me know.

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  1. 1
    Diamonds Are Forever
    Photo: Freebase
    Best Chase Sequence: Bond movies are known for their amazing chase sequences, but none have topped the one where Bond races through the streets of actual Las Vegas! This was one of the very few times that the traffic on Las Vegas Blvd's "Casino Strip" district was ever shut down completely. It also features Bond driving the very popular Ford Mustang which also helped to make it a hit with American audiences. Many Bond films feature the threat of nuclear war, but this one does one the best jobs of featuring the nuclear arms race. It also has one of the most fun Bond gadgets: a device that controls slot machines so that you can win whenever you want.
  2. 2
    For Your Eyes Only
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Worst Theme Music: Oh man, is this song awful. It's about all I can remember from this movie. It's singer, Sheena Easton, might be easy enough on the eyes to be the only singer to appear in the famous music video-like title sequences, but the song is among the worst examples of 80's sappy love songs. It does have the wonderful actor Julian Glover in it as the Villain Kristatos and a possibly world record for most inexplicably recurring villain appearance (we're bordering on comic book level stuff at this point) by the third guy to play Blofeld, John Hollis. Q's radio wristwatch gets props as well for being one of those almost prescient sci fi gadgets to predict the invention of the hand-held cell phone. Heck, I saw a real, working radio watch at a CES convention a couple years ago.
  3. 3
    Casino Royale
    Photo: Freebase
    Worst Bond Spoof to Actually Use a Name From the Novels: I usually hate spoofs of Bond films (Johnny English being the lone exception) and this one is one of the worst. It is almost as disgusting, lewd, loud and obnoxious as the Austin Powers films. The only reason to see it on DVD is if you can find the version that has the bonus track with the CBS TV version of Casino Royale on it.
  4. 4
    Casino Royale
    Photo: Freebase
    The Time Warp Bond Film: Bond films don't actually feature time travel and alternate universes, but this film is about as close as we fans have gotten to experiencing one in the franchise. Based on the first Flemming novel, this kinda-sorta-but-not-really-reboot, reintroduces us to James Bond, MI6 Special Agent before he gets his 00 status. It also reintroduces Judi Dench as M as though she'd been his boss all along (actually M had previously been played by a string of excellent male actors prior to Dench, so this was a bit of a shock). It also felt so alternate universy because of the strange brew of retro Bond movie elements and ultra high tech gagetry. They kept the gadgets to a minimum this time in a nod to the simpler times of Dr. No though. The convoluted bad guy situation in this film puts one in mind more of Mission Impossible in some ways. It's irritating that they change the gambling game from Baccarat to the more pedestrian Poker (in a nod to the World Series of Poker TV phenom no doubt). Also, strangely, Felix Leiter and Mathis are back from the dead but are totally different than they were in their first appearances. I almost expected Blofeld to be behind everything again :)
  5. 5
    Most Iconic Bond Film: While Dr. No got the ball rolling for the Eon Productions franchise, this film is possibly even more seminal in the minds of Bond fans with the introduction of Desmond Lewellen as Q (possibly the best supporting role in an action movie ever) and his amazing Aston Martin gadget car, Odd Job (possibly best movie villain henchman ever), the girl coated in gold paint etc.
  6. 6
    Best Gunfights in a Bond Movie: This film stars Christopher Lee (today's moviegoers know him best as Lord of the Rings' Suraman or Star Wars' Count Dukoo, but he's been in movies for decades) as the marksman villain Scaramanga and Herve Villechaize (Fantasy Island's Tattoo) as his henchman Nick Nack even more so than it does Roger Moore as Bond. This duo steals the show every time they are on screen. The film's main highlight is when Bond has a duel with Scaramanga.
  7. 7
    Die Another Day
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    The Back to Rough and Tough Bond, Bond Film: After being accused by fans and critics alike as focusing way too much on fancy gadgets and bad jokes, they decided to really put Bond through the wringer in this film. We hadn't seen Bond this rough and tumble since Never Say Never Again. Brosnan proved that his Bond was able to take a licking and keep on ticking. His butt kicking was courtsey of a North Korean villain this time in a rather believable plot (for a Bond film anyway). This film was also set on fire by vixins Rosamund Pike (the frosty fencing expert who James thaws eventually) and Halley Berry (who gets to pull off one of the most stunning call-backs to classic Bond movies, Dr. No in fact, with her appearance in this film). This film also stars John Cleese in a why-didn't-they-do-this-sooner? appearance as Q. So funny!
  8. 8
    Worst Villain in a Bond Movie: This distinction goes to Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker. The only thing scary or insidious about this villain is that he's so darn close to being a normal guy (for a bond villain that is) that you can almost believe that a guy like him actually exists somewhere. Bond villains are supposed to be larger than life. Brad is just large :) It's hard to believe that this character will show his ugly, ugly face again in another Bond film. This film also has the distinction of having the great John Rhys-Davies playing a minor villain. He almost always plays good guys, so this is a surprise role for him. This film also has the strange trivia question note of being the film in which two different bands, A-ha and The Pretenders both perform the title song. A-ha in the title sequence and The Pretenders elsewhere in the film.
  9. 9
    Casino Royale
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use
    Least Well Known Bond Film: This version is very different from the 2006 version, being made for CBS' TV show Climax in the 1950's. It stars the amazing Peter Lorre as LeChiffre and is worth seeing for his performance alone. However, I maintain that the gambling scenes in this version are more true to the Ian Flemming novel than the ones in the 2006 version.
  10. 10
    Never Say Never Again
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    The Better Than The Other Bond Movie That Came Out The Same Year Award: 1983 was an awesome year for Bond fans! We got not one, but two Bond films released in the same year. This film was directed by none other than the director of the best Star Wars movie ever, Irvin Kershner, and it shows. It has Irvin's trademark elements of excellent characterization, good natured humor and focus on relationships. It also features the triumphant, that'll-never-happen dream of many a Bond fan, return of Sean Connery as Bond. Connery proves he's still got it in this film and has some great scenes with the great Max Von Sydow (you've seen him in tons of movies) as the apparently indestructible villain Blofeld and 80's blond bombshell Kim Bassinger. Gotta love the digital watch (so 80's) with the laser bonus feature. Who didn't want one of those after this movie came out?
  11. 11
    From Russia with Love
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Best Cold War Bond Film: While most of the Bond movies dealt with the Cold War between the U.S.S.R. or Soviet Union (young readers who don't know what I'm talking about need to read history books), The United States and The United Kingdom and their allies; this film deals with it the most directly. It has, in my opinion, some of the best scenes of actual spy business of all the films.
  12. 12
    On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    Photo: Freebase
    Least popular Bond Movie: I have seen many lists of Bond films, and this one is almost always at the bottom. It certainly 'stars' the least successful actor as Bond. This the first and last time we see George Lazenby as Bond. It does have the good actor Telly Savalas as a plastic surgeon-ed Blofeld (one of the few times a villain re-appears in the Bond movies). The film is still notable for being the only time Bond has gotten married so far, though the marriage is very short lived. The film also features one of the more insidiously inventive villain plots.
  13. 13
    Quantum of Solace
    Photo: Freebase
    The Oh Yeah, Now This is a Bond Movie! Award: Many people were critical of Casino Royale's controversial re-boot and especially of Daniel Craig as James Blond (as some critics called him). But this film silenced most of them. It is still as gritty, rough and tumble and realistic as Casino Royale (oddly enough, it was this departure from the comic book style that had taken over the Bond franchise that some fans liked least), but now with a bigger dose of gadgets, exciting chases and such. Craig pretty much established himself as the new Bond in this film. For one thing, he takes less flack from the ladies in this film, partly because he is more focused on his mission to get the bad guys, I think. It is the third best Bond film of all time, in my opinion. Second-best being Never Say Never Again and best being Dr. No. It also has my favorite Bond Theme Song. Such a cool blend of classic Bond music and modern styles. The villain in this film is also one of the best. Mathieu Amalric playes a believable, slimy little hypocrite who hides his lust for power behind being eco-friendly. I think we can expect to see more of this actor in f*ture movies. Camile Montes is fantastic as a Bond Girl who finally balances girl-power femme fatalness with a likeable vulnerability. While Gemma Arterton is equally amazing in her too-short appearance as a bit of a throw-back to the classic Bond Girl who used to drive the feminists crazy in the 70's and 80's :)
  14. 14
    The Y2K End of the World Bond Film: When this film came out, people were beginning to get nervous about the coming of The Year 2000 and about running out of oil, again. This was an all-out action flick with very little spy business involved. Sophie Marceau (who also stunned us in Braveheart) and hottie Denise Richards heated up an otherwise frosty locale in this film. It also has some of the most amazing stunts in any Bond film. Each film tries to top the previous stunts in earlier movies (both Bond and non-Bond films) but this one pretty much went over the edge, literally. This film was also predicted as being Brosnan's last Bond film. But it wasn't.
  15. 15
    Photo: Freebase
    Best Underwater Scenes in a Bond Film: While Bond often takes to the water in his films, none of them can top the aquatic stunt scenes in this film. This film also takes to the skies most memorably too with the jetpack scene that has been lampooned and even attempted in real life by many crazy fans.
  16. 16
    Best Computer Geek Bond Film: This film features what was fast becoming the big deal of the decade: computers. The plot of the film may not seem all that exciting but the amazing actor Christopher Walken (who needs no introduction, we all know this guy) does a great job of selling it as the villain Max Zorin. This film also has one of the it girls of the time, Tanya Roberts as a Bond Girl. This is the introduction of the second-least favorite Bond, Timothy Dalton, who gets too much flack for not being the best actor for the role. In some ways, I like him better as Bond than I do Roger Moore.
  17. 17
    Dr. No
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    Franchise Starting Film: This film introduced many of the elements we have come to expect in Bond movies. The famous Bond main theme that pretty much every film buff can hum or at least recognize instantly is introduced and featured heavily in this film. The qualities of Bond himself are introduced and the then almost unknown Sean Connery's performance has become the gold standard by which all subsequent Bond actors are judged. Ironically, many people were worried that Connery would not portray the part in a true-to-the-novel fashion at the time that news about the production was first coming out.
  18. 18
    Licence to Kill
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain
    The This Should Have Been the Title of the First Bond Movie Award: One would think so, but it turns out that this film is about Bond losing his license rather than earning it. It's also possibly the most personal Bond film as it's really about Bond getting revenge for the deaths of his friends than it is about trying to stop a super villain. This film also features a very nice theme song by none other than Gladys Knight and a performance by the soon to be famous Benicio Del Toro as a henchman. Gotta love the plastic explosive toothpaste too :)
  19. 19
    Worst Bond Movie Title: It's no secret that Bond movies have a thing for girls, guns, gadgets, gems, girls, Geronimo (stunts) and did I mention girls? But, this film's title makes it a bit too painfully obvious. It was almost embarrassing asking for tickets at the box office for this one. The title sounds like a porn movie. This movie features India as its most exotic locale and has some cool scenes with elephant riding tiger hunters. It also features one of the silliest Q inventions, the alligator disguise.
  20. 20
    The Most Controversial Bond Film: While all Bond films have stirred up debate for one reason or another, I can't remember one that had more controversy than this one. From it's mass media is evil plot (carried out excellently by Jonathan Pryce and Elliot Carver) to it's even more ferocious berating of Bond's lifestyle and attitudes (some people thought this would be the last Bond film ever, the way they were picking on him as being a 'cold war dinosaur' and chauvinist pig) to the fact that it wasn't based on a Flemming novel (others hadn't been either but this one seemed to have fans the most worried that the franchise was losing its way) to a female M (the great Judi Dench) to Bond driving, gasp!, German cars (he's also had a history of driving other non-British cars, especially Fords, but this film really seemed to steam Bond car fans), etc. Also, for some odd reason, Joe Don Baker is back, but now as equally obnoxious good-guy Jack Wade. At least the film had a good theme song by Sheryl Crow.
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