Whether it’s Connery and his effortless cool, Moore and his gravity-defying eyebrows or Craig and his budgie-smugglers, everyone has a favourite James Bond. But which film is your favourite? Have a look at my Top 10 and then argue about it…..
(PS I have assumed that you will have seen all these films, but just in case, spoiler alert…)
10 The World Is Not Enough
I think this film gets a bad rap. OK, so it features the least convincing nuclear scientist the world has ever seen, and John Cleese is at his most irritating, but it has a heck of a lot of good stuff going for it: Pierce Brosnan has at this point settled well into the role; the opening sequence with the boat chase along the Thames is one of the best in the series; M has more to do in any film with the exception of Skyfall; Desmond Llewellyn makes his last appearance as Q with a very moving scene, given his death soon after filming; and having Bond fall in love with the “victim” to then realise she is actually the villain added some emotional depth to it all. The fact that it was followed by the awful Die Another Day only shows what a strong film this actually is.
9 The Living Daylights
Timothy Dalton’s two performances as Bond were the closest any actor came to how the character was originally written. Coming after twelve years of Roger Moore bringing the series close to parody at times, Dalton sometimes seems uncomfortable with the one-liners. But his first film is a strong entry in the series, bringing it back down to earth with a story of arms dealers and Russian defectors, even if it does feature what I believe to be the only cinematic example of exploding dairy products.
8 From Russia With Love
Featuring the first appearance of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (well… his cat…) and also some formidable enemy agents in the shape of Robert Shaw’s Red Grant and the deceptively non-threatening Rosa Klebb (“She’s had her kicks..”), this is one of the best spy films of the ’60s with a compelling storyline of assassination plots and a race to retrieve a Russian decoding device before the evil SPECTRE can get their hands on it. For me, the fight between the gypsy girls could have been left out with no loss to the story, but the action set pieces (Bond’s fight with Grant in a tiny train compartment, the helicopter chasing Bond on foot across the countryside and the explosive climactic boat chase) more than make up for this.
7 For Your Eyes Only
After the outlandish Moonraker (rushed into production following the success of Star Wars) it was once again time to bring Bond back to earth with a story similar to that of From Russia With Love, with Bond racing against Russian agents to retrieve a top secret decryption device. Exciting action sequences underwater, on skis and in a Citroen 2CV build towards a genuinely nail-biting assault on a mountaintop monastery for a final showdown with the bad guys. Two negatives: the teenage ice-skater with a crush on Bond is slightly annoying and the comedy Margaret Thatcher scene at the end hasn’t dated well at all. However, Bond’s remorseless killing of an assassin by kicking his car off a cliff (a side of Bond not often shown by Moore), and ending the film with Bond making sure that neither side get what they want, provide some gravitas that had been missing from the series.
After a gap of six years, James Bond returned in the shape of Pierce Brosnan, who managed to successfully combine Connery’s ruthlessness with Moore’s humour as he took on another 00 agent, and former friend, gone rogue. Having a villain who can anticipate Bond’s every move makes his mission that more difficult, which helps to generate more tension, as does the henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, whose preferred method of killing is original, if a little preposterous. Some exciting action scenes, including a scene-setting pre-credit sequence and a tank chase through (literally) St Petersburg, help to make this Brosnan’s best.
5 Casino Royale
Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t like Daniel Craig as James Bond. His Bond is less of a suave, sophisticated agent and more of a thug. (Yes I know, it’s his first mission as a 00 and he has a lot to learn, but still…) That being said, Casino Royale as a film is a good starting point for rebooting the series after Dire Another Day. The central premise of most of the action taking place around a poker table could have made for a very dull film but it is very well directed to make sure the viewer never loses interest, and interrupting the game with a fight in a hotel stairway and a poison-induced heart attack doesn’t hurt either. Plus, there’s THAT beach scene. So… something for everyone.
4 Live And Let Die
Roger Moore’s debut as Bond takes in a heroin-producing crime lord, voodoo assassins and hungry crocodiles, and also features what must be his best-prepared seduction of any Bond girl (seriously, how long must it have taken him to go through all those packs of Tarot cards and sort out all of the Lovers…?). Chase sequences featuring turbo-charged speedboats and a double-decker bus keep the momentum going in one of the best entries in the series, despite the introduction of the OTT Sheriff J W Pepper.
I still don’t like Daniel Craig as James Bond. However, as this film brings the rebooted series closer to the established formula, he does at least seem more comfortable in the role, embracing the quips (“It’s the circle of life.”) and the little throwaway moments (straightening his cuff as he jumps into half a train in the pre-credits sequence). The villain’s plan is more than a little preposterous and relies a lot on coincidence, but the film is so well directed by Sam Mendes by that I can overlook that on this occasion. Javier Bardem’s Silva has one of the greatest entrances into a Bond film, and seems to genuinely unnerve Bond, even if he tries hard not to show it. It’s also a neat twist to show the villain actually achieve what he sets out to do. The bad guy wins! (Oh yes… spoiler alert…)
2 The Spy Who Loved Me
This is the first Bond film I saw in the cinema (1977 was a big year for me film-wise..!)Roger Moore’s third Bond film begins with my favourite of all the pre-credit sequences: the Union Jack parachute jump off the cliff. From there we get a rooftop fight in Cairo (“What a helpful chap!”), a game of cat and mouse on a building site (“Egyptian builders…”) and a fantastic car vs helicopter chase with a surprise ending (“Can you swim?”). This is not everyone’s favourite Bond film, but I love it. Jaws is one of the best henchmen in the series (before he became a joke in Moonraker); the villain has a proper maniacal plan to flood the world and start a new civilization under the sea; the relationship between Bond and Triple X is a complex one (he must work together with someone who wants to kill him); and it finishes with one of Moore’s best innuendoes: “Keeping the British end up, sir.” A great film, only just beaten into second place by……
This is the quintessential Bond film. It has everything: a great title song, a memorable villain, another great henchman, a strong and brilliantly-named Bond girl, a classic Q scene (“I never joke about my work, 007.”), THAT car, the iconic murder-by-gold-paint, and of course Connery at his coolest. It is definitely “of its time”, as demonstrated by the casual sexism (“Run along darling – man talk” [cringe]) and Bond’s “seduction” of Pussy Galore would never be allowed today. But amongst all this is also my favourite scene of any Bond film: 007 strapped to a table with a laser between his legs, and he TALKS his way out of death. No gun, no gadgets, just his wits. A perfect Bond moment.
So there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Let me know…..