Top 10 James Bond Films (as of October 2021)
“Bond. James Bond.” We’ve heard those iconic words time and time again. Even if you haven’t seen a James Bond film, you know who he is. The British secret agent looking to stop the evil organization, Spectre — or any world organizations that may be launching nuclear missiles that day — while also cuddling up to the foreign young women he may come across in his travels. In our current social climate, Bond may not be the most kosher fictional character, but I will say he’s gotten better, especially during Daniel Craig’s time. Whether you love him, or love to hate him, here are the Top 10 James Bond movies.
10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
In my opinion, Roger Moore put an unusual goofy spin on Bond, which didn’t always work in the overall vision. However, The Spy Who Loved Me is likely his best film that only shows glimpses of how truly outrageous his era can get. Moore, unlike previous Bond films, introduces more action with greater explosions and a flare for the daredevil stunts. The added brilliance of fantastical gadgets, like the new underwater car, is a nice bonus. But what thrills me most is Richard Kiel as Jaws, an evil metal mouth set to stop Bond at all cost. Even if you haven’t seen the movie I’m sure you’ll recognize the face. Every Bond, good or bad, has his high moments and this is Moore’s.
9. License to Kill (1989)
Timothy Dalton’s second, and last, outing as Bond is an extremely dark look for the franchise. Where Bond always has a lighter touch, with its heavy punches here and there, License to Kill takes Bond on a revenge-driven mission, with him losing his license to kill along the way. Audience members may cringe at the sound of “different,” and perhaps they weren’t ready for a no–mercy–type Bond. Since its release, however, fans have taken to Dalton in a movie that works. Many may have forgotten Dalton’s time as the iconic agent, but whether you remember him or not, it’s worth sinking your teeth into.
8. From Russia with Love (1963)
From Russia with Love is Sean Connery’s second Bond film, often recognized as one of his most memorable. Bond is sent on a mission to find a Russian decoding machine, or Lektor. In the
usual Bond fashion, he falls in love with a Soviet Spy named Tatiana Romanova. Connery becomes a bit stronger within the role, even though a bit stubborn at times — a frustrating trait that is smoothed out by his next film. The situations that unfold force Romanova to choose: love or country? It’s obvious that the film reflects the United States’ anxiety with Russia at that time. The Cold War story is utterly fun even if the action is on the cheesy side.
7. Spectre (2015)
This is Daniel Craig’s last film before No Time to Die, and it’s about time that Spectre gets their self-titled film. After years and years, Bond learns Spectre is the organization behind the criminals Bond has fought over the years–not to mention the personal trauma they’ve caused him. Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of the ultimate villain, Blofeld, is exceptional. The way Waltz is introduced in the film, a man who has lingered in the shadows for so long, slowly making his appearance… it’s beautiful! The film is action-heavy as it leaves audiences with some of the best action sequences of any Bond film. It was believed at the time that this was to be Craig’s last Bond, and there are heavy signs to feed that speculation. But like Connery, it’s hard to say goodbye to such an iconic character.
6. Dr. No (1962)
Dr. No is our first introduction to the Bond franchise. This time he’s led to a mysterious island in
Jamaica while having to fight off a “fire breathing dragon,” assassins, and poisonous tarantulas. And like clockwork, Spectre is involved. While the franchise works out the stiffness of the Bond character from here on out, there’s something to love about the simplicity here. There’s a Batman: The Movie vibe with Dr. No and it’s goofy fight scenes and evil island headquarters. It’s is a great way to get the franchise off the ground and who better to do it than Sean Connery. It may be a little predictable with the storytelling, but it’s pure fun.
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
There were definitely some huge shoes to fill when George Lazenby stepped in for Sean Connery. For so long audiences were privy to the life of this secret agent, no connections, with different girls in various countries. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service aims to change Bond’s usual tough guy persona by giving our hero a heart. Next to Lazenby’s side is Diana Rigg as Tracy, a rebellious woman who’s gotten mixed up in the wrong crowd more than a few times. Rigg is one of the best Bond girls as she’s able to handle herself next to Lazenby in more than a few action sequences along the snowy Swiss Alps. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service balances both romance and action well by showing a more human side to Bond. It’s a shame that this is Lazenby’s first and only time as Bond, because I think he may have been one of the best.
4. Goldeneye (1995)
The best of the Pierce Brosnan era, Goldeneye has a big nostalgia factor. The story focuses on Bond having to fight against a villain who is none other than a rouge 00 agent — leaving him to feel as though he is always one step behind his foe. Goldeneye is well shot with amazing cinematography by Phil Meheux and incredible direction by Martin Campbell, a familiar director who would later transfer to the Daniel Craig series. With the introduction of Judi Dench as M, it added another element to it, not only in a strong female, but in a character that the story continued to glaze over in the series up until now. This new era of Brosnan films became a little campy as time went on, but Goldeneye stands out among the rest.
3. Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall is more M’s movie than anything as her methods are brought into question as agents lives are in jeopardy and more are lost on her watch. Author Ian Fleming never intended for M to be female, but when the film cast Judi Dench in the role, the character took on another form. M and Bond’s relationship goes beyond their working relationship and highlights why Bond is who he is. It’s probably the darkest film in the Craig era as Javier Bardem’s, Silva, lurks in the shadows hunting the Mi6 agents. It’s also the first time we see Sam Mendes in the director’s chair and cinematographer Roger Deakins enter the franchise to create this stunning film.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
I don’t need to go on and say that Goldfinger is a must-see for any Bond fan. Apart from Sean Connery’s first two films, this film changed with each character. Bond is grittier in this action role while still holding on to his sleek and handsome charm. But more importantly, the Bond girls change, definitely for the better. Before this, especially in From Russia with Love, they were only objects to be dragged, slapped, and shaken during his mission. Sure there’s no escaping the male gaze in the Bond films, but in Goldfinger, Honor Blackman is intelligent and calculated as Pussy Galore — take the name as you will. The story is engaging. The action will put you on the edge of your seat. Goldfinger is without a doubt Connery at his best!
1. Casino Royale (2006)
With Daniel Craig at the helm, Casino Royale exploded onscreen for a new generation of fans. Bond aims to take down a private banker looking to fund a group of terrorists with the winnings of a high stakes poker game. It’s an ultimate origin story that the franchise never really receives before now — delving deep into why Bond is the way he is. The preceding films show Bond’s skills in combat, with only sporadic times of logic. Casino Royale almost showcases the intuitive nature of Bond’s intellectual capacity. A cast of true talent, a Bond girl that can finally tangle with him in smarts, and action that will please even the harshest critics. If you were going to watch only one Bond film, I’d put Casino Royale above all the rest.