So, when compiling a list of Bond films, near the 50th anniversary, it compels one to review which one’s the best, which one’s the worst, and give a proper ranking. Obviously, this is an opinion, and is open to debate. This is the first half.
22. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
It doesn’t matter that Guy Hamilton, who directed Goldfinger, helmed the project, nor that Roger Moore was Bond, nor that Richard Maibaum made contributions to the screenplay; the film has some of the worst and ludicrous sequences in film, let alone the Bond franchise. The film is deflated from beginning to ending, which is a real shame, considering that the heavy, Francisco Scaramanga, is played brilliantly by Christopher Lee, who truly plays the dark side of Bond. The uninspired film lacks punch, and in a rarity for the Bond films is not even that entertaining.
21. A View to a Kill (1985)
Roger Moore’s final outing was based off of a bad screenplay, which again, featured a brilliant villain, Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, who is well cast and good in the role. The logic of the story doesn’t always make sense (SFPD tries to arrest Bond immediately after he saves the girl from a burning city hall? Really?); the Bond girl, Stacy Sutton, is a weak character; and in the end, the regime that held the franchise together since For Your Eyes Only made the same lame mistakes of previous Bonds, and a lot of them. The film, most damningly, doesn’t take full advantage of the San Francisco location they chose to shoot in, which they had full access to thanks to then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein.
20. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
In an attempt to jump-start the franchise after the lukewarm reception given to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the franchise brought back Guy Hamilton, who had directed Goldfinger, and began using cheaper humor, such as gags, all of which weakened the semi-strong story, and coupled with the really bad special effects, ruined what should have been Connery’s triumphant last outing as Bond (with EON anyway).
19. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Now, at least this film had an excuse for lacking; it was a direct follow-up to Casino Royale, which tied the hands of the cast and crew in terms of what direction they could go on. As one friend of mine put it, there’s not a whole lot of plot, just Bond dealing with bad guys, and killing people. The one redeeming feature about this film is the ending, in which the trainee Bond of the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace becomes the cold-blooded killer we know and love.
18. Die Another Day (2002)
This is watchable, but not that great. Released to celebrate the 20th film and 40th anniversary of the franchise, its attempt to be big, bold, and epic takes it in a silly direction reminiscent of the films listed above this. Halle Berry is great, but miscast, and most of the rest of the main cast seems slightly out of place. However, Pierce Bronson, Judi Dench, and the supporting cast are brilliantly well handled, making what would become Brosnon’s last Bond not a total clunker.
17. The Living Daylights (1987)
I often defend this film as being a Cold War thriller, and it is, being one of the few Bonds to really play off the tense backdrop of the Iron Curtain. What sinks it this low, however, is that all the villains are over the top, and seem almost like they were inspired by a comic book; it’s hard to imagine Timothy Dalton’s Bond really being that tied up by them.
16. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This film followed its immediate and predecessor (Goldeneye), and was much more of an enjoyable action romp, even though it does lack depth and development at critical junctions in the film. It does, however, benefit from a great Bond (Brosnon), a great heavy, and the idea of using the media as a backdrop for the film. Michelle Yeoh is great as Bond’s Red Chinese ally, compensating for the poorly written role of Paris, played by Teri Hatcher.
15. The World is Not Enough (1999)
For the record, I love Pierce Brosnon’s Bond, I’m not putting him down by having so many of his films in the bottom half, he just got subpar scripts. TWINE, however, is a film that has a lot going for it, including brilliant twists and turns, and a dark side of Bond we hadn’t seen in two films. While personally involving M in the plot is a nice touch, the writers over do it; and while it is the easiest criticism, it is true: Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist? Really? Come on, man.
14. Live and Let Die (1973)
Like Diamonds Are Forever and The Man with The Golden Gun, Live and Let Die suffers from the use of gags. Fortunately, though, they are not as prevalent. Unlike those films, though, Live and Let Die has voodoo themes spread across the film, including Bond’s most enigmatic antagonist in fifty years, Baron Samedi, who is described as being “the man who cannot die,” and seems to live up to expectations. Made in the style of blaxploitation films of the 1970s, the cast is predominately african-american, including Bond’s first interracial romance, and the film benefits as a result, giving it a breath of fresh air.
13. You Only Live Twice (1967)
When talking about You Only Live Twice, I love to talk about the music. John Barry intertwined oriental-style themes into the classic Bond theme, and made a score that echoed the majestic visuals. The film’s over-reliance on gadgets, coupled with some plot points that don’t make sense, are the only major drawbacks to the film. The formal introduction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played brilliantly by Donald Pleasance, as well as his look, has left an impression that is still being parodied today.
12. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
In terms of significance, The Spy Who Loved Me ranks much higher, since it saved the franchise after The Man With the Golden Gun, as well as being the first Bond that Albert Broccoli produced on his own. However, the film ranks lower here, due to the ineffectiveness of the villain (who I ranked as the worst ever in the history of the franchise). In spite of that, the film has an epic look and feel that sells the larger than life threat, and a great leading lady, who is one of the first Bond girls to really hold her own against 007. It also incorporates the real life Cold War development of detente, by introducing a Soviet ally of MI6, General Gogol, who is one 0f my favorite supporting characters of the Moore era.
11. Thunderball (1965)
If Goldfinger made gadgets cool, and You Only Live Twice overdid it on the gadgets, then Thunderball comes pretty close to the ideal mix of humor, gadgetry, and drama. Connery’s Bond is in full force, even beginning an investigation when he’s on vacation. The film’s heavy, Largo, has a classic dynamic between the villain and Bond in the Connery era: they have a friendly talk, with veiled threats interlaced; they are competitive, they have a nice drink together, and eventually Bond overcomes him. The film is notable in having the franchise’s first real villainess, and also for being the first time that the threat is directly against the whole world, not some small part of it. Parts of it drag, though, and some parts don’t entirely make sense, but it’s a good picture nonetheless.