Is Sean Connery versus Roger Moore the classic debate of who was the best Bond? It’s not because Sean Connery blows him out of the water. I’m talking early Sean Connery though. After Goldfinger, his high water mark as Bond, the quality of Connery’s movies continued on a downward trend and the series really ended up as a parody of itself through the 70s. This is why Roger Moore’s movies will not be gracing this list. They can be fun in a corny way, but too often they’re corny in an embarrassing way. When Bond is at his best he’s not about being funny. Bond at his most cool is all about stylishness with just the right touch of outlandishness. The action scenes need to be over the top, but not out of place. It can be harder than it sounds, since films like Moonraker and Die Another Day took the franchise to borderline sci-fi B-movie territory. The films on this list all portray Bond as he should be. Bond has always been suave, but he can turn around and be brutally violent when he needs to. His best movies have always featured equal parts of sophisticated, high-class intrigue mixed with over-the-top villains who do things like throw their hat as a weapon. It’s a delicate balance, and these ten movies manage to pull it off in style.
10. Licence to Kill—Bond goes rogue in this movie when he seeks revenge for his friend in the CIA, Felix Leiter. Felix is very graphically maimed and his wife is killed shortly after their wedding by a vengeful drug kingpin. When Bond is told to stand down, he resigns and goes after the villain, only caring about killing him in cold blood. Strangely enough, the resignation part of the story is not resolved at the end. Really, I can’t emphasize enough how interesting it would have been if Dalton would have stayed with the franchise. As an added bonus, a young Benicio del Toro plays a henchman here.
9. Quantum of Solace—Daniel Craig’s second movie admittedly has some rough spots. It’s the shortest movie in the franchise (to a fault) and it was in production during the writer’s strike. Shooting started before the script was finished and Craig himself contributed many ideas. The action is really fast paced and is edited in the shaky camera, quick-cut Bourne franchise style. Add in a villain who can be creepy even without scars or props and a Bond girl who is his genuine match and you’ll see that there actually many redeeming scenes.
8. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—George Lazenby wasn’t really a great choice for Bond. He was a model, not an actor, but this one is very interesting. The first action scene in the series to feature skiing is here. And Bond gets married! Everyone seems to forget about that, but then again this movie was swept under the rug to an extent since Sean Connery ended up coming back for the follow-up. Lazenby should have stuck around though, because Diamonds are Forever is just awful, and it really paved the way for Roger Moore’s brand of slapstick nonsense. There were some gritty, emotional moments in this one and its a shame the series took a turn away from that for so long.
7. Skyfall—This one is a suprisingly straightforward action movie. Daniel Craig summarizes the gist of it in one line: “Some men are coming to kill us…we’re going to kill them first.” In what was somewhat jokingly referred to as Bond re-enacting Home Alone, the finale features Bond improvising traps of all kinds in his abandoned childhood home. The lack of complicated intrigue allows the action to really shine through. Javier Bardem is a twisted and disturbing villain. Judi Dench as M has more characterization than ever before and we are finally reintroduced to Q and MoneyPenny after a long absence from the franchise.
6. The Living Daylights—Timothy Dalton was a very different Bond and I often wonder what the series would have been like if he was in more than two movies. He comes off as more gruff than suave, and realistically, other action movies in the late 80s were leaving the franchise in the dust (Predator and Die Hard were out around this time). However, The Living Daylights has amazing action scenes featuring an open cargo plane, sledding inside of a cello case, and the coolest sniper rifle Bond ever held. If Dalton would have stuck around, I imagine the Brosnan films of the 90s would have been much different.
5. Dr. No—The very first Bond adventure is very low key compared to all the others. Unlike any other film in the series, it takes place entirely in one location: Jamaica. There are no real gadgets or frills in this one, but there are still plenty of iconic scenes. Honey Rider emerging out of the ocean is unforgettable, as is the very first time we hear Connery introduce himself as Bond, James Bond.
4. From Russia With Love—Connery’s second outing as Bond is super stylish; there really are very few other Bond movies like this one. Robert Shaw plays a cool henchman and SPECTRE is introduced for the first time. Longtime head villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is also teased as he is shown hatching the film’s villainous plot with his face obscured. But his signature white cat is there for him to pet vigorously.
3. Goldeneye—Pierce Brosnan’s first outing brought Bond into the 90s and out of the Cold War for the first time. This one isn’t just a great Bond film, it’s also a super stylish action film. It feels more like other action movies around the same time period more than it feels like Bond from any other decade. Natalya is easily the most compelling Bond girl in the whole series and the supporting cast is all amazing. Xenia Onatopp both excited and terrified every guy that watched and Boris…well, he’s invincible!
2. Casino Royale—Daniel Craig simultaneously reinvents Bond while embodying him in the purest sense. Bond has never been this brutal or this cold and calculated. Because of the reboot, this is also Bond’s “first” mission. As such, he makes mistakes and he bears scars both physical and emotional. Vesper makes an awesome Bond girl who’s an intellectual match and the action scenes are just as compelling as the suspenseful poker scenes.
1. Goldfinger—This is the Bond movie that has it all. Sean Connery’s first two films began the formula that has followed for 50 years, but this one really perfected it. No one could forget the henchman Oddjob, the Bond girl Pussy Galore, and the Aston Martin DB5, among other set pieces and characters. Elements from Goldfinger can be seen in every Bond adventure that followed it; some of them are just blatant retreads too (see most of Diamonds are Forever and A View to A Kill).
Well, what do you think? Are we completely mad? Let us know in the coments!