The Definitive Ranking of Every James Bond Movie

 

In a coronavirus-free world, we would have already been exposed to the 25th James Bond film — No Time to Die — but we don’t live in a coronavirus-free world. The film, which was tapped to open in April 10, was the first film to voluntarily delay its opening date because of the pandemic, and we now won’t be able to watch Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 until November. But in a way, the delay is a blessing in disguise, as it gives us more time to rewatch the two dozen other official Bond films. We’ve come up with the definitive ranking of all 24 of them, so take a look below and see where your favorite ended up.

 

24. Octopussy

 

Oof. Roger Moore’s penultimate outing as Bond proved to be not only his worst, but the worst in the entire franchise. The ridiculous title should clue you into how unserious the film is, and the scene where 007 dresses up in a clown disguise will confirm all of your worst suspicions about the movie.

 

23. License to Kill

 

From unserious to unflinchingly humorless, we get this dark take on Bond in Timothy Dalton’s second and final turn in the role. The mashup of James Bond with ’80s drug crime movies just doesn’t work, and the movie is so grim and grisly in its violence that it sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the franchise.

 

22. A View to a Kill

 

Moore was nearly 60 when he put on his tux for his final Bond movie here, and he wasn’t the same special agent that he used to be. That would have been fine if the script had accounted for his advanced age, but unfortunately for Moore, the movie still treated him like he was in his 30s. Bedding 20-year-old women and doing crazy stunts isn’t the best look for a grandpa.

 

21. Die Another Day

 

The final of Pierce Brosnan’s four Bond movies, Die Another Day is everybody’s favorite punching bag. The invisible Aston Martin, the Korean villain becoming a white man, Madonna’s silly cameo, and Halle Berry’s hammy performance as Jinx have all been ridiculed ad nauseam, but the movie isn’t a total wash. It starts strong with Bond being imprisoned and tortured in North Korea, with an inventive opening credits sequence that ranks among the best in the series. Too bad the rest of the film couldn’t live up to it.

 

20. The Man with the Golden Gun

 

There are some really fun aspects of Moore’s second Bond film. Christopher Lee as flamboyant assassin Scaramanga ranks among the best villains in the franchise, while Hervé Villechaize’s Nick Nack is one of the series’ most entertaining henchmen. But the bulk of the film is a letdown, with a tone that’s all over the place and too many odd choices. Case in point: the forced inclusion of the goofy southern sheriff character from Live and Let Die, who gets an unnecessary and expanded role here.

 

19. Diamonds Are Forever

After taking a one movie break from the franchise, original Bond actor Sean Connery returned for one more round — not counting his unofficial 1983 Bond movie, Never Say Never Again. Frankly, he should have stayed away. Connery is clearly phoning it in, the plot is absurd by every measure, and the film’s treatment of women is aghast — even for a Bond movie. Still, it is Sean Connery, and even at his worst, he’s still pretty good.

 

18. Tomorrow Never Dies

 

Brosnan’s second film has a lot of good things going for it. Jonathan Pryce makes a great Bond villain, Michelle Yeoh arguably kicks more but than any other Bond Girl, and the remote-controlled BMW is a standout gadget. But the plot, about a manufactured war intended to enrich a media company, falls flat.

 

17. Moonraker

 

In a kneejerk reaction to Star Wars, this late ’70s entry sent Bond to outer space in a much-ridiculed decision. But really, Moonraker isn’t as bad as many people think. The bulk of the plot takes place on Earth, and even the space stuff — with its laser gunfights — is pretty cool in a retro, fun sort of way. The movie also features arguably the most impressive stunt in the entire franchise, with an opening skydive scene that will knock your socks off. It’s not all fun and games, though, as Jaws’ romance and redemption subplot is the worst kind of cringe.

 

16. The Living Daylights

 

Dalton never really found his groove as Bond, but his first outing certainly came closer than License to Kill. The plot is well-crafted and well-paced, and the film comes across as a solidly entertaining spy thriller. But is it a James Bond movie? That’s hard to say. The franchise certainly tried to move in a more grounded direction with Dalton in the driver’s seat, but they may have leaned too far into realism. Bond is, after all, an escapist fantasy series, and you don’t really get that from this movie.

 

15. Spectre

 

Hopes were high for Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as 007 after the billion dollar-earning Skyfall, but Spectre was a letdown. The movie certainly looks great, it features tremendous performances all around (Dave Bautista’s silent henchman Mr. Hinx is a highlight), and the action setpieces were thrilling. The film has style in spades, no doubt, but it was lacking in substance. The plot is more full of holes than Bond’s DB5 after a gunfight, with the most glaring being the decision to retcon the events of Craig’s three previous outings as the work of Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld… who is also Bond’s adopted brother… for some reason.

 

14. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

 

George Lazenby’s one and only Bond movie is a solid flick overall, though it’s tough not to imagine how much better it would have been with Connery in the role instead of the Australian model. The movie has one of the franchise’s most beautiful and iconic locations in Blofeld’s Swiss mountaintop lair, some great winter sports-themed action scenes, and a plot that takes big risks that pay off, like having Bond land a wife who subsequently is murdered. Still, Lazenby’s performance leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s what prevents this film from landing higher on this list.

 

13. Quantum of Solace

 

Time has been good to Craig’s second Bond movie. At the time of its release, the Casino Royale sequel drew heavy criticism for not being nearly as good as its predecessor — and it still isn’t — but it’s better than you remember. It’s dark, but not License to Kill-dark. Its plot is convoluted, but not Spectre-level convoluted. Its action is good, but not great. It’s basically the most mediocre Bond movie, which is why it’s smack-dab in the middle of this list.

 

12. The World Is Not Enough

 

Consider this to be the dark horse of this list. When many people think of Brosnan’s third Bond movie, they immediately go to Denise Richards. Her character — a completely unbelievable and scantily-clad nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones — is one of the worst in the franchise, and her presence alone almost destroys the whole movie. Almost. The thing is, the rest of this movie is really good. The twist of Elektra King’s Stockholm syndrome is legitimately shocking, and Renard’s gimmick of not being able to feel pain makes for an interesting villain. Brosnan is reliably good, too, maneuvering his way through the film’s action setpieces and witticisms with aplomb. An underrated gem.

 

11. For Your Eyes Only

 

Following Moonraker‘s critical backlash, the franchise went back to basics with this barebones Moore film — and it’s awesome. The pomp and circumstance have been mostly stripped away, and Moore gets a chance to brood and play a spy like never before in this tight adventure. But since this is a film from the Moore era, the film still maintains some of the fun escapism that Bond is known for, balancing it with a darker realism to make something really unique and entertaining. The only thing we’re not crazy about is the very young figure skater character who tries to hook up with Bond. Bond does at least rebuff her advances, but still… it’s weird.

 

10. Dr. No

 

The franchise wouldn’t exist were it not for this film, and it still holds up almost six decades later. Connery was born to play Bond, and even though a few of the character’s hallmarks wouldn’t be introduced until subsequent films, he’s still almost fully-formed here. A lower-key Bond adventure than what was to come, Dr. No was nonetheless a thrilling spy-action movie that revolutionized the genre, and the image of Ursula Andress’ bikini-clad Honey Ryder emerging from the surf is burned into the brains of an entire generation. Sure, the film would be topped — literally by the next year — but the original Bond movie still ranks among the best.

 

9. Live and Let Die

 

On paper, the idea of a James Bond blaxploitation movie sounds like it would be a disaster. And yet, somehow, this movie rocks. Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond marked a stark change of direction for the franchise. It’s a direction they didn’t really follow, but it was a new direction nonetheless. With its drug trafficking storyline, gadgets galore, its voodoo villain, and its psychic Bond girl, Live and Let Die is maybe the weirdest Bond movie ever — but it’s also undeniably fun and entertaining. And that Paul McCartney theme song? Easily the best of the franchise.

 

8. You Only Live Twice

 

Yes, the yellowface sequence in which Bond is disguised as a Japanese man is more than a little cringe-inducing today, but on the whole, You Only Live Twice still represents the best example of Bond at his Bond-iest. The volcano lair, the cat-stroking, scar-faced Blofeld, the plot involving stolen spaceships… these are the kinds of things that many think of when they imagine a classic James Bond adventure. It’s probably the most parodied Bond film — the entire Austin Powers franchise is practically based solely on this film — and you don’t get that kind of notoriety by being a crappy movie.

 

7. Goldeneye

 

Pierce Brosnan kicked off his Bond tenure on a high note with this stellar ’90s action movie. A plot full of genuine twists and turns, a truly hateable villain in Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, and a show-stopping sequence with a tank are just some of the many highlights in this now-classic film. And as good as Goldeneye is, the videogame version was even better, but that’s a story for another time.

 

6. Thunderball

 

Four films into the franchise, Bond producers had to come up with new ways to top the previous films, and they didn’t hold anything back with this movie. Bond flies on a jetpack, fights henchmen underwater, and dodges sharks in the biggest Bond movie up to that point. Thankfully, it all comes together brilliantly, resulting in a swinging ’60s Bond adventure that also holds up as a standalone action movie.

 

5. The Spy Who Loved Me

 

Roger Moore’s best Bond movie contains a number of the franchise’s most iconic scenes. Bond skiing off a cliff and opening up a Union Jack parachute? That’s this movie. The introduction of Richard Kiel’s Jaws, the most frightening Bond henchmen ever? This movie. Bond’s white Lotus Esprit turning into a submarine before our very eyes? Yep, that’s this one, too. The film also borrows elements from other Bond movies — the ocean-based lair from Thunderball, the enemy spy partner from From Russia with Love, the ski chase scene from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — and mixes them together with its own original contributions to create a sort of “Bond’s greatest hits” playlist. The theme song, by Carly Simon, also ranks among the best in the franchise. Really, it’s hard to find any fault here.

 

4. From Russia with Love

 

The second-ever Bond film, this in some ways is an even smaller film than Dr. No. There’s not much in the way of exotic locales, there’s no world domination plot, and much of the film takes place on a train. But don’t sleep on this unassuming spy thriller. The train fight scene between Bond and Robert Shaw’s SPECTRE agent is still regarded as the franchise’s best and most brutal fight scene, the few gadgets that appear are utilized perfectly, and the movie features an abundance of great villains. A pure thrill ride that’s perfectly executed every step of the way, From Russia with Love is the little Bond movie that could.

 

3. Skyfall

 

The highest-grossing Bond movie to date was so successful for a reason: It’s fantastic. With powerhouse performances from Craig, Judi Dench as M, and Javier Bardem as the unforgettable villain Silva, Skyfall arguably boasts the best acting showcase in the entire franchise. It’s also the most bombastic Bond movie, with explosive setpiece after explosive setpiece fueling the film’s twisting and unpredictable narrative until it all leads to the most thrilling, emotional, and unorthodox third act in the franchise. This is Bond at his blockbuster best.

 

2. Goldfinger

 

Goldfinger is often considered the movie in which Bond became Bond. Following his two smaller-scale outings in Dr. No and From Russia with Love, Bond gets to confront a larger-than-life villain in Goldfinger, who has a ridiculously (and deliciously) complicated plan involving Fort Knox. It’s the absurd villain plots to end all absurd villain plots, and it works because Bond calls him out for its absurdity. This is also the film where Bond first gets his Aston Martin DB5, where he first orders a vodka martini “shaken, not stirred,” and was the first to have its own unique theme song in the opening credits (Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”, another all-time Bond banger). It also boasts one of the strongest, no-nonsense Bond Girls ever in Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. Yes, her name is obscene, but Blackman’s performance definitely isn’t. She’s depicted as a highly-skilled pilot, the best in the sky, and this was in 1964! That’s pretty revolutionary, all things considered. Goldfinger is definitely the most iconic Bond movie, but there’s one film in the franchise that’s better.

 

1. Casino Royale

 

For Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, the formula was thrown out entirely. Rather than following the loose continuity that had been established in the previous 20 films, Casino Royale decided to do a hard reboot and show how Bond first became 007. It was a risky gambit, but it paid off in spades. The grittier take on the character reinvigorated the franchise and proved that Bond was just as hip and relevant as ever. The more realistic fight scenes, the non-sexualized Bond girl in Vesper Lynd, the complex and mysterious villain in Le Chiffre, the film’s daredevil stunts, and the emotional, realistic storyline all helped to cement Bond as a movie hero who could flourish in the 21st century. But the film didn’t throw out the baby secret agent with the bathwater. This is still unmistakably a Bond movie, and the film’s clever nods to the character’s past — like Bond asking if he looks like he gives a damn when asked if he wants his drink shaken or stirred — ensured that the franchise was in good hands.

 

Tune in to THIS on Saturday, May 2 for a tripleheader of Bond classics. Catch our number 10 pick Dr. No, number 4 From Russia with Love, and number 2 Goldfinger, starting at 7 pm/6 C, with a second chance to watch starting at noon/11 C on Sunday. See our schedule here for details.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of MGM