10 Best James Bond Movies
While no one seems willing to agree on who should be next to play one of the most iconic roles across literature and film ever to exist, the James Bond franchise will no doubt continue to reappear every few years. As long as there are movie cameras around to capture his escapades, Bond movies will keep flowing. As long as there are actors around to play him, Bond will live forever. With nearly thirty different movies, seven different actors, plenty of different directors and all kinds of novels from which to draw from, the character of James Bond and the films that portray him have become one of the longest continually-running series in history. One has been in some state of production since 1962, with no end currently in sight. Naturally, James Bond movies have to be pretty entertaining in order to have withstood the test of time for so long. Some are much better than others, though. With films stretching over half a century, there are 10 films that stand out far more than the rest.
Daniel Craig’s first time playing the character proved to be the greatest realization of the source material so far. 2006’s Casino Royale is the culmination of everything that makes James Bond movies worth watching — a great villain, exciting stunts, state-of-the-art gadgets, a mysterious and compelling female lead, and a suave and sophisticated spy at the center. This is the Bond movie that all other Bond movies should strive to be.
The third James Bond movie ever remains to be the second best James Bond movie ever. Like Casino Royale, Goldfinger epitomizes the James Bond franchise to great effect. Unlike Casino Royale, Goldfinger refuses to take itself seriously — it’s the campiness that really wins the viewer over. Puns, musical sequences, exotic set pieces, cartoonish villains: everything that makes James Bond so cool is cranked up to eleven in 1964’s Goldfinger.
Maybe there’s something about threes — Daniel Craig’s third turn as Britain’s most famous spy is nearly as strong as his first. It’s such a great film, going beyond just being a great James Bond film and remaining one of the most memorable action thrillers of the 2010s. The emotions are real, the action is tense, the villain is one of the best ever. Skyfall is top-tier Bond.
From Russia With Love
Sean Connery’s second Bond film (and the second Bond film to be released), From Russia With Love is based on the 1957 novel of the same name and took the Bond franchise to new heights. While the first film was concerned with keeping things grounded — similarly to how the Craig-led Bond films are at least partially based in reality — this sequel smartly decides to throw logic out the window and amp up the one-liners, the action sequences, and the cartoonish characteristics of both Bond and his villains.
Above all else, the first Bond film does one thing better than all the rest: It seems to have a better understanding of the leading man than any other Bond film. Its small budget works in its favor, resulting in a spectacular spy movie instead of a spectacular action film. There’s nothing else like it in this franchise, and we don’t see it returning to this small scale anytime soon.
Considering how iconic the video game based on the film is, there’s no doubt the film deserves a spot on this list. The wait was long for GoldenEye — MGM and EON Productions (the studios responsible for the Bond films up to this point in the 90s) were going through some legal troubles that resulted in a six-year hiatus — but its premiere, along with Pierce Brosnan’s first turn as Bond, was met with relatively high praise. GoldenEye felt like a breath of fresh air for the Bond franchise in 1995, and it still feels fresh today.
The Spy Who Loved Me
More or less a remake of You Only Live Twice, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me is as big and ridiculous as any of the early Bond films can be. Its got a massive budget which results in massive practical stunts, breathtaking locations, and a great performance from Roger Moore. Moore might be considered the worst Bond, but The Spy Who Loved Me is quite the exception.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
While Moore might be the least loved Bond, George Lazenby might be the least appreciated — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service proves this. The last of the 60s Bond movies, the film takes Bond in a different direction and brings the series closer to technical perfection than ever before. There’s a skiing sequence that definitely deserves to go down in Bond history as one of the best action set pieces the series has to offer.
The Living Daylights
Surprisingly not a horror movie like the title might suggest, The Living Daylights is a transitional film: Roger Moore is gone, Timothy Dalton is in. We’re noticing a trend: The first movie with a new Bond actor always seems to stand out more than the others. The Living Daylights certainly fits this trend, offering plenty of great thrills and classic Bond moments. By 1987 when this film was released, there’s no doubting that these films are probably being made by an algorithm — it hits all the right beats with relative ease.
The fourth Bond movie over the course of four years, 1965’s Thunderball remains pretty polarizing. Many consider it to be the point where everything changes: As Connery’s Bond escapes on a jet-pack, fans of a more grounded Bond escape with him while fans of a more cartoonish and over-the-top Bond cheer. It’s goofy, it’s experimental, it’s representative of many Bond films to follow that toe the line between good and bad — Thunderball is good, but it’s really walking the line. The other twenty-or-so films that have been omitted from this list suffer from a lot of the same problems that Thunderball suffers from. Thunderball was just the first to suffer from them, so it’s still pretty innovative in a strange sort of way.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.