From diehard film buffs to casual moviegoers, everyone’s got a favourite James Bond movie. Throughout the past six decades, Ian Fleming’s 007 has appeared in 27 movies and been portrayed by some of the finest actors in the biz. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone alive today who hasn’t had some exposure to this iconic spy-action franchise.
When it comes to which of the various Bond movies are the best, however, things can become somewhat contentious. While it’s universally agreed that, for celluloid spycraft, nobody does it better than Bond, there’s less of a consensus on which Bond movie is the best. Critical acclaim doesn’t always equal commercial success — and vice versa — and the experience of a movie is, in itself, subjective to the viewer.
So, how to define the best James Bond movies? Is it their adherence to the source material? Their cinematography? The presence of guns, girls and gadgets? An arbitrary score on a movie ranking website? Given just how different the current era of the franchise is from when it was first committed to the big screen, it’s certainly not easy to judge. However, in this article, we’ll be presenting what we believe to be the five best James Bond moves ever, ranked from 5 to 1.
Key Bond Themes
The quintessential man of mystery, James Bond has been the centre of a phenomenally successful film franchise since 1962. Right from the very start, Bond movies have established key themes, from those epic title sequences with their extravagant soundtracks to adrenaline-fuelled chase sequences, gadgets and, of course, the presence of a glamourous “Bond girl or two”. This franchise has become such a staple in modern-day culture that, collectively, we now associate Aston Martin cars and “shaken, not stirred” martinis, first and foremost, with the titular character.
As with all pop culture phenomena, the onscreen adventures of this roguish 007 agent have inspired many moviegoers’ dreams and ambitions. It’s almost impossible to watch Bond clean up at the baccarat table and win real money slots without leaving with a hankering to play the game. And who among us doesn’t crave travelling first class to an exotic private island or visit a lavish brick-and-mortar casino in Monte Carlo?
The Eras of Bond
While the basic formula of a Bond movie has barely changed since Dr No, each actor to take on the role of the famous J has ushered in a new era of Bond. Sean Connery embodied 007 as a debonair rogue, while Roger Moore played him with an almost knowing wink to the camera. Timothy Dalton gave Bond some bite with his coolly menacing portrayal, while Pierce Brosnan added sexy sophistication to the role. Despite only appearing on screen in the role in a single outing, George Lazenby’s take on Bond allowed the narrative to shine through in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
For many of us, however, it’s the current era of Bond that remains fresh in our minds. While previous attempts had been made to reboot the franchise, none were quite as successful as the Daniel Craig era. Casino Royale brought the series bang up to date, with Craig’s portrayal of a brooding, almost cerebral Bond elevating the movie beyond a simple, gadget-filled action caper.
The 5 Best James Bond Movies
5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Very little makes sense about the Roger Moore era, which is perfectly encapsulated in The Spy Who Loved Me. Having not quite dipped into the absurdity that would appear in future instalments, the 1977 release delivered everything we love about Bond movies in a sleek package. Menacing villains? Check. Moore’s trademark sly wit? Dripping from the screen. A ski chase followed up with a Union Jack parachute? What better way to open a film?
4. Dr. No (1962)
The film that memorably launched the EON James Bond franchise, Dr. No introduced the world to an impossibly stylish secret agent. Tasked with defeating a megalomaniac genius with his own island headquarters, Connery’s Bond engages in innuendo-laden repartee with Miss Moneypenny, expertly handles a Walther PPK, and teams up with a voluptuous sidekick in Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder. Dr. No may have been filmed on a tiny budget, but it more than stands up to the test of time.
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
There’s a reason why noted director Christopher Nolan counts On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as his favourite: it humanised Bond right when it was needed. While Lazenby’s portrayal may not have been as warmly received at the time, having replaced Sean Connery, watched with fresh eyes, it’s clear he injects a dose of pathos into this seemingly invincible MI6 agent. Transcending the Bond girl trope, Diana Rigg’s Tracy di Vincenzo is one of the most intriguing female characters to appear in the franchise. Even Telly Savalas’ Blofeld is, dare we say it, a relatable villain.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
Bond was back in rugged style in 2006 as Martin Campbell launched a very low-tech spy in Daniel Craig’s tenure. Gone were the frankly wacky gadgets and camp performances of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond; in their place was a character-driven portrayal of an agent at the point of no return. Craig’s Bond delivered some much-needed vulnerability, while Eva Green tore up the disposable Bond girl trope with her refined, intelligent portrayal of Vesper Lynd.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger may well be approaching its 60th anniversary, but still, to this day, it’s the epitome of a classic Bond movie. The 1964 Connery edition of the franchise introduced us to some of the greatest Bond hallmarks like that Aston Martin DB5, deadly henchman Oddjob and, of course, Desmond Llewelyn’s Q. Shirley Bassey’s bombastic title song, meanwhile, set the template that has been much emulated but never bettered.