Following the release of the twenty-fourth James Bond film, Spectre, it’s time to rank all of the movies from worst to best. I haven’t seen all the Bond films yet, so big thanks go to 007 expert/superfan Adam Zinkin for his fantastic help on this post! Now, let’s get into this…
24. Licence To Kill (1989)
Timothy Dalton, not the most beloved Bond of all time, stars in his second and, thankfully, last film: 1989’s ‘Licence To Kill’. is an absolute travesty.
The story focuses on Bond attempting to gain revenge on a drug lord who tried to kill his old friend Felix Leiter. Put simply, it just isn’t Bond. Everything about it is far too serious, from Leiter’s torture to Bond’s desertion of MI6, it all just goes against the grain of what a Bond film should be.
Although praised by some as ‘rugged’, Dalton himself is simply not Bond; bent on revenge, his Bond has no humour or character, he is merely a dark and violent killer with a bloodlust. And so, it means that the film is lacking in charm and character, and simply uses the idea of Bond as a foundation for vengeance story.
23. Octopussy (1983)
Octopussy was the first time that Eon Productions broke away from the stories in Ian Fleming’s beloved novels, and it was an absolute disaster. The ‘plot’ followed Bond on an investigation where he uncovers an Afghan plot to force disarmament in Europe with the use of nuclear weapons, but in reality, that was as thin as rake.
We all know that Roger Moore wasn’t famed for his seriousness as Bond, but even his fun-loving performance couldn’t save this film from being one of the worst of all. The innuendo title doesn’t even try to be subtle, and that sums up the movie’s approach to everything. There’s a stupid story in there somewhere, but the main focus of Octopussy was on how little clothing they could show women in without it being censored.
Although that objective was achieved with roaring success, the film itself won’t be remembered as one of the greats of 007.
22. The Living Daylights (1987)
Yes, Timothy Dalton’s first outing as Bond in The Living Daylights wasn’t critically panned. In fact, it was relatively well-received, but it has not aged well.
Much like Licence To Kill, Dalton’s performance was far too serious and lacking in the charm that so many others had brought to the iconic role. Although the plot, centring around Bond’s quest to recover a Soviet agent he had been protecting, was bearable, and there were some impressive action sequences, the film, with its awkward cross between 80s vibe and hard-hitting Dalton thrills, has become somewhat of an unpleasant watch over the years.
It could have been worse, but The Living Daylights is not the one you’ll be turning to when looking back through the greats of the Bond series.
21. Moonraker (1979)
Right, Moonraker. Definitely the most ridiculous of all of the Bond films, and not worthy of any praise whatsoever for its intelligence or excitement.
The story follows Roger Moore’s 007 as he faces off against an evil space shuttle manufacturer who plans to flee into outer space in order to create a human super-race. What ensues is a collection of insane action, ridiculous comedy, painful Star Wars parodies, and a genuinely awful final act.
However, Moonraker is almost in the category of so-bad-it’s-good. It’s a terrible film, no one can deny that, but you also can’t deny that it does provide one of the most entertaining watches of all the Bond films. This is the one to watch if you don’t want to have to think at all, and just have a good laugh with a group of friends, because it really is stupid.
20. Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Following the acclaim that met the James Bond reboot in Casino Royale, everyone was disappointed when it came to the direct follow-up, Quantum Of Solace, in 2008.
Whilst Casino Royale had managed to push Bond successfully into the modern era and make a both exciting and acceptably serious thriller, Quantum Of Solace featured one of the worst stories memorable, sub-par performances from all the actors, and a general lack of proper excitement to match up against the blockbuster action.
I won’t detail the plot for those who haven’t seen Casino Royale, because that would involve spoilers given that this is a direct sequel, but you can be assured that this is definitely the worst of Daniel Craig’s outings as Bond. By far.
19. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
1977’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Me‘ isn’t a generally disliked edition of the James Bond series. Featuring a high-stakes tale about submarine hijackings and a madman who wants to create a new civilisation under the sea, it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic Bond film.
However, it does suffer from pretty poor writing and dialogue that make it a sometimes frustrating film to watch, particularly Roger Moore’s extremely forced puns and quips, as well as average action, an unconvincing plot and not enough style and class to make it feel like a true classic.
Yes, it’s the one with the Lotus Esprit submarine, and it’s also got Jaws in it, but even those don’t make up for it, leaving it as a pretty big disappointment.
18. Die Another Day (2002)
You might think that eighteenth place is way too high for the critically panned ‘Die Another Day‘, but, believe me, it does have its moments, and can be watched as a fun popcorn action flick.
Although it failed to successfully celebrate Bond’s 40th anniversary, and is generally seen as a totally ridiculous, vapid and over-the-top blockbuster that panders to younger audiences more than emulates the classics of 007, there is a hell of a lot of cool, well-directed action here that does provide a lot of fun.
Plus, it features an Aston Martin Vanquish that can turn invisible, a spectacular chase scene across a frozen lake in Iceland, and the last hurrah of the innuendo-filled, womanising James Bond before its reboot four years later.
17. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Despite meeting hugely positive reception for his portrayal of 007 in 1995’s GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s return in Tomorrow Never Dies was a massive disappointment.
The story follows Bond as he attempts to save the world from a media mogul that is trying to engineer a military face-off between Britain and China that he hopes to have exclusive news reporting on. And that is a pretty tedious story when it comes to James Bond.
The whole film takes itself way too seriously, full of deafening action and very little in the way of classy comedy like Brosnan had managed in GoldenEye, meaning that all sense of fun and enjoyment is lost in exchange for this simply stupid and pretty tedious 90s blockbuster.
16. You Only Live Twice (1971)
Now we start to get into the decent Bond films that just don’t stand up when put against the true classics, and so we have 1967’s You Only Live Twice, where 007 travels to Japan to investigate the mysterious hijackings of spaceships in Earth’s orbit.
Sean Connery’s fourth turn as Bond is not at all a bad film, however it was the first real example of where the Bond formula can go wrong. It put too much emphasis on style, action and comedy, and forgot the intelligence and thrills that make this series so iconic.
It’s definitely still a fun watch, and Connery’s performance is as brilliant as ever, but it’s not a particularly impressive film in any way.
15. A View To A Kill (1985)
After 12 years in the role, Roger Moore’s tenure as James Bond came to an end with A View To A Kill. He was always famed as the funniest and possibly most likeable of all the Bonds, and despite a slew of duds in his time, his final film was pretty good.
The story follows Bond as he attempts to stop a villain, played excellently by Christopher Walken, from destroying California’s Silicon Valley, and although it may still feature some of the more ridiculous hijinks that plagued some of Moore’s worse films, this is still a pretty exciting and hugely entertaining movie.
Yes, again, it’s not massively intelligent, but it is a great example of Moore’s class as Bond, and is definitely the best that the series had to offer during its low point in the mid to late 1980s.
14. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
The World Is Not Enough finished the 20th Century off with a bang, and even though it was far from perfect, it was indeed a close return to the classic feel of James Bond.
The plot follows Bond’s mission to protect a woman whose life is threatened by a vicious terrorist, whilst subsequently uncovering a plot in Turkey to make petrol prices soar. The film received criticism for its lack of intelligence, and the questionable casting of Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist, but it is memorable for its successfully exciting action and thrills, as well as Brosnan’s continually strong performance as 007.
13. Casino Royale (2006)
Upon release, Casino Royale was lauded for successfully rebooting a series that looked like it had fallen into the dark ages. Daniel Craig’s first turn as Bond was a massive critical and financial success as it drove 007 brilliantly into the 21st Century.
You may be wondering then, why it’s only thirteenth on this list. Well, despite being a very intelligent, well-directed and well-acted film, Casino Royale still didn’t quite have the magic that people love so much about James Bond. Sure, as a competitor to the Bourne series, it’s fantastic, but with such a serious and gritty atmosphere, it didn’t really portray the glitz and the glamour that we still wanted to see.
As a pure action film, it’s very impressive, but it’s not a stunner so far as James Bond goes, because we still need that little spark of fun that this just missed out on.
12. Thunderball (1965)
For four years in a row, Sean Connery made a Bond film, and 1965’s Thunderball is definitely one of the most entertaining of all.
Following 007 on a mission to find two nuclear weapons stolen by SPECTRE, the film takes place largely under the sea, where an RAF jet has been hijacked, and the villains keep a secret lair. Thunderball has got all the ridiculous story elements that we love about Bond, but the reason that it is a classic is because it manages to retain some degree of intelligence and genuine unpredictability about it.
There are sequences in the film that aren’t so good, but equally, it’s the one where Bond flies a jet pack, and you can’t get much cooler than that!
11. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
George Lazenby is still the only person to play James Bond only once, and although he may not have been the bright spark of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there is still a whole lot to love about the film.
Although some found it boring and too heavy on dialogue and slow espionage, the film is credited as being one of the most intelligent and exciting of all of the Bond films. Featuring pretty strong performances, a high-stakes story set in the Alps, and an epic climactic action sequence between Bond and Blofeld, many have come to love this as one of the forgotten classics of Bond.
It’s not an easy watch, and definitely isn’t as funny as some of Connery’s classics, but this is a pretty unique edition of the Bond series, and deserves huge credit for that.
10. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
After the critical disaster of Moonraker, producers wanted to get Bond back to its good old formula in For Your Eyes Only, and, for the most part, succeeded.
The story follows Bond on a mission to locate a missile command system to save the world, as well as being entangled in a web of lies and deception with the various people he encounters along the way. Although some dismissed For Your Eyes Only as a bit boring, the film features enough excitement and impressive stunts to make for an entertaining watch.
It’s probably the best example of fan service in a Bond movie, featuring deep sea adventures, snowy mountain settings, naval warfare and everything in between, so there’s definitely a lot to love here.
9. Skyfall (2012)
The reboot of James Bond in 2006 was a success, but viewers were still hungry for a ring of the old 007, and with 2012’s Skyfall, they got exactly that.
Although the plot isn’t the most well-honed, the film features so many fantastic callbacks to the classics of Bond, whilst also establishing itself as a modern example of how good the series can be. Featuring a cross between the gritty thrills and a much funnier and light-hearted atmosphere, Skyfall was an absolute joy to watch.
Plus, it features stunning performances across the board, an incredible theme song and beautiful directing by Sam Mendes that all come together to make one of the most spectacular Bond movies of all.
8. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
In his second outing as James Bond, Roger Moore cemented himself as a great in playing the iconic role.
The Man With The Golden Gun follows 007 as he attempts to disable a device that can harness the power of the sun, as well as his epic duel with a hitman with a golden gun. This film is definitely one of the best examples of Bond’s capabilities to perfectly blend drama and light-hearted fun together.
With a plot as preposterous as any, and Moore’s fun-loving performance, there is so much to enjoy here, but there’s also a lot of good thrills and proper excitement throughout that makes this one of the most all-round impressive Bonds of all.
7. Live And Let Die (1973)
And just before The Man With The Golden Gun, Roger Moore took his first steps as 007 in Live And Let Die, where he travels to a fictional Caribbean island to bring down a drug smuggling operation originating in the US.
On the one hand, Live And Let Die is a classic Bond film because it’s got all the fun and excitement that you want to see: 007 running across a lake by jumping on crocodiles’ backs, a good, unpredictable story, and one of the best Bond girls ever in Jane Seymour.
However, the film is arguably the most intelligent of all of the Bond films, as it delves into the real world of drug smuggling, deprivation and crime in the Deep South of the USA in simply intriguing fashion, all the while retaining the glamour of Bond, which all comes together to make a truly brilliant film.
6. Spectre (2015)
The fourth film starring Daniel Craig as James Bond is an absolute masterclass when it comes to effective and intelligent storytelling.
Following Bond on a mission that pushes him into a dark web of deceit and mystery, Spectre tells an incredibly captivating story, but rather than using big action and explosions to get its way, it waits patiently to give you a truly unpredictable and eerie viewing experience.
There has never been a Bond film quite like Spectre, and although it may frustrate viewers who want a bit more popcorn, it’s a massively intelligent, incredibly mysterious and hugely tense movie that is definitely not to be missed.
5. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After a hiatus following You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery returned to the role of James Bond in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, which follows Bond on a mission to defeat a diamond smuggling operation that is being used to create a giant laser for the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The film features a high-stakes story that’s full of fantastic thrills and drama, but the reason that Diamonds Are Forever stands out is because it’s more comedic than thrilling, and successfully so. Connery’s return to the role isn’t triumphant, but you can tell that he is having a huge amount of fun in the film, thanks to regular, high-quality jokes that make this an absolute riot to watch.
But don’t think that that cheapens the film at all. There are still incredible stunts and impressive story lines, so there’s no doubting that this is one of the greats of all of the Bond films.
4. From Russia With Love (1963)
Following the series’ monumentally successful opening film, Dr. No, in 1962, Sean Connery returned triumphantly as Bond for another stormer in 1973’s From Russia With Love.
The film follows 007 on a mission to help a Soviet agent defect to the West, whilst being pursued by a series of assassins who aim to avenge him for his actions in Dr. No. Although not as big on action and laughs as the previous film, From Russia With Love is remarkable for being a hugely intelligent story with incredibly-written dialogue.
Also, Sean Connery’s performance as Bond is a classic, and his relationship with the Bond girl, played by Daniel Bianchi, is a lot more interesting than the rest of them. It may not be a non-stop thrill-ride, but this is a definite classic of the series.
3. GoldenEye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan’s first film as Bond, this is inarguably his finest. GoldenEye sees Bond attempting to stop the use of a Russian satellite weapon of the same name, aimed at creating a world-wide financial meltdown.
There is so much to love about this film: the title is an homage to Ian Fleming, whilst the chase scene is one of the finest ever in a Bond film, as Brosnan paves a path of destruction through St Petersburg in a tank.
There is also an emotional side to the film as Bond is betrayed by Sean Bean’s 006; one of his closest friends whom he presumed dead. Plus, who could say no to one of the maddest femme fatales ever in Xenias Onatopp. Brosnan himself is set in the Connery mould; suave and sleek, funny yet not farcical, and brutal when necessary, lifting this to the status of one of the true greats of James Bond’s history.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
Arguably the most iconic and well-known of all of the Bond films, 1964’s Goldfinger is an undisputed great of not only the Bond series, but the history of cinema.
Following Bond’s attempts to bring down Auric Goldfinger, a madman who aims to contaminate the USA’s gold deposits and subsequently take over the world, it’s a hugely thrilling adventure, full of great action, brilliant characters in Bond, Goldfinger, Oddjob and Pussy Galore, an intelligent story, and a hugely entertaining atmosphere.
However, Goldfinger is also notable because it is the film that really kicked off the James Bond we know and love. This was the first film to feature gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5, and of course, Goldfinger’s ridiculous but iconic laser to kill Bond, and is by far the best of all in combining the thrills, glamour and drama that makes this series so legendary.
1. Dr. No (1962)
Like so many classic film series, however, it’s the first of all that takes the top spot. Dr. No was the first Bond film (by Eon Productions) of all, and it brought to life one of the most exciting characters anybody had ever seen.
Everything about Dr. No is brilliant. Its story is both simple and still unpredictable, the characters are fascinating and the locations are eye-catching. The villain, despite being very understated, is very effective, whilst the Bond girl, played by Ursula Andress, is so much more than just a pretty face in this story.
But above all that, this is the film where we first met Sean Connery as James Bond. The best there has ever been. He brought such an incredible energy to the role, making the maverick, womanising secret agent the idol of millions across the world at the time, thanks to the humour and impressive dramatic qualities of his performance, and it’s that that takes this over the line as the best James Bond film of all time.