Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bond Franchise Showdown

As I complete my journey through the Bond series, I felt it would be fun to go down the list and rank the films in what I feel is the best to the worst. Again, this is just my personal opinion, and I'm sure there will be many who disagree with me. But even if your favorite Bond movie (or Bond) is ranked low, rest assured that with the exception of a few down at the bottom, I think most of these films are still watchable, even if they aren't that great. After all, it's James Bond. You just serve up a martini and have some fun. I shouldn't even have to tell you "shaken." So without further delay, let us go down the sizable list.

(For those interested, I shall provide the links to my reviews in chronological order at the bottom)

1. Goldfinger (1964)- The ultimate Bond film. No single movie did a better job at encapsulating everything that the series did best. Exciting action, fun gadgets, beautiful women, colorful villains, smarmy one-liners, the best opening theme song ever, and the original 007 himself, Sean Connery. This film is, for lack of a better word, perfect. One of the best action movies of all time.

2. Skyfall (2012) - Hard. Core. "Skyfall" is just about as good as "Goldfinger" in terms of doing nearly everything right. It's a big mash-up of everything that was awesome about the last 50 years of Bond. The only issue is the last act, which goes a bit Jason Bourne. Other than that, holy crap.

3. GoldenEye (1995) - Pierce Brosnan's debut brought back the unbridled fun that the series was known for, and Sean Bean provided the best villain of the franchise. It's nearly perfect, but the weak soundtrack is the main thing not placing it higher.

4. Casino Royale (2006) - This reboot gave Bond a clean slate after years of wackiness to contend with, and was the first time James Bond felt like an actual character instead of a superhero. Extremely satisfying movie. From a film-making perspective I consider it the best one they've done.

5. License To Kill (1989) - The most brutal James Bond ever got. This is a dark tale of vengeance and it doesn't shy away from that. However, Dalton remains charming as 007, keeping the smarm and wit despite the intensity. Along with a lot of solid, well shot action, this is a fantastic movie. It's revenge done right.

6. The Living Daylights (1987) - Dalton's first of two outings is great movie by itself, but one of the reasons for its greatness was its timing. The return to some form of respectability after Roger Moore was finally put out to pasture is nearly a religious experience. I also found it to have one of the more intriguing plots of the franchise. Also, Timothy Dalton is the man.

7. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) - This was one of the most efficient and slick Bond flicks. The action is non-stop, and Brosan is having such a blast that the fun is infectious. It's too bad the villain was pretty lame, but everything else makes for a rock-solid action movie.

8. You Only Live Twice (1967) - This movie is pretty goofy, but it's also fun. The set pieces are ridiculous, and there's some large scale conflict going on that makes for an exciting time. Donald Pleasence is an awesome Blofeld, and Sean Connery is always the mack-daddy. Maybe not a great movie, technically, but I enjoyed it a good amount.

9. From Russia With Love (1963) - Slower than we're used to but still entertaining. It's the closest to a "spy movie" we got from the Bond franchise, and it's actually a really good one. The great Robert Shaw plays one of the best forgotten Bond villains. Some pacing issues throw it off slightly, however.

10. Never Say Never Again (1983) - It's silly, but Connery's second and final return was a good one. A remake of "Thunderball," this improved on it in every conceivable way, and is fast paced and action packed. Even while looking pretty damn old, Connery still rocks it.

11. Octopussy (1983) - One of the only Roger Moore entries worth a damn. The silliness is present but dialed back a bit, and that's with Bond dressing like a circus clown and a monkey at various points. Just think of how far beyond the pale they'd taken the series before that. Some really good action keeps this one tolerable.

12. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - It's a decent flick, but it's too long, the story is weirdly misogynistic even for Bond, it drags ever so slightly by the end, and Lazenby is just okay. The ending is worth noting because of its ridiculously dark nature. Other than that it's a well made film, but nothing overly special.

13. Die Another Day (2002) - Not nearly as bad as its reputation says it is. However it's still just decent at best. Brosnan as always is great, but Halle Berry gives an epically bad performance that nearly drags down everything around her like a melting ice hotel. Just try to block her out anytime she opens her mouth and it's a fun ride.

14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) - The goofiest Connery movie wasn't that bad, but it wasn't as good as his other stuff. It's mostly watchable solely because of him, but Charles Grey was fun as well. Some weird henchmen though.

15. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - Alright film with shockingly good action sequences at the end, but it's still Roger Moore and the villain is not threatening at all. It also botches what could have been a really interesting story with the Bond girl. On the plus side the wackiness is slightly restrained by comparison.

16. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) - Absurd movie with a lot of really stupid stuff in it, including J.W. Pepper and one of the worst Bond girls ever. The only thing salvageable about it is Christopher Lee knocking it out of the park. It's honestly worth a watch for that alone, but it's not that good.

17. Dr. No (1962) - As a spy caper it's just alright. As a Bond movie it's really dull. The formula isn't there yet, and it shows. The villain is beyond lame, the action isn't that exciting, and the editing comes across as shockingly amateur on occasion. Unless you're curious, you're not missing much.

18. For Your Eyes Only (1981) - The biggest problem with this one is simply how unmemorable it is. It's not a bad movie I guess but you'll be forgetting it while you're watching. Much of the problem comes from not knowing who the villain actually is until we're most of the way through the movie. And it's also starring Roger Moore, and nuts to that.
19. A View To A Kill (1985) - Even Christopher Walken couldn't save this one. Nearly as silly as the Roger Moore series got. It's just a dumb, dumb movie that goes on for way too long.

20. The World Is Not Enough (1999) - Denise Richards plays Dr. Christmas Jones, Nuclear Physicist. Any further explanation for it being low on this list is unnecessary.

21. Thunderball (1965) - I've never been able to make it through this film in one sitting. It puts me to sleep. So incredibly boring. I have nightmares about being stuck scuba diving in slow motion for days afterwards.

22. Live And Let Die (1973) - Another obnoxiously boring film, but this time made worse by the fact that it's Roger Moore being about as intimidating as Captain Crunch. Also, I think they wandered into the blaxplotation movie being filmed across the lot and just rolled with it.

23. Moonraker (1979) - The dumbest thing to happen in space since Reb Brown stopped a mutiny. I hate this movie so damn much. Flames. Flames on the sides of my face.

24. Quantum of Solace (2008) - Not only a terrible Bond movie in regards to its stubborn refusal to even think about having a good time, but also a piece of garbage from a trade-craft perspective. One of the most poorly shot action films I've ever had the nightmarish displeasure of sitting through. Akin to torture.

My Bond Retrospective in chronological order:

(Note: "Skyfall" entry was written first, and not all opinions therein are as they are now after rewatching the entire series.)

Thanks for taking this journey with me! I'll see you again on the next mission.


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