This feature originally ran in November 2015 and has been updated to include the latest 007 film, No Time to Die.
Despite its relatively rigid formulas, the past 60 years have seen 007 innovate and change with the times — from the swinging ’60s sophistication of Sean Connery to the wacky, winking camp of Roger Moore in the ’70s; from Timothy Dalton’s harder edge in the ‘80s to the slick, techno-infused commercialism of Pierce Brosnan in the ’90s. Even Daniel Craig’s macho navel-gazing has brought us a more sensitive, introspective Bond for a 21st century audience.
To that end, us agents here at Consequence decided to provide our own collective assessment of the Bond films from worst to best, along with our dissection of what makes each entry unique. So sit back with your vodka martini (you know the drill), loosen your bowtie a bit, and read on. Unlike Goldfinger, we fully expect you to talk and give us your own ranking in the comments below!
— Clint Worthington
25. Die Another Day (2002)
Runtime: 2 hr. 13 min.
For Your Eyes Only: Bond gets captured in North Korea, re-emerges with a beard, squares off with an enigmatic British millionaire, and eventually gets turned into shite CGI so he can fight yet another villainous laser.
Bond, James Bond Is… Pierce Brosnan.
Property of a Lady: Halle Berry, fresh off an Oscar for her devastating work in Monster’s Ball, played Jinx Johnson (cue the light giggling over alliteration). While Berry’s visual allusion to Ursula Andress’ Dr. No bikini and her mysterious, butt-kicking demeanor made for a nice touch, the fact remains that Jinx was a misshapen second fiddle to Bond. Jinx kinda feels like the initial, ironic jinx on Berry’s career since 2001.
SPECTRE of Death: Bond villains have never been strangers to physical deformation and odd quirks. Here, Die Another Day doubled down with gene therapy. For one, Toby Stephens was the evil Richard Branson-like Gustave Graves, formerly (twist!) Colonel Moon from North Korea! He changed his face and appearance and devised a laser and diamond scheme that seems like way too much effort. Speaking of diamonds, Rick Yoon played Zao, a pasty henchman with diamonds embedded in his face. Anyways, these bad guys are exhausting to describe as their motives and transformations are very convoluted. What’s wrong with just robbing Fort Knox, you know?
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: John Cleese was officially the new Q, after playing R in The World Is Not Enough. Honestly, it would have been fun to see master-wit Cleese play Q for a handful of Bonds, but rebooting gave him the, er, boot.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: David Arnold went, like, full trip-hop with his score. Brass and machine drums.
Tsunami Surf Suckage: When Brosnan rides the waves in wobbly early 2000s computer effects fashion, Bond fanatics immediately gave Roger Moore snowboarding to The Beach Boys a pass. The iceberg-sailing surf is up there with fake-rubber Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man and wiggly Neville Longbottom in The Sorcerer’s Stone. Fans should have sent letters expressing their displeasure to the glut of effects houses that thought CGI-surfin’ Bond was a good idea — maybe they did.
Moore Says: Roger Moore says a lot of things about Bond these days, but perhaps the most inarguable comments he’s ever made were his thoughts on Die Another Day that he gave to The Times in 2008: “I thought it just went too far– and that’s from me, the first Bond in space! Invisible cars and dodgy CGI footage? Please!”
Quantum of Analysis: Director Lee Tamahori brought a certain inept splashiness to Bond, opting to mix the series’ signature ultra-budget flashes (endless locales, stunts, and effects) with the series’ sense of camp grandeur and silliness. In trying to please all contingents of the fan base, Die Another Day is the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Bond, too big and too damned goofy for its own britches. It prompted the 2006 reboot and became known as the breaking point in a franchise where the hero had been shot into outer space, avoided STD’s and alcoholism for 40 years, and had been re-cast several times. Die Another Day finally made Bond what he’d avoided for so long: D.O.A.
— Blake Goble
24. A View to a Kill (1985)
Runtime: 2 hr. 11 min.
For Your Eyes Only: Bond retrieves a stolen microchip that is capable of withstanding the magnetic pulse from a nuclear explosion. He soon uncovers a plot by the evil entrepreneur Max Zorin to destroy Silicon Valley, wiping out all his competitors. 007 must spring into action with the aid of a San Francisco City Employee … yep, that’s right!
Bond, James Bond Is… Roger Moore. Bond: “Hello. My name is James St. John Smythe. I’m English.” Stacey: “I never would have guessed.” Yikes.
Property of a Lady: Tanya Roberts plays Stacey Sutton, a San Francisco City Employee who aids 007 in his attempts to take down Max Zorin. Yes, that’s still correct and says a lot about the badass city workers in the Bay Area. And then there is May Day (Grace Jones), personal bodyguard to Zorin who is one of the most complex henchmen in Bond history, like it or not! May Day is the one who actually foil’s Zorin’s plan where Bond kind of ties up loose ends.
SPECTRE of Death: Christopher Walken plays the villainous Max Zorin. Walken truly shines here as the eccentric businessman and yet is sadly wasted on this installment in the Bond franchise. It’s safe to say we’ll probably never see Mr. Walken in another Bond film, but the way business is these days, we could always see him return as Zorin’s twin brother, seeking revenge!
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, and Desmond Llewelyn reprise their roles as M, Moneypenny, and Q, respectively. Solid lineup once more, however, no Felix in this one.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: In the snowcapped ski-action sequence harkening back to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, John Barry’s intense and underrated View score is sadly interrupted with The Beach Boys’ “California Girls” when Bond is forced to use one ski as a makeshift snowboard. This is one of the rare times the use of the electric guitar not only blends well with the Bond score, but seems a perfect fit for the era in which it was produced (unlike the score to GoldenEye, but more on that later). This opening doesn’t flow into the film’s title sequence, but does set the tone for the film’s choppy pacing and odd presentation. Duran Duran’s title track is rad, to say the least. Ah, the 80’s…
Top 25 Golden Gate Bridge Fight Sequences: Say what you will about the film, but the Golden Gate Bridge fight is easily one of the most memorable Bond scuffles in the series. Who could possibly forget the Zorin blimp, the dynamite-wielding, old Nazi, or Zorin’s strange laugh just before his fatal fall?
When is Max Zorin Happiest?
Quantum of Analysis: This clocks in as the second worst Bond Film yet it’s hard to place A View to a Kill right next to Die Another Day. We still get Walken’s iconic performance, not to mention a killer Duran Duran song. Unfortunately, Roger Moore was 57 when this one was shot, though to his credit, even he felt too old for the role. It didn’t help that Bond films were being pushed into a new age of violence that didn’t sit well with Moore. When describing that all Bonds are different, he affectionately said, “I was a lover. Daniel Craig’s a killer.” Goodbye, Sir Roger. Next up, Mr. Dalton.
— McKenzie Gerber
23. The World is Not Enough (1999)
Runtime: 2 hr. 8 min.
For Your Eyes Only: With the aid of an American nuclear physicist, James Bond faces off with a noted terrorist while trying to protect an oil heiress.
Bond, James Bond Is… Pierce Brosnan.
Property of a Lady: Sophie Marceau was Electra King, a kidnapped oil heiress, but really, everyone remembers Denise Richards as the short-shorts-sporting nuclear physicist Christmas Jones. Uh oh, did someone go to the Sylvester Stallone school of screenwriting and character naming? Christmas Jones, a character named solely for the purpose of a cringe-worthy sex pun from Bond about “Christmas coming only once a year.” Nice work, fellas. Everyone involved in this film can go home now.
SPECTRE of Death: They got freaking Begbie from Trainspotting (Robert Carlyle) to play Renard, a man with a bullet lodged in his brain. Normally, the prognosis is death for something like that, but Renard actually feels no pain.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: Desmond Llewelyn bid farewell to his famous gadget-meister Q. It was time. He was 85 upon this film’s release, and Llewelyn passed away a month later on December 19, 1999. Q was given a heartfelt and bittersweet farewell in the film, and it’s arguably the highlight. “Always have an escape plan.”
Shaken and Stirred by Score: David Arnold was getting comfy emulating the brassy Barry sound. Yet he was also coming into his own with his electronic, very ’90s beat-heavy flourishes.
Peter Jackson’s James Bond. Wait. For real? Yes, Peter Jackson was in the running for this Bond entry. Even more curiously, so was Joe Dante, the old Gremlins and Innerspace whiz. But eventually the Broccolis made the totally obvious, very safe, commercially reliable action-director choice and hired Mr. Nell himself, Michael Apted. Who wouldn’t love to be in on that Broccoli meeting? “Well, Apted made all those sensitive, experimental Up films and Gorillas in the Mist, but I’ve gotta feeling about this chap.”
Pretty Long Pre-Credit: With explosions, a boat chase, and multiple locations, The World Is Not Enough had the longest pre-credit sequence of any Bond film (until it was beat by 2021’s No Time to Die). And find anyone to tell you what actually happened in those 14 minutes. Wait, Bond adjusts his collar in cheeky fashion while his boat’s underwater? What the hell was that?
Quantum of Analysis: For a movie riddled with stunts and effects, you’ll be hard-pressed to remember anything that actually happens in The World Is Not Enough. The 1999 Bond is a blitz and ultimately a blur, noteworthy for attempts at giving pathos to the Bond persona and actual psychology to its villains, but in the end, all the effects and characterization aren’t enough for Bond’s world.
— Blake Goble
22. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Runtime: 1 hr. 46 min.
For Your Eyes Only: After the death of Vesper Lynd, Bond seeks revenge on the organization responsible. In his search, he discovers a diabolical figure whose secret plans will leave a country in the hands of a warlord and its natural resources at his fingertips.
Bond, James Bond Is… Daniel Craig. M: “Bond, I need you back.” Bond: “I never left.”
Property of a Lady: Camille Rivera Montes, played by Olga Kurylenko, is a Bolivian Agent gone rogue in hopes to exact revenge on the man responsible for the murder of her family. I do love when the “Bond Girl” is an actual intelligence operative and doesn’t have to exist via a sexual relationship with Bond. They’re few and far between. Gemma Arterton plays MI6 Agent Strawberry Fields (ha-ha), but more on her later…
SPECTRE of Death: Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric, is a member of Quantum, the criminal organization that has ties to the people who murdered Vesper in Casino Royale. Mathieu plays the slimy businessman well but doesn’t quite break any new villain ground here, although he gives it his all when channeling Max Zorin’s axe-murdering tendencies.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: The brilliant Judi Dench returns as M. Moneypenny and Q remain to be seen in the Craig movies at this point. We are, however, graced with the second sighting of Bond favorite, Felix Leiter, once again played by the cool Jeffrey Wright.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: Quantum’s opening sequence picks up right where its predecessor left off, something the franchise had never done before. After an exciting car chase, we get the not-so-great opening credits sequence with the title track performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys. It just doesn’t capture the tone of the film. Oddly enough, the great Shirley Bassey (“Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “Moonraker”) recorded a song with composer David Arnold titled “No Good about Goodbye,” though it was rejected. Using elements of the Quantum of Solace score, Bassey’s song just rings more true. Too bad.
James Bond or Jason Bourne: Competing with heavy-hitting spy thrillers at the time, some of the action in Quantum (not to mention Casino Royale) seems to pull directly from the style of the Bourne films. Too much Parkour? We’ll let you decide.
“Oil-fingah/ He’s the man, the man with the…wait.” One of the best nods and sequences in this film pays homage to another cruel death in the Bond series. Poor Agent Fields. I’ve heard of oil baths, but this is ridiculous!
Quantum of Analysis: This film was in production during the great writers strike of 2011, leaving director Marc Forster and Daniel Craig himself to flesh out a barebones script. It’s all about the story, and unfortunately without writers, this film suffers from a very wonky narrative. Craig admits to not being a writer and that they were “fucked.” Performances are strong, but we’re left with a skeleton of a Bond film that could have been one of the greats.
— McKenzie Gerber
21. Moonraker (1979)
Runtime: 2 hr. 6 min.
For Your Eyes Only: An industrialist space nut wants to re-populate the Earth with his disco-dressed race of Aryan blondes and starts hijacking space shuttles to make his plan come to stupidly expensive fruition. Someone needs to cut the crap. Send in Bond.
Bond, James Bond Is… Roger Moore. Covered in tin foil. Sporting a Union Jack flag on his arm.
Property of a Lady: Lois Chiles played CIA agent Holly Goodhead (ask me about it when you’re older).
SPECTRE of Death: Michael Lonsdale was Hugo Drax, the Hitler-esque megalomaniac looking to create a perfect Earth with handsome teeny boppers. Seriously, James Bond villains must have to put so much damned effort into their cockamamie schemes. Re-populating the Earth? Strangelove pitched that 15 years earlier and was laughed out of the room, Drax!
Oh, and Jaws was back! With a pig-tailed girlfriend!
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: M. Q. Moneypenny. They’re all here. As they’ve been many times.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: The bold and beautiful Barry, at it again. However, come 1979, Barry had to be like, “Enough with the brass and swank, guys.” For Moonraker, he employed rich, melodic string work. At times the score feels like the love child of Bond and the 2001 soundtrack.
Bond. Space Bond. Initially the Broccolis were ready to produce For Your Eyes Only. Then Star Wars happened.
Crash Landing: In spite of the burdensome visual effects, Moonraker still boasts one of the greatest opening action scenes in a Bond film. Kicked out of a plane without a chute, Bond must dive to nab a bad guy’s chute to save himself. It took 88 dives and innovative camerawork, and in the end, the scene’s a total rush.
Quantum of Analysis: Moonraker can be brushed off as a cynical cash grab on the popularity of Star Wars; that much is true. Yet it’s got a certain amount of camp and pricey panache. Jaws bombs into a circus. A gondola turns into a hovercraft. Bond dons lasers. Moonraker benefits from a sense of self-awareness of the fact that everything is a little silly in this movie. Oh, and pigeon double-take.
— Blake Goble