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
20. Octopussy (1983)
Runtime: 2 hrs. 11 min.
For Your Eyes Only: James Bond tracks the trail of a Fabergé egg and a dead double-0 agent to a group of circus performers in India, led by the yonically named Octopussy.
Bond, James Bond Is… Roger Moore. [after meeting a tiger in the forest] “Sit!”
Property of a Lady: Octopussy is played by Maud Adams, the rare Bond actress to come back for a second role (she was in The Man with the Golden Gun), but it’s at least semi-refreshing to see Moore interacting with a woman closer to his own age. Kristina Wayborn plays the thinly-characterized double-agent Magda, who gets the cringe-worthy title drop (“Oh, that’s my little Octopussy”) and is otherwise completely unremarkable.
SPECTRE of Death: The rogue’s gallery in India is particularly mediocre: the late Louis Jourdan tries to spice up proceedings as Afghan prince Kamal Khan, but Steven Berkoff’s General Orloff doesn’t curry much favor with his over-the-top barking. The twins Mischka and Grischka have a neat little gimmick with their knife-throwing skills, but Kabir Bedi’s Gobinda is just Oddjob with a turban.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: The whole crew is back, with Q getting a bit more to do this time, accompanying Bond on his mission to India. One big misstep (and a sign of the franchise’s aging core crew) is the hiring of the young Miss Penelope Smallbone (Michaela Clavell) as a potential replacement for Moneypenny in future installments. Based on the two lines of dialogue we got, I’m glad we dropped her: nobody does it better than Lois Maxwell.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: Barry’s back as usual, but his scoring is a bit limper this time, lazily throwing in some Indian flavors to make it seem like he’s trying. Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High” is yet another entry in Moore’s repertoire of mall-walking Bond anthems, but at least it’s aged marginally better than “For Your Eyes Only”:
Highest Body Count: Based on this awesome supercut from Auralnauts, Octopussy features the single highest instance of mass murder that Bond is directly responsible for, making up nearly half of Moore’s total kills. In the pre-credits sequence, Moore drives his tiny Bede BD-5J jet through an open airplane hangar, the missile chasing him blowing up said hanger and killing approximately 50 people. 007: now officially a mass murderer.
From India, 1-Love: In a weirdly charming bit of stunt casting, tennis pro Vijay Armitraj becomes Bond’s sidekick for the Indian portion of the movie, playing an MI6 agent named – get this – Vijay. He quips gleefully along with Moore, takes out hoodlums with a tennis racket, and even gets a tragic death to fuel Bond’s desire for justice. In a pretty weak Bond entry, at least Vijay stands out.
Quantum of Analysis: Octopussy is Moore-era Bond at its most rote: a wrinkly star purring icky double entendres into the ears of women half his age, disappointing villains, corny jokes (including a Tarzan yell!), and an almost desperate veneer of self-awareness. Octopussy feels like Cubby Broccoli and the rest just kind of shrugging their shoulders at the audience and saying, “What do you want from us?”
— Clint Worthington
19. Spectre (2015)
Runtime: 2 hr. 30 min.
For Your Eyes Only: Bond is on a personal mission to track down a mysterious organization that may be the key to every mission dating back to Casino Royale. A mysterious ring and a tucked-away past all lead to one thing: SPECTRE.
Bond, James Bond Is… Daniel Craig. “Stay!”
Property of a Lady: Lea Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swan, daughter to one of Bond’s enemies. Seydoux is good as per usual, but her character suffers a second-half lapse of logic thanks to the writers, and she feels out of place in the end. Faring better is Monica Bellucci’s Lucia Sciarra, a widow to an assassin who feels destined to be assassinated herself. She is strong but unafraid to show how frightened she is. Her chemistry with Craig is bonkers, but alas her time on screen is short. In an even smaller role is Stephanie Sigman, who unknowingly assists Bond in the excellent pre-credits sequence. Sigman co-starred in FX’s The Bridge. I miss that show.
SPECTRE of Death: Christoph Waltz is Oberhauser. Who am I kidding? He’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld! He’s been retconned into a boy from Bond’s childhood who grew jealous of his father’s affection towards the man who would become 007. More on him later, but before then let’s discuss Dave Bautista’s silent thug, Mr. Hinx. After making a memorable entrance, his character slowly transforms into Bond’s version of The Terminator. After Bautista’s performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, he is underutilized here. Andrew Scott plays a jerk-ish MI5 higher-up whose agenda turns out to be associated with evil. Not worth getting into. Dissect elsewhere.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: Ralph Fiennes settles in for his first full-time gig as M. Joining him are returning associates Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as Q. They are a great team, the best trio since Moonraker gave us Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, and Desmond Llewelyn. No Felix, but he is mentioned in a promise made to the widow Sciarra. Spin-off with Felix protecting Lucia, please!
Shaken and Stirred by Score: Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” doesn’t hold up as a single, but fits in quite well in the context of the movie’s opening credits. Fire. Octopuses. Bond. Shadowy figures. It’s a solid sequence. Thomas Newman’s score uses its melody and gives the film a bit of old-school class with its use of strings as a dominating instrument.
John Harrison: Remember when everybody and their mother knew that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan in Star Trek into Darkness, but everyone involved kept insisting that he was no-name John Harrison? Like that movie, when Spectre’s villain is revealed to really be someone else (here he changed his name to Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Groan.), it’s supposed to be “the moment” of the movie. Instead we’re left saying “yes, and” without an improviser in sight. It’s one of a few “surprise” moments that turned out to be predictable from the day Spectre was announced.
Day of the Dead: The pre-credit sequence is a technical marvel: a “single-take” thanks to tricks of the filmmaking trade. We walk through a parade into a hotel, up an elevator and into a guest room, out the window, and across a roof to a kill shot. Director Sam Mendes doesn’t rest on his laurels here, and it’s one of the best Bond openings of them all…
Quantum of Analysis: …it’s too bad about the back half. Spectre’s strong, gorgeous front half features intense introductions and a proper “fun” take on Bond we haven’t seen from Craig before. Classic elements from Bonds of yesteryear return before the movie loses itself to prequelitis, ridiculous acts of retcon, and an anti-climactic finale. There are bad Bond movies and good Bond movies, but Spectre may be the most frustrating of them all. So much potential squandered by what turns out to be poor storytelling.
— Justin Gerber
18.The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Runtime: 2 hr. 5 min.
For Your Eyes Only: There is a man with a golden gun and a determination to kill a 00-agent who cannot be killed: James Bond!
Bond, James Bond Is… Roger Moore. “I am now aiming precisely at your groin. So speak, or forever hold your piece.”
Property of a Lady: There is good with the bad. The less said about Britt Ekland’s Agent Mary Goodnight the better, but I will mention that at one point she finds herself locked in the trunk of a car. A much more mysterious performance comes courtesy of Maud Adams as Scaramanga’s lover, Andrea Anders. Adams was so good that producers cast her as the titular role in Octopussy years later.
SPECTRE of Death: Christopher Lee is excellent in the role of Scaramanga, a most formidable foe for our James. He has a fun house designed to engage in shootouts with fellow hit men, so he’s just the right kind of sick for the franchise. He has both a dwarf sidekick in Hervé Villechaize’s Nick Nack and a third nipple. Are there inappropriate jokes about Nick Nack throughout the film? It was filmed in the early ‘70s, where such jokes were basically required.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: Q is back! After missing out on the Blaxploitation-egads-adventures of Live and Let Die, Llewelyn’s gadget guru meets with Moore’s Bond for the first time. Don’t worry. He’s as unimpressed with him as he was with the Bonds that came before. No Felix this go-round.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: With guns and ladies in a shimmering-water effect, the credit sequence is disappointingly bland. Lulu’s title track doesn’t help much (we have it at the bottom in our Ranking: James Bond Theme Songs), but what if it was replaced by Alice Cooper’s version? Hmmm. Not much better.
G.D. Sheriff J.W. Pepper: Everyone’s favorite (?) walkin’, talkin’, good ol’ boy caricature is back! After appearing exasperated to the point of human combustion in Moore’s first outing, the vacationing sheriff just so happens to be vacationing in Bangkok when he runs into 007 once again. “Now, if you pointy-heads would get out of them pajamas, you wouldn’t be late for work!” Ladies and gentlemen, your 1970s!
James Bond Was Kung Fu Fighting! While Live and Let Die embraced/ripped off the Blaxploitation films of its era, Golden Gun embraces/rips off the Kung Fu craze happening around the same time. This may help explain the pointless sequence in an actual dojo, not seen since the days of Connery going full Asian in You Only Live Twice. At least Moore’s Bond has the decency to come as he is. Probably a double entendre in there somewhere.
Quantum of Analysis: Not good, HQ. Not good. It’s a MOR-Moore Bond adventure in a set of films that tend to veer off the cliff. The locales, as always, are beautiful, and Lee is a classic Bond villain. Unfortunately for Ian Fleming’s cousin, he’s trapped in an overlong movie with one of Bond’s worst leading ladies and worst scores. Moore’s next movie would not only be better, but one of the best Bond movies of them all.
— Justin Gerber
17. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Runtime: 1 hr. 59 min.
For Your Eyes Only: Bond must stop a maniacal media mogul from starting World War III between England and China – all to sell more physical copies of newspapers and more subscriptions to satellite news networks (wha?).
Bond, James Bond Is… Pierce Brosnan. “They’ll print anything these days.”
Property of a Lady: Despite its weaknesses, Tomorrow features one of the strongest “Bond Girls” of all time: Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin. She kicks ass with the best of them and has the rare distinction of being treated like a colleague instead of yet another item in Bond’s inventory. She and Bond get some thrilling, collaborative action scenes together, including an extended set piece where they’re literally handcuffed to each other.
Oh, and Teri Hatcher’s in it too for, like, a couple minutes.
SPECTRE of Death: Jonathan Pryce’s Elliot Carver is equal parts Steve Jobs (complete with portrait), Rupert Murdoch, and Donald Trump, which makes a great idea for a villain. Unfortunately, despite Pryce’s lively presence and that lyrical delivery, he makes for a pretty limp baddie. Vincent Schiavelli brings a much-needed jolt of humor as his fastidious assassin Dr. Kaufman (“I feel like an idiot. I don’t know vat to say”), and Gotz Otto is imposing, if not remarkable, as this installment’s required Aryan strongman Stamper.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service…and Felix Leiter: Judi Dench is all spit and vinegar as M, Samantha Bond offers her wry sharpness as Moneypenny, and Desmond Lllewelyn is in fine form in his last full-on role as Q (he shares Q duties with Cleese in The World Is Not Enough). Our good buddy Joe Don Baker is back as Jack Wade, too.
Shaken and Stirred by Score: This was David Arnold’s first Bond score of the five he would do for the series, and I love it. Much like the plot, its focus on electronica is extremely ‘90s (working with the Propellerheads, who did the lobby-scene fight cue from The Matrix), but his strong orchestral backing and penchant for big, big, big in his music fits Bond well. Arnold essentially auditioned for the part by making a CD of Bond theme song covers that’s well worth a listen.
As for the theme song, it’s … okay, I guess? Sheryl Crow gives it that swaying, lounge-y feel that fits Bond’s high-class lifestyle, but it’s not nearly as brassy as the original pick: k.d. lang’s incredible “Surrender.” Stick around for the end credits to listen to that and wonder what could have been.
Backseat Driving: After GoldenEye spent a whole scene telling us about the fancy new BMW only to drive it down a single road, Tomorrow makes up for that with an excellent chase scene involving a parking garage, henchmen with rocket launchers, and Bond remote-driving a BMW 750 from the backseat. (Who brings rocket launchers just to, as far as they know, break into a car?)
Gee Pee Ess: Another strong indicator of just how dated Tomorrow Never Dies has become is its obsession with that newfangled technology known as GPS. The first act’s major MacGuffin is a GPS encoder, personified by a slim, blinking red box with a long series of numbers that’s meant to symbolize … something, I’m sure. Looking back on it now, it’s just adorable how many people introduce GPS in the film as if it’s a new thing. “Through our global positioning satellites … the GPS system,” says Colin Salmon’s Robinson, smugly.
Quantum of Analysis: After Austin Powers was released to much success, the self-reflexive Bond of GoldenEye was out. People wanted the goofy, campy 007 back, and Tomorrow feels like a step in that direction. Brosnan’s having a bit more fun, and Pryce throws himself into his hammy villain with gusto. It’s rather low in this list, but strong set pieces, Arnold’s awesome score, and the presence of a truly kick-ass Bond girl in Wai Lin give it some charm. As you’ve by no doubt read, Brosnan’s certainly done worse.
— Clint Worthington