Five Essential… James Bond Films

Simon Moore selects his Five Essential James Bond Films…

Picture this. It’s Saturday night. The TV schedule has failed you, yet again, on a Bank Holiday weekend, no less. Then a title jumps out at you from the onscreen menu. Ah… there’s a Bond film on…

It doesn’t matter what title, it doesn’t matter when it was made, a Bond title just clicks with everyone. It’s the ultimate shorthand for runaway thrills, face-melting puns and a consistently entertaining hour and a half. By now, we ought to know them by heart. And yet…they never get old. We forgive Moonraker’s dodgy sci-fi ambitions; we can time Roger Moore’s eyebrow twitches to the second; and every man on earth, without exception, automatically affects that pose when they put on a tuxedo.

007 is a tradition, a stalwart, and an icon. He’s survived nearly 50 years, 6 actors and 22 films. No, Never Say Toupée Again doesn’t count. Nobody’s saying they were all good, but by great Connery’s ghost, we’re gonna count down the best of the bunch…

Licence to Kill5. Licence To Kill (1989, dir. John Glen)

Nope, Casino Royale is not on this list. Great story, but Daniel Craig’s screen presence utterly fails to capture the audience’s imagination the way Timothy Dalton does here. By far the best Bond of the ‘80s, Licence To Kill sees Bond seeking revenge on Sanchez (Robert Davi), a vicious drug lord who feeds his friends to sharks on their wedding day.

Dalton’s second outing as 007 is stark, savvy and brutal; a young Benicio Del Toro is torn to pieces in a heroin processing plant, shrieking for mercy. Licence To Kill brought the Bond series back to the forefront of innovation, after an embarrassing decade of puffing and wheezing behind the rest like a chubby autograph hunter. The show-stopping Gladys Knight song doesn’t hurt its reputation, either.

The Spy Who Loved Me4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, dir. Lewis Gilbert)

This is Roger Moore in his prime, partnered with sassy Soviet agent Anya (Barbara Bach), better known as Agent Triple X. He’s a flamboyant, chauvinistic improviser; she’s a cold, methodical romantic. Will they see past their differences, save the world from a fish-loving fop and get it together in a velvet-lined escape pod? That’s a lot of confusing questions. Best to let the film answer them.

The cheeky parachuting and the submarine dock set pieces speak for themselves; the true centre of this Bond is the constant one-upmanship between Bond and Triple X. At times hilarious, at others disastrously misguided, their quirky, chaotic relationship lies at the heart of what makes The Spy Who Loved Me Roger Moore’s best Bond film.

Goldfinger3. Goldfinger (1964, dir. Guy Hamilton)

“Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?”
“No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die.”

One of the series’ greatest strengths lies in its delightfully quotable scripts, and Goldfinger is bursting at the seams with Bond’s trademark banter, his wry punchlines, and of course that priceless set-up for Goldfinger.

Auric Goldfinger loves gold. He loves it so much he wants to irradiate Fort Knox’s reserves, so his own will skyrocket in value. Goldfinger is a masterpiece in pure entertainment, effortlessly switching between inspired comedy, exhilarating escapes and tense, breathtaking action sequences. What other film can you think of that involves deadly cross-dressing, a razor-tipped bowler hat and killing somebody with a bucket of gold paint?

Goldeneye2. Goldeneye (1995, dir. Martin Campbell)

Pierce Brosnan’s first and finest outing in the tux, Goldeneye is rife with strange, potent imagery. He’s practically haunted by the arrogance and excesses of his long career, especially in the form of Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). Once a brother in arms, now the deadly enemy who knows Bond better than himself. Everyone around him remarks that he’s outdated, outgunned, or, as M puts it, “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” Oof.

Amply motivated, Her Majesty’s Loyal Terrier spends the next two hours avoiding asphyxiation by sweaty thighs, demolishing St Petersburg and still finding time to straighten his tie when he’s done. Indispensible.

From Russia With Love1. From Russia With Love (1963, dir. Terence Young)

The quintessential spy thriller, Bond’s first sequel is fast, fresh and not short of a laugh or two to ease high tensions and sly twists. Sean Connery dominates the screen, whether slinking around like a panther through the catacombs of Istanbul or throwing a beefy Robert Shaw around a train cabin. Like no other actor has before or since, Connery’s performance embodies Bond’s effortless charm, his natural athleticism and his characteristic sang-froid.

Young delivers on the breathless action, but he doesn’t skimp on the stakes either. Wisely, he sticks close to Ian Fleming’s original best-selling plot, ensuring that From Russia With Love is never less than brimming with cruel betrayals, gypsy shoot-outs and the deadliest shoe in the world.

Honourable Mentions…

Dr. No (1962) – of course, for starting it all.
You Only Live Twice (1967) – perhaps the battiest Bond story ever put on film, with ninjas, man-eating piranhas, rockets that eat other rockets, and Donald Pleasance stroking a big white pussy.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – without this film’s climactic siege on a mountain-top fortress, Inception would never have been the same.
The World Is Not Enough (1999) – not as comedic as other outing, but it boasts solid performances from Sophie Marceau and Robert Carlyle. Just pretend Denise Richards isn’t in it. It’s not hard.

…and Dishonourable Discharges

Octopussy (1983) – as bad as it sounds. Turns the stomach at its mere mention.
Die Another Day (2002) – Madonna’s in it. Sums it all up, really.
Quantum of Shoelace (2008) – there’s a whole set of Jason Bourne films already made, Marc Forster.
Casino Royale (2006) – nah, just winding you up.

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your comments on the list…

Simon Moore is a budding screenwriter, passionate about films both current and classic. He has a strong comedy leaning with an inexplicable affection for 80s montages and movies that you can’t quite work out on the first viewing.

Essentials Archive

Around the Internet…

  • http://mrtsblog.wordpress.com/ mrtsblog

    I think most true Bond fans would agree with your number one choice. It’s also refreshing to see Spy make the list; obviously a best of Bond list will be light on Moore, but if you’re going to do camp and over the top you may as well go the whole hog. Good to see some love for Dalton and an excellent, spot-on introduction. Bond films really do resonate and light up dull, disappointing TV

  • http://www.tjbd.co.uk/ James Bond

    Good choice with FRWL and GF but I don&#39;t really agree with you on the others. But that&#39;s fandom for you, eh?<br /><br />While I thought Dalton was a good Bond, he was way better in TLD than LTK.<br /><br />Roger Moore&#39;s best Bond was FYEO, and as hard as I try to like TSWLM, it just doesn&#39;t do it for me somehow.<br /><br />And while you list TWINE as an honorable mention, it is

  • Alex Williams

    Dalton all the way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13288786243908986920 Neon Messiah

    First of all let me say that the Bond franchise is completely overated. <br /><br />The films are pretty much interchangable. Just swop one implausible baddie with another, throw in some hot chick Bond has to bang, some exotic locale and Roger&#39;s your uncle. <br /><br />I struggle to tell them apart.<br /><br />The Daniel Craig films may be Borne-a-likes but at least they stand up as decentish

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14643771650278834988 Simon

    This organisation does not tolerate failure. Or Bourne remakes.

  • Brian Gregory

    FRWL is a decent choice for no1 as it is a great spy adventure. TSWLM is easily Moore&#39;s best,fully agree there! However,I would never place TLD in an all time top 5 Bond list,it&#39;s an average film at best and not very &#39;Bond&#39; at all in style-I find it quite boring-similarly,Goldeneye?have you watched it recently?it may have kick started a new era of Bond films but it doesn&#39;t

  • http://www.livetv.pk/ muhammadrazzaq

    are you fucking serious..?…then who is playing paulson these days…here&#39;s what it can&#39;t possibly be true, among other reasons…

  • Matthew Osmond

    Enough with the Bourne/Bond comparisons. While I admit QOS stole some of Bourne&#39;s style, that is what hurt the movie from working as well as CR (Though I&#39;m a huge fan of QOS). Other than the &quot;Dishonorable Discharge&quot; of QOS, I agree with your list. There are plenty of other Bonds worthy of being discharged; like AWTAK and TMWTGG.<br /><br />Great Read, by the way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03357812263980220511 Vince

    I&#39;m glad to see someone else who doesn&#39;t like DC.<br />He and Wilson have killed this series, another Bourne as in BORING we don&#39;t need.<br /><br />DC is nother at all like the other actors and he looks nothing like Fleming Bond who was dark haired and tall.<br />One more item if this is early in Bond career M should be they guy from the first 16 films Sir Miles, not the one from PB&

  • Paul

    CR simply has to be up there.<br /><br />Your top 5 has some problems which I suspect is due to an attempt to make your selection span a broader period.<br /><br />Goldeneye better than CR, Dr No and OHMSS or even Thunderball. It aint happening my friend.<br /><br />You DC bashing is a blatant attempt at getting comments. &#39;Casino Royale (2006) – nah, just winding you up.&#39;<br /><br />Well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14643771650278834988 Simon

    What can I say? It&#39;s film. Film is art. Art is incredibly subjective. Everybody has different favourites, and that&#39;s the way it should be.<br /><br />As my intro mentions, I have a soft spot for the entire Bond franchise, old and new. While I take a dig at QOS, I won&#39;t deny it&#39;s good entertainment; I had great fun at the Finnish premiere in 2008, and I look forward with bated

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18168467177380824337 flickeringmyth

    I would possibly have left Goldeneye out in favour of Thunderball (and for some reason I&#39;ve always been partial to The Man with the Golden Gun), whereas Goldfinger would be top for me but the rest of the list I can&#39;t fault.<br /><br />However, Goldeneye was a good reinvention of the franchise at the time. I think it deserves credit for dragging the series out of a slump.<br /><br />And

  • http://www.londonderrydodge.com/jeep-dealerships-edmonton.htm Kevyn Hagemann

    No wonder James Bond films are always included in lists of top car movies. By the way, my favorite 007 film is Die Another Day. The cars in that film are futuristic and expensive. People are entertained watching action movies not only because of the stunts, but also because of these expensive cars that only get busted. Action stars have a reputation of owning such cars, so if you have a Wrangler

  • Anonymous

    OHMSS is getting undeserved love here. It was brave and occassionally inspired to brilliance. It had an outstanding score. It also had a section where Blofeld put on a mystical voice and told a woman under hypnosis and floating lights that chickens were her friends… while James Bond went by the name of &quot;Sir Hilary&quot;, wore a kilt and dropped it to a giggling plethora of women that

  • Anonymous

    Goldeneye better than OHMSS and Casino Royale? well i think you must be joking. I must respect your opinion, and i admit that Goldeneye was one of the best in the series, but i think it is not deserve in top 5 list. Brosnan&#39;s Bond fail to impress me that Bond should have a commanding presence, Brosnan lack of it. With Brosnan, i never believe him have any combat skill before, or have special

  • http://www.salkeldmusic.com/ Gavin Salkeld

    Licence to Kill is so underrated. THANK YOU for writing something good about it!

  • http://www.salkeldmusic.com/ Gavin Salkeld

    Licence to Kill is so underrated. THANK YOU for writing something good about it!

  • Anonymous

    OHMSS is getting undeserved love here. It was brave and occassionally inspired to brilliance. It had an outstanding score. It also had a section where Blofeld put on a mystical voice and told a woman under hypnosis and floating lights that chickens were her friends… while James Bond went by the name of &quot;Sir Hilary&quot;, wore a kilt and dropped it to a giggling plethora of women that

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14643771650278834988 Simon

    What can I say? It&#39;s film. Film is art. Art is incredibly subjective. Everybody has different favourites, and that&#39;s the way it should be.<br><br>As my intro mentions, I have a soft spot for the entire Bond franchise, old and new. While I take a dig at QOS, I won&#39;t deny it&#39;s good entertainment; I had great fun at the Finnish premiere in 2008, and I look forward with bated breath

  • http://www.londonderrydodge.com/jeep-dealerships-edmonton.htm Kevyn Hagemann

    No wonder James Bond films are always included in lists of top car movies. By the way, my favorite 007 film is Die Another Day. The cars in that film are futuristic and expensive. People are entertained watching action movies not only because of the stunts, but also because of these expensive cars that only get busted. Action stars have a reputation of owning such cars, so if you have a Wrangler

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18168467177380824337 flickeringmyth

    I would possibly have left Goldeneye out in favour of Thunderball (and for some reason I&#39;ve always been partial to The Man with the Golden Gun), whereas Goldfinger would be top for me but the rest of the list I can&#39;t fault.<br><br>However, Goldeneye was a good reinvention of the franchise at the time. I think it deserves credit for dragging the series out of a slump.<br><br>And please don

  • http://www.rayskillmanhyundaiwest.com/section/secondary/indianapolis-auto-dealers/ Carry Demaggio

    True! All James Bond films are always irresistible! I personally like the You Only Live Twice made in 1967. But all JB films are always action-packed and ready to entertain you.

  • Brosnannotbond

    Goldeneye better than Casino Royale? in what way?<br /><br />Craig is a much better actor than Brosnan IMO and much more believable than Brosnan.