The Bond films.
What a topic.
Everyone has their favourites.
There are numerous rankings and lists available to view online and each has its merits.
The general consensus tends to be fairly predictable.
Connery was the best, Lazenby wasn’t an actor, Moore was a joker, Dalton very serious, Brosnan tapered-off towards the end and Craig defied a lot of expectations… right?
Well… maybe, but that’s actually quite a simplistic overview and not sufficient to influence my judgement of the films.
What I present here is my entirely subjective assessment of the series, based loosely on which films I tend to return to the most and essentially, which ones are, in my view, the most fun to watch.
Inevitably, purists are not going to like this, but I am not calling this the definitive “best” rundown, but rather my favourites, based entirely on a personal set of criteria and therefore highly likely to leave readers shaken and stirred (sorry).
Also, I’d like to point out that, just because some films sit at the lower end of the list, it doesn’t mean I dislike them, rather that I have preferences for others.
Okay, Bond connoisseurs here it is, going from favourite to least favourite… don’t say I didn’t warn you:
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Living Daylights
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
You Only Live Twice
Diamonds Are Forever
For Your Eyes Only
Live And Let Die
A View To A Kill
From Russia With Love
The Man With The Golden Gun
Never Say Never Again
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Licence To Kill
Die Another Day
Quantum Of Solace
No Time To Die
So… there you go. I put Moonraker top. Bet you weren’t expecting that.
The film regularly features at the lower end of polls on this subject.
The standard criticism is that the story is even more absurd than usual and the script is more like a Carry On film than a spy thriller… blah blah blah…
While this may be true, I still go for Moonraker over the others because it is just a fun romp through cliches and silliness and sometimes that is just the tonic I need.
It has been parodied to the nth degree as well, which says something for its impact.
Connery may indeed be the best Bond, but I love Moore’s take on the role.
Never too serious about the part (although he has his moments, For Your Eyes Only, for example) and never too serious about himself either.
Consequently, his films arguably aren’t the “best”, but they are the most enjoyable.
Also, I’d like to take the opportunity to smash some other flawed Bond-related myths while I’m at it.
The first, that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is somehow an unworthy addition to the series.
I blindly assumed this to be the case for years until I re-watched and realised it’s actually a pretty good yarn and that Lazenby isn’t that bad in the role.
Now I wonder where the series could have gone if he’d stuck around?
Possibly to some good places.
Also, I’ve decided it is unfair to dismiss an entire film just because the lead actor may not be your favourite.
It also contains one of my favourite Bond quips.
After the brutal fist-fight in the hotel suite, he stops to partake of the room service order he placed and utters the line (in an overdub), “Mmmmn Royal Beluga. North of the Caspian.”
This cracks me up every time.
The second point is that Dalton was “too serious” or “boring” or some rubbish like that.
Again, I beg to differ.
That is why I put The Living Daylights high on the list.
A very watchable picture.
True, his Bond is more serious than his predecessor’s (not difficult) and true that, for various reasons not simply due to performance, his second and final outing is a jarring shift in tonality for the series, it nonetheless irritates me to see Daylights frequently dismissed on this flimsy basis.
A further point of interest, for me at least, is that I find I can, with a straight-face, place Diamonds Are Forever in the top 10, especially after singing the praises of Majesty’s, which set the series up beautifully to go somewhere it never ultimately went.
A much-maligned entry in the series, Diamonds also regularly features low on rankings lists and for good reasons no doubt.
But I like it.
If nothing else, the film features a wonderful soundtrack (as do many others) and the plot deserves reappraisal precisely because it doesn’t do the obvious.
The Brosnan and Craig features are obviously lower on the list and many will take issue with this.
They’re not bad.
I just don’t like them as much as the others.
I like the films where the stunts are real and not CGI.
The fact that John Barry is not around anymore to provide these pictures with his soundtrack magic is a great shame.
And I had to put No Time To Die last, because nobody’s seen it yet.
I also cheekily included Never Say Never Again, which regularly gets savaged by critics and again, I have to say, I understand the reasons for this but…
I watched it again recently and decided I liked it because of Connery’s obvious tongue-in-cheek performance.
If this brief look at the Bonds helps anyone to look at them again with fresh eyes and think for themselves about what they like, rather than what we are regularly told is best, then great!
Enjoy some escapism!