James Bond movies make up one of the most successful and influential franchises in world cinema. A monument of popular culture in their own right, 007 movies have also inspired countless other flicks — not just spy movies, but also Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Asian action cinema. But which entries in the James Bond film series are the best? Which of them remain worth your time as the decades wear on?
Of course each generation has their own relationship with Bond and the leading actors who played him. Many believe there will only ever be one true 007 — the bush-browed Scottsman who started it all. Others are partial to Daniel Craig’s steely determination, Roger Moore’s suave charm, or Pierce Brosnan’s roguish bemusement. However, in this list we try to evaluate the movies not just on personal taste, but also filmmaking quality, originality, and how history has judged them. Below are all the James Bond movies ranked, best to worst.
BEST 007 MOVIES
24. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
A dreadfully dull affair. Had this been Roger Moore’s first outing as 007, and not Live and Let Die, the producers might have asked George Lazenby back, who played Bond for one outing between Connery and Moore in the far superior On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The titular man with the golden gun in this one is a Bond-hunting assassin played by Christopher Lee, who was already legendary for his portrayal of cinematic evil (and would go on to become even more legendary playing villains in Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings).
Unfortunately even his charismatic malevolence doesn’t give this film much of a boost, while the Asian locations were used to better effect in other Bond films (You Only Live Twice, Tomorrow Never Dies, Skyfall). Moore remains charming and unflappable even in the most absurd situations. And one can argue that nobody ever looked better in ‘70s male fashions — those wide-lapeled suits and bell bottoms. But that’s precious little to stake a movie on.
007 Movies List
23. A View to a Kill (1985)
The end of the Moore era, and best viewed as a parody. Might as well have had Leslie Nielson playing Bond in this one (though that might have deprived us of The Naked Gun a few years later). Moore was almost 60 at the time, and his liaisons with the 30 year old Tanya Roberts felt creepy and unconvincing even in an unenlightened era.
A bleached blonde Christopher Walken plays the bad guy, the former KGB agent Max Zorin. At least his plot to take over microchip production in silicon valley is a contemporary touch for what had become a prehistoric franchise, a nod to the dawn of personal computing, then just under way.
The producers had originally offered the role of Zorin to David Bowie, and the lost opportunity of pairing him with Jamaican pop star Grace Jones as Zorin’s lover and henchwoman is too painful to consider. Speaking of music, the best thing about the film is the title track by Duran Duran, one of the song highlights of the series.
22. Octopussy (1983)
Moore was actually set to retire from the series when the producers persuaded him to stay on to compete with the forthcoming Never Say Never Again, featuring the return of Sean Connery as Bond. Both movies were released in the same year, and Octopussy won at the box office, so I guess it worked out for all involved. But wow is this movie a mess.
Yes, the opening sequence is amazing, but every 007 opening sequence is amazing. After that, the film devolves into choppy action sequences and cringe-inducing humor, such as when Bond persuades a wild tiger to “sit,” then escapes his pursuers in the Indian jungle by swinging through the vines and yodeling like Tarzan.
The Tarzan bit at least nods towards Bond's colonial mission as an enforcer for the British Empire. Octopussy otherwise ignores that by setting much of the film in India, giving Bond an Indian sidekick, and pretending 100 years of brutal occupation didn’t happen. Completing the cultural appropriation, the French actor Louis Jordan plays an Afghan prince, while Swede Maud Adams plays Octopussy, a role originally intended for a South Asian actress.
What’s really startling is how slow this movie is for long stretches. Bond’s star, Roger Moore was aging, but the boomer audience was too. Perhaps they were simply used to the pacing of another era, before the big Hollywood movies went full whiz-bang.
James Bond Films
21. Spectre (2015)
Spectre opens with a spectacular long take tracking shot of Bond pursuing an antagonist through a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much all downhill from there, with the filmmakers making the unfortunate decision to link all the villains and episodes from the previous Daniel Craig Bond films to one overarching baddie — Blofeld and SPECTRE, the original villainous organization from the Sean Connery era.
Blofeld is played by Christoph Waltz, which should be cause for celebration given the megawatt menace and charisma he showed in twin Oscar-winning performances for Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Alas, the film wastes him as it descends into impenetrability.
All involved were tired of the project, and it shows, with Skyfall director Sam Mendes admitting that he found it increasingly difficult to find new ways to stage the action. Craig himself famously said he would rather “slash his wrists” than play Bond again.
All James Bond Movies
20. Moonraker (1979)
The plot is a Star Wars-era repeat of Thunderball, with Bond trying to track down the whereabouts of a stolen space shuttle. Then following the bad guy (Michael Lonsdale) into space to prevent him from reseeding the Earth with a master race or something. The climactic battle this time involves astronauts with laser guns, rather than Thunderball’s frogmen with harpoons, and the special effects are surprisingly decent.
Before that though, the movie is a snore, with too many scenes of Bond seducing young women in drawing rooms. The many female characters hardly register — Moore’s costar, Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead, may give the worst performance in any Bond movie, which is really saying something. And the verbal “wit” is cringe-level, save for the movie’s final double entendre delivered by Q (Desmond Llewelyn).
The visual wit works better, with several fun moments involving the hulking henchman, Jaws (Richard Kiel), from The Spy Who Loved Me. And a clever sequence of a Gondola driving through the streets of Venice, which is photographed beautifully — though one supposes it’s hard not to photograph Venice beautifully.
James Bond Movies
19. Die Another Day (2002)
Die Another Day seems to be openly asking itself what a Bond movie should be as it goes along. Do you want a serious Bond? Pierce Brosnan grows a beard and convincingly suffers through a North Korean prisoner camp. Sexy Bond? He and Halle Berry smolder together in sun-drenched Cuba. Campy Bond? Rogue Bond? Quippy Bond? Wall-to-wall action Bond? They’re all here. The problem with this film is not that it’s not entertaining at times, but that it doesn’t settle on a tone (the special effects are also sub-par).
This lack of direction — more than audience fatigue — is probably why the Bond producers shut down the Brosnan era, which could have continued based purely on its popularity. Brosnan’s Bonds were all big hits, and Die Another Day was the highest grossing of his four outings as 007.
James Bond Movies Ranked
18. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
James Bond in Las Vegas! Sounds...not so great. And it isn’t. Bond films set in the United States — this one, Live and let Die, A View to a Kill — usually aren’t (Goldfinger being the obvious exception). There’s something about the bluntness of America, or maybe just its relentless familiarity, that robs a Bond movie of the illusion of class and exoticism that fuels the fantasy.
What we have here then is Sean Connery coming out of 007 retirement for a big pay day in yet another take on Blofeld and space lasers and blowing up the world. The movie is faintly remembered for the female martial artist/acrobats, “Bambi” and “Thumper,” who kick Bond around a desert mansion. Oh, America actually does make one memorable contribution: a red 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 that Bond drives on two wheels. Giddy up!
James Bond Movies List
17. Quantum of Solace (2008)
It will always be the Daniel Craig Bond film sandwiched between the gems Casino Royale and Skyfall, and suffer by comparison. Taken on its own, though, it’s not a terrible watch. Although, director Marc Forester struggles to direct coherent action. It’s hard to say what about his previous films such as Monster’s Ball and Stranger than Fiction led the producers to believe that he could. The movie’s disjointedness can’t all be placed on him, however, as a writer’s strike forced them to work with a bare-bones script.
The pleasure, then, comes from the production design; the location photography in Siena, Austria, Panama, Chile, and Mexico; and the performances. It’s sort of hard to not make a pretty film that costs $220 million dollars and this movie does look terrific.
Forester is good at picking out the details as well as presenting the vistas — the staging of an opera, the curve of Bond’s sunglasses, the mosaic of a tile floor, the deep yellow cast of a glass of wine. A strong cast helps Craig immensely: Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, and the redoubtable Giancarlo Giannini, wisely brought back from Casino Royale.
List of James Bond Movies
16. The World is Not Enough (1999)
A middling entry in the Bond oeuvre, but still fun. Opens with one of the more exciting 007 pre-credit sequences. A tremendous boat chase through the waterways — and streets! — of London that climaxes in Bond falling from an exploding hot air balloon. The World is Not Enough has been roundly mocked for featuring Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist (in a Lara Croft getup, no less). But, sheesh, she’s not that bad, especially considering the level of badness that characterizes some of the acting in this franchise.
Anyway, the movie has plenty else going for it: a handsome production design; explosive action; an icy villain turn from Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabella in Braveheart), who gets her kicks with medieval torture devices; and of course Brosnan’s flinty charm. Bonus points, he spends the last act of the movie in an absolutely divine cream herringbone linen suit and French blue oxford shirt.
Sean Connery James Bond Movies
15. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond’s colonial adventuring had taken him through the Caribbean (Jamaica, The Bahamas) and the Near East (Turkey). You Only Live Twice features his first jaunt to the Far East, with the majority of the movie set in Japan. Though the plot is yet another of Bond’s face-offs with Blofeld — this time he works for China and attempts to start a Soviet-American war — it’s notable for actually immersing Bond in a non-Anglo culture, rather than just using it as background.
The film itself though is just so-so, with the recycling of Bond tropes kicking into overdrive, particularly the use of gadgets. The protracted showdown under a volcano is loud and visually ugly — a letdown compared to the elegant extended ocean climax of the previous film, Thunderball.
YOLT was meant to be Sean Connery’s last outing at Bond, though he eventually came back for two more — Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Sidenote: the screenplay was by the famous children’s book author, Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches).
James Bond Film Series
14. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Every Bond reflects his era. Roger Moore’s ‘80s entries were excessive and campy. Pierce Brosnan’s ‘90s Bonds were action cartoons made for a world that had fewer global worries, which may explain the weaker villains. Tomorrow Never Dies had a particularly weak one in Elliot Carver (Johnathan Pryce), a man whose ultimate ambition is to secure a century's worth of broadcasting rights in China by starting a war between China and the UK. And you thought the streaming wars had gotten ugly!
The movie proceeds in fits and starts — Brosnan admitted the script wasn’t ready — but has its pleasures, including a stellar opening dogfight through the mountains between Russian fighter jets. And it features the treasure that is Michelle Yeoh, a few years before her triumph in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as Bond’s Chinese ally. She is handcuffed to Brosnan during a tremendous motorcycle chase through the streets and over the rooftops of Saigon that climaxes with — of all things — the two of them sharing a sunlit shower in the street.
Best Bond Movies
13. Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond. He got the part after establishing his bonefieds in the popular British TV series, The Saint. Indeed, Bond producers had offered Moore the part of 007 a few times before he actually took the role, but he couldn’t get out of his TV contract. By the time he came on board, he may have been surprised to find himself in this strange melange of a movie, set in the Caribbean and the American Deep South with a plot involving voodoo and heroin smuggling and human sacrifice.
The movie piggybacked on the popularity of the newly emerging Blaxploitation genre (movies like Cotton Comes to Harlem, The Black Angeles, and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song). The difference was that Black filmmakers were making those films and positioning African Americans as heroes. Live and Let Die, meanwhile, indulges some ugly stereotypes about black people as drug dealers, thugs, and savages.
The movie may be best remembered for its popular Paul McCartney theme song, which went on to become an FM rock staple, and the massive speed boat chase through (and over) the Louisiana Bayou featuring a redneck sheriff that surely inspired Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit.
Best James Bond Movies
12. The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton wasn’t a bad 007, and despite his two Bond entries underwhelming at the box office, there’s been a reassessment in recent years that has given him his due. He just wasn’t the right choice for Bond in the 1980s. After the (literal) clown show of Octopussy and A View to a Kill, audiences needed more than a two year breather before a Bond reinvention.
It didn’t help that Dalton — slight, reserved — was an outlier among the beefcake heroes — Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris — that dominated the action movies of the era. Albert Broccoli and company probably should have put the franchise on pause for a few more years.
Still, Dalton wasn’t served badly by either this film or Licence to Kill. The Bond production machinery — stunts, drivers, pyrotechnics, location photography — was well oiled and Dalton slipped in without grinding the gears too much (of either the movie or the Aston Martin V8 he drives, one of the most gorgeous of the Bond cars).
This was likely part of the problem. Dalton handles the action and quips well enough in a story about defecting Russians and Afghan freedom fighters, and there are several stellar sequences, but he just doesn’t make enough of a splash.
11. License to Kill (1989)
After decades of Cold War movies, Licence to Kill felt fresher in the late 1980s than The Living Daylights. Making the bad guy a slimy Latin American drug lord (however problematically we view that now) was en vogue, especially as American politicians were fighting and propagandizing the war on drugs. Featuring a story in which Bond goes rogue to avenge the death of Felix Leiter’s wife was also a smart choice, as it gave Timothy Dalton a chance to make his Bond more personal (his classical training as an actor surely doesn’t hurt the more dramatic tone).
After a giddy opening in which Bond and Leiter lasso a plane from a chopper (arguably lifted by Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Rises), and parachute into a wedding in full tuxes, the movie turns dark in a hurry as Bond pursues his vendetta. In fact, the MPAA originally gave Licence to Kill an R-rating before making it the first Bond movie to be rated PG-13. Highlights include a well-executed tanker truck chase that evokes both The Road Warrior and the classic French thriller, The Wages of Fear. Look for Benicio Del Toro in an early role as a maniacal henchman.
Best Bond Movies Ranked
10. Goldeneye (1995)
As a reboot of the franchise and the first Bond movie in 6 years (since Licence to Kill), the movie was heralded as fresh and entertaining, and Pierce Brosan was quickly accepted as the new Bond. There is a lot to like here, including the justifiably celebrated opening stunts with Bond bungeeing off an enormous dam, then leaping off it to intercept a plane plunging into the gorge below.
Later, Bond rams a tank through the streets of St. Petersburg (a bigger deal when filming in Russia post-USSR was still relatively novel). As the MI6 agent turned villain, Sean Bean is a welcome addition to well...just about anything. And in an effort to update the Bond universe on the doorstep of the 21st century, the movie introduces Judi Dench as the new M (she was thankfully held over to the Craig era).
Although having her call Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and a “relic of the cold war” didn’t stop him from, you know, being one.
Goldeneye is well-made, but there’s a shade of disappointment that the producers couldn’t extend the reinvention all the way through. The extended climax is yet another version of Bond and his girl captured by the baddie and his henchman, followed by a big battle in the villain’s industrial lair. True reimagining would wait for the Daniel Craig era.
First James Bond Film
9. Dr. No (1962)
Watching Dr. No, it’s hard to imagine a multi-billion dollar action franchise sprang from this material. It’s not unengaging, but it’s miles from what Bond would become. It’s more of an adventure-drama than an action film, with shades of The African Queen. Sean Connery plays Bond as more of a “policeman,” as the evil Dr. No calls him, then a secret agent, with none of the high tech gadgets and elaborate vehicles that would come to define him.
The template is set, however, for the obligatory sequence in which Bond is captured and taken to the villain’s hideout before foiling his plans and escaping with the girl as all hell breaks loose. It’s been done better since, so it’s hard to say how exciting it would have felt to audiences in 1962 who were seeing it for the first time.
The movie’s primary attraction now, aside from delivering a tour through Bond history, is the period photography, which has been given a pristine 4K restoration. The deep hues of Jamaica, especially the blue of the water and the sparkling greens of the sunlit jungle, are as lush and painterly as any of Douglas Sirk’s movies of the era. The bold colors extend to the opening titles, the snap and brevity of which somehow gave way to all the interminable credit sequences that would follow.
Best James Bond Movies Ranked
8. From Russia with Love (1963)
Or: Bond on the Orient Express. Connery’s second outing as 007 is mostly set in Istanbul, and on the train itself. With hints of both Casablanca and Hitchcock, the movie is long on intrigue and melodrama, short on crackling action. Many find the movie sophisticated in a way that Bond films would decidedly never be again — with the machinations of intelligence double crosses foregrounded as opposed to endless fist fights and chases.
Still, sophisticated is sometimes a polite way of saying “slow,” and this movie does take its time.
Bond author Ian Fleming is often considered the lowbrow opposite of John le Carré, whose cerebral spy novels such as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold were just becoming international successes around the time of this movie. But Fleming's original novel has more in common with le Carré than the action orgies of Thunderball or You Only Live Twice, and this carries over to the film (the boat and helicopter chase were added to the climax of the adaptation to punch up the action).
From Russia with Love has admirers with more than a little expertise on what a good Bond movie should be. Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and Timothy Dalton have all named this their favorite of the series.
James Bond All Movies Ranked
7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
It was a bold — and some would say ill-considered — move to immediately follow 5 massively successful Sean Connery Bond films with a new movie in which an unknown actor slid into the already legendary role. Although “actor” might not be the right term, since George Lazenby was a model with no previous acting experience.
The key to the movie’s success, then, was to make a different kind of Bond film. Yes, 007 is once again trying to foil Blofield, but OHMSS is as much a romantic drama as an adventure, one in which a fresh approach was taken to make Bond into a human being with actual feelings for another person (Diana Rigg).
And the movie was successful, despite its reputation as a one-off misfire. It did well enough at the box office, and esteem for it has grown over the years. Most of the movie takes place in Switzerland, which means lots of snowy mountain top action, including a night ski chase (day for night, but never mind) that is one of the best shot and edited sequences in any Bond film. Given the bulkiness of camera equipment in the 1960s, it’s amazing how fleet this sequence is and how close to the action it gets.
James Bond FIlm List
6. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The best-reviewed of the Roger Moore entries. It was widely praised for its majestic production design and the inventiveness of its Bond tropes — the white Lotus Esprit that transforms into a submersible craft; the ogreish metal-mouthed henchmen, Jaws (Richard Kiel); the spidery architecture of the villain’s underwater fortress.
It’s no mystery why the producers tried a little harder with this one, taking three years to finish it instead of the usual two that passed between entries. Not only was it a massive production, but The Man with the Golden Gun from 1974 had tanked at the box office and the franchise was in trouble.
The opening sequence, a swift but spectacular ski chase climaxing with Bond hurtling off a mountain, losing his skis, and opening a parachute emblazoned with the British Union Jack, before segueing into Carly Simon singing, “Nobody does it half as good as you / Baby you’re the best,” confidently announces that the franchise is back on top of its game.
It would take a special experience to bring moviegoers back to 007. The Spy Who Loved Me delivered.
All 007 Movies
5. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The Spy Who Loved Me gets all the raves, but For Your Eyes Only is quietly the best of the Roger Moore films. The producers wanted to make a more down to earth Bond — literally — after the Star Wars-influenced fantasy of Moonraker from two years earlier.
The movie signifies its intentions from the opening image, in which Bond visits the grave of his deceased wife, then goes on to dump Blofeld — the mainstay villain from the Sean Connery years — into a smokestack, as if to conclusively shut the door on previous iterations of the character.
Later, there’s a shocking moment when Bond turns down a woman beckoning him to bed because she’s...wait for it...too young for him.
For Your Eyes Only features a more serious storyline than the typical Moore Bond, with characters driven by personal motives of revenge and political ideology. But have no worries, the picture offers plenty of muscular action, generous widescreen location photography in and around Greece and the Italian Alps, and a spectacular climb up a sheer cliff face to a mountain top fortress. This would have been the ideal film for Moore to go out on. Alas, Octopussy and A View to a Kill were still to come.
List of Bond Films
4. Thunderball (1965)
Adjusted for inflation, Thunderball — which finds Bond tracking down stolen nukes in the Bahamas — remains the biggest Bond hit at the box office, and it’s easy to see why. In some ways, the Bond series never really outdid itself after Thunderball. It ups the ante on the scale of production, with a number of sequences — including a plane landing on the ocean floor, and a sprawling knife and speargun fight among legions of divers — that remain impressive even by today’s standards.
And indeed, the movie won the Oscar for special effects mainly due to the underwater filming sequences. Shot in CinemaScope and saturated in Technicolor, it is a stunning widescreen experience. If you haven’t seen it in a while, check out the beautifully remastered 4k version.
List of Bond Movies
3. Skyfall (2012)
In Skyfall, M (Judi Dench) tells Bond he is nothing more than a “blunt instrument,” a method for her majesty’s government to exercise force in the world, and an outdated one at that. Therein lies the tension in the movie — whether one man with a gun is still the most effective means of keeping Queen and country safe from the threats of the 21st century.
If you have to ask whether this is proven out, you aren’t familiar with either the series or the gender mandates of global action entertainment (Moneypenny goes from field agent back to secretary in this one, to give you some idea.)
But if you don’t like the politics, watch it with the sound off and you’ll still be treated to one of the most visually striking of all films, with cinematographer Roger Deakins entering a phase of sheer painterly beauty that would extend through Sicario and the gobsmacking Blade Runner 2049.
Skyfall ups the actor cred as well, giving juicy parts to a roster of heavyweight thespians in Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, and the late, great Albert Finney.
James Bond Ranked
2. Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger was the Bond series achieving its true form. It has a more imaginative plot and more personality than Dr. No, and it's swifter and more fun than From Russia with Love. It also features many of the moments that even casual viewers remember about the series: Goldfinger’s (Gert Fröbe) gold-painted victims; Bond’s nether regions threatened by a laser; the henchman Oddjob and his killer top hat; the startling sexism of the name ‘Pussy Galore’ (Honor Blackman) and Bond’s aggressive advances towards her.
Goldfinger was the first Bond blockbuster — adjusted for inflation, it’s the second highest grossing entry in the series after Thunderball. In 1999, it was ranked No. 70 on the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British films of the 20th century. Many fans consider it the classic Bond movie, the one they would put in a time capsule to let future generations know what 007 was all about.
James Bond Films Ranked
1. Casino Royale (2006)
The Daniel Craig era began at the height of the “War on Terror,” when a more sober-minded Bond was called for, one who was committed to doing anything his country asked of him — as he demonstrates in a chilling opening scene shot in stark black and white.
Bond also had to compete with new adversaries in the global marketplace: the Bourne films, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, both of which not only popularized a more serious tone, but upped the stakes on the quality of the stories and the kick-assery of the action.
You could argue that Casino Royale outdoes them all. It climaxes with an incredible airport action sequence at the end of the first act, and just gets more spectacular and engaging from there. Serious Bond also provides serious adult pleasures, including a touching relationship with Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green as the wittiest and most charismatic woman in the entire series.
As Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film, “Casino Royale has the answers to all my complaints about the 45-year-old James Bond series, and some I hadn't even thought of.”
The Best Death Scenes in Modern Film
One thing the Bond films are known for are iconic death scenes. Now let's take a look at some of the best from the last few years. Tarantino made the cut, pun intended, but there's also Mad Max: Fury Road, Get Out, The Hurt Locker, and more. Death scenes in movies — way more fun than the real thing.