by Jason Koenigsberg
In about a month the 24th James Bond film Spectre will explode into theaters. The expectations are very high for the fourth and possibly final outing for Daniel Craig as 007 with some very big names in the supporting cast most notably two time Academy Award Winner Christoph Waltz in a role we presume will be the villain. Academy Award Winning director Sam Mendes who helmed the last Bond adventure Skyfall (2012) returns for his second consecutive effort in the franchise.
With such a distinguished pedigree, all indicators point at Spectre to be one of the biggest and best Bond movies of all time. What better time to take a look back at how it all came to this. Pan and Slam ranks all of the James Bond films from worst to best. Being that I am such a huge fan of this franchise even the worst Bond films still have at least one or two elements that are commendable and make the movie worth watching. This is a franchise near and dear to my heart. I am able to find good elements in all of the films in the long and illustrious series.
The Bad Bond Movies:
24. License to Kill (1989)
The Lowdown: The lowest grossing 007 movie of all time involved Timothy Dalton’s James Bond to go rogue as he seeks revenge against a drug kingpin for maiming his friend Felix Leiter and murdering Leiter’s newlywed wife.
Notable High Points: The soundtrack, mainly the rousing score from composer Michael Kamen and the title song by Gladys Knight. It’s so good I wish I could just sit back and just listen to the movie without any dialogue or sound effects. Robert Davi is good as the charismatic and dangerous leader of a drug cartel and a very young Benicio Del Toro has some small commendable moments as one of his henchmen.
What Doesn’t Work: Everything else. Dalton is way too serious and even though the movie tries to be darker (this was the first film in the series to have a PG-13 rating), the tone is all over the place. Moments of seriousness are followed by Desmond Llewelyn’s Q showing up against M’s orders to give Bond silly gadgets, taking away from the urgency of Bond’s revenge. Wayne Newton (yes, Las Vegas Wayne Newton) plays a villain and not as a parody. License to Kill was so bad, they almost never made another James Bond movie. This is the worst Bond film.
23. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The Lowdown: Based on one of Ian Fleming’s most beloved Bond novels, this is the one where James Bond gets married at the end only to have his wife murdered by Blofeld after he sabotages the villains diabolical chemical warfare plan.
Notable High Points: Once again the music, this time John Barry who composed the bulk of the films in the series, delivers one of his most dynamic and unique scores. Louis Armstrong gives one of his final and most sorrowful vocals on the song “We Have All the Time in The World”. Plus the action sequences in Switzerland are some of the best in the entire series and its influence can still be found in movies this century (Christopher Nolan clearly was inspired by this movie when shooting some scenes from Inception).
What Doesn’t Work: The biggest problem is of course the elephant in the room George Lazenby stepping in as James Bond and having to fill Sean Connery’s shoes. He fails miserably. Long before Hayden Christensen and Brandon Routh were getting jeers from critics and audiences around the world for taking on high profile roles they did not deserve, George Lazenby did it first and is one of the worst actors to ever get such a coveted part. Telly Savalas is awful as Blofeld and all of the women are forgettable. Plus, I was never convinced that Bond loved Diana Rigg more than any of the previous girls from Bond movies. The whole marriage felt like a plot contrivance and one that goes against everything James Bond stands for.
22. Never Say Never Again (1983, the unofficial James Bond movie)
The Lowdown: I know, I know, its not part of the official James Bond canon produced by Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions. But it stars Sean Connery as James Bond, therefore it counts as a James Bond movie. Never Say Never Again is pretty much a lighthearted remake of Thunderball (1965) and is famous for coming out on the heels of Octopussy dubbing 1983 as the famous Summer of the Dueling Bonds.
Notable High Points: Unfortunately not many. The only real reason to see this picture is to see Sean Connery as James Bond again. He’s a little older since we last saw him as the worlds most famous secret agent but there is no denying he still has enough charisma and bravado to carry the film. Kim Basinger and Barbara Carrera are both stunningly beautiful as the good and evil Bond girls respectively, but that’s really it.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s a half-hearted remake of Thunderball since Kevin McClory had the rights to that, and it’s worse than Thunderball in every way. The score is terrible, whole action scenes are set to no music, the dialogue is awful and really only Sean Connery can maintain his dignity saying such insipid lines.
21. Octopussy (1983)
The Lowdown: I guess 1983 was not a good year for any James Bond. Roger Moore’s sixth 007 outing involves James Bond tracking down a Faberge egg (not kidding) that somehow ties in with a Soviet nuclear plan to start a global conflict. Also a lot of the action takes place in the exotic locales of India and features some very campy moments involving a circus.
Notable High Points: A few, this is a lighter friendlier Bond film if there ever was one. The whole time it acts as if you know how its going to end, its just fun getting there.
What Doesn’t Work: Octopussy is literally the movie that turned James Bond into a clown. All of the circus imagery was fun for a little while, but it lasts the entire movie, seriously did Fellini direct this movie? The clown costumes, the knife throwers, the gorilla suit, the train sequence, all make it very hard to take anything in Octopussy seriously. Most egregious is the ridiculous climactic action scene with Roger Moore hanging onto a plane as it goes upside down.
20. Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Lowdown: Daniel Craig’s second outing as James Bond is one of the worst in the series. A shame considering it is sandwiched between Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012) two of the best Bond movies ever. The plot involves something with James Bond trying to stop someone from highjacking the worlds oil supply, or water supply, and somehow he is also trying to avenge Vesper Lind’s death from Casino Royale. Allegedly the film was made during the writer’s strike of 2007 and they did not have a finished script. It really shows.
Notable High Points: The action scenes, mainly the stunt work. That fantastic opera scene. The aerial fight, the train sequence. I have no idea why any of this was happening but some of the big action set pieces look great.
What Doesn’t Work: The jittery camera movements made Quantum of Solace feel more like a Bourne movie than a Bond film. The fight scenes are nauseatingly bad. Not once does Daniel Craig say the famous “Bond, James Bond”. I have seen this film three times and I honestly cannot tell you clearly what the plot is. The cast looks great but is not really given anything to do. It’s the worst Bond screenplay we have ever seen.