by Jason Koenigsberg
The Good Bond Movies
19. Live and Let Die (1973)
The Lowdown: The first of Roger Moore’s 007 films involves the superspy infiltrating a Caribbean drug ring trying to smuggle heroin into the United States. Bond encounters some voodoo evils and witchcraft spells and is entranced by the beautiful Solitare (Jane Seymour in her motion picture debut).
Notable High Points: Seymour is a great Bond girl. The soundtrack, mainly the theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings, helped usher in a James Bond for a new era. The train sequence at the end, the crocodile scenes, and everything with Baron Samedi. Plus great location shooting in New York City, New Orleans and The Caribbean.
What Doesn’t Work: The final battle between Bond and Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) is sillier than it should be. Live and Let Die has been accused of racism since all of the main villains are black. I did not think of this as I watched it but I do know that it is faithful to Ian Fleming’s novel so if that is the case, then the original source material is racist. Where was John Barry and Desmond Llewlyn on this one?
18. The Living Daylights (1987)
The Lowdown: A serviceable and overall enjoyable Bond outing featuring Timothy Dalton in his 007 debut. The story involves a Soviet general planning to defect to the West with the help of James Bond. There is also a beautiful cellist (who becomes the lone Bond girl of the picture) hired to assassinate the general and somehow Bond and the girl end up in Afghanistan as the Cold War bled into the Middle East.
Notable High Points: The pre-credits action sequence with a very clever introduction of Dalton as Bond. The chase scenes involving a house driving across a frozen lake, a skiing chase on a cello case and horse chases that evoke to a much lesser extent Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Maryam d’Abo is very good as the Bond girl, John Rhys-Davies, Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker all have memorable supporting turns and the title song by a-ha is very catchy and fits the times.
What Doesn’t Work: The AIDS crisis was crippling the world and limited Bond’s womanizing ways to a single female. The third act in the desert really feels like it was from a completely different movie. Even though Dalton was good in this, he never really convinced me that he was Bond. He had trouble playing sincere and did not seem like he genuinely loved the woman he was with, nor that he wanted to do anything in the movie except fight the bad guys. There is more to James Bond than violence and Dalton only seemed comfortable when he was on a mission to chase after someone or hurt someone who deserved it.
17. The World is Not Enough (1999)
The Lowdown: James Bond is involved in a plot trying to stop an oil pipeline in Azerbaijan. He falls for the heiress he was assigned to protect (Sophie Marceau) who is not all that she appears to be.
Notable High Points: Now this is the silliest Bond movie I enjoy. Great but a little long opening action scene. The Bond girls are both gorgeous and total opposites. The return of Robby Coltrane.
What Doesn’t Work: Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist named Dr. Christmas Jones? Really? What genius thought that would be a good idea? Completely unconvincing but at least she looks hot. We don’t see main villain Robert Carlyle until over an hour into the film and when we do, it’s very anticlimactic. Their attempt to make M more of a character outside the office was lackluster.
16. Moonraker (1979)
The Lowdown: James Bond’s reaction to the Star Wars craze is one of Ian Fleming’s best and most blatant attacks on the Third Reich. Supervillain Drax attempts to kill billions by poisoning the Earth’s atmosphere and his master race human specimens can then return to procreate, its up to James Bond with the help of the CIA to stop him.
Notable High Points: Oh the places you will go, England, France, Venice, Rio, outer space. James Bond gets the most frequent flyer miles in this film and each place is exciting. Lois Chiles is a great Bond girl as Dr. Holly Goodhead, Michael Lonsdale as Drax the main villain is one of the most subtle yet still effective in the 007 canon, plus we get the return of fan favorite henchman, the late Richard Kiel as Jaws.
What Doesn’t Work: The Oscar nominated special effects are very dated by today’s standards. Some parts are inept but Roger Moore plays Bond so lightheartedly that it works out.
15. Die Another Day (2002)
The Lowdown: The twentieth film in the franchise and Brosnan’s final outing as Bond involves some pretty far fetched plot devices such as identity swapping bad guys, diamond lasers and a satellite that can control the sun. This movie has gotten a bad rep over the years but I think it is a fun and lovingly done homage to honor the nineteen films that came before it.
Notable High Points: Halle Berry is a great (and great looking) Bond girl. Look closely and there are small tributes throughout the film to all of the Bond films that came before it.
What Doesn’t Work: The invisible car… nuff said. Madonna’s cameo is more distracting than it is clever. The movie also moves fast, really fast… too fast for it’s own good which is one of the main reasons why I think it has such a bad rep.
14. Thunderball (1965)
The Lowdown: James Bond battles Emilio Largo of SPECTRE over nuclear weapons in the Bahamas. Surprised it ended up this low on the list but I really thought all the other films above it are more enjoyable. To date this is the highest grossing 007 film when adjusted for inflation.
Notable High Points: The underwater sequences near the end. Sean Connery in the same pool with the shark. The opening action sequence with Bond fighting a man in drag and escaping with a rocket pack and the voluptuous Luciana Paluzzi might be the best bad Bond girl in the series.
What Doesn’t Work: That being said Claudine Auger’s Domino character might be the blandest Bond girl in the series, she definitely is out of all the ones that share the screen with Connery. Some of the editing is too choppy making fight scenes look poorly choreographed, but you will forget about all of that with the spectacular exotic locations and incredible underwater action scenes.
13. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
The Lowdown: After the over the top special effects and unrealistic gadgets in Moonraker (the closest Bond veered into science fiction), they decided to make the most down to earth and gadget-less Bond film of the Roger Moore era. For his fifth outing, Moore works to help a Greek girl avenge the death of her parents while also trying to intercept nukes from an evil Greek tycoon.
Notable High Points: The opening sequence where Bond finally kills Blofeld (the supervillain’s final screen appearance thus far in the series). The theme song, the chase with the VW Beetle, the mountain climbing scenes all are great moments to savor. Bill Conti’s music score is very refreshing.
What Doesn’t Work: Lynn-Holly Johnson as a young ice skater trying to seduce Roger Moore was both awkward and nauseating. If you watch it now you might think Chris Hanson is going to walk onto the screen and say “Have a seat”. It almost suffers from being too gadget-less at times because it still has Roger Moore’s charisma and humor in the character as well as some very campy moments.
12. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The Lowdown: Smuggled diamonds used to create a space laser from a satellite controlled by SPECTRE’s super-villain Blofeld, also somehow involves Las Vegas and a billionaire named Willard Whyte. The real joy of Diamonds Are Forever is seeing Sean Connery return to the role after walking away from it for one film.
Notable High Points: The entire opening sequence leading up to the reveal of Connery as Bond, the theme song by Shirley Bassey, the big shoot out at the end. Connery’s performance, John Barry’s score, the girls, Mr. Wynt and Mr. Kidd as deviously flamboyant killers, the chase scene with the moon rover, this movie gets a bad rep but it really does not deserve it.
What Doesn’t Work: Some of its campy moments are almost too silly, the chase scene where Bond’s car defies all physics and logic (even director Guy Hamtilton said he cringes when he watches this part).
11. GoldenEye (1995)
The Lowdown: The first 007 movie in six years and the first one since the Cold War had ended finds James Bond as “relic of the Cold War” as his boss M tells him, facing off against an old friend turned foe. The plot involves computer hacking, stealing a helicopter, its key and gaining control of a satellite that could have disastrous ramifications if it falls into the wrong hands.
Notable High Points: They got a lot right on this Bond adventure, the over-the-top opening sequence, Tina Turner’s theme song, bold casting of Dame Judi Dench as M, and Famke Janssen as the cleverly named Xenia Onatopp. Brosnan shines in his Bond debut and Sean Bean is one of the more realistic villains of the entire series. The action scenes are some of the best in the series to this point especially the tank chase, helicopter explosion and the mano-a-mano fight between 007 Bond and 006 Alec Trevelyan on top of a giant satellite dish. Plus Joe Don Baker returns to the series this time as good guy Jack Wade from the CIA (he was previously an evil war monger general in The Living Daylights) .
What Doesn’t Work: Some of the campy lines of dialogue. Isabella Scorupco’s good Bond girl Natalya was not nearly as interesting or sexy as Famke Janssen’s and the opening action scene, although it is good, really only works if you can suspend your disbelief… and I mean way more than most of the other action scenes in this series.
10. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Lowdown: The second outing for Roger Moore as James Bond he faces against Christopher Lee as the titular villain, Francisco Scaramanga. It involves a personal vendetta where Bond is tricked into saving Scaramanga’s ladyfriend when she sends him a gold bullet with his number etched into it. There is also some plot about Scaramanga creating a solar power device that can create electricity and blow things up.
Notable High Points: This movie gets a lot of flack but I have The Man with the Golden Gun’s back. The location shooting in Hong Kong and Thailand features some of the most beautiful cinematography in the series. The martial arts sequences, the duel at the end with the mirror sequence, plus Christopher Lee makes for one of the best and most striking Bond villains ever. Britt Ekland and Maud Adams get a lot of criticism but I thought they foiled each other nicely as the Bond girls. The John Barry score and theme song by Lulu are also top notch.
What Doesn’t Work: Some of the lines and stunts, people rip on the slide whistle as a car twists in the air but I found it enjoyable. All of Roger Moore’s films were light-hearted so for me it fits. Herve Villachaize as Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s henchman was a little annoying at times, no pun intended.