UPDATE: This column was written in anticipation of Skyfall, which, having now seen, I’d rank within the top 3 or 4 Bond films. Read my Skyfall review here.
Yes, it’s Halloween this week, but between my articles on Halloween movies that won’t give you nightmares and the perfect Halloween music mix, I’ve written all I care to on the subject for now. I wanted to turn my attention to 007. It’s a big year for the character: his screen debut was 50 years ago, he made a big entrance with Queen Elizabeth at the Olympics, all of the films were just released on Bluray, and the hotly anticipated new adventure, Skyfall, hits theatres in the U.S on November 9. I know I probably shouldn’t love James Bond movies so much. The character is a lecherous killer. But he’s got style. He’s a patriot. He saves innocent lives. Most of all, watching 007 films was one way I bonded with my dad growing up (no pun intended), so I’ve got a soft spot for them. Of course, Mom made sure we fast-forwarded the naughty bits.
Bond’s had 23 films so far (25 if one counts unofficial entries Never Say Never and the 1967 version of Casino Royale). He’s had gritty and serious thrillers (License to Kill), gone to outer space (Moonraker) and battled voodoo priests (Live and Let Die). He’s even fallen in love and gotten married (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The franchise has run the gamut from good to mediocre to terrible, but 007 has had, fittingly, seven exceptional films that even non-fans can get on board with. Word is that Skyfall is one of the best films in the series, so for now I give you the best of Bond so far.
#7- FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
Here Bond falls for a Greek beauty and helps her to avenge her parents’ murders. This one’s grittier and more realistic than Roger Moore’s other 007 outings. It also has a strong, intelligent, and capable female lead, and it’s all the better for it. Watch for a fun supporting turn by Fiddler on the Roof’s Topol.
#6- THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
Often overlooked, Timothy Dalton paves the way for Daniel Craig’s later interpretation, giving us a more serious and emotionally complex take on the character. 007 woos a world-famous cellist while thwarting the assassination of his fellow spies. There’s a terrific bit here where a cello case becomes a vehicle for escape.
#5- YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
Sean Connery’s fifth film as the British superspy is also the movie where they started cramming in wall-to-wall action. I’ll keep this simple: in addition to piloting a tiny one-man helicopter, 007 leads an army of ninja into battle inside a hollowed-out volcano. You know that’s cool.
#4- THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
Roger Moore’s best, this finds Bond pairing with a gorgeous Russian spy to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war. From sharks to cars that drive underwater, from the steel-toothed assassin Jaws to a ski jump that ranks among cinema’s best stunts, this one’s got it all.
#3- GOLDENEYE (1995)
Pierce Brosnan takes up the mantle in a witty, action-packed romp with a surprisingly strong story. Lord of the Rings’ Sean Bean and X-Men’s Famke Janssen make for memorable villains as 007 makes his mark on a post Cold-War world. Parents, heads up: this is also the most suggestive Bond film, with Janssen’s villainess killing men by squeezing them to death between her thighs.
#2- GOLDFINGER (1964)
From a woman encased in gold paint to a razor-tipped hat and a lazer-guided interrogation, Goldfinger is full of iconic moments and arguably marks the moment when James Bond became a worldwide phenomenon. Connery’s talent in the role is on full display here.
#1- CASINO ROYALE (2006)
While staying true to the character, Daniel Craig’s debut also provided a potent mix of emotional depth and smart storytelling. James Bond actually falls deeply in love here, revealing layers of tenderness beneath his tough exterior. Casino Royale was directed by Martin Cambell, who proved with Goldeneye and The Mask of Zorro that he knows how to stage a terrific action scene.
COMING NOVEMBER 9- SKYFALL