Deborah Lipp, the Ultimate James Bond Fan, is listing 007 of her favorite things as we count down to Skyfall
I spent a couple of years compiling lists made by James Bond fans; primarily favorite movies, least-favorites, and ranked lists of the whole series. The fun thing to discover is, when it comes to James Bond, everyone's an outlier. Every single movie appeared on someone's favorites and someone's least-favorites. Plus, everyone's list had a unique feature, an eyebrow-raiser. I bet if we did a poll here -- should we do a poll here? -- the same thing would happen.
So, eyebrow-raiser and all, here's my top 007 Bond films...
001 From Russia With Love (1963)
To me, the second Bond movie is the greatest of them all. It's the perfect blend of Bond ingredients: Action, adventure, exotic locations, sex, mystery, espionage, music, humor, visual impact, and an outstanding cast. Beyond Sean Connery and the other regulars (including the introduction of Desmond Llewellyn into the series), there's Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, and Pedro Armendáriz in his final role. Eunice Gayson returns from Dr. No: a rare recurring character role. Plus, this is the movie that introduces Blofeld as a hand petting a white cat. Underground catacombs in Istanbul! Gypsy mud wrestling! Daniela Bianchi wearing nothing but a ribbon around her neck! All that and a North by Northwest homage too. It's perfect.
002 Goldeneye (1995)
Restart the series after a six year hiatus, during which the audience went from anticipatory to disinterested. Introduce a new Bond to a new generation. Make Bond modern in a post-Cold War era without throwing away tradition: Goldeneye succeeds on every level. Hey, this is the movie that introduced Judi Dench as M, and wasn't *that* a great idea? The cast is incredible—in addition to being Pierce Brosnan's first outing, we have Sean Bean, Samantha Bond, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Robbie Coltraine, and Joe Don Baker. The stunts are mind-blowing (the dam jump? Holy wow!), and the deft mixture of action, drama, humor, and globetrotting is out of this world. I'm happy every time I pop this one into the DVD player.
Daniel Craig, Roger Moore, and... Timothy Dalton (?!?) after the jump.
003 Casino Royale (2006)
Reboot the series after a four year hiatus, introduce a new Bond, make Bond modern in a post-9/11 era without throwing away tradition: Does any of this sound familiar? No wonder they brought back Goldeneye's Martin Campbell to direct. Casino Royale is hands-down astounding, and succeeded in bringing new people to the franchise with its fresh look at 007. An origin-like reboot is a cliché of twenty-first century moviemaking, but this one feels smart and new. I take a couple of points off for very little humor and a somewhat Byzantine plot.
004 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
I'm not a huge fan of Roger Moore's portrayal of James Bond; this is his only movie among my favorites. It's an excellent film, with gorgeous location shooting in Egypt and Sardinia. It has one of the most spectacular and famous opening sequences of any movie, let alone any Bond movie—the "Asgard jump," in which Bond skis off a cliff and opens a Union Jack parachute as the audience gasps. It introduces Jaws, one of only a few major villains to survive his encounter with Bond, and it features Barbara Bach, future wife of Ringo Starr. She can't act, and there are some dumb parts, but it's a great film.
005 The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton made two Bond films; the one in which I fell in love with him, and the one for which I endeavor to forgive him. This is the former. One of the joys of The Living Daylights is its romance. Kara Milovy (Maryam D'abo) is an old-fashioned Bond heroine, a "damsel in distress" with no badass qualities whatsoever. She is, nonetheless, a special and gifted person. Being a world-class cellist is a far cry from being a generic bimbo! From Gibraltar to Vienna to Afghanistan, it's a visually-rich movie. Unfortunately, siding with the Mujahadeen against the Russians makes the movie somewhat dated. While it has its weaknesses, it also has a thrilling mid-air fight scene off the open back of a cargo plane, and a gadgety Aston-Martin chase that does Goldfinger proud.
006 Goldfinger (1964)
Other fans rate this higher, but I'm not other fans. It's a great film, with beautiful sequences. The third Bond film and the first directed by Guy Hamilton, it's the first with a real commitment to humor, and the first to introduce gadgetry and the Aston-Martin. It is also the first to integrate a powerful theme song into the score. All in all, it created the mold. Naturally, I'm contrarian, and prefer when the mold is broken, but I can't deny the greatness of this film. My pre-teen self, upon first seeing Goldfinger, knew exactly what Pussy Galore was about, and was keenly interested.
007 Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Are your eyebrows raised? Diamonds Are Forever is a film that appears on many "Worst Bond Movie" lists, and here I am, listing it as a favorite. My case: powerful exciting fight scenes, real espionage in tracking the smuggling ring to the villain (far too many Bond films rely on information being handed to 007, rather than actual spying), and some actually scary deaths and near-misses. The fight between Bond and Peter Franks in a glass elevator is one of the most thrilling hand-to-hand sequences in the franchise. Bond trapped in the crematorium! Scorpions! There's breathtaking set design and powerful sexual subtext (for some reason, this is the Gay Bond, with Wint and Kidd as assassin lovers, Bambi and Thumper as...well, we don't know, and Blofeld in a dress).
Mostly, though, this was the Bond movie I saw at a formative moment in my childhood, and the one that sealed my fate as a lifelong aficionado.
There you have it: Seven great films from five different decades, starring five different Bond actors. Which are your 007 favorite Bond films?