(In anticipation of Quantum of Solace, we're rerunning some of our favorite Bond posts alongside a few new ones. Enjoy!)
By: James Rocchi
Now that there's been a matter of, you know, 24 hours since the release of Quantum of Solace, enough time has passed for an assessment of the canon -- out of the James Bond films, which are the best? Well, it's easy to name the best seven -- and in doing so, draw our week of Bond pop-culture coverage here at Cinematical to an end. Bear in mind that this list is only worth noting as a source of minor-scale arguments -- which is exactly why it's fun. And now that my inner Rob Gordon is ready, let's talk about the best Bond films of all time ... In no particular order, except for number one.
7. Casino Royale
Yeah. It's in there. In the top third, most definitely. There's more in my review, but there's not a single part of this film I didn't enjoy -- or, if I wasn't enjoying it, I was at the very least respecting it as part of the plot, as an attempt to set mood or build character, to tackle the backbreaking stoop labor of thriller-style exposition. Craig is a great Bond, and it felt real -- like the sort of thing that may, in fact, happen in something like the real world. Well, not the kick-ass free-running sequence, but still. Oh, and also: There are computers and cell phones in Casino Royale, and only one piece of gadgetry was essential to the film. Everything else? Guns, knives, fists, phones. It's down-to-the-ground stuff, and it's amazing to watch.
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
Okay -- I'm not a Roger Moore fan. He was my Bond when I was a kid -- of course, I also think the first beer I ever had was a Coors. But the Moore films do have an aesthetic -- mostly revolving around sharks, jumpsuits, turtlenecks, cheap fabrics and process shots, but still. And Spy Who Loved Me is the epitome of that Moore-Bond look and feel --from the foreplay to the action sequences -- and Spy, for that alone, has a special place in my heart.
The hugger-mugger plot about an orbital weapons platform is introduced way late in the action -- but man, what action it is. Sean Bean plays a rogue double-0 agent, and the end result means that a new Bond gets to show his mettle against a fearsome, perfectly-matched opponent who he has to out think and outfight. Plus, before he was hamstrung by dreadful Wade and Purvis scripting later in the franchise, Brosnan does make a hell of a Bond. ...
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
A weak, foundering performance from George Lazenby? A severe case of whiplash post-Connery? Sure. But On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the Bond film that focuses most on Bond as a character, a human being - not just a silhouette to hang a gun on. It also has one of the most complete love stories of any Bond film, which is a big part of it's charm -- plus it's the start of the series-long obsession with ski slopes as settings.
3. From Russia With Love
Early Connery, Robert Shaw as "Red" Grant, that Cold War feeling and one of the most unforgettable hand-to-hand combat sequences in action cinema. Add in some nice old-school touches -- up to and including actual Communist bad guys and the first appearance of Desmond Llwelyn as Major Boothroyd of Q Division -- and From Russia With Love endures.
It's not just because it marks the first appearance of that old school spy-spoof stand by, the shark pit. Or the jet-pack. Or the fact it's got stolen nuclear weapons. But it does have all those things -- and, it it's way, left an indelible stamp on the Bond films and their storylines and development. Plus, come on -- it's got a shark pit! What am I, made of stone?
The best theme song, the coolest henchman, one of the all-time immortal Bond villains and a truly unforgettable Bond girl, plus early Connery get this on the list. The coincidence of timing that put it a few films into the series means it feels like the work of people who've found a groove, but not the work of people in a rut -- well, that mix of freshness and experience moves it up even more. But what makes Goldfinger my favorite Bond film is its plotting and structure -- pure, simple, clean and surprising. Unlike future Bonds, there's never a point where it would just make sense to kill Bond when he's helpless -- something that too many Bond films couldn't manage. Smart but visceral, clever but clean, fun but never foolish, Goldfinger is one of the best adventure films of all time, hands down.
The Worst: Live and Let Die, Die Another Day, License to Kill, View to a Kill, Octopussy, The Living Daylights, Moonraker