the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Battle of the Bonds










The last issue of Entertainment Weekly gave a rundown of each of the Bond films, from best to worst.

My opinion deviated from theirs quite substantially, so, for fun, I drafted my own list.

A friend who found out about the list and is interested in filling in the holes of his 007 education asked for a copy and then suggested that I should just blog the entire thing since it will, no doubt, be the sort of thing over which we will all have very differing opinions.

So, take a look, and let me how you would rate this, the most resilient and durable film franchise in Hollywood history. (It is too early to integrate
Casino Royale into this list, though you can read my review here.)


1) Goldfinger: The 1964 Aston Martin DB5 with all the perks, Oddjob and his killer bowler hat, gold-painted women, bisecting laser beams, one of the best lines in the series ("Goldfinger, do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"), and, of course, Pussy Galore. No, really, that's her name! The third film is the classic that set the bar for all that came after it.

2) The Spy Who Loved Me: I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond. Sue me. Like Goldfinger, this classic has it all: a car that converts to a submarine, an undersea lair, exotic locales, a wonderfully anachronistic electronica score, a beautiful Russian code-named Agent XXX, orthodontically menacing Jaws, and the stunt to beat all stunts--Bond skiing off a cliffside and popping a Union Jack-emblazoned parachute.

3) On Her Majesty's Secret Service: George Lazenby may not have possessed the gravity necessary to do more than a single film after Connery left him the reigns, but boy did make the most of the one he had. If for nothing else, this is one where we meet Mrs. Bond in the ravishing Diana Rigg. (While in Switzerland a number of years ago, I couldn't resist ascending the mountain atop which Blofeld's lair still stands).

4) Goldeneye: Oh-so-suave Pierce Brosnan jump-started the hibernating series with this polished entry that goes from gambling in Monte Carlo to a breathtaking tank ride through the streets of Russia.

5) From Russia with Love: Yes, it's slow at times, the plot is the most stripped down, and Bond is nearly gadget-less, but Russia plays more like a John le Carre novel than a rip-snorting Bond film. Nuanced and layered with political intrigue, this one pops from the sewers of Istanbul to Rosa Klebb's poison-tipped loafers with effortless ease.

6) For Your Eyes Only: The second of only two Moore films that I actually thrill to, Eyes is a serious outing but has a rock-climbing sequence for the ages.

7) The Living Daylights: Give Timothy Dalton a break. I'm one of the few people who actually liked where they were trying to take Bond in the late 80s--darker and edgier. Audiences weren't ready to let go of the Bond lampooning just yet which is a shame, because this story of a duplicitous defection and the lone, beautiful cello player who knows the truth is suave and gritty in a way that pre-figured audiences appetites come Casino Royale.

8) Dr. No: The first film and one that just gets better with age. Everything is brand new, never before seen, and therefore, intoxicating. A rough-around-the-edges Bond, Monty Norman's sensational theme, Ursula Andress' iconic walk up the beach in the newly-invented bikini, and the baddie with a secret lair and a nefarious plan to boot. It poured a mold all the films live and die by, even 40 years later.

9) Thunderball: SPECTRE, Blofeld, rocket packs, underwater battles, stolen nuclear weapons, and gorgeous Bahama settings. This is perhaps one of the most beloved (and spoofed) of all the Bond films.

10) You Only Live Twice: You can't possibly go wrong with a secret lair hidden deep inside a volcano.

11) The World is Not Enough: Bond looks after the daughter of an oil tycoon who may not be the helpless victim she claims to be. Beginning the downward slide, but still enjoyable.

12) Tomorrow Never Dies: This one gets better on repeat viewings, thankfully. A media baron villain is, admittedly, a silly premise, though the part of me that adores Citizen Kane finds it brilliant.

13) The Man with the Golden Gun: "Da gun! Da gun!" Despite Christopher Lee, this Moore outing about the need to stop a hitman with a solar-powered weapon is one of the most snooze-worthy.

14) License to Kill: James Bond as the lead in the war on drugs. Politically correct? Perhaps. But also a snooze when compared with the majority of Bond's nemesis'. Dalton's reserve and this film's under-achieving storyline did him in permanently and put the series into hibernation for the next six years.

15) Octopussy: Bond is old, dresses as a clown and rides around in a submersible crocodile. What's to like other than Steven Berkoff as a scene-chewing Soviet general?

16) Live and Let Die: Moore's first Bond finds 007 battling a heroin drug lord and the forces of voodoo. One of the least sexy films to be sure, it does nonetheless possess the lovely Jane Seymour and one of the best theme songs ever written.

17) A View to a Kill: Roger Moore's last film, finally. Bond is saddled with the insipid That 70s Show's Tanya Roberts and the genuinely frightening Grace Jones as the series tries to cash in on the technology boom with Christopher Walken as the baddie.

18) Moonraker: James Bond meets Darth Vader. Campy and unable to take itself seriously, Moonraker, about a madman bent on eradicating Earth's population and repopulating it with a superhuman eden, is out-of-this-world bad.

19) Die Another Day: Brosnan's final incarnation as Bond was also one of the series' worst. A hilariously bad storyline, a castrated villain, special effects where models should have been, and, I'm sorry, the laughably bad Halle Berry as Jinx made this one of my least favorite Bond films.

20) Diamonds Are Forever: The early 70s were hard on Bond. It's hard to be suave and sophisticated in big hair and bellbottoms. Add to that the fact that a large part of this film takes place in Las Vegas, kitsch hell. (I'm against Bond films ever visiting the United States, despite the fact that it admittedly worked in Goldfinger).

4 Comments:

Blogger Justin said...

I think that you have just made a straight flush for my Netflicks queue. :)

9:16 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

So, these were the Broccoli Bonds only? Nothing on Never Say Never and Connery's attempt to return to the role that made him an Icon?

And, what could one possibly say about the original Casino Royale?

10:07 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

No, I've only addressed the "real" Bonds. I own "Never Say Never Again" but do not consider it to be a part of the canon. It wasn't Connery's attempt to return to the role so much as it was a one-time deal that would never have occurred had it not been for a judicial snafu. He should never have done it--he is to "Never" what Moore was to "A View to a Kill"--far too old to be believable.

I could say a lot about the original "Casino Royale," but not here. If I don't consider "Never" to be in the canon, I certainly don't consider that one. Whether you like it or not, it is not a valid participant in this discussion.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

I have to completely agree with you; I just thought that perhaps they could have been included in a subnote explaining this or something.

But I'm probably just being nitpicky. ;-)

12:41 PM  

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