The Bond movie is almost 60. It’s seen six actors play the role in its official incarnation. And with No Time To Die, Daniel Craig steps down as 007. Who will next play Bond is anyone’s guess. But here we take a journey back through every James Bond film in order of release – including unofficial entries Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983) – to see which left us shaken, stirred or desperate for more.
Sean Connery Bond Movies
Dr. No (1962)
Producers Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman originally wanted to launch their Bond franchise with an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s ‘Thunderball’, but there were rights issues. So they turned to the writer’s sixth novel to feature the implacable spy.
It made a star of Sean Connery, whom Fleming initially thought was wrong for the role. (It would have gone to Cary Grant but he only wanted to sign on for one film.) However, the Scottish actor’s charisma, combined with his perfect delivery of one-liners and hint of sadism made him ideal to play the secret agent.
The high-tech gadgets are kept to a minimum – although the titular villain’s lair befits a megalomaniac – Ursula Andress set the template for Bond’s accomplice/love interest and the locations offered pure escapism.
Bond – Connery sets the foundations for his character’s development (8/10)
Villain – Joseph Wise nails the world-conquering bad guy (8/10)
Bondometer – A solid start (8/10)
From Russia with Love (1963)
The golden age of Bond begins here. The first of three standout titles is arguably the best. We get our first introduction to Desmond Llewelyn’s Q (Bernard Lee’s M was already introduced in the previous film), although the gadgets remain in the realm of reality.
Bond’s flirtation with Moneypenny becomes a trend. The locations are magnificent – particularly Istanbul. And the set-pieces are perfect, from the pre-credit introduction of Shaw’s ruthless Grant, the world chess tournament, the gypsy camp attack and subsequent advertising eye assassination and the finale on a train.
There’s also John Barry’s music. He worked on Dr. No, but this film is where his scoring for the franchise really takes flight. Overall, a film that’s smart, sexy and thrilling.
Bond – The humour is sharper and Connery conveys the thrill of being at the heart of the action (10/10)
Villain – An ex-Soviet agent with a blade in her shoe and Robert Shaw as a platinum blonde sociopath – it rarely gets better than this (10/10)
Song: a stunner, performed by Matt Monroe (9.5/10)
Bondometer – The perfect Bond adventure (10/10)
With the third entry, at the time the fastest grossing film in cinema history, the Bond franchise was fully established: the world-dominating villains, fast cars and outlandish gadgets, touch henchmen and glamorous women, exotic locations and no-expense-spared extravagance. And Bond himself – perfectly attired, prepared for any occasion and as quick with his tongue as he is with a knife or gun.
Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore was proof that women could be more than a love interest (although the franchise hasn’t always been so forthright in embracing this aspect). The set-pieces are grander – with production designer Ken Adam outdoing his work on the War Room in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove with Goldfinger’s subterranean lair. For some, it remains the best Bond film. Ultimately, it’s pipped to the post by the previous film.
Bond – A lighter Connery, but no less engaging (9.5/10)
Villain – Gert Frobe remains the best of the megalomaniac villains, while Odd Job is arguably the best henchman (10/10)
Song – Shirley Bassey belts out a classic (10/10)
Bondometer – Near-perfect (9.5/10)
Another great Connery performance and one of the best Fleming stories, involving the disappearance of two nuclear warheads. The scale is dialled-down compared to Goldfinger, but it remains superb entertainment. It was the last Bond film directed by Terrence Young, who started the franchise and also helmed From Russia with Love. His approach was always to understate the action – never letting the gadgets dominate the human element. Unsurprisingly, it proved another huge success at the global box office.
Bond – Connery continues his winning streak (9/10)
Villain – Adolfo Celi is good but not one of the most memorable of the 1960s villains (7/10)
Song – An average turn by Tom Jones (6/10)
Bondometer – Better than most, but just not as good as the previous two outings (9/10)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
The hint of OTT silliness begins with this out-of-this-world caper, adapted by Roald Dahl. It was the first to feature criminal mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld as the lead villain (he was a peripheral presence in From Russia with Love and Thunderball), played here by Donald Pleasance, sporting a nice line in Nehru jackets.
The plot involves the disappearance of Russian and US spacecraft in orbit, organised by criminal network SPECTRE at the behest of an Asian power in the hope of igniting a war between the two countries.
It was the first film directed by Lewis Gilbert, whose films in the franchise took on an epic scale. Most of the action is set in Asia and the film’s representation of Asian culture does not sit well. (Not helped by make-up designed to make Connery look Asian).
However, John Barry’s score is a marvel. The composer had been involved in the Bond project from the outset and here his music expands along with Gilbert’s globe-spanning vision. In particular, the aerial-shot fight scene across the rooftops of buildings played out to Barry’s track ‘007’, is a thrilling delight.
Bond – Connery’s starting to phone in his performance by this point, but he’s still worth watching (7.5/10)
Villain – Pleasance plays Blofeld with gusto (9/10)
Song – One of the most underrated theme songs, performed by Nancy Sinatra (8.5/10)
Bondometer – More is less, but there’s still much to enjoy (7.5/10)
An Unofficial Bond Movie
Casino Royale (1967)
An unofficial Bond adaptation becomes a royal mess. One for the completists, this version of Fleming’s first Bond novel is a royal mess.
Bond – There are eight Bonds, including David Niven, Peter Sellers and… Woody Allen. Need I say more? (0/10)
Villain – Orson Welles as Le Schiffre might have been a draw were anyone willing to suffer this movie long enough (2/10)
Bondometer – Five directors attempted to bring this mess together. They couldn’t. And countless stars were brought in to support it. They didn’t. Avoid. (0/10)
George Lazenby’s Bond Films
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
By You Only Live Twice, Connery wanted out of the Bond franchise. Roger Moore was seen as the natural successor but had signed on for another series of The Saint, so was unavailable. After casting sessions that included Adam West (yes – the TV Batman), Michael Gambon, a young Timothy Dalton and even Dick Van Dyke – who turned down the role reminding Cubby Broccoli of his ‘English’ accent in Mary Poppins – George Lazenby was chosen.
He got the role on the strength of how he looked in a Fry’s Chocolate Delight advert and apparently because he accidentally punched a stuntman in the face, his aggression impressing the producer. The actor was signed on for seven films, but dropped out after his debut appearance, believing Bond would become an anachronism in the progressive 1970s. He may not be remembered as a great Bond – his pun delivery is mostly painful – but for sheer action and thrills, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best in the series.
The snow chase sequences are genuinely exciting, Blofeld’s mountain top lair is a sight to behold and the film dared to have a downbeat ending – a feat that wouldn’t be repeated until the real Casino Royale in 2004. Because of the tough locations, it wasn’t the easiest shoot. And it wasn’t helped by the animosity between Lazenby and the film’s female lead Diana Rigg. They famously didn’t get on, with Rigg purportedly eating garlic before every love scene was filmed between the two.
Bond – Lazenby just about scrapes through (6/10)
Villain – Telly Savalas has a whale of a time as Blofeld (7/10)
Song – A stunner of an instrumental by John Barry, with the iconic ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ performed at a dramatic moment by Louis Armstrong (10/10)
Bondometer – Definitely a contender for the best Bond movie (9/10)
Another Sean Connery Bond Film
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
If any Bond film offered the template for the ‘shagadelic’ exploits of Austin Powers, this must be it. It’s absurdly overblown – owing more to subsequent spy capers like Our Man Flint (1966) than the original films in the Bond series. It’s riddled with grim stereotypes and a lazy script.
Roger Moore was the first choice again after Lazenby bailed on the role, but he was now starring in another TV spy series The Persuaders. Connery was approached. He demanded a huge sum for the time and the producers agreed. For all its flaws, the film boasts one of the series’ greatest theme songs – thanks again to Shirley Bassey after her massive hit with Goldfinger – and Charles Gray is huge fun as Blofeld. The actor had previously played a colleague of Bond’s in You Only Live Twice.
Bond – not Connery’s best, but it’s still Connery (6.5/10)
Villain – Charles Gray does wonders with a poorly written script (8/10)
Song – Dame Shirley does it again (10/10)
Bondometer – amusing at times, but a shadow of what came before (6/10)
Roger Moore Bond Films
Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore finally becomes Bond in one of the most beloved Bond films in the series. The adventure came two years after Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft helped define Blaxploitation and like many subsequent films in the franchise, this entry drew liberally from that sub-genre, albeit with a slight difference: the white guy is the hero here, while the Black guys are villains. (No one ever looked to the franchise for progressive politics!)
What director Guy Hamilton achieved, however, was a Bond that felt in keeping with the times. And rather than just a backdrop to the action, the locations are fully integrated into the narrative. There’s a great chase in the bayous outside New Orleans and also that theme song, by Paul McCartney and Wings, which remains a classic.
Bond – Moore immediately makes Bond his own (9/10)
Villain – Yaphet Koto is solid, while Geoffrey Holder is wonderfully unsettling as Baron Samedi (8/10)
Song – A perfect theme song (10/10)
Bondometer – The Bond movie at its most street (8.5/10)
The Man with a Golden Gun (1974)
Guy Hamilton bowed out as director with this film, after four features that began with Goldfinger. It’s a silly set-up, involving Christopher Lee as a triple-nippled super-assassin and a device that could decide the fate of the world’s energy supplies. It features Clifton James as the redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die, now holidaying in Asia, and a few well-choreographed set-pieces, including a labyrinthine climactic shootout that owes a big debt to the finale of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai (1947).
Bond – Moore, once again supporting some fabulous safari suits, appears to be on autopilot here (7/10)
Villain – Christopher Lee has little to do by glower, though he does that nicely (6/10)
Song – Lulu does her best, but it’s not enough (5/10)
Bondometer – a stop gap between Moore’s two best Bond appearances (5/10)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Even if you’re a diehard Connery fan, it would be hard to begrudge Roger Moore his credit in making this one of the most enjoyable Bond films of all. It starts with the bravura opening sequence. By now, the appearance of the barrel and Bond shooting at the screen presaged some fabulously choreographed sequence. But a mountain-top pursuit that ends with our hero skiing off a cliff and opening a Union Jack parachute was so inspired it’s a surprise that Boris Johnson didn’t copy it as part of his Brexit campaign.
Lewis Gilbert returned as director, following his first outing on You Only Live Twice and the bombast he brought to that film is quadrupled here. Everything is bigger, brasher and louder. And, for once, bigger is better. The script is snappy and fun, Barbara Bach’s KGB agent is one of the better female protagonists, Kurt Jürgen’s a great villain and Richard Kiel’s Jaws is the best henchman since OddJob in Goldfinger. There’s a submersible car that fires torpedoes and a villain’s lair that resides on an ocean bed. Fabulous.
Bond – Moore fully embodies a laconic Bond (9.5/10)
Villain – Jürgens simmers while Kiel tears up the screen (9/10)
Song – Nobody does it better than Carly Simon (10/10)
Bondometer – A perfect balance of thriller and caper (9/10)
Oh, dear! What went wrong? Lewis Gilbert stayed on the right side of bombast with the previous Bond, but here things slip into woeful self-parody. The gadgets are silly and the visual effects looked even when the film was released.
Star Wars was released two years before and the producers were clearly attempting to cash in on the sci-fi trend. But they fail miserably. Only Michael Lonsdale, playing the film’s villain Drax, comes out with any dignity. He evinces a sardonic smile throughout, perhaps aware of the merde he has stepped into and hoping that a little French je ne sais quoi might help him get through it.
Bond – Moore battles valiantly to make this work (6/10)
Villain – Michael Lonsdale shines while Kiel’s Jaws enjoys one of the film’s few funny moments (7/10)
Song – not even Dame Shirley can save the day (3/10)
Bondometer – Space proved a frontier too far for 007 (4/10)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
There’s not much to say about this entry in the Bond canon, other than it being one of the blandest films in the franchise. The skiing sequences in previous films were better and would be again later. It’s based on two Fleming short stories featuring the spy – ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘Risico’ – and the first film to be directed by John Glen, who would oversee all the 1980s productions. It’s passable, but passable does not make for a happy Bond audience.
Bond – Moore does what’s required. Nothing more (5/10)
Villain – Julian Glover isn’t bad. Literally. He just isn’t bad enough (4/10)
Song – the one saving grace – a slice of fun, early 80s pop by Sheena Easton (7/10)
Bondometer – Sorry, did something happen? I was asleep (5/10)
At least it couldn’t get any worse than the last… Well, yes, it could. And it did. To say this is scraping the bottom of the barrel is an affront to barrels. Everything is tired, including Moore’s outfits. (The safari suit? Again? It’s the 1980s Rog.)
Bond – A low point for any Bond actor (2/10)
Villain – Just a few Russians and a disgruntled prince (1/10)
Song – Rita Coolidge’s ‘All Time High’ – clearly an ironic appraisal of the film – might not be a classic, but it gives the film a modicum of class that it doesn’t deserve (6.5/10)
Bondometer – A bad day for Bond (2/10)
Sean Connery’s Final (Yet, Unofficial) Bond Movie
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Connery returned, just at the moment that he was needed. Except, this wasn’t an official Bond film. There had been legal wrangling for years over the rights to ‘Thunderball’ and so Connery – who by the end of his time working for Broccoli had fallen out with the producer – stepped into this unofficial remake.
What’s more, it’s fun. True, this isn’t top draw Bond. But Connery brings some of the magic back, even if he is a little too old for the role. (And yes, so was Roger Moore by this point.) Kim Bassinger proved to be a fun sparring partner, while the great Klaus Maria Brandauer delivered just the right amount of nastiness as Maximillian Largo. (Max Von Sydow was also on hand for good measure, playing a less dastardly Blofeld.)
Bond – Connery charms his way back (6/10)
Villain – Brandeur, Von Sydow and henchperson Barbara Carrera are a great trio (7/10)
Song – A forgettable oh-so-80s synth-backed track by Lani Hall (2/10)
Bondometer – It shouldn’t work. It mostly does (6.5/10)
Roger Moore’s Final Bond Film
A View to a Kill (1985)
Moore’s final outing is better than the previous film he appeared in. But that’s not saying much. It has a proper villain in Christopher Walken, who looks like he’s having the time of his life. Grace Jones is a fabulous henchperson. There are some nice set-pieces. But the film still groans under John Glen’s direction. It’s as though the series remains stuck in the 1970s.
After all, Arnie and Sly were the action stars of this era. They were about to be joined by the everyman heroes of Lethal Weapon (1987) and Die Hard (1988). The Cold War was still in play, but the spy movies felt like old news.
Bond – a fair final outing for Moore (5/10)
Villain – Walken and Jones both give it their all (6.5/10)
Song – Duran Duran try to give it some welly with their pop hit (5/10)
Bondometer – Fine, but Bond’s days look numbered (4.5/10)
Timothy Dalton Bond Films
The Living Daylights (1987)
The first Bond film to acknowledge a societal shift in gender politics. Hey, 20 years late is better than not at all… It’s a muted film but new arrival Timothy Dalton looks the part. He’s a one-woman Bond (discounting the opening, of course – not everything can change at once!) and he seems more ethically minded than his previous incarnations. It would be the last film to use a Fleming title (albeit another short story) until Casino Royale.
Bond – A low-key but solid introduction to Dalton (6/10)
Villain – Joe Don Baker makes for a passable Cold War foe (5/10)
Song – A-Ha’s song is hardly memorable (5/10)
Bondometer – An improvement on previous entries, but there’s still some way to go (6/10)
Licence to Kill (1989)
There’s a school of thought that argues this is a great movie, but just not a Bond movie. It’s a revenge film, with Bond no longer operating under the aegis of Her Majesty’s government. His CIA pal Felix Leiter has suffered at the hands of Robert Davi’s drug lord. So Bond decides to go it alone in order to take down the criminal’s empire.
John Glen’s final Bond film is his best. Dalton is perfect as a harder, more ruthless version of the spy and the action eschews gimmicky contraptions in favour of brawny shootouts. If the narrative reflects the escalation of the war on drugs in the US (just as Live and Let Die did with the Nixon administration in the early 1970s) then in style this film echoes the bullet ballets of John Woo and many of the directors representing a new wave of action cinema in Hong Kong.
Okay, the film strays outside the remit of classic Bond, but it felt like a shot of adrenaline for the franchise.
Bond – Dalton kicks ass, but perhaps not completely in the style of Bond (7.5/10)
Villain – Robert Davi is all slime and menace, while newcomer Benicio Del Toro is a fabulously demented henchman (8/10)
Song – The film may not feel completely Bond, but Gladys Knight’s theme song harks back to the classics (8.5/10)
Bondometer – A welcome return (7.5/10)
Pierce Brosnan Bond Films
Pierce Brosnan would have been a Bond sooner had he not been caught up in his contract with the TV series Remington Steele. But his debut helped reassert the Bond franchise. It was also the first Eon Productions film to be overseen by Barbara Broccoli (Cubby’s daughter) and Michael Wilson, who have transformed the franchise into an impressive global phenomenon that has dwarfed what it once was.
Brosnan wasn’t the only newbie. The addition of Judi Dench as a curt, slyly sarcastic M was a genius move. The actor steals every scene. And Sean Bean makes a fine old-school villain. Not to mention Famke Jansen as an assassin with an original way of killing people. The set-pieces are big and bold, Brosnan feels every inch the role and Tina Turner turns up the heat with a cracking theme song. If only Eric Serra’s dreadful score didn’t sound so out of place.
Bond – Brosnan is never better than in his first appearance (8/10)
Villain – Bean is a suitable foil to Brosnan charmer (7/10)
Song – Tina lets rip in some style (9/10)
Bondometer – Big, better and more Bond-like than any film in almost two decades (8/10)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Involving the smallest leap of the imagination, Rupert Murdoch appears to have been the inspiration for the villain in Pierce Brosnan’s second outing. Jonathan Pryce has a hoot playing a media mogul intent on starting a war between China and the UK. It’s perhaps a little too predictable, but fun.
Bond – Brosnan does what’s required (6/10)
Villain – More grey matter than Sean Bean’s brawn – Pryce looks to be having a ball (7/10)
Song – an average entry from Sheryl Crow
Bondometer – Feels a little too much like Bond treading water (5.5/10)
The World is Not Enough (1999)
If only the whole film were as impressive as the opening. The race down the Thames, ending in an explosive shoot-out on the Millennium Dome, is one of the finest openers of any Bond film. But the rest of the action feels more muted. Not a disaster, just a little too humdrum.
Bond – Save for piloting a speedboat in the pre-credit sequence, Pierce is on autopilot (5.5/10)
Villain – Robert Carlyle veers a little too close to the hysterical, as a psycho with a bullet lodged in his brain (5/10)
Song – One of the few inert tracks in the career of Garbage (5/10)
Bondometer – One to forget (5/10)
Die Another Day (2002)
Invisible cars, Arctic surfers and a Madonna song that ranks at the more unforgivable end of her output. There is so much that doesn’t work in this film. But when it does, it fires along on all cylinders.
Once again, Judi Dench is all class. Halle Berry adds glamour and grit – it’s no surprise there was once word that her character might get her own franchise. And Brosnan is better than he had been over the previous two entries. Even when it goes wrong, the film does so in such style that it’s impossible not to enjoy it. It’s good, even when it’s bad.
Bond – Pierce goes out with some dignity (6/10)
Song – Jeez Madge, what went wrong? (4/10)
Bondometer – It’s silly beyond belief but it has its moments (6.5/10)
Daniel Craig Bond Films
Casino Royale (2006)
Whoa! So, in the age of comic book origin stories, you take a well-known figure and show how he achieved his 00 status. In black and white, no less. And with a physicality that shows someone has been gorging on the Bourne franchise.
Bond 2.0, directed by Goldeneye’s Martin Campbell tore up the rulebook, rewrote Bond for the 2000s and delivered a stunning entry in the series. Daniel Craig tones down the humour – it’s still there, but it check-ups the physicality (a parkour chase through a construction site, anyone?) and transforms Bond into a very modern spy.
The script is cracking, particularly the exchange between Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, fantastic) and Bond on a train. Campbell squeezes every ounce of tension out of each scene (the card game is as exciting as any chase sequence). And Craig is perfect.
Bond – Daniel Craig hits it out the ballpark (9.5/10)
Villain – Mads Mikkelsen isn’t in the film much but he looks the part (8/10)
Song – Well, you can’t get everything right – Chris Cornell’s rock track sounds a little past its sell-by date (4/10)
Bondometer – Almost 40 years in and the Bond team score in some style (9.5/10)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
This promised to be great. The fantastic French actor Matthieu Amalric is perfect to play a villain. Olga Kurylenko is a fine support. The action is great. And the locations are impressive. All that’s missing is a script. There was a screenwriter strike in the US and filming went ahead with a screenplay that, at times, feels a little half-baked.
And yet, for all its flaws, this is still a league above the lowest points of previous iterations of Bond. Craig’s character is grieving after losing Vesper Lynd. And there is a shadowy organisation that seems to have its fingers in every underworld operation. The opening car chase is a stunner. The climax is perfectly staged. It’s a minor key in Craig’s time as the spy but remains entertaining.
Bond – Craig gives his character greater depth than previously seen (8.5/10)
Villain – Matthieu Amalric deserves to score high just for being Matthieu Amalric (7.5/10)
Song – Jack White and Alicia Keys’ collaboration is an improvement on Chris Cornell but still no classic (6.5/10)
Bondometer – Imperfect, but boldly done (7.5/10)
Where Bond becomes a family saga. The film could have been called ‘M’ and no one would have complained. Craig is very good. Javier Bardem’s villain is a superb creation. Naomie Harris makes for a more rounded Moneypenny. Ben Whishaw’s Q is a fine replacement for Desmond Llewelyn. And Ralph Fiennes is a great addition as an ex-officer turned bureaucrat (for the moment, at least). But make no mistake, the star of this film is Dench. And she is magnificent.
Sam Mendes takes what made Casino Royale great and rather than blow it up into an old fashioned Bond adventure (see Spectre) – although he does give us great set-pieces, he gradually scales the action down as the film progresses into a drama of Shakespearean proportions. It’s a tragedy on various fronts and it’s all held together by the depth and emotion that Dench invests in her character.
Bond – Craig is great, in no small part because he steps aside to let Dench shine (9/10)
Villain – Bardem runs the gamut from camp to ruthless (9/10)
Song – Adele was born to sing a Bond theme (9.5/10)
Bondometer – Just falling marginally short of Casino Royale’s greatness, this is nevertheless one of the greatest Bond films (9/10)
Let’s deal with the opening first – a single-shot sequence that takes place during the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico City. It’s up there with the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me and The World Is Not Enough. But the rest of the film has the feel of going through the motions. It shouldn’t. Christoph Waltz should be a great Blofeld. Léa Seydoux matched Craig scene for scene. Ralph Fiennes' new M proves his worth. Some of the locations are dazzling. But the backstory of Bond and Blofeld feels too forced. And the film lacks the passion of Casino Royale and Skyfall.
There’s also the possibility that the film was setting up the cards for No Time to Die – the shadowy world of a vast criminal fraternity might be fully realised in the new film. Either way, this is superior Bond. It’s just that the two best Craig entries were so good.
Bond – Craig continues to command, with no sign of flagging (8.5/10)
Villain – Christoph Waltz proved underwhelming, but he is set to return (7.5/10)
Song – It ain’t no Adele, but Sam Smith’s torch song aptly captured the film’s underlying melancholy (8/10)
Bondometer – A less explosive entry, or perhaps merely a prelude to Craig’s much-anticipated final Bond outing (8/10)
WATCH NO TIME TO DIE IN CINEMAS FROM 30 SEPTEMBER