Today marks the debut of Spectre, the 26th Bond film (counting the original Casino Royale which might not even be a real movie but go with me here) and with it comes approximately 100 billion James Bond lists. Step onto your front porch, pick up a stick and throw it…BAM! You just hit someone who wrote a definitive list of the James Bond films this week. (Lawsuit pending, sorry for the prompt.) And hey, a new Bond movie is a big deal. Spectre ranked third on my list of most anticipated films this year and I think all of us here at Mad About Movies have been looking forward to it for quite some time. Putting together my own definitive ranking of Bond films, however, seemed both a bit derivative given all the aforementioned lists that are already out there and also impossible as I…uh…have not seen ALL of the Bond movies. *Ducks, dodges thrown martini glasses* I know, it’s weird. Any listener of this podcast knows I am a medically-diagnosed Completist. I’m not sure there is any pop culturally-relevant entity as big as Bond of which I have partaken in only in parts. It’s usually all or nothing. But it is what it is. So instead of a comprehensive list, I thought it might be more fun to gather the opinions of a few respected cohorts as well as you, the dear listener, on the best and worst of Bond.
I’ll let Richard kick us off since he was so kind to write an introduction for this piece.
RICHARD BARDON – Mad About Movies Co-Host, Humorist
I wouldn’t consider my knowledge of James Bond films—or the Fleming source material, for that matter—anything more than passing. I’ve seen about ten of the films and probably read three of the books. The universe that Bond inhabits seems even more random and cruel than the real one. Bond can—from film-to-film—be thrilling, boring, sexy, eye-rolling, violent, campy, hilarious, and captivating more than any series of movies I can think of. The range of quality in these films is larger than any other series and it’s especially interesting considering this range is achieved all while following the same general formula (Dashing spy + gun + babes + villain + cunning + gadgets + car, all shaken together, never stirred).
The recipe, unlike most things at a bar, has mixed results. The variance is extreme. In a lot of ways, it keeps the series interesting.
BEST BOND: Connery, right? I actually don’t think Daniel Craig is that fabulous of a Bond (heresy, I know), I just think he’s had the fortune to not ruin some exceedingly good Bond films. Connery had the ability to make lesser Bond films watchable. Craig succeeds in system, Connery defines a system. I’ll turn to football for an analogy: Craig is Russell Wilson. Connery is Tom Brady. (Lazenby is Blaine Gabbert.)
WORST BOND: Dalton is pretty bad. I’m not a Roger Moore fan, either. I’ll actually use this space to talk about Pierce Brosnan. He seems divisive as a Bond, and I have to admit I’m a fan. I don’t think the movies (and their strict, late-90’s aesthetic and atmosphere) ever live up to the quality performance that Brosnan brought. He was the most believably wry Bond, which is to his everlasting credit. (To continue the NFL theme going, Brosnan is Archie Manning.)
BEST BOND FILM: Every single frame of Skyfall is perfect. It’s a top three blockbuster of the last ten years (The Dark Knight, Avengers, and Inception being its only competition for the #1 spot). It channels the very best of what Craig, Mendes, and, especially, Deakins have to offer. It’s fantastic.
WORST BOND FILM: There are worse, but I really hate Quantum of Solace. What a disappointment after the thrills of Casino Royale. Plus, Jack White was involved and the movie sucked. That hurt the worst.
JASON DAVIDSON – Mad About Movies Contributor, Acclaimed Actor
BEST BOND: Connery. Daniel Craig is certainly the better actor by almost every tangible measure. Connery has him beat on basic charisma and screen presence, but I think that argument is closer than many would be willing to admit. But Connery had to originate and define the role. And he did it on such a grand scale that the franchise didn’t just survive the Roger Moore era, fans were still actively clamoring for a new Bond film (with a Bond more like Connery). Here’s the argument in a different context. There are some incredible guitarists out there. Guys who can play faster, cleaner and more melodic than Jimi Hendrix. Is any one of them greater? No. Jimi is why they play electric. Connery is why we watch Bond films.
WORST BOND: Moore. I wanted to be clever and make an argument for Timothy Dalton, but I can’t. Moore certainly isn’t the only Bond to suffer with inconsistencies between films (looking at you, Brosnan), but he’s also captaining the worst iteration of the character. Moore’s Bond is a silly fop in a franchise that requires considerable style and attitude.
BEST BOND FILM: Skyfall. Film as art. Skyfall takes a well-defined Bond, played by an inspired Daniel Craig, and drops him into a cinematic masterpiece. I think this film is the height of the franchise. For the first time in the series, we have a film that is an excellent blend of modern filmmaking precision, while still being true to the spirit and character of James Bond.
WORST BOND FILM: Moonraker. This movie has everything; Space, Lasers, Jaws marrying a tiny woman with pigtails. Ugh. But, shockingly, this movie won awards for its special effects and was the highest grossing film in the franchise for a while. Star Wars was a game changer and in the late 70’s, everyone wanted to crank out sci-fi films because viewers couldn’t get enough. So...Bond chucked all sense of purpose and reason in order to capitalize. “Hey everyone, it’s Bond... AAAAAND it’s Star Wars! Come see it!” And people did. Many, many people. It’s nothing more than campy sci-fi. It’s the worst Bond film, because it’s not a Bond film.
DANNY GILL – Mad About Movies Listener, Creator of Nerds (My Dad)
BEST BOND: Sean Connery. Daniel Craig is a fairly close second, but Connery will always be James Bond to me. He played the role with a self-deprecating lightness that hid a real core of danger. Craig’s Bond is good, but grittier, and I think that’s not quite how the character should be.
WORST BOND: Roger Moore. George Lazenby doesn’t really count. Moore was way too campy as Bond, and I could never take him seriously.
BEST BOND FILM : Thunderball. Good writing, and perhaps the most believable of the old Bond plots. The underwater scenes were great. Skyfall was perhaps my second favorite, but it’s a totally different kind of film, and it doesn’t really seem to fit the James Bond mold as well as the earlier movies do.
WORST BOND FILM: That’s a hard one. There were so many that were bad throughout the Roger Moore years. Maybe a toss-up between Live and Let Die (Mr. Big was just a terrible villain), and Moonraker. But you can have any of the Roger Moore movies.
BRIAN GILL – Mad About Movies Co-Host, the James Bond of Drinking Red Bull
BEST BOND: In a two man race, I have Connery edging out Craig by a nose. Craig might actually be the best and were I to rank all the Bond movies, I think the top five would be Craig-heavy. But Connery IS James Bond. When I picture James Bond, it’s Sean Connery (topless and in short trunks but that’s neither here nor there). Plus, he gets credit for being the first and starting the whole thing off on the right foot. Mad Men might be a better TV show than The Sopranos but The Sopranos gets credit for being the first of the Golden Age shows.
WORST BOND: I haven’t seen all (most?) of the Moore films so maybe I can’t fully appreciate his awfulness. I can, however, appreciate the awfulness of Pierce Brosnan. To his credit, his last three Bond romps would’ve been bad with literally anyone in the tuxedo but he also doesn’t do anything to salvage them. His brand of smug, too, seemed to almost revel in how painful his movies were.
BEST BOND MOVIE: For the record, my answer is actually Skyfall and it’s not particularly close. But since that film is very well represented on this list, I’ll make the case for Casino Royale. Coming off the disastrous Brosnan tenure, there was an entire generation of movie watchers who either didn’t care about Bond or outright disliked the notion of another Bond film. I was personally extremely skeptical/nonplussed by its announcement. But Casino Royale is such a tremendous departure from the previous entries and reinvigorated both a franchise and a fanbase. But yeah, it’s Skyfall.
WORST BOND MOVIE: There are several acceptable answers here. Die Another Day got a TON of mentions from the listeners (see below) but I cannot remember that movie at all (possibly because I Total Recall-ed myself) and thus, I have to go with The World is Not Enough if for no other reason than Denise Richards playing Doctor Christmas Jones. DOCTOR!!! Top that off with the most cringe-worthy double entendre in the history of film standing as the LAST LINE OF THE MOVIE…I can’t do it, you guys.
THE LISTENERS – All-Around Glorious, Wonderful People
First of all, thanks to all of you who tweeted, Facebooked, and emailed us your Bond thoughts. It’s still amazing to me the quantity and quality of responses we get whenever we throw a question out to you.
You are all the real MVPs.
BEST BOND: The vast majority of you were, like myself, torn between Connery and Craig. (For what it’s worth, no one voted for Brosnan or Lazenby so…) Around 45% of the vote went to Craig, while Connery took home close to 40%. Two brave souls, Eric Kurt and Eric Bishop, went Independent and put their votes behind Moore. Power to the people! Linda Zhu voted for Dalton because, “He’s the closest to the literary Bond” and let me know there are literally “DOZENS!” of Dalton supporters. Much like Never
Nudes, I fear your kind may never be fully legitimized.
WORST BOND: I was SHOCKED that Brosnan’s name only appeared on a handful of the ballots. (Also for what it’s worth, Connery and Craig received zero votes in this category.) I’ve demanded a recall; we’ll see what the judge decides. Lazenby and Moore each took home their fair share of the vote but somehow Dalton came out as the leader in the “Worst” clubhouse. I hope you all know that you’ve made a lifelong enemy out of Linda Zhu today.
BEST BOND FILM: Unsurprisingly, Skyfall came out on top, with Casino Royale following in as a close second. Goldfinger, which I think was long considered the best Bond film before Craig came around and muddied the water, got plenty of attention as well, with “The Eric Vote” (Kurt and Bishop, respectively) going to the Moore collection. Heroes, you both are.
WORST BOND FILM: This one was more divisive. Connor agreed with Richard and stated that his “nap was better than” Quantum of Solace. Several listeners named Moonraker and The Man with the Golden Gun received a handful of mentions. Tobin Hodges and Christiane Le each compared The World is not Enough to Threat Level Midnight and instantly became my favorite listeners of all time. But the overwhelming favorite for the crown was Die Another Day. (Shout out to Gary L. for the funniest response to this query, though I can’t mention it here due to its graphic nature.) You guys really, REALLY hated that movie. Somewhere Halle Berry is crying.
Thanks again to all who participated and contributed to this blog! Here’s hoping Spectre is more Casino Royale and less Moonraker!