Monday, June 07, 2010

Bond Movies Ranked

So, remember how I told you that I love it when my sister Cash does my posts for me? Yeah, well, I continue to love it. This is priceless. It's like a whole week of posts from one e-mail. So, Cash and her husband, Tino, watched all of the James Bond movies. And with some of Tino's input, Cash wrote up this awesome... analysis, which should earn her a PhD in Film. Or something. So, here are the Bond movies ranked. Enjoy! And if you don't want to read these James Bond things, don't check back for a week. I have four more Bond posts coming, thanks to Tino and Cash.


1. Thunderball

This movie represents what makes Bond iconic. It has Sean Connery at his most charming; thrilling action sequences; Blofeld at his cat-petting, vindictive best; a truly dangerous mission with dire consequences; several beautiful women (sadly, they're not the most memorable Bond girls, but they also have nothing to be ashamed of); and a groundbreaking underwater fight scene that today is still thrilling but sometimes hilarious. The biggest flaws are some occasional bad editing and '60s-era sexual behavior that today would border on criminality. But how can you not love the movie that brought us James Bond wearing a jetpack?

2. Casino Royale

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale redefined James Bond for the 21st Century. The throwback to Bond's origin as 007 was a brilliant decision to show us how and why Bond learned to enjoy and dispose women and to never trust anyone. The black-and-white opening sequence was gritty and the parkour brought a new cool factor to an action genre that today is often hindered by CGI. Craig's Bond is both funny (see the torture scene) and serious without falling into the camp of Pierce Brosnan's later movies or the sour attitude that Timothy Dalton gave to his Bond. Craig's verbally and pectorally splendid Bond has masterfully underdelivered wordplay with M and Vesper Lynd that hit all the right notes. And as for Eva Green's Vesper, well, you never had to guess why Bond loved her. The downside: It's a bit too confusing, a bit too long, and there was no Q.

3. You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice is much like From Russia With Love: Its high points are delectable (Bond's fake death, "Little Nellie" aka the helicopter in a briefcase, Blofeld's volcano lair, Bond becoming a Japanese man, Blofeld's trap door over a piranha pond, a minirocket concealed inside a cigarette), but some slow pacing, uncomfortably chauvinist attitudes (even for Bond in the '60s), and unmemorable Bond girls bring the whole movie down a hair. At least the speaking Asian characters were actually played by Asians in this picture, in contrast to Dr. No.

4. GoldenEye

GoldenEye is far and away Pierce Brosnan's best Bond movie. The double entendres and dumb puns were kept mostly at a minimum in the script, and Brosnan has a naturally suave persona that helps in his delivery. The villains -- Sean Bean's Alec Trevelyan and Famke Janssen's Xenia Onatopp -- are two of the meatiest in the Bond archives. They actually seem like Bond's equals rather than their obvious inferiors (see every other Brosnan Bond villain). Robbie Coltrane's Russia mafia man and his country-western-singing Russia mistress, Irina (played hilariously by a then-unknown Minnie Driver), also added some fun to the journey. This movie introduced Judi Dench as M, and what a killer idea that was! Brosnan and Dench had some great chemistry in their scenes together. The movie almost never lags, but then it also commits a fatal flaw of forcing Bond to address his destructive ways in a super-serious way. Brosnan whispers to Izabella Scorcupo's Natalia that he has to keep killing and bedding women because it's the only thing that keeps him sane and alive. Terrible. Bond doesn't have soul-searching moments and even if he did, he wouldn't acknowledge them to his disposable lovely girl. Ah, well. I guess I should just take consolation in Bond's truly awesome tank chase through Moscow and the utterly preposterous cold open where he jumps of a cliff and somehow catches up to a falling, careening airplane.

5. From Russia With Love

From the tense opening Spectre assassin training scene in the topiary to Rosa Klebb's poisoned knife in the shoe to a claustrophobic fight on a train to some beautiful locales to a fiery, explosive boat chase, From Russia With Love has a lot to love. Unfortunately, it also has some slower, unnecessary plot devices (the gypsy sequence, the sex film) that bog down the pace of an otherwise jaunty Bond film. Daniela Bianchi's Tatiana is undeniably lovely, but her character is both underwritten and underdeveloped.

6. Dr. No

Dr. No clearly had a smaller budget than other Bonds, and it is a little less thrilling because of it. It has one of the smallest build-ups to a climax that I've ever scene. Honey Ryder is absolutely wonderful, though, and the music is plucky and playful. The movie is definitely stuck in 1962 for several reasons:

1. All the speaking Asian characters are quite obviously portrayed by non-Asians.

2. Dr. No has a nuclear power plant to his scheme to somehow blow up a NASA space shuttle. Bond's mission is to thwart this, of course, and he manages to do that by ... causing a nuclear meltdown. Yes, you read that right. Obviously the moviemakers did not realize at the time that a nuclear meltdown of that magnitude would have actually been a much bigger disaster than an exploding space shuttle.

3. There are some uncomfortable racial issues throughout the movie.

Still, it's Bond at his beginning and it's awfully fun to watch, if only to see the iconic John Barry 007 music played for a scene so meaningless as Bond checking into his hotel room.

7. Goldfinger

I know that Goldfinger is generally considered the best Bond movie ever, but I have too many misgivings. I absolutely praise the movie for it's many positive points: Pussy Galore's moxie, Goldfinger dipping the traitorous Jill Masterson in gold after she beds Bond, the plot to takeover Fort Knox, Oddjob and his awesome razor hat, Goldfinger's death from getting sucked out of a broken window in an airplane, Goldfinger strapping Bond to a table and aiming a laser to take out Bond's genitals, and my favorite exchange ever between Bond and a villain:

Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?"

Goldfinger: "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."

But there is too much frustrating stuff in the movie for me to overlook. Like the fact that Bond completely misuses his cool Q-ified car -- he totally could have gotten away from Goldfinger's henchmen if he'd have used it better. And all the scenes that followed Bond's homing beacon were wasted when that storyline dead-ended at the junkyard. The worst was watching the climax at Fort Knox. I remember yelling at the television because all the characters were acting so stupidly. "Why are you doing that? Go stop the bomb!?!"

8. The Spy Who Loved Me

Let's admit it: This movie is about 20 minutes too long and a better editor could and should have trimmed it nicely into a jaunty 100-minute movie. However, that's my biggest complaint. Now let's talk about the good stuff. For instance, this is the film that introduced the world to Jaws, who along with Darth Vader, was one of my most feared movie villains as a child. Metal teeth was a stroke of genius. KGB Agent Anya Amasova was smart, wily, beautiful, and she let Bond know she was all of those things. The Egyptian, Sardinian, Austrian, and underwater scenery was gorgeous. The action was tame compared to today's standards, but it didn't lag until the end. Now let's talk about the cool gadgets, like the underwater car, the villain's underwater lair with an elevator that shoots its occupants into a shark tank and a dinner table with a gun installed beneath it in case a diner wanted to shoot another one. The main villain, Stromberg, is not memorable, but how can one complain about a movie where Jaws bites a shark?

9. For Your Eyes Only

I think the Bond franchise was trying to distance itself from Moonraker as soon as possible. That's why this movie, which directly followed Moonraker, laid out its tone immediately in the cold open. This Bond wouldn't have a laser fight in space. Instead, it would start by finally letting Bond avenge his wife's death by hijacking Blofeld's own remote control helicopter and using it to drop Blofeld into a smokestack. Shortly thereafter, Bond kicked a villain's car over a cliff. Believe me, Roger Moore never looked like a bada** until this movie. Not that Moore kept it up (although scaling a cliff to get to the villain's monastery lair came pretty close), but it was a revelation all the same. The movie suffers from some nonsensical actions, of course, but the chattering parrot, the evil Olympic biathlete, and Melina Havelock raise the film quite a bit. I got the creeps when Lynn-Holly Johnson's teenage figure skater Bibi Dahl tried to seduce the 31-years-older Bond, but thankfully it was only one (maybe two) short scene(s). And that scene where James and Melina get tied together and dragged behind a motorboat? Totally intense. Too bad their escape was far too convenient.

10. The Man with the Golden Gun

This movie began with The Ultimate Game in the villain's island fun house lair. You can predict the end of the movie from a mile away, of course, but getting there is pretty good fun. I mean, MI6's Hong Kong headquarters is in a partially sunken ship in Kowloon harbor. The entire thing is at a 45-degree angle and it makes for some awesome visuals. When Bond's false nipple doesn't trick a Chinese mafioso, he finds himself completely weaponless and helpless inside a dojo, and two teenage girls break him out by kicking serious kung fu caboose. Christopher Lee couldn't possibly fail as a villain (and he doesn't) and his midget sidekick, Nick Nack, is pretty funny, as is the reappearance of Sheriff J.W. Pepper, who is implausibly vacationing in China among all the "pointy-headed" natives to whom he slings innumerable racial slurs (like the quoted one). The biggest downside of the movie is that the Bond girls are both kind of duds.

11. Quantum of Solace

The movie begins with some intense action sequences that made me feel like the glass shards were going to come through the screen and pierce me. The scene when Bond eavesdropped on Quantum's secret Bluetooth conversations during a performance of Tosca was both exhilarating and masterfully edited. Daniel Craig's Bond was still wittily and grittily underperformed, Agent Fields and her death were both surprisingly poignant and reminiscent of Goldfinger, and, of course, Judi Dench's M was fantastic. But the movie suffers greatly from a plot that is twice as confusing as Casino Royale's already twisty story, and it was punctuated with far too little levity. Plus, do you remember that the South American desert government compound was powered by the far-too convenient fuel cells? Well, a movie-savvy 4-year-old could see where that one was going from a mile away, and getting there wasn't nearly enough fun.

12. The Living Daylights

The first 30 minutes of this movie are positively thrilling. In the cold open, Bond takes out an assassin who infiltrated a British agent training exercise. In the next scene, Bond hijacks another agent's mission by injuring a would-be sniper and smuggling a defecting Russian official via an oil pipeline (with the help of a busty engineer). Immediately following that, Necros, the villain's secret weapon, kidnaps the defected Russian right back from under MI6's nose. And Bond's time in Q's laboratory is all fun. But then the movie slows down and gets rather boring with only a few random highlights: like John Rhys-Davies' few scenes, Bond's fight with Necros on the cargo net of the airplane, and Kamron's men popping out of the Afghan terrain. But Kara Milovy is rather helpless, she and Bond have little chemistry, and Timothy Dalton's Bond has zero sense of humor. The bottom line is that the movie never lives up to the promise of the rather extraordinary start.

13. Live and Let Die

I know enough to suspend my disbelief in Bond movies, but I don't like the mysticism involved with the voodoo and tarot cards at the heart of this movie. And while that bothers me, I think my biggest problem with the movie is that I never thought that this assignment was worth Bond's time. I mean, it was a drug lord who was trying to take over the heroin market of American drug dealers. Um, OK? Bond's best buddy, CIA Agent Felix Leiter, should have been heading everything, but he's always making Bond do his dirty work. But while the overall plot did not interest me, I rather like some of the details. I love the fake funeral, trick coffins, revolving walls, trap door tables, the jive-talking, Bond's hopscotching on alligators, and Bond's motorboat chase with the baddies and bigoted Sheriff J.W. Pepper throughout the Louisiana bayous. Unfortunately, the excellent parts don't add up to a satisfying whole.

14. Tomorrow Never Dies

Michelle Yeoh's Chinese Agent Wai Lin kicks major, major butt. And the chase/motorcycle scene where she and Bond are handcuffed together is pretty thrilling. Teri Hatcher's Paris Carver had good chemistry with Pierce Brosnan's Bond. So the women in this movie are the definite high points. However, their charms and talents are almost totally wasted on perhaps the stupidest plot of any Bond movie. Jonathon Pryce's scenery-chewing media magnate's plan to start World War III so he can report on it is downright ludicrous. This is easily the most frustrating movie of all the Bonds because Michelle Yeoh and Teri Hatcher brought their A games to a C movie.

15. License to Kill

First thing: The sound on this movie is pretty terrible for a film made in 1989. I was embarrassed for it. Now that we've got that major (and I mean MAJOR) distraction out of the way, let's discuss everything else. First of all, I thought the storyline was actually pretty brilliant, and I love that 007 went rogue to avenge Felix's attempted murder by shark as planned by a Central American drug lord. (Aside: Why are there so many sharks in Bond movies?) And the drug lord's cocaine lab disguised as an Aztecan meditation camp was genius. However, Timothy Dalton's Bond in this movie is positively sour. Q brings (all too briefly) the only much-needed levity to the film. The acting isn't very good (I suspect the director is mostly at fault for it), and the dialog has its share of problems, too. Bond and Carey Lowell's Pam Bouvier have this same exchange every 5 minutes: "You need to go." "I want to help." "It's too dangerous." "I can handle it." "No. You need to go." It gets annoying fast. One must-see: all of the hideous late '80s cocktail dresses on display in the drug lord's hotel. Hilarious ... but it's not enough to make up for an otherwise humorless Bond movie.

16. On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The most touching moment of perhaps any Bond movie is at the end of this one, when Blofeld drives by a just-married James Bond and Mafia heiress Tracy Di Vicenzo and kills poor Tracy. It's absolutely crushing, and the movie sells it well with George Lazenby's affecting performance and John Barry and Louis Armstrong's awesome, ironic theme song We Have All the Time in the World. But after this touching moment, I felt cheated. I felt cheated because I never really knew why Bond finally settled down with this woman. Why this one? My first thought is naturally the savior complex. Bond loves saving girls, and he saved Tracy from drowning herself at the beginning of the movie. But why did he love her and not the scores of other beautiful women he saved? The movie never really let me know. And I don't blame Diana Rigg. Her Tracy was altogether beautiful and charming. But so are many of the other Bond girls. And she had plenty of chemistry with George Lazenby's Bond. But a lot of other Bond girls had chemistry with their leading men. I think the script is at fault for underdeveloping this crucial relationship. And the plot was ludicrous and really came to naught. Yes, Blofeld's lair in the Alps was impressive, and there were some great skiing scenes, but the editing was atrocious, the pacing was glacial, the real plot didn't start for 50 minutes, the whole villainous scheme was anticlimactic, and, again, I never understood why Bond cared so much about Tracy. That's the real flaw. That and putting Bond in a kilt and trying to pass him off as a genealogical expert. Um, worst disguise ever?

17. Die Another Day

Oh, my gosh. this was one of the most disappointing Bond movies EVER. The cold open was pretty good, what with Bond surfing into North Korea, hijacking a hovercraft, chasing militants to the demilitarized zone, and getting captured as a prisoner of war. But then Bond was released and the movie went downhill. Are we really supposed to believe that Bond can just will himself into cardiac arrest and then out of it at a moment's notice so he can then beat up and incapacitate a whole medical facility of British workers? Things picked up a handful of times in the movie, like during Bond's meeting with Q and M in the deserted London Underground/Q storage area, and when Bond's fencing match gets out of hand at a British club. But everything else was ludicrous, campy, groan-worthy and stupid. Where shall I start? The invisible car? The awful CGI on Bond's windsurfing scene in Iceland? The positively horrible puns and double entendres that littered an already crappy script? Making Halle Berry's Jinx stop mid-lovemaking to pull out a knife and fig from who knows where to eat it before she gives Bond another go? A villain named Mr. Kil? Ah, there are too many things to mention. Let's forget this one happened, all right? (P.S. Cardine, I chose a picture with Madonna in it just for you.)

18. Moonraker

This is by far the cheesiest of all the Bond movies. Jaws gets a pig-tailed girlfriend half his height, a Bond girl gets killed by attacking dogs (ha!), the villain shoots himself in the foot all the time by drawing more attention to his evil plans right in front of Bond's nose, but he refuses to kill Bond outright. Really, if the villain wanted to be undetected, he could have done it but instead he's just a moron. I mean, we all know there will be some monologuing by Bond villains, but this was the worst. The laser fight in space is stupid, as are the miniskirts in space. And Roger Moore's Bond has zero chemistry with Lois Chiles' CIA Agent Holly Goodhead. (Is this the worst name for a Bond girl or does that title go to Pussy Galore? Discuss.) Really, the whole thing is so bad it's almost good. Almost.

19. Diamonds Are Forever

The biggest problem with this movie is that when it was done, Justin and I had to look up the plot so we could figure out exactly what was going on. I blame the editors. Their responsibility is to make sure the movie makes sense. And they absolutely failed here. Example: Bond is sneaking through a desert laboratory outside of Las Vegas when suddenly the movie cuts to a scene of astronauts on the moon (it turns out to be a moon-like training facility ... I think). What?!? There had been no mention of the moon, space travel, or anything like that at all in the movie, and this was probably past the 1-hour mark. And then nothing else comes of the moon or the astronauts. What the heck, Diamonds Are Forever? I'm guessing this existed primarily so Bond could hijack a lunar module and drive it through the Nevada desert, but c'mon editors (or writers), you've got to set it up better than that. And Sean Connery looks positively ancient in this movie, and he really isn't. He should have packed it in with You Only Live Twice. That would have been a strong ending note. But let's talk about the positives, shall we? Tiffany Case has a home fingerprint analysis screen in 1971, Las Vegas was totally different in 1971 than it is today and it was fun to notice all the differences, Blofeld had an awesome penthouse apartment on a casino that Bond scaled, Blofeld had a cloning facility, and, well, that's about it. OK, the song's pretty good, but it's not enough to redeem this dud.

20. A View to a Kill

You would think that Grace Jones and Christopher Walken as Bond villains would prevent the movie from being awful, but you would be wrong. Roger Moore is so old that I worried about his arthritic body when he started throwing punches. I like the finale with the zeppelin by Golden Gate bridge, but it didn't make up for the rest of the movie of Bond following or dragging around Tanya Roberts' positively horribly acted Stacey Sutton. The worst part was when Bond made her a quiche. A quiche! What were the writers thinking? I commend them for one scene, though, and one scene only. Walken and his henchmen knock out Bond, put him in a car, and roll it into a lake. Bond wakes up just in time and is able to escape detection by sucking water out of his car's tire valves. Nice. But not nice enough.

21. Octopussy

Well, the idea of having an all-woman crime syndicate based out of a Greek/Indian island lair was a good one, but the execution was underwhelming to say the least. And Bond totally forces himself on Octopussy, which was totally out of line, even for the early '80s. Plus, Bond chose the stupidest way ever to escape an enemy fortress by revealing himself when he was hidden. Thankfully, the evil henchmen were even dumber and chose to pursue Bond on elephants instead of their Jeeps which were already running and right there! Plus, the plot never made a ton of sense and I never really knew why the ultimate villains were trying to set off the bomb. Also: Roger Moore was too old. He should have stopped after For Your Eyes Only. Please, skip this one. Believe me.

22. The World is Not Enough

This is yet another Bond movie with a thrilling cold open that never makes good on its initial premise. The bombs, boat chase, and exploding hot air balloon all before the opening credits rolled were high-octane and well-shot. But the rest of the movie suffered from a cheesy/campy script, two terrible actresses (NOT Sophie Marceau and Judi Dench, who were fine, considering) and a character named Dr. Molly Warmflash. And can anyone actually buy Denise Richards as a "nucular physicist" in hot pants? I didn't think so. Plus, the CGI graphics in the oil pipeline were pretty bad.


cash said...

Um, yeah, this is huge. Maybe you should have posted it in installments or something? Is anyone actually going to read this?

Cardine said...

I did. The only people who would read it, anyway, are people who are Bond fans. Or Cash fans. Either way, it has good pictures.

Cardine said...

Oh yeah, and I forgot that I was going to put my own comments on this.

I have an abyssmal memory of the Sean Connery ones if I've even seen them. I can barely remember some of the Roger Moore ones. He creeps me out as Bond.

I honestly can't remember some of the Pierce Brosnans. I just remember thinking that they were so bad that I never needed to see them again. "GoldenEye" excepted, of course.

I guess I should watch at least the top 10. I mean, I like most of them that are that high that I've seen well enough. Thanks for doing this!

(I'm not surprised "The World Is Not Enough" got worst place for you. I know how much you despised it, and especially Denise Richards in it.)

dub said...

I read the whole thing! It was very funny and entertaining. And I have to agree with you about Roger Moore being too old in Octopussy. He looks ancient in that picture -- old enough to be her dad for sure. Hmmm.

RosieP said...

I don't really agree with your list, but it's interesting. The one Bond movie that would be at the bottom of my list is "GOLDFINGER". That movie had more plot holes that I could count.

At the top of my list would be "ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE".