Ranking the James Bond Movies

So my son is 10 years old, and over the past year or so, we’ve been watching some of the James Bond movies together. Many of these I have not seen since I was in high school. We have half a dozen on DVD, so I’ll rank those as well as Casino Royale, which I’ve watched twice since its release in 2006 and believe I remember well enough to rank.

Unlike the superhero movies, I’m going to put together a little rubric to make this an objective exercise. Since the Bond movies are formulaic and their quality is based on how well they fulfill the formula, I’m going to lay out the several categories a Bond movie can get points in. Most of the categories will award 2 points if the movie is one of the top 3 Bond movies (out of the 7 I’m rating), and 1 point if it’s in the top 6. (Please keep in mind, I am only basing this on the 6 movies I have watched with my son, plus Casino Royale. In future, I may add more movies to the mix.) Here are the criteria, with a maximum of 14 points available:

Story/Plot–2 points–Is the plot coherent and logical? Are the stakes high?  (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Action–2 points–Are the stunts exciting? The car chases thrilling?  (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Villain–2 points–What’s a Bond movie without dastardly villains and their henchmen? (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Setting–2 points–The Bond movies are all about exotic locations. (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–2 points–What’s the cool stuff?  (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Bond girls–2 points–The ladies, oh yes, the ladies. (2 points, top 3; 1 point, top 6)

Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?–1 point–These are the best Bonds (no need to debate) and get an automatic extra point if appearing in the film.

Musical theme–1 point if in the top 5

Story/Plot–Cornering the world gold market by irradiating the gold in Fort Knox. Definitely top 3 (2 points)
Action–The car chase is good, the golf game is classic, but not a whole lot of stunts. Top 6. (1 point)
Villain–Goldfinger? Odd Job? Are you kidding me? Top 3 (2 points)
Setting–Scotland and Kentucky are creative, but not that exotic. Top 6 (1 point)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–Oh, God, the Aston Martin! Plus an extensive visit to Q’s lab. And Goldfinger’s laser. Top 3 (2 points)
Bond Girls–Everybody remembers Pussy Galore because of her name, but she doesn’t actually make much of an impact in the movie. 0 points
SC or DC? Connery, +1
Music–Goldfinger, yep, +1
Total: 10 points

Story/Plot–Nuclear missile dropped underwater, top 6 (1 point)
Action–Great SCUBA scenes (and innovative for their time), a decent car chase. Top 6 (1 point)
Villain–Emilio Largo–Who? (0 points)
Setting–Opening scene in Paris, most of the action in the Bahamas. A little generic (0 points)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–Underwater breather, lots of cool SCUBA stuff, Largo’s beachfront house is sweet. Top 6 (1 point)
Bond Girls–Fiona Volpe–not too memorable. Top 6 (1 point)
SC or DC? Connery, +1
Music–Tom Jones on the title song. I guess we’ll say Top 5, +1
Total: 6 points

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Story/Plot–The best plot of the movies, the only one that’s a geniune tearjerker. (2 points)
Action–Some really beautifully done ski scenes, Top 3 (2 points)
Villain–Blofeld as played by Telly Savalas, plus the formidable Fraulein Bunt definite Top 3 (2 points)
Setting–Sardinia, but mostly in Switzerland, Top 6 (1 point)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–The Aston Martin again, and Blofeld’s chalet is cool as hell. Top 3 (2 points)
Bond Girls–Diana Rigg, the only woman (until Casino Royale) Bond every fell for (and who can blame him?) (2 points)
SC or DC?–Nope
Music–Not too memorable
Total: 9 points

Live and Let Die
Story/Plot–Something about cornering the heroin market, I don’t know, not too great (0 points)
Action–Gators, a boat chase in the bayou, but doesn’t add up to a top 6 finish
Villain–Mr. Big/Kananga is forgettable, but Baron Samedi is worth a mention. Top 6 (1 point)
Setting–Some great shots of Bond really, really out of place in Harlem, some nice shots of New Orleans. Unfortunately, much of the movie is set in the fictional island of San Monique. Why? Is there any other Bond movie with a fictional location? Top 6 (1 point)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–A magnetic watch, some cool boats, top 6 (1 point)
Bond Girls–Not one, but two of the hottest Bond Girls ever–Solitaire (Jane Seymour) and Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), top 3 (2 points)
SC or DC?–Nope
Music–Paul McCartney, +1
Total: 6 points

The Spy Who Loved Me
Story/Plot–Actually a fairly exciting, tense plot about some stolen nuclear missiles, top 3 (2 points)
Action–Great underwater action, the fight with Jaws on the train, top 6 (1 points)
Villain–Stromberg is forgettable (though with good taste in lairs), but his henchman Jaws is second only to Oddball in Bond history. Top 3 (2 points)
Setting–Great atmospheric scenes in Egypt, Sardinia, plus the opening ski scene in Austria–definite top 3 (2 points)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–A Lotus that turns into a submarine! An awesome undersea lair with transparent walls and an awesome bar that anybody would want to live in, or at least through a bitchin’ party! (2 points)
Bond Girls–Barbara Bach, the hottest Bond girl of all time, and with a huge role in the movie, too. (2 points)
SC or DC?–Nope
Music–Nobody Does It Better, Top 5, +1
Total: 12 points

Casino Royale
Story/Plot–A plot to bankrupt a known terrorist at a secret high-stakes gambling event, top 6 (1 point)
Action–The initial parkour chase in Madagascar, plus a number of other great scenes puts this in the top 3 (2 points)
Villain–Le Chiffre cries blood, hits you in your gonads with a big rope if he doesn’t like you, top 6 (1 point)
Setting–Miami, Montenegro, and some really great scenes in Venice, top 3 (2 points)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–A tracking device, an explosive keychain, top 6 (1 point)
Bond Girls–Vesper Lynd just barely misses the top 3 (1 point)
SC or DC?–Daniel Craig +1
Music–Not too memorable
Total: 9 points

Story/Plot–A villain who used to be in MI6 but feels betrayed, top 6 (1 point)
Action–Really cool fight on the top of the elevator shaft in a Shanghai skyscraper and several other scenes puts this in the top 6 (1 point)
Villain—Raoul Silva, one of the more believable Bond villains, top 6 (1 point)
Setting–Shanghai, Bond’s childhood home in Scotland, London, including the bowels of MI6, top 6 (1 point)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–Not a lot of that stuff here (0 points)
Bond Girls–Severine, but really M functions as the Bond Girl in this one (?!), top 6 (1 point)
SC or DC?–Daniel Craig +1
Music–Adele, +1
Total: 7 points

And, here are the results:
1) The Spy Who Loved Me, 12 points
2) Goldfinger, 10 points
3, 4) Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, tied with 9 points
5) Skyfall, 7 points
6, 7) Thunderball and Live and Let Die, tied with 6 points

One Comment on “Ranking the James Bond Movies

  1. Pingback: Ranking From Russia With Love – Nicholas Bruner

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