Most of my rather geeky friends and I enjoy Star Trek and science fiction movies. But I enjoy watching other movies too, including the James Bond movies. In general, my favorites are the first five where Bond is played by Sean Connery (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice), but I like all the films. I decided to make a list of the 10 movies I’d take with me on a very long trip where I had a ton of time to kill. I decided that I’d put an arbitrary constraint that, for variety, I had to have at least one movie with each of the six primary Bond actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
1. Dr. No (1962) – The first Bond film is my favorite. Sean Connery goes to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of another agent and discovers Dr. No is planning to destroy an American spacecraft. This film had an incredible social impact, and is still good entertainment over 40 years later. Connery introduces himself to Sylvia Trench while gambling at chemin-de-fer, with the classic, “Bond, James Bond.”
2. Thunderball (1965) – Bond goes to the Bahamas to track down a stolen RAF Vulcan bomber armed with nuclear weapons. Emilio Largo is a so-so villain. The concluding underwater battle was innovative at the time. I liked the opening sequence where Connery flies off in a jet pack but thought his helmet was very dorky looking.
3. From Russia with Love (1963) – Most of the action takes place in Istanbul, Turkey where Bond is after a Soviet secret code machine, unaware that SPECTRE is also involved. The main villain is Red Grant, played by a pre-Jaws Robert Shaw. Among chess players (like me), the opening scene at a chess tournament is very well known.
4. License to Kill (1989) – Timothy Dalton appeared in two late 1980s Bond films. This is the second. The film is dark and violent in mood but was a nice change from the often annoying buffoonery of the Roger Moore films that preceded it. Bond battles drug dealers in Florida and Mexico, and avenges the maiming-by-shark of his friend Felix Leiter. Robert Davi as Sanchez is a good villain, and I also liked a very young Benecio del Toro who plays a frightening henchman, and Talisa Soto (Sanchez’s girlfriend) as one of the prettiest of all Bond film actresses.
5. GoldenEye (1995) – This is the first of four films with Pierce Brosnan as Bond. The rather confusing plot has Bond trying to gain control of the Soviet GoldenEye space-based electromagnetic weapon. Sean Bean plays British traitor-agent 006 and Gottfried John plays Soviet traitor-General Ourumov. Famke Janssen plays a far-fetched, dominatrix-style (but nice looking) Xenia Onatopp who has strong legs.
6. Goldfinger (1964) – This is the third film in the series and tops many Bond best-of lists. I like most of the movie but the attack on Fort Knox by small private airplanes was just too much of a stretch for me. Goldfinger is a decent villain but has a great line: “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Greatest movie theme song ever. Ever.
7. You Only Live Twice (1967) – Sean Connery goes to Japan to find what is causing the disappearance of U.S. and Soviet spacecraft. It’s SPECTRE headed by Donald Pleasence as Ernst Blofeld. Japan was very exotic and mysterious to American movie goers in 1967. Excellent theme song by Nancy Sinatra.
8. Spectre (2015) – This is the fourth Bond film starring Daniel Craig and didn’t get as good reviews as Casino Royale and Skyfall but I like it best among the Craig films. Bond is a renegade who fights his childhood friend who is the head of Spectre and has infiltrated British Secret Service. This movie has an excellent plot that actually makes sense (well, sort of anyway). The cinematography (dark and filtered lighting) and music (slow) were weak and if not for those two things, this film would have been ranked much higher on my list.
9. For Your Eyes Only (1981) – The seven films with Roger Moore are my least favorites (but are all pretty good). I thought Moore was too old and, in later films, too chubby. This is the fifth of the seven Moore films. Bond is in Greece to try and recover a British secret code device. Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos is only OK as the villain.
10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – The one film starring George Lazenby. It’s become fashionable in recent years for critics to praise this film, but in my opinion it’s not very good. Bond is mostly in Switzerland battling SPECTRE again, with Telly Savalas, by far the best actor in the film, as Ernst Blofeld. Weak plot involving brain-washed women.
Notes: Skyfall (2012), the third Daniel Craig movie, was beautifully filmed but infuriating to me because of the incomprehensible, illogical, hole-ridden plot, and lame villain. It had the potential to be one of the best Bond films of all.
Many lists rate the attractiveness of actresses in the Bond films but all the actresses (with only a couple of exception) seem super attractive to me and I could never rank them.
I like most of the theme songs but “Goldfinger” is by far my favorite; Bond music is a fascinating topic in its own right.
When I first posted this list, Quantum of Solace (2008) was number 8 on my list, but I’ve replaced it with Spectre (2015).
I had high expectations for Mr. Holmes (2015) starring Ian McKellen as a 93-year old Holmes who tries to wrap up the memories of an old case, but the movie was just slow and only mildly interesting even for a huge Holmes fan like me.