I know that I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m a big James Bond fan, especially when it comes to the movies. The idea for a “Top James Bond Movies” list isn’t something new for the Internet but that’s not really the reason I haven’t done it before. While I can point to specific favorite moments within the movies, compiling a list of favorite movies is more difficult for me. I almost considered doing a favorite Bond moment list, and I still may, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen some of them and I don’t have the time this weekend to go through them.
Then I thought that it might help to narrow things down by picking my top Bond movie from each of the Bond’s respective eras. That brings its own problems. First of all, that won’t be an accurate representation of my favorites overall, especially when it comes to the Timothy Dalton or Peirce Brosnan films. While I like those two actors, they weren’t in the best movies.* Also, there’s only one George Lazenby film, so that wouldn’t exactly be fair. Besides, while grouping the films by lead actor feels intuitive, it’s arbitrary.
So I just decided to bite the bullet (thought not a golden one) and list my top five James Bond movies of the original twenty. The order could fluctuate next week, but I don’t think I’ll change my mind which movies belong on the list in the first place. I’m only concentrating on the first twenty films as those starring Daniel Craig, while business-wise are of the same franchise, are technically a reboot and are too different in style. Otherwise, Skyfall would have definitely made this list. Also, I’m not going to include anything outside of that particular canon, such as Never Say Never Again (not that it would make the list, anyway).
- For Your Eyes Only. After The Spy Who Loved Me essentially saved the James Bond film franchise, the producers essentially took the same story and set it in outer space to compete with the science-fiction films of the time in Moonraker. The producers decided to then brink Bond back to Earth both literally and figuratively with the next film, For Your Eyes Only. The action and adventure is exciting without going over the top or campy, with only a touch of Roger Moore’s humorous approach. There is one odd scene James Bond has to fight villains dressed up as ice hockey players, but come on—seeing him drive a Zamboni to beat them is pretty damn cool.
- Goldfinger. I know this one is an obvious choice for a list like this but it does make sense. Not only was it the first film to define the formula the movies would use from then on, it used it to the best effect possible. Oddjob is easily one of the best henchmen. The only thing missing is that in the book, Pussy Galore’s gang are all lesbians.
- Octopussy. I include this one despite the fact that I have a complaint about it. I’ve watched this movie several times over the years and have discovered something that annoys me: I’ve become very conscious of the fact the characters are on movie sets. It’s become hard for me to suspend my disbelief in certain scenes because of it. Despite that one gripe, there’s still plenty to like about the movie—not the least of which is the titular character, one of the most fleshed out Bond Girls in the whole franchise and brilliantly played by Maud Adams.
- A View to a Kill. I know this one isn’t usually considered one of the best, and it usually has its faults. The plot is a little thin. The main villain, despite Christopher Walken’s portrayal, is a little flat. The Bond Girl is forgettable. Even Roger Moore says this is not his favorite Bond film. But there’s something satisfying about this one. Everything fits into place just right. There’s a real sense of danger throughout the story, and not just during the action scenes. Besides, it’s got one of the best theme songs.
- Moonraker. I know I’m going to get flak for this one. But it seems that the things everybody else hates about this movie are the reasons I like it. James Bond goes to space. There are laser guns. They brought Jaws back. And there’s a martial arts scene in Venice. And there’s a disco version of the theme song during the end credits. So, yeah, the film is corny—but in a fun way.
There you have it. It looks like I’m mostly a fan of the Roger Moore Bond films. Again, I have no problem with the other actors. It just turns out that most of my favorite Bond movies come from one period. I really wanted to put On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the list. I know it’s a fan favorite, and for years it was one of mine as well. But it’s gotten stale for me the last few times I’ve watched it. The action sequences look fake and are sometimes poorly edited, the indoor scenes look like they were shot for a television show of the time and the story drags in places. But as I’ve said before, even a bad James Bond movie is still an enjoyable movie.
*In Dalton’s case, The Living Daylights was really written more for Roger Moore’s style of Bond, while License to Kill just wasn’t all that good. Brosnon’s films tended to get too silly at times, even for Bond movies. Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies could have both made this list if they both didn’t suffer in their third acts.