The best James Bond movies, ranked

Best James Bond movies

Choosing the best James Bond movies, and ranking them into a list, is tough. They vary in quality wildly and... well, let's just say that some 007 films have aged better than others. It’s like deciding which slightly bigoted uncle you’re going to pair up with for charades at Christmas because, despite sharing a world view that would cause a 4chan moderator to blush, they’re still quite entertaining. And let’s face it, you only see them once a year, and ever since they started dating that new woman they’ve become a little more open minded and even learnt a bit of Spanish. But yes, Bond. We’ve considered all the Bond movies to date, discounted the original Casino Royale because it’s silly, and made this list of the best James Bond movies.

Confusingly, we’ve got Bond 25 on the horizon, now that the director issues have been sorted out, but it’s actually the 26th Bond film. So, below is a list of all 25 current James Bond movies, including Never Say Never Again, which wasn’t made by EON Productions and isn’t considered canon. Except it has Sean Connery in it, and it’s watchable, so it made the cut. It’s way more watchable than most of the Brosnan Bonds. Speaking of which... 

25. Die Another Day (2002)

Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about Die Another Day - the weird, Pierce Brosnan-lead, disaster movie (in both sense of the word) - is that this is the first time you see Bond climax, after 40 years of copulation. So momentous was the event deemed (well, it must’ve been quite a relief for the double-oh) that it’s actually sampled in Madonna’s terrible title track for the movie. The problem with Die Another Day, in a Bond movie sense, is that it’s all gadgetry and excess, but without any kind of interesting narrative to hold it together. Brosnan is too old and leathery by this point too, and the villains of the piece - a man with diamonds embedded in his face, and a North Korean General, who has inexplicably turned himself into Toby Stephens - are laughable. The most face-in-hands scene in this film, however, is where Bond rides a tidal wave through the Icelandic sea on the remains of a landspeeder, rigged up like a windsurfing board. Presumably jumping over every shark in the Bond universe in the process.

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Theme tune: Die Another Day by Madonna

24. The World is Not Enough (1999)

In hindsight, we should have seen the Die Another Day fiasco long before it happened. The World is Not Enough is the Bond family motto, a fact that is largely ignored by this movie, which instead tries to tell a serious story about a plot to destroy the oil pipeline between East and West, by detonating a nuclear reactor in the coast outside Istanbul. There’s a dual kidnapping plot here too: first a fake one of Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), and then a real one where M is swiped by an off-his-game Robert Carlyle. None of it satisfies, nor does the idea that Carlyle’s Victor ‘Renard’ Zokas is somehow impervious to pain because of a bullet shot into his head by Bond in some kind of (probably more entertaining) previous encounter. There’s a scene where Bond gets tortured by Elektra King, which is pretty satisfying, and some ok action sequences. But it kinda feels like the entire movie - especially the inclusion of Denise Richard’s no-mark scientist, Christmas Jones - was designed around Bond’s creepy one-liner at the end, where he proudly announces, barely able to contain his own self-satisfaction, that “He always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.” Because they’re in Turkey. And she’s called Christmas. And he wants to have sex with her.

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Theme tune: The World is Not Enough by Garbage

23. Octopussy (1983)

It sometimes feels like this movie was built entirely around the titular innuendo. In all honesty, I’m not sure I like the idea of an Octopussy. Does it have tentacles? Or are there eight of them in one teeming mass? Neither appeals. Anyway, the movie itself features Bond attempting to foil a nuclear attack on an air force base in West Germany, as a rogue Russian general attempts to expand the Soviet empire west. It all starts with a bidding war over a Faberge egg, and has some strikingly racist scenes in India, as Bond pursues Kamal Khan - the man working with General Orlov. Octopussy seriously falls foul of classic Bond excess, with silly stunts, way too many goofy gags, massively camp villains, and a plot that hops randomly around seemingly for the sake of it. There’s a scene at the end where Bond disguises himself as a clown to infiltrate a circus where Orlov has hidden the nuclear device. It’s incredibly fitting that Bond gets dressed up as a clown in a movie that treats him as such. 

Bond: Roger Moore
Theme tune: All Time High by Rita Coolidge

22. Never Say Never Again (1983)

Watching Never Say Never Again is like wearing a pair of fake Ray-Bans. Something you bought off eBay, for about $5, and it actually says Rey-Burns on the lenses, but the writing is so small that no-one would notice unless they were packed up against you in a busy subway train. Sure, they keep out the sunlight, and they fit you well, but you know they’re not Ray-Bans and it bothers you a bit. It’s only a brand name, sure, but they make you feel a bit cheap, and even though you’re outside in the sunshine enjoying a beer with your buddies - laughing and joking and talking about girls, just like you always do - it doesn’t taste quite as good. And meanwhile you’re sweating a bit more, and your Rey-Burns are starting to feel uncomfortable and you start to worry that your girlfriend is getting a bit too close to your friend, Todd, and you remember they had ‘a thing’ a couple of months before you guys got together. Maybe you’ll look on Amazon for some proper Ray-Bans tomorrow. Anyway, Never Say Never Again is like that. As a movie it’s based on the Thunderball novel, only it isn’t made by Ray… sorry, EON Productions, and Connery (isn’t it great to see him back as Bond? Well, kinda) feels a bit old and rusty to be 007. Hey, it’s got Blofeld in it and… to hell with it, I’m just off to have a really long, close look at Todd’s Instagram feed.

Bond: Sean Connery, weirdly
Theme tune: Never Say Never Again by Lani Hall

21. A View to a Kill (1985)

The final Roger Moore-era Bond is one of extremes. Good: Christopher Walken’s turn as eccentric villain with a daddy complex, Max Zorin, is brilliant; easily one of the best in any movie of this franchise because Walken essentially plays himself. Bad: Moore is way too old to play Bond anymore, making the scene where he has his way with an intimidatingly beautiful Grace Jones, feel a bit creepy. Ok, that’s unfair. It’s really fucking creepy. Jones is, essentially, the Bond girl here as the real female lead is so forgettable she practically blends into the background like a chameleon. The plot isn’t too silly, with Zorin attempting to flood a fault line in California to trigger a colossal natural disaster, and the bit where he personally machine-guns all his workers is one of the most gripping and sinister in all of Bond. But when your male lead is so leathery, and the movie is literally named after him, and you secretly wonder whether Bond is on the viagra and he’s maybe still got a painful erection in his cargo pants as he kicks an old man out of a zeppelin, that puts a real dampener on the whole thing.

Bond: Roger Moore
Theme tune: A View to a Kill by Duran Duran

20. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

After the delightful return to form that was GoldenEye, Brosnan’s second Bond plunged the franchise back into mediocrity. While the movie makes an admirable attempt to have a sly dig at media moguls like Rupert Murdock, via villain Elliot Carver, the rest of the film feels strangely meandering as it blunders through several unsuccessful attempts to deviate from the tried-and-tested Bond formula. The romance between Bond and the female leads is more complex than wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, but it’s very unsatisfying - both Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh have weak roles, and the latter is actually called Wei Lin. Really. Carver himself isn’t your typical villain, and it feels like the producers got nervous and insisted on the addition of both brainless muscle (Stamper) and comedy evil (Dr Kaufman), leading to an unsatisfying mix of baddos. The plot is fine until the silly climax in the South China Sea, and while killing off Paris Carver half way through is bold, it can’t save an otherwise forgettable Bond outing.

Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Theme tune: Tomorrow Never Dies by Cheryl Crow

19. You Only Live Twice (1967)

Yes, this is the Bond movie where 007 pretends to be a Japanese fisherman by squinting a bit and putting on some eyeliner. By modern standards, that really isn’t ok. There’s quite a lot of chuckling at Johnny Foreigner in You Only Live Twice, a daft scene where Bond rides on ‘Little Nellie’, a one-person helicopter that he builds himself following a delivery from Q, and there’s a character called Kissy Suzuki, which sounds like it was dreamed up by a five-year-old in the school playground. Sadly, the writer of YOLT is actually famous novelist Roald Dahl… Fun fact. The plot is complete nonsense too, with Blofeld and SPECTRE building a spacecraft that eats American and Japanese space shuttles to try and cause a global war. There are ninjas too. And a fight in a volcano. And the movie poster features Bond sat in a jacuzzi with a thundering erection and a smug grin, while eight women fawn over him (and one of them is actually giving him a hand job). It’s the height of Bond-esque fantasy, and utterly removed from reality, but if you’re in the mood for something fun, and you’re a bit drunk, and you lock away your modern sensibilities in a box… and you squint a bit, this Bond is pretty watchable.

Bond: Sean Connery
Theme tune: You Only Live Twice by Nancy Sinatra

18. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Growing up, I was a big fan of For Your Eyes Only, but through adult eyes it all feels a bit silly. The premise is a good one - there’s a race on between Bond and the soviets to retrieve an ATAC machine, with the potential to decode Britain’s nuclear arsenal and render it useless. Roger Moore manages a decent turn as Bond too, skiing, rutting, ice skating, rutting again, and rock-climbing his way to an impressive encounter on the summit of St Cyril’s monastery. There’s a neat twist where Bond’s ally turns out to be the baddie, and a wide array of impressive environments that genuinely capture the spirit of adventure in Fleming’s original books. Which is all good, if you’re prepared to check your disbelief in at the door. Bond also skis down a bobsleigh run, kills three goons by carefully knocking them into an ice hockey net using a Zamboni (complete with the goal-scoring honk as each one skids in), and he finds time to flash an eyebrow at a pursuing foe while outrunning them in a battered old 2CV. Arguably this is a classic Bond movie, and it’s heaps of fun, but it isn’t wonderful when viewed through a modern lens.

Bond: Roger Moore
Theme tune: For Your Eyes Only by Sheena Easton

17. Moonraker (1979)

It’s Bond… in space. The franchise’s attempt to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon isn’t without its flaws – the entire final act is a bit too cheesy, even for Bond – but there’s enough here to make it feel less like a product of its time and more of an entertaining, energetic romp as Roger Moore returns for a fourth turn as 007. Sure, there are weird decisions like Jaws turning into more of a lovable buffoon, but his grand skydiving entry at the onset of the movie ranks as one of the series’ more striking sequences. Hugo Drax, too, is just enough of a moustache-twirling foil for Bond that even his outlandish plans sorta fit in. He’s planning to kill of most of the planet and, in the meantime, has docked ‘perfect’ humans in a spaceship so he can re-populate the Earth with a master race. Because of course he has. It helps that Bond’s globe-trotting oozes cool: the action scenes in Venice are among the highlights of Moore’s run as Bond goes toe-to-toe with an assassin while barely getting a mark on his pale-blue suit. Then there’s the Bond girl. Her name is Holly Goodhead (get it? DO. YOU. GET IT?) and she actually gives Bond a run for her money in the arse-kicking stakes, which is nice. All in all, a Bond worth watching – because it dares to be a little different.

Bond: Roger Moore
Theme tune: Moonraker by Shirley Bassey

16. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

While not a poor movie, Diamonds Are Forever has one of the weakest core plots. Eventually, we discover that Blofeld himself is using smuggled diamonds to construct a satellite that can act as a giant laser, hovering above the earth, allowing Blofeld to hold the world to ransom. But the film meanders for far too long before showing its hand. Sure, the opener with all the Blofeld clones is great, there are some neat set-pieces, and Mr Kidd and Mr Wint - two assassins send to murder Bond - are wonderfully sinister villains. They even try to kill Bond using kebab skewers, which is a deliciously OTT highlight, after attempting to burn him alive inside a coffin. But there’s just a sense of cohesion and purpose missing from the movie, and that spoils an otherwise decent spy romp. There are some moments of Bond silliness - like a love interest called Plenty O’Toole (COME ON, REALLY?) - and the grand finale aboard an oil rig isn’t quite as satisfying as many other endings in the franchise. Overall, a middling 007 outing, but that’s kinda why it’s mid-feature right here. Fun fact: this movie saw the return of Sean Connery as Bond, after he refused the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where he was replaced by George Lazenby.

Bond: Sean Connery
Theme tune: Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey

Click over to page 2 to read our best Bond movie entries from 15-6...