5. Skyfall (2012)
The darkest, most personal Bond to date is a genuine fan favorite, and one of the best stories in the whole universe. Following an attack on MI5 itself, and with M in the firing line, Bond uncovers one of the service’s dirtiest little secrets - Raoul Silva (wonderfully played by Javier Bardem). An agent that M abandoned, and a dark shadow representing the dark side of Bond’s selfish, violent actions, Silva forces 007 to embrace his past as he attempts to save his boss from her own. The action sequences in this movie are sparingly used but memorable, especially the siege at the end where Bond takes refuge in his childhood home, and the locales are suitably stunning, with a mist-shrouded Scotland actually among the most beautiful and haunting. But it’s the understated moments of menace that define Skyfall: the scene where Silva removes his facial prosthetic; the moment Bond is forced to shoot his lover with an antique pistol; and the disturbing ending in the church are all stand-outs. This movie showed us a broken Bond at the limits of his humanity, and served as a neat reset for all the supporting cast; in particular it's a magnificent send-off for Judi Dench's M. It should have been Daniel Craig’s final bow too but, sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Bond: Daniel Craig
Theme tune: Skyfall by Adele
4. Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger is a movie at risk of becoming trapped by its own iconic status but, in a Bond-like fashion, manages to come out of it looking just as finely-tailored as it did all those years ago. Nearly every moment is wrapped up in a legendary aura, often imitated but never bettered. The fact that Goldfinger still manages to survive all this, over 50 years of parodies later, is testament to how fine of a movie it is. There’s the golden girl suffocated in paint, *that* laser scene, and bloody Oddjob, the scourge of many a GoldenEye multiplayer session. That’s without even mentioning Sean Connery on absolute top form and Auric Goldfinger, the man who would prove to be a template for all future Bond villains thanks to his sharp tongue and even sharper, nastier mean streak. His scheme to rob Fort Knox is delightfully absurd, as is the tensest round of golf ever played between Bond and Goldfinger. The best bit, though? It has to be the entire OTT final act, featuring Goldfinger being sucked out of his own aircraft right through to James’, ahem, meeting with Pussy Galore. From start to finish, this is pure Bond bliss.
Bond: Sean Connery
Theme tune: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
3. GoldenEye (1995)
After the camp excesses of the Moore era, and the dour northernness of the Dalton era, GoldenEye represented a return to the core values of Bond: Cold-war style villainy, neat gadgets, impressive stunts, a young, handsome Bond and a young, beautiful female cast (with exciting sexual chemistry between them), and plenty of fight sequences. The GoldenEye pre-title sequence is one of the best in the universe, as Bond rappels down a dam, knocks out a Russian on a toilet, and skydives into a falling plane as it tumbles off a cliff. The rest of the movie has a lovely blend of characters, story twists, and moments of mild fantasy as Bond foils a plot to plunge half the civilized world into financial meltdown. Sean Bean plays an excellent villain in Alex Trevelyan, and there’s a memorable (if daft) crew of sub-baddies including the toxic nerd Boris Grishenko, the typical Russian military schemer General Urumov, and the intensely silly (and sexy) Xenia Onatopp. The finale inside the satellite dish on Cuba is pleasingly unique, and the eventual death of Trevelyan - crushed by the array itself - is gloriously Bond. Sure, Izabella Scorupco’s Natalya Simonova is a weak female lead, and there are hints of cartoonish xenophobia throughout, but GoldenEye gets the Bond formula just right, and launches the modern era with aplomb. The introduction of Judi Dench as M brought the franchise's best recurring character to date too, and dragged the movies into the '90s.
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Theme: GoldenEye by Tina Turner
2. Casino Royale (2006)
Sometimes the chips fall just right. Coming off the back of the travesty that was Die Another Day, Bond needed more than just a new face to freshen things up. Thankfully, with Casino Royale, the right formula was found. Daniel Craig’s Bond is immediately tougher than Pierce Brosnan’s quip-machine caricature – and so he should be as he faces down a pre-Hannibal Mads Mikkelsen in a proper globetrotting, epic adventure. It helps, too, that Bond doesn’t get it all his own way. This is a secret agent that fails, loses the girl, gets captured, and even tortured in the buff. He doesn’t come out of it smelling of roses as is usually the case; he comes out of smelling of lead, hate, and regret. With a scintillating set-piece around every corner – and even a world record-breaking car chase thrown in for good measure - this is the most rewatchable Bond flick and it almost nabs top spot thanks to its (and Craig’s) sheer force of will, classic-era flourishes, and newfound rough charisma.
Bond: Daniel Craig
Theme tune: You Know My Name by Chris Cornell
1. From Russia With Love (1963)
Quite simply, From Russia With Love is the best Bond movie of all time. Not just because it was entertaining and groundbreaking back in the ‘60s, but because it has aged exceptionally well, carrying many of the most cherished Bond tropes and themes with it. What’s more, it so perfectly captures the vibe and spirit of not only Fleming’s novels, but of ‘60s spy cinema, and serves as a wonderful slice of such an exciting period in Hollywood espionage. Connery is perfect as Bond, his age ideal and his swagger intoxicating, and the suite of villains is impressive - Donald ‘Red’ Grant a real highlight. The plot and pace is top-notch too, featuring the classic ‘honey-trap’ scenario as SPECTRE send the unwitting, beautiful Tatiana Romanova to seduce Bond and help her steal the Lektor device. It’s the first movie we see Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, looking all young and full of ideas, and features an excellent supporting cast.
But it’s the romance and high adventure that truly makes From Russia With Love a brilliant movie. Istanbul is an exotic local, filled with energy and violence, and the conclusion on board the Orient Express manages to be brutal and dangerous while capturing the refined beauty of the world’s most luxurious train service. While on board, we genuinely feel for the death of the hugely likeable Kerim Bey, we believe the relationship between Bond and Romanova is real, and we get that aching, quintessentially British cool when 007 says he should’ve known Red Grant was a villain, after he ordered red wine with fish. The only duff note is the reappearance of Rosa Klebb at the end, who attacks Bond with her poison-bladed shoe (yes, it’s daft), but overall this is the perfect spy movie, and it set the template for all the great Bonds to follow.
Bond: Sean Connery
Theme tune: From Russia With Love by Matt Monro
That's our ranking of the best Bond movies, from worst to best. Let us know about yours in the comments below. And check out the best action movies of all time too.