Ask 100 people for their list of the best James Bond movies and you’ll likely get 100 different answers. Depending on your era, you might favor Sean Connery over Daniel Craig, have a soft spot for Roger Moore, or are an unabashed Dalton fanboy (it’s me, I admit it).
Now that No Time to Die has landed in our laps, we set about on the unenviable task of ranking all of the best James Bond movies. We’ve rewatched each and every one of them from Dr. No through to Bond's 25 outing, cringed over some of the more questionable moments from 007’s history, and sunk more martinis than we’d care to admit. Hic.
Despite office in-fighting, furious email chains, and some very objectionable opinions about Casino Royale, we’ve just about managed it: the best Bond movies – all 25 official entries, so Never Say Never won’t be appearing – ranked in order from worst to best. It’s all covered here: the Aston Martins, the tuxedos, the gadgets, and, most importantly, a list that should leave you stirred, not shaken. We even answer the big question on everyone's lips now that the dust has settled: does No Time to Die crack our top 10?
Some spoilers for No Time to Die follow, you have been warned!
25. Die Another Day
Is Die Another Day truly bad? There won’t be any revisionism here: it’s a painful watch with very few redeeming qualities. Yet, it’s still fun in a terrible sort of way: a ridiculously overblown fencing scene (inexplicably featuring Madonna), an invisible car, and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond going windsurfing on a tsunami are all groanworthy standouts.
The story is also a grab bag of ideas, meandering and unfocused. Bond is on the warpath, falsely accused of giving up confidential information in North Korean custody. That journey leads him to lock horns with British entrepreneur Gustav Graves in an ice palace of all places – all while Halle Berry’s Jinx (and Graves’ whitewashing plot twist) feel like relics from another era.
Die Another Day’s biggest selling point is its legacy: the campy, gadget-laden tone of Brosnan’s swan song as 007 led to a shift to a grittier, nastier James Bond with Daniel Craig and Casino Royale.
24. A View to a Kill
Roger Moore’s seventh James Bond movie, A View to a Kill proved one too many. While an older 007 is an intriguing concept, Moore’s age (57 at the time of filming) was largely ignored. In its place, an actioner that, suitably, feels the most dated of the lot. Leaning far too heavy into its ‘80s backdrop, loud hairstyles, microchips, and the death rattle of the Cold War all take center stage here. It’s an odd curio, but nothing more.
By this point, the Bond formula was wearing thin and Moore’s smarmy charm could only get him so far. Throw in some low-energy set-pieces and a scarcely believable final battle atop an airship and it finds itself in a predicament where not even Christopher Walken’s scenery-chewing villain Max Zonin or Grace Jones’ iconic May Day can save it. All told, it has all the makings of a ludicrous film that neatly reflects the boom-and-bust era in which it’s set. Banging song, mind you.
Moonraker is often the go-to laughing stock of the franchise – and with good reason. The franchise often takes cues from movie trends of the day – Craig’s Bond is more Bourne, Connery’s home turf was terse thrillers – and so it was that Roger Moore’s 007 headed to outer space in a post-Star Wars world.
But not even Bond is that malleable. A space shuttle going missing is one thing, but Hugo Drax’s plan to create a new master race among the stars is beyond the pale. There are some highlights: the Venice-set chase sequences are still surprisingly good, while Jaws’ face turn isn’t as awful as it sounds. Yet, Moonraker can’t shake the feeling that the final frontier was one small step too far for the MI6 agent, and the laser gun-heavy final battle is a low point in the series’ history.
No snickering at the back. Yes, the most memorable thing about Octopussy is its name, one we only dare Google with Safe Search on.
It’s a shame, too, as the premise – another 00-agent is murdered on foreign soil, leading to the theft of a nuclear weapon that could trigger World War 3 – is one rich with potential. But it goes off the rails pretty quickly, with the movie grinding to a halt thanks to an interminable train sequence and circus sub-plot that goes on forever.
The coup de grace, a ticking clock, is usually Bond’s forte. Not so here. With Octopussy’s help (and caked in clown makeup), Moore’s agent manages to defuse a nuclear warhead in West Germany in a far-from-breathless finale. Only Bond diehards – and curious deviants – should check out this movie.
21. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s debut as 007 may shine in places, but is deeply uncomfortable in others. Shedding the excess of the later Connery years, Live and Let Die sees Bond head to Harlem to ward off a street-level conspiracy involving a whole host of ugly stereotypes and criminal masterminds. Worse still, Bond’s creep-o-meter ticks over as he (literally) stacks the deck in his favour in order to sleep with Solitaire in a later scene.
Despite those seriously misguided missteps, Moore is immediately comfortable as a cooler, more charming James Bond – and elevates a silly story with his wry smile and buttery-smooth one-liners. Fast forward through the 30-minute-long Bayou boat chase and you’ve got a passable Bond flick weighed down by being a product of the times.
20. For Your Eyes Only
The white bread of James Bond movies, For Your Eyes is most notable for two moments that bookend the movie: Bond unceremoniously dumping Blofield down a chimney in its pre-credits sequence, and a (fictional) Margaret Thatcher showing up at the end.
The rest is largely forgettable fare (perhaps understandable given this comes right after the fever dream of Moonraker) that sees 007 entangled in a web of personal vendettas that, oddly, don’t really involve him.
At least the settings stand out, with Bond going on a sun-kissed mission in Italy that sees him tasked with recovering a MacGuffin weapons system and ends with him scaling a mountainside monastery. It’s one of Moore’s most daring escapades – and sandwiches in a genuinely thrilling snowbound chase halfway through – but oh-so-rarely gets out of first gear in a by-the-numbers adventure.
19. The Man with the Golden Gun
James Bond facing off against the world’s best assassin (played by Christopher Lee, no less) should have all the makings of a classic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
In truth, Lee’s innate charisma as Scaramanga hides much of the film’s shortcomings, including a yawnsome plot involving energy resources and the unshakeable feeling that Bond has clocked up too many air miles even by this point for anything to feel truly fresh and exciting.
By the time Moore’s 007 reaches Scaramanga’s island and snatches back the Solex, you’ll want it all over and done with – not least in part by the baffling return of Sheriff Pepper, a character who actively sucks the life out of any Bond film he’s in.
18. You Only Live Twice
If this list was based on final acts alone, You Only Live Twice would be sitting pretty near the top. It’s a classic sequence that has entered pop culture folklore: Blofeld, the cat, the volcanic lair, and the goon-filled showdown has been parodied everywhere from The Simpsons to Austin Powers – and for good reason.
The rest of the film, though, doesn’t quite live up to the impossibly high standards of its parting shot. That’s mostly due to the film feeling decidedly Moore-esque but instead having 007 still played by Sean Connery, who was feeling a little long in the tooth by this stage. Some Bond flicks can marry the epic – including a fantastic crowd shot in Japan’s Ryogoku – and the sillier side of the franchise. You Only Live Twice is not one of them. Check out the final 20 minutes on YouTube instead and enjoy.
17. Quantum of Solace
Often seen as the low point in Daniel Craig’s tenure, Quantum of Solace’s biggest crime is taking Casino Royale’s set up and letting Bond’s arc fizzle out in lukewarm fashion.
Why? Fingers can (and probably should) be pointed at villain Dominic Greene. Bond’s least imposing villain, the snivelling businessman’s plan to steal water doesn’t exactly get the motor running. Quantum of Solace is also seriously hamstrung by its 90-minute runtime, a symptom of the 2008 writers’ strike.
There are some highlights, including Bond’s eavesdropping at the opera and a manic chase in Siena while a horse race rumbles overhead, but they come all too infrequently. It’s still a decent Bond movie – but should have been a spectacular follow-up to one of the series’ finest hours.
16. Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery’s last (official) mission as 007 is an odd, and oddly captivating, affair. It begins with Blofeld body doubles and soon veers into pulp fiction territory in the dreamy neon haze of Las Vegas. After Bond wrestles with diamond smugglers, it all climaxes in a messy fight on an oil rig.
Connery’s gravitas is wearing thin at this point – and the less said about his toupee-topped look, the better – but still manages to considerably improve a film that features a bland Tiffany Case and irritating assassin duo Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
Diamonds Are Forever may have its detractors but, for a middle-of-the-road Bond movie, it’s not something you can ever take your eyes off. Which is more than be can be said for some on this list.
How do you mess up Blofeld? In any case, Spectre tried its level best to do so. Christoph Waltz stepped into the shoes of the iconic villain but was lumbered with a nonsensical plan and an unnecessary link to 007. It also feels every second of its 148-minute runtime in a movie that has multiple endings but, ironically, can’t quite stick the landing.
Yet, Spectre still finds time to stand out. The Day of the Dead pre-credits sequence is the best in the series, bar none. The tying-off of loose ends from Casino Royale, particular Mr. White’s demise, also marks the moment where Bond’s serial storytelling in the Craig era really starts to hit home.
14. The World is Not Enough
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies got progressively worse after the electric highs of GoldenEye but, in retrospect, The World is Not Enough deserves more love. It’s got a killer opening sequence with 007 gunning it down the Thames in a speedboat, a unique Bond villain (Robert Carlyle’s Renard, who is impervious to pain), and a fitting farewell to Desmond Llewelyn’s Q.
There are stumbles, sure: Christmas Jones is among the most forgettable ‘Bond girls’ and the Brosnan era propensity for on-rails, lifeless action sequences reaches its apex here. But watch this back and you’ll discover the closest thing Bond has to a hidden gem.
13. Tomorrow Never Dies
Tomorrow Never Dies is like a fine wine, only getting better with age. Most of its retrospective appeal emanates from Jonathan Pryce’s Elliot Carver, a newspaper magnate intent on dictating the world’s rolling news coverage by orchestrating disasters and masterminding major criminal acts – before splashing it all over the front pages.
Despite its age, it’s a very prescient 21st Century story, and you’ll delight in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond taking down the cold-hearted, ruthless baddie. There’s plenty of punches packed in here too, with henchman Stamper a fun throwback to classic Bond showdowns and Michelle Yeoh that rare thing: a capable Bond ally who can kick ass just as well as 007, if not more so.
The fourth James Bond film in as many years could – and probably should – have led to some franchise fatigue. Thunderball, though, is built differently. The belting Tom Jones theme coupled with 007’s iconic jetpack escape sets the stage for an intriguing, tightly-paced thriller that sees Bond set sail for the Bahamas.
His target? SPECTRE’s Number Two, Emilio Largo. While he’s not the flashiest of villains, his chilling, calm presence meshes nicely with the masterplan to blow up major cities in the US and UK.
The film’s reliance on underwater scenes admittedly makes Thunderball sag a little upon a rewatch, but the bigger problems come from scenes that are products of the times.
11. Licence to Kill
You didn’t expect to see Timothy Dalton clawing at the top 10, did you? The last of the Bond actors to feature for the first time in this list, Dalton commandeered an era where 007 showcased a nastier edge than ever before – and was often a one-man wrecking ball.
Amid the explosions and action, it helps that Licence to Kill is a deeply personal story. Outside of Tracy’s death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond usually keeps his emotions in check. But after drug kingpin Franz Sanchez strikes back by feeding his ally Felix Leiter to sharks, 007 retaliates in shocking fashion.
Here, Dalton is a proto-Daniel Craig. The one-liners are (mostly) out and, in its place, a force of nature that envelopes anyone foolish enough to get in Bond’s way. Standout moments include Benicio del Toro’s Dario being given a one-way trip to the morgue via a shredder, and a particularly ghoulish demise for a businessman in a decompression tube. Bond has never hit harder.
It all culminates in a scorching set-piece as Bond tears after Sanchez in the desert – and the franchise’s most satisfying Big Bad death. The end result may be hard to swallow: this is a great action movie first and merely a good James Bond movie second. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but this is a side to the character that still today feels just as grimly violent and necessary as it did back in the 1980s.
10. No Time to Die
If No Time to Die had maintained the punchy, globetrotting pace of its first 90 minutes then it’d likely be a shoe-in for one of the best Bond movies ever made. While it doesn’t clear that impossibly high bar throughout the entirety of its bumper 163 minute runtime, it certainly bids farewell to Daniel Craig’s 007 with all the style and, crucially, substance we’ve come to expect from the long-serving Bond actor.
The pre-credits Siena sequence is an undoubted highlight, wedding the deeply personal touch of Craig’s era with the sort of physical set-pieces that – even in the age of green screens – still manage to wow on the big screen. From there, Bond is on the trail of a new supervillain (Safin, played by Rami Malek) after an off-the-books weapon is swiped from a covert MI6 lab.
In truth, No Time to Die attempts too much: Blofeld, SPECTRE, Bond’s personal life, and a new 007 are all crammed into Craig’s swan song. It leaves Safin feeling severely undercooked and too many questions being asked as the movie hurtles towards the emotional gut-punch of a final act. But it just about works – and is always entertaining.
Daniel Craig’s legacy won’t be defined by No Time to Die alone, but we’re glad his Bond got a proper sendoff: an indulgent, epic affair that highlights the best and worst of Craig’s run – all while leaving us a little teary-eyed once the credits roll. The next James Bond’s mission? Follow that.
9. Dr. No
The one that started it all. The debut of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character was no sure thing back in 1962 but, in one swift stroke, Sean Connery’s swaggering secret agent laid to rest any doubters and set about providing the overawing blueprint for all that would come after.
His introduction scene has, arguably, never been bettered. It’s peak Bond: Connery, cigarette hanging from his lips, is in total control of the scene as Monty Norman’s iconic score begins to bubble up. Then, the iconic words that would immortalise the character in cinematic folklore: “Bond. James Bond.” It’s coolness personified.
It helps that the rest of the movie is of a similarly high standard. The action may stutter by the time Bond and Honey Ryder stumble up a beach and towards Dr. No’s clutches, but any rewatch will surprise on the basis of how much the film gets right first time round.
The formula is, more or less, perfected here: tense sitdowns with the villain, an over-the-top lair, Bond making goo-goo eyes at anything with a pulse, and a final showdown against a ticking clock all feature here. Some Bond movies have aged terribly. Not this one. Dr. No is the first (and last) word on why the series remains such an endearing classic.
8. The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights is one of James Bond’s best entries – and, incredibly, one of its most forgotten. If you skip over this on Bond marathons, you’re missing out. Big time. The 1987 actioner is a sweeping epic that takes in concerts in Czechoslovakia, backroom deals in Tangiers, and all-out assault in Afghanistan.
Centring around a KGB policy to eliminate all enemy spies in their midst, The Living Daylights soon puts Bond in the crosshairs in a classic Cold War thriller that ushers in a new era for 007.
Yes, this is when Bond grew up. Or, at least, shed the long, campy shadow of Roger Moore and memories of George Lazenby in a kilt. This Bond is a no-nonsense, hard-nosed sort that can believably take out an entire platoon, all without breaking a sweat.
From hereon out – much like this list itself – it’s pretty much all killer, no filler. You can endlessly debate whether Bond still needs his quieter moments, but few can deny Dalton’s brief, searing impact on the franchise helped it immensely after a languid period. The Living Daylights is the epitome of that early, energetic approach.
7. The Spy Who Loved Me
The Spy Who Loved Me’s (relatively) high position on this list might raise a few quizzical Roger Moore-style eyebrows. It shouldn’t. If anything, this is quintessential Bond – and a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers.
It’s got all you would expect from series, refined to an incredibly high degree: the gadgets, the girls, and the globetrotting – all punctuating an adventure that counts as Moore’s finest as 007.
And it begins, fittingly, with one of James Bond’s most iconic sequences. Moore’s 00-agent is chased by Soviet spies in a legendary ski chase which climaxes with Bond besting the lot and making his escape over a cliff and into the breeze. The cherry on top? The Union Jack parachute backed by the opening chimes of “Nobody Does It Better.” It still gives us chills.
The rest continues to clear that high bar. That includes the introduction of iconic henchman Jaws in what could be a scene ripped straight out of a horror movie as the menacing Richard Kiel stalks Bond in Egypt. Throw in the compelling dynamic of Bond meeting his match with Russian agent Anya Amasova, with the added wrinkle being that he gunned down her lover, and you’ve got a classic.
The villain and general plot – the threat of nukes for what must be the 100th time – are faintly unmemorable, but The Spy Who Loved Me is proof that nobody does it better than Bond.
6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The amount of mileage you’ll get out of OHMSS will probably boil down to one moment. George Lazenby’s 007 saves Diana Rigg’s Tracy from her suicide attempt and, as she speeds off, he says with what may have well been a wink: “This never happened to that other fellow.”
It’s too self-aware but, thankfully, Lazenby forges his own legacy as Bond in a thrilling adventure that sees him tangle with Blofeld once more (this time played by in cold and calculating fashion by Telly Savalas). Bond goes full-on spy here, impersonating a genealogist and, by the time the mask slips, engages in a terse cat-and-mouse game with Blofeld – to tragic results.
If we were ranking Bond movies by category, this would top the lot in several. Best Bond score (if a bit overused), best Bond girl, and, dare we say it, one of the best Bond villains. Most of all, it has the best Bond ending. It’s a gut punch that still holds up, even more so when you know what’s coming.
007 heads off to a world of marital bliss, only to have it cruelly snatched away by Blofeld’s gunman. “We Have All The Time in the World,” instead of the usual Bond theme, is the perfect capper as Lazenby’s solitary outing as the secret agent cradles Tracy in his arms.
The best of the 21st Century Bonds is still to come, but Skyfall is a worthy second. While it’s a spectacular showcase for Craig’s 007, this is really Dame Judi Dench’s show.
Her M encompassed two Bonds and seven movies, often doing so much with very little. Dench’s role is far meatier here, mercifully, as her past finally catches up to her in gut-wrenching fashion: Javier Bardem’s scene-stealing Raoul Silva is out and seeking revenge after being disavowed by his one-time mentor.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins is also on hand, ensuring M’s fond farewell is the best-looking Bond yet. Everything from the chilling fog of the Scottish Highlands to the warm marriage of tradition and technology in Shanghai are just as much part of the fabric of this film as Ben Whishaw’s pimply Q and Bond’s lavish tuxedo.
The considerable talents of Dench and Craig provide emotional heft – an ingredient sorely lacking from the majority of Bond escapades – right through to the bitter end at 007’s ancestral home. Skyfall has several nods to the past, but its overlooked strength is how it finds enough time to really set out its grand vision of how all Bond films should feel (and look) moving forward.
If you think of James Bond then, chances are, you’re probably thinking of Goldfinger. It’d be far too easy just to reel off the sheer number of iconic moments tucked away in the 1964 classic as a barometer of its quality: the gold-draped woman, the Aston Martin DB5, Oddjob’s hat, that laser scene.
Amid all the iconography, it’s easy to forget that a barnstorming Bond flick surrounds it. Sean Connery’s 007 – never cooler than he was here – is on the trial of gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger. Nominative determinism aside, the portly villain is the perfect, stoic match for Bond’s swaggering wit. Their dynamic even elevates what should have been cinematic death – a golf match halfway through the movie – into a magnetic game of mental chess between two towering egos.
You know how it ends. Goldfinger expects Bond to die. Of course, he saves the day – with seven seconds to spare, naturally – by defusing a bomb in Fort Knox with the help of Honor Blackman’s brilliant Pussy Galore. It may not have cracked our top three, but there’s a reason why its footprint is all over pop culture, even today. Dr. No kickstarted an empire, Goldfinger ensured it would be one that would live on forever.
There’s not a second wasted in GoldenEye. While some James Bond movies can drag, Pierce Brosnan’s debut at 007 is economical in all the right places. Each scene means something, and each action set-piece is at service to the overarching plot.
A good thing, too, as there’s a lot to pack in. Brosnan tags along with 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) on a mission that goes badly wrong. 006 is apparently killed and it’s not until some years later – with Brosnan’s agent dismissed as a “relic of the Cold War” by Judi Dench’s M – where Bond finds out the truth about 006’s duplicity. From the opening assault, to the tank chase through Moscow, and the pained “For England” to top it all off – there’s enough here to fill a legendary video game…
GoldenEye’s biggest triumph, though, is saving Bond. Dalton’s anarchy needed to be reined in, while a return to the Moore days would’ve been commercial and critical suicide. Brosnan neatly threaded the two previous eras after a six-year gap – the longest in the franchise’s history, joint with No Time to Die – with a much-needed mix of a debonair attitude fused with a serious knack for explosions and explosive one-liners.
2. From Russia with Love
The Thinking Man’s favourite Bond film shows that not all 007 adventures need a war’s worth of explosions and hare-brained tech that would make Elon Musk blush.
From Russia with Love is decidedly low-key: SPECTRE is set on striking back after Dr. No, and intends to swipe a device that can decode cryptic messages while also attempting to blackmail Bond himself for an affair with a Soviet agent.
It’s a deliberately paced, terse thriller that fills ripped right out of the pages of a classic Cold War novel. The piece de resistance is the claustrophobic final act that sees Bond unravel the plot of his antagonistic mirror –the blonde, brawy Red Grant – on a train carriage. Bond may have hit harder and outfought many of his foes before, but there’s a certain sense of joy to be had from the way From Russia with Love has 007 skilfully outmanoeuvre those who wish him harm.
1. Casino Royale
Here it is. The best James Bond movie. Why? Simply put, it can be placed alongside any other Bond movie – and actor – and excel.
Action? Casino Royale has it in spades. Craig’s 007 is a brutal, blunt instrument from the off. His black-and-white recollection of how he earned his license to kill is the series’ most engrossing opening. You truly believe Craig can kill a man.
Charm? Casino Royale’s infamous card game is laced with it. Craig’s inimitable suave sense of belonging immediately dispelled any early speculation that he didn’t suit the role because the color of his hair, of all things.
His doomed relationship with Vesper Lynd is also peppered with the sort of complexity that other agents simply couldn’t match – and makes her demise work as something other than a plot device for the first time since OHMSS. There’s also that callback to Dr. No, with Craig rising from the sea in the Bahamas.
Humour? Craig’s Bond may be drier than the driest martini, but you’re sure to get a chuckle out of his venomous quips – with his ball-tickling joke aimed at Le Chiffre an all-timer.
Sure, the gadgets may be lacking but this gritty reboot is a gadget all of its own: a Swiss Army knife that stands tall as the best Bond movie ever made.
No you've read about the best James Bond movies, make sure to watch them all. Here's our guide on how to watch the James Bond movies in order.