10 Best James Bond Movies Everyone Should Watch
Which James Bond Movies Are Best?
With 7 actors and 26 films spanning over a 56-year period, no spy or big screen character has been as iconic as Ian Fleming’s James Bond. The sophisticated, suave, borderline misogynistic MI6 super-agent with a license to kill has captured the hearts of moviegoers for years with his daring escapades and bad boy antics.
The iconic 007 has been so been deeply rooted in cinema and pop culture that his influence is felt in almost any offering with a hint of espionage. From franchises such as Mission Impossible and The Bourne Identity to animated series such as Archer, Bond's overt influence can be felt in almost every adrenaline-fueled action movie.
Who do we have to thank for the smoothness of James Bond? It's much more than talented actors and an over-the-top story. This is why for this list, we celebrate 10 great Bond movies and the actors that made them so memorable. Let's delve deep to find out what made them stand out.
10 Best James Bond Movies
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Casino Royale (2006)
- GoldenEye (1995)
- From Russia Wih Love (1963)
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
- Skyfall (2012)
- Thunderball (1965)
- Dr. No (1962)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- The Living Daylights (1987)
1. Goldfinger (1964)
It’s no surprise that the actor most responsible for creating the image we all have of James Bond makes his way on this list. Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond in the 1964 movie Goldfinger is regarded by many as the pinnacle of James Bond’s prowess.
Complete with a sophisticated villain in Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger set the standard for all the Bond films that followed in terms of technology, romance, and stylish transportation. The story follows the adventures of James Bond and his compatriots as they try to foil the plans of a gold tycoon who plans to cripple the world economy by destroying Fort Knox.
The film is considered by many as the best Bond film ever made and holds a rating of 7/10 on IMDB as well as a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If there’s one Bond film the world should be thankful for, Goldfinger would be it.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
When Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond hit the big screen in 2006 with Casino Royale, audiences were not sure how to feel. This James Bond was very obviously different from his predecessors in the noticeable lack of charm oozing out of every pore.
However, it may interest you to know that this version was actually the closest to Ian Fleming’s original imaginings of the international spy of all the actors before him, and it showed. Once you get over the initial unease of being presented with a different Bond, Daniel Craig’s rendition begins to make sense and you are left wondering why you didn’t fall in love with this James Bond first instead.
Casino Royale is a reboot of the Bond franchise after the end of an era with another Bond favorite, Pierce Brosnan. The plot follows the newly appointed MI6 agent, James Bond, who is sent on his first assignment to topple a poker loving financier. As always, things don't quite go as planned for our titular hero.
Casino Royale was greeted with initial backlash, both to the actor playing the part and his portrayal, but it quickly went on to become one of the highest-grossing Bond movies ever. Ian Fleming would be proud that finally, with his original version being so successful, he had been vindicated.
3. GoldenEye (1995)
When we remember James Bond in the 90s, GoldenEye tends to be the biggest point of reference. Starring the dashing Pierce Brosnan in his first portrayal of the immortal character, GoldenEye tells the story of two former allies now locked in a dance of treachery and betrayal.
James Bond is tasked to bring Alec Trevelyan, a former MI6 agent, to justice when Trevelyan manages to get his hands on a satellite system with enough firepower to destroy the Earth in one shot. GoldenEye is especially riveting for how intellectually adept this Bond villain is, always seemingly several moves ahead along with the pulsating action it delivers.
The image of James Bond riding in on a tank and blowing up everything in sight is one not easily erased from memory. The theme song to this Bond film is also one of the more easily recognizable ones, with Tina Turner giving a stirring performance to lyrics composed by Bono and the Edge.
All in all, GoldenEye marked the return of the Bond franchise after its six-year hiatus, and it did it in grand style. With great acting, a great story, along with awesome effects, it's going down as one of the best Bond films ever made.
4. From Russia with Love (1963)
Widely regarded as the “Original Bond," Sean Connery’s rendition of Agent 007 is at its finest in the 1963 installment of the franchise, From Russia with Love. As the second Bond film in the entire Bond catalog, From Russia with Love sets the scene with James Bond being tasked with a mission to find a Russian decryption machine.
He, however, finds himself falling in love with a Russian operative who is involved in an assassination plot. To raise the stakes even higher, the film continues from where its predecessor left off with several agents of the global criminal organization known as SPECTRE looking to kill the MI6 operative for his part in the death of their former cornerstone agent.
From beautiful women and villains bent on ending Bond’s life, to eye-catching gadgetry, From Russia with Love had all the ingredients necessary for a Bond movie. Made with a measly budget of 2 million dollars, the movie raked in a 78 million dollars return for the studio.
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
It was always going to be an uphill battle filling the shoes of Sean Connery, as George Lazenby found out playing the super spy in the sixth 1969 Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film begins with Bond on a mission to thwart the nefarious schemes of Ernst Blofeld, leader of the criminal organization, SPECTRE.
Somewhere along the mission, however, Bond falls in love with a troubled yet beautiful woman who happens to be the daughter of a mob boss. With his raunchy nature over the years, it’s easy to forget that James Bond had more than just a fling with one of the Bond Girls and actually fell in love. What makes this particular Bond entry interesting is the emotional side of Bond and his willingness to give up his occupation to be with this woman.
As mentioned earlier, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was always going to be a tough sell, and the pressure obviously got to George Lazenby as he was known to have declared during filming that this would be his first and only Bond film.
Audiences were initially unenthused by the offering, primarily because of the change in personnel, but the movie has aged gracefully in the Bond catalog, becoming one of the best Bond movies to ever grace the silver screen.
6. Skyfall (2012)
For a character whose modus operandi generally includes support from his technologically advanced organization, Skyfall is a different sort of Bond movie. Unlike other Bond films where the threat is of external nature, Skyfall tells the tale of a compromised MI6 where M – MI6’s leader (played by Judy Dench) is forced into hiding when mistakes she has made in the past threaten to take down the entire organization from the inside out.
This is a Bond film where 007 is stripped down to his core, having little to rely on but his wits and brawn. Skyfall also introduces a much more plot-driven Bond whose motivations extend further than martinis and sex. It shows James Bond in a vulnerable position where he must choose where his loyalties lie while the world he knows crumbles all around him.
Skyfall ticks all the boxes of what the archetypal Bond film should have while providing us with exceptional performances from Judy Dench and Javier Bardem. It gives lovers of the franchise another light with which to see their hero. Some would say a more mature light.
7. Thunderball (1965)
Thunderball is undoubtedly one of the more iconic Sean Connery portrayals of 007 and a memorable addition for the collection, especially with the truly memorable scenes taking place underwater.
Coming face to face once again with the forces of the criminal organization, SPECTRE, Bond is called upon to infiltrate the hideout of Emilio Largo - a high-ranking member of the criminal organization, who is in possession of two nuclear warheads. Largo makes his intentions clear; he demands a hundred million pounds in ransom money or he will unleash a nuclear holocaust upon the globe.
Thunderball was another box office success for the franchise, earning over one hundred and forty million dollars worldwide on a budget of five million dollars, further solidifying Sean Connery’s credentials as the “one true Bond.'
Fifty-four years later, the fourth installment of the Bond franchise stands with a solid 7/10 rating on IMDB and a rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Dr. No (1962)
It would be a travesty to complete this list without mentioning the Bond movie that started it all. From Bond’s continuing engagement with SPECTRE to the on-screen introductions of Bond girls wearing bikinis, the first-ever Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No, started our five-decade long love affair with the British spy.
Apart from establishing the rules of engagement for what a super-spy should be, this first installment of the franchise also established the credentials of what a megalomaniac evil villain should be. In the secretive and brilliant Dr. No, Bond finds a worthy nemesis with plans of throwing an American space launch into disarray with a radio beam weapon. His job is to stop them before it's too late.
In terms of aesthetics and visual appeal, Dr. No hasn’t aged particularly well, but it still holds an IMDB rating of 7.2/10 along with a Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes score of 78% and 96% respectively, guaranteeing its place in the somewhat exclusive collection of greatest Bond films ever.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
In the absence of Sean Connery, Roger Moore would undoubtedly have been the stereotype for the sweet-talking, high stakes super-spy the world has come to know and love. In what is one of the better performances by Moore in his numerous additions to the illustrious franchise, we receive another contender for one of the best Bond films in The Spy Who Loved Me.
In this Bond flick, Agent 007 comes full circle with the repercussions of his occupation as he finds himself teaming up with the lover of a K.G.B agent he killed. The two must find a way to look past their circumstances as they investigate and track down a madman who has stolen British and Russian nuclear warheads and plans to destroy the world.
In addition to memorable villains, The Spy Who Loved Me also wowed fans with scenes such as the underwater lair of Karl Stromberg – the megalomaniac Bond villain. Audiences loved it as the tenth Bond installment went on to gather several accolades and award nominations.
10. The Living Daylights (1987)
I am closing off the list with the first outing of actor Timothy Dalton playing MI6 Agent 007. Unlike Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, who is currently enjoying a run as the longest Bond actor, Timothy Dalton has only two appearances as the international super-spy to his name.
That, however, did not stop him from putting his own personal brand on the character in The Living Daylights. In this 1987 edition of the Bond series, James Bond travels the globe as his missions switch from helping a defected Russian spy escape to tracking down an arms dealer with plans of beginning a global war. Will he put a stop to his plans in time? Well, you know the answer.
If you've watched Bond movies before, you know the formula.
Did I miss out on any other good Bond movies? Let me know in the comments section.