Like stepping into a villain’s secret lair, ranking Bond films is a dangerous undertaking. The fans are passionate and the opinions are firm. What ranks at the top for one fan is more like number ten for another. So we took our personal opinions out of the equation altogether. Teaming up with a research analyst (maybe call him our Q) we compiled data from dozens of media outlets, scraped user reviews from streaming services and beyond, then used a system of means and averages (and other smart-sounding methods) to come up with a true list of all 26 James Bond movies (yes we included the two non-Eon productions).
Here’s every Bond movie ranked from best to worst, as determined by the fans, the casual viewers, and the critics. If your personal rankings differ from this definitive list, don’t worry, our personal lists would look a little different too. But for an overall understanding of the state of the James Bond cannon, the data is below. Now start thinking about where to put No Time to Die when it finally comes at us in November.
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”
The third movie in the series defined what a Bond movie should be with memorable, Bond-defining firsts: The first time he drives an Aston Martin. The first time he asks for his martini “shaken not stirred.” It’s the film where Q gets properly imaginative with his gadgets and where subtle humor and high-stakes action find the balance that would guide the franchise through the next half century. Trying to thwart gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger, Bond travels from London to Kentucky, encountering along the way a henchmen who can kill you with his hat and the most memorably named of all Bond Girls, Pussy Galore.
Casino Royale (2006)
“That last hand nearly killed me.”
When Daniel Craig came on the scene, it was clear we were dealing with a new era for Bond. Grounded, pared-down, this tough guy 007 put the emphasis on tough. He can fling himself off a building, land with a bone-crushing crash, and just keep running. In the wildly successful reboot, Bond is after the personal banker to the terrorism trade and must play a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro to lure the villain into custody. With a level of realism the films hadn’t embraced until now, Casino Royale introduced a brand new vitality.
“If all else fails, sometimes the old ways are the best.”
On the fiftieth anniversary of the first movie, we got a present: a Bond film with everything. Classic 007 elements like action-packed chases, techy gadgets, cool cars, one-liners, and fluency with the ladies. Skyfall is also firmly in the now with a hero who’s a shade closer to human than superhero and a plot that’s equal parts epic and personal. Throw in a properly terrifying villain and you have yourself one triumphant Bond movie.
From Russia With Love (1963)
“Let his death be a particularly unpleasant and humiliating one.”
The second installment in the series cemented the winning formula created in the first. Fast cars, beguiling women, sinister plots, and action on top of action. This time, Bond faces off against multiple agents of SPECTRE, the criminal organization that would plague him on and off through many more films and fifty years. From London to Turkey to Venice, we get helicopter fights, a “nasty little Christmas present” of a briefcase, a shoot out in a Gypsy camp, and a train fight to end (or more fittingly, inspire) all train fights.
Dr. No (1962)
“Bond. James Bond.”
In the one where it all began, we got a suave, gentleman spy who was good with the ladies and even better with deadly weapons. It introduced Sean Connery in the role, a fan favorite (though Daniel Craig is gaining ground) and set off a half century of Bond dominance. For his first mission, the secret agent must stop a super villain from sabotaging the American space program and starting an all-out global war.
“I think he got the point.”
Yup, this is the one with the jetpack. And the underwater spear gun fights. When SPECTRE steals two atomic bombs and threatens to level an American city unless they’re paid millions in diamonds, Connery’s James Bond steps in to stop them. Beautifully shot (Bahamas anyone?) and leaning into the cool gadgetry (see: jetpack) the fourth film is classic Bond, complete with exploding yachts and near-miss (IRL) shark attacks.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
“Oh the things I do for England.”
For the fifth film, they stepped away from Fleming’s premade plots to create a new story for the British spy. After Bond fakes his own death in Hong Kong, he travels to Japan to find out who hijacked a spaceship — from orbit. It’s the first time we actually see super villain Blofeld (he’d been a behind-the-curtain SPECTRE leader ‘til now). Despite some dated racial insensitivity, You Only Live Twice is a sharp entry in the series, densely plotted and lavishly shot in Japan. Plus you get to see a spaceship swallow another spaceship.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
“This never happened to the other fellow.”
George Lazenby played 007 just once, as he was famously advised against getting “tied down” to the franchise with a multi-film contract. The Australian actor carried himself admirably, bringing a human scale to the second incarnation of Bond. Where Connery was almost superhuman in his coolness, Lazenby is capable of doubt. Still on the trail of Blofeld, Bond discovers a plot to spread biological warfare through the brainwashed patients of an allergy clinic in the Swiss Alps.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
“Which bullet has my name on it? The first or the last?”
Roger Moore’s third go at the British super spy is his best. The Spy Who Loved Me struck a balance between having fun with the Bond formula (which was the Moore era’s thing) while keeping things appropriately stylish. After military submarines are stolen from both the UK and Russia, Bond and his KGB Bond Girl must track them down before WWIII breaks out. One of the more memorable henchmen, Jaws, makes his debut and there are plenty of submarine explosions to go around.
“Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?”
Legal battles resulted in the biggest gap for the series and by the time they were ready to roll, Timothy Dalton’s contract had expired, the original producer, Albert Broccoli, was in poor health, and the Cold War, the backdrop for every story until now, was over. Combine that with the first time the series used CGI and we were looking at a new era for 007. With an actor seemingly born to play the part, Pierce Brosnan steps in the tux in a film that’s modern, a story that’s sophisticated, and a Bond-effectuated kill count that’s the highest yet (or since).
The Living Daylights (1987)
“You don’t find too many normal people in this business, Q.”
With a plotline that feels more Tom Clancy than Ian Fleming, the first of the two Timothy Dalton films pulls back from the comic book flair of the Roger Moore days and gives us a harder version of the spy — which actually ends up being closer to the character in the Fleming novels. Embroiled in a tangle of KGB spies, defectors, and double agents, Bond has to fight, think, maneuver, and kill his way out.
“Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.”
Each actor represented a different era for Bond — Moore’s era seemed to have the most fun with it. Full of crazy gadgets (space lasers, flame-throwing perfume, invisible space stations) and wacky bad guys (including the return of Jaws) Moonraker represents the most absurd film of the series, but impressive stunts, cool sets, and enthusiastic performances make for an entertaining two hours.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
“I love a drive in the country. Don’t you?”
Even though the preceding film, Moonraker raked in the most money of the series so far, the filmmakers thankfully decided to go in a different direction, returning to a (literally) more down to Earth Bond. Instead of high-tech gadgetry and toys, here’s a Bond who can rely on his wits. On the trail of military targeting equipment, 007 travels around Mediterranean Europe with his Bond Girl, getting into a car chase in her decidedly unsporty Citroën 2CV.
Live and Let Die (1973)
“He always did have an inflated opinion of himself.”
Roger Moore’s first turn in the role featured a story that aimed to capitalize on the success of 70s Blaxploitation films — only instead of Shaft, the lead is a British dude in a sports coat. With a gripping speedboat chase, rather zingy one-liners, and possibly the most memorable theme song (written by Paul and Linda McCartney), Live and Let Die is a respectable introduction to the post-Connery era.
“You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr Bond.”
After working in the shadows for decades, the criminal organization Spectre is back (thanks to the end of a behind-the-scenes legal dispute) and Bond is ready to take it on. Maintaining the sophisticated plot, high-end production, and expertly choreographed action that marks the Daniel Craig era, Spectre is a worthy and welcome addition to the brand new 007 cannon. While it may not have reached the perfected height of Skyfall it still delivered everything a Bond fan could want — including a raw train fight, upside down helicopters, and the return of an old foe.
“Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed…soon to be made extinct.”
At some point, obviously, Bond must infiltrate a circus. That point comes in Moore’s second-to-last stint as 007 in the memorably named Octopussy. Satisfying the series’ thirst for exotic locales, India finally makes the list with Bond pursuing a smuggling ring and a Soviet general looking to set off a nuclear warhead in West Germany. Despite a few goofy moments (Bond as Tarzan for example) everything here is pure and sparkling Moore-era action.
Licence to Kill (1989)
“Drug dealers of the world, unite!”
In one of the darker entries, Bond is on a revenge mission after longtime friend Felix Leiter loses his wife at the hands of a sadistic drug lord. Stripped of his double-o status, Timothy Dalton’s second go at Bond takes on the powerful drug lord and his entire operation as a rogue agent. Turning the violence up and toning down the quips, Licence to Kill looked to give Bond a riveting new direction.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
“They say you’re judged by the strength of your enemies.”
Picking up about thirty seconds after the events of Casino Royale, the second Daniel Craig outing doubled down on the crushing, crashing explosiveness of the first. We rocket from Italy to Haiti to Austria to Bolivia through a steady stream of car and foot chases, arial fight scenes, boat chases, and air-to-air combat. While Craig is still great as the tough and stoic agent, the jam-packed chaos and lack of humor put this at the bottom of the new films.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
“We’re cleaning up the world, we thought this was a suitable starting point.”
After leaving the role for one film, Sean Connery returned, bringing Bond to Las Vegas for the first and only time. After believing he’s killed his archenemy, Blofeld, 007 is hot on the trail of diamond smugglers, and soon figures out the diamonds are part of a world-destabilizing plot.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”
After Goldeneye rocketed the series back to life, everyone was hoping for a follow-up blockbuster. And while no Bond film has ever been a disappointment, it did come in number two on opening week (it was up against Titanic). About a media mogul who decides to help start a war between China and the UK for ratings and broadcasting rights, Tomorrow Never Dies features a handcuffed motorcycle ride that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
“I don’t know, I’ve never lost.”
Only two Connery films don’t make it into the top ten, and this is one of them. The title is a reference to the actor’s vow that he’d “never again” play 007, and to some, this 1983 entry isn’t even technically a true Bond film, as it wasn’t made by Eon Productions. Based on the novel Thunderball (which Eon made into the 1967 movie of the same name) this one has Bond recovering stolen nuclear warheads but this time, he’s called out of retirement to do so.
The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)
“Pistols at dawn — it’s a little old-fashioned, isn’t it?”
The awesome showdown capping Roger Moore’s second Bond film pits trained killer against trained killer, with Christopher Lee playing the assassin with the aureate revolver. While some things don’t quite work (a forced martial arts sequence among them), the action moves fast and tight from exotic locale to exotic locale.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
“Revenge is not hard to fathom for a man who believes in nothing.”
Brosnan’s third Bond excursion sees him taking on a former KGB agent-turned-terrorist who feels no pain, played by an excellently evil Robert Carlyle. When the woman Bond is tasked with protecting turns out to be in on the plot to blow up oil pipelines, the spy has to take action — and avoid a helicopter bedazzled with saws while he’s at it.
A View to A Kill (1985)
“So…does anybody else want to drop out?”
When Roger Moore played Bond for the last time, he was pushing 60 but still managed to chase, fight, ski, and hang on to a blimp as it sails over the Golden Gate Bridge. Highlights include the Duran Duran title song and Christopher Walken as the psychopathic villain (who no doubt inspired Javier Bardem’s Skyfall hair).
Casino Royale (1967)
“My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”
As one of only two films not produced by Eon Productions, this spy spoof doesn’t get the love from most Bond fans, probably because a true Bond film gently stirs in the humor to compliment the intensity and coolness of the action, but this one pours on the absurdity thick. It’s worth a watch for the zany Burt Bacharach score and star-studded cast with Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, Woody Allen, and David Niven.
Die Another Day (2002)
“I see you don’t chase dreams, you live them.”
Coming in last place in a list of Bond films isn’t necessarily a dishonor. Representing Pierce Brosnan’s last turn in the tuxedo, Die Another Day caught flack for its over-reliance on CGI and some pretty gratuitous product placement (the ice palace and invisible car didn’t wow people either). But despite all that, it’s heck of a lot of fun, and isn’t afraid to go all in.
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