05 November 2015

10 Essential James Bond Movies

I think it's a combination of songs and Dad. Yes. That is what brought me to James Bond.

Of the many songs that stand out in the farthest reaches of my memory, two are Bond title tunes: Shirley Bassey's rendition of "Goldfinger" and Paul McCartney and Wings" "Live and Let Die." Fitting that those two would feature the most prominent. These are the ones my Dad suggested above any other when I started my James Bond quest so many years ago. Though, the my first Bond was Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye. I watched it with Dad.

I quickly moved on and dug in, a 14-year-old with VHS box sets at Christmas. Mix-packs with the essential. And still, there remains a few unseen. I never went in for the sillier side of Roger Moore (Moonraker, Octopussy). I didn't even try the Timothy Dalton duo (The Living Daylights, License to Kill). Never saw the single entry featuring George Lazenby (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), nor did I watch the returns of Sean Connery (Diamonds are Forever, Never Say Never Again). But the rest I know, and some I know quite well.

No matter where you started, there is no denying the attachment we, as movie lovers, have to this daring, sometimes troubled, always suave, jet-setting, martini-drinking, sports car-driving ladies man of a British spy. And we laugh at him. And we take him seriously. And the "girls" and their oft-provocative names...we love them. And the villains and their delusions and master plans...we chase them. And the songs, those title sequences...we cherish them.

So, in honor of the release of Bond 24, director Sam Mendes' second entry with the latest (and possibly greatest?) 007 in Daniel Craig, Spectre, I give you the 10 Essential James Bond Movies (according to me) (in chronological order) (with title scquences):

Dr. No
Dir. Terence Young, 1962

Connery is Bond, James Bond, his first, the original. Ursula Andress is the girl, the first, Honey Ryder. The song is the theme, the James Bond theme by composed by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry. 

From Russia With Love
Dir. Terence Young, 1963

Connery. The girl is Tatiana Romanova (another blonde). The song is an instrumental variation on the title song, composed by John Barry and sung by Matt Monro.  

Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1964

Connery. The best. Pussy Galore. Aston Martin with gadgets. Golf with Goldfinger. Fort Knox. That song...Shirley Bassey...sing it, girl. 

Live and Let Die
Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1973

Moore's first outing. New Orleans. Voodoo. Jane Seymour as a chick named Solitaire. Paul McCartney with the best Bond song of them all. 

The Man with the Golden Gun
Dir. Guy Hamilton, 1974

Moore again. Excellent follow up to Live and Let Die. Christopher Lee as the villainous Francisco Scaramanga. The song is not that good, performed by Lulu. 

The Spy Who Loved Me
Dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1977

Moore once more. Fire and a bearskin rug. Union Jack parachute. Carly Simon..."Nobody does it better..." Barbara Bach as Agent XXX (not even clever). 

Dir. Martin Campbell, 1995

Brosnan. His first. Badass bungee jump skills. Tina Turner with the tune. Sweet video game. 

The World is Not Enough
Dir. Michael Apted, 1999

Brosnan. In a flick I think many hated. Great villain...a man who can feel no pain...Renard, played by Robert Carlyle. Two beauties..Sophie Marceau's Elektra and Denise Richards' (haha!) Dr. Christmas Jones. 

Casino Royale
Dir. Martin Campbell, 2006

Daniel friggin' Craig, ladies and gentlemen. Sprawling reboot. Love the gambling stuff. Jeffrey Wright. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. Chris Cornell with one of the better songs in "You Know My Name."

Dir. Sam Mendes, 2012

Craig. For real this time. Nuanced. Complete. Worth the length this time. Bardem as a superb maniac villain. Q. M. Moneypenny!!! And Adele's "Skyfall" was another bit of icing on her 2012 cake. 

Today, I see...

So, readers, a few questions for you...

Who's your favorite Bond? What's your song? Who's your girl? Your villain? What did I miss? 

Sound off! 


  1. I grew up during the Moore era, but always had Connery as my favorite...until Craig. He's blown me away and has surpassed Sir Sean. And yes, Skyfall is my favorite Bond flick.

    1. I couldn't agree more. So glad. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Spectre.

  2. I have to say for me there's only Connery and Craig that are worthwhile Bonds. Dalton while a decent actor was just somehow wrong for the part, the Moore years were more like a cartoon strip had invaded the franchise and Brosnan certainly had the suavity down but was all surface. Lazenby actually wasn't dreadful but he was in and out in that one installment. I think it's telling that the only two who have had substantial careers independent of 007 are Connery and Craig. It shows that the part requires a magnetism from the actor playing James Bond to keep you invested in him and not get lost in the flash of what's going on around him. However even if the film doesn't feature a Bond I favor the theme songs are almost invariable terrific.

    I don't know if I could even come up with a top 10 but the ones I'm the most fond of are Dr. No, Goldfinger, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and On Her Majesty's Secret Service which has the best Bond girl of the entire series-Diana Rigg as Tracy di Vicenzo. I liked Skyfall a great deal but it seemed less of a Bond film than the others.

    I was surprised not to see you turn up in the Thursday three this week what with the secret agent theme and your fondness for Bond.

    1. Yeah. I tried the first from Dalton and just couldn't jive. I like some of the Moore ones, but they are pretty much cartoons, like you said. I always heard Lazenby was good, just never caught that one. Need to. You are so right on, Joel, the best two bonds are actually successful actors at something other than Bond. Brosnan is third place.

      I'm surprised you dug Quantum of Solace. For all its swiftness and action, I couldn't keep track of it. Skyfall really wasn't a Bond film until the very final end, which was just magical!

      As for the Thursday picks, I've been so busy that my other ideas are just trumping those posts. I am only finding time for one or two posts a week. Figured I'd just do my own Bond post instead. I'll be back this Thursday, hopefully.

  3. Sorry, but as a person who started out with Sean Connery in the first Bond movie made, there's never been another Bond . . . , James Bond . . . , since Connery. He personified the perfect idea of what Ian Fleming described. Although I've seen most of the others, they just never "grabbed" me like the ones starring Connery. CP

    1. I'm okay with Connery. No doubt. He is Bond.

  4. YEY for Goldeneye! It's my favorite one. Famke Janssen slayed in that movie

    1. I totally forgot to mention her. You are so right!

  5. Great post! I am not a Bond fan, but I have seen a couple of these. The World is Not Enough intro looks insanely cool.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! They're worth trying out but definitely a niche thing, I'd say. You need to like them to enjoy them, and you should start with Connery.

  6. I love Bond and have seen every one of them and own every one. I am one that like every Bond for their own reasons. Connery is the classic Bond and my favourite is Thunderball. Lazenby, not great, but an excellent story line with great music (Louis Armstrong's "We have All The Time in the World" is here) and it has Diana Rigg and a great bobsled chase. Moore is the Saint -suave, and fun-Love "For Your Eyes only" but agree on Live and Let Die being the best song and the best chase sequence. I am one of the few who like Timothy Dalton-he is the Bond with a heart. Brosnan is adds the classiness with some fun and a heart. I am one who loved the film "The World is Not Enough" and Craig is the Angry Bond who shows his issues. As for gals-Favourite name-Pussy Galore of course. I loved Michelle Yeoh who could hold her own and kick ass

    1. Like you, I like something about each Bond I've seen. No Lazenby or Dalton for me though. Still haven't seen those, shamefully. I am on my way to being a Bond completist. For Your Eyes Only is great. It would be number 11 on my list, most likely. Michelle Yeoh is great.

  7. Glad to see appreciation for the Roger Moore Bond films. Nowadays people talk of them as "gulity pleasures", but I still think they are very entertaining and fun to rewatch, and I love the 70s and 80s scores. Moore will alway be my favorite Bond and introduction to the franchise, even though I now realize those films are not particularly true to Ian Fleming's vision.

    1. I spent way more time, for obvious reasons, devouring and even re-watching the Moore films. They are a vital part of the franchise (despite not meeting Fleming's vision, as you said) and so much fun, if a bit ridiculous sometimes. I'm not a completist. Need to see the Dalton duo and the one from Lazenby and a few from Moore. I'm almost there.