Which is the best James Bond movie? All 25 films ranked as spy franchise turns 60

From the heights of 'Goldfinger' to the depths of 'Die Another Day', these are the spy's most, and least, memorable moments

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It started in 1962 when Ian Fleming’s novel Dr No was turned into a spy movie like no other. Now, as James Bond turns 60, The National celebrates the world’s longest-running film franchise by ranking each official 007 feature from worst to best.

25. 'Die Another Day' (2002)

Better known as The One with the Invisible Car. Pierce Brosnan’s final 007 film, seeing him venture into North Korea, is woeful. Featuring Madonna as a fencing instructor (no, really), its poor performance torpedoed the mooted spin-off for Bond’s female companion — Halle Berry’s Jinx.

24. 'Quantum of Solace' (2008)

From its baffling title to its anaemic villain Dominic Greene, an evil environmentalist (!) played by Mathieu Amalric, this is the nadir of the Craig era. While it’s the first Bond film to be a direct sequel to its predecessor, all the good work of Casino Royale felt wasted.

23. 'Licence to Kill' (1989)

The second and last Dalton 007 film, this tale of drug cartels fell well short and offers excessive violence. Witness the demise of henchman Dario (Benicio Del Toro, in an early role) — who drops into a shredder. Nasty.

22. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997)

From Sheryl Crow’s theme song onwards, Brosnan’s second entry is totally forgettable. Jonathan Pryce’s megalomaniac media mogul Elliot Carver — supposedly inspired by the late Robert Maxwell — doesn’t possess an ounce of menace.

21. 'Moonraker' (1979)

Bond in space, a reaction to the popularity of Star Wars. While Michael Lonsdale exuded a delightfully unlikeable quality to antagonist Hugh Drax, the outer space sequences were nonsensical. It also leans heavily into the series tropes, becoming drearily formulaic.

20. 'The World Is Not Enough' (1999)

As ex-KGB terrorist Renard, Robert Carlyle was one of the better Brosnan-era villains, but the idea of casting Denise Richards as nuclear scientist Dr Christmas Jones (leading to the immortal line “I thought Christmas only comes once a year”) was laughable.

19. 'Octopussy' (1983)

Maud Adams, who appeared as Scaramanga’s girlfriend in The Man with The Golden Gun, returned to the franchise as the exotic Octopussy. While she brought real mystery and majesty, the story — bouncing between India and East Berlin — saw an ageing Moore floundering.

18. 'Spectre' (2015)

After the success of Skyfall, this was a huge disappointment — not least because Christoph Waltz’s role as Blofeld was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. Still, the pre-credits opener in Mexico City is thrilling, and Dave Bautista’s near-silent Mr Hinx oozes menace.

17. 'Thunderball' (1965)

Bond heads to the Bahamas and battles the eyepatch-wearing Spectre No 2, Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, as he threatens Nato. But aside from some fine underwater sequences, and Tom Jones’s rousing theme, this is the least memorable Connery outing.

16. 'For Your Eyes Only' (1981)

The first Bond movie of the '80s is a middling outing for Moore, as Bond goes searching for a hi-tech gizmo before the Russians get it. The European locations — Corfu, Cortina — are picturesque, and the Citroen 2CV car chase is fun. But the less said about the scene where Bond talks to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (played by Janet Brown) the better.

15. 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971)

Another barnstorming Bassey theme headlines the movie, though Connery’s final time as Bond (officially — he did return for the non-canon Never Say Never Again) is a little by the numbers. Charles Gray, who had featured in You Only Live Twice, is a cultured Blofeld in this diamond smuggling yarn, but the action is benign.

14. 'A View to a Kill' (1985)

The final Roger Moore outing is one too many. He’s two decades older than his leading lady Tanya Roberts, and it shows. But from the cracking Duran Duran theme to stunning set pieces at the Eiffel Tower and Golden Gate Bridge, plus a cackling Christopher Walken and muscular Grace Jones, there’s still much to enjoy.

13. 'No Time to Die' (2021)

The most recent Bond film — and the longest — is arguably the most controversial. Bringing Craig’s tenure to a resounding close as he tackles Rami Malek’s vengeful hitman, it went further than any 007 movie ever did. No spoilers, but purists were not happy.

12. 'The Man with the Golden Gun' (1974)

Bond goes to South-East Asia in this exotic confection, as Christopher Lee’s (golden) gun-for-hire, Francisco Scaramanga faces down with Moore’s 007 on his own private island. Great locations (Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand), though Britt Ekland’s less-than-competent Mary Goodnight is a bore.

11. 'You Only Live Twice' (1967)

A loose Roald Dahl adaptation of Fleming’s 1964 novel sees Bond in Japan and Donald Pleasance masterfully playing 007’s arch enemy, Spectre head Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Stroking his white cat, and with a scar down his eye, he became the much-imitated archetypal Bond villain.

10. 'Dr No' (1962)

The film that began it all. Connery’s Bond arrived fully formed, tackling Joseph Wiseman’s titular Spectre employee. Although the franchise was yet to perfect the formula, it featured all the hallmarks of the films to come; with an exotic location, Jamaica, Bond's love interest, Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), and a supervillain with a radio beam weapon designed to destroy the US space programme.

9. 'GoldenEye' (1995)

Six years on from Licence to Kill, during which time legal disputes disrupted the pipeline, director Martin Campbell brought the franchise back with a bang. Introducing Pierce Brosnan, the story about a rogue 00 agent (Sean Bean) felt fresh, while the tank chase is still one of the best Bond action scenes.

8. 'Casino Royale' (2006)

Craig launched his tenure as Bond with this gritty reboot, taking the character back to his rookie roots. It’s a brutal 007 outing — not least when Bond is tied up and tortured by Mads Mikkelsen’s scheming Le Chiffre. But the relationship with Eva Green’s agent lends a real humanity to the character.

7. 'From Russia with Love' (1963)

Capitalising on Dr No, the second Bond film sees 007 aid the defection of a young Soviet clerk, with the evil criminal organisation Spectre on his tail. Despite Matt Monro crooning the theme, this raw, hard-edged story was pure Fleming, typified by the brilliant Robert Shaw as the assassin out to kill Bond.

6. 'Live and Let Die' (1973)

Roger Moore’s first Bond has 007 thrown into a world of organised crime and power. Kicked off by the Oscar-nominated Wings song (one of the best Bond themes), Moore slipped into the role with consummate ease.

5. 'On Her Majesty’s Secret Service' (1969)

Former model George Lazenby’s only time as 007, this brought a very different flavour from the Connery years. Not least Bond’s relationship to Diana Rigg’s Tracy — the only time 007 marries in the franchise and a strong influence on the emotional arc taken by Craig’s Bond.

4. 'The Living Daylights' (1987)

Timothy Dalton’s first 007 outing is a gritty Cold War defection tale, packed with some remarkable set-pieces — from a Gibraltar opening to a terrific battle in Afghanistan. Dalton’s Bond, closer to Fleming’s original creation than either Connery or Moore, feels like a prototype for Craig’s 007.

3. 'Skyfall' (2012)

Arriving for Bond’s 50th anniversary, Daniel Craig hit his stride in director Sam Mendes’s brilliant blend of nostalgia and playfulness (led by Javier Bardem’s villain Raul Silva). The finale, at Bond’s parents’ estate, hits an emotional note, as the fate of Judi Dench’s long-serving MI6 boss M is sealed.

2. 'The Spy Who Loved Me' (1977)

Peak Roger Moore-era Bond. Who else could ski off a mountain and glide to safety with a Union Jack parachute? Or for that matter, drive a white Lotus Esprit into the sea, only for it to turn into a minisub? As Carly Simon so aptly sung, nobody does it better.

1. 'Goldfinger' (1964)

The third Bond movie is the one that set the template. Sean Connery elegantly personifies 007, facing off with Gert Frobe’s gold-loving villain. From Shirley Bassey’s dynamic title song to the glorious henchman Oddjob and Bond's romantic interest Pussy Galore, everything fell into place. And Goldfinger’s line: “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die,” became an instant classic.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 9:05 AM
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