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James Bond’s Best and Worst: Peter Travers Ranks All 24 Movies

The Best and Worst of the franchise

best worst james bond films

Courtesy Everett Collection; Francois Duhamel

For half a century, James Bond movies have obsessed audiences. It's not hard to see why Ian Fleming's secret agent man is a global phenom. Bond himself, whether he's played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or 21st-century model Daniel Craig, is an icon of style, sex and macho. Then there's the stunts, the gadgets, the villains, the Bond girls, the vodka martinis served shaken, not stirred. What people forget is that not all Bond movies are created equal. There are stinkers in there with the goodies. Here, to please myself and provoke arguments, are the best and the worst, rated from Number One to Number 24. Happy 50th, Mr. Bond. 

By Peter Travers

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Courtesy Everett Collection

3

‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969)

The One Where James Bond Gets Married. This time O07 was played by one-shot scab George Lazenby while Connery wrangled for more money. He trades in the Bond girls for an Italian contessa, and Diana Rigg plays her with such beauty and wit that you can't blame him. The ski stunts in the Swiss Alps as Bond chases the evil Blofeld (a terrific Telly Savales) are a smashing tribute to the aerial photography of John Jones. Still, the special effects take a backseat to the final moment between Bond and his doomed bride, set against Louis Armstrong's ironic ballad, "We Have All the Time in the World." This film is the most romantically resonant in the series. Its heartbreaker status helped land it the top position as the greatest Bond movie ever in a September 2012 poll from 007 magazine.

from russia with love

Courtesy Everett Collection

2

‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)

The second Bond film is also the most raw of the series. It's far closer to the character Ian Fleming created in his novels than the gadget-fixated mannequin of the later films with Pierce Brosnan. Connery takes on the evil SPECTRE, foils former KGB agent Rosa Kleb (the great Lotte Lenya gets her kicks as a killer lesbian with a poisonous blade in the tip of her shoe), and still has time to make time with a hottie Soviet defector (Daniela Bianchi). Director Terence Young tops himself with a punchfest on the Orient Express between Bond and Red Grant (a bottle-blonde Robert Shaw) which is one of the great fight scenes in any movie. Connery ranks the film as his favorite. Ironically, so does his latest successor, Daniel Craig.

goldfinger

Courtesy Everett Collection

1

‘Goldfinger’ (1964)

This is the time capsule Bond movie, the one that explains to future generations why we've been obsessed for 50 years and counting with British agent 007. In his third go-round in the role, Sean Connery is danger and sexual swagger incarnate, wearing a tux under his wetsuit and ordering a martini "shaken, not stirred." Indelible images include Shirley Eaton's death by gilded body paint, Honor Blackman's innuendo as flygirl Pussy Galore, Harold Sakata's lethal aim as the hat-throwing Oddjob and Gert Frobe's master villainy as Auric Goldfinger (he's out to rob Fort Knox). "Do you expect me to talk?" an anxious Bond asks after Goldfinger straps him to a table with a laser heading right to his crotch. "No, Mr. Bond," comes the classic reply. "I expect you die." And how about the gadget-loaded Aston-Martin, the Shirley Bassey title song, and the stylish way director Guy Hamilton delivers the whole Bond package?

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