Culture

Before ‘Spectre’: The 10 Best James Bond Films, Ranked

Daniel Craig in ‘Spectre’/Image © Columbia Pictures

It's an indelible part of pop culture, a-more-often-than-not guaranteed box office money-maker, and one of the most successful franchises in cinema history. We are, of course, talking about James Bond. From the publication of his debut novel, Casino Royale, in 1952, Ian Fleming's debonair and deadly super spy has captured the imaginations of fans the world over both on the page and off. Spanning some fourteen novels written by Fleming and twenty-four films adapted from his creation, James Bond is very much a household name. From the intriguingly named women in his life to his drink mixing preferences and his iconic codename, 007 is very much the quintessential vision of jet-setting secret agent. The character has run the gamut from sprawling adventure to tongue-in-cheek camp.

In recent years, Daniel Craig's take on Bond - beginning in 2006 with "Casino Royale" - served as a breath of fresh air for a character in danger of showing his age. "Spectre," the fourth film in the latest iteration of the franchise, directed by Sam Mendes, is due to hit theaters nationwide on Friday, following an unprecedented box office take in the U.K. What better time to take a look at the best Bond has had to offer? Here are our picks for the best James Bond films to date. #

#10: "GoldenEye" (1995)
Originally set to take over the mantle from Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan didn't step into a Savile Row tux until this 1995 blockbuster. Brosnan gave the series an injection of life that didn't quite stick, but with its tech-savvy espionage and Brosnan's easy charm, "Goldeneye" held the line until "Casino Royale" fully righted the ship

#9: "Licence to Kill" (1989)
Arguably the darkest Bond film thematically until Daniel Craig stepped into the role, "Licence to Kill" features a rogue James Bond tracking down a Latin American drug lord who sends 007's FBI counterpart to the sharks. Timothy Dalton gives his best performance as a Bond who's both ruthlessly determined and tortured over the fate of his friend. Coming at a time when fans associated James Bond with a healthy dose of schlock, "Licence to Kill" may have been ahead of its time.

#8: "Thunderball" (1965)
The fourth 007 outing for Sean Connery benefitted from the biggest budget for a Bond film up until that date. The special effects were spectacular for their time (and won an Oscar). Buoyed by Connery's charisma and a series of tense underwater battles, "Thunderball" is another excellent entry in the franchise.

#7: "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977)
"The Spy Who Loved Me" is the pinnacle of Roger Moore's largely forgettable time in the tux; don't mistake quantity (Moore filled the role seven times) for quality. However, there's no mistaking that "The Spy Who Loved Me" is an excellent Bond adventure. Featuring insane gadgets (the Lotus Esprit that converts to a submarine being the most infamous example), a wacky world domination plot, and a henchman with steel teeth, "The Spy Who Loved Me" is the epitome of James Bond gone camp.

#6: "Dr. No" (1962)
The one that started it all. "Dr. No" features the first appearance of Sean Connery as Agent 007 and remains a high point for the franchise. The film cemented Sir Sean's effortless cooler-than-you machismo as well the now iconic seen-through-a-gun-barrel opening credits. And who can forget that classic scene starring Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) emerging from the surf in a white bikini?

#5: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969)
Popularly regarded as something of an also-ran in the Bond franchise, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" actually sits pretty firmly in the upper echelons. George Lazenby's performance - Lazenby was pinch hitting for a cantankerous Sean Connery - was divisive to say the least. Still, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" featured all the great elements of Bond film: spectacular stunts, an engaging villain, and larger-than-life plot. The iconic ski chase remains one of the best action set pieces in a 007 film.

#4: "Skyfall" (2012)
The third entry in Daniel Craig's James Bond canon is thankfully a tremendous step up from 2008's lackluster "Quantum of Solace," which was all flash and very little substance. "Skyfall" returned to the tortured vulnerability of "Casino Royale" while simultaneously upping the action. The film tore at the foundations of the franchise giving us further insight into everyone's favorite secret agent by pushing him to the breaking point in a fashion beyond any of its predecessors. From its tragic climax to Javier Bardem's classically villainous turn as Raoul Silva, "Skyfall" cemented Daniel Craig's status as a fan favorite Bond.

#3: "From Russia With Love" (1963)
"From Russia With Love" may have only been his second outing as James Bond, but Sean Connery was already wearing the role like a well-tailored tuxedo. With a take on Bond that was a little darker and closer to the source material - similar to Daniel Craig's Bond - "From Russia With Love" was slow-burn noir setting Bond against a SPECTRE conspiracy and featured some of the series' most intense action sequences. Incidentally, "From Russia With Love" is a favorite of both Sean Connery and Daniel Craig.

#2: "Casino Royale" (2006)
Despite the predictable fan skepticism at both the reboot/origin nature of "Casino Royale" and the casting of Daniel Craig, "Casino Royale" proved a massive success with critics and fans alike and is now widely regarded as one of the finest Bond films. "Casino Royale" delved deeper into the pathos of Agent 007 than any other film and, in that regard, felt like a much closer interpretation of the Ian Fleming novels. More importantly, Daniel Craig gamely walked the line between vulnerable and guarded - and capable and deadly. The darker take of the character coupled with the extraordinary action sequences reinvigorated the franchise and now has fans lamenting the potential end of Daniel Craig's tenure on Her Majesty's Secret Service.

#1: "Goldfinger" (1964)
This one has long been the gold standard (pun absolutely intended). "Goldfinger" combines all the elements that fans love about the Bond series into one seemingly effortless package. This one became the template for what we expect of James Bond - gadgets, absurd villains with even more absurd henchmen, and femme fatales with cheeky names. More importantly this version of Connery's Bond is arguably the most iconic - equal parts caged danger and swaggering sex appeal. The guy wears a tuxedo under his wetsuit - we all wish we could be that cool. From the menacing camp of Auric Goldfinger to the cavalcade of iconic Bond moments, "Goldfinger" remains the quintessential James Bond film.