Every James Bond movie ranked, from worst to best
Nobody does it better – but which did it best?
To mark six decades of James Bond, secret agent 007, on the big screen, all 25 official James Bond films are returning to cinemas.
From Friday 15th April 2022, each of the films will take a turn screening in cinemas nationwide, going chronologically and so beginning with 1962's Dr. No and culminating with last year's No Time to Die on 30th September.
Not only that, but the entire series to date will also be available to stream on Prime Video – and you can easily sign up for a Prime Video free trial.
What better time, then, to reflect on all things Bond? And what better way to do that than by taking a look back at each of the Bond movies in order to offer RadioTimes.com's definitive 007 movie ranking.
From the dizzying highs to the disappointing lows, we're looking back at 60 years of big-screen Bond – so strap in for the ride, because there's no ejector seat!
Every James Bond movie ranked from worst to best
25. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Panic set in following a mixed critical reception to the sublime On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with Bond producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman not only going to great lengths to convince their departed leading man Sean Connery to play 007 again following George Lazenby’s one-off stint but also ditching the straight-laced tone and emotional maturity of the previous film in favour of broad comic larks.
The end result is the franchise’s least substantial and least satisfying outing to date – though no 007 movie is totally without merit and Diamonds Are Forever does at least boast a pair of memorable sub-villains in the creepy Mr Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr Kidd (Putter Smith).
24. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Roger Moore’s second outing as 007 actually boasts one of the finest ever Bond villains in Christopher Lee’s expert assassin Francisco Scaramanga, not to mention one of the all-time-great final face-offs, with Bond taking on the titular bad guy in a spooky funhouse. But these saving graces aside, TMWTGG feels tired and uninspired – a franchise revamp would come after a three-year break with The Spy Who Loved Me – and Moore seems ill-at-ease playing a Bond who more closely resembles Sean Connery’s more brutish version of the character.
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23. Die Another Day (2002)
Though it has a reputation for being the frothiest Pierce Brosnan outing, Die Another Day does make an attempt in its first hour at pushing agent 007 into unexplored territory – something the Daniel Craig movies would later do to far greater critical acclaim – as Bond is held captive and tortured, emerging physically and emotionally scarred. But all this is forgotten and the film’s credibility is lost in a ludicrous second half that takes in ice palaces, lasers, invisible cars and a dubious plot involving a villain changing his race. Brosnan deserved better for his swan song.
22. A View to a Kill (1985)
It’s something of an odd trend that a Bond actor’s final outing as 007 is often their weakest and it comes into play again with A View to a Kill, a lightweight outing that’s not without its good points – Christopher Walken giving a typically offbeat performance as Nazi super-soldier Max Zorin, Grace Jones eating up the screen as his henchwoman MayDay, Patrick Macnee exuding pure charm as Bond’s ally Sir Godfrey Tibbett – but can’t escape the fact that its leading man is pushing 60 and now makes for an utterly unbelievable action hero.
21. Quantum of Solace (2008)
Daniel Craig’s debut as Bond had stunned audiences with its more grounded, complex portrayal of 007 and his previously fantastic world – but its sequel got off to a rocky start.
No, we’re not talking about that head-scratcher of a title – taken from one of Ian Fleming’s short stories – but the fact that, due to a writers’ strike, QoS started filming without a finished script and it showed in the deeply uneven final product, which lacks a compelling arc for Bond and a truly great villain for him to go up against.
“The movie kind of works,” Craig himself said in the 2021 docs-film Being James Bond. “It's not Casino Royale, and that was always going to be… It was like […] second album syndrome.”
20. Spectre (2015)
Star Trek fans used to swear by a rule that all odd-numbered films in that franchise disappointed and something similar applies to the Daniel Craig Bond movies, with the Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace double being followed first by the sublime Skyfall and then the bloated Spectre, which stumbles in its efforts to implausibly link the events of the four prior movies via Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld (now reinvented, for some reason, as Bond’s long-lost foster brother) and sees a subdued Craig – who sustained a serious injury during filming – appear to struggle with the film’s more fantastical tone and limp climax.
Originally envisioned as his exit from the franchise, Craig deserved better for his final appearance as Bond – and though it took longer than planned, he eventually got it.
Only a handful of Bond films are truly disappointing and while we remain in the lower stretch of this ranking, Octopussy is a thoroughly entertaining romp, offering up a memorable villain in Louis Jordan’s suave, sinister Kamal Khan, a formidable performance from Maud Adams as the film’s title character, an absolutely wild turn from Steven Berkoff as Soviet general Orlov, plus a larger role than usual for our beloved Q (Desmond Llewelyn). The film also has a handful of memorable set pieces, from the opening hunt for and murder of 009 to Roger Moore’s Bond disarming a nuclear bomb while dressed as a clown (a sequence, surprisingly, played almost totally straight).
18. For Your Eyes Only
Bringing Bond back down to Earth – literally – after the Star Wars aping exploits of Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only is perhaps Roger Moore’s most straight-laced entry in the series and while he’s traditionally associated with the frothier fare, this (slightly) grittier entry actually works a treat, with Carole Bouquet mesmerising as revenge-seeking orphan Melina Havelock and Topol’s forming a fun on-screen partnership with agent 007.
Plus, FYEO offers an interesting subversion of recurring ally General Gogol (Walter Gotell)’s usual role as he works against MI6 to recover the film’s MacGuffin, a stolen ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator).
It gets a lot of stick and while Moonraker is at points Bond at its absolute silliest – for all the ludicrous outer space antics, the ruthless killer Jaws falling in love and seeing the error of his ways is the film’s nadir – it’s actually far more substantial than many give it credit for.
The film’s first half is excellent, on a par with its immediate predecessor The Spy Who Loved Me, delivering a number of memorable sequences – Corinne (Corinne Cléry) being hunted by a pair of ravenous hounds, Bond’s encounter with the centrifuge – as Roger Moore’s 007 goes up against Michael Lonsdale’s urbane villain Hugo Drax, who delivers some of the very best one-liners in Bond villain history (“Mr Bond… you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.”).
Your mileage may vary on the sci-fi tomfoolery that follows but just try and subdue a smirk when Q (Desmond Llewelyn) delivers that “attempting re-entry” line at the movie’s climax.
16. No Time to Die
Perhaps the most controversial entry in the franchise's history, with fan reactions to its explosive ending ranging from outrage to those who felt killing off Craig's 007 provided a fitting send-off to his tragic take on the hero, No Time to Die didn't quite reach the heights of the actor's very best outings as Bond but was a marked improvement on its baggy predecessor.
Though, like Spectre, some of its more outlandish elements don't integrate wholly successfully into the more grounded world of Craig's Bond, where this climax to his era really soars is in digging deeper than ever before into the secret agent's humanity and his vulnerability, even giving him a family – something, at last, to fight for, and to live for, and to die for, beyond just Queen and country.
Once you've seen it, it's sort of difficult to imagine how else the Craig era could've ended – just having the tortured spy ride off into the sunset with Léa Seydoux's Madeleine (again), this time with little Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet) in tow, wouldn't have been anywhere near as satisfying.
That being said, let whoever comes next reinvent Bond in their own way – and maybe even reintroduce a little more tongue-in-cheek humour. This is a franchise that's always thrived on reinvention, after all.
15. Tomorrow Never Dies
Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as Bond might not quite recapture the vital brilliance of his debut but it remains a rollicking good time regardless, with the man himself on top form as he faces off with corrupt media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce).
From the ambitious opening sequence – which sees 007 take to the skies to avert a nuclear catastrophe, onwards – it’s two hours of frenetic fun packed with some of the franchise’s most memorable sequences (Bond taking part in a car chase while driving his BMW with remote control from the back seat) and supporting characters (best of all being Vincent Schiavelli's professional assassin Dr Kaufman).
What’s more, in the introduction of Bond’s former love Paris Carver, TND marks a notable pre-Daniel Craig attempt to add more emotional complexity to the Bond character.
14. The World Is Not Enough
Sorely underrated (as indeed is Brosnan’s Bond overall), when most people think of The World Is Not Enough they just can’t get past Denise Richards being cast as a nuclear scientist named Dr Christmas Jones. But this third outing for Pierce again foreshadows the Craig era in attempting to tell a character story with a little more depth against the backdrop of explosions, wild chases and colourful villains, as 007 falls for and is betrayed by Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King – shades of Vesper Lynd there – getting his heart broken and his shoulder badly injured in the process.
Plus there’s a subtle, touching farewell to franchise veteran Desmond Llewelyn, Robbie Coltrane having heaps of fun as Bond’s frenemy Valentin Zukovsky and a boat chase on the Thames – what’s not to like?
13. You Only Live Twice
For all its successful efforts to revamp and revitalise the franchise, the Craig era of the Bond franchise recognised that there are certain tropes and characters always worth revisiting – including 007’s arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Though the character actually debuted – face unseen – in From Russia with Love, it was in the final movie from Sean Connery’s initial five-film run that we got our introduction proper to Blofeld, here played by a superbly creepy Donald Pleasure in a performance that’s never been bettered by any of his successors. And though the four Bond outings that preceded it are all arguably stronger, more cohesive movies – and certain aspects of the film’s treatment of Japanese culture will make most contemporary viewers wince – You Only Live Twice is admirably bonkers and unfettered, with Spectre’s hollowed-out volcano lair now the stuff of legend (and relentless parody).
Still one of the biggest Bond films at the box office, adjusted for inflation, Thunderball took inspiration from one of Ian Fleming's more outrageous novels to produce what is arguably the first blockbuster Bond, with this tale of SPECTRE holding NATO to ransom with two hijacked atomic bombs delivering a sense of scope and grandeur that its (slightly) more grounded predecessors hadn't offered.
Though the aquatic nature of its action scenes means that certain of these sequences lag, there's little else that's lethargic about this colourful 1965 movie, which sees Sean Connery at his charismatic go up against an all-time great villain in Adolfo Celi's eyepatch-sporting Emilio Largo ("You wish to put the evil eye on me, eh?") and romance two of the franchise's most memorable female leads in the form of Claudine Auger's Domino and Luciana Paluzzi's villainess Fiona Volpe.
There’s fun to be had too with the film’s unofficial remake – 1983’s Never Say Never Again, produced as part of a legal wrangle over the rights to Fleming’s original tome – but this remains the definitive screen adaptation of the book.
11. Dr. No
Back where it all started – measured against what followed, 1962’s Dr No is a relatively stripped-back offering, with much of the film charting Bond’s investigation into the disappearance of a spy colleague. But there’s an appeal to its simplicity when compared to the more ostentatious offerings that followed and the film’s final act is vintage Bond, with 007’s trip to the titular villain’s residence of Crab Key transporting both him and the audience into a science-fiction world of mechanical dragons, deranged super-villains and extravagant top-secret HQs.
Then and now, though, the film’s biggest selling point is Sean Connery’s performance – though his Bond is perhaps a little less poised than he would later become, his work here remains one of the most confident, charismatic characters debuts you’ll see.
In a film packed with iconic moments – not least Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder emerging from the ocean – it’s the film’s introduction to “Bond, James Bond” that is unquestionably the standout. In that instant, we all fell in love with the character, the film, and the franchise.
10. Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s first film as James Bond 007 is also one of his very best – though certain of his later efforts and in particular their broad sense of humour tend to divide fans, Moore’s lightness of touch brought a renewed vigour to a franchise that, following one ‘failed’ attempt to replace Sean Connery, was desperately in need of a new leading man to not only take up the reins but make the character and the franchise his own.
Moore’s arrival transforms both Bond and the world he inhabits – it’s impossible to imagine any other Bond actor taking his place here, as he guides us through a more comic book but no less compelling version of 007’s universe, which is still nevertheless replete with danger, excitement and captivating villains.
Live and Let Die offers us three of the most memorable Bond antagonists in the form of the sinister trifecta (or should that be quartet) Kananga / Mr Big (a superb Yaphet Kotto), Tee Hee (Julius Harris), and Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) – and, of course, one of the most memorable theme songs, with Wings’ effort, much like the film’s leading man, being both similar enough to its predecessors while also delivering something fresh and new.
9. The Living Daylights
From one debut to another and while Roger Moore’s arrival on the scene had once given Bond a much-needed shot of adrenaline, 12 years and seven films later, the franchise was again in serious need of an overhaul to avoid looking creaky – Bond has always operated in cycles, growing bigger and more outrageous before stripping things back and starting the whole process off again, and one of the most successful examples of the process came in 1987 with The Living Daylights.
Keen to return the film series to its roots, Timothy Dalton mostly eschewed the puns and knowing humour of his predecessor, but never let anyone tell you that he stripped the glamour or charm from 007 – his take on the character is a magnetic man of action, a dynamic force pushing the story forward.
Though his debut suffers a little from underdeveloped antagonists, it benefits massively from Dalton’s chemistry on-screen with Maryam d'Abo's Kara Milovy, one of the more convincing romances in the series – indeed, one of only a handful of Bond’s dalliances with the opposite sex that could be called a “romance” at all. A slick, stylish and surprisingly sensitive thriller, The Living Daylights proved there was still plenty of life left in Bond yet.
8. Licence to Kill
One of a handful of films on this list that arguably holds a reputation it doesn’t deserve, 1989’s Licence to Kill is sometimes dismissed as a low point for the series – an entry that took the “back to basics” approach of The Living Daylights too far and stripped Bond of all its glamour and style in an attempt to compete with ‘80s action flicks like Lethal Weapon. (The fact that, due to an unrelated legal tussle, the franchise went on a six-year hiatus after this film’s release, after which Timothy Dalton declined to return as Bond, probably hasn’t helped with that assumption.)
In fact, Licence to Kill is plenty stylish, with all of the wit and wild action you’d expect from Bond at its best. Just watch the sequence in which our hero escapes the Wavekrest by barefoot skiing on the ocean and then commandeering a seaplane and try arguing it’s not this franchise at its action-packed best.
While it’s true that it breaks away from the standard formula by having 007 go rogue and undertake a mission of personal vengeance against the drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) for the maiming of his friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), in hindsight the film feels like an obvious precursor to and influence on the wildly popular Daniel Craig era, which saw Bond embark on more personal vendettas than actual missions.
This is a movie far better than some critics might suggest, and more influential than has probably been recognised.
The Craig era didn't always successfully manage to fuse 007 tropes of old with the franchise's new, more modern outlook, but arguably the most successful attempt was 2012's Skyfall, which saw this Bond back behind the wheel of his Aston Martin DB5, once again appearing alongside the likes of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), and going up against a wonderfully grotesque villain – in the form of Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva.
Yet, most importantly, it's a story that still felt like it wouldn't have fit any other Bond era, exploring our hero's roots as well as themes of moral ambiguity and great personal loss (RIP, Judi Dench's M).
All that and it's got a shotgun-toting Albert Finney barking "Welcome to Scotland!" after eliminating two thugs encroaching on his turf. What's not to love?
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
Like Connery before him, Roger Moore started out strong but most would agree that the peak of his era came with his third outing as 007.
After 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun wasn’t all that anybody had hoped, the Bond creative team took their time (a then-unprecedented three-year break between movies) and took stock, producing a film that combined the best qualities of Connery’s later movies – the blockbuster scope and scale, the extravagant set-pieces – with the lightness of touch that Moore’s arrival had introduced.
The end result is an absolute hoot, as Bond works to thwart megalomaniac Karl Stromberg (a steely Curd Jürgens) and his plans to eradicate the surface world and start a new civilisation beneath the ocean, and also comes up against Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), a rival agent whose lover Bond had killed on a previous mission – a plot strand which, mostly thanks to Bach’s performance, also gives the film an unexpectedly emotional edge.
All that, and it’s got a car that goes underwater and, in Richard Kiel’s Jaws, one of the series’ most memorable heavies. Truly, nobody does it better!
Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut film faced the unenviable task of reviving the Bond franchise after a then-unprecedented six-year gap between movies, following what was at the time considered a lull for the series.
In hindsight, some of its knowing nods to series tropes now feel heavy-handed – Bond’s casual womanising, heavy-drinking and catchphrases (“Shaken, but not stirred!”) all come in for a none-too-subtle jab or two – but in all other regards, GoldenEye is a pitch-perfect example of how to soft reboot, bringing Bond in line with the best of ‘90s action cinema without losing any of what kept audiences coming back across the previous three decades.
From the off, Brosnan is incredibly assured in the lead role, while Sean Bean’s treacherous Alec Trevelyan ranks as one of the all-time great Bond villains, with the star being cast as the former 006 – very much the dark flip side of 007 – by canny producers following an unsuccessful audition for Bond.
Despite some stiff competition, it also features what is unquestionably the best Q’s laboratory scene in the franchise’s long history (“Don’t touch that – that’s my lunch!”).
The extravagant pre-titles sequence, the outlandish henchman (Harold Sakata’s near-mute, deadly Oddjob), the Bond girl with the highly suggestive moniker (Honor Blackman’s no-nonsense pilot Pussy Galore), the belting theme song (an all-time great from Shirley Bassey), the gadget-laden car (and the Q's lab scenes which introduced them), the convoluted methods of torture, even 007 toying with his nemesis as part of an apparently amicable game… 1964’s Goldfinger might not be the all-time best Bond movie – though it’s certainly up there.
Yet, Goldfinger is, without question, the most definitive and influential of Bond films.
Though its two predecessors unquestionably established many franchise tropes, it was with Sean Connery’s third outing that the series firmly established its formula, made up of the shopping list of elements reeled off above that, without which, Bond wouldn’t quite feel like Bond.
It was also the tipping point for the series, the point at which 007, fittingly enough, became true box office gold, and a true cultural phenomenon, with a miniature version of Bond's Aston Martin DB5 becoming the best-selling toy of 1964.
Without Dr No and From Russia with Love, the screen Bond wouldn’t exist, but without Goldfinger, it’s very probable it wouldn’t have survived this long.
3. From Russia With Love
It’s controversial perhaps to place Sean Connery’s second Bond film above the film which followed, but From Russia with Love is just that little bit tighter, sharper and more thrilling than Goldfinger – a taut Cold War thriller packed with intrigue, glamour and some truly electrifying action scenes.
The Orient Express bout between Bond and Donald “Red” Grant, in particular, still packs a punch, often being imitated but never bettered.
It also still holds the accolade of featuring perhaps the best ensemble cast in the franchise’s history – and there’s some serious competition – with Pedro Armendáriz utterly magnetic as Bond’s ally Kerim Bey, Vladek Sheybal as the superbly slimy as chessmaster and SPECTRE agent Kronsteen, Lotte Lenya's terrifying and treacherous Rosa Klebb and, perhaps best of all, Robert Shaw, who is utterly mesmerizing as SPECTRE assassin Grant - one of the few foes who has ever genuinely felt like a credible threat to Bond. “What a performance” indeed.
2. Casino Royale
It's a tight contest between this and Skyfall for Daniel Craig’s best, but the impact that Casino Royale had on release in 2006 marks it out as the more important movie, the one which absolutely defined Craig's era as 007.
Following a lukewarm reception to both the previous film in the series – 2002's Die Another Day – and (initially at least) Craig's casting as Bond, this was a pivot point for the franchise, a juncture at which it needed once again to reinvent itself dramatically or face being consigned to the dustbin of history.
We all know what happened next – Bond rebuked the critics once again and re-established itself as a major player in the world of modern blockbuster cinema by stripping away all that might've once seemed sacrosanct (the quips! The gadgets! The '007 family' of Moneypenny, Q et al) and unleashing a revitalised version of the character played by a steely but sympathetic Craig.
Our lead was suitably supported in his 007 debut by a sensational turn from Eva Green as Vesper Lynd and the absolutely magnetic Mads Mikkelsen as the villainous Le Chiffre.
Taking the skeleton of Ian Fleming's first Bond novel and building around it an action thriller that felt genuinely dangerous and unpredictable at points, this was the most exciting and challenging the franchise had felt for years. Never mind the Craig era, Casino Royale is one of the best Bond movies ever, period.
1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Bond fans have had all the time in the world to reappraise On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – well, half a century at least – and across the years the popular consensus on George Lazenby’s sole outing as agent 007 has radically transformed.
Once considered a misfire, an embarrassing anomaly that might’ve sunk the franchise had producers not coughed up the requisite cash to lure Sean Connery back for the following instalment, time has been kind to OHMSS, which is now regarded by many as the finest Bond movie of them all, both a gripping thriller with action sequences tautly directed by Peter Hunt and a tragic love story brought to brilliant life by its two leads, George Lazenby and Diana Rigg.
Lazenby’s work, in particular, has come in for a lot of stick over the years, but the memory cheats – his status as the one-and-done Bond seems to have led to the misapprehension that his performance here doesn’t work, or that the film might’ve been even better if Connery had been on board.
In fact, much of why the film succeeds is down to Lazenby – possibly as a result of the actor’s relative inexperience when hired, his Bond feels less cocksure, less invincible than his predecessor’s, which makes him the perfect lead for this film, an adventure that sees 007 fall in love, retire, and then suffer a staggering personal loss.
A vivacious, heartfelt turn from Rigg makes her the perfect screen partner as Tracy, while Telly Savalas’ more brawny Blofeld is the perfect foe to go up against Lazenby’s secret agent.
It’s telling that when looking to celebrate the best of Bond to mark Daniel Craig’s departure, the franchise turned to this film, with No Time to Die riffing on particular moments and lines of dialogue and even lifting wholesale its use of Louis Armstrong’s We Have All The Time In The World.
Far from a failure, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is now the Bond film to beat.
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