EDIT: Same deal as with the first half of the list: I have taken the liberty, now that I have had a chance to watch Spectre more than once, and have rewatched a good portion of the franchise, to edit the list a bit, and add Spectre in to the list, that way this truly is Every (official) Bond Movie Ranked.
Welcome back to 'Every James Bond Movie Ranked'!
We are not going to waste your time blabbering about junk, other than to give you an "in case you missed it" link to the bottom half of the list.
Now, without further ado, here are the Top 12 James Bond films:
12 Licence to Kill
Licence to Kill, the other Timothy Dalton Bond film, is often ignored, and rather unfairly regarded in terms of how it is remembered, which I think is perhaps a bit unfounded. Licence to Kill is darker, and more violent than almost all of its' predecessors, heralding in a closer look and tone to the modern reboots 17 years earlier.
Licence revolves around James Bond's pursuit of drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), as he gets suspended and is forced to go rogue, ending up undercover amongst Sanchez's men. It is one of the few Bond films (to this point in their history) to have a really strong, and intriguing story, yet still maintaining some of the more hallmark set pieces and stunts. While it does not exactly feel like the 'gentleman spy' films of some of the earlier Bond's, Licence to Kill is a solid Bond film.
Just barely missing out on the Top 10, Spectre does still place fairly respectably as the 11th best Bond film of all time. I think part of the problem that Spectre had was that it was following the absolutely brilliant Skyfall, and had a returning director (and, obviously, actor) where they had been building up to the introduction of...well...SPECTRE, and Ernst Blofeld--the ur Bond villain.
The thing is, there's nothing really wrong with Spectre: the plot about MI6 fighting to stay funded in the face of a growing, powerful surveillance network while James tracks a mysterious organization that seems to be behind all of his problems (ever) was actually very well done. The fights, and stunts were engaging and trended into that sort of 'grounded ridiculous' that these modern Bond films have executed so well...
If I'm being honest, the Day of the Dead opening is one of my favorite openings in any Bond film ever, and it set my expectations WAY too high for the rest of the film, but in the end, the brooding, somewhat quiet, yet multilayered (oh man, Q in the field!) story was an enjoyable entry into the franchise.
10) The Spy Who Loved Me
The best of Roger Moore's outings as James Bond cracks the Top 10: The Spy Who Loved Me is set off by British and Soviet ballistic missile submarines going missing and MI6 calling Bond in to investigate. Teaming up with a stunningly beautiful KGB agent, Bond discovers that a megalomaniac businessman has plans to destroy the world and start a new civilization under the sea, with the help of THE GREATEST HENCHMAN HENCHMAN OF ALL TIME.
From the parachute scene at the beginning, to the amphibious Lotus Esprit, and the toned-down performances featuring a brilliantly cast couple in Roger Moore and Barbara Bach (as the KGB agent, and one of the best "Bond Girls" of all time) makes The Spy Who Loved Me a solid film, but one that could be higher if it did not feel slightly too long.
9) You Only Live Twice
Sean Connery's fifth James Bond film, You Only Live Twice is a Bond film that is perhaps a little too reliant on gadgets and spectacle, but it is quite a good Bond film regardless, as the pace and colour (thanks to the Japanese setting) make it quite memorable.
A NASA spacecraft is...uh...eaten(?) by a mysterious spaceship, which the Americans blame the Soviets for, however MI6 suspects something is fishy in Japan, as the mysterious ship landed in the Sea of Japan, and thus send James Bond to see if he can figure out what is going on. In Japan, he uncovers a SPECTRE plot to instigate a war between the superpowers, with Blofeld himself (the head of SPECTRE) finally being revealed in their insane volcano lair.
Ninjas! Helicopter Fight! A look at 1960s Japan! You Only Live Twice has it all, as long as you don't think about the plot too hard...or actually considering how complicated it gets in the second half, maybe you should think about the plot really hard....
8) Dr. No
A fine start to the series, Dr. No introduced the movie going public to the gentleman spy that is James Bond through Sean Connery. In the film, Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British agent. The trail leads him to Ursula Andress, who is...collecting shells...or something...fighting the 'dragon' of Crab Key (which is a flamethrowing tractor with a toothy-paint job), and the secret underground base of a 'Dr. No', who is plotting to disrupt an early American manned space launch with a radio beam weapon.
Look, there is really nothing wrong with the film, as it does set up the future films very well, and establishes a lot of what we have come to see as spy-thriller (or just James Bond) tropes, but it does slow itself down in a few parts, and there is nothing that really stands out about it like a lot of the other ones have, but all in all a good start, and maybe one of the best "spy" films out of all of them, which is why it makes it so high up my list.
7) Casino Royale
Daniel Craig's first film as James Bond is a very, very good Bond film. While it is easy to see that the series adapted to the changing time, taking cues from some of the more stylized, and violent spy films of recent times, Casino Royale is a great prequel allowing for the series to be rebooted. The plot is heavily revolving around a tense, high-stakes poker game where Bond is trying to beat a terrorist-financier Le Chiffre (played by the spectacular and creepy Mads Mikkelson, pre-Hannibal), and James falling for the treasury worker Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).
Starting with Bond getting his 007 status at the beginning, we are treated to a less well-rounded and more vulnerable James Bond in Craig, who feels more like a brawler than a gentleman spy (the opening parkour section is one of the very best openings of a Bond film ever), taking the series back to its' roots and focusing more on plot and character development than a pen that will solve all of his problems...
GoldenEye should have heralded in a super fun and impressive era in Bond films--this has two of the most spectacular set-pieces in the series: the opening dam jump, and the tank driving through the streets. Pierce Brosnan appeared a perfect James Bond in GoldenEye bringing a touch of humour, and a real British charm (irony noted) back to the franchise after the more 'Americanized' Timothy Dalton films. The film has Bond working to prevent a syndicate of arms dealers from using a satellite weapon (named GoldenEye) to attack London and cause a financial meltdown.
This remains one of the most entertaining Bond films, even if it does get bogged down with a little bit of padding, and Brosnan's Bond, supplies the film with a wit and charm (without going cheeky or spoofing itself) that had been missing for a long time, and sure, maybe the video game kept the film in our collective consciousness longer than it perhaps should have stayed, but GoldenEye was a much needed revitalization of the franchise.
5) On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George Lazenby's only film as James Bond is actually a very good one, despite how heavily dated it now feels (look at that poster again...). Ernst Blofeld and SPECTRE are planning on sterilizing the world's food supply with a swarm of beautiful, brainwashed women from his secret allergy clinic in Switzerland (just...just don't think about it) unless his demands are met. There is a strong, secondary plot involving Countess Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo, capturing Bond's heart, her father Draco, head of a European Crime Syndicate's relationship with Bond, and Tracy marrying Bond.
This film is one of the best cinematically, and in terms of pure entertainment, and it is such a shame that the vulnerable, yet suave Lazenby only played Bond once. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a great film that balances, better than any other Bond film, the tension, the emotion and excitement of what can make this series special, and would have been a fitting finale to the series, had they chosen to stop the series here. Thankfully, they did not.
EDIT: I cannot get over how much I love Diana Rigg in this film, and I believe it Majesty is probably why I love her still (Game of Thrones win!)
Goldfinger, the third James Bond film is a great one. Introducing the concept of the featured henchman (with Odd Job and his razor sharp hat), an incredibly silly way to kill Bond (that laser scene everyone knows is from this film), and proof that the producers had completely given up on subtlety, a Bond Girl (played by Honor Blackman) called 'Pussy Galore'. Just...didn't try.
The film has Bond investigating Auric Goldfinger (seriously) for gold smuggling, and uncovers a sinister plot to irradiate the United States' gold reserve at Fort Knox, dramatically increasing the value of Goldfinger's holdings. It was the first 'blockbuster' Bond film (with a budget the same size as the first two Bond films combined), and began to truly establish the more spectacular Bond films, and the use of gadgets--most of the subsequent Bond films, until Casino Royale followed the Goldfinger template.
3) From Russia With Love
This is a tense, exciting film that would be #1 if it was not for one...particular moment. The film revolves around SPECTRE's attempt to kill James Bond for his part in stopping Dr. No (however, if you had not seen Dr. No you would not be lost, as if you had watched Quantum of Solace without seeing Casino Royale). The bait is a Soviet defector, the beautiful Tatiana Romonava, who would be bringing a Soviet Lektor Cryptographic machine with her--however it is a trap set by SPECTRE number 3 Rosa Klebb.
A brilliant game of cat and mouse, a fight on a train with a rival assassin, From Russia With Love is still one of the greatest spy thrillers ever made...until the denoument (spoilers)....where Klebb, dressed as a maid, tries to kill Bond...with a poison knife shoe--it probably seemed like a good idea when they were writing the film, but it just looks silly in the end, and costs From Russia With Love a couple of spots in the rankings.
I was so blown away by Skyfall the first time I saw it, having lowered my expectations after the snore-fest of Quantum of Solace, I was not expecting what fast became almost the best James Bond film ever made. The direction, the cinematography, the sound design in this film is --the best-- of the series. The plot, revolving around the brilliant efforts of Javier Bardem's rogue MI6 agent's attempts to get revenge against the agency, and particularly against M (Judi Dench). The series brought Q back in, Moneypenny is back...look Skyfall is a brilliant combination of fan service and a wonderful spy thriller that literally had me watching it on repeat from the edge of my seat, jaw dropped.
This is what James Bond should be, needs to continue to be, and there are shots that still give me goosebumps just thinking about them.
If I were to re-do this list again when the 25th Bond film releases, there is a chance, that Skyfall will ascend to #1...
EDIT: It didn't.
The pinnacle of classic James Bond films, Thunderball slots in at number one on our list. This is a lavish and huge Bond, complete with a ridiculous final fight scene taking place entirely underwater--there has never been a film that has felt more 'James Bond' than Thunderball. The film follows Bond to the Bahamas as he is tracking two nuclear weapons that have fallen into SPECTRE's hands. In the Bahamas, Bond discovers the eye-patched 'second in command' of SPECRE, Emilio Largo, and the chase is on.
If you have never seen Thunderball, you really owe it to yourself to see the film that really ushered in James Bond as a mega-franchise. While the film is by no means perfect, it clearly defines what James Bond has always been: big, splashy (sorry for the pun) and a grand time.
Well there we have it, the Top 12 Bond Films. I for one am looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here, and who the next James Bond will be...
Let us know how wrong we are in the comments below, or directly to me on Twitter.