The James Bond Chronicles: Best of the 007 Franchise

So here we are at last, three years after I began reviewing the James Bond series, and it’s time to announce my choices for the best elements of the entire series.

You have to hand it to the Broccoli family and all involved. Bond has endured over 24 films across 50 years, six actors, the bankruptcy of its home studio, battles over rights, changes in technology and culture, and the very nature of the action film.

While the series has had its share of dogs, I’ll endlessly praise the filmmakers on even those films, because every single one has some kind of redeeming features. “A View to A Kill” may have been terrible, but the opening ski scene is great and John Barry’s score is as vibrant as ever. As wacky as “Live and Let Die” is, I give the filmmakers kudos for having the courage to make a Blaxploitation film with a great theme song and speedboat chase.

But enough of faint praise, let’s get to the best.

Best Bond Girl: Well, I created a pickle for myself right off the bat, as it occurs to me that there are several qualities to go into a great Bond girl. So I’m going to parse out some sub-awards here and then give the Best All-Around Bond Girl.

Most Beautiful: I’ve always been captivated by Carole Bouquet natural classic beauty in “For Your Eyes Only.”

Most Exotic: The extraordinary Izabella Scorupco in “GoldenEye”.

Most Sex Appeal: Oy. Look, no bones about this – Honor Blackman from “Goldfinger” is all woman. 

Best All Around Bond Girl: There are really only two possibilities here. Both captured Bond’s heart – no easy task. Both are beautiful and sexy. Both are capable women. But the one Bond was always destined to be with, the only one who could truly keep up with him, the only woman whose ghost haunts the series … Diana Rigg’s Tracy di Vicenzo.

Best Villain: The nominees are: Goldfinger, Scaramanga and Trevelyan. 

And the winner is ...

Auric Goldfinger - He is perhaps the most well-defined villain of the series, a character loaded with subtext and one who acts out of a personal and eccentric motivation.  

Best Blofeld: This is a separate category because Blofeld is himself in a class by himself.

And the winner is …

Telly Savalas- Because his Blofeld is more grounded, more realistic and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s as balls-out as Bond is in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

Best Nemesis: This has always been where we find the most intriguing Bond characters, and they sometimes even outshine the villain. There are so many to choose from, and I’ve previously given nods to Robert Shaw’s Red Grant and Oddjob. But our actual nominees are Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (“Diamonds Are Forever”), Emile Loche (“For Your Eyes Only”), and General Ourumov (“GoldenEye”).

And the winner is …

Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd - Look, I love Red Grant. Emile Loche is deliciously diabolical. General Ourumov is the most fleshed out of all of them. Yet these two weirdoes take the cake and are so classic as Bond nemeses that they cannot be ignored.

Best Ally: The nominees are: Marc-Ange Draco (“OHMSS”), Columbo (“For Your Eyes Only”), and Wai Lin (“Tomorrow Never Dies”).

And the winner is …

Columbo - Chaim Topol narrowly defeats Gabrielle Ferzetti’s Draco here. Both are great characters, but Columbo has a much larger role. He’s handsome, adventurous, loyal, and exactly the kind of rogue we like seeing Bond with. His chemistry with Roger Moore is great and they made for a memorable team in the best of the Moore films.

Best Action Sequence: The nominees are: The storming of Blofeld’s volcano HQ in "You Only Live Twice”, the extended ski chase from “For Your Eyes Only” and the parkour chase and shootout from “Casino Royale.”

And the winner is …

Actually, hold on a second. I don’t want anyone to forget about the speedboat chase in “Live and Let Die”, the scope of the submarine escape in “Spy Who Loved Me,” the raid on the MI6 safe house in “Living Daylights,” the pure insanity of Bond racing his car through the melting ice castle in “Die Another Day,” the fabulous ski sequences in “OHMSS,” the tank chase in “GoldenEye” or any of the other wonderful scenes that are at the heart of the franchise.

“Casino Royale” Seriously. This is just so perfect.

Best Fight: The nominees are: the train fight with Red Grant (“From Russia With Love”), the train fight with Tee Hee (“Live and Let Die”), and the church tower fight with Mitchell (“Quantum of Solace”).

And the winner is …

“From Russia With Love” - No score. Grunts. Groans. Punches. Kicks. Suspense. Stripped down, bare knuckles. That’s Bond.

Best Score: The nominees are: John Barry for “OHMSS,” John Barry for “A View to A Kill” and David Arnold for “Casino Royale.”

And the winner is …

John Barry for “OHMSS” - There is no replacing John Barry, although David Arnold is nothing short of terrific. But Barry defined the series, and he reached his greatest heights in this underrated classic. It is beautiful, sweeping, romantic and thrilling. Most of all, however, his arrangements and the primary theme are just so … James Bond. It recalls the very essence of the films in their classical form. 

Best Production Design: The nominees are: Ken Adam for “Dr. No,” Peter Murton for “The Man With The Golden Gun” and Allan Cameron for “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

And the winner is …

Peter Murton - This is a difficult choice. Adam is a legend, and his sets defined the Sean Connery era, but Murton benefits from a film that has numerous locales and a circus-themed script, allowing him endless creativity.

Best Cinematography: The nominees are: Ted Moore (“Goldfinger”), Alan Hume (“For Your Eyes Only”), and Robert Elswit (“Tomorrow Never Dies”).

And the winner is …

Alan Hume - Again, a difficult choice. “Goldfinger” has sweeping wide-screen compositions. “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a flat-out beautifully lit film. Yet “For Your Eyes Only” trumps with gorgeous underwater work, exquisite exteriors, and a romantic exoticness in the lighting of its Greek locales.

Best Script: The nominees are: Richard Maibaum (“OHMSS”), Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum (“For Your Eyes Only”) and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (“Casino Royale”).

And the winner is…

“Casino Royale” - This is just as good as a script as you will find in any action film, not to mention a Bond film. Every single moment works. Every single scene has a purpose. There are surprises, twists, and suspense every step of the way. It is tightly structured with great characters. 

Most “Iconic Bond” film: This is a separate category from the Best Film of the franchise. I think of it as being the film you might show to someone to introduce them to James Bond. The nominees are:  “Goldfinger,” “Man with the Golden Gun” and “Living Daylights.”

And the winner is…

“Goldfinger” - Submitted without comment.

Best Title Sequence: The nominees are: “OHMSS”, “Live and Let Die”, and “Skyfall”.

And the winner is …

“Skyfall” - There are many great title sequences in the franchise, yet the most recent one is thematically relevant for both the film and the series as a whole.

Best Line:  I’ll have tomatoes thrown at me no matter what I say, since everyone has their own favorite. So I’ll just announce the winner. It’s from “Diamonds Are Forever.” As Bond unmasks Wint and Kidd in the finale. “Mouton Rothschild is a claret. And, I've smelled that aftershave before, and both times - I've smelled a rat.” Hijinks ensue

Best Death: So many deaths, so few permitted nominees: The demise of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (“Diamonds Are Forever”), Emile Loche flopping out the window of his battered car (“For Your Eyes Only”) and Kress’ head exploding (“License to Kill”).

And the winner is …

Kress’ head - Yuck.

And now we’ve come to the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my choice for the absolute best James Bond movie ever made. 

The nominees are: 

"Goldfinger," directed by Guy Hamilton

"On Her Majesty’s Secret Service," directed by Peter R. Hunt

"For Your Eyes Only," directed by John Glen

“GoldenEye," directed by Martin Campbell

“Casino Royale,” directed by Martin Campbell

Drumroll…..

Fumbling of the envelope….

And the winner is….

“CASINO ROYALE”

The new era of James Bond films has supplanted everyone’s favorite, “Goldfinger.” That classic film remains just that – a classic. But the simple truth is that “Casino Royale” is the complete James Bond film. It takes us on a thrilling, suspenseful, romantic, dangerous and totally satisfying journey into the origins of Bond. As portrayed by Daniel Craig, James Bond comes alive in a way we had not really seen since Sean Connery. Craig is a bull in a china shop, unformed, brutish, bad-ass, flawed, and yet with all the other traits that makes Bond who he is. The story is fresh, endlessly entertaining, captivating, and filled with twists. Everything about the movie sings. It’s a total triumph.

Going down the list, I’ll hasten to admit that within each level of quality there really isn’t much difference between films. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I’ve provided a ranking.

Thanks to all my devoted readers for sticking with me throughout the series! Your comment have been wonderful. For those who have been paying attention, one thing is absolutely certain – everybody has a different opinion. Please click on each title to go to my review of the film.

Best Picture: "Casino Royale"

4 Stars

#2: “GoldenEye

#3: "For Your Eyes Only"

#4: "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service"

#5: "Goldfinger"

3 Stars

#6:  "The Man With The Golden Gun"

#7:  "Dr. No"

#8:  "From Russia With Love"

#9:  “Quantum of Solace

#10: “The Living Daylights

#11:  “Tomorrow Never Dies

2 Stars

#12: “Die Another Day

#13: "Diamonds Are Forever"

#14: “Skyfall”

#15: "Thunderball"

#16: “The World is Not Enough

#17:  "The Spy Who Loved Me"

#18:  “Licence to Kill

#19: "Never Say Never Again"

1 Star

#20: "Live and Let Die"

#21: "You Only Live Twice"

#22: "Moonraker"

#23: "A View To A Kill"

#24: "Octopussy"

James Bond Will Return ...


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