He’s consumed copious amounts of alcohol, killed masses of people, overthrown governments and gangsters alike, slept with just about every woman he’s come across and has even had an academic text written about him titled “Cultural Imperialism and James Bond’s Penis”.
But, for all that he’s fiction’s most famous secret agent, the man we often refer to as “007” comes from a time when men were supposed to be patriotic, hyper-masculine men, and every “other” (women, people of other cultures, etc.) were seen as lesser.
This isn’t about political correctness or “cancelling” James Bond for being, in Judi Dench’s immortal words, “A sexist, misogynistic dinosaur”, but it is a useful preface to the coming article, for what we have to do is view these films as part of the time and place in which they were made – to contextually criticise while also celebrating the many things this series has done well over the years.
25. A View to a Kill (1985)
In Roger Moore’s final outing as James Bond he looks just like your dad in a series of fine suits, yet somehow still manages to keep his balance fighting atop the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s not his fault; everyone gets old, but he’s slow and out of shape and well past playing a promiscuous spy, or even running up stairs. There’s not a single memorable or well-executed action beat and it’s quite impossible to care about super-rich horse trainers and what they might want with microchips. Grace Jones as May Day looks striking because of course she does, but Christopher Walken’s supposedly “accentless” villain Max Zorin is a dull blonde cypher.
Licence to Spill: Zorin going from being just another smug and greedy rich guy to a gleeful mass-murdering psychopath for no real reason.
24. Quantum of Solace (2008)
For the Daniel Craig reboot, Bond was taken back to basics: no gadgets, no quips, no feelings. Showing him early in his career as a blunt and unsophisticated instrument that gets the job done is one thing, turning him into an emotionally devoid terminator is another. That’s what’s so upsetting about Quantum, more so than the convoluted and rushed plot, terrible villain (Mathieu Amalric) and butchery in the edit – in this, Bond is no longer human. Olga Kurylenko provides her best effort to make her character Camille almost interesting, but there’s only so much one person can do.
Licence to Spill: Never mind what they went through in Casino Royale, Bond tosses a friend’s body in a bin.
Recommended for you: The Bourne Collection Ranked
23. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
George Lazenby didn’t work out and Moore had TV scheduling conflicts so a truckload of money was parked outside Sean Connery’s house so he would take his last (official) bow. The story involving diamond-powered laser satellites (really) is largely without intrigue, the pacing is lethargic, the spectacle is cheap, plus Connery clearly doesn’t care. About the only thing worth noting is the double act of gay henchmen Mr Kidd (Putter Smith) and Mr Wint (Bruce Glover): “Funny how everyone who touches these diamonds ends up…dying!”. Not even Charles Gray as a drawly Blofeld enlivens things.
Licence to Spill: Bond Girl Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) getting stripped and chucked out of a hotel window straight after her introduction.
22. Octopussy (1983)
The main problem with Octopussy is that it’s boring. It’s 2 hours and 10 minutes long, and has so little to show for it – plenty of action but a distinct lack of plot. Your dad couldn’t fight on top of a speeding train or a crashing plane, and Moore can’t convince us that he can either. Filming any kind of action scene in packed Indian streets must have been a real undertaking, and the gag-packed henchman brawl at a bustling market is the film’s only real highlight. Once Bond’s done with patronising Indians, the film moves on to easy German stereotypes before having at least three separate finales.
Licence to Spill: Bond swinging on vines and uttering a Tarzan cry as he escapes the baddies.
21. Thunderball (1965)
How does a film with such fascinating behind-the-scenes stories end up being so dull? Just watch the Everything or Nothing documentary for the full lurid details, but basically producer Kevin McClory had the other Bond producers over a barrel for decades having co-created villain collective SPECTRE with Ian Fleming and claiming never to have received his dues for it. The cold and calculating worldwide extortionist organisation manipulating western superpowers behind the scenes is a fun concept, but Connery is on autopilot and the whole thing feels overstuffed and lacking in thrills right up to the end, where a lot of people die by harpoon.
Licence to Spill: “Most girls just paddle around – you swim like a man”.