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15. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
The World Is Not Enough marked the beginning of the Neal Purvis/Robert Wade era of original (and hit-and-miss) Bond screenplays that continues to this day. This features both the best and worst Bond girl performances of the modern period – Sophie Marceau’s enigmatic Elektra King and Denise Richards’ nuclear physicist dressed like Lara Croft, Dr Christmas Jones (snigger). A low-key but emotional farewell to Q (Desmond Llewelyn) who outlasted five Bonds doesn’t quite make up for the mess of indistinct action the film becomes, but at least the main villain is interesting once they’re finally revealed and hard at work torturing Brosnan’s Bond.
Licence to Spill: The final fight with Robert Carlyle’s pain-immune Renard amounting to him and Bond clambering over metal poles and punching each other in the head while Christmas Jones drowns next door.
14. Moonraker (1979)
Let’s be honest, this film with space fascists, laser battles and as many other Star Wars cash-ins as possible is complete hokum. The visual effects are the result of the British film industry playing catch up. But it’s the fun kind of hokum and the fun kind of Hollywood aping.
The film opens with a skydive that took eighty-eight real jumps to produce two minutes of footage. In Venice, Bond gets to use a gonola-hovercraft then smashes up an entire museum floor of artifacts fighting a villain. In Rio de Janeiro he escapes from a dangling cable car by chain before a high-speed chase along the Amazon by ridiculously-armed boat and hang glider.
Licence to Spill: The pigeon doing a double-take at Bond speeding past in his gondola-hovercraft.
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13. Dr. No (1962)
They were trying so many things out in Bond’s major film debut. For some reason, in the first few films they kept playing the main theme tune in quiet moments when Bond was sitting or walking rather than saving it just for the action scenes – it’s odd. But Bond, Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and M (Bernard Lee) arrive fully formed and the plot about disrupting the Space Race is pretty entertaining in a pulpy way. It’s definitely a product of the early 60s, so it’s a good job Connery’s ingrained charm carries him through the most offensive material, including patronising portrayals of Jamaicans and Joseph Wiseman as the titular character in yellowface.
Licence to Spill: The baddies try to assassinate Bond with a (non-deadly) tarantula, which crawls up an obvious sheet of glass between Connery’s body and it.
12. Live and Let Die (1973)
Moore’s debut as 007 has the agent at his most patronising towards the women he encounters. Everyone remembers the ear-worm Paul McCartney theme, but the Voodoo-centric story and setting is pretty vivid as well. If we’re being charitable, the cultural representation is too broad and simplistic rather than outright offensive as in the previous time Bond went to the Caribbean in Dr No. It’s amusing that of all the Bonds it’s the least imposing Moore who has to get information from a Harlem gangster (the film crew reportedly had to pay for protection to film this sequence in the area) and that the Bond producers seem to want a Blaxploitation vibe to this sequence. There’s some misjudged dialogue in here as well, like when a black taxi driver tells Bond: “For $20 I’ll take you to a Ku Klux Klan meet”.
Licence to Thrill: Bond infamously runs along the backs of alligators in a smart jacket and sensible shoes.
11. The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton’s first Bond outing has him playing the first iteration of 007 who actually seems to care. He’s the sad puppy Bond, but as the youngest and leanest actor in the role he’s also a dab hand at the action. The story involving arms dealers, cello players/assassins, defectors and the Soviet War in Afghanistan should be more gripping than it is, but it moves well enough. Who knows why anyone thought a Bond movie needed synths on the soundtrack (oh, right…it was the 80s) or why Dalton wasn’t pulled up when his accent veered Wales-wards (if Connery could get away with it…) but it’s all perfectly serviceable.
Licence to Thrill: Bond’s fight atop a cargo net dangling out the back of a helicopter.