Reviewing the James Bond Series

Inspired by tales of Cold War espionage, along with his own experiences as a commanding British Naval Officer, Ian Fleming retired to his estate along the north coast of Jamaica dubbed “Goldeneye.” The estate was partly named for its proximity to a famous nearby ocean-front estate called Golden Clouds, and in honor of a Carson McCullers novel called Reflections in a Golden Eye, as well as a World War II Allied contingency plan called “Operation Goldeneye” drafted in order to deal with Franco’s Spain if it formed an alliance with the Axis powers -the plan was created by Fleming himself.

At any rate, from his Goldeneye estate Ian Fleming quickly typed up a novel about a sleek and suave British secret agent who was an amalgamation of Fleming’s own experiences, real spies, and characters from Somerset Maugham and Dennis Wheatley stories. Like Fleming, the character chain-smoked dozens of Morland cigarettes everyday, and he had a love of golf and gambling. Fleming came up with the name “James Bond” because it sounded ordinary and was derived from an American ornithologist who published a notable book on the birds of Jamaica (Fleming was an avid birdwatcher). The symbol “007” came from a variety of historical references, as well. James Bond was originally devised as a dull guy (“a blunt instrument” per Fleming, a phrase which later appears in Skyfall).

The concept for James Bond inspired a total of twelve novels and two short story collections, beginning with Casino Royale in 1952. Fleming, a lifelong drinker and smoker, died of heart issues in 1964. Shortly before his death in 1961 two producers, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman acquired the film rights to James Bond and formed a production company called Eon, or “Every or Nothing,” in order to begin work on the first James Bond film Dr. No.

In the foreground, Bond wears a suit and is holding a gun; four female characters from the film are next to him.James Bond #1: Dr. No (1962)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: (None)
Director: Terence Young
Based on the sixth novel in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, Dr. No is the first Bond film to hit the big screen. In the film, James Bond (Sean Connery) travels to Jamaica to investigate the recent assassination of an MI6 agent. Upon arrival he uncovers a secret plot on a nearby island to detonate a nuclear weapon and disrupt a United States space launch. He and his new paramour, Honey Ryder (Swiss actress, Ursula Andress) fight to prevent the mad and reclusive Dr. No (played by Joseph Wiseman). Terence Young also directs From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

The upper centre of the poster reads "Meet James Bond, secret agent 007. His new incredible women ... His new incredible enemies ... His new incredible adventures ..." To the right is Bond holding a gun, to the left a montage of women, fights, and an explosion. On the bottom of the poster are the credits.James Bond #2: From Russia With Love (1963)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: Matt Monro “From Russia With Love”
Director: Terence Young
Terence Young again returns to direct the second James Bond film, based on Ian Fleming’s fifth James Bond novel. It is one of the best Bond films, and a Cold War classic. In the film, members of SPECTRE (under the direction of “Number 1” or Blofield, whom we only see from behind), pose as Soviet operatives to lure Bond to steal a cryptographic machine desired by the British government. They send a brutal henchman named “Red Grant” (played by Robert Shaw, famous for his portrayal of Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons and the old shark-hunter in Jaws). A Soviet clerk named Tatiana Romanava (played by Italian actress, Daniela Bianchi) is also sent to sway Bond, but she winds up falling in love with him. Once Bond falls into the Soviet trap they promptly punish him for killing their agent in the previous film, Dr. No until Bond escapes and foils SPECTRE’s revenge plot. Terence Young also directs Dr. No and Thunderball.

Image result for goldfingerJames Bond #3: Goldfinger (1964)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: Shirley Bassey “Goldfinger”
Director: Guy Hamilton
Goldfinger is the classic third Bond film, based on the seventh Ian Fleming novel of the same name. James Bond is sent to investigate a notorious gold smuggler, Auric Goldfinger (played by German actor, Gert Fröbe) where he uncovers a plot to infiltrate Fort Knox and render all the gold of the United States unusable, thus drastically devaluing the United States’s gold, while increasing the value of Goldfinger’s personal supply. Along the way, Bond befriends Jill Masterson, a former associate of Goldfinger’s named Jill Masterson (played by Shirley Eaton) who is seduced by Bond and then punished, being painted head-to-toe in gold. Bond also encounters Goldfinger’s personal pilot, “Pussy Galore” (played by Honor Blackman), as well as a ruthless little henchman Oddjob (played by Harold Sakata). Goldfinger is the first of four Bond films directed by Guy Hamilton, and it is definitely his best (the other three are Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With The Golden Gun).

Thunderball - UK cinema poster.jpgJames Bond #4: Thunderball (1965)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: Tom Jones “Thunderball”
Director: Terence Young
Terence Young returns to direct his third and final Bond film, Thunderball, based on the ninth Ian Fleming novel. In the film, SPECTRE has stolen two NATO nuclear weapons and is holding the world ransom, so James Bond is sent to the Bahamas to investigate the eye-patch wearing Emilio Largo or “Number 2” of SPECTRE (played by Italian actor, Adolfo Celi, who is best remembered for this role). Bond receives help from Number 2’s mistress, Domino Derval (played by French actress Claudine Auger) as he works to disable the nuclear weapons and kill Number 2. The film is memorable for its extensive underwater battle scenes. Terence Young also directs Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Cinema poster showing Sean Connery as James Bond sitting in a pool of water and being attended to by eight black-haired Japanese womenJames Bond #5: You Only Live Twice (1967)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: Nancy Sinatra “You Only Live Twice”
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Interestingly enough, the script for You Only Live Twice was written by celebrated children’s novelist, Roald Dahl (it was very loosely based on the Ian Fleming novel, the eleventh in the series). You Only Live Twice was originally intended to be Sean Connery’s final Bond film, but he later returns again in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. In the story, Bond is sent to Japan to gather intel on a spaceship that has been swallowing other international spaceships, and these disappearances have heightened international tensions to the point of nuclear war. Bond discovers SPECTRE is behind the plot and he infiltrates their secret volcano lair to meet Blofeld (the infamous villain we finally meet for the first time) to stop the plot. English Actor, Donald Pleasence plays Blofeld.

A man in a dinner jacket on skis, holding a gun. Next to him is a red-headed woman, also on skis and with a gun. They are being pursued by men on skis and a bobsleigh, all with guns. In the top left of the picture are the words FAR UP! FAR OUT! FAR MORE! James Bond 007 is back!James Bond #6: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Starring: George Lazenby
Theme Song (Secondary Song): Louis Armstrong “We Have All The Time In The World”
Director: Peter R. Hunt
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first Bond film not to star Sean Connery. It stars Australian male-model, George Lazenby as James Bond. It is known for sticking closely to the Ian Fleming novel. It tells the story of an agreement between Bond and a Portuguese gangster: for Bond to marry his troubled daughter in exchange for information on the whereabouts of Bond’s arch-enemy, Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas, who is best known for this role). Blofeld is developing a bacterial weapon at an institute populated by brainwashed women high in the Swiss Alps. The film has a memorably tragic ending after Bond falls in love and marries Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (played by Diana Rigg).

Diamonds_Are_Forever_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #7: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Starring: Sean Connery
Theme Song: Shirley Bassey “Diamonds Are Forever”
Director: Guy Hamilton
After the unexpected departure of George Lazenby following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sean Connery returns once more to reprise his role as James Bond. The plot of this film is odd and confusing, but, in essence, it follows Bond as he trails the infamous Blofeld who has cloned himself, and is holding the world ransom, using diamonds to power a nuclear-capable satellite circulating the globe. This time, Blofeld is played by Charles Gray.

Live_and_Let_Die-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #8: Live and Let Die (1973)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Paul McCartney & Wings “Live and Let Die”
Director: Guy Hamilton
Live and Let Die is the eighth Eon James Bond film, and the first to feature Roger Moore in the lead role (after Sean Connery refused to reprise the role -though he would later returned in the non-canonical Bond film entitled Never Say Never Again). In the film, Bond pursues a man named “Mr. Big” -a drug dealer (played by Yaphet Kotto) who turns out to be a political leader in the Caribbean named Dr. Kananga. The story takes us through a number of voodoo, occultist and blaxploitation stereotypes as Bond takes down the drug dealer.

The_Man_with_the_Golden_Gun_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #9: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Lulu “The Man With The Golden Gun”
Director: Guy Hamilton
The second of Roger Moore’s James Bond films, The Man With The Golden Gun is also the ninth Eon Bond film. James Bond is sent to investigate an international assassin named Francisco Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee) who possesses a highly lethal, one shot-kill golden gun, and who has stolen a solar device to power his ray gun weapon from his remote tropical island. Along the way we encounter nearly incompetent Bond girls (even for a Bond film) and a midget henchman named Nick Nack (played by Hervé Villechaize).

The_Spy_Who_Loved_Me_(UK_cinema_poster)James Bond #10: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Carly Simon “Nobody Does It Better”
Director: Lewis Gilbert
The Spy Who Loved Me is the third Bond film to star Roger Moore, and surely the best of the Moore era. It is about an unlikely partnership between James Bond and Soviet spy, Anya Amasova (played by Barbara Bach -Ringo Starr’s wife), as they both research the mysterious disappearances of two submarines: one Soviet and one British. The trail ultimately leads them to a maniacal villain named Karl Stromberg (played by Curd Jürgens) who is planning to launch a nuclear holocaust in order to create a new civilization under the sea. We also meet Stromberg’s seemingly indestructible henchman, Jaws (played by Richard Kiel and reprised in the following movie, Moonraker).

Moonraker_(UK_cinema_poster)James Bond #11: Moonraker (1979)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Shirley Bassey “Moonraker”
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Moonraker is based on the third Ian Fleming James Bond novel, it is the fourth Bond film to star Roger Moore, and the third Bond film directed by Lewis Gilbert: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979)Moonraker is about a maniacal villain named Hugo Drax (played by Michael Lonsdale) and his plan to launch a nuclear war on earth while creating a super race of humans at his space station. In the film, we meet Dr. Holly “Goodhead” (played by Lois Chiles), a spy posing as a scientist, and Moonraker also re-introduces a less fearsome and more sentimental Jaws (he falls in love and has a change of heart in the end). Moonraker essentially recycles the plot of The Spy Who Loves Me in space.

For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #12: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Sheena Easton “For Your Eyes Only”
Director: John Glen
For Your Eyes Only has often earned itself a reputation as one of the less goofy Roger Moore Bond films. It is the twelfth James Bond film, and the fifth starring Roger Moore. The film has an odd opening in which Bond kills what seems to be Blofeld (names were not used at the time due to pending litigation). The rest of the plot is about a Soviet attempt to acquire a device called an Automatic-Targeting-Attack-Communicator (ATAC) which controls the Royal British fleet of submarines. Bond teams up with Melina Havelick (played by Carole Bouquet), a woman with a vendetta against the people who assassinated her parents.

octopussyJames Bond #13: Octopussy (1983)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Rita Coolidge “All Time High”
Director: John Glen
Octopussy is the sixth film to star Roger Moore as James Bond. It is a predictably silly and slapstick late Cold War adventure that finds Bond chasing jewel smugglers and Faberge eggs in East Berlin while dressed as a circus clown. It is a mostly forgettable movie, but there was an interesting controversy in the background of the production of Octopussy. Sean Connery had signed on to reprise his role as James Bond in the non-Eon film Never Say Never Again, much to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s chagrin. The two films locked horns in competition for revenue, but ultimately Eon’s Octopussy ($187.5M) beat out Warner Bros.’s Never Say Never Again ($160M).

a_view_to_a_kill_-_uk_cinema_posterJames Bond #14: A View To A Kill (1985)
Starring: Roger Moore
Theme Song: Duran Duran “A View To A Kill”
Director: John Glen
A View To A Kill is the last Bond film to star Roger Moore. Throughout the film we become painfully aware that Roger Moore is far too old to continue playing the role of James Bond. The plot follows Zorin, a rogue microchip businessman (played by Christopher Walken) as he develops a plot to detonate bombs along the Hayward and San Andreas faults in an effort to destroy Silicon Valley. It ends in dramatic fight scene atop the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a wholly forgettable movie.

the_living_daylights_-_uk_cinema_posterJames Bond #15: The Living Daylights (1987)
Starring: Timothy Dalton
Theme Song: A-ha “The Living Daylights”
The Living Daylights is the fifteenth canonical James Bond film. It is the first of two Bond movies to star Timothy Dalton as Agent 007, following the departure of an aging Roger Moore. The Living Daylights offers a welcome change of pace – a return to Cold War espionage. The plot follows Bond in pursuit of a KGB general when he uncovers a diamond scheme and even joins the side of the Mujahideen in a dated scene for the film, and in the end he wins out over the Russians. It is an entertaining ride. The Living Daylights is not the worst Bond film, but certainly not the best.

licence to killJames Bond #16: License To Kill (1989)
Starring: Timothy Dalton
Theme Song: Gladys Knight “License To Kill”
Director: John Glen
License To Kill is a significantly darker film in contrast to the Roger Moore era of James Bond. It is the second and final Bond film to star Timothy Dalton. While the movie leaves something to be desired (and it was one of the lowest grossing Bond movies), Dalton delivers a welcome performance as a ruthless assassin, which is closer to what Ian Fleming initially had in mind for the character. The plot follows Bond seeking vengeance for a personal vendetta against an international drug dealer named Sanchez, who has viciously attacked Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, and his new bride.

GoldenEye - UK cinema poster.jpgJames Bond #17: GoldenEye (1995)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan
Theme Song: Tina Turner “GoldenEye”
Director: Martin Campbell
The first of four James Bond films to star Pierce Brosnan, Goldeneye tells the extended story of a rogue MI6 agent named Alec Trevelyan (played by Sean Bean) who betrays James Bond to exact revenge on the West for its betrayal of the Cossacks (his family), so he hijacks an old Cold War satellite weapon called a “Goldeneye” which disrupts all machinery and weaponry within its purview. He plans to stage a robbery and cause a financial meltdown throughout the West. Goldeneye was the name of Ian Fleming’s tropical home.

A man wearing an evening dress holds a gun. On his sides are a white woman in a white dress and an Asian woman in a red, sparkling dress holding a gun. On the background are monitors with scenes of the film, with two at the top showing a man wearing glasses holding a baton. On the bottom of the screen are two images of the 007 logo under the title "Tomorrow Never Dies" and the film credits.James Bond #18: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan
Theme Song: Sheryl Crow “Tomorrow Never Dies”
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Tomorrow Never Dies is the eighteenth James Bond film, and the second of four Bond pictures starring Pierce Brosnan. It was the first Bond film made after the death of famous Bond producer, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli in 1996 -his daughter Barbara Broccoli has continued the family legacy. The story is about Bond’s confrontation with a maniacal media mogul named Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce) and his efforts to orchestrate international events to gain exclusive broadcasting rights in China. Carver is aided by his mistress and former girlfriend of James Bond, Paris Carver (played by Teri Hatcher).

Poster shows a circle with Bond flanked by two women at the centre. Globs of fire and action shots from the film are below. The film's name is at the bottom.James Bond #19: The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan
Theme Song: Garbarge “The World Is Not Enough”
Director: Michael Apted
The third of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films, and the nineteenth overall film in the James Bond series, The World Is Not Enough is another cliché Bond picture from the Brosnan years. It is about an oil tycoon who is assassinated by a known terrorist and former KGB operative named “Renard” (played by Robert Carlyle). James Bond is sent to protect the late oil tycoon’s daughter, Elektra King (played by French actress, Sophie Marceau) because she had been held hostage by Renard before, but Elektra may not be as innocent as she seems. Bond unravels a plot to disrupt the global oil industry by triggering a nuclear meltdown. The title for the film is taken from the Bond family Coat of Arms created as part of the cover for 007 in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Die another Day - UK cinema poster.jpgJames Bond #20: Die Another Day (2002)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan
Theme Song: Madonna “Die Another Day”
Director: Lee Tamahori
Die Another Day is the twentieth James Bond film, and the fourth and final film starring Pierce Brosnan. The movie also famously stars Halle Barry (as “Jinx”), a well as Rosamund Pike as “Miranda Frost,” a double agent. Die Another Day uniquely portrays Bond as a captured and dishonored torture victim in North Korea, rather than a triumphant and confident hero, as he seeks to uncover the truth of a North Korean conspiracy. Bond hopes to find the mole who betrayed him (everyone at MI6 thinks Bond double-crossed the agency while in captivity in North Korea) and the trail leads him to a strange facial reconstruction project of a man he thought he had killed many years prior.

Casino_Royale_2_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #21: Casino Royale (2006)
Starring: Daniel Craig
Theme Song: Chris Cornell “You Know My Name”
Director: Martin Campbell
Casino Royale is the brilliant re-introduction of James Bond into the 21st Century. It is the twenty-first Eon Bond film and the first to feature Daniel Craig as a young James Bond, earning his license to kill, and hunting down a French and Russian gangster known as Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen). Bond risks it all and wins on a classic poker game scene, then he falls in love with a woman named Vesper Lynd (played by Eva Green) who seemingly double crosses Bond, only to bring about her own tragic demise in the end. The film answers a great deal of questions about the character of James Bond.

UK Final QuadJames Bond #22: Quantum of Solace (2008)
Starring: Daniel Craig
Theme Song: Jack White “Another Way To Die”
Director: Marc Foster
Quantum of Solace is the sequel to Casino Royale. The plot follows Bond as he seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper, which had occurred at the dramatic end of Casino Royale. The trail leads him to a double-crossing agent and an organization known as “Quantum.” One of their members, named Dominic Greene (played by French actor, Mathieu Amalric) is staging a political coup in Bolivia using a complex plot to control the nation’s water supply. In the end, Bond drops Vesper’s old necklace into the snow, symbolizing his commitment to forget Vesper and return to his work at MI6.

James Bond #23: Skyfall (2012)
Starring: Daniel Craig
Theme Song: Adele “Skyfall”
Director: Sam Mendes
Skyfall is a brilliant James Bond film, perhaps the greatest ever made. Skyfall re-introduces Bond into an era of advanced technology, with many questioning the need for “old-fashioned” now that the Cold War has long ended. At the beginning of the film an accident occurs in which Eve Money Penny accidentally shoots Bond on a train while he battles his opponent. Back at home, MI6 is under scrutiny for the incident and is facing threats of closure. Suddenly, MI6 is hacked and riddled with explosives. At the last moment, Bond returns and follows the trail which leads to Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent who was abandoned by M on a campaign many years prior. He attempted to kill himself with a cyanide capsule but it malfunctioned and grotesquely deformed his face. Silva is seeking revenge against MI6 and M. Bond conceals M and they take refuge at Bond’s family estate. Silva and his men close in on Bond culminating in a dramatic confrontation in an old cobble-stoned church, killing M (Judi Dench) as well as Silva. In the end, Money Penny formally introduces herself to Bond and a new M is brought on board.

Spectre_posterJames Bond #24: Spectre (2015)
Starring: Daniel Craig
Theme Song: Sam Smith “Writing’s On The Wall”
Director: Sam Mendes
Spectre is a sophomore follow-up to the brilliant Skyfall, also directed by Sam Mendes. The film continues the story from Skyfall as Bond receives a posthumous note from M instructing him to prevent a criminal deal in Mexico (featuring a memorable dia de los muertos scene) just as the “00” program at MI6 is facing cut-backs in favor of a new international intelligence group. The trail leads Bond to SPECTRE, an old familiar organization from the early Bond films headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz). The last time Blofeld or SPECTRE was featured was in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. It turns out that SPECTRE is behind the villains from the three previous Daniel Craig Bond films, and it is also behind the new intelligence group at MI6. Bond is captured and tortured but he explodes his watch in the face of Blofeld, causing his signature scar. In the end, Bond escapes and Blofeld is captured and arrested following a helicopter chase.

no-time-to-dieJames Bond #25: No Time To Die (2021)
Starring: Daniel Craig
Theme Song: Billie Eilish
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
The ironically titled No Time To Die, is wonderfully action-packed installment as number twenty-five in the Jame Bond franchise, however it is completely tarnished by its clownishly stupid and unnecessary ending which leaves the future of the franchise in question. Released on the heels of the global COVID-19 pandemic, No Time To Die follows James Bond as he once again emerges from retirement and discovers a dangerous nanobot virus that targets particular enemies (greenlit by MI6) but it falls into the hands of Safin (Rami Malek) a vengeful villain who seeks revenge on Blofeld and Spectre, as well as his hope to release it upon the rest of the world.  

Non-Canonical James Bond Films:

casino-royaleCasino Royale (1967)
Release Date: April 13, 1967
Directors: John Huston, Ken Hughes, Robert Parrish, Joseph McGrath, Val Guest
Studio: Columbia
Very loosely based on Ian Flemings’ inaugural James Bond novel, 1967’s Casino Royale is a silly, pitiful, chaotic, parody of the spy film genre. The production is now somewhat legendary for being complete pandemonium, with no less than five different directors, an army of script writers, an all-star cast with Woody Allen, David Niven, Orson Welles, and Peter Sellers, whose tumultuous experiences on set effectively disrupted the entire production and left us with this disjointed mess of a movie.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Ranking My Favorite Bond Films

#1 Skyfall (2012)

#2 From Russia With Love (1963)

#3 Goldfinger (1964)

#4 Dr. No (1962)

#5 Casino Royale (2006)

#6 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

#7 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

#8 GoldenEye (1995)

Ranking My Favorite Bond Actors:

#1 Sean Connery

#2 Daniel Craig

#3 George Lazenby

#4 Pierce Brosnan

#5 Timothy Dalton

#6 Roger Moore

Ranking My Favorite Bond Theme Songs

#1 Shirley Bassey “Goldfinger”

#2 Paul McCartney & Wings “Live and Let Die”

#4 Tom Munro “From Russia With Love”

#5 Adele “Skyfall”

#6 Carly Simon “Nobody Does It Better”

#7 Chris Cornell “You Know My Name”

#8 Shirley Bassey “Diamonds Are Forever”

#9 (Secondary Song) Louis Armstrong “We Have All The Time In The World”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: