“Bond, James Bond.” Is there a more iconic line in cinema? Is there a single line we’ve quoted more while trying to sound super cool? Ian Fleming’s spy has become so much more than a movie character, he’s a pop-culture touchstone. Even if you don’t know the specific films, you know his name, his number, and that he has a license to kill. But which James Bond movie is the best James Bond movie?
We all have our favorite actors and the James Bond movies we hold above others. For simplicity’s sake, we decided to leave it up to the critics and this list is based on the aggregated review rankings.
How many James Bond movies there are is a matter of some discussion. Eon has produced 24 films, soon to be 25. But there are two others often also included—1967’s spoof Casino Royale and 1985’s Never Say Never Again, which saw Sean Connery return to the role he originated in 1962. Just for kicks, we’ll include both of those in our countdown.
26. Casino Royale (1967)
- Critical Consensus: 26% Positive
It turns out, the worst-reviewed James Bond movie is also one that many people don’t consider an actual James Bond movie. Loosely, and I mean loosely, based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, 1967’s Casino Royale is a spoof of the clichés and tropes of espionage movies—many of which originated with the iconic British secret agent.
It features multiple Bonds, played by the likes of David Niven, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and many more. Plagued by production problems and a sprawling cast and script, the film has zany fun moments but is wildly uneven and self-indulgent.
25. A View to a Kill (1985)
- Critical Consensus: 35% Positive
The worst reviewed of the proper Bond films, 1985’s A View to a Kill holds a special place in my heart—not my first Bond, it was the first I saw in theaters.
Co-starring Christopher Walken and Grace Jones, this was a then-57-year-old Roger Moore’s final time playing 007, and it shows. He hardly seems interested, simply going through the motions, and the story about industrialist Max Zorin (Walken) and his plan to take over the global microchip market by flooding Silicon Valley is far-fetched, even by Bond standards. (And this is after he went to space in Moonraker.)
Like I said, I still love it, but it has major issues.
24. Octopussy (1983)
- Critical Consensus: 41% Positive
Probably the most notorious title in the James Bond canon, Octopussy is easily the most blatant when it comes to jumping the double entendre shark.
Moore’s second-to-last film in the franchise, his weariness starts to show, and they were pressing the suspension of disbelief, hard. But what the hell, it has a jewel smuggling cult, renegade Soviets, a fake Faberge egg, and the threat of nuclear war. It was super, super ‘80s. Oh yeah, there’s a scene that hinges on a ragged gorilla costume. It’s all over the board, from a convoluted plot to a tone that’s hard to nail down—are they playing it straight or is this supposed to be winking and tongue-in-cheek?
23. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
- Critical Consensus: 44% Positive
Having become the target of an assassination plot, The Man with the Golden Gun pits James Bond against one of his most evenly matched adversaries, Christopher Lee’s Francisco Scaramanga.
The reviews are pretty mixed on this one. Some claim it’s the worst Bond film, and target his female sidekick, Britt Ekland’s Mary Goodnight, as a hindrance. Hinging on the contemporary energy crisis, this was the first Bond film to lean harder into the quippy comedy that frequently pops up in Roger Moore’s run, which was not to the liking of many critics.
22. The World is Not Enough (1999)
- Critical Consensus: 52% Positive
1999’s The World is Not Enough is generally regarded as the low-point in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond tenure.
The plot revolves around an assassinated billionaire, an heiress (Sophie Marceau), and an international terrorist who can’t feel pain (Robert Carlysle). Denise Richards also plays a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones who is named that primarily for a tacked-on last-minute orgasm joke.
It tries to balance the wry comic tone of the Roger Moore movies with a darker edge, and it’s not always successful. Still, it’s fun and full of big action sequences. It may only be middle-of-the-road Bond, but you can do a lot worse.
21. Die Another Day (2002)
- Critical Consensus: 58% Positive
This is the James Bond movie that may be more known for the scene of Halle Berry walking out of the water than the film itself.
Die Another Day tries really hard to be fresh and topical, broaching subjects like North Korean dictators, gene therapy, conflict diamonds, and solar energy. It hits on some darker psychological moments, like what would become commonplace in the Daniel Craig era, and though often over-the-top, the action is strong and energetic.
However, it definitely leans more on eye candy and flashy attention grabbers than substance. But again, still a pretty damn entertaining ride.
20. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
- Critical Consensus: 57% Positive
You know what all other James Bond movies lack? Michelle Yeoh kicking all kinds of ass. The plot revolves around a global media magnet (Jonathan Pryce) who seeks to start a war between the U.S. and China to reap the benefits of the news coverage, which feels oddly timely 20-plus years later.
Yeoh plays a Chinese agent who teams up with Brosnan’s Bond to stop said global conflict. Tomorrow Never Dies also features something we hadn’t seen a lot up to this point, an earnest emotional attachment to one of 007’s female conquests (Teri Hatcher). She plays a face from his past and in a franchise full of casual sexual encounters, this one hits Bond in the feelings spots.
19. Moonraker (1979)
- Critical Consensus: 61% Positive
James Bond in space. You can imagine why Moonraker might be near and dear to our hearts. After a NASA shuttle is hijacked, Bond embarks on an adventure that takes him all over the globe, sees him tussle once again with Jaws, and involves time spent on a space station. Ludicrous, gadget heavy, and strange, it’s also occasionally thrilling, a lot of fun, and features Moore in top form.
Very, very dated from a modern point of view, it’s pure outlandish spectacle in a way we don’t often see from a James Bond movie.
18. Spectre (2015)
- Critical Consensus: 63% Positive
Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Bond, and his second straight with director Sam Mendes, Spectre is also his weakest installment. It’s not bad, but it’s very paint-by-numbers James Bond.
It opens with an all-timer action scene, one that hangs with the opening in Casino Royale, but the rest of the movie never quite lives up to that. It dusts off a lot of greatest-hits type moments, like throwing SPECTRE and Blofeld into the mix, and at 148 minutes is way, way too long.
It’s fine, and it’s still a decent James Bond movie, which is a pretty fun watch regardless. But especially coming off of Skyfall, it can’t help but be viewed as a bit of a letdown.
18. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Critical Consensus: 65% Positive
After George Lazenby’s single outing as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sean Connery jumped back into the role for Diamonds Are Forever.
The story involves some classic Bond moments, like tussling with Blofeld, impersonating a diamond smuggler, and a space laser, among others. It also features bouts of weirdness, like Bond piloting a moon buggy and out-of-place villains Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. With an extensive Vegas scene, it feels a lot less exotic than what we’re used to from the globetrotting super-agent.
16. Quantum of Solace (2008)
- Critical Consensus: 65% Positive
With Casino Royale, Daniel Craig injected new life into the James Bond franchise. The follow-up, Quantum of Solace, however, fails to measure up in many ways.
Immediately following the events of the previous film, the plot finds Bond fueled by revenge, while uncovering a plot to monopolize Bolivia’s water supply. Full of fast-paced action, many critics dinged Quantum for being overly serious and dour and for being more of a standard action movie than a “James Bond film.” A mixed bag for sure, it has the misfortune of being pinned between two of the best chapters in the saga.
15. Live and Let Die (1973)
- Critical Consensus: 66% Positive
Investigating the deaths of three MI6 agents, which all happen in quick succession, James Bond finds himself in a world of heroin, tropical dictators, and voodoo rituals.
Released in 1973, Live and Let Die features a number of hallmarks of Blacksploitation films, like pimps and gangsters. It also features the first African American Bond Girl, Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry).
The film won acclaim for its use of exotic locations and for strong action, though some derided the villains as rote and not particularly interesting. They do leave something to be desired, but at the end of the day, it’s James Bond versus Voodoo, and that’s pretty damn fun.
14. Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Critical Consensus: 67% Positive
12 years after Sean Connery reprised his role the first time in Diamonds are Forever, he did it once more in Never Say Never Again.
Though it’s based on Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball, this is the second not-really-a-James-Bond-movie. The legal battle over the rights is too long and complicated to get into here, but Eon films did not produce this film, thus its outside-of-cannon status according to many.
The story features an aging Bond pulled back into service to find two nuclear weapons stolen by SPECTRE. Contemporary critics praised the over-the-hill hero aspect of the film, a more human element than other installments, and called it one of the best of the bunch. More modern reviews, however, generally take a different stance, saying it’s one of the weakest.
13. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- Critical Consensus: 71% Positive
After James Bond’s journey to space in Moonraker, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only kept things fare more Earth-bound. Roger Moore’s fifth Bond film, the super spy is assigned to locate a missing espionage vessel and keep cutting edge weapons encryption technology from falling into nefarious hands. In true not-so-subtle Bond form, the tech’s acronym is ATAC.
Critics noted that while the action was solid, the bits stitching those sequences together is a bit on the thin side. More modern reviews, however, have been more kind, celebrating it for hearkening back to the Sean Connery era of James Bond.
12. The Living Daylights (1987)
- Critical Consensus: 72% Positive
Timothy Dalton’s time as Bond gets a bad rap in many circles, but while his James Bond movies are often cheesy and silly, he’s better than he often gets credit for.
A kind of proto-Daniel Craig, Dalton’s Bond is something of a course correction from the sly quippy cartoon Roger Moore had become. We start to see a darker, more self-reflexive version of the character rather than the dashing, shallow playboy. Dalton’s first time in the role sees him battling KGB agents, protecting a beautiful cello player, and generally saving the world.
11. You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Critical Consensus: 73% Positive
Ninjas, spaceships, and secret lairs, You Only Live Twice has damn near everything you could want out of a movie. Throw James Bond into the mix and you’ve got something.
Some elements, like Bond going undercover as a Japanese fisherman, have not aged super well, but the film walks the line between near-self-caricature and total awesomeness in a really fun way. It has a good, if underutilized, villain, and though it pushes the bounds of absurdity, this is still a damn fine time.
10. License to Kill (1989)
- Critical Consensus: 76% Positive
James Bond has long had a license to kill, but it took us until 1989 for us to get a movie of that same name.
The story even revolves around the titular item, primarily M revoking Bond’s authorization to murder people. Going rogue, the spy embarks on an unsanctioned mission of revenge against a drug lord who targets his BFF, Felix Leiter, and his wife.
Timothy Dalton’s second and final turn in the role, License to Kill doubles down on the darker, grittier tone, which didn’t sit well with some critics and audiences—looking back, it’s hard not to see this take as ahead of its time.
9. GoldenEye (1995)
- Critical Consensus: 78% Positive
Pierce Brosnan’s first go-round as James Bond, GoldenEye is also considered by most to be his best offering in the role.
A ghost from Bond’s past comes back to haunt him. In the 1990s, electromagnetic pulse weapons were all the rage, and this is the James Bond franchise’s attempt to be timely on that front. This brings 007 into the current (at the time) world. He’s more tech-savvy than before, less of an overt misogynist, and though he’s still the urbane, worldly super-spy, this incarnation also feels a bit more like a real, complete human being with feelings and emotions and that sort of psychological complexity.
8. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- Critical Consensus: 79% Positive
According to movies, especially James Bond movies, the late 1970s and early ‘80s was prime time for bad guys hijacking nuclear weapons. The Spy Who Loved Me has perhaps the most Bond villain ever, a reclusive megalomaniac who steals nuclear submarines and wants to kick off World War III and start a new civilization underwater.
Yeah, it’s pretty fantastic. And we haven’t even mentioned the inclusion of a character named Agent XXX or the fact that it introduced us to Richard Kiel’s heavy Jaws. Roger Moore claims it’s his favorite Bond film, and many critics also hold it as one of the best of his lengthy run. And yes, there is a submarine car.
7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
- Critical Consensus: 80% Positive
George Lazenby only played James Bond for one movie, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but it certainly left an impression.
Sure, 007 has to once again tangle with Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas this time around), but the movie may be most known as the one where James Bond gets married only to *spoiler* lose his wife to an assassin. It shows an emotional, romantic side of James Bond we don’t often see, giving him an air of both cynicism and tragedy.
Critics praised the film and it’s only grown in estimation over the years, even being voted by fans as the greatest James Bond movie.
6. Thunderball (1965)
- Critical Consensus: 88% Positive
Again with the weapons of mass destruction. This time around, James Bond has to go to the Bahamas to retrieve a pair of warheads stolen by the fiends at SPECTRE.
Connery operates near the peak of his considerable charm and charisma, there’s a great femme fatale, and strong action sequences, including a banger of an underwater scene. The pace wavers a bit here and there, and it’s a touch overlong, but that doesn’t make the other elements more than compensate for Thunderball’s shortcomings. And, you know, we’re suckers for a good jetpack.
5. Skyfall (2012)
- Critical Consensus: 92% Positive
With a global box office take north of $1 billion, 2012’s Skyfall is not only the highest-grossing James Bond movie, it’s also one of the best James Bond movie.
Bond must track down a madman (Javier Bardem) bent on destroying MI6, and specifically Judi Dench’s M. Along the way, the plot digs into the shadowy spy’s past like never before, stripping him down both mentally and physically and laying him bare.
The most intimate, personal Bond film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this is also a gorgeous film from Academy Award-winners director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. It re-set the bar for what a James Bond movie can achieve.
4. From Russia With Love (1964)
- Critical Consensus: 95% Positive
The second James Bond movie, From Russia With Love, finds 007 involved in an assassination attempt and trying to track down an encryption device, and wooing a lovely lady. A sharp, brisk Cold War espionage thriller, this is also where Connery’s Bond becomes the character we know. It features gadgets and gizmos, Bond being smooth and suave, and kickass action, and there’s none of the bloated absurdity that plague some of the later installments.
Bond hadn’t yet become the cultural phenomenon he would, so it feels grounded and fresh in a way some of the later films don’t. It also skews closer to the Ian Fleming source material than many.
3. Dr. No (1962)
- Critical Consensus: 95% Positive
Of course, the first Bond film has to be close to the top of the list. Dr. No is the one that started it all and introduced the world to a character who would thrill us for almost 60 years running.
While he tracks down a missing colleague and searches for the cause behind disruptions in the space program, the film gives us many of the franchise beats that would become iconic. There’s killer action, beautiful love interests, intrigue, espionage, and James Bond being cool as all hell.
Critically panned on release for being silly and violent and vulgar, it was a huge box office hit, kicked off a global phenomenon of spy movies, and has become heralded as one of the best in the franchise.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
- Critical Consensus: 95% Positive
Daniel Craig’s first time playing Bond basically reinvented how we look at the legendary international man of mystery (And the fact that he’s blond caused quite the ruckus).
This version of the iconic spy is suave and sophisticated, but he’s also dark and vicious and brutal in a way we’d never seen before. This version skews gritty and violent, more akin to the character in the books, and displays many of the less-than-ideal characteristics and personality traits a person would need to really do this job. And it’s a banger of an action movie. The early chase scene in Uganda is one of the high points of the franchise, and given its history, that’s saying something.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
- Critical Consensus: 97% Positive
And sitting in the number one slot as the best James Bond movie we have Goldfinger. Yes, the one about a wealthy gold dealer who kills people by painting them.
While on a well-earned vacation, Bond foils a card cheat only to become embroiled in a far-reaching plot that involves smuggling and plans to rob Fort Knox. We get classics like Oddjob, the vicious, near-silent henchman, and the most Bond-Girl-name ever, Pussy Galore.
After the success of the first two films, this one had a much higher budget and made use of it. Much like the Fast and Furious movies, though many called it ridiculous, many also hailed as funny, exciting, tense, and one of Connery’s best turns as the legendary martini enthusiast. One review even called it “garbage from the gods,” aka, a massive popcorn spectacle.
James Bond Trivia
Halle Berry Nearly Died Filming Die Another Day
Halle Berry was one of the real highlights of James Bond’s Die Another Day. At one point during the movie her character is supposed to do a sexy love scene with Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond involving a fig… and it almost killed her.
As Berry tells, “I am supposed to be trying to be all sexy with a fig — and then I end up choking on it.” Luckily Brosnan was on the alert and he leaped up “And he had to get up and do the Heimlich [maneuver].”
As you’d imagine anyone would be when someone saves their life, Halle has nothing but good vibes for Pierce Brosnan as a result. She says, “So not sexy, so not sexy. James Bond knows how to Heimlich. He was there for me and he will always be one of my favorite people in the whole world.”
Watch the full Tonight Show interview where she talks about her Die Another Day experience below…