Question of the week: what’s your favourite Bond movie and why?

This is a question I was mulling over the weekend. Most “what’s your favourite…?” Bond questions are inevitably about your favourite actor to play James Bond; the movie’s themselves seem to be after-thoughts, mere vehicles for the characters rather than movies in their own rights.

Which isn’t fair to the talented movie makers who made them. So let’s sort that out. Tell me your favourite Bond movie and why it’s your favourite. To help, here’s the list of all of them in (more or less) chronological order, followed by my choice of best Bond movie.

Canon

Sean Connery

  • Dr No (1962)
  • From Russia with Love (1963)
  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Thunderball (1965)
  • You Only Live Twice (1967)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

George Lazenby

  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Roger Moore

  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • Moonraker (1979)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • A View to a Kill (1985)

Timothy Dalton

  • The Living Daylights (1987)
  • Licence to Kill (1989)

Pierce Brosnan

  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • The World Is Not Enough (1999)
  • Die Another Day (2002)

Daniel Craig

  • Casino Royale (2006)
  • Quantum of Solace (2008)
  • Skyfall (2012)
  • Spectre (2015)

Not canon

  • Casino Royale (1967)
  • Never Say Never Again (1983)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

As a rule, I think Roger Moore is probably the worst of the James Bonds. While he was perfect in The Saint as a gentleman thief, he’s just implausible as a spy and his performances err towards pastiche.

The big exception to this rule is his performance in The Spy Who Loved Me. Here, while there’s still some of the trademark humour of his era – beyond Moore’s own smirks, there’s the steel-toothed Jaws as his implacable adversary – the movie is very much an attempt to recreate some of the grittier aspects of the Sean Connery period and all kudos to him, Moore does a great job with it.

I won’t do a massive hymn of praise to the movie, but it is notable for having:

  • A Bond girl (Barbara Bach) who can hold her own and has her own motivations and story that are as important as Bond’s
  • Some of the best stunt scenes, notably the opening skiing scene
  • The best Bond car – the Lotus Esprit – which can go underwater!
  • A great, almost plausible Bond villain (Curd Jürgens)
  • Some of the best locations (Egypt, Italy, the Bahamas)
  • One of the best theme songs (Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better)

But there’s also an attempt to make James Bond a real person again. There are references to the death of his wife in On His Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). He finally has a service record, having been a commander on the HMS Ark Royal. And there are some decently introspective conversations with Bach, a KGB spy, about the nature of their work and Bond’s attitude towards to it.

Now, let me know your favourite.

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