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The best James Bond movies according to the experts and its biggest fans

Mark O'Connell
·12-min read

Watch: The best James Bond films according to experts

Favourite James Bond movies are like a favourite 007: everyone has one. And nothing is more contentious and personal than your best Bond movie.

So, as Bond continues his extended leave until No Time to Die is fired at the world’s movie screens, we ask top 007 alumni and the world’s movie fans to determine which Bond movie diamond never dies.

Thirty or so Bond actors, authors, commentators, academics, and creatives provided their Top Five Bond movies.

Bond villains, Bond girls, stunt drivers, costume designers, scholars, superfans and more have cast their vote. (Getty/Eon/MGM)
Bond villains, Bond girls, stunt drivers, costume designers, scholars, superfans and more have cast their vote. (Getty/Eon/MGM)

Read more: 16 actors who could be the next James Bond

Immediately, the gathered 007 alumni had no qualms straying from the expected – as favourites are often different from bests, and new and nostalgic pleasures brilliantly override the classics.

The best James Bond film according to its scholars

Australian actor George Lazenby and American Telly Savalas on the set of On Her Majesty Secret Service, directed by British Peter R. Hunt. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Australian actor George Lazenby and American Telly Savalas on the set of On Her Majesty Secret Service, directed by British Peter R. Hunt. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

  2. Goldfinger (1964)

  3. Casino Royale (2006)

  4. From Russia With Love (1963)

  5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

With OHMSS seated on top, the best five Bond movies according to the experts were subsequently Goldfinger, Casino Royale, From Russia with Love and The Spy Who Loved Me. It was only right that a new era Bond film made that cut with Daniel Craig’s 2006 debut.

Slideshow: The Top 5 007 films of our experts in pictures

However, remember that best Bond films are always a contentious discussion. In wanting to also include Bond and movie fans from social media platforms, the voting opened out to social media and fan forum corridors bringing to the Bond polling booths over 2,200 votes in total.

And that is where the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. cat really dropped into the Bond pigeons.

Actors Roger Moore and Richard Kiel on the set of "The Spy Who Loved Me". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actors Roger Moore and Richard Kiel on the set of "The Spy Who Loved Me". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Whilst the final top five still curiously included – from second spot – Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldfinger, an altogether different title dominated the final winner’s podium.

It is a film that encouragingly suggests that – not only is the regard still there for the founding titles of Bond cinema – it advocates too how newer titles and eras have also brought in younger fans and younger favourites. And that Spectre (2015) is the least favourite 007 film, followed by Quantum of Solace (2008) and Die Another Day (2002).

Slideshow: The best James Bond films in pictures

So, the top 007 film watching from the Bond shadows as a child is GoldenEye (1995).

Irish actor Pierce Brosnan as 007 in the James Bond film 'GoldenEye', 1995. (Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)
Irish actor Pierce Brosnan as 007 in the James Bond film 'GoldenEye', 1995. (Photo by Keith Hamshere/Getty Images)

The best James Bond film according to scholars AND superfans

  1. GoldenEye (1995)

  2. Casino Royale (2006)

  3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

  4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

  5. Goldfinger (1964)

  6. The Living Daylights (1987)

  7. From Russia With Love (1963)

  8. Skyfall (2012)

  9. Licence To Kill (1989)

  10. Live and Let Die (1973)

  11. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

  12. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

  13. Moonraker (1979)

  14. You Only Live Twice (1967)

  15. Thunderball (1965)

  16. Octopussy (1985)

  17. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

  18. A View To A Kill (1985)

  19. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

  20. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

  21. Dr. No (1962)

  22. Die Another Day (2002)

  23. Quantum of Solace (2008)

  24. Spectre (2015)

With the film receiving good online love for its recent silver anniversary and cast watch-alongs, Matthew Field (co-author, Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films) surmises how “the 17th James Bond film represented the ‘GoldenEye generation’ – rejuvenating the franchise for the 1990s with style, wit, and a measure of Cool Britannia”.

Whilst a 1995 film is no longer a Bond newbie, GoldenEye is massively key to the ongoing fandom of 007 – as is its second-place sibling, Casino Royale. And there were no volcano-sized gaps in the rankings. The almost even spread of final voting suggested an almost even love for a great many chapters in that 007 registry.

Read more: The troubled timeline of Bond 25

Both GoldenEye and Royale being in the final top five greatly underline that Bond only ever moves forwards, new classics can still be forged, the best Bond film may not be made yet, and that every Bond film – whether it is the tough bullion of Goldfinger or the retro-joy of A View to a Kill - is always someone’s favourite.

So, what is actually wrong with a Quantum of Solace?!

What the experts said

Stunt driver Ben Collins sits in one of the Aston Martin DBS cars that he used in the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" at the press preview for the exhibition "Bond in Motion" at the London Film Museum in central London on March 18, 2014. Including the iconic vhicles from the action franchise including the "Wet Nellie" Lotus Esprit S1 from "The Spy Who Loved Me" to Auric Goldfinger's Rolls Royce from "Goldfinger", the exhibition opens to the public on March 21. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal        (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Stunt driver Ben Collins sits in one of the Aston Martin DBS cars that he used in the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace", 2014 (LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’ve watched A View to a Kill a million times”, says Bond stunt driver Ben Collins (author, Aston Martin – Made in Britain), “and I still love the soundtrack, the opening scene, the perfect car chase and the psychotic villain.”

This Bond commentator wholeheartedly agrees about director John Glen’s 1985 microchip actioner; and shares the 1980s Bond love with retro movie observers Oliver Harper (Oliver’s Retrospectives) and John Rain (Thunderbook: The World of Bond According to Smersh Pod).

Harper notes it is 1989’s Licence to Kill which is actually “the best of John Glen’s movies behind the camera with a hard-edged version of 007 that took itself very seriously”. Rain adds, “while my head tells me The Spy Who Loved Me is the best Bond film, my heart will always be with Tim and his angry mission of revenge.”

British actor Timothy Dalton and American actress Carey Lowell on the set of Licence to Kill, directed by John Glen. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
British actor Timothy Dalton and American actress Carey Lowell on the set of Licence to Kill, directed by John Glen. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Joining film critic James King (official No Time to Die podcast), 007 costume designer Jany Temime (Spectre, Black Widow) naturally picks Skyfall as her top pick (she costumed Craig’s 2012 opus).

And actor Trina Parks cannot resist her own Diamonds are Forever (1971) – a pick echoed by film historian Llewella Chapman (author, Fashioning James Bond – Costume, Gender & Identity in the World of 007) who loves how “Blofeld’s cat even gets in the fashion action with a diamond-studded choker in a Bond which is at its frivolous and fashionable best.”

LAS VEGAS, USA - MAY 01:  Scottish actor Sean Connery and actress Trina Parks on the set of the James Bond film 'Diamonds Are Forever' on May 1, 1971 in Las Vegas, USA. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Sean Connery and actress Trina Parks on the set of the James Bond film 'Diamonds Are Forever' on May 1, 1971 (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

However, according to author Matthew Parker (Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born), its follow-up Live and Let Die (1973) is “based on the best novel and succeeds in being exciting without taking itself too seriously.”

VFX producer (and assistant to title-design legend, Maurice Binder) Alan Church concurs as “the villains, the script, Roger and the titles just blew me away”. Meanwhile, screenwriter Steve Bailie (Deutschland 89) loves fellow 1970s Bond caper The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) for its “perfect blend of action, humour, and outlandish escapism. Barbara Bach willingly joins in on the joke, Jaws is simultaneously terrifying and funny, and the Lotus deserves a comeback someday”.

Already, we can see our hearts and our heads can have gloriously divergent Bond films. Despite being the title where he brilliantly plays vicious villain Franz Sanchez, actor Robert Davi cites his own Licence to Kill as his third best.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - 1988:  Actor Robert Davi poses on Sunset Blvd during a 1988 West Hollywood, California, photo portrait session. Davi plays a Colombian drug lord in the 1989 James Bond movie "Licence to Kill." (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
Robert Davi poses on Sunset Blvd, 1988. Davi plays a Colombian drug lord in the 1989 James Bond movie Licence to Kill. (George Rose/Getty Images)

Instead, Davi echoes many Bond voices with his top love for that midas touch of a classic, Goldfinger (1964). “The film beautifully balances the essence of what audiences anticipate from what has become the most successful series in the history of cinema”, Davi astutely ponders, “…with a James Bond who is believably mercurial, able to portray a sense of danger, charm, sexual prowess, intelligence, and ambiguity.”

Read more: Why James Bond endures

It is a sentiment endorsed by motoring journalist Jason Barlow (Bond Cars – The Definitive History) who knows how the film ‘reverberates with Sixties cool just as the decade was really starting to swing’. Variety’s Jon Burlingame (The Music of James Bond) reminds how “John Barry often said this film cemented the formula – the style, the look, the balance of story and action and humour”, which entertainment journalist Paul Simper (Pop Stars in my Pantry) calls a “24 carat style with an effortless Connery in his post-Hitchcock skin intoxicatingly driven by John Barry peaking for the first time in the series”.

Actors Gert Frobe, Sean Connery and actress Honor Blackman on the set of "Goldfinger". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actors Gert Frobe, Sean Connery and actress Honor Blackman on the set of "Goldfinger". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Academic and author Monica Germana (Bond Girls - Body, Fashion & Gender) says the gilded Goldfinger has it all, as well as “the campest Bond – remember the blue towel playsuit – the most memorable Bond girl death and a queer Bond girl who gives Bond a tough time”.

Mark Millar (Netflix division president and creator of Kingsman – The Secret Service) is similarly glowing and – like all Bond fans tasked with this one – is torn. “Moore is my favourite Bond,” Millar notes, “but Connery is a close second and Goldfinger…provided the template for all future Bonds and all future action movies.”

Yet, there are other perpetual Bond mainstays when it comes to top 007 entries. Bond commentator Ajay Chowdhury (co-author, Some Kind Of Hero: The Remarkable Story Of The James Bond Films) goes there with the first Bond movie, Dr. No (1962), *that* bikini and how “the late, great Sir Sean Connery prowls like a sated leopard – refined yet raw.”

Mark Gatiss attending the UK premiere of The Favourite at the BFI Southbank for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (Photo by David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)
Mark Gatiss attending the UK premiere of The Favourite (David Parry/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Bond alumni’s respect for the sophomore Bond movie is even more marked. Actor and writer Mark Gatiss (The Father, Dracula) cites the second Bond film From Russia with Love (1963) as “a proper spy movie, drenched in atmosphere and glamour, but still low key enough not to feel part of a franchise”.

Bond collector and artist Reuben Wakeman agrees: “a true Bond thriller that oozes class, from the story to the score to the outstanding cast…and it really does bridge between the Fleming and the filmic Bonds”. Bond historian John Cork (co-author, The James Bond Legacy) feels From Russia “is the film that decoded the James Bond mythos, and the one that found the perfect balance between wit and suspense.”

Historian and author Andrew Lycett (Ian Fleming: The Man Who Create James Bond) puts that down to “the vision of 007’s original creator, Ian Fleming” and how the “tension, character, flair and glamour are all the ingredients of the Fleming sweep”.

Daniela Bianchi ,Sean Connery and Robert Shaw sitting at a dining table together in a scene from the film 'James Bond: From Russia With Love', 1963. (Photo by United Artist/Getty Images)
Daniela Bianchi ,Sean Connery and Robert Shaw sitting at a dining table together in a scene from the film 'James Bond: From Russia With Love', 1963. (Photo by United Artist/Getty Images)

With its “real tension and menace in the marvellous trio of villains”, espionage historian and spy novelist Jeremy Duns (The Times) proudly holds the film aloft too. As does Bond novelist Raymond Benson (Zero Minus Ten, The Facts of Death) whose insight taking the literary Bond forward lends him coy credence when it comes to the golden 007 pictures. “From Russia with Love represents to me the early 1960s vibe that is essential to Bond”, Benson asserts – with a Fleming adaptation that works ‘extremely well’ and a “rawness that exhibits the EON team’s creativity firing on all cylinders”.

That golden age esteem for From Russia with Love and Goldfinger is often joined by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – which was easily the top film for our Bond minds. James Page from Bond fan website MI6 pitches how “happy endings are for fairy tales. OHMSS is for those who have lived, loved, and lost. Perfection.”

British actress Diana Rigg and Australian actor George Lazenby on the set of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, directed by British Peter R. Hunt. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
British actress Diana Rigg and Australian actor George Lazenby on the set of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, directed by British Peter R. Hunt. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

TV writer and author Martin Sterling (Martinis, Girls & Guns) agrees. ‘Pure Fleming. Best script’, Sterling enthuses, “Action sequences that stand up fifty years later. And James Bond marries Emma Peel. It doesn’t get much better than that”.

Young Bond author Steve Cole (Shoot To Kill, Heads You Die) believes it is all down to ‘an energy and clout to the action scenes that Bond movies have seldom bettered’ and how ‘in Diana Rigg we had the perfect Bond girl’. George Lazenby’s manager Anders Frejdh (From Sweden with Love website) naturally agrees, citing too how “Lazenby’s brave performance benefits from the best story and truest film the Ian Fleming source novel”.

Dr. Lisa Funnell (American professor of gender and feminism) suggests the reason for the inclusion of Casino Royale (2006) is its “cohesive narrative, compelling performances, stunning cinematography, and an emotive score”. Author Mark Edlitz (The Lost Adventures Of James Bond) agrees and adds how “there is no Q, no Moneypenny, no quips, and no martini, shaken or served otherwise. Yet without frustrating the audiences, the film is ultimately more rewarding”.

Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (Credit: MGM/Sony)
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (Credit: MGM/Sony)

Remmert Van Braam (Bond Lifestyle website) echoes the next generation of Bond fandom’s loyalty to Craig’s 2006 gamechanger: “Casino Royale is a fantastic Bond film with a great story and perfect mix of tense action and emotional scenes”.

A massive thanks to all the contributors.

Watch a trailer for No Time To Die