Well everyone, we’ve done it. We’re at the end of our Bondathon. We’ve journeyed through the 24 canonical films in the EON franchise, one insane Sean Connery knock-off, a parody, a weird televised artifact, some comics, and a book. And now, there’s one last thing I want to do. I want to geek the holy hell out and just start to rank some stuff. Because despite yammering approximately 60,000 words about James Bond this month I can still talk about the guy. Because I love James Bond. I really do. I feel like that’s pretty evident, due to the fact I spent the last month talking about the character, but I feel like I can never properly explain what the character means. Yeah, he’s just a pulpy spy, but clearly there’s something so much more to him. James Bond has survived for more than half a century. He’s outlived the Cold War. And he still sticks around. You could chock it up to the fact that Hollywood never likes to throw away a good idea, and that it’s easier to churn out a series of films rather than come up with new one, but I think it has to be much more than that. Bond has survived massive changes in popular culture, in fiction, and in storytelling in general, and he’s survived. He’s a classic hero, a valiant knight fighting for Queen and Country. The old saying, which is fairly non-inclusive anymore, was that he was the man every man wanted to be, and the man every woman wanted. And there’s something to that. James Bond is an ultimate fantasy, the pinnacle of an outdated opinion on masculinity. He’s tough, he’s handsome, he can fight, he’s a prolific lover, he journeys all around the world, and he does the right thing. For all the problematic aspects of Bond’s character, he’s a real hero. His whole life is focused on saving people. True, it’s his job, but Bond never stops at anything if it means he can save people, and the world. He’s a valiant hero, a mythological figure. So, enough preamble. Let’s get down to business.
I want to begin this task by probably the most obvious starting point. Talking about the six men who have portrayed Bond on the silver screen. Sorry Barry Nelson and all the random people from Casino Royale, I don’t care about you. We’re just going with the six men that you’d imagine we’d be talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed all six of these performances, but I still think that it’s pretty easy to place them in preference.
6. Pierce Brosnan
Aw, sorry Pierce. Once again, I have nothing against his Bond or anything, and I certainly give him some leniency due to the fact that he was my first Bond, but I can’t deny the fact that he’s my least favorite. And I think the primary reason for this is that Brosnan just didn’t have anything special to his portrayal. Yeah, the films that he starred in were more miss than hit, but I think the biggest problem with Pierce was the fact that he was an amalgam of everything that came before him. He cracked jokes like Moore, he had Connery’s ferocity, he could use Dalton’s intensity, and he could even draw on Lazenby’s tender side. But, despite all of that, there’s nothing that I can really describe Brosnan’s portrayal as. He was just playing James Bond. The baseline of a a Bond performance. Nothing terrible, but nothing special either. Seems like a very charming man, but by and large his Bond just kind of comes across as neutral.
5. George Lazenby
Yeah, I feel like most people would probably put George at the very bottom of the list. And I did consider that. Primarily due to the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of work to appraise. Only turning in one film, and not even giving a particularly great performance, Lazenby is certainly an oddity as far as the Bond franchise goes. But I think his standing is seriously helped by just how great a film he was placed in. Lazenby wasn’t the best actor in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but there is an effortless charm about him that works for me. He’s fun and his romance with Tracy is one of the better realized relationships in the franchise.
4. Roger Moore
I don’t think any Bond has vacillated more in my esteem than the late, great Roger Moore. When I first got into the Bond franchise Moore was easily my least favorite. After reading the Fleming novels I couldn’t believe that they were calling this character James Bond. He’s so radically different from what I thought a Bond should be. He was silly, campy, and seemed to be taking everything like a joke. Which bugged me when I was a teenager and was sure that only deadly serious things deserved to be respected. And yet, as time has gone on, I’ve come around on Roger. He’s certainly not what I prefer my Bond’s to be, but similarly to Adam West’s take on Batman, he works for me. He’s a fun-loving hero who just wants to help people. And sometimes what you need in your life is a more light-hearted Bond to have a fun time with.
3. Timothy Dalton
At this point of the list, the Bond’s are all basically neck and neck. I love these final three actors almost equally, and they’re the portrayals that I envision when thinking or reading about Bond. And, really, I think the only reason that Dalton is the lowest of the three is the fact that he only got two movies, so there’s not as much work to judge him by. But, what little there is, I adore. I know that people sometimes find Dalton to be a little too cold, too much of a weird killer. But I see those aspects and completely recognize Fleming’s creation. This is how I see the literary character of James Bond. A barely contained bottle of rage that functions as a living weapon that just needs to be pointed in the direction of an enemy.
2. Daniel Craig
This one is actually really hard. I thought for quite some time about who I prefer, Craig or Connery. And, in the end I gave Connery the top spot, more from historical importance than anything else. Because these two actors are putting in two very different performances, but the two that I most think of as Bond. Craig is probably the best actor to play Bond, and the fact that he’s been the most character-driven Bond yet definitely helps. This is a Bond with multitudes, a Bond who has shown us his light-side, and his dark-side. Craig has given us a Bond who is a thoroughly broken person. who we see shattered at the death and betrayal of Vesper Lynd, and who has now resigned himself to a life of serving for others, giving up his life so that others may be safe. Who knows if we’ve seen the last of Craig’s Bond yet, and while I certainly would love to see him get one more chance at bat to end on a serious high-note, I’ll always appreciate what we’ve gotten.
1. Sean Connery
I mean, duh, right? How could it be anyone else but Sean? From the first moment that he uttered the immortal “Bond…James Bond” in Dr. No Connery birthed a legacy that would last far longer than anyone, especially him, could have imagined. Connery laid the groundwork for a what a Bond should be, and despite some spotty performances in the back half of his tenure, when Connery is good he’s very good. Connery defined the genre, the character, and masculinity for decades to come. He’s charming, brutal, funny, and brooding. He’s everything that you want from the character of James Bond. Every performance after Connery’s owes something to him, even if it’s how much they’re trying to differentiate themselves from him. When we think of Bond, we think of Connery. And there’s good reason for that.
THE BOND GIRLS
You know, when I was first sitting down and compiling these lists and ranking I wouldn’t have imagined that the hardest one to figure out what the Bond Girl category. And unfortunately, it’s not because there were so many terrific candidates. Because boy oh boy are the female characters in these movies underserved. But, I think I managed to decide upon my six favorite love interests that Bond has had throughout his tenure.
5. Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko)
I know people don’t hold Quantum of Solace in very high regard, but as I expounded in my article, I think it’s highly unappreciated. And one of the aspects that most interests me about the film is how it treated its female lead, Camille Montes. Because she wasn’t really a love interest. Both Camille and Bond were dealing with some terrible past events in their lives, and they ended up finding comfort with each other, but more as friends and colleagues than lovers. She turns Bond down at the end of the film, recognizing the fact that they’re both a little too broken at the moment, and that getting romantically involved with each other would just hurt themselves. Camille is a tough, competent, and smart character who is able to hold her own, and gives Bond advice and friendship when he needed it most.
4. Solitaire (Jane Seymour)
Once again, I know that Live and Let Die is held in some strange esteem among fans of the series, but it’s one of my favorite and most watched entries to the Bond franchise. And in a movie filled with near incomprehensible and bizarre aspects, the inclusion of Solitaire is one of the most confounding. Because Solitaire is a legitimate psychic! She has supernatural powers, and uses them to help run a heroin empire! Well, until she meets James Bond, and he steals her magical gift by sleeping with her. Yeah, there’s not a whole lot to Solitaire, but for some reason I find her incredibly fascinating, possibly just because of how incredibly odd the fact that she’s a psychic is.
3. Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell)
Yeah, this may be another weird choice. But when I was winding my way through the filmography of the Bond franchise I found myself really clicking with Pam Bouvier from License to Kill. She’s another in a long line of Bond Girls who are fellow intelligence agents, tasked with helping Bond, but unlike a majority of them Pam actually is beneficial to the plot. Bond doesn’t have to spend the whole movie trying to save her, she can take care of herself. Pam and Dalton’s Bond have a very flirtatious relationship, but they also made for a great team.
2. Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg)
Similarly to the Bond category, there were two choices for my favorite Bond Girl that I knew would make it to the top. Because how could I not include the Bond Girl who married Bond? Tracy is one of my favorite Bond character of all time, and while there are certainly some aspects of her character that feel like they could have been fleshed out more, it’s hard to debate how important she is. The task of being a Bond Girl who you can buy captivates Bond so much that he decides to propose is pretty hard, but with Tracy you buy it. She’s a true challenge to Bond, a woman who can keep up with him, and make him strive to be a better person. Her tragic death helps solidify her as Bond’s greatest failure, and a grim legacy to remind him why he does what he does, and a reminder that he can never be happy.
1. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)
C’mon, who else could it have been? Tracy and Vesper were probably the only two Bond Girls that he ever actually loved, and while both of their stories ended in tragedy, it was Vesper who left the biggest mark on him. Because the entire arc of Bond’s character in the remainder of the Craig era revolved around him coming to terms with his failing Vesper. Eva Green and Daniel Craig had tremendous chemistry, and you really and truly buy the romance that grows between them. Vesper Lynd is the character who finally was able to pierce Bond’s armor, to get to the heart of him, and he spends the rest of the Craig years trying to patch that damage, and move on from her.
For the most part James Bond doesn’t go through a lot of change during his movies. He’s kind of a constant, a character you could set your watch by. So the real draw of a Bond movie is often the villain. They’re the fresh face, the new character that’s going to cause the plot to progress. And they’re often the most interesting character in the film. I absolutely love villains, and the Bond franchise has some of the best villains of all time in them. Now, I’m just going to say this right now, Blofeld isn’t on this list. I’m not the biggest Blofeld fan in the world, and since he’s so radically different in every single appearance, I felt like it was hard to decide which one should have been the winner of the contest. So, in a way the fact that they kept putting Blofeld in these movies kind of split the vote, and caused his many forms to just drop below the threshold. But that’s okay, because I have five other fascinating villains to talk about.
5. Elektra King (Sophie Marceau)
I talked about Elektra at length during my World is Not Enough article, but I really can’t get over how much more she’s raised in my esteem during this project. The fact that she’s the only real female villain the film series has had (I feel like Rosa Klebb is a henchwoman at best) is kind of ridiculous, but Marceau kills it in this role. The twist of having the woman who is set up to be the Bond Girl be revealed to be the mastermind behind the chaos in the film is great, and seeing Bond match wits with a woman who always seems one step ahead of him is really fun to see.
4. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen)
There’s a lot to be said with what Mads Mikkelsen accomplishes while doing so little. Compared to most of the other villains in the Bond franchise, Le Chiffre doesn’t really accomplish that much. For most of the film he’s simply sitting across a poker table with Bond. And yet, he’s one of the most menacing and fascinating villains in the whole series. Mikkelsen gives Le Chiffre a serious sense of menace, having every single word he utters drip with evil and malice.
3. Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean)
A Bond villain trope that keeps coming back is the idea of an evil James Bond. We’re shown that Bond is the most competent human on Earth, so sometimes it can feel a little unfair watching him go after some fat old industrialist who wants to live under the ocean. But the idea of having Bond spar with an evil version of himself is a great way to fix that. And Alec Trevelyan, the former 006, is one of the best examples of this idea. Having Bond face against a man with the same training as him, and who knows him better than anyone else, makes for a terrific story. Alec becomes a dark mirror, reflecting everything bad about Bond, and showing him a different path his life could have gone down.
2. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe)
Hey, speaking of fat old industrialists, let’s talk about Goldfinger! Despite some wavering feelings I have towards the film Goldfinger, it’s hard not to deny how fantastic a villain Goldfinger himself is. Playing several sides against themselves, and looking out only for himself, Goldfinger is a joyously evil villain, just trying to screw everyone over. Plus, he features in one of the greatest Bond moments of all time. That dialogue Goldfinger and Bond engage in with the laser is the Bond franchise as its greatest, and I love everything about it. Goldfinger may not be the most intimidating and imposing villain, but he loves who he is, and so do I.
1. Red Grant (Robert Shaw)
Yep, there was never any contest for this one for me. Red Grant has almost always been my favorite Bond villain, and I see no signs of that stopping. Like I said with Alec Trevelyan, the ides of an evil James Bond is one that keeps floating back to the franchise, and it all starts here. Grant is as deadly as Bond, and manages to hunt him down throughout From Russia With Love, proving that he’s just as good as Bond. Except for wine selection. That was his big downfall. His showdown with Bond, and the ensuing fight in the train, is the Bond franchise at it’s peak, and I love everything about Red Grant.
As fun as the villains are in the Bond franchise, there’s another tier of adversaries that Bond frequently has to be put up against. The Henchmen. And they’re the best. The villains often have weird attributes that make them weird characters, but the henchmen are absolutely overflowing with weird character choices. They come in all shapes and sizes, the attempt to kill Bond with incredibly strange methods, and they often become some of the most memorable features of Bond movies.
5. Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista)
There wasn’t a whole lot about Spectre that stood out for me, becoming one of the most forgettable entries to the franchise. But one of the things that really did stand out about it to me was the strangely stoic and hulking heavy-hitter Mr. Hinx. We don’t really learn anything about Hinx, other than he’s massive and has a penchant for popping people’s eyes with his metal thumb-nails, but he delivers every one of the best action set-pieces in that film, almost instantly making himself one of the all-time great henchmen, at least in my eyes.
4. Nick Nack (Herve Villechiaze)
Nick Nack almost certainly began as a joke. I’m sure it was just a gag that the producers thought was funny, to have a little person be a henchman to fight against James Bond. But, despite that, I’ve always found Nick Nack to be an interesting and enjoyable character. Because he really seems to be out for himself. Yeah, he’s working with Scaramanga, but that seems to be a means to an end. He has no problem betraying his boss, and tries to switch allegiances to better suit himself. He’s probably best remembered as a gimmick, but I think there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff behind Nick Nack.
3. Mr Wint and Mr Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith)
Of all the Bond henchmen, I think the most confounding have to be Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. I know that some people cannot stand Diamonds Are Forever, but I’m on record of adoring it, and one of the aspects that I’m always most interested in are these two guys. They’re just so bizarre. I suppose they’re the first gay characters in the Bond franchise, even though their relationship is never really spelled out. But it’s also not really commented on. They aren’t played for laughs. They’re just some mysterious oddballs. I have no idea what role they’re supposed to be playing in this movie, who they ultimately work for, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, but they a goddamn delight to watch.
2. Jaws (Richard Kiel)
Of course Jaws is on this list! How could he not be? Jaws is a monumentally weird character, a hulking assassin whose preferred method of killing people is biting them with his weird metal teeth, but he’s obviously one of the most popular henchmen in the franchise. Hell, he was so popular that they brought him back for two movies, and even let him have a face-turn at the end and become a good guy! Similarly to Mr. Hinx, there’s not exactly a lot going on with Jaws, he’s just big and weird, but he’s certainly memorable, and he gives us some of the funnest fights from the Roger Moore era.
1. Oddjob (Harold Sakata)
Once again, this is probably a little obvious. What list of Bond henchmen wouldn’t put Oddjob at the top? Like I said in my Goldfinger article, the franchise really took that film’s structure and used it as the template for the majority of films in the rest of the franchise. And thus, Oddjob becomes the prototypical henchman, a silent heavy who has a bizarre method of killing people, specifically throwing a razor-sharp hat at them. Oddjob is such a strange character, and I love him. This is probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever admitted to on this website, but when I was a kid and first getting obsessed with Oddjob you better believe that I bought a bowler hat and learned to throw it somewhat accurately. He’s just such a terrific idea, and there’s a good reason he’s the character most people think of when they head Bond henchmen.
Before you worry, no I’m not going to talk about every one of these movies again. I legitimately think that I may have scraped the bottom of the barrel with Bond for now. I love the character, and could probably find more things to say about him, but for now I think I’ve had enough. So, to finish off this Bondathon, my month long appreciation for James Bond, agent 007, I think I’m just going to list how I would personally rank the franchise. No real insight into them, I think you could get all of that from the articles themselves But, this is how I see the franchise, in my own opinion.
24. Die Another Day
23. For Your Eyes Only
21. A View to a Kill
20. The Man With the Golden Gun
17. Tomorrow Never Dies
16. You Only Live Twice
15. The World is Not Enough
14. License to Kill
12. Diamonds are Forever
11. The Spy Who Loved Me
9. Quantum of Solace
8. Dr. No
7. Live and Let Die
4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
3. The Living Daylights
2. Casino Royale
1. From Russia With Love
So, there you have it. Those are all my opinion on the James Bond cinematic franchise. I love it. I love it so much. I’m not saying that this list is any sort of definitive statement, nor is it some objective list of quality. These are just my opinions, based on how much I enjoy these stories. And don’t worry, I’ll be talking about Bond again someday, because James Bond Will Return.
Categories: Reel Talk