The 007 franchise spans over fifty years and includes twenty-four official films. With flicks ranging from 1962 to 2015, helmed by dozens of directors and scripted by countless writers, it understandably has its share of hits and misses. What may have been in vogue in one decade comes off as crass in another.
As the release of Spectre draws near, many a website will put out “Best of” and “Worst of” Bond lists, and you’ll see many of the same titles. As someone who considers himself a 007 aficionado and genuinely likes just about every movie in the series, I’d like to highlight some unpopular Bond movies worth giving a second chance.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
“Can I offer an opinion? I really think you people should find a better place to meet. ”
Considering the sky-high expectations set by Casino Royale, the general backlash leveled at QoS was almost predictable. Viewed on its own, the movie is a bit messy and convoluted — it’s also by far the shortest Bond film. The trick is to watch it side by side with Casino Royale, as it picks up right where that entry leaves off. This way the story, while not perfect, will make much more sense. Plus, this features some of the best action sequences of the entire series, including a jaw-dropping opening car chase. Do yourself a favor and have a Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace double feature ASAP.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
“There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world. ”
In recent years, OHMSS has developed something of a cult audience thanks to its DVD release, but for decades it was widely considered the worst in the series. This is mostly due to star George Lazenby, a one-and-done James Bond. It didn’t help that the filmmakers were so petrified by the presumed casting backlash that they obscured their star’s face in the movie’s early promotional material.
The story is a slow burn, and they try way too hard to convince you Lazenby is a suitable replacement for Sean Connery (Bond’s overly sophisticated dialogue goes into overdrive), but it is so worth it for the final act. Bond tossing his hat to a tearful Moneypenny right after he gets married might just be the single greatest moment in the entire series. And, to be fair, Lazenby is a perfectly fine Bond.
The World is Not Enough (1999)
“Always have an escape plan. ”
The James Bond movies have their fair share of questionable casting decisions, but TWINE takes the cake with Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist named Christmas Jones. This is an instant roadblock for most, to which I say, “You’ve got to let it go, otherwise you’ll be missing out on a Bond movie that is firing on all cylinders.” Pierce Brosnan is in total command, while Sophie Marceau’s performance as the surprise villain more than makes up for Richard’s shortcomings. Plus, this movie sets the precedent for Judi Dench’s M, a larger supporting role that would continue all the way through Skyfall.
Another moment in TWINE that is often overlooked is the bittersweet exit of Desmond Llewelyn in his final performance as Q. He died in a car accident before the movie was released.
“I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir. ”
Never mind the fact that Moonraker is essentially a remake of The Spy Who Loved Me and You Only Live Twice. And never mind the fact that Star Wars hysteria turned this movie into James Bond in spaaace! If you dismiss this movie for its absurd space opera interlude (and it is absurd, for the record), you miss out on a top-notch “Man on a Mission” story, an area where the Roger Moore movies excelled. While the sky-diving sequence is a spectacular stunner, the most memorable scene is also the most chilling, disturbing death scene ever put in a Bond movie: villain Drax kills his disloyal girlfriend by sicking attack dogs on her in a sequence so dark it feels like it belongs in a 70s Italian horror flick.
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
“I must say Miss Case seems quite attractive… for a lady.”
When you hear someone say “Sean Connery was the best Bond ever!” they are likely just saying “I love Dr. No and Goldfinger!” Few people bring up Diamonds Are Forever when it comes to the greatness of Connery’s performance, as it feels closer to the Roger Moore-era Bond — to be fair, Connery’s movies were every bit as silly.
But it is noteworthy for being a rare Bond movie set primarily in the United States (hello, 1970s Las Vegas!). Also noteworthy is the gay couple as a pair of henchmen, and the last appearance of Blofeld as Bond’s main villain. The final battle is something of a high mark for large scale action sequences too. Conversely, this is also one of the most sexist and misogynistic entry in the series. That said, I still think it’s the most fun Connery-era Bond gets.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
“Nick Nack! Tabasco! ”
Blofeld may get all the glory, but Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga may just be Bond’s greatest nemesis. However, most people remember TMWTGG for its subplot revolving around a third nipple. Never mind that. Just enjoy one of the most beautifully shot Bond movies, featuring the best one-on-one showdown in the series, not to mention one of the greatest car stunts in movie history.
Oh, and it also has the greatest Bond girl name of all time, given to an Asian beauty swimming in a pool (clearly naked when seen on DVD): Chew Mee.
Die Another Day (2002)
“I take it Mr. Bond’s been explaining his Big Bang theory?”
As the twentieth movie in the series, released on the fortieth anniversary of the franchise, Die Another Day would go on to become the highest grossing James Bond movie up to that time. So why is it also one of the most maligned? Two words: invisible car. For whatever reason, Bond’s Predator-style Aston Martin was just too much for most fans. Some of the CG-heavy action scenes were breaking points too, though it was very common in early 2000s action movies to go overboard with CG. Others disliked how self-referential and fan service-heavy the movie was. Then there are people who just straight up hate Madonna for her theme song and cameo.
To which I say, “haters gonna hate.” I love the fact that DAD has so much fan service. This movie, more than any other in the series, embraces its past, instead of trying to run away from it (see: any Daniel Craig entry). It’s a gleeful blend of Bond’s roots, be they the kitsch of the 60s, the convoluted plots of the 70s, or the high-octane action of the 80s and 90s. The story is ridiculously over the top, but the insanely good-looking cast does such a great job selling it (including a smoking hot, then-unknown Rosamund Pike), you can’t help but have a good time. Also worth noting: this is the only movie in the entire series to feature an on-screen sex scene with Bond himself. So there’s that.
Article by contributor WatershipDownSyndrome.