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.
8 thoughts on “7 Unpopular Bond Movies Worth a Second Look”
Nice list, good to give credit to World is not Enough and Quantum of Solace. Thank you for not including Tomorrow Never Dies, which is hot garbage. I’ll disagree with Diamonds Are Forever — much too cheesecake and Connery is useless by that point. I’d substitute Roger Moore’s For Your Eyes Only for it’s very cool skiing sequences, and Timothy Dalton’s Living Daylights instead of Man With The Golden Gun, because Living Daylights stands alongside Rambo III as a movie where the west courageously intervenes to aid the downtrodden people of Afghanistan against Russian incur–oh, shit, we helped the Taliban, didn’t we?
Finally, Moonraker. Wow, that one, just, a lot to take in.
I thought about The Living Daylights, but I don’t get the feeling it is as disliked as the other movies mentioned. I think some people have cooled off on Dalton in general, but think his movies are okay. Also, I think For Your Eyes Only is a genuinely well liked Bond movie.
Man so glad to see my favorite Bond film get some much needed love; OHMSS is great! Good on you to share the good word of Bond Sir!
While I disagree with Moonraker, and sort of with Diamonds are Forever (I still am thoroughly bored with both), I agree 100% with the rest.
Man with the Golden Gun is worth it pretty much entirely for Christopher Lee alone. Although personally, I’m a bigger fan of the Spy Who Loved Me (since it seems to cater perfectly to Roger Moore’s idea of Bond) and For Your Eyes Only (because it’s so simple in execution, it’s almost a throwback to From Russia With Love).
TWINE is by far Brosnan’s best movie IMO, and DAD is still better than GoldenEye and TND since it at least has better production values (GoldenEye is about as intelligent and coherent a plot as DAD). OHMSS gets a bad rep because of Lazenby, but I think his weird portrayal of Bond fits perfectly with what the movie (and book) is trying to do. It’s also the most literal adaptation, which is definitely a good thing so OHMSS is debatably Flemming’s best Bond novel (at least if you ask me).
And lastly, Quantum is really a fine movie – as mentioned the post-Casino Royale hype train really killed people’s opinions of it. Although it’s plot is pretty sparse (and not really interesting), Craig is able to carry the movie and it has some pretty decent action and character moments. It’s far from the worst 007 film, and if it ends up being Craig’s worst than he’ll definitely have the best movies of all the actors.
I like all of these except for one, OHMSS, I tried watching OHMSSS though and couldn’t do it, most boring Bond film I think in the series. I know Timothy Dalton’s films get a bad rap but I actually enjoyed those more than the later Roger Moore films (when he was clearly getting too old for the part). Die Another Day is my least favorite Brosnan Bond film but I still enjoy it. My favorite Brosnan comes down to Goldeneye/Tomorrow Never Dies. As for Daniel Craig I think Quantum is really good, all though I do usually end up watching it as a continuation of Casino Royale. It’s the only Bond film I know of that acts as a real direct sequel where as all the other films can stand on their own.
After Goldeneye, I missed Tomorrow Never Dies but I did watch The World is Not Enough. I’ve always thought it was really good. In reality, Denise Richards isn’t in it very much.
I really love a few movies on this list – OHMSS gets points by being a 1:1 adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel (something even Dr No and From Russia With Love can’t claim), Man With The Golden Gun has Christopher Lee and is immediately awesome, The World Is Not Enough is just plain great I thought, and Quantum of Solace is just a bit slow in parts and is mostly simply “not as amazing as Casino Royale”.
Die Another Day I need to bring a big point up – I have always maintained that up until the double whammy of “Invisible Car/Holodeck Training”, halfway through the movie, Die Another Day is one of the best Bond movies. After that point it veers off into parody silliness overload, but the first half is just amazing and quite dark in places (I love how Bond DOESN’T get away after the opening sequence). It also references basically every Bond movie.
Licence To Kill is the only Bond movie I struggle with. It’s like a cheap made-for-TV revenge flick. I love The Living Daylights though.
I agree TWINE and Golden Gun have a lot of good stuff in them, but something falls apart in the execution. TWINE has the first real female villain, then misuses Robert Carlisle as a great gimmicky henchman and it all falls apart. Golden Gun could use a tighter plot and getting rid of that goddamn hick sheriff. Why would a rural hick vacation in Thailand? Why?
Gotta disagree on DAD and Moonraker, though. Moonraker’s a bad photocopy of the usual Bond story beats and DAD, for all its fan-service, somehow leaves out so much we love about Bond. I also think the Dalton movies get short shrift. I don’t like him in them, but they’ve got good stuff there. The plane sequence at the end of Living Daylights is pretty sweet.