A good friend of mine showed me an article. It was an article from Rolling Stone where they ranked all the Bond films from worst to best. We both shared the same feeling – utter disbelief. Now I know when it comes to lists like this, it’s always based on somebody’s opinion, which I’m fine with that. But reading through that article (an article I didn’t finish in protest) made me wonder what he was smoking when he wrote it. Die Another Day ranked higher over Quantum of Solace? Come on!
I bought the Bond 50 Collection on Blu-ray as a self-treat for my birthday last year September. Every single Bond film in glorious high definition! I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’ve been called a “Bond expert” but that just stems from my blessed good memory and constantly watching Bond films on a Sunday afternoon with friends and family over the years. From Connery to Craig, these few men have played not just any role, but a cultural icon and a British national treasure. No other film franchise in modern cinema history can boast 23 films under its belt and a longevity it has sustained over the years.
For someone who has visited the Bond exhibition at the Barbican in the Summer of 2012 and watched the Everything or Nothing Bond documentary, you really have to thank the collective forces behind the whole thing – Broccoli and Saltzman (producers), Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson (current guardians/producers of Bond and children of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli), John Barry (music), Maurice Binder (title designs), Ken Adams (production design) and so on. There was certainly a love making these films and nobody did it better than them.
But we can’t forget the main instigator in this whole matter and that is the creator of Bond, Mr Ian Fleming. His books became the inspiration. Many have criticised Bond as a misogynistic pig and a sadist. Some may have a point – the easy to digest films have played up to those facts and in many ways, it comes off as a cliché. However, people can easily forget that he is a spy who fights in the shadows. He fights for us, unseen, taking out the enemy before he does harm. Bond is extremely patriotic and incredibly loyal to Queen and country. Yes he gets around with the ladies and treats them as “disposable pleasures” to fit his purpose but he is also a charmer and capable of love, providing he finds the right woman. And despite the lavish lifestyle he leads, he can also suffer the hurt and pain of working as an agent. In other words, he is not perfect. These qualities were instilled by his creator, his alter ego, Ian Fleming. Despite working for the British Naval Intelligence, Fleming never saw any action – certainly not the stuff that Bond gets up to. And yet his books are filled with incredible detail and knowledge that it is hard to doubt his experience. While the films have introduced fantasy style elements, Bond’s roots are very much grounded in reality. That’s why Bond is a character I admire and love.
It’s a pity that the 2013 Academy Awards chose not to do a proper tribute of James Bond, opting for the easier choice of getting Shirley Bassey out of Wales and on the first plane to Hollywood, supplemented with (quite frankly) a pathetic Bond montage. An enthusiastic youtube vidder could have produce better results. This was also an opportunity missed to get all existing Bond actors together on stage. I mean, how cool would that had been?
I made the decision when I bought the Bond 50 Collection that I was going to watch every single Bond film in chronological order. Trust me – this was not an easy task! However by doing this I thought it would give me a unique perspective to the franchise – seeing how it started, how Bond changed through the years, whether there was any continuity or references that help explain Bond as a character, checking out the quality of the blu-ray and whether the films were as good as I remembered. We’ve all got a favourite and it is so easy to cherry pick our choices and certainly when I was growing up, like with all films, the popular ones, the ones that are guaranteed ratings will be shown on TV. After many weeks sitting in front of my television and my PS3, it felt befitting that I completed this self imposed marathon before the blu-ray release of Skyfall (which has been added to my collection). And it also inspired to me write this.
So, this is my list of Bond films – from worst to best, posted on a weekly basis on a Wednesday. I know you won’t agree with every decision (and some of my decisions may be biased or in some cases, difficult to make), but hopefully my reasons will be justified and make more sense than that Rolling Stone article.
So let’s begin with number 23 on the list and it will come as no surprise to anyone…