“Bond, James Bond,” the world's coolest alcoholic sex addict and action hero, met the world more than 50 years ago when the film Dr. No premiered in London on October 5, 1962. The movie was a massive success, sparking a cinematic series that continues on today. (Okay, yeah, there were James Bond books, but their racism and sexism render them practically unreadable.) So if you want to celebrate Bond's upcoming anniversary, pull up a shaken, not stirred martini and read on because we're here to help.
Since there are now 25 films in the Bond series – not counting the two non-canon films, the original Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again – it'd be physically impossible to actually sit down and watch them all. Instead, we sacrificed ourselves and watched them for you. Here are the results: a James Bond movie marathon that you can actually complete in one weekend.
We set a few criteria for ourselves. First, we had to include a film from every actor who's played Bond. That means cutting some of Sean Connery's movies, no matter how awesome they were, because otherwise they'd take up the majority of the marathon. Second, we weren't just measuring whether or not a film was “good.” We also wanted to include the ones that most epitomize a certain Bond era, so that viewers can watch how the series developed over the years. For example, Octopussy may not be a cinematic achievement, but it certainly encapsulates Roger Moore's take on the character. Third – and fine, this is less of a criterion and more of an opinion – Goldfinger is overrated and we're not including it.
Check out the marathon below. Disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments.
From Russia with Love (1964)
Unlike practically every sequel ever, From Russia with Love is even better than the first film, Dr. No. (If you're wondering why we skipped Dr. No, check out our Honorable Mentions at the end of this list.) The stakes are almost hilariously low in comparison to the rest of the series, since no one tries to take over the world. Instead, SPECTRE, an international club of bad guys, just tries to manipulate Bond into stealing an Enigma-like decryption device. Yet these low stakes allow Sean Connery's portrayal of Bond to look even more effortless, as he seduces women and punches bad guys without ever mussing his cuff links. The final confrontation between Bond and the assassin – Robert Shaw, likely best known as the guy with the too-small boat in Jaws – who's stalked him since the film's first scenes, still make up some of the most tense minutes in the entire series.
A SPECTRE agent captures nuclear bombs and holds the world for ransom. This film is perhaps the perfect distillation of everything a Bond movie should be, as Connery revels in lush Bahamas scenery, tosses off effortless one-liners and of course kicks ass (underwater!) In fact, after adjustment for inflation, this is still the highest-grossing Bond film ever, according to The New York Times. Really, though, this film must be watched just for one classic scene: A woman, naked in a bathtub, asks Bond to give her something to wear. He hands her a pair of shoes.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Roger Moore's first few outings as Bond are, respectively, unbelievably racist (Live and Let Die) and unbelievably bizarre (The Man With the Golden Gun). But then, in Moore's best Bond film, he partners up with Soviet spy Anya Amasova to stop a rich madman from stealing nuclear submarines and creating an underwater city. This is one of the few films in which a woman is placed on equal footing with Bond. Anya, as played by Barbara Bach, is a coolly competent sleuth who even gets her own emotional arc. Plus, The Spy Who Loved Me introduces Jaws, the craziest evil henchman in the entire series.
A rogue Soviet general wants to detonate a nuclear bomb in order to turn the Cold War hot. Octopussy exemplifies both the best and the worst of the outlandish Moore era, as a khaki-suited Bond quips his way through action sequences involving everything from trains to hot air balloons. Still, the film's commitment to pure absurdity merits it a spot in this marathon. And yes, Octopussy is the main Bond girl's nickname, but her father gave her that name, so it's totally, definitely not creepy. Right?
The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton's first turn as Bond has him battling against (yet another) Soviet general gone rogue. The plot is surprisingly coherent, weaving real-world concerns with classic Bond ridiculousness. And after years of Moore's arching an eyebrow and calling it acting, it's nice to watch Dalton actually try to inhabit a real character. Watch out for the moment when Bond allies with a group of local Afghan mujahideen, or as we know them now, jihadists. The '80s were a different time.
Dalton left the role after just two films – Licence to Kill, his second outing, is almost disturbingly dark for a Bond movie – and Pierce Brosnan steps in as the series' second-cutest Bond. (If you even have to ask who the cutest Bond is, you've learned nothing from this marathon.) As Bond goes up against an old friend set on committing robbery on a national scale, Brosnan manages to portray Bond as both a debonair lady-killer and a man tortured by the friends and lovers he's left behind. His electrifying performance here makes it even more disappointing that Brosnan went on to play Bond in three forgettable films.
Casino Royale (2006)
The series bounces back from Brosnan's Die Another Day, likely the worst Bond film, to Casino Royale, the best in the series since From Russia with Love. That's partially thanks to new Bond Daniel Craig, who plays the character as more of a working-class assassin than a super spy in this reboot, which tracks Bond's attempts to stop an international terrorist ring. (If you're trying to trace continuity between Bond films, like how exactly this guy is still alive after half a century, this movie basically blows any chance of that out of the water.) However, the real MVP award here goes to Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, the best Bond girl since Anya Amasova.
Honorable Mentions: Dr. No (1963), Skyfall (2012)
Yes, we know that cutting the first film of the entire series is perhaps a controversial decision, but here's why we made the call: Dr. No is a good movie, but it's also essentially an extended introduction to who James Bond is and what his world looks like – yet if you've ever watched a Bond film, you already know everything about that world. You know James Bond loves women, martinis and fast cars. You know that Bond villains like to have enormous lairs and make monologues in which they nonsensically reveal all of their plans to the man sent to stop them. On one hand, it's impressive that the Bond movies arrived so fully formed, with all the staples of the series already in place. But on the other hand, it makes Dr. No redundant in this marathon. As for Skyfall, whether you like it will depend on how much you enjoy Craig's take on James Bond. Out of all the actors, Craig is the most interested in probing who Bond is and how he became that way. If you prefer Bond to remain an ageless, pun-sprouting and trigger-happy playboy, then the movie will be too dour for you.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.