Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks: For 007's 50th Anniversary, the Five Best Bond Films (And Five More)

Ever since the first trailer hit, I've been squealing like Navin Johnson: "Skyfall's almost here! Skyfall's almost here!"

I don't get hyped by a lot of stuff anymore, movie-wise. The Hobbit? Eh. The Dark Knight Rises? Meh. But I grew up watching James Bond movies. Before there was Star Wars, or Indiana Jones, there was 007.

Last week also marked the 50th anniversary since the release of Dr. No, the first official Bond movie, in 1962. Such auspicious anniversaries taking place during the run-up to a new release are opportunities for reflection and appreciation. And to churn out lists, like this one.

In no particular order, and I offer alternatives to those listed for the complainers.

Goldfinger (1964) If there's a list of best Bond movies this isn't near the top of, I haven't seen it. The third movie in the franchise was really when it felt like Eon found its groove. You had larger than life villains, even larger henchmen, a plot (stealing all the gold in Fort Knox) that is more ridiculous even than subsequent parodies, and possibly the only Bond girl who can give Honey Ryder a run for her money.

Or You Can Try: From Russia With Love - Often overlooked, the movie directly preceding Goldfinger feels somehow...understated when bookended by Dr. No's flamethrower tanks and GF's razor-tipped bowler hat. Not for everybody, but worth a look.

Live and Let Die (1973) LaLD is about as far as I'm willing to go on the goofiness spectrum with regards to 007, which unfortunately excludes most of Roger Moore's later appearances. That said, the voodoo stuff and Harlem stylings -- to say nothing of Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) and proto-Jaws Tee Hee (Julius Harris) -- push the envelope pretty hard. Still, Jane Seymour.

Or You Can Try: For Your Eyes Only - One way to hide the fact your 007 is 54 years old is to have some extended skiing and climbing scenes. FYEO's relative realism was a direct reaction to the goofy shittiness of Moonraker, and lasted two whole years (until the schizophrenic Octopussy).

The Living Daylights (1987) No Miss Monyepenny? A...cello race? A-ha? Look, I've said it before and I will continue to say it until someone politely asks me to stop, Timothy Dalton got screwed. His second and final entry in the series, License to Kill, was marred by an unwillingness by a pre-Bourne Identity audience to see Bond go gritty, and a six-year hiatus predicated by legal wrangling over the Bond back catalog, doomed any further Dalton efforts. It's too bad, because I thought he was the first actor to really capture the darkness that Ian Fleming shrouded 007 in.

Or You Can Try: On Her Majesty's Secret Service - I'm including it mostly because lots of people consider George Lazenby's sole film as Bond of the franchise's best. I'm not among them, but never let it be said I disregarded other people's opinions, no matter how ill-informed and dumb they are.

Thunderball (1965) This one is a personal favorite, probably because of latent nuclear fetishism. But also: shark tank! Tom Jones! Jet pack!

Or You Can Try: Dr. No - Really people, Connery's first four movies are the gold standard for 007. No other stretch of movies in the series comes close.

Casino Royale (2006) Plenty of people criticized the casting of Daniel Craig (too craggy, too blond), but Eon's 007 reboot is easily the best Bond movie since GoldenEye, and is probably in my personal top three of all time.

Or You Can Try: GoldenEye - Now that we think about it, Pierce Brosnan's debut in the role really stands out, seeing as how it was able to make Cold Warrior Bond relevant to the new world order (and Famke Janssen...hrrgghh). Unfortunately, Brosnan's later efforts were dopey enough to give late-era Roger Moore a run for his money.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar