I’ve always resisted widely publicizing my full James Bond Movie Rankings. I’ve resisted because a simple ranking system of all 24 films seemed to undermine the spirit of James Bond enjoyment. Fans of 007 find entertainment in even the diciest Bonds.
Maybe I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe I wanted to inspire more complaints on Twitter regarding my highly conflicted feelings about Skyfall. I’ve mitigated a down-the-line ranking system by adding some highs and lows from each Bond movie. These notes are not meant to be complete. Everyone could argue the finer points of the lists; I’ve merely spouted some of the aspects that immediately come to mind about each film. Share yours below. Share your rankings. Feel free to disagree. That’s what I’m here for.
If you’d like to read my thoughts about each film in depth, I’ve included links to my full #Bond_age_ essays. You’ll also find links to our Title Credit Remixes. Just because they’re fun. And can provide some list reading music should you be so inclined.
Without further adieu…
Hot take: Before Halle Berry backdives quite literally into a sea of CGI, Brosnan’s final Bond has the makings of a potentially great Bond film.
Pros: Pierce gives his all. Unique pre-title. Jesus Bond. Cuban cigars and the 1957 Ford Fairlane. Rosamund Pike. Ejector-seat Aston Martin flip.
Cons: XxX-inspired James Bond. Interminable finale. Script. Specifically, the words that come out of Halle Berry’s mouth. Kitesurfing. Excessive CGI. Evoking Bond films of old does not make the Bond film in front of you any better.
Essay: Inside the Tortured Mind of James Bond – Die Another Day and the Fever Dream Theory
Opening Titles Remixed – Talking Heads
23. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Hot take: Despite classic Ken Adam spectacle, You Only Live Twice resides at the intersection of racism, misogyny and storytelling laziness.
Pros: Mie Hama. John Berry score. Comically dated sexism and misrepresentations of Japanese culture.
Cons: Pleasancefeld. Comical dated sexism and misrepresentations of Japanese culture. Sean Connery checks out in act of self-preservation. Japanese Bond (aka Slouchy Bond). Huge swaths of this movie are just forgettable. Emasculation by toy helicopter.
Essay: Solving the Murder of You Only Live Twice
Opening Titles Remixed: Pizzicato Five
22. A View to a Kill (1985)
Hot take: Killer villains undermined by blatant Goldfinger regurgitation and multiple scenes of shrieking Roberts.
Pros: Blond Walken and Grace Jones. Patrick Macnee. Memorable stunts. Awkward perfection of Grace Jones seduction. Duran Duran theme. John Barry’s ironic usage of Duran Duran theme.
Cons: Tanya Roberts. Limitations of 56-year-old Roger Moore. Tanya Roberts. Sometimes words can’t adequately describe how a movie has gone horribly wrong.
Essay: To the Brink and Back with AVTAK
Opening Titles Remixed: Fatboy Slim
21. Moonraker (1979)
Hot take: Bond in space swaps thrills for pratfalls and absurdity.
Pros: Hugo Drax. Return of Jaws. Corinne Clery. Comedic self-awareness. Visual effects spectacle.
Cons: Undermining Jaws. Stiff Lois Chiles pairs poorly with loose and wily Moore. Extravagant action scenes stripped of thrills and reduced to comedy. Jaws falls in love.
Essay: In the Teeth of Nostalgia
Opening Titles Remixed: Kate Bush
20. Spectre (2016)
Hot take: The search for a more classically-styled Bond meets that old oppressive foe, narrative stupidity.
Pros: Mexico pre-title. Craig swagger. M from Beyond narrative catalyst. Christoph Waltz, Dave Bautista and Lea Seydoux casting. Most everything pre-“Cuckoo.” Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema is a repeated savior.
Cons: Everything post-“Cuckoo.” Lazy script leaves nothing to imagination and offers no surprises. Multiple anti-climaxes. Wasted Bautista. Undermined Lea Seydoux. Waltz failed to make Blofeld his own. Personal Blofeld vendetta and “everything must be connected” philosophy. Sam Smith.
Essay: Spectre and Blofeld, the Villain Bond Can’t Quit
Opening Titles Remixed: Lana Del Rey
Opening Titles Remixed: Portishead
19. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Hot take: Snarky, ill-tempered Leisure-suit Bond adventure that breeds stupidity with offense and comes out perversely entertaining, for the wrong reasons.
Pros: One-liners. Shirley Bassey’s best theme. Top notch John Barry score. The supreme evil of Wint and Kidd. An offbeat sense of humor that begat scenes like the moonbuggy chase. “BAJA!”
Cons: Even by James Bond standards this narrative makes little sense. Toothless pre-title “revenge.” Intentional disavowal of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Dour, ugly look of the film. It’s a wee bit racist and sexist and probably some other -ist adjectives. “BAJA!”
Essay: Remaking Diamonds Are Forever
Opening Titles Remixed: Madonna
18. Octopussy (1983)
Hot take: A mix of ironic and sincere 007 as comic book hero entertainment mingle with plenty of groan-worthiness, yet fail to offend or stand out.
Pros: Maud Adams. James Bond clown costume as performance art responding to criticism of the Moore Bond. Moore’s peak confidence in the role. Louis Jourdan’s suave villainy. Q in the wild. Acrostar pre-title.
Cons: Forgettable villain in Steven Berkhoff (Orlov). Racial insensitivities. Tarzan yell. Uneasy mixture of silliness and seriousness.
Essay: James Bond, Comic Book Hero
Opening Titles Remixed: The Muppets
Opening Titles Remixed: Tears for Fears
17. The World is Not Enough (1999)
Hot take: Underrated Brosnan performance and terrific Sophie Marceau villain undermined by Denise Richards casting and wildly inconsistent narrative.
Pros: Sophie Marceau. Massive action setpieces. Brosnan comes into his own as James Bond. Judi Dench’s M gets crucial role. Inventive manipulation of Bond formula.
Cons: Denise Richards bimbo-ism detracts from impact of powerful female villain. Absurdly convoluted. Loses Bond character in favor of excessive action.
Essay: The Tragedy of The World Is Not Enough
Opening Titles Remixed: Beyond the Wizards Sleeve
16. Live and Let Die (1973)
Hot take: Moore’s first outing endures a few growing pains as it attempts to borrow from pop culture and pave way for James Bond in the 1970’s.
Pros: Wild, absurdly overlong chase sequences. Alligator hopping. Fetching Jane Seymour. Paul McCartney and Wings. Geoffrey Holder. George Martin’s evolution of the Barry score. Sheriff J.W. Pepper.
Cons: Questionable racism. Roger Moore struggles at times to find the frequency of 007. Rosie Carver’s damsel-in-distress double agent. Sheriff J.W. Pepper.
Essay: What You Write About When You Write About Live and Let Die
Opening Titles Remixed: The Cult
Opening Titles Remixed: AC/DC
15. Quantum of Solace (2009)
Hot take: Arthouse James Bond cribbed Bourne films, fell victim to expedited production, lived to tell the tale.
Pros: Bregenz Opera House sequence. Gemma Arterton and Olga Kurylenko. Expanded role for Judi Dench. Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) eats the peppers. David Harbour’s mustache. Daniel Craig establishes his interpretation of Bond.
Cons: Bond has been fully stripped of humor. Dispatching of Mathis. Excessively rapid cutting detracts from impressive action sequences. Pencil-pusher villainy.
Essay: A Study in Mehssimism
Opening Titles Remixed: Reverend Horton Heat
14. The Living Daylights (1987)
Hot take: Dalton delivers in his first outing, but the franchise wasn’t quite calibrated to his strengths.
Pros: Cello-case sledding. Dalton’s smoldering reinterpretation of Movie Bond. Barry’s innovative score, using electronic rhythm tracks overdubbed with orchestra. Return of the Aston Martin. Maybe the best pre-title Bond reveal. John Rhys-Davies.
Cons: Overlong finale. Clumsy rebranding of the Cold War. Joe Don Baker’s villain fails to distinguish himself until final reel. Kara Milovy becomes a helpless dolt.
Essay: Bizarro Bond in a Brave Old World
Opening Titles Remixed: Corey Hart
13. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Hot take: Late 90’s Bond becomes an action hero yet reverts to some overly-familiar series tropes.
Pros: Backseat-driving BMW chase. Platonic eroticism between Brosnan and Yeoh. Helicopter/motorcycle action spectacle. Pre-title sequence. David Arnold revives John Barry. Vincent Schiavelli’s Dr. Kaufman.
Cons: Teri Hatcher was picked to play Paris Carver over Monica Bellucci. Sheryl Crow theme. Slow-motion action effects. Regurgitates The Spy Who Loved Me finale.
Essay: Chekhov’s Gun and Q Branch: Expectation in Tomorrow Never Dies
Opening Titles Remixed: The Rolling Stones
Opening Titles Remixed: The Beatles
12. Skyfall (2012)
Hot take: Visually stunning action-thriller that forgets, at times, to be a James Bond film.
Pros: Best looking Bond film since the 1960’s. Javier Bardem’s vicious villain. Emotional climax of Bond’s relationship with M. Nostalgic tugs. Pre-titles. Train-jump cuff adjustment. Bond on a bender.
Cons: Overlong. Unwelcome deconstruction of Bond’s past. The Batman-ization of James Bond. Newman’s ineffective score. Bond’s suddenly “too old for this spit.”
Essay: Skyfall and the Deconstruction of James Bond
Opening Titles Remixed: Oingo Boingo
Opening Titles Remixed: Elvis Costello
11. Dr. No (1962)
Hot take: James Bond’s debut features the series’ fully-baked style, humor and escapism without any of the growing pains.
Pros: Pitch perfect introduction. Sylvia Trench and Honey Rider. White bikini. The titular villain. Jack Lord as Leiter. Location filming.
Cons: Severe case of blinking doodad pornography. Completely implausible escape from evil “mastermind” lair. Connery without Desmond Llewlyn is a crime.
Essay: Dr. No and Adaptation – How a Giant Squid Defined James Bond
10. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Hot take: At the intersection of serious Bond and headscratcher silliness lies the underappreciated late-era Moore outing.
Pros: Moore embraces aging in the Bond role. Tense rock-climbing finale. Empowered and capable female co-star. Plenty of WTF? moments. Attempt to give Bond a “more age-appropriate” love interest.
Cons: Those many WTF? moments, like hockey goons. Carole Bouquet’s range of emotion. Less than memorably hyperbolic villains.
Essay: For Your Eyes Only – The Forgotten Bond
Hot take: James Bond realizes destiny as box office spectacle, perfects the Bond formula, and prunes from spending too much time underwater.
Pros: Peak Connery. Thunderball ladies steal the show. Final employment of obscured Blofeld. Underwater cinematography. Connery’s quips. “Health” clinic espionage. Jet pack! Barry’s score.
Cons: Overlong underwater battle. On-screen villains don’t stack up to prior entries. The loss of the Bond/Leiter buddy-cop narrative from Fleming’s novel pains me.
Essay: Thunderball: James Bond, D.W. Griffith and Spectacle
Opening Titles Remixed: Johnny Cash
8. The Man with the Golden Gun
Hot take: The most polarizing Bond movie trades in half-hearted Kung Fu tropes, mild racism, rampant sexism and more WTF? moments than you can shake a Nick Nack at.
Pros: Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga. The dozens of truly bonkers creative decisions. Fun house maze. Maud Adams Part 1. Stunts. The obscene humor that is J.W. Pepper. Ruthless Bond moments. Sunken ship HQ.
Cons: Slide whistle. Lulu’s theme (albeit fitting). Above-mentioned mild racism and rampant sexism. Series struggling to pinpoint Roger Moore’s Bond character. J.W. Pepper returns.
Essay: No Shame – Guilty Pleasures and The Man With The Golden Gun
Opening Titles Remixed: Ice Cube/Parliament
Opening Titles Remixed: Kanye West
Hot take: Widely regarded as the gold standard of James Bond, the third 007 film reveals some weaknesses beyond the many iconic moments but remains a fun and fast-paced essential.
Pros: The Goldfinger and Oddjob villain combo. “Shocking” pre-title. Connery’s finest Bond moment when introduced to Pussy Galore. Honor Blackman. Fort Knox climax. Bond on Golf.
Cons: Narrative consists of Bond’s repeated failures rather than successes. Illogical final act.
Essay: Subtext and the Rape of Pussy Galore
Opening Titles Remixed: No Doubt
Opening Titles Remixed: Bret MacKenzie
Hot take: An inspired narrative and impressive action set pieces resurrect James Bond for the 1990’s.
Pros: Brosnan finally gets his shot. Pre-title bungee jump/infiltration. Real espionage! Tank scene. 006 vs. 007 face off. The inexplicable Joe Don Baker. Trio of fantastic villains in Sean Bean, Alan Cumming, and Famke Janssen. The “Goldeneye Overture” from Eric Serra’s score. Introduction of Judi Dench as M.
Cons: Most everything else from Eric Serra’s score, especially “Ladies First.” Anticlimactic offing of Xenia Onatopp. At times the film tries too hard to be accepted by critics who, like Judi Dench, condemn Bond as a “relic.” That I can’t have 6 films in my Top 5.
Essay: From the Ashes: The Twisty Tale of GoldenEye’s (Un)certain Success
Opening Titles Remixed: No Doubt
Opening Titles Remixed: Bret MacKenzie
5. The Spy Who Loved Me
Hot take: The series’ greatest balance of action, humor, and the Bond formula finally gets Roger Moore right and introduces the series most beloved henchman.
Pros: Iconic Union Jack pre-titles. Roger Moore’s hinged eyebrow comes into its own. Lotus Espirit submarine. Ken Adams’ brilliant set design. Jaws. Globe-trotting. Use of rival and competent female agent. Caroline Munro. Rising series self-awareness.
Cons: Slightly bloated finale. Barry’s score is missed despite Marvin Hamlisch’s competent, but not especially timeless score.
Essay: How the Spy Who Loved Me Can Help You Avoid the Lobster Trap
Opening Titles Remixed: Madonna
Opening Titles Remixed: Alice Cooper
4. Licence to Kill
Hot take: Underrated spiritual successor to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service finally gives Bond the opportunity seek bloody revenge.
Pros: Fully-formed T-Dalt Bond gets his day. Bond’s personal vendetta mingles with global concerns. Tanker-truck stuntwork. Shotgun-wielding Carey Lowell. Q in the wild. Robert Davi’s ruthless Sanchez. Striking, graphic violence. Wayne Newton mingles a welcome touch of absurdity. LTK stands as the closest proximation of Ian Fleming’s creation since OHMSS.
Cons: Overemphasis on story minimizes the film’s ability to showcase any real Bond swagger. Grim, very very grim. All the naysayers trying to damper my enthusiasm.
Essay: The Immaculate Revenge of Licence To Kill
Opening Titles Remixed: Paul Simon
3. Casino Royale
Hot take: Martin Campbell once again resurrects James Bond from the depths and creates a pitch-perfect Bond film that would have made Ian Fleming proud.
Pros: Stylized B&W pre-title. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd becomes a classic Bond lady. Screenwriting — especially interplay between Vesper and Bond. Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter. Layers of villainy. Mads Mikkelson. Reboot of SPECTRE with Quantum. Focus on card play, drinking. Action set pieces – Madagascar chase, Sinking house finale, Miami. David Arnold’s brilliant score. “Scratching my balls.”
Cons: Mathis over-explains poker.
Essay: Dispatching the “Reboot” and the Derring Do of the Many Casino Royales
Opening Titles Remixed: Kenny Rogers
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Hot take: The most complete Bond film taps thrills, feels, frills, technical achievement and an attention to textual detail unmatched anywhere else in the Bond series.
Pros: Diana Rigg. Telly Savalas is the best Blofeld. Skiing! Curling! Bobsledding! Bond as unadultered man-whore. Some of Barry’s most iconic Bond music. Lair assault. THE ENDING, YOU GUYS. And goddammit George Lazenby isn’t bad because whatever he did sells the emotion of the final scene. Did I say Diana Rigg yet? Wacky hypnosis Blofeld “Angels of Death” plot. Peter Hunt showcases the series’ best filmmaking. It’s a beautiful looking film.
Cons: Bond in ruffles. Even though I don’t think Lazenby detracts (and occasionally enhances), I do wonder if this film could have been the absolute tops with an engaged Sean Connery.
Essay: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Pleads the Fourth
Opening Titles Remixed: Chicago
1. From Russia with Love
Hot take: After the many first-draft successes of Dr. No, Terence Young kept what worked and improved upon everything else. FRWL is a sexy, brutal and thrilling adventure.
Pros: Sean Connery. Daniela Bianchi. Blue neglige. Robert Shaw/Red Grant. Train car fisticuffs — one of the best fistfights ever captured on film. Bond doing actual spy work. Gypsies. Pedro Armendariz. Rosa Klebb. Raw, rambling and novel-based narrative allows James Bond time and space to be 007. Filming on location in Turkey.
Cons: Nothing. Me phoning in this final blurb.
Essays: The Argument for Tatiana Romanova / Master of Suspense and Calculated Visual Pleasure
Opening Titles Remixed: Red Hot Chili Peppers
What do you think, sirs and madams? Where do you think I’ve erred egregiously? Post your lists in the comments. Unless you’re one of those You Only Live Twice apologists. I don’t need to hear any more nonsense from you.
#Bond_age_ Licence to List: James Bond Directors
For this newest Licence to List, #Bond_age_ HQ has compiled and ranked a list of the best Bond directors. As always, we’ve used highly specific and wholly arbitrary methods for ranking. We each have our favorite films and our favorite directors and our favorite films filmed by our favorite directors. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I was saying this is highly scientific.
If you have a suggestion for a future List, send us a suggestion and we’ll tackle it next on Licence to List.
1. Terence Young
Movies: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball
Highest Rank: Greg, Jay (1)
Lowest Rank: Krissy (2)
Without Terence Young, James Bond might not have been James Bond. Young groomed Connery and molded the future of the franchise. Lois Maxwell said of Young: “Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat.” While Young boasts a prolific directorial resume, only a select few of his films come close to his achievement and success with Bond. He’s the best Bond director. His influence on the entire series cannot be understated.
Most notable non-Bond movie: Wait Until Dark (1967)
2. Martin Campbell
Movies: GoldenEye, Casino Royale
Highest Rank: Jay (2)
Lowest Rank: Greg (4)
The only director to twice resurrect the James Bond franchise from the brink of irrelevance. Campbell ushered in the Brosnan era after six years of Bondless inactivity and the Craig era after Die Another Day tried to destroy us all. Campbell has a firm grasp on the notion that the best 007 movies are the ones that give James Bond time and space to be James Bond. He’s also a meticulous helmsman when it comes to action. Action in a Campbell film is concise, clear and has a real-world weight. Campbell slides seamlessly from genre to genre, never leaving distinct tracks. In Bond, that meant foregrounding the character and stepping back to admire the coolness. Nothing in Bond is ever bigger than the character. And in that way he perfectly understands the requirements of a James Bond director.
Most notable non-Bond movie: Mask of Zorro (1998)
3. Peter Hunt
Movies: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Highest Rank: Krissy (1)
Lowest Rank: Greg (7)
Peter R. Hunt worked as an editor on the first five Bond films and a 2nd unit director on Thunderball and You Only Live Twice until summoned to the helm for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As an editor, Hunt was a pioneer of action editing. And as an editor, he knew every seam and every crevice in these Bond films. His directorial debut on OHMSS oozes confidence and puts his experience with action editing and photography on display. Peter R. Hunt also got the rawest deal in all of Bond directorial history. Upon release, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was considered a bust. Hunt’s relationship with Cubby and Saltzman had eroded during the filming and Hunt decided to cut ties with Eon. Hunt’s lone effort in the chair, provides the fuel for so many “what ifs.” What if Hunt had stayed on to director Diamonds Are Forever and beyond? What if we’d gotten a series of Peter Hunt Bonds instead of Guy Hamiltons?
Most notable non-Bond movie: Death Hunt (1981)
4. John Glen
Movies: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill
Highest Rank: Greg (3)
Lowest Rank: Krissy (5)
John Glen drops in at #4 for his volume of Bond work and his intermittent highs (despite the lows… the very very lows). Like Hunt, Glen cut his teeth in the editing room and as 2nd unit director on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. With the right material at his disposal Glen proved more than proficient. Operating in the post-Moonraker era of Bond, Glen saw his budgets cut to help pay off that debt. He directed two of the grittiest and underrated Bonds in For Your Eyes Only and Licence to Kill. But within each of his films, Glen knew how have a good time; he fostered a spirit of fun that has been lost in more recent efforts.
Most notable non-Bond film: Uh…. Iron Eagle III?
5. Guy Hamilton
Movies: Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun
Highest Rank: Greg (2)
Lowest Rank: Krissy (7)
Oh Guy Hamilton, you enigmatic buffoon/genius. Trained under Carol Reed on films like The Third Man and Fallen Idol. He went on to direct military pictures and got his first big budget picture in 1959 — the Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas vehicle The Devil’s Disciple. In 1962, Hamilton turned down the opportunity to direct Dr. No, but remained tied to the Bond production in a consulting role. He accepted his first official Bond gig with Goldfinger (1964). He’s credited with perfecting Bond’s action, comedy and innuendo. Considering the Bond efforts that would follow, one can’t help but consider that Goldfinger success to be a bit of an anomaly. (*cough*Diamonds Are Forever*cough*) And though we generally enjoy LaLD and TMwGG, they’re not the most cohesive or structurally sound pictures. Hamilton looms large in the Bond-verse, but he’s a bit of a divisive figure.
Most notable non-Bond film: Funeral in Berlin (1966)
6. Michael Apted
Movies: The World Is Not Enough
Highest Rank: Greg, Jay (5)
Lowest Rank: Krissy (10)
Hey, Michael Apted. If only you’d put the kibosh on that “Christmas only comes once a year line.” If only. The World is Not Enough is stuffed full of good ideas and competent action, but Christmas Jones just drags the whole enterprise down with her. Apted also fostered, arguably, Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond performance. Apted has curated a legendary career in British TV and, unlike many of these directors featured in our countdown, many notable films outside James Bond. The man’s a proven talent in the dramatic arts, he just needed to keep a closer eye on that casting director.
Most notable non-Bond film: Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)? Gorky Park (1983)?
7. Roger Spottiswoode
Movies: Tomorrow Never Dies
Highest Rank: Greg (6)
Lowest Rank: Krissy (9)
Spottiswoode made a name for himself by being Sam Peckinpah’s go-to editor during the early 1970’s. That in itself is a badge of cinema honor. Among other films, he edited Straw Dogs and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. He made his directorial debut with 1980’s Terror Train. His sole contribution to James Bond is the oft-maligned Tomorrow Never Dies. So his villain doesn’t stand out. And there are some comically bad slo-mos… but Spottiswoode shows a deft touch with the action set pieces. It’s unclear how or why Spottiswoode was tabbed to direct this film as his prior commercial success was… uhhh…. Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!
Most notable non-Bond film: Under Fire (1983). It’s either that or Turner & Hooch (1989).
8a. Marc Forster
Movies: Quantum of Solace
Highest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (8)
Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (8)
The #Bond_age_ powers were united in the 8th placeness of Marc Forster. James Bond from the director of a bunch of years of Hollywood Oscar bait! Predictably, perhaps, Marc Forster tried to spin Bond in a direction with a little more artistic merit. The Bregenz Opera sequence stands as a testament to avant Bondness. As a result, the Bond purists hated it and the broader public audience thought they were watching another Bourne movie. I’m convinced time and tide will be kinder to Quantum of Solace, but for the moment Forster remains a punching bag. Forster rightfully defends his work on QoS, but regrets not having more time to work on the third act as the writer’s strike put a damper on his creative process.
Most notable non-Bond film: Monster’s Ball (2001)
8b. Sam Mendes
Movies: Skyfall, Spectre
Highest Rank: Krissy (4)
Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay (10)
The most divisive name on this list. We’re still unclear about Mendes’ lasting legacy as a Bond director. Skyfall thrilled, but detractors would argue that the film lacked necessary Bondness, that the movie had some structural problems that were obscured behind fine cinematic craftsmanship. This then leads to the conversation about whether or not “Bondness” matters. Pub conversation of the first order. After Spectre, Greg and Jay have fallen on the side with the detractors. Krissy offers more Mendes optimism due to her positive takeaway from Spectre.
Most notable non-Bond film: American Beauty (1999)
8c. Lewis Gilbert
Movies: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker
Highest Rank: Krissy (6)
Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay (9)
Sandwiched between two stinkers lies The Spy Who Loved Me. How does one come to terms with these bipolar tendencies? Lewis Gilbert began his career just after World War II as a documentary filmmaker for Gaumont British. His first feature-length films based on true stories from the war. And then he directed Alfie (1966) starring Michael Caine and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director. The film also received five Academy Award nominations. After Alfie, Lewis directed You Only Live Twice. Because that’s what you do after you direct a low budget British comedy based on a stage play.
Most notable non-Bond movie: Alfie (1966)
11. Lee Tamahori
Movies: Die Another Day
Highest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (11)
Lowest Rank: Greg, Jay, Krissy (11)
WE ARE UNITED.
What kills me is that this was the guy that directed Once Were Warriors (1994), which is an amazing goddamn film. And then Hollywood got hold of him and he directed Along Came a Spider and XxX: State of the Union. There’s not much to say about Die Another Day‘s place in the Bond canon. Fever dream of the
first worst order.
Most notable non-Bond film: Once Were Warriors (1994).
I’ve been a lifelong fan of the spy genre. While family and friends were reading books like the Lord of the Rings, I was reading books like The Bourne Identity (which is *nothing* like the movie). I also have a love of my hometown, Ottawa. Though Ottawa has a reputation today of being a quiet and sedate town for the most part, it was a different story 50 years ago. During World War II, Ottawa shared in the Allied war effort, and established itself as a staunch friend to both the British and the US. Ottawa was represented in the Hollywood war effort as well, featured prominently in the 1942 James Cagney film Captains of the Clouds. The year after Captains was released, a cipher clerk arrived in Ottawa to begin a career at the Russian Embassy. His name was Igor Gouzenko, and his story would fundamentally change the world.
For those not familiar with his story, Igor Gouzenko was a clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa from 1943-1945. During the final years of the war, he had access to all the top secret information coming out of the Embassy. This included information that the Soviets had no reason to know, which was evidence of a massive Soviet spy ring operating in Canada. By 1945, the Soviets were ready to call Gouzenko and his family back to Moscow, but Igor wasn’t willing to go. Instead, he walked out of the Embassy one evening with documentation of the spy ring, and went off to find someone to tell his story to. Unbelievably, he couldn’t find anyone initially interested in his story, and he spent most of his time playing cat and mouse with Soviet security agents, who had by now become aware of the missing documents and were actively searching for him. This would eventually result in a confrontation between Soviet agents and the Ottawa police, when the Soviets were found looking through Gouzenko’s home. By the next day, Gouzenko was telling his story to the RCMP, and later MI5 and the FBI. As a result, the potential for Soviet spies working in the West became a major source of concern, and the rooting out of such spies a tip priority in all areas of Western society. Gouzenko and his family were given asylum by the Canadian government, and spent the rest of their lives in witness protection.
I’ve known about Gouzenko’s story since I was a teenager, but I had no idea that his story had ever been told on film. Then, back in 2012, I discovered that there was going to be a showing of a film called The Iron Curtain, filmed in 1948, which told Gouzenko’s story. The film was directed by William A. Wellman, known for films such as The Public Enemy (1931), A Star is Born (1937), and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). The film stars Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in their third of five movies together, and their first movie together since the classic noir Laura (1944). Andrews played Igor Gouzenko, and Gene Tierney his wife. The film, to my delight, was actually shot in Ottawa, and not on Hollywood soundstages (or at least, had extensive Ottawa filming).
As Igor Gouzenko, Dana Andrews plays it very quiet and straightforward; he starts the film as a man who has come to Ottawa to do his job, and obeys the rules set down by Soviet security. It’s only after his wife joins him in Ottawa that he starts to question life under Soviet rule. Andrews and Tierney work very well together, and there are some very tense moments after the defection that comes across very well. They successfully establish the panic that must have been going through their minds when they realize that protection and help from the Canadians aren’t coming immediately. I also loved seeing the glimpse of Ottawa as it was back then, recognizing various snow-covered landmarks. It is a very straightforward retelling of one of the key moments in Canadian history.
A quick little postscript for this blogpost: it turns out that, while this is the first movie to focus on Igor Gouzenko’s defection (that I know of), it is not, in fact, the only movie made about Igor Gouzenko. In 1954, United Artists released Operation Manhunt, which also told the Gouzenko story. By all accounts, its focus was more on the Soviet response to Gouzenko’s defection, with assassins sent to Canada to murder him. It is, unfortunately, a film I’ve never seen, so I can’t give any great details about it. But if I ever get the chance to see the entire film, I certainly will. The Gouzenko Affair was such a crucial moment for Canada in world history, and deserves to be told again and again.