It’s hard to believe, but there was once a whole six-year period where the world went without a Bond film.
Those were the dark days of the early 1990s, where a legal morass over the rights to the character after the release (and critical and commercial disappointment) of Licence to KIll hamstrung the franchise. A planned third outing for Timothy Dalton in the tux was canceled, and it took until 1995 for the disputes to get settled and Pierce Brosnan – who was supposed to be Bond much, much earlier – picked up the mantle. Since then, Bond has been on our screens in the form of either Brosnan or Daniel Craig in nine different movies over twenty years, with the newest, Spectre, coming out in the first week of November.
It’s high time we took a decade-long look back at the third wave of the Bond films. Check out the breakdown of the latest seven below.
7. Die Another Day (2002)
The film that killed the Pierce Brosnan Bond franchise. This is one of the worst Bond films ever – perhaps only The Man With the Golden Gun earns more scorn among Bond fans. It’s a bloated, slapdash mess of an action film, weighed down by one of the worst theme songs ever (from Madonna) and a clunky celebrity cameo (by Madonna). That’s not even mentioning the invisible car or the mailed in Bond girl role for Halle Berry. A disaster. Ironically, the film – the 20th in the series – is flush full of old-school Bond references, reminding all watchers of better films.
6. The World is Not Enough (1999)
There are some interesting things in Brosnan’s third outing as Bond, but the sum is less than its parts. Sophie Marceau is an appropriately slinky femme fatale, and Robert Carlyle’s bullet-in-the-brain plagued bad guy is creepy enough. Yet the action sequences are uninspired, and the less said about the Bond girl – an out-of-her-element Denise Richards – the better. Just try to get through these puns without cringing.
5. Quantum of Solace (2008)
After the triumph of Skyfall, the franchise fumbled the follow-up in Daniel Craig’s second outing. It’s not a disaster by any stretch, but it’s just uninspired; Marc Forster (of Monster’s Ball) is no action director, and the central story involving the struggle for water in the Bolivian desert is snooze-inducing. One wonders how much better the film could have been if those legendary script problems had been fixed before production.
4. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
A better movie than you remember watching, mostly thanks to a delicious bad guy turn from Jonathan Pryce – channeling Rupert Murdoch as a megalomaniacal media mogul. Another bonus is Michelle Yeoh, electric as a Chinese special agent who teams up with Bond. Oh, and this has one of the best gadgets in recent Bond movies, the supremely cool remote-controlled silver BMW.
3. Goldeneye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan came onto the scene in fine fashion with 1995’s Goldeneye, bolstered by some inspired direction from Martin Campbell. It’s got all of the ingredients for a great Bond movie. Sean Bean is a snarling-ly good bad guy, Famke Janssen skyrocketed her career as the beautifully brutal Xenia Onatopp, and the movie’s full of riveting action sequences – especially a crackerjack opening infiltration of a Russian facility. The movie also gets oodles of bonus points for inspiring the Goldeneye N64 game, which cost a lot of kids a lot of hours back in the mid-1990s.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
The franchise badly needed a reboot after the disastrous Die Another Day, and it came back strong. They turned to an old story (an original work from Ian Fleming, filed before as a comedy with David Niven), brought back an old director (Goldeneye helmer Martin Campbell) and got a whole new Bond – the lean, mean and blond-haired Daniel Craig, bringing a bulky air of menace to the feature. There isn’t a false note in the whole movie. The girl (Eva Green) is great, the bad guy (Mads Mikkelsen) is terrific, and Craig is a physical force of nature as Bond. It’s a fine, fine return to form.
1. Skyfall (2012)
The thrilling 23rd Bond is one of the biggest blockbusters in movie history (it’s the highest-grossing movie in English history, and made well over a billion dollars at the box office) and it is arguably one of the two or three best Bond films of all time. Impeccably and stylishly directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes, Skyfall seamlessly reintroduces some of the old features of the series – like Q, M, and Moneypenny – with flair and style, with Mendes giving the movie an epic feel the series hasn’t seen before. Javier Bardem nearly got an Oscar-nomination for his spooky, vengeance-driven ex-MI5 bad guy, providing one of the great all-time Bond monologues. The best part, though, as always is Craig as Bond, lending a gravitas to the character that hasn’t been seen before.
We can only hope Spectre comes near its brilliance.
How’d you feel about the ranking? Did the World is Not Enough not get enough credit in your book? Call it in with a comment below.