FilmNerds Recommends: James Bond Edition
Getting pumped for SKYFALL? A good agent never goes on a mission without being briefed. Check out these recommendations from FilmNerds contributors Ben Flanagan, Ben Stark, Graham Flanagan, and Craig Hamilton on the best of the best from the James Bond franchise. Disagree with our picks? Give us your own in the comments section below.
Best Bond Movie
Ben F. – THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
GOLDFINGER seems the obvious choice here, but growing up, I kept going back to Roger Moore’s finest entry into the franchise, one that relied less on tongue-in-cheek spy humor and more globe-trotting excitement. Shot primarily in Egypt, Italy and England, this perhaps best utilized the global scenery and pitted Bond in plenty of high-stakes action sequences via cars, skis and submarine. Plus you add a little depth with a legitimate love interest and fleshed-out female character in Barbara Bach, and you’ve really go the total package.
Ben S. – THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
This pick could vary on any given day between three or four movies, including this, OHMSS, From Russia With Love, and Casino Royale. The strength of Daylights lies in its status as a fantastic Cold War espionage story, laced with great action and tangible romance. Here, Timothy Dalton gives Bond a steely edge, but doesn’t fall into the humorless depression that plagues his second outing as 007. A great opening sequence, one of the best Bond songs, a memorable Bond girl, and a fresh take on the character… the franchise is rarely in such great shape.
Graham F. – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
Thankfully this movie has risen in the series’ rankings due to a fervent following among cinephiles. What makes this movie stand out so mich for me is the fact that the script dares to significantly raise the stakes, preventing it from becoming just another Bond-yarn. It does this by causing Bond, the ultimate playboy, to fall in love with one woman and decide to settle down. *SPOILER ALERT* When she is killed, the Bond character is transformed into a man driven by the desire for revenge. This truly makes him a three-dimensional character. I thought they failed to capitalize on this in CASINO ROYALE with the Vesper Lynd storyline.
Craig H. – CASINO ROYALE
What a way to reinvigorate a franchise! Martin Campbell directs Daniel Craig (a new blonde Bond!) in a fast-paced, gritty (crushing nuts with a rope) action-packed film. Casino Royale is a pretty faithful (crushing nuts with a rod) adaptation of the very first Ian Fleming novel, but with a more current flavor and a realism that avoids some of the blatant, tongue in cheek elements, sex and gadgets that are typically found in the Bond films. However, Casino Royale keeps the necessary suspension of belief and those other familiar aspects that endear us to the brave 007 and these films.
Ben F. – SEAN CONNERY
Again, Connery seems the obvious choice, but it’s harder than you might think, at least while using my criteria here. If you’re talking about the collective body of work, it’s Connery in a landslide, given the quality and sheer quantity of films like GOLDFINGER, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Granted, guys like Brosnan, Craig and especially Lazenby haven’t had nearly as many opportunities, but let’s judge it by each actor’s best film. If each had one shot, who gave the best Bond performance? With that, I still go with Connery in GOLDFINGER, an amalgam of all you need in a Bond outing. The wit, the grit, the clothes, the cars, etc. Connery did a fine job in the first two films, but set the true blueprint his third time around.
Ben S. – PIERCE BROSNAN
This probably has far less to do with objective reasoning than with nostalgia. I grew up with Dalton as my Bond, but when GoldenEye came out, I was taken aback by Brosnan’s confidence and swagger. His films almost feel like arch, animated caricatures of traditional Bond tropes, and in that way, Brosnan is THE perfect 007. He takes a bit from across the board, and in the end, improves on Lazenby’s underrated wit to reveal a dangerous, slick, and unassuming superhero.
Graham F. – SEAN CONNERY
He invented the brand. The swagger. The sense of humor. Bond wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him. Pierce Brosnan is the only one, in my opinion, to come close to replicating it. Unfortunately the movies in which he starred weren’t worthy of his presence or charisma.
Craig H. – SEAN CONNERY
I think Daniel Craig is a great Bond, but when I think of James Bond, I think of Sean Connery. That dapper son-of-a-gun has charm and swagger and can keep his cool under the most crucial moments. Who else can maintain such control and calm with a golden laser beam creeping right up to their boys? And I challenge anyone to show me another Bond that holds their own PPK as firmly in hand.
BEST BOND VILLAIN
Ben F. – ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD (ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE)
So much about Lazenby’s sole entry stands out and lends enough weight to OHMSS that it could exist as the only Bond ever produced. In particular, Telly Savalas brought a unique gravitas to the recurring Blofeld, the inspiration for AUSTIN POWERS’ cartoonish Dr. Evil. Savalas, with his cue-ball shaved head, deep voice and even his unusual way he held his cigarettes, mixed enough smarmy and gentlemanly qualities to both reassure us Bond had met his match intellectually but we were also dealing with a maniacal scumbag.
Ben S. – HUGO DRAX (MOONRAKER)
I recently re-watched Moonraker (which is unfairly maligned), and I was delighted by Michael Lonsdale’s sniveling performance as Drax: a condescending, quietly maniacal eugenicist. It’s hard not to pick Donald Pleasance’s Blofeld here, but surely someone else will cover that ground.
Graham F. – GOLDFINGER
This fatass made things personal for ME when he killed my beloved Jill Masterson at the beginning of GOLDFINGER. I fell in love with Masterson mere seconds after seeing her; and just as I was getting to know her, Goldfinger delivers the ultimate blow. That hurt. I wanted more time with Jill. Goldfinger, you got what you deserved. You truly are the Charlie Weis of Bond villains.
Craig H. – MARC FORSTER
I bet Daniel Craig was all like, “You’re gonna drop fake glass on me, bro?”. And then Forster busted up sayin’, “Yeah and prolly some CGI rope and broken planks, too.” Alongside making a pretty forgettable Bond flick that followed a rejuvenating reboot, Marc Forster attempts to show audience part of an intense car chase scene through the side mirrors of an Aston Martin just before it’s destroyed. What’s more, the plot had some last minute, frivolous twists and turns that it seemed less of a Bond movie and more of a Bourne film; not the direction you want to go.
Best Bond Girl
Ben F. WAI LIN (TOMORROW NEVER DIES)
Tempted to say Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore because…well, just because. Adding an action stalwart like Michelle Yeoh to the mix gave 007 the physical match he finally needed in this series, instead of most Bond women serving as set decoration. Yeoh isn’t he strongest actress (in this franchise, who is?), but she kicks some ass here and is certainly easy on the eyes. Plus, points for her involvement in one of the franchise’s greatest action set pieces in which Bond and Wai Lin escape Range Rovers and a helicopter on a conveniently available BMW motorcycle.
Ben S. – TATIANA ROMANOVA (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE)
Daniela Bianchi kind of had it easy going into her role as the SPECTRE pawn in the second 007 movie. Her predecessor, Ursula Andress, was beautiful, yet vapid and unnecessary. In From Russia With Love, Tatiana is essential to the plot, and Bianchi delivers. She’s gorgeous, smart, and has a very real emotional arc that develops over the course of the movie.
Graham F. – JILL MASTERSON (GOLDFINGER)
I’ve already shared my feelings about Jill Masterson, who I consider to be the best Bond Girl in history.. but I’ll include as an honorable mention the faceless woman who appears on the poster for THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. This blond beauty dressed in a see-thru silky white dress seductively arches her back while clutching a silenced pistol. This image encapsulates the true essence of what every Bond girl should be: sexy, desirable and just a little bit dangerous.
Craig H. – ANDREA ANDERS (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN)
Adams has not only a classic, classy beauty, but she also has brains; enough to hoodwink 007 into going on a rogue mission to kill her controlling and golden gun-wielding lover. Maud Adams also played another Bond girl as the title character in OCTOPUSSY, but it seems like she’s got a bigger head in that movie. In THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, she’s more elegant.
Best Bond Song
Ben F. – “NOBODY DOES IT BETTER” (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME)
Hate to go back to this well, but indeed, nobody ever did it better after Carly Simon owned the theme to my favorite entry. Favorite non-Bond use was when local TV affiliate set it to a montage of Barney Fife’s greatest gags to advertise reruns of “Andy Griffith Show.” Simon’s gorgeous voice carries it, but the late Marvin Hamlisch’s orchestral arrangement, featuring booming horns down the stretch, added an appropriate elegance.
Ben S. – YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
I feel like this graceful Nancy Sinatra track is overlooked as one of the great Bond songs, but I think it does everything a good opening tune should do. It sets the tone for the film, it’s catchy, and it plays to the very themes at the heart of the 007 franchise: Indulgence and escapism.
Graham F. – “WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD” – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
While this song isn’t used in the opening credits I still feel like it should be included in this list. The Lous Armstrong-sung ballad plays the cruelest possible joke on James Bond. Little does the hero know, he has very little time left with the woman he loves. While this song creates a romantic atmosphere for a scene showing Bond at his happiest, it foreshadows the tragedy that lies ahead.
Craig H. – LIVE AND LET DIE
There are so many that I don’t like, but “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings is my favorite, especially of the old school Bond movie songs. And I’m not the biggest McCartney fan considering the fact that my favorite Beatles song is “Band on the Run.” I think a Bond song has to have that particular sound of intrigue, which most of them (even the bad ones) have. “Live and Let Die” has that sound. Chris Cornell for CASINO ROYALE and Jack White & Alicia Keys for QUANTUM OF SOLACE both fit that Bond song style very well and those are a couple of the better recent songs.
Best Bond Gadget/Car
Ben F. – ASTON MARTIN DB5 (GOLDFINGER)
I’m definitely not a car person, but holy smokes is this a beautiful vehicle. Equipped with Q’s patented machine guns, bulletproof shield, revolving license plates, ejector seat and other goodies, the car would honestly win this category without the toys. Love the nods to this car’s introduction in GOLDFINGER we see early on in GOLDENEYE and apparently in the newest Bond film SKYFALL.
Ben S. – BMW 750iL (TOMORROW NEVER DIES)
I come from a BMW-favoring family, so the inclusion of this car in the underrated 1997 Brosnan movie was a big deal for us. One of Brosnan’s highlights as Bond is the boyish glee he exhibits from the backseat of the car as he remotely controls it through a very inventive car chase.
Graham F. – PASSENGER EJECTOR SEAT (GOLDFINGER)
“Pull up to the scene with my ceiling missing!” – 2 CHAINZThe hottest rapper in the land might be referring to this feature that causes the car’s ceiling to fly off before initiating the passenger-side ejector seat. I’m including this gadget not only because of its use via the famous Aston Martin, but because Q’s insistence to James Bond that it is “not to be touched” is one of my favorite moments from the Gadget Master.
Craig H. – ESCAPE POD (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME)
This escape pod is choice for even the most leisurely of escaping. The majority of the interior of the pod is a white, round bed with soft, plush pillows and cushions surrounding its diameter. The inside is curtained and canopied quite sensually. A bottle of Dom Perignon ’52 chills in a bucket on the barrier that surrounds the bed. Shelves just beyond this barrier contain other liquors, a stereo or radio of some sort and, my favorite item on the shelf, books. Plenty of books. As if that wasn’t enough, this escape pod contains a soaking wet female Russian spy, Agent XXX, whose feelings for 007 boil with both a seething hatred and a burning passion. Pray tell, what more does one need? The next time you watch this, check out how horrible the lighting is in this scene.