Welcome to “Friday Favorites” which highlight some of my favorite movie-related things.
For today’s Friday Favorite I’m going to do something a little different. I just finished another rewatch of the James Bond series (minus 1967’s Casino Royale and the Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again) in order, with the exception that I started with Skyfall and ended with Quantum of Solace. So for today’s Friday Favorite I’ll be highlighting and listing some of my favorite, and least favorite, things from 50 years of James Bond movies. And at the end, I’ll list all of the films based on my preference. (Maybe I should start calling them “favourites” for this post?)
It’s interesting as you rewatch the films in order and in a short amount of time how the bad moments fade away and the good moments stick with you. It’s like a sensory overload of Bond, and your brain can only hold so much so it picks the good stuff. Each of the Bond actors (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig) all have good movies and bad movies, and they all bring something new to the table. It’s impossible for me to rank them. Connery had the sexy swagger that set so much of the tone of the series, Lazenby was a perfect fit for the one film that showed Bond in a serious relationship, Moore was charming, funny and the most British of the 6, Dalton was Daniel Craig before the world was ready for it in terms of brutality and action, Brosnan was in many ways the combination of everything that came before, with sexiness, action, humor and heart in equal measure, and Craig is modern in a style that’s perfectly suited for our times. What’s really interesting is that each new actor appeared at almost precisely the moment when I felt the previous one was wearing out his welcome. If I had to pick a favourite, it’d be Connery, but I genuinely enjoy all of them.
Stunts have been a big part of the Bond films since the beginning, though they became steadily more exciting as the industry advanced. There are many more I could put on the list (the semi-truck balancing act in Licence to Kill, the motorcycle jump over a helicopter in Tomorrow Never Dies), but here are my favourites:
1) This is actually my favourite and my least favourite, if that’s possible. In The Man With The Golden Gun, Moore’s Bond is chasing after an assassin, who is on the other side of a river. Bond (with the horribly annoying Sheriff character along for the ride) jumps his AMC Hornet over the river across a broken bridge, doing a 360 degree corkscrew in the process. It was the first stunt designed with the aid of computers. But it’s practically ruined by a ridiculously goofy slide whistle sound effect that plays during the stunt (famously discussed on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I generally mute the TV at this point if I can remember in time. The stunt is still fantastic, though.
2) The opening sequence of GoldenEye featured a bungee jump off the side of a dam that was voted in one poll as the greatest film stunt of all time. (It’s not, but it’s still great). At the time, it was the record holder for the highest bungee jump off of a fixed structure. Every time I watch it I worry that the stuntman will bounce into the face of the dam.
3) The Spy Who Loved Me has one of my favourite stunts, though this one is more impressive for the filming than for the stunt itself. The film opens with Bond skiing away from some bad guys, with hidden guns in his ski poles, until he escapes by going right off a cliff. He falls for what seems like an eternity before pulling a cord to reveal a Union Jack colored parachute. The Bond fanfare blares out and in many ways it completely encompasses the essence of Bond: bold, british and badass.
4) Casino Royale: The Crane Jump. Nothing more to say.
5) I love the ending of the car chase set in the parking garage in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond, remotely driving his BMW, drives it off the roof of the garage and crashes it into the Avis car rental store across the street. The stunt was accomplished with a real driver in the car, hidden out of view, surrounded by airbags and driving by means of a video screen.
1) Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) – Goldfinger
2) Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance) – You Only Live Twice
3) Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) – Tomorrow Never Dies
4) Jaws (Richard Kiel) – The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker
5) Red Grant (Robert Shaw) – From Russia With Love
Least Favourite Character
Wow, I really can’t find the words to explain how much I hate Sheriff J.W. Pepper, who made his debut in Live and Let Die. He’s a racist sheriff who is determined to catch all the black people speeding through his precinct on boats and in cars. He calls every black man he meets “boy”, and I guess we’re supposed to think it’s funny? Live and Let Die is a pretty racist movie to start with, and it’s mildly boring too, but the worst part about the character is that they BROUGHT HIM BACK FOR THE NEXT MOVIE! He was so bad we had to see him again? Were people clamoring for more of him after the his first film? His presence in The Man with the Golden Gun is so forced and ridiculous, not to mention filled with him spouting racist at the local Thai people. He even contributes to ruining my #1 stunt merely by being in the car.
Favourite Theme Songs
2) “Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey
Least Favourite Theme Song
Favourite “Bond Girls”
M was very correct when she called Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” in Goldeneye. Bond as a character, and some of the Bond movies themselves, have a real problem with their treatment of women. It’s easy to write off some of it as a product of the times, but that doesn’t change the issue. However, there are also interest, well-rounded female characters in the Bond movies, who are confident and unashamed in their sexuality and who do more than simply exist to serve Bond as a character, and those are the ones that appeal to me as a viewer.
1) M (Judi Dench) – Goldeneye through Skyfall (No this is not cheating. It’s my list, deal with it.)
2) Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) – Tomorrow Never Dies
3) Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) – For Your Eyes Only
4) Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) – Goldfinger
5) Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) – Casino Royale
Least Favourite “Bond Girl”
Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough. Really?
Least Favourite Pun
Oh, the Bond puns. There are good ones (“Shocking” from Goldfinger) but there are also lots of bad ones. The worst has to be the final line of The World Is Not Enough, where Bond has hooked up with Christmas Jones (see above). This movie is silly and dull and occasionally insulting to our intelligence. But in the final scene with Christmas and Bond in bed after sex, Bond says, “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.” I vividly remember watching it in the theater and the entire audience loudly moaning in disgust. It was one giant “ugh”. Horrible.
Favourite Pre-credits Sequences
1) Tomorrow Never Dies – Arguably the biggest pre-credits action sequence. Bond infiltrates a illegal arms bazaar to recover a nuclear weapon before a Royal Navy missile destroys the place. In the process he fights everyone. Funny, exciting and unique.
2) Goldfinger – This one is all about the moment when Bond unzips his wetsuit to reveal a tuxedo underneath. One of the most Bond of all possible Bond moments.
3) GoldenEye – Set the tone for the Brosnan era with big stunts (the bungee jump, driving a motorcycle off a cliff) not to mention the first time we’ve seen two double-0 agents working together.
4) The Living Daylights – I’m very partial to this one, which features a training exercise gone wrong. It also has a fantastic final stunt, with Dalton’s Bond riding a Land Rover over a cliff and pulling his parachute to escape. Too bad the rest of the movie isn’t as exciting.
5) Skyfall – Car chase, motorcycle chase, train chase, that awesome moment where Bond straightens his cuffs after destroying a passenger compartment on the train. Plus it all ends with Moneypenny shooting Bond on M’s orders. “Take the bloody shot” indeed!
1) The Aston Martin DB5, originally from Goldfinger but reappearing in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and Skyfall. This is the one that started it all, with machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick and of course, the passenger ejector seat, setting up the perfect exchange between Bond and Q. Bond: “Ejector seat, you’re joking!” Q: “I never joke about my work, 007.” Used to great effect in the climax of Skyfall in an unexpected way, which is key to the film’s aspect of returning to the classic stylings.
2) The BMW 570iL, from Tomorrow Never Dies. Used in my favourite stunt #5, along with the awesome car “chase” through a parking deck that precedes it. It’s the modernized version of the Aston Martin, with missiles, smoke screen, self inflating tires and caltrops. It also can be piloted by remote from Bond’s phone and has the most badass of security systems.
3) Lotus Esprit S1, from The Spy Who Loved Me. Can turn into a submarine. What more do you need to know?
4) Little Nellie, from You Only Live Twice. The completely tricked out gyroplane that is easily disassembled to fit into suitcases. Features the completely-useless-in-the-real-world airborne flamethrowers. Also comes with her father, Big Nellie (Q).
5) Citroen 2CV, from For Your Eyes Only. What’s this, you ask? Well this is the car that belongs to my favourite Bond girl #4, Melina Havelock. She and Bond use it to escape after Bond’s fully loaded Lotus is destroyed. It’s actually a clever car chase, and perhaps an early inspiration for the Mini Cooper chase in The Bourne Identity. The idea that Bond can outrun the bad guys in such an underpowered car in an outmatched situation is a great way to show off his skills.
I’m a sap (as my regular readers know), but I always get emotional at this moment. Desmond Llewellyn played Q for 39 years, and even though they didn’t know that he would die before the film was released, they still managed to give him the perfect sendoff. Take a look (skip ahead to 2:10 for the good part):
My Ranking of the Bond Films
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- Licence to Kill (1989)
- Skyfall (2012)
- From Russia With Love (1963)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Casino Royale (2006)
- Dr. No (1962)
- GoldenEye (1995)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- A View to a Kill (1985)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
- Octopussy (1983)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Thunderball (1965)
- Die Another Day (2002)
- The Living Daylights (1987)
- The World is Not Enough (1999)
- Moonraker (1979)
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
- Live and Let Die (1973)
- Quantum of Solace (2008)
What do you think? Do you have a favorite Bond movie? How about a favorite Bond, villain or Bond girl? What’s your favorite theme song, gadget, stunt or vehicle? Vote below and tell me what you think in the comments!