Best James Bond Films

By Gayot Editors

James Bond’s Top Films of All Time

No other film franchise can have an entire list devoted to it and still have more than a dozen movies not make the cut. Sure, there’s Godzilla and a few series that pre-date World War II, but no modern, mainstream franchise is longer-running or more successful than Bond … James Bond.

The unforgettable settings, stunts, villains, girls, gadgets, cars, music and all those other intangibles have made Bond a true cultural icon and king of action films. Get your secret agent fix with GAYOT’s list of the Best James Bond Movies, which features everything from classics such as Goldfinger to underappreciated gems like the grim and gritty Licence to Kill.

1. From Russia With Love (1963)

Amazon Buy Now

From Russia With Love lays much of the formula groundwork that would be ironed out one film later in Goldfinger.

This is the best of the “realistic” Bond films, telling a story very similar to that detailed in Ian Fleming’s novel. While the first 007 adventure, Dr. No, never quite feels like a full-fledged Bond movie, From Russia With Love lays much of the formula groundwork that would be ironed out one film later in Goldfinger. Connery shines as 007, while supporting actors Lotte Lenya and Pedro Armandáriz (who was literally dying during filming) provide some of the franchise’s most memorable characters.

Directed by: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 115 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

2. GoldenEye (1995)

“GoldenEye” is Pierce Brosnan’s first film as Agent 007.

In Pierce Brosnan’s first film, 007 takes on a former friend and double-O who hijacks a Russian nuclear space weapon. This is the movie that introduced James Bond to a new generation of fans. The film’s edgier, darker feel is a testament to director Martin Campbell and gives the movie a unique quality setting it apart from other 007 adventures—in a good way. The reason it works so well is that the line between realism and outlandish action is toed perfectly, never going too far in either direction. The entire supporting cast is memorable, particularly Bond girls Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen, whose characters are as strong as they are beautiful. Throw in Judi Dench as M and this is one film where women are not just eye candy.

Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco
Released by: MGM/United Artists Distribution Company
Run Time: 130 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

3. Goldfinger (1964)

Widely seen as the movie that established a so-called “Bond Formula.”

Although it was the third Bond film, this is the movie that established the so-called “Bond Formula”: Exotic locales, beautiful women, outlandish plot, spectacular sets, over-the-top villain, bizarre henchmen (Oddjob), teaser opening, title song over the credits, gadgets and cars (the famous Aston Martin DB5). After “Goldfinger,” all movies bearing that iconic number had to live up to this formula. This was also the film that made 007 a worldwide phenomena that continues to this very day.

Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 110 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

4. Licence to Kill (1989)

Five-time Bond director John Glen considers this his best work, and it’s easy to understand why. 

This is a controversial choice. Many criticize Licence to Kill because it is too serious, too violent and strays too far away from the Goldfinger formula. But five-time Bond director John Glen considers this his best work, and it’s easy to understand why. This is a gritty tale that shows Bond is human (kudos to Timothy Dalton), while the action sequences and Count of Monte Cristo-like plot keep you riveted. Robert Davi is captivating as drug lord Franz Sanchez, while a very young Benicio del Toro hams it up as his henchman. Meanwhile, Carey Lowell proves once again that strong women often inhabit the best Bond films.

Directed by: John Glen
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Robert Davi, Carey Lowell
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 133 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

5. The Living Daylights (1987)

A complex quasi-thriller with twists and turns that are consistent with the original Fleming novels. 

Timothy Dalton stars in this down-to-earth thriller where Bond becomes tangled in a web of Soviet defectors, Afghan freedom fighters and an American weapons dealer. As Dalton’s first movie, this is a bare-bones Bond that brought realism back to the series after the light-hearted, sometimes ridiculous Moore era. It is a complex quasi-thriller with twists and turns that are consistent with the original Fleming novels. The plot and characters aren’t over the top, while the Bond girl is a low-key Slovakian cellist (who never actually has sex with Bond!). There are still plenty of fun action scenes, though, including a car chase with a gadget-festooned Aston Martin and a thrilling airplane fight scene over the Afghanistan desert.

Directed by: John Glen
Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbé
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 130 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

6. Octopussy (1983)

This film, with its exotic Indian setting and memorable characters is more than just a risqué title.

For the record, the title comes from the leading lady (Maud Adams), who got her nickname from her octopi-expert father. Anyway, although it has plenty of outlandish elements (Bond dresses like a clown, a mini-jet emerges from a fake horse’s rear end), Octopussy is actually a fairly believable tale of jewel smuggling, a greedy Afghan prince and a rogue Soviet general hell-bent on invading the West. The chemistry between Moore and Adams is undeniable, while Octopussy herself is one of the series’ better characters.

Directed by: John Glen
Starring: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 131 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

7. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service(1969)

George Lazenby’s and director Peter Hunt’s lone Bond movie is a winner from beginning to end.

The only Bond film starring George Lazenby is a great movie that deserves far better than to only be remembered as a casting blunder. If Connery or Moore had done this movie, it would have been his best. However, Lazenby was a good Bond despite his off-screen immaturity that caused him to quit the series. As it stands, his and director Peter Hunt’s lone movie is a winner from beginning to end. The breathtaking ski sequences, fast-paced fight scenes and Swiss Alp scenery complement the emotional backdrop driven by Diana Rigg’s Tracy. If you liked the down-to-earth, book-based Bond character on display in Casino Royale, the same one is in OHMSS.

Directed by: Peter R. Hunt
Starring: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 142 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

8. Skyfall (2012)

James Bond hit the silver screen just in time for his 50th birthday, preparing the field for the next 50 years.

Daniel Craig is making it look easy as he carries the Bond mantle forward in “Skyfall,” an exhilarating, emotional, incredible chapter in the ongoing tale of the man who seemingly single-handedly keeps the British empire (and the world) safe from evil. In this, his third outing as the dapper MI6 agent, Craig continues to play Bond as a darker version of his earlier on-screen persona. It’s a throwback to the way the character was in the original Ian Fleming novels where Bond began his life, and it’s a perfect fit for the actor, who brings a gravitas to everything he does.

As all good Bond films do, “Skyfall” starts out with an action sequence, although we’ve seen that one before. It happens in Istanbul and, under the steady hand of Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “The Road to Perdition”), it starts strong and ends spectacularly. In fact, that is the case for the whole movie, which is a beautifully structured, mostly fast-moving and intense tale of treachery and revenge.

It certainly helps that Mendes has populated “Skyfall” with some of the most talented actors working today, including multiple Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. Oscar winner Javier Bardem makes a perfect foil for Bond as a fallen spy out for ultimate revenge. As he, Craig and Dame Judi Dench (another Academy Award winner, reprising her role as Bond’s capable boss “M”) go toe-to-toe in this action-packed yet deeply psychological thriller, it is a delight to watch.

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 143 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

It was outlandish without being completely ridiculous like Moonraker or Diamonds are Forever.

The top of the poster says it all. From the opening teaser’s spectacular ski-parachute jump to the climactic epic battle inside Carl Stromberg’s submarine-swallowing supertanker, this Bond has it all. It was outlandish without being completely ridiculous like Moonraker or Diamonds are Forever. Highlights include Barbara Bach’s tough and sexy Agent Triple-X, iconic henchman Jaws with his metal teeth, the Lotus submarine car, exotic Egyptian locales, spectacularly elaborate sets and of course, Roger Moore’s incomparable charm. Goldfinger established the Bond formula, but Spy took it to a new level.

Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 125 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

10. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The film’s climactic twist makes this one of the few Bond films that actually catches you off guard. 

Like GoldeneyeThe World is Not Enough toes the line between realism and outlandishness, while adding in an emotional element left over from the Dalton days. Sophie Marceau is perfect as the illusive Elektra King, while Judi Dench adeptly makes M an intrinsic part of the plot for the first time. The film’s climactic twist makes this one of the few Bond films that actually catches you off guard. Then there’s Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, a thoroughly stupid character and casting choice (she’s a bosomy, mid-20s nuclear scientist in the middle of Kazakhstan; hollowed-out volcanoes are more believable). Yet despite her worst efforts, TWINE makes the Top 10 ahead of honorable mention For Your Eyes Only.

Directed by: Michael Apted
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 128 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

11. You Only Live Twice (1967)

An over-the-top tale filled with Connery charm, epic action sequences and a unique setting: Japan.

Years ago, this probably wouldn’t have made the list. But thanks to Austin Powers, You Only Live Twice has re-established itself as a cultural icon, since most of Mike Myers’ spoof was inspired by this 007 film. Dr. Evil’s bald head and scar are obvious homages to Donald Pleasence’s Blofeld, while the “hollowed out volcano” speaks for itself. Austin Powers aside, You Only Live Twice is an over-the-top tale filled with Connery charm, epic action sequences and a setting that is almost a character itself: Japan. Special credit also goes to John Barry’s excellent theme song by Nancy Sinatra.

Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama
Released by: MGM Studios
Run Time: 117 min.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller