Wendy and I decided to see every Bond film after watching and really liking Skyfall (which, as kt turns out, is easily the best one). A bunch of them were briefly on Netflix last month and these are the ones we managed to watch together:
Dr. No - Big screen debut, 1962. All the elements are already in place (the gambling, the martini, the girls, the last-name-first introduction, the exotic locations, the grandiose villain with unfortunate racist overtones) but it doesn't feel much like a Bond film. Mainly the problem is with the pacing. It unfolds more like a procedural mystery thriller than like a modern-day action thriller. And the climax is hilariously anti-climactic. An unassuming little film, overall. Certainly nothing in it to suggest they would go on to make 23 MORE OF THESE WHAAAAT?
Goldfinger - this is more like it. This time everything is bigger, the villain is more memorable, the action set pieces more elaborate, and the woman is somehow named Pussy Galore, which is filthier than any porn star name I've ever heard. If Dr. No established the basic template, this film is the one that established most of the cliches that every subsequent 007 film copied. It is all totally ridiculous, of course, but its also ridiculously enjoyable fun - everything you expect a Bond film to be.
Thunderball - not quite a retread of Goldfinger (the climax to that one was a big battle between U.S. Army soldiers and evil Asians; this one basically moves the same battle sequence underwater) but aside from a supercool opening in which Bond beats the crap out of a guy disguised as his own grieving widow and than escapes on a jet pack, doesn't quite do enough to distinguish itself. Feels like the series is already spoofing itself a little, too.
You Only Live Twice - holy crap, this one has an army of ninjas in it, and they're the good guys! That qualifies as progressive for this series. Excellent Nancy Sinatra theme too (later sampled by Robbie Williams in the song "Millenium"). Aside from that and a classic villain played by Donald Pleasance (who Dr. Evil was later based on) this one overall is pretty poor.
Live And Let Die - The best Bond theme ever is wasted on one of the worst Bond films ever. The low point of this whole series is an endless boat chase that inexplicably introduces a small-town hick sheriff for comic relief and then abruptly makes him the protagonist. Some of the worst comic relief ever. Still, a pre-Alien Yaphet Kotto makes a badass villain and, that song.
The Spy Who Loved Me - the twist in this one is Bond teams up with a Russian spy chick to take down the bad guys. She makes a good foil and the Egyptian desert locations give the movie a nice Lawrence of Arabia/Indiana Jones feel. Plus, Jaws. This one is solid all around.
Licence To Kill (sic) - they tried to do a darker, grittier Bond and the result was so poorly-received that it killed off the franchise for six years (prior to this, they released at least one 007 every 2 years, a staggering rate of production). Too bad, cause this one is awesome. Sure, it feels more like Scarface or Miami Vice than your fathers Bond, but Timothy Dalton kicks a lot of ass as a less tongue-in-cheek version of the character and young Benicio Del Toro steals every scene he's in. The twist in this one is Bond goes rogue and goes after some drug dealers after they kill his friends wife and feed his leg to a shark. it's fun to see him somewhat humanized for a change. Guess the world wasn't ready.
Octopussy - Roger Moore already looks old enough to play M. it felt like they were aiming the movies at a younger audience by this point. At least, that seems to explain all of the circus stuff. Not that it's a bad thing - it still delivers all the expected Bond action. I guess I have no strong feelings about this one. It was alright.
Still a bunch I need to see - The Living Daylights, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, Casino Royale. Or maybe just not bother. There is no reason to see more than 2 of these films, unless you have an inexplicable soft spot for the character. Which I guess I do.
UPDATE 7/27/2015 Have now also seen these:
From Russia With Love - Badass,
the least campiest of the early Bonds. Why they didn't stick with this
slow-burn/Hitchcockian direction instead of going full cheese with
Goldfinger a year later, I'll never understand or forgive.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Boring. I gave up an hour in. Lazenby sucks!
Are Forever - Godawful. The worst. Way more embarrassing than the Roger
Moores or Pierce Brosnans because they really should've known better.
Man With The Golden Gun - Christopher Lee, yay. Everything else, boo.
Has way more in common with The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped
Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies than a Bond film ever should. Who
the fu ck thought it was a good idea to bring back Sheriff Barney Gomer
Pyle??? Boyyeee, I tell ya.
Moonraker - Actually not bad, cheap pasted-on laser effects and sillyass Jaws romance aside. Goodhead? Goddamn right.
Your Eyes Only - Is this the one with the sequence where Bond outruns
these guys on motorcycles/snowmobiles by skiing downhill away from them
(that Christopher Nolan ripped off for Inception)? I HATE THIS ONE
Living Daylights - Good, if a little too "generic Roger Moore-era"
Bond. Ok, it's kinda boring in spots, but come on, skiing downhill in a
cello case? Ripping off the climax to The Man Who Knew Too Much? Being
directed by that old astronaut guy who walked on the moon at age 80 (not
Goldeneye - Trying to modern-update and retro the
franchise at the same time? Whatever, Damn Judi Dench. Famke Janssen
will always be the hottest, though.
Die Another Day - Has exactly
one good virtue -- starting with Bond imprisoned for 30 years on a
remote island and forced to stage a one-man production of Robinson
Crusoe for his captor's amusement. Should've left the movie there.
Royale - OVERRATED ALERT OVERRATED ALERT Ok fine, it kicked new life
into the franchise or whatever, but why? Why exactly? Naked
cock-and-ball torture? ESPN World Series of Poker? Blondeness? Parkour?
It's going to age badly, is what I'm saying. Good sequences, though.
Good direction. Understandable. But ultimately it's all just leadup.
Of Solace - UNDERRATED ALERT Nah not really. Kinda deserves its
reputation as the black sheep of the modern day era. But it's still not
as awful as everyone wants it to be. Except for the "Goldfinger" ripoff
black oil killing. That part is pure cringe. It's just disjointed,
incoherent. Isolated good scenes that don't amount to much.
The best. Finally, they got it right. Turns out all they needed to do
was tell an actual STORY about the CHARACTERS. Who knew?