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License To Kill

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We’ve been enjoying slowly re-watching all James Bond movies in the past few months. Bond, James Bond. Shaken, Not Stirred. Licence To Kill. Double-Oh Seven. Walter PPK. I’m sure you’ve heard of the fellow: according to recent metrics, it’s the movie series with the highest percentage of watches ever. In other words, Almost anyone who’s fortunate enough to be able to watch TV has seen at least one Bond film. Yet strangely enough, it’s “only” the fifth highest-grossing franchise: Marvel, Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Harry Poter movies are more profitable.

Boring statistics aside, the real question remains: what’s your favorite James Bond movie? A tough nut to crack indeed, as there are 26 in total to take into account, with releases ranging from 1962 (Dr. No) to 2021 (No Time to Die), spanning 6 different Bond actors. I had a list in my head, but that one’s ready for the bin now that we’ve been re-watching them. I thought I loved GoldenEye, but Xenia Onatopp and Boromir got on my nerves, so a revision is in order. I’m still torn on the order, so feel free to mix things up. Viewing in order of appearance isn’t a requirement.

(I know I know, a top x list, what kind of click-bait mannerly is this? I assure you, I only type this to pleasure my inner listiness! Wait, what did I just type now? I promise I’ll write this before looking up other ostentatious “best James Bond movies ever” articles.)

1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

How does that grab you?

It’s got Jaws in it! Need I say more?

Jaws held at gunpoint, but for how long?

Perhaps I do, because Moonraker also features Jaws, but that movie was a lot less stellar than his first appearance. James needs to work together with the Russian government and gets teamed up with his female Russian secret service counterpart, leading to all sorts of lovable quarrels. Roger Moore’s flair and humor works wonders here.

2. For Your Eyes Only (1981)

You’ve got what we Greek call thrasos! Guts!

Okay, yes, I am a Roger Moore fan, although since he racked up the most Bond movies, he also features in plenty of really miserable ones. (and by that, I don’t mean the Hi, “I’m Plenty” sort of plenty. That’s next-level Bond Pun for you. The correct response is “I’m sure you are.") In For Your Eyes Only, plenty (ah, dang!) of underwater scenes together with a vengeful Bond girl and a villain who turns out not to be the villain are the main ingredients. That, and the ATAC machine. And a parrot.

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

That never happened to the other fellow.

George Lazenby’s pun targeting Sean Connery’s stereotypical irresistible ability to pick up women, in the first opening scene of the movie, immediately sets the tone: this ain’t your typical Bond movie. Unfortunately, Lazenby turned out to be a one-off, but he did manage to get Bond married (and widowed). I don’t necessarily like the movie because of Lazenby’s stiff acting talent, but because of SPECTRE’s boss Number One, or Blowfeld, or Count de Bleauchamp, who this time doesn’t shy away from taking part in the action, which is quite refreshing.

4. Skyfall (2012)

Quand notre cœur fait boum!

Without a doubt the best modern Bond incarnation, and just like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a very personal one, as it is the last time we’ll be seeing Judi Dench cast as M. A madman—or even better, a former double-oh number—on the loose isn’t exactly a thrilling or novel plot, but a throwback shootout in Scotland with Goldfinger’s Aston Martin is. As I said before, I like James to be a cheerful fellow, and Moore’s interpretation couldn’t be farther from Craig’s, yet both have their merits.

5. The Living Daylights (1987)

Nothing to declare! Just a cello!

Sod the rules! shouts Timothy Dalton’s James Bond to Felix Leiter, when the latter reprimanded him about purposely missing a shot. That’s right, sod ‘em! Dalton is an excellent Bond actor that I feel is perhaps even darker than Daniel Craig’s movies, and the over-the-top double crossing by Koskov a.k.a. Jeroen Krabbé is just hilarious. A weird combination that somehow works, and to top it all of, a staged death in an opera, For Your Eyes Only. No, wait, that happened to the other fellow. No, wait.

A spontaneous applause by Kara and James.

Why, you shouldn’t have, thank you!

Now what about honorable mentions? Most of you will probably be whining about the absence of Sean Connery’s excellence, so I’ll grand you your wish and say that indeed, Goldfinger (1964), and to a greater degree, From Russia With Love (1963), are both good picks. If you’re young or if you’ve completely forgotten about the nostalgia of the older Bond films, I suppose you’d probably also pick Casino Royale (2006), an entry that marks the era of Mr White. Lastly, if you’ve ever owned a Nintendo 64 GoldenEye (1995) cartridge, it could close out the list at your own risk.

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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