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Skyfail: The 5 Worst James Bond Films

Skyfail: The 5 Worst James Bond Films

The James Bond franchise is the longest-running continuous series in film history and, behind "Harry Potter," the second most successful franchise in cinema history (and by the time "Skyfall" finishes up, will likely take the crown back again). And one of the most impressive things about that achivement, and I say this is as a British writer raised on Bond movies on rainy Bank Holiday afternoons, is how many of the films are simply not very good.

There are scattered highlights, to be certain — much of the Connery era, a few Roger Moores, a Brosnan, "Casino Royale." But for every genuinely classic entry, there are probably two mediocre (or worse) films. Some of them might have scattered things to enjoy in them, but there’s a few that can’t even claim that much. With the latest film, "Skyfall," hitting theaters this week (and proving to be one of the better films in the series), we’re continuing Bond week (read our take on the franchise’s best villains and action sequences) by picking out our five least favorite 007 adventures. Disagree? Defend your favorite, or attack another, in the comments section below.

"Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)
Sean Connery stepped away from playing 007 after "You Only Live Twice" in 1967, with replacement George Lazenby stepping in for 1969’s "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service." But Lazenby, after clashing with producers, bailed on the franchise after only one entry, and while producers considered names as varied as Michael Gambon and Adam West, "Psycho" actor John Gavin won the role, only for United Artists to decide they wanted Connery to return, offering him a record salary and funding for two projects of his choice for the trouble. Even so, Connery may wish he hadn’t bothered, because "Diamonds Are Forever" is easily the actor’s worst of his six outings in Bond’s tuxedo. Revolving around Blofeld (Charles Gray)’s scheme to use smuggled South African diamonds to power a laser satellite with which he can menace the globe, the film’s choice of locations — South Africa, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Baja California — feel significantly less glamorous and sleazier then in your average entry, while Gray is easily the least effective of the Blofelds. Indeed, the cast in general, from Jill St. John‘s stilted love interest to Bruce Glover and Putter Smith as gay assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, are mostly flat. The plot is convoluted and sees the encroachment into silliness that the earlier Connery entries mostly did without, and the actor himself feels disinterested. Even director Guy Hamilton, whose "Goldfinger" was one of the peaks of Connery’s five prior films, seems to be phoning it in, with a pretty uninspiring selection of setpieces. It’s not the worst of these five films, but it’s still a pretty dismal (official) finale for the seminal James Bond, who probably wishes he’d left it at five (Connery would return one more time for unofficial entry "Never Say Never Again," which is pretty mediocre, but just decent enough to stay off the bottom five).

"Moonraker" (1979)
Every generation in theory has a particular fondness for the Bond that they grew up with, so Roger Moore has his defenders out there, but as far as we’re concerned, it would have been fairly easy to pick out five terrible Bond movies from his time in the role. Only "The Spy Who Loved Me" is anything like a success, while the other films have occasionally strong set pieces or other pleasures to be found, but mostly suffer from weak scripts, haphazard tone and an ever-aging Moore, who was close to 60 by the time he departed the role. But the very nadir has to be "Moonraker," an unconvincing attempt to cash in on the success of "Star Wars" two years previously. This time out, 007 is out to stop the most ludicrous plot in a series full of ludicrous plots: villain Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale)’s plan to destroy the earth, and then repopulate it with the perfect-looking inhabitants of his space station city. One certainly can’t fault the film’s ambition: it trots the globe from Africa and Venice to Rio and the aforementioned space station. But the result is something frantic and overstuffed, with wall-to-wall action but no sequences that really impress, bar perhaps the opening sky-diving stunt (which sets up the ridiculous tone by having returning fan-favorite henchman survive a plunge from 30,000 feet by landing in a circus tent). The sure touch that Lewis Gilbert ("Alfie") showed in "The Spy Who Loved Me" is nowhere to be found here, the tone feeling closer to parody than straightforward action-adventure, and by the time you reach the space station, you’re no longer watching a Bond film, you’re watching a poorly-conceived "Our Man Flint" sequel. Still, the space gamble worked out financially: the film took over $200 million worldwide, and it stood as the series’ highest-grossing entry until "Goldeneye" sixteen years later.

"Licence To Kill" (1989)
A good couple of decades before the trend for darkness in franchise pictures came about thanks to "Batman Begins" and co., Timothy Dalton‘s Bond saw an attempt to reinvent the franchises after diminishing returns in the Moore era by returning to relative realism, with a more character-driven approach. Dalton’s debut, 1987’s "The Living Daylights" isn’t a classic, but it’s a decent attempt at melding a Bond for the 1980s with the classic template. Unfortunately, things tipped too far the other way with the actor’s second and final spin at 007, 1989’s "Licence To Kill." The story did at least take the franchise to new places: after an attack on his U.S. liaison friend Felix Leiter and his wife, 007 goes rogue, resigns, has his licence to kill revoked, and sets out on a mission of revenge. Inspired by hardcore R-rated ’80s action movies like "Lethal Weapon," this is a dark and violent Bond (it had to be edited down from an R in the U.S. and remains the only 15-rated entry in the series in the U.K.), with exploding heads, bullet impacts, and severed legs. But from the off — which sees Leiter’s wife raped and murdered, and the DEA agent fed to a shark — it leaves a deeply sour taste in the mouth. Indeed, between the revenge plot and the coke-dealing villains, the film barely feels like a Bond movie at all; you could swap in Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone and the film might as well be a "Commando" or "Rambo" sequel. There’s one impressive action sequence near the end (the tanker chase), but ultimately there’s very little to like here, beyond an expanded role for Desmond Llewelyn‘s Q. It’s a shame Dalton didn’t get a third stab, because he was a fairly decent Bond. But hey, at least he got to be Mr. Pricklepants.

"Die Another Day" (2002)
Pierce Brosnan was a well-liked Bond who proved to be an inspired choice for the character, helping revive the franchise and take it to new box-office heights. But it’s a shame that his films got gradually worse as time went on, from the excellent "Goldeneye," diminishing returns seemed to hit every time he was at bat. Things reached rock bottom with Brosnan’s final entry, "Die Another Day," a CGI-stuffed misjudged mess that, in the same year as upstarts "The Bourne Identity" and to a lesser extent "xXx," tried to get with the times, but ultimately made the franchise look like your dad in a ponytail and a leather jacket. Things start off promisingly. After an impressive hovercraft-based action scene, Bond is actually captured, tortured and left a bearded, bedgraggled burn-out, traded back to the MI6 only reluctantly. From there, however, it goes rapidly downhill: a hammy villain (Toby Stephens) with a ludicrous sci-fi tinged plot, a would-be counterpart to Bond in the shape of Halle Berry that mostly made the audience question why she’d won an Oscar only a few months earlier, pop-culture baiting stunt casting in the form of a shoehorned-in Madonna, and a creaky script that trades in single entendres more than bona-fide innuendo. Worst of all, having kept mostly to practical stunts in the earlier films, the film sees Bond embrace the age of CGI and overblown set pieces, with an invisible car and some dreadful effects that sees a 16-bit Bond surfing a melted ice wave. Director Lee Tamahori went on to make "xXx2: State Of The Union" starring Ice Cube next. That’s arguably a better Bond movie than this.

"Quantum Of Solace" (2008)
Daniel Craig‘s first entry, "Casino Royale," suggested a franchise that had been successfully reinvented. At the time, the biggest hit ever in the series, and critically acclaimed, it showed that the filmmakers were learning from the success of rivals like Bourne, without slavishly copying. Were we in for a new golden age of Bond movies? As "Quantum Of Solace" proved two years later, not so much. In advance, it looked promising: an acclaimed filmmaker in the shape of "Finding Neverland" director Marc Forster, a script again polished by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, ‘Bourne’ genius Dan Bradley as second-unit director, and the first Bond movie in history to pick up the threads of a storyline from a previous film. Unfortunately, the film was rushed into production because of the impending writer’s strike, and the result was an insipid, half-hearted and, frankly, dull entry that dissipated any goodwill from "Casino Royale." Plotwise, the film sees Bond attempting to track down the organization, Quantum, that killed his love Vesper Lynd, but things are swiftly sidetracked by his discovery of a nefarious plan by faux environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Having apparently learned nothing from the mockery pointed George Lucas‘ way when he made the plot for "The Phantom Menace" revolve around trade embargos, Greene’s scheme involves him trying to win a utillities contract in Central America, which has to be the dullest Bond plot in history. And while Amalric’s a great actor, he’s given very little to work with, hardly seeming a physical match for Craig in their final square-off. Most crucially of all, Forster has no feeling for how to shoot an actual sequence. Choppy, line-crossing cutting, overuse of CGI doubles and impossible camera shots, plus an inability to handle geography making it the most incoherently shot film in the history of the franchise. Craig is fine, and Olga Kurylenko makes a spirited Bond girl (Gemma Arterton‘s "Goldfinger"-homaging cameo less so), but one can only be thankful that the makers of "Skyfall" learned from the mistakes here.

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Mike Keller

"The James Bond franchise is the longest-running continuous series in film history"

No, actually. It isn’t.

Electric Eskimo

Skyfall is visually the best bond I have ever seen. Some of the cinematography is beautiful. Especially the end with the burning building


Die Another Day definitely deserves its spot on the list. Licence to Kill is a solid movie though

Felipe Aubert

The one that I defend completely is License To Kill because it was awesome and it is good at times to do independentista missions and this one is in my ranking for the colesterol movie of the series. Then I only defend half of Moonraker because I did like it until it gets to Drax's base and everybody goes to space. And for the other 3 I would definately attack in order:
1: Quantum Of Solace
2: Die Another Day
3: Diamonds Are Forever


No Octopussy? No A View to a Kill? The latter should get some sort of dry lauding for making Christopher Walken boring.

Nothing with Dalton deserves to be on this list, especially with the prior two mentioned embarrassments.

Wrath of Colin

Licence To Kill? Wow, I always loved that movie for being less about megalomaniacs trying to blow up the world and more about Bond vs real world criminals


I agree with this list except for the fact that Moonraker is there. Moonraker is one of the best Bond films of all time. I grew up with it as a kid and still enjoy it to this day.

Jack Langston

This list is partially correct. I think that the top 5 worst James Bond films are:
5. For Your Eyes Only
4. Dr. No
3. Quantum of Solace
2. Casino Royale.
And For the Grand Finale!!
Thunderball is without a doubt, the worst James Bond Film ever made.


Some Bond movies are better than others, but they are all watchable, IMHO. "Skyfall" was just a great film, period.

Drew M.

License to Kill and Quantum of Solace deserve to be nowhere near this list when there are stinkers like Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only, and especially the hilariously bad A View to a Kill out there.


Couldn't agree more. Q of S and Licence to Kill are truly wretched films.


Only "Day Another Day" deserves to entry in this shit list. The man who made this doesn't understand a few about Bond.


This list is crazy. License to Kill and Quantum of Solace are fantastic!


licensed to kill is easily in the TOP 5! Dalton is the closest actor to play the character imagined by Flemming! Plus the vilain is outstanding! We have a deeper relatable Bond who wants to avenge Felix! Please….3 movies that make your list are Brosnan movies

Rune Naljoss

The two reasons Quantum of Solace isn't in fact the worst Bond, are "Die Another Day" and "A View to a Kill" (although I understand why "Moonraker" stands in for all that's problematic with Moore's Bond). Qos is a still-born victim of the writer's strike, edited like a video game for ADD sufferers, without any plot worth speaking of, fake tans, and gratuitous anti-iconic moments for Bond that are more heavy handed than the cliches they meant to supplant or poke fun at. The writer is spot on with "half-hearted … dull entry that dissipated any goodwill from "Casino Royale.""


LICENCE TO KILL and QUANTUM OF SOLACE don't belong on a worst of the series list. The other three are fine picks. Others like A VIEW TO A KILL, MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, and OCTOPUSSY would've been more fitting than those aforementioned two.


View to a Kill is the worst.


I really enjoy Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker, but I can understand why people hate them. The other three, I cannot defend. They'd make my list as well. Though personally, I think Skyfall is a new low for the series. A total mess.


I don't understand the hate on Quantum I liked it and I really loved Olga Kurylenko's character. Yes the plot isn't the best but it's definitely not one of the worst.


I agree only by half. Die Another Day and Moonraker were indeed bad. Even though Halle Berry was hot as hell there and Moonraker had a nice setting (space and everything), both premises were completely ridiculous. I don't think that QoS, DaF and LtK are bad. Especially License to Kill was nearly as awesome as Skyfall. I'm also kinda surprised Live and Let Die isn't on the list.




This is a bad list. Quantum is bad, but not THAT bad, and Licence to Kill is one of my favorite Bond movies because it's so awesomely 80's. Also, Moonraker's a lousy pick for worst Moore Bond film when A View to a Kill and The Man With the Golden Gun exist.
1. Die Another Day
2. The Man With the Golden Gun
3. A View to a Kill
4. Diamonds Are Forever
5. Octopussy

just outside the list
6. Quantum of Solace
7. Moonraker
8. The World is Not Enough
9. Dr. No
All of the others I really kind of love.

Moore is interesting because I think he had three good ones (Live and Let Die, Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only), three bad ones, and one that I find endlessly entertaining but abysmal (Moonraker).


I can see what people are saying about them picking the worse of each Bond, except poor, lonely Lazenby. (Definitely poor, since he could have made some good coin if he had stuck around for even one more film. But I think he made the right choice to bail considering.) That said, they couldn't have made this list if they had included a film from each Bond actor, because On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the best Bond films. Granted, it's a personal favorite of mine, but I'd say it should easily be any "Top 5" list. If only they had continued the series by continuing Bond's story from the end of that film. And with Lazenby. Could have had a few great entries before switching up. I also have to say that The Man With the Golden Gun is, IMHO, a terrible Bond film. The book wasn't that hot to begin with, but the film is simply painful for me to watch. Anyhoo…

poo poo



Quantum is definitely deserving of more scorn. Total trash.


I should point out that Diamonds Are Forever gets 31/2 stars in the Maltin guide ("great fun"). The worst thing for me was that the assassins didn't even make an effort to be plausibly gay, but were content to be archetypal "pansies". (One of the actors was a noted jazz bassist – he really should have known better.)

I read somewhere that Pierce Brosnan put on so much weight during "Die Another Day" that the costume people started calling it "Diet Another Day".


You guys dropped the ball with naming Quantum of Solace one of the worst Bond films. Now that is ridiculous. It is certainly a weak entry, but no horrible. It is better than most action films and I always thought that Craig's performance in it was very interesting. He took Bond to a darker much colder path that I haven't seen in any other Bond rendition. I wished that had been explored a bit further, but those glimpses were still welcoming hints at something interesting.


Licence to Kill is where it's at. Easily one of the best Bond movies to date. I agree with the other choices though, especially Moonraker and Die Another Day.


This isn't a Bottom 5 Worst Bond list. Be real. This is just cherry picking the Worst Bond film by every Actor who has played Bond (Lazenby aside). Be honest when you name a list. If you had called "Worst Film by Every Multiple Film Bond Actor" then you'd be right. 'Quantum of Solace' isn't great, nor is 'Diamonds Are Forever' but in a series that includes 'Octopussy' & 'The World is Not Enough' you can't call them among the five worst. Shame on you.

Felix jones

Quantum of solace isn't as bad as everyone claims. The action is decent and while the plot is poor, you could say the same for all bonds.


Moonraker and Quantum are awesome Bonds. Moonraker might be outlandish, but it is jaw-droppingly absurd fun. The Quantum of Solace bashing needs to stop. It had some issues with editing and an unfinished script they were locked into, but lined up against the rest of the series it's easily one of the best.


And the backlash against Skyfall begins. Nicely written piece but there are some of us who wholeheartedly embrace Skyfall not only as the best Bond to date – but one helluvah great movie.


License to Kill is better than Skyfall. While not a great film, it's still a better attempt at the dark brooding Bond that Daniel Craig is trying to do over two decades later. 007 in Skyfall was just psychotic.

John thompson

Worst 3 bond films by miles a view to a kill, die another day and diamonds are forever! Quantum of solace is somewhere in the middle of the pack.

John thompson

I’m surprised diamonds are forever doesn’t get attacked more a dreadful film if you ask me, and I’m guessing the reason it doesn’t is because it’s a Connery bond film! Connery and Craig are my favourite bonds by miles but I’ve just got to be honest and say diamonds are forever is by far the worst Connery bond and only saved from being the worst bond of the entire series by the horrific die another day an odd coincidence that both these films involve diamonds and there my worst two bond movies!!

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