20. “Octopussy” (John Glen, 1983) — Roger Moore
Another title that strikes at the heart of the “but it was the first one I saw” line of defense, the thing about “Octopussy” is not so much that it’s bad (relatively speaking) it’s just hugely forgettable. Maud Adams‘ second outing as a Bond girl, having played Scaramanga’s bit of stuff in “The Man With The Golden Gun” at the time there was a sense that maybe the franchise was maturing in allowing an “older” woman to be foil to Moore’s increasing creaky 007 (fact bomb: Moore was 56, Adams 38). But despite technically claiming the title role, Adams doesn’t appear until 1hour 8mins into this long and very familiar-feeling story of Kamal Khan, an Afghan prince who gets in league with a mad Soviet general to invade Europe or something like that. There’s also a minor issue in that Louis Jourdan‘s Khan is so much more attractive than Bond: it really feels like Jourdan’s uses up so much of the world’s supply of suavity there’s nothing left for Moore save to dress up, first as a gorilla and then, famously, as a clown.
Pros: The one-man airplane hidden in a fake horse’s ass and the Cirque Du Soleil move used by Magda (Kristina Waybourn) to escape from Bond’s balcony.
Cons: When playing in Q’s headquarters with “the latest liquid crystal television” technology, Bond crash zooms in on —what else — a random pair of boobs, like a crowd cameraman at a Brazilian soccer match.
Sample Dialogue: [while “tipping” his Indian sidekick] “That ought to keep you in curry for a few months.”
19. “Quantum of Solace” (Marc Forster, 2008) — Daniel Craig
When it’s the avowed aim of this list to talk about which films are most bearable to a modern eye, it’s kind of unforgivable that a film as recent as this one should place so low. But ‘Quantum’ is a bore — albeit a hyperviolent one (the largest number of “trivial or severely violent” acts, according to some New Zealand academics with too much time on their hands) — a long, jumbled, episodic yawn of a yarn. While the idea of starting off moments after the massively successful franchise relaunch “Casino Royale” left off was an inspired one, whatever energy it might have created is quickly dissipated as a morose Bond (yeah, yeah, he’s grieving for Vesper, but does he have to be quite so granite-faced throughout?) pings from place to place uncovering a not-very-interesting plot about the world’s water supply on the way. Suffering too by comparison with the relatively well-rounded supplemental characters last time out are villain Mathieu Amalric, sidekick Olga Kurylenko and doomed conquest Gemma Arterton (and seriously, if you’re going to chicken out of saying “Strawberry Fields” onscreen, why even have it as the character’s name?) The title says it all really — slick and techno-sounding without meaning anything and without even being particularly memorable. And seriously, Bolivia’s water supply is the endgame? The only impressive thing about water is how much of it “Quantum of Solace” managed to tread, yet still make half a billion dollars worldwide.
Pros: It did gift us a beautiful example of a background extra fail, however.
Cons: Jack White and Alicia Keys‘ tuneless warble of a theme song.
Sample Dialogue: “If you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated” [From M, who’s maybe the only character who gets developed here].
18. “The World Is Not Enough” (Michael Apted, 1999) — Pierce Brosnan
Brosnan’s third outing as Bond is a curious film in that so many things outside of Bond himself are actually pretty promising. Sophie Marceau has an interesting backstory for a villain, one that ties her to M and makes Dench’s M more central to the plot. The Azerbaijan pipeline plot feels believable enough to be real but has discernible stakes and best of all, in Robert Carlyle‘s Renard it has an unusually soulful bad guy, motivated as much by love as megalomania, and with an all-time-great hook in that the bullet travelling slowly towards his brain makes him impervious to pain, even as it’s killing him. But then we’ve got the rather lame action scenes and, dear Lord, Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist who delivers her jargon-heavy speeches with the glassy-eyed peppiness of a lobotomised cheerleader. Also featuring nonsense like a character called Dr Molly Warmflash and a pointless Carry On-style scene in which Bond wears X-Ray glasses and can therefore ogle ladies’ undies, it’s one Bond film that would have benefitted from having much less Bond, (no Richards) and much more of the underserved secondary characters.
Pros: In the history of weird Bond bedfellows, Brit drum-and-bass star Goldie playing henchman to Robbie Coltrane‘s caviar baron is pretty high up there.
Cons: A long, lackluster pre-credits sequence that was apparently extended when the Bilbao part tested poorly, to include the whole London Thames chase and eventual hot air balloon bit too. Still lackluster.
Sample Dialogue: “I thought Christmas only came once a year”
17. “You Only Live Twice” (Lewis Gilbert, 1967) — Sean Connery
You can see why Connery’s first attempt to shed the 007 mantle came after this subpar effort: after four strong previous films, there was little else for him to do with the character. As if to compensate, the scriptwriters upped the gimmick quotient putting Connery through a series of scenes (a training montage in a ninja camp, a tribal marriage, a “Japanese”-ifying sequence that’s about as successful and culturally sensitive as the one Mickey Rooney underwent in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s“) that feel pretty far beneath his dignity. On the other hand, we get a hall-of-fame Blofeld in Donald Pleasance, perhaps the single best interpretation of Bond’s psychotic, cat-stroking, volcano-dwelling arch-nemesis. And we do get some other memorable scenes, like with the poison-on-a-wire bit, Blofeld’s piranha tank and of course, Little Nellie, the jet-pack-meets-one-man-helicopter that is perhaps the film’s most abiding contribution to Bond lore.
Pros: Fun prologue which features not only an outer-space snafu reminiscent of “Gravity” but also Bond faking his own death and being buried at sea.
Cons: Charles Gray turning up as a character completely unrelated to Blofeld, whom he would play in two films’ time. It’s frankly confusing.
Sample Dialogue: “Why do Chinese girls taste different from other girls?”
16. “The Spy Who Loved Me” (Lewis Gilbert,1977) — Roger Moore
After a nice opening in which for once the Bond girl (the beautifully blank Barbara Bach) is also shown to be sleeping with someone else (a fellow KGB agent whom Bond kills insouciantly during the classic ski-chase prologue), the plot becomes a bit business-as-usual for the 10th Eon Bond production. It concerns a kind of by the numbers Blofeld-lite in Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) who this time wants to destroy the surface world and start civilization anew below the water. But whatever about the story, this film, more than perhaps any other in the series, is marked by its supplemental details: the introduction of beloved bad guy Jaws (Richard Kiel), the tank of ravenous sharks beneath a trapdoor elevator, and of course the Lotus Esprit that transforms into a submarine. But this outing also sees Moore’s Bond at his douchebaggiest — early on he uses a woman he’s snogging as a human shield, and the amount of disdainful mansplaining that goes on between him and Bach’s Agent Triple X (suppose it could have been worse and been “Agent 69”) is truly difficult to stomach. And though this is only Moore’s third Bond, he already looks older than Connery had done in his last to that date — for the good reason that he was older (Connery was 41 when “Diamonds are Forever” was released; Moore is 50 here, and indeed is 3 years older than Connery anyway.)
Pros: Not just the best-ever Bond song, but “the sexiest song ever written” according to Thom Yorke.
Cons: The old look-at-the-bottle routine that a spectator does when the Lotus sub pulls up onto the beach from under the water and drives away.
Sample Dialogue: “Tell him to pull out immediately” (no prizes for guess what Bond is doing when this is said)