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The best and the worst of Bond
In its first 10 days of overseas release, before it had a chance to rake in a single U.S. dollar, “Skyfall” executed a massive foreign currency haul, raking in the equivalent of $287 million. Considering the previous James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” took a full month to reach its final international tally of $417 million, “Skyfall” is on track to become the most successful 007 entry in the series' 50-year history.
To fully appreciate this 23rd official Bond film (don't count the ridiculously spoofy 1967 version of “Casino Royale” or the misguided 1983 “Thunderball” remake, “Never Say Never Again”), we each selected our best and worst entries in the series, from 1962's “Dr. No” through 2008's “Solace.”
George Lang's picks
Best: “Goldfinger” (1964)
No other entry in the series established expectations of James Bond-ness quite like director Guy Hamilton's “Goldfinger,” from the cracking script full of iconic lines (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”) to the bizarre death of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) from “skin suffocation,” or being painted with gold from head to toe. Gert Frobe's Auric Goldfinger never developed the cultural cache of the cat-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but Goldfinger's menacing tone and unforgettable death by cabin pressure makes him a hall of famer. Connery consolidated his cool in “Goldfinger,” and while ridiculously named Bond girls are an expected trope, this film scored an early high/low point with Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore.
Worst: “Moonraker” (1979)
Just barely based on an actual Ian Fleming novel, “Moonraker” is a monument to “me too!” contrivance in which the series went sci-fi to cash in on “Star Wars” and brought back Jaws (Richard Kiel) from “The Spy Who Loved Me” because of, well, “Jaws.” All of this made “Moonraker” the most commercially successful Bond film until 1995's “GoldenEye,” but the “007 in space” idea was a little too bonkers even for '70s-era Bond. Roger Moore was deep into self-parody by “Moonraker,” proving that he did not have to be in orbit to achieve zero gravity.
Matthew Price's picks:
Best: “Casino Royale” (2006)
While Bond could never have existed without Connery's darkly suave portrayal, Daniel Craig proved a bulldog of a special agent in “Casino Royale,” an adaptation of the first 007 novel by Ian Fleming. After the more gadgety Pierce Brosnan era, Craig's James Bond brings the series closer to Fleming's original character while at the same time updating him for a post-Cold War society.
Worst: “A View to a Kill” (1985)
Duran Duran's theme song is about the best thing this miscast and mishandled 14th film in the Bond series has going for it. The aging Roger Moore doesn't have much chemistry with either the villainous Grace Jones or the unconvincing Tanya Roberts. Christopher Walken's oddball performance as a computer magnate trying to destroy California helps a bit, but overall this film feels more like an extended “Saturday Night Live” parody of James Bond than the real thing.
Brandy McDonnell's picks:
Best: “From Russia with Love” (1963)
James Bond is at his super-spy best in the second film in the long-running franchise, which all too often strays from its espionage roots. The villainous terrorist cell SPECTRE simultaneously seeking a Soviet decoding machine and revenge against Bond for disposing of their agent, Dr. No. And so 007 (the incomparable Sean Connery) is drawn into a twisty Cold War plot involving naive but comely Russian clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), tough and crafty rival agent Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) and lethal assassin Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), who gets her kicks courtesy of a poisoned dagger in her boot. The film marks the debut of composer John Barry's peerless score, solidifies Connery's status as the best of the Bonds (only Daniel Craig can even compete) and taught me to always choose white wine with fish.