Worst: “Die Another Day” (2002)
Pierce Brosnan's last outing as Bond starts with such promise, as the MI6 agent is captured and then tortured in a North Korean prison. Released more than a year later as part of an exchange, Bond sets out to uncover who betrayed him.
Unfortunately, the ridiculously gadget-happy mission leads our hero to an ice palace, an invisible car and a deadly ... solar satellite. Not even Halle Berry's turn as a skilled NSA agent who rocks a bikini in an homage to Ursula Andress could distract from the hinky plot, mind-numbing explosions and overused CGI.
“Die Another Day” was so over-the-top that even Roger Moore, who played the first Bond in space, thought it went too far.
Of course, even bad films have their place in the James Bond universe, with the excesses of “Die Another Day” leading to a reboot of the series with the stunning Daniel Craig debut in 2006's “Casino Royale.”
Gene Triplett's picks:
Best: “Goldfinger” (1964)
After two excellent efforts at creating and building upon a screen version of Ian Fleming's superspy, — “Dr. No” (1962), and “From Russia With Love” (1963, the last movie President John F. Kennedy, a Bond fan, ever saw) — they finally got it all right, cinematically speaking, with “Goldfinger.” The third installment in the “official” series perfected the big-screen formula of gadgets (the tricky Aston-Martin DB5), great score (by John Barry, theme sung by Shirley Bassey), gorgeous “Bond Girls” (Honor Blackman and Shirley Eaton) gripping action sequences (Bond's death match with Oddjob), and global menace (Gert Frobe in the title role, the quintessential Bond nemesis). This was the first epic Bond and one of the very best thrillers of the '60s.
Worst: “A View to a Kill” (1985)
If we were venturing outside the official Eon Productions-owned Bond franchise, an easy target would be the 1954 Americanized live TV version of “Casino Royale” starring San Francisco native Barry Nelson as “Jimmy” Bond and a very sweaty Peter Lorre as the villainous Le Chiffre. It was a one-off episode of the CBS anthology series “Climax!,” and it was laughably clumsy and cheaply produced even for those formative years of the medium.
Still, it's more fun to watch than most of the Roger Moore vehicles, particularly his off-key swan song, “A View to a Kill.” Moore — the other “Blond Bond” before Daniel Craig — lacked the dark and dangerous persona of Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton or Craig, and his constant spouting of bad puns was singularly unfunny.
But now he was becoming a caricature of himself and looking very long in the tooth to boot. Recording artist Grace Jones displayed an irritating lack of talent for playing an evil henchwoman, and while Christopher Walken was sometimes a hoot to behold as an over-the-top master criminal bent on destroying Silicon Valley, the film was badly weakened by its fading star. Even Moore was appalled at the film's excessive violence and that fact that he was, in his own words, “about 400 years too old for the part” by that time.