Is there any point in arguing over or even discussing which is the best James Bond film? There are so many variables, from who’s playing 007, to the story, to how far it strays from the Ian Fleming novel (if it was even based on a Fleming novel), to whether it’s actually an action-adventure movie or a campy version of one.
For the record, my favorite is “From Russia With Love,” as Sean Connery remains my choice of Bonds, the script stays very close to the source novel, it’s a straight-ahead gritty film with very few gimmicks, and the villainous Red Grant (played by Robert Shaw) looks just like Mike Pence.
A minute passes. No, wait, my favorite is “Goldfinger,” because of Connery and the fact that the movie is better than the book, and there are some cool gimmicks. (Q tells Bond not to touch the little red button in his Aston Martin DB5 “because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat.”)
But if you find that you must decide, here’s a pleasurable way, one that will also help pass the time you’re spending in your living rooms. As of April 1, Amazon Prime is making all of the pre-Daniel Craig Bond films available. That means you’ll be able to check out 21 entries in the series - from “Dr. No” (1962) to “Die Another Day” (2002), and choose between five different portrayers of Bond: Sean Connery (six times), Roger Moore (eight times), Timothy Dalton (twice), Pierce Brosnan (four times) and George Lazenby (once).
You could become really informed on the subject by watching them all, which would take just under 42 hours, or you could be selective about it. Even the staunchest Bond film fan will tell you that there’s quite a range in quality in the franchise, all the way from terrific to terrible.
Please allow this fan - who has made it through all of them - to be your guide, at least as far as the five Bonds you should put on your must-see list. They’re in chronological order.
“From Russia with Love” (1963) - Bond (Connery) finds danger aboard the Orient Express (a great fistfight in cramped quarters) while going up against the evil organization SPECTRE and trying to get his hands on the Lektor code machine. The Bond girl is Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). Villainess Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) wears shoes with poison blades.
“Goldfinger” (1964) - Bond (Connery, settling into icon status) plays golf, drives too fast, mentions his dislike of The Beatles, is threatened by a laser beam, and gets to play with all sorts of Q’s gadgets while trying to foil Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) in his plot to do some damage to the contents of Fort Knox. The Bond girl is Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) turns his steel-rimmed Sandringham hat into a lethal weapon.
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) - Bond (Lazenby, the first to tackle the role after Connery) deals with the plan of his adversary Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to destroy all of the world’s agriculture via a bacteriological weapon, setting up the film for a darker than usual edge. The Bond girl is Tracy (Diana Rigg). The henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) commits a dastardly deed with a machine gun near the end of the film.
“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) - Bond (Moore) kicks off the film with a series-best pre-title sequence involving a ski jump and parachute drop off a cliff (shot not in the Swiss Alps but in Auyuittuq National Park on Canada’s Baffin Island), then must stop villain Carl Stromberg (Curt Jergens) from obtaining stolen nuclear missiles with which he would start WWIII. The Bond girl is Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach, Ringo’s wife). Stromberg’s henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) has very shiny teeth.
“GoldenEye” (1995) - Bond (Brosnan, his first time in the role) escapes capture by villain General Ourumov (Gottfried John) who has murdered Bond’s spy partner Alec Trevelyn (Sean Bean), then attempts to recover an electronic weapon capable of destroying the economy of Great Britain. The role of Bond’s boss M is taken over by Judi Dench. The Bond girl is Natalia Simonova (Izabella Scorupco). The henchwoman Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) has a body that can kill ... literally.
For information on Amazon Prime and Prime Video, visit https://www.amazon.com/ and click on Prime Video.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.