Re: Ranking the Bond Films
So I'll have my list done by tomorrow. Before then though, I thought I'd talk about some other aspects of James Bond.
SPOILERS INCLUDED SPOILERS INCLUDED
First of all, the actors. James Bond has had the fortune of being portrayed quite well throughout his five decades on the big screen. Honestly, with one exception, I have enjoyed every single Bond actor to date. I felt like each portrayal was different enough to stand on its own and at the very least, they all brought their own personality to the role and it has helped to keep the series fresh all these years to have each Bond be different rather than just having every lead actor copy each other completely.
As for picking a favorite, that is tough. I have found that a lot of people fall into one of several categories. First of all, many will automatically say whoever played him first, which would be Sean Connery. It makes sense as he brought the character to life and gave him his initial fame as a pop culture icon. Others will go with whichever Bond they grew up watching, which depending on your age, it could be any of them I guess. For me, Pierce Brosnan was the Bond of my youth. Others will automatically say whoever the current Bond is because, well, he's the new hotness, and that is obviously Daniel Craig.
Whichever Bond is your favorite, it is hard to go wrong as I loved what most of them brought to the role.
Starting off with the original, Sean Connery, is there anyway I can't praise this performance? Connery basically took the role and rode it like a hurricane. His immense charisma, high confidence & comfort, rugged look, and instant charm made him perfect. He could do anything to perfection from accomplishing his mission, to playing cards, to seducing the ladies. He was the Alpha Male of the Bond actors for sure. He owned the role like a pimp and made it his bitch. Considering his treatment of women in his movies, it is a portrayal of Bond that you probably couldn't get away with today as it is "Too Un-PC" and that only makes him stand out more. And what about the dialogue? Connery's Bond has had lines that have carried over into almost every Bond film since and are permanently ingrained in our collective consciousness forever. I also felt that he benefited from being in the best movies. I think all six of his films are easy top tens for me once I rank them. Always cool and always awesome, Sean Connery was the perfect first Bond.
Next we move on to George Lazenby, and quite honestly, he is the one Bond I didn't like. He only played him in one film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Now being the first Bond out of the box after Connery is a tough order to fill, but the other Bonds were able to do it and put their own stamp on the role (regardless of whether or not that movies they were in were that good). But Lazenby was just a bore. He had no charm and none of the believable toughness of Connery, and it was made even worse that he had to handle some heavier material like Bond getting married. The film itself suffered for it and we went right back to Connery for one more film before moving on to Roger Moore.
Now Roger Moore is often maligned and I'll be honest, of his seven Bond films, most of them didn't exactly light the world on fire (only one of them I would say is one of my favorites). However, whatever my problems his movies, I actually typically liked Roger Moore in the role. It kind of reminded me of Christopher Reeve's take on Superman in that, he was softer, friendlier, and has boyish charms. He wasn't Connery, but that was a good thing as he made his own mark. He made Bond seem likeable and fun to be around, while Connery was more forceful, Moore could usually just charm the pants off the women he encountered. Moore was the most lighthearted, sure, but that isn't a bad thing and I think it is good to have that interpretation. He made being a secret agent seem fun.
Now we move on to Timothy Dalton, who I honestly feel bad for. I felt like his take on Bond was a work in progress that was never fully realized. He only played Bond for two movies and never had that truly stand out film while playing the role. The stars just never aligned unfortunately. As for Dalton's performance, I actually really liked it. His version of Bond was darker and when it was time to act on his license to kill, he could be downright scary. He could be charming as well, but when he got mad (like in "License to Kill") he becomes downright ruthless and has no qualms about going over the edge to accomplish his goals. Again, neither movie was that great, and I wish Dalton had gotten a much better film to play the character in, mainly because I really did like his darker and vengeful take on it. Another point in Dalton's favor is that I have been told that his portrayal is actually the closest to how Bond is written in the Ian Fleming novels. I've never read the novels, but if that is true, then more power to him.
The first Bond movie I ever saw was "Goldeneye" with Pierce Brosnan in the role for the first time. I have heard people describe his take on Bond as "bland", but I don't see it that way. Brosnan plays the role almost as if he is never off the clock. He is always playing secret agent, and he's always got a poker face on. With those steel blue eyes and hard to read face, you really don't know what he is thinking or how he feels. And to be honest, that is how I picture a secret agent would be: Detached, secretive, & hard to read. In "Goldeneye" when he says "Shoot her, she means nothing to me" in regard to Natalya being a hostage, it is hard to tell if he really means it. It feels like he is always thinking, always has a plan, & might even be a couple steps ahead, even when things don't look in his favor. Granted, the movies he was in leave a lot to be desired. "Goldeneye" was fantastic, but after that, you have some of the worst entries in the series as they were pretty much just souless action movies. But Brosnan's Bond was always good to me. To be honest, assuming I have no prior knowledge of Bond & if you describe the character to me, I picture him looking like Brosnan, if that makes any sense.
And now we've got the modern day James Bond, Daniel Craig, and to be honest, it is yet another great Bond that offers something different. The most telling piece of dialogue is in "Casino Royale" when he buys his trademark Vodka Martini: "Shaken or stirred" to which Bond responds "Do I look like I give a damn?". Craig's Bond is a battle scarred tortured soul that seems to hate what he does for a living. He is a borderline alcoholic and it could even be argued that he has a gambling compulsion. He is the least handsome of the Bonds. He looks uncomfortable in the tux, just always looks like he is in hell, but he is still the best at what he does. It kind of reminds me of Rambo in a way as I always got the feeling that Rambo would go out there and put his life on the line in extreme ways because he was looking for a warrior's death. This Bond has nothing to live for but his work & he has no one he feels he can trust. And you know what? I like that take. Up until now, it feels like every Bond enjoyed what they were doing, but Craig seems to play it as if his gifts are a curse and something he really doesn't enjoy. Once again, different takes on the role are good, and this was a fresher take that Bond probably needed.
So out of the five main Bond actors, which one is my favorite? Well, I am going to go for the mega pimp and say Sean Connery. Yes he came first, and yes he owned the role and made it famous, so it is an easy answer, but honestly, he is just the one I enjoy the most. But like I said, with the exception of Lazenby, I have enjoyed every Bond to date.
Now lets get into another important aspect of Bond: The Bond Girls! Yes, those hotties that oozed sex appeal and added to fun and excitement of the Bond series. Some of were the girls us red blooded males grew up slobbering over and some of them were great characters that helped drive the movies and really added to the mythology. And then of course there were others that were so annoying, pointless, or bad that they are a shame to the title of Bond Girl. So here, I am going to list the Ten Worst Bond girls and my Top 15 Favorites. Fun times!
Top Ten Worst Bond Girls:
10) Kara Milovy from "The Living Daylights" (played by Miriam D'Abo) = After years and years of sex symbols and bombshells, I think they wanted to make the leading lady a little more ordinary and down to Earth. D'Abo is not ugly. That's for sure, but they played her up as being so ordinary that she comes off as bland. We are initially introduced to her as a sniper. That's awesome! But after that, she just turns out to be a completely regular person that got dragged into a tough situation. It isn't a bad idea, but they made her too bland to be memorable.
9) Tilly Masterson from "Goldfinger" (played by Tania Mallet) = Her motivation is interesting. She wants revenge on Goldfinger for killing her sister. Now her sister Jill was killed by Goldfinger earlier in the film and in a very memorable moment in the series, was found dead and painted entirely in gold. Strangely, the write off victim is more memorable than the person trying to avenge her. She starts off cool, but is quickly disposed of by Oddjob. It is cool that one of the greatest henchmen ever, Oddjob, got a kill, but it seemed weird that they included a character that was disposed of so quickly.
8) Melina Havelock from "For Your Eyes Only" (played by Carole Bouquet) = Like the previous entry, she does have an interesting motivation. She wants revenge on the main villain of the film for killing her parents. Unfortunately, she is given almost nothing to do and is ultimately forgettable. This would be OK if she were a side character, but she is the leading lady of the movie! She is linked to Bond at the hip all throughout and does almost nothing. Also, Bond lectures her about killing for revenge. Um...Bond, don't you do that all the time? I know this was the softer Roger Moore Bond, but he killed for revenge at the very start of this movie. It seems like a strange mixed message. Bouquet is stunning to look at, but there isn't much else.
7) Miranda Frost from "Die Another Day" (played by Rosamund Pike = Simply put, this movie was horribly written and so were its characters. Why did she betray MI6? I don't know. It is never explained. Not only that, but it is a horribly written twist because they keep building up there is a traitor and she is the ONLY other MI6 agent we see besides Bond. Well, gee, I wonder who it is! And I know Bond women are known to be in skimpy outfits, but why does she randomly show up at the end of the film in a belly shirt to fight Halle Berry?
6) Jinx from "Die Another Day" (played by Halle Berry) = The other Bond girl from Die Another Day was a dud as well. Berry's role in the film was a great source of hype for the film. Why wouldn't it be? She is an Academy Award winning actress and is hot as hell. It is a major coup for the series to get her. What went wrong? Well, she is basically just a bland performance that had some dialogue that just made me cringe. I don't know about everyone else, but to hear "Yo Momma!" quipped in a Bond movie was just as bad as hearing "Yippee" in a Star Wars movie. Ugh. But still, she did look great in that bikini, am I right?
5) Christmas Jones from "The World Is Not Enough" (played by Denise Richards) = Now Denise Richards was one of my childhood crushes and "Wild Things" helped get me through puberty. That said, she was awful here. What is wrong with this character is basically what everyone else has said about it. It is Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist. Yeah. Nobody could buy that. Yes she's hot and looks great in the skimpy outfits, but them trying to pass her off as a high intellect was just comical.
4) Mary Goodnight from "The Man With the Golden Gun" (played by Britt Ekland) = Like I said, I have never read the novels, but I have been told that this character is actually very smart & capable. Here though? Wow. She is DUMB. She is just a totally incompetent & useless helper for Bond. That would be OK if she were just some nobody that Bond came across. But she is supposed to be part of MI6! Not a Double 0 Agent, but still I would expect someone like her to have a clue what they are doing in there, but no. She is stupid, gets scared easy, and is useless and it makes me wonder how the hell she got into this gig in the first place. "She looks good in a bikini" is the only good thing I can say about her.
3) Stacey Sutton from "A View to a Kill" (played by Tanya Roberts) = Remember what I said about Denise Richards? How no one could every view her as a nuclear physicist. Well this one is worse. This doe eyed blondie is one that they try to pass off as a geologist, and if possible, she is even less convincing than Richards. Whenever she talks her science talk, I just laugh. It is so poorly delivered that it borders on parody (of course this is also the same movie that has Christopher Walken as the bad guy, so there you go). What really puts her over the top is how annoying she gets. If I have to hear her scream "James!" one more time, I am going to put a bullet through my TV.
2) Lupe Lamora from "License to Kill" (played by Talisa Soto) = You know it is funny. Most people bash this film for Carey Lowell's character. Honestly, she does get annoying once in a while, but she also had her cool moments too, so I tend to be more forgiving. This girl however...UGH! First of all, she is totally useless. They push a love triangle between her, Bond, & Lowell's character. It goes nowhere and is resolved in the snap of a finger, and to me, plays against the darker tone that the film is supposed to have. Not only that, but Soto's performance is so wooden & so dull, that she gives off the impression that she doesn't even want to be there. At least with other girls on this list, I feel like they at least had fun doing it. But she totally sleepwalks through her performance and is only a bore whenever she is on screen. Just a totally useless character.
1) Bibi Dahl from "For Your Eyes Only" (played by Lynn Holly Johnson) = Ice Castles must have been a really big movie at the time. I've never seen it, but this Bond film isn't the first time I have seen a late 70s-early 80s film where Johnson randomly pop up. This "Bond Girl" is so bad, most lists I have seen don't even count her as a Bond girl. I just saw this film for the first time I was shocked to see her show up and then got repulsed by her presence. Basically, she looks like jail bait. I checked and she was in her early 20s at the time of filming, but she looks to be 16 or 17. Yeah, it is very creepy to see a girl that young looking hitting on a much older looking Roger Moore (even Bond has the good sense to turn her down...thank God). Watching her act sexy and get naked for 007 is actually a bit unsettling. Not only that, but she stays throughout the film and plays a role in the climax. WHY?! She is very annoying and looks so out of place here that it is staggering. Having her around throughout the movie almost feels like the Bond series got infiltrated by Disney.
Got the negativity out of the way, now it is time for the Top 15 Bond Girls!
15) Plenty O'Toole from "Diamonds Are Forever" (played by Lana Wood) = Yes, she is a minor character and is only on screen for a few minutes, but my reasons for putting her on here are purely gratuitous. First of all, who will ever forget her introduction and exchange with Connery? I mean that is just classic. And her exit was memorable too. She is wearing nothing by see through panties and gets tossed out of a window into a swimming pool. Again, you'll never forget that. A big breasted brunette getting tossed out of a window is the surreal kind of stuff I have come to expect from Bond films.
14) Octopussy from "Octopussy" (played by Maud Adams) = I know this movie isn't held in high esteem and I do believe this character as a huge missed opportunity to have a female mastermind as the villain. Instead, she is just another girl for Bond to seduce. However, she was the leader of a smuggling ring and an international circus and led that circus in the invasion of a palace. That has to stand for something right? She was also much older than other Bond girls (she was 38 at the time of filming) which gave her this cougar hot aspect to her and it is less creepy to see her making out with mid 50s Roger Moore. Because of the locations of this movie, she also benefited from some great sets and interesting visuals. It is also worth noting that this actress played a character in an earlier Bond film, so she's a bit of a familiar face which is nice.
13) Wai Lin from "Tomorrow Never Dies" (played by Michelle Yeoh) = Granted, this isn't the most memorable Bond flick, and this character isn't that spectacular. However, she is a bit of a bad ass and that is cool. She goes around and flips and kicks everything in her path and the scene where she was handcuffed to Bond and still managed to kick ass on the motorcycle was very cool. No skimpy outfits or anything like that, but it is nice to appreciate someone who is just purely tough.
12) Honey Ryder from "Dr. No" (played by Ursula Andress) = She has to be on the list, right? I mean she was the original Bond hotty. The image of her coming out of the water in a white bikini is one of the defining images of the entire series and she set the stands for the sexy ladies that were to come. She isn't much of a character though. She is pretty much there just to be the damsel in distress, to look hot, and is actually introduced very late into the movie, but the impact she had definitely makes her a worthwhile addition. I mean she really was a standard for beauty all her own and for what little material she had, she wasn't bad either. She was a pleasant presence on screen that made a huge splash.
11) Elektra King from "The World Is Not Enough" (played by Sophie Marceau) = Now this movie is stupid. Like really really really stupid. However, if I can take away one memorable aspect of it, it is Marceau's character. Not only is she gorgeous and nice to look at, but as we find out more and more about her character, she becomes more and more interesting. By the end, I was like "damn, she is really fucked up". In an otherwise forgettable movie, she was certainly the best aspect of the film. Had the writing been better, she might have been even stronger as a character. Like Octopussy, I felt like maybe they should have just made her the mastermind behind everything from the start, and it didn't help that they gave away the twist that she was a bad guy before they did it. It was weird, but at least she left an impression.
10) Tanya Romanova from "From Russia with Love" (played by Daniella Bianchi) = The original bad girl turned good. All it takes is that James Bond charm to warm the heart of even the iciest of evil spies. She's beautiful to look at and is used as a weapon to get to Bond and charm him into a trap, but sneaky ol' James is able to turn the tables seduces her into switching sides. It was a good way to set her apart from Honey Ryder and started the trend of Bond getting girls from the bad side to help him out which would have even bigger payoffs in later films.
9) Dr. Holly Goodhead from "Moonraker" (played by Lois Chiles) = I have actually found that a lot of Bond fans don't like her. I guess it might have something to do with "Moonraker" being looked down on in general, but I really liked her. She some of her line delivery is wooden and sure she doesn't sex it up as much as other Bond girls, but she is smart, has gadgets, and can do pretty much anything Bond can do. She's a really fun character and hell, she had sex with Bond in space. If that isn't memorable, I don't know what is.
8) Vesper Lynd from "Casiono Royale" (played by Eva Green) = Do I even need to say that Eva is absolutely stunning? Heck, she is probably the most exotic looking of the Bond girls. I also liked that they actually built her up as someone that Bond cares about, and are even able to devote the sequel to Bond dealing with her loss. She isn't just an expendable girl like most others and her loss actually matters. I also love that as Bond deals with his problems throughout "Casino Royale", she obviously has major issues to deal with as well that aren't fully revealed. She obviously isn't used to the kind of work that Bond is in with and he shakes her up a bit. Her ultimate betrayal is also very interesting and was actually kind of disappointing as I legit liked her prior to that point. She is certainly one of the better written Bond girls, that's for sure.
7) Natalya Simonova from "Goldeneye" (played by Izabella Scorupco) = Remember what I said about Denise Richards & Tanya Roberts being pretty faces that I do not buy at all as being intelligent? Well they could have run into that same trap here with Scorupco as I know she came from modeling and went into acting, and now she is expected to play a computer programmer. And you know what? I bought it! She does come across as intelligent as well as being feisty and quick to emotion, which balances her against Brosnan's more cold Bond. As a character, her drive is situation is very similar to Bond's as she finds herself betrayed by a trusted friend in her field of work and unlike Bond, she wears her feelings on her sleeve. And in addition to that, she is very cute. I've seen Scorpupco with long blonde hair and she looks nowhere near as good as here with the short read hair. Just perfect.
6) Fiona Volpe from "Thunderball" (played by Luciana Palluzzi) = Now there is no side switching here. She is the original Bond Bad girl. In some ways, she is the precursor to Xenia from Goldeneye as she likes to seduce men and then kill them, and she pulls it off. She is a lead assassin for SPECTRE and is a load of fun to watch as the bad girl trying to hunt Bond down and takes joy in killing. Her death is also very memorable as well.
5) Tiffany Case from "Diamonds are Forever" (played by Jill St. John) = She's just fun. She starts off as a diamond smuggler it is delightful to watch her play both sides against each other to get what she wants. You never know what side she is on and she plays the role with a bit of a sense of humor which makes her very charming. I have seen interviews with actress Jill St. John and she definitely inserted her true personality into the role. She had a blast doing the role and I had a blast watching her. Just delightfully fun.
4) Tracy di-Vicenzo from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (played by Diana Rigg) = I am not a fan of this movie, but if there was anybody that held it together, it was Rigg's character. She is highly notable among Bond girls as she was the one that got Bond to settle down and marry her. Of course she is killed at the end, allowing Bond to go back to being the polygamist we all know and love, but the loss of his wife is a trait that finds itself in future Bond films. Not only is she significant to Bond's history, but she is legitimately interesting and well played. By the end, she really does feel like the perfect girl for Bond to settle down with. I only wish she had starred along side Connery as that would have given the Bond marriage a bit more spice & meaning.
3) "Agent XXX" Anya Amasova from "The Spy Who Loved Me" (played by Barbara Bach) = She is basically the female HGB version of James Bond. She is good at her job, loyal to her government, and uses all of the same tools as Bond to get the job done. When both Bond & her are forced to work together, it is nice to see two like minded & similarly skilled people working together. Also, when it is revealed that Bond killed her lover on a previous mission, she delivers one of the most chilling lines of the series: "When the mission is over, I will kill you", and it is easy to take her seriously. Of course she also exudes sex appeal as well, as most Bond girls do. "The Spy Who Loved Me" is by far my favorite Roger Moore Bond film, and Agent XXX is a big reason why.
2) Pussy Galore from "Goldfinger" (played by Honor Blackman) = I mean my God, what is there to say? She makes the list the second you learn her name. Pussy Galore. That is just fantastic. You'll never forget her. No Bond Girl double entendre name has been able to top it since (not even Octopussy!). But it isn't just the name. She is also another example of bad girl turned good after Bond turns on the charm (apparently the character is a lesbian in the novel). She is a skilled pilot, a bit of a hard ass, & once again, just a fun character to watch. By the end of the movie, she probably winds up being more instrumental than Bond when it comes to saving the day. When this movie was all said and done, she took over for Ursala Andress as the standard for Bond girls to come.
1) Xenia Onatopp from "Goldeneye" (played by Famke Janssen) = She is the perfect Bond girl. No doubt about it. She is sexy as all hell, with her dark eyes, great look, tall figure, and personality that just oozes hotness. She is also a great villain. She uses sex to kill men, making her the black widow among the Bond girls. How awesome is that? How oddly hot is that? She kills the men she sleeps with? I personally can't think of a better way to go to be perfectly honest. But not only that, she is a total badass that has the largest body count of any Bond girl I can think of. She is just pure fun to watch and if we needed any more confirmation that she is the number one Bond girl, she even has a double entendre for a name. That pretty much covers all the bases for what people think of when they think of Bond girls.
And my list ranking the Bond films themselves will be out either tomorrow or Thursday.