Category Archives: Articles

All the Bonds – from best to worst.

Having now uploaded reviews of every James Bond film released up to (and including 2017, it would be a damn shame not to make a list ranking them from the best-scoring ones down to the bottom. So here is that very list!

Bear in my mind that these rankings come from a film lover, not a Bond fan, and the score is a reflection of each film as an individual movie, rather than how it compares (in any direct sense) with other entries in the series.

“Aah”, I hear you say, “but you have to be immersed in the world of Bond to appreciate where the films are coming from”. Actually, I don’t. A film that’s chauvinist in attitude, poorly plotted and/or badly made is a bad film regardless of the lead character’s name; conversely, the good examples are good movies in complete isolation of 007 lore. Nobody gets special treatment here.

In general, the best films are those that really pay attention to what they’re doing and care about the final product: notably the early ones, where everyone had a stake in making sure they got things right; and those that had to work to bring Bond back to the public’s attention (I think you could legitimately call GoldenEye and Casino Royale reboots). Also, Moore’s best entry, The Spy Who Loved Me, was the 10th film and Skyfall coincided with the series’ 50th anniversary, both reasons to make a special effort (that said, neither Moore nor Dalton’s introductions resulted in great movies, and the 20th film in the series was hardly a resounding success).

I’ve peeked at other people’s rankings of the movies, and my obvious outlier is The World is not Enough. It seems that for many, Denise Richards’ portrayal of Doctor Christmas Jones was enough to kill the movie stone dead. It’s true that her performance takes the word ‘unconvincing’ to new and uncharted heights, but I maintain that she is only a medium-sized negative in a fairly large bag of exciting pluses.

Anyway, here’s the rundown, with unofficial Bonds included for reference. Where the scores are the same, I’ve gone with my gut instincts as a tie-breaker.

Rank   Film                                              Bond          WFTB Score

1          Goldfinger                                     Connery           14/20

2          GoldenEye                                    Brosnan            13/20

3          From Russia With Love                 Connery           12/20

4          Casino Royale                               Craig                12/20

5          The World is not Enough               Brosnan            12/20

6          Dr. No                                            Connery            11/20

7          Skyfall                                            Craig                11/20

8          The Spy Who Loved Me                Moore               11/20

9          You Only Live Twice                      Connery             11/20

10        Thunderball                                   Connery              10/20

11        The Living Daylights                      Dalton                   9/20

12        The Man with the Golden Gun      Moore                    9/20

13        On Her Majesty’s Secret Service  Lazenby                 9/20

14        Live and Let Die                            Moore                    8/20

15        Spectre                                            Craig                      8/20

16        Licence to Kill                                Dalton                    7/20

17        For Your Eyes Only                       Moore                    7/20

18        Tomorrow Never Dies                    Brosnan                 7/20

19        Diamonds are Forever                   Connery                 7/20

20        Moonraker                                      Moore                    6/20

            Never Say Never Again                  Connery                6/20

21        Quantum of Solace                         Craig                     6/20

22        A View to a Kill                                Moore                    6/20

           Casino Royale                                 Everyone!              6/20

23        Die Another Day                              Brosnan                5/20

24        Octopussy                                       Moore                    4/20

So, what do you think? See individual reviews for in-depth opinions and don’t be afraid to say I’m wrong. I love a good argument.

Scoring – how it works

In which Bloom attempts to explain how he pins value judgements on motion pictures.

Reviewing a film is a hopelessly subjective matter, depending on, amongst other things, taste, one’s frame of mind at the time of viewing, and an inevitably incomplete frame of reference; nobody’s seen every movie, after all. Therefore, giving a film an absolute ‘score’ as a measure of its quality is a reckless thing to do; but I do it nonetheless, since it provides the shortest of shorthands as to how brilliant or execrable I believe each movie to be.

To answer the easy question first: why a score out of 20? Simply put, the commonest method of scoring films, with a ranking out of 5 stars/clapperboards/bulldogs etc., doesn’t seem to offer enough differentiation between the very worst films, those that are mediocre, average and satisfactory, and the all-time classics; while a score out of 100 would imply a set of criteria or a scientific approach which absolutely isn’t the case. Although 10 would appear to be ideal, I often fall between two stools and think ‘that’s better than a 6, but not worth a 7’ – so, to avoid having half marks all over the place, it makes sense to double up and give a score out of twenty. I believe it allows for plenty of nuance, and when you have thousands, make that tens of thousands, of films to sift through, a little nuance doesn’t go amiss.

The second point comes from my experience of reading computer/console game reviews, where there appear to be two schools of thought in respect of scoring. The first says that the lowest score you can give a decent, but not outstanding, game is 7 (out of 10); an 8 is respectable without being very exciting, whilst anything over 9 is ‘AAA’, a gold-plated hit. Anything below 7, on this reckoning, is considered a failure, the amount below not mattering too much. The other school of thought considers the true score for an average game to be 5; this gives a much wider freedom to grade highly at the top end, though the games’ publishers would inevitably feel insulted by a score of 5 or 6 – it doesn’t look very good on the posters or box art. My scoring is very much based on the latter method, so a WFTB score of 10/20 is not poor by any means. For example, 10/20 (as you will soon get to read) will bring up a host of perfectly decent films such as Bound, Men In Black, the first Star Trek and three of the Harry Potter films.

As stated above, I don’t score on the basis of totting up individual criteria (eg. script, acting, cinematography), nor do I start every film at 10 and move negatively or positively as the film progresses, in the manner of political pollsters tracking speeches.  What I actually do is this:

Imagine that every film you have ever seen is lined up in a row. Now imagine that you are restricted to watching movies from that row for the rest of your life – which could be one day, could be a year, who knows? The films I would want to watch first are those which represent the absolute pinnacle of the medium or those I love beyond measure. Films that are good but not great would have to wait their turn, while the dross would languish unloved for a long, long time.

Every new film I watch is slotted somewhere into the hypothetical rack of movies, the films I would gladly never watch again given 1 and the must-sees 20 – at the time of writing, Casablanca, This is Spinal Tap and Fight Club, with the likes of Taxi Driver and The Godfather (Part 1) not far behind. Naturally, the vast majority fall somewhere in between, so I have to make a judgement as to where to slot them in, and this depends not only on my instinctive reaction but also an element of critical discernment.  For example, although I wasn’t particularly engaged by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I recognised that it was a lovely piece of cinema; on the other hand, whilst there was something undeniably entertaining about (for example) Nic Cage’s Knowing, the score had to reflect the fact that it was ultimately derivative pap. Part of the job of the full review is to explain the reason for the score, and I hope that I’ve managed to do this whenever the score appears at odds with the tone of the review. If you’re particularly vexed about anything I’ve said in a review, why not tell me and I’ll do my best to explain.

I do, of course, reserve the right to be wrong. Or if not wrong, to re-assess or refine the exact correctness of my former opinion. This could happen for two reasons: firstly, one film may alter my perceptions of another, either because I watch a movie which shows one I’ve already scored to be inferior or plagiaristic, or because it makes giving the same score as another film ridiculous (the so-called Showgirls Effect). Alternatively, I may re-watch a film that I’ve reviewed and find in it something that I missed previously, for better or worse. Nothing is ever set in stone, though I don’t continually re-visit my reviews to make sure that I’m continually content with how I’ve scored them.

So, in summary, pinning a score on a film is a matter of totting up how much I instinctively enjoy or dislike it, how much it contains or lacks in terms of originality, ingenuity and cinematic style, and how much it adds to the medium as a whole, insofar as I’m qualified to give an opinion. In the end, that’s for you the reader to decide, but I hope my scores and reviews will continue to inform you for years to come – whether you agree with them or not!