This year a major British institution celebrates a major milestone: It’s been 50 years since James Bond first exploded onto movie screens. The cinema’s greatest action hero has been on the job ever since.
Licensed to Thrill
The Bond character has been played by seven actors in 23 movies (including the upcoming “Skyfall,” due out later this summer). James Bond has endured as a movie mainstay because he always delivers the goods. And while not every Bond flick turns to cinematic gold, audiences keep coming back because he’s one of the best-drawn and most complex film characters ever created.
As part of our extended tribute to “Bond…James Bond,” we’ve watched all the Bond films and selected our picks for the top five Bond movies:
Why It’s On The List: ”Goldfinger” is the “gold standard” in the film franchise, and the film all other Bond flicks are still compared with. One reason for its success: timing. By this point, Bond mania was everywhere, rivaling only The Beatles as a pop-culture phenomenon. “Goldfinger” is pure film excitement.
Key Scene: It’s known on the Internet as the James Bond laser scene. Bond, abducted by villain Auric Goldfinger, is strapped to a table while Goldfinger aims an industrial laser at him. Sweating bullets, Bond defiantly asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No, Mister Bond…I expect you to DIE!”
The action eventually lands in Fort Knox, Kentucky—and a 24-karat robbery of all the gold in the U.S. reserves located there. Add in a woman murdered by being covered completely in gold paint (she dies of skin suffocation), a massive and deadly silent henchman named Oddjob and the first appearance of Bond’s tricked-out Astin Martin sportscar (complete with passenger ejector seat) and you’ve got possibly the best vintage Bond ever.
Why It’s On The List: “For Your Eyes Only” is the only serious-minded and less gimmick-happy Bond film of the 1970s. During the 70s, the Bond franchise starred Roger Moore, who made seven movies. And while Moore had a near-impossible job in replacing much-beloved Sean Connery, the decade wasn’t Bond’s best. ”For Your Eyes Only” returned the secret agent to a more serious tone.
Key Scene: During the opening sequence, Bond is strapped into a helicopter being flown by remote control by Blofeld, head of the evil society known as SPECTRE. After climbing into the cockpit (from outside the chopper) and disabling the remote control, Bond starts flying the whirlybird. He uses the helicopter skid to hook Blofeld’s motorized wheelchair, then flies it to the top of a factory smokestack. Bond tilts the chopper’s nose downward, releasing the villain into the smokestack’s narrow opening. We hear Blofeld’s echoing screams as he takes the big plunge all the way down. Now that’s entertainment…
Why It’s On The List: It’s the first Bond flick not based on one of Ian Fleming’s series of Bond novels. “GoldenEye” was also the first time the role was played by dapper Pierce Brosnan, who may actually have been closest to the author’s idea of the Bond character.
Here Agent 007 is working overtime to keep an evil arms syndicate from causing a global financial meltdown by using the GoldenEye satellite weapon against London. This film marks the first Bond picture made after the fall of Communist Russia, causing Bond to hang up his Cold War efforts against SPECTRE and become more of a global policeman working against rogue villains who operate without a political agenda.
Key Scene: Bond’s about action, right? Well, it’s hard to find more thrilling action than during the breathtaking bungee jump in the opening sequence. Shot at a Swiss dam, the 720-foot leap into oblivion was voted the best movie stunt of all time in a 2002 Sky Movies poll. At the time, it set a record for the highest bungee jump ever successfully completed off a fixed structure.
Why It’s On The List: By the time the franchise turned 40, it was in sore need of rejuvenation. Luckily, actor Daniel Craig entered the picture, bringing some much-needed muscle and menace back to the part. Less suave and witty, Craig’s Bond is more athletic and somber. The film that introduced Craig as Bond was a franchise reboot in the best possible sense.
Key Scene: There are quite a few in this film: the brutal torture Bond suffers while being interrogated, the final fight scene where Bond battles baddies as a building in Venice, Italy collapses in on him. But the best scene in the film—and the one that made fans believe in Craig as Bond—happens at the beginning of the movie, as James Bond parkour chases a terrorist down through the streets of Madagascar. And yes, that’s Daniel Craig doing all of his own stunts.
5. “Thunderball” (1965) 007: Sean Connery
“Thunderball” culminates with a massive underwater war, with teams of spear-gun carrying divers. A pair of armed nuclear weapons hangs in the balance. Check out the “Thunderball” trailer.
Why It’s On The List: In terms of sheer movie coolness, no Bond was ever frostier than Connery in the fourth flick. Much of it takes place in the Bahamas (a key Bond locale) and “Thunderball” features a sensational villain in the eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo and one of the most gorgeous of all “Bond women” in French actress Claudine Auger.
More than any other early Bond flick, this one (the all-time box office champ among Bond movies) provides the blueprint for the modern action film. It’s stuffed with amazing action sequences, including one of the biggest underwater combat scenes ever filmed, complete with spear-gun warfare.
Key Moment: In the opening, Bond attends a funeral, only to later go into hand-to-hand combat with the “widow,” who is actually a male SPECTRE agent in drag. After Bond snaps the villain’s neck with a fireplace poker, he casually grabs a handful of flowers and tosses it on the dead man’s corpse—strictly for his own amusement. Then Bond straps on a Bell Rocket Belt jet pack and flies away as the villain’s henchmen stare in dazed wonder.
Coming up next in our extended tribute: 50 pieces of James Bond trivia.
SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS: