No Time to Die, the latest film in the long-running James Bond franchise, is finally(?) coming out on October 8th, 2021! – but if you’re a little out of the loop on the current series, need a refresher course, or have never seen a 007 movie before, hopefully, this guide will help! So without further ado, here are 10 Bond movies you *need* to see before Bond 25!
1. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
Although this is the 21st (official) Bond movie, it’s actually a reboot of the franchise, and is based on the original Bond novel by Ian Fleming from 1953! In Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s James Bond is a newly recruited 00 agent hot on the trail of a man known as Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) and must face off against him at a high stakes poker game in Montenegro and thwart a terrorist organizations plot to crash the global economy. The film doesn’t just serve as an origin story for 007, but it’s also a gritty reimagining of the character with an incredible cast, including Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, and Dame Judi Dench returning as M!
2. QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
Most of the early Bond movies were mostly one-offs and were rarely even loosely connected to one another. That all changed with Quantum of Solace which picks up immediately after the events of Casino Royale with an epic car chase after Bond kidnaps Mr. White! In this globe-trotting sequel, Bond goes rogue and is out for revenge when he crosses paths with Camille and uncovers an intricate conspiracy by a shadowy organization led by Dominic Greene, who’s secretly manipulating the world’s governments for his own ends…
3. GOLDENEYE (1995)
Martin Campbell’s Goldeneye is often considered to be the quintessential Bond movie and has absolutely stood the test of time as one of the best spy thrillers to date! When a top-secret Soviet satellite weapon falls into the wrong hands, Bond has to come face to face with a figure from his past in order to save the world once more. Starring Pierce Brosnan as 007, Sean Bean as 006, and Dame Judi Dench as M, this post-Cold War take on Bond embraces the classic formula and tropes, but manages to update the character for a new era. It also has by far the coolest gadgets in Bond history: the laser watch and an exploding pen! (Not to mention one of the most over-the-top villain deaths in cinema history!)
4. DR. NO (1962)
The movie that started it all, based on the sixth James Bond novel, and starring the late great Sir Sean Connery. Dr. No not only introduced audiences to 007 (with the iconic line, “Bond, James Bond”), along with that classic John Barry score, it also established *most* of the tropes of the genre, including Ursula Andress as the first “Bond Girl”, Honey Rider (lol), and gave us the first (and arguably one of the best) of many Bond villains to come in Dr. No himself, and an over the top evil plot for world domination by causing a nuclear war!
Although these early entries are far from perfect, there’s still an undeniable charm to these early 60’s spy movies and really shows the mindset of the public during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Worth noting: there are rumors that a certain villain in No Time to Die might actually be a modernized take on a certain title character from this one…
5. GOLDFINGER (1964)
Following From Russia with Love, Connery’s third outing as the iconic super spy is easily his best and most fondly remembered. Goldfinger gave us the Bond formula that would define the series from Thunderball to Die Another Day: the gun barrel, an action-packed cold open showing Bond on a random mission, an elaborate sequence with the title in the lyrics of the song, a cheesy gadget briefing with Q, two love interests (one doomed, one villainous), a silent henchman (Oddjob), an inescapable death trap (“You expect me to talk?”, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), a ridiculous villain plot (irradiating all the gold at Fort Knox with a nuke because of economics or something), and a literal ticking time bomb followed of course by Bond and a woman ‘celebrating’ their triumph.
It was also the first of many films to feature the iconic Aston Martin DB5, decked to the brim with gadgets! While there is, unfortunately, some problematic material in this one (Pussy Galore… sigh), it’s still a great movie!
6. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first, and only, Bond film to star George Lazenby and was the first non-Connery Bond in the franchise! It’s also a very different film in a lot of ways and is often considered one of the most divisive entries with many fans either ranking it as one of the best or one of the worst movies of the series. Regardless, it’s absolutely worth watching if only for Telly Savalas’s excellent portrayal of Bond’s arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (previously played by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice). It’s also the first Bond movie with: an actual love story, a tragic ending, and a cliffhanger! In a lot of ways, the newer films were heavily influenced by OHMSS.
Oddly enough, this was the movie that both established the 007 codename fan theory with Lazenby’s cheesy nod to the audience (“This never happened to the other fella!”) AND immediately debunks it by having Bond reminisce over the gadgets from his previous missions from the past 5 movies. It also has my personal favorite Bond theme with one of the most trippy openings in the series.
7. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
Although I’m not a huge fan of Roger Moore as James Bond, I do think that this was a solid entry in the series. After the bonkers sci-fi antics of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only gave us a more down to Earth 007 (figuratively and literally) with a classic Cold War spy thriller. There’s a lot to love about this one, including some of the cheesier lines in the series, an awesome ski chase, the ultimate McGuffin, lots of faceless goons, and one of the best death trap escapes in an unused sequence from the Live and Let Die novel where Bond and his love interest of the week are dragged behind a boat through shark-infested waters! Also, the movie’s cold open finally gives us closure over his wife’s death in OHMSS with Bond *finally* getting revenge on Blofeld!
8. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
Following the incredibly cheesy Roger Moore movies, The Living Daylights brought James Bond back to his roots in this no-nonsense action-thriller starring Timothy Dalton. While the follow-up film (Licence to Kill) was a fun 80’s action movie, this one is where it’s at: Russian KGB bad guys, an awesome love interest, quips, gadgets, and plenty of crazy stunts! To top it off, we get one of the franchise’s best vehicles with the Aston Martin V8 which is apparently set to make a reappearance in the newest film!
9. SKYFALL (2012)
Directed by Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig’s third Bond entry is by far one of the best films in the franchise! Skyfall picks up years after the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with a slightly older and rugged Bond, who’s struggling to stay relevant in a changing world (somewhat appropriate thematically, considering this was the 50th anniversary of the series).
007 has to face off against one of his most dangerous foes yet – a mysterious hacker called Silva (Javier Bardem) who’s attempting to destroy MI6 from within! It’s easily the most cinematic entry in the entire franchise, with nearly every frame being a symbolic work of art, featuring exotic locales from Istanbul to Shanghai. In addition to Judi Dench’s M (this time with an even more prominent role), we see the return of Q, Moneypenny, and even the classic Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. The movie also has one of the absolute best (and most haunting) themes yet with Adele’s iconic song.
10. SPECTRE (2015)
Although SPECTRE is a notable step down from Skyfall, it does tie together the events from the previous 3 movies by revealing that Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) was behind “everything”. This one does have some great moments though, from the action-packed cold opening in Mexico City (during a Day of the Dead parade) to an intense train fight with Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista)! The movie also ends with (spoilers?) Bond retiring as 007 and walking away from the service, driving off into the sunset with Madeleine Swann, which sets up for where No Time to Die picks up years later…
No Time to Die hits theaters in the US on October 8th!
For more random Bond content, check out my “Daniel Craig / James Bond Grief Theory” and listen to Podcasters Assemble – Season 003 where we cover all 24 Bond movies leading up to “No Time to Die”!
Also, check out Erik’s other articles right here on Geek to Geek Media