The Bond franchise is the single longest action franchise in history, and the escapades of its suave secret agent, 007, still haven’t gotten anywhere close to losing our attention anytime soon. Even though the series has faced some stiff competition from other action franchises, most notably the ‘Mission Impossible’ series, the ‘Bourne’ series and the ‘Die Hard’ series, especially in the late 90s and early 2000s, a period when the Bond franchise itself looked like losing a bit of steam, it sprung back into relevance and action with a renewed take on Bond as a character: severely flawed, self-indulgent and vulnerable, yet an effective agent and efficient killing machine. The film was ‘Casino Royale’, and following ‘Quantum of Solace’ that had a rather lukewarm reaction, the franchise delivered a truly masterful film with ‘Skyfall’, elevating the benchmark for Bond films to follow, something that the latest in the franchise, 2015’s ‘Spectre’ couldn’t quite meet. With that said, here’s the list of really good James Bond movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
15. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
More of the Moore Bond campiness and self-parodying tone done on an impressive scale and budget. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga was about the only remarkable thing about this film. The rest of it, I’m afraid, can be termed pretty standard, and in it, every single Bond trademark that you have seen on screen yet.
14. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
If there is one Bond film that has aged the worst for me, it would be ‘Diamonds are Forever’. On a really lazy day, perhaps, I could lay back and give in to the ridiculously campy style and almost self-parodying humor this film has to offer. This is where Netflix comes in. But on a regular day, ‘Diamonds are Forever’ remains a pretty substandard fare. Sean Connery finally confessed to being too old for the role here, which shows, and for everything else, a satellite shooting lasers isn’t really quite my thing. However, in all its campiness, I do also agree that this is one of the most harmless Bond films ever.
13. Live and Let Die (1973)
The racial undertones notwithstanding, ‘Live and Let Die’, Moore’s first film as Bond is in my opinion the only ‘first’ Bond film that didn’t quite feel like the ushering of a new era. Sure, Moore films picked up after this one, but the film remains to date, one of the weakest introductory Bond films in my opinion. The singularly unremarkable villain in Dr. Kananga seriously hurts the film’s prospects too, but the film’s notable departure from megalomaniacal villains hell-bent on taking over the world, to a drug lord hell-bent on taking over the drug trade was a welcome change.
12. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Another Roger Moore highlight, this one takes Bond through Greece, Italy, England and even the Bahamas, through some thick waters and on some icy slopes. More of the same over the top fun and a whole slew of Bond girls (with a bit of the sexism intact though) that had become trademark Bond by this time, this one is to be singularly lauded for its decidedly adept course correction following Bond’s unintentional foray into science fiction, if it is to be called that, in 1979’s ‘Moonraker’.
11. You Only Live Twice (1967)
James Bond and Japan are a potent mix, and about the one thing working most in this film’s favor apart from of course, Sean Connery. I also do think that while ‘You Only Live Twice’ was a respectable entry on its own, this was also where the decline of the Connery era had already begun, with the actor reprising his role after a hiatus in ‘Diamonds are Forever’, and twelve years after that in ‘Never Say Never Again’.
10. Thunderball (1965)
More than anything, this film will always be remembered for its stellar underwater sequence, respectable even by today’s standards. One of the very first ‘spectacle over substance’ Bond films, I can see why certain audiences, especially fans of the Connery era would have reservations against it, but Bond isn’t clearly known for his subtlety, and a study of his origins and his more humane side didn’t begin until late. This film embodies that, enabled by a returning confident Connery, virtually carrying the film on his shoulders.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The Roger Moore Bond movies are often unapologetically considered campy, escapist fare, and might I add, rightfully so. However, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ is a notable exception in the Moore series of films, not to say it isn’t campy or escapist fun, since the action makes sure it’s anything but otherwise. While in the larger scheme of Bond films, it may be seen as rather standard, but is a definite highlight when you consider the Moore slate of films, and much of that may be because a majority of the Moore films aren’t great classics to begin with that have aged too well.
8. License to Kill (1989)
Singularly the darkest Bond film in the pre-Craig era of films, something that also quickly became characteristic of Dalton’s character and portrayal as Bond in the two films he did, and for that reason alone, I probably have an incline towards this film, more so than any of the older Bond films. This is a more vulnerable bond, not completely bulletproof and not given as many gadgets or chase sequences to play around with compared to his predecessors or even Brosnan for that matter, I will continue to revere ‘License to Kill’ as a film that dared.
7. The Living Daylights (1987)
Following Moore’s departure from the role, the hunt for a newer, younger Bond led to the find that was Timothy Dalton. Contrary to popular opinion, Dalton’s Bond was the Bond I wanted to see more of, a role that was cut short by Dalton’s voluntary withdrawal following a legal suit. The Dalton films have the notable exceptions of being more grounded, darker tales with less of the fantasy associated with a lot of previous outings. The realism also brought in a bunch of naysayers who preferred the escapist Bond, but for me, this remains one of the few Bond experiences that remains a solid, more intrinsic experience.
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6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
A polarizing Bond film, and a polarizing Bond at best. Sadly a bit underrated in my opinion, George Lazenby’s only film as Bond is a somewhat distinctive entry in terms of tone and texture, choosing to stick to the original intent of the novels. The third act of the film in the Swiss Alps is one of the best I have seen though in a Bond film, and that includes the current Craig outings as well. An otherwise well-made film that often gets unfairly crushed between the legacy preceding it and the one following it.
5. GoldenEye (1995)
The onset of the Pierce Brosnan era of Bond films, and a definite, definite step-up from the Timothy Dalton Bond in my opinion, who went too far out into the darkness, never to return to the role. The makers anyway saw fit to hire a younger James Bond, and Brosnan’s energy and charm that he brings to the role certainly help in establishing him as one of the better Bonds. With a few respectable action and chase sequences and a serviceable plot, the film scores higher on the entertainment side than exploring the legend that is Bond. This was also the beginning of the end, since thereon began the steady decline of Bond films until falling into oblivion with ‘Die Another Day’.
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4. Dr. No (1962)
The first film to introduce Bond to the world, and remains one of the most important Bond films ever by that virtue itself. I admit that even though I have seen numerous actors mouth the now famous and iconic Bond style of introduction, “Bond, James Bond”, it was an absolute delight watching Sean Connery deliver that in what would be the first time the audience of the world would have heard it. A glorious moment indeed. As for the film, ‘Dr. No’ has a classic villain and a fairly simple plot presented in style, the very style being a resultant of the Connery factor.
3. Casino Royale (2006)
The film that is responsible for giving to the world one of the best Bonds of all time in Daniel Craig, and ushering in a new, more grounded era of Bond films. All my reservations regarding the tone of the film and the new bond were quickly overcome within minutes, given the terrific parkour opening sequence, surpassed only by ‘Skyfall’s, as I sat and let the film’s rather suave confines and Craig’s class act consume me. However, the best bit of the film remains what is now an iconic moment for Bond films, the winning of the high stakes poker tournament by Bond at the titular Casino Royale. The beginning of a new era in Bond films is slated to come to an end with ‘Bond 25’ next year.
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2. From Russia with Love (1963)
A definite step up from ‘Dr. No’ and the second film in the series overall, ‘From Russia with Love’ is more of the same that was the first ever bond film, albeit less iconic than the third outing, ‘Goldfinger’. It is fun, briskly paced, and has some respectable action sequences for its time. This cold war thriller, the second to feature the terrorist organisation Spectre from the Bond lore, is most definitely one of the better Bond films.
1. Goldfinger (1964)
The most definitive Bond movie in my opinion: this is what started (and sustained) everything that would become a Bond signature in the films to follow: the sophisticated yet sometimes ridiculously over the top gadgetry, the wry self-mocking humor, and the style of the pre-credits sequence that would come to define Bond movies even today, originated in this film. Although it hasn’t aged too well, the same would also stand true for most of the Bond movies in the pre-Craig era. Nonetheless, a revered classic known for its technical finesse with respect to time, and a landmark film from the Sean Connery Bond era.
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