Ahead of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, I thought it would be interesting to look at the defining characters of this long-lasting, action-packed franchise. Who were the best villains? Which female characters most challenged Bond’s arguably misogynistic world view? Which has been the best Bond film so far (after all, there are 24 to choose from)? And finally, the debate that’s been going on since the franchise’s conception: Which actor did the best job of portraying the charismatic yet deeply, deeply flawed OO7?
Best Female Sidekick
James Bond has had the pleasure of having many extremely capable female sidekicks who have got him out of trouble, broken down his fairly large ego, and helped him save the world from imminent destruction. We have iconic characters like Pussy Galore and her impressive way of using martial arts skills. And who can forget Honey Ryder in Dr. No, whose emergence from the ocean while singing a song about mangos seduced fans internationally. However, my top three bond female sidekicks are as follows:
3. Tracy Draco played by Diane Rigg in On Her Majesties Secret Service. The only women ever to marry the romantically untouchable James Bond. She is extremely capable in a combative and intuitive sense and gets OO7 out of danger many times. Her death at the end of the film is arguably the saddest moment of the whole franchise and its the first time viewers are able to see Bond as a vulnerable human being.
2. Wai Lin played by Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. Her martial skills are unrivalled and her abilities render Bond almost useless in this movie. She challenges Bond and what he stands for, simultaneously rejecting his frequent advances towards her.
1. Vesper Lynd played by Eva Green in Casino Royale. In my opinion, Vesper Lynd is the most interesting Bond girl of the whole franchise as she forms a complex and meaningful relationship with Daniel Craig’s OO7. The audience can never quite figure her out, which makes her unpredictable and ultimately makes her character the foundational mystery of the film.
In a James Bond film, the villain is arguably the most important component that determines the success of the overall movie. Featured villains have ranged from wildly eccentric to quiet, cool, and calculating masterminds that almost, but not quite, outdo our hero. Names that immediately come to mind are: the ruthless Goldfinger and the constantly conniving Ernst Stavro Blofeld, however my three favourite villains have to be:
3. Raoul Silver played by Javier Bardem in Skyfall. This chilling, psychotic mastermind creates an extremely interesting mirror to James Bond. One of the few villains who stays many steps ahead of Bond throughout the whole movie, which makes him, at least for me, one of the most effective and charismatic villains the franchise has ever produced.
2. Eliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies. A very fascinating take on the modern media mogul! Pryce expertly plays an intensely evil and conflicted character, who seems to possess qualities of immense power and vulnerability both at the same time, which offers a more unconventional take on the classic Bond villain.
1. Francisco Scaramanga played by Cristopher Lee in The Man with the Golden Gun. Another interesting mirror of James Bond. Scaramanga wields one of the most famous props of the whole franchise in the Golden Gun. Immensely stylish and always composed, Francisco Scaramanga has to be one of the most charismatic and enjoyable villains of the whole franchise.
Best Bond Film
There are currently 24 Bond films excluding the yet to be released No Time to Die. Admittedly, not all of them are good movies, in fact there are some truly awful ones like Die Another Day or Moonraker. Nevertheless, this franchise has produced moments that have put audiences on the edge of their seats with some extremely unpredictable twists and turns. There have been some amazing stunts, gadgets, and fight scenes that have been influential in shaping what an action movie looks like today.
3. Tomorrow Never Dies. Often overlooked by fans and critics alike, this film includes a great villain, a great Bond girl, and nail-biting action. Unlike many other Bond movies, this has a very modern feel due to its fresh and interesting take on the power of the media. In addition to this, it includes one of the best motor bike chase scenes!
2. The Man with the Golden Gun. A clever and inventive film that uses the villain Francisco Scaramanga to offer a fascinating character analysis of Bond himself. It includes a classic dinner table scene where the famous words “You enjoy killing just as much as I do” are uttered by our charismatic villain, perhaps asking the audience to further question Bond’s overall motivations. The grand final showdown is perhaps one of my favourite where two natural born killers go head to head, leading to an engrossing and tense watch.
1. Casino Royale. My favourite film in the whole series due to its innovative and unconventional structure. Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond is beyond impressive due to his aggressive and physical approach to the role. It also provides an extremely satisfying look into Bond’s past and how he became the ruthless OO7 that he is.
And finally… the best three James Bonds are:
3. Roger Moore. He featured in 7 Bond movies which is the highest number for an actor (if you exclude non-eon films). Not every Roger Moore Bond movie was of the highest quality, however the audience are guaranteed a fun watch every time he is on screen.
2. Sean Connery. Extremely charismatic and always capable under pressure. Without Sean Connery there would be no James Bond, as it was him to kick start the franchise providing viewers with a charming, original, and at times ruthless portrait of OO7.
1. Daniel Craig. He is definitely my favourite Bond as he effortlessly combines grit, playfulness, and charm into the role. Moreover, he added a new dimension to the character by giving OO7 a convincing emotional backbone which ultimately reinvented and perhaps revived the James Bond franchise.