After having watched my dad’s James Bond collection on VHS (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger) over and over as a kid, I FINALLY got the chance to see one in theaters! Albeit I was only six years-old, but I can still remember seeing the previews for this movie (still one of the best) and even watching them review the movie on some morning show. It was Saturday morning and I was all ready to go to the movies with my dad, I still remember the whole experience like it was yesterday. It’s a testament to the film’s quality that even though I had never seen anyone else play James Bond other than Sean Connery, it remains my favorite. The action was spectacular, unlike anything I had ever seen before, and Pierce Brosnan simply BECAME James Bond for a young Kyal Bender in that moment. I can still remember every time I’ve seen a Bond film since, but no experience has come close to sitting in that theater opening weekend with my dad watching GoldenEye.
Starting with what is my favorite pre-credits sequence in the bunch, Bond infiltrates a Russian outpost by base jumping off of a dam and ends by driving a motorcycle off a cliff and diving into a plane to fly himself out. It’s an amazing set piece that directly leads us into Tina Turner’s masterful Bond theme, GoldenEye. The song has a great tempo to it and Tina’s voice was made for the franchise. It perfectly homages what Shirley Bassey did all those years ago with Goldfinger, but really gives us a modern beat that still gets stuck in my head today. This is how you open a Bond film.
This film gives us so much great stuff, nonetheless Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp, one of the greatest Bond villains and easily one of the most memorable. She really doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but Janssen makes the most of each scene and feels more threatening than the picture’s actual villain. Sean Bean is the main threat in the film as Alec Trevelyan, Bond’s old partner. He is also aided by the fantastic Gottfried John as General Ourumov (who recently passed away) and Alan Cumming as Boris, who is basically their I.T. guy. On Bond’s side we have Joe Don Baker (his second appearance in a Bond film, this time playing a good guy), Judi Dench’s first appearance as M, and Robbie Coltrane as Bond’s semi-informant, semi-friend Valentin Zukovsky. A number of great actors in some memorable roles are only part of what makes this film so much fun.
A big part of it is obviously the action. Every set-piece is a astounding. From the opening scene to the destruction of the Russian satellite dish, to Bond’s first fight with Onatopp, to the fantastic tank chase, to what is still my favorite finale in the series. The opening scene and the tank chase are probably the most impressive set pieces of the film, but there is just something about the last 20 minutes of this film at the underground satellite dish that is just so satisfying. Sure it starts off with Bond and Onatopp’s final fight, which is great in itself, but it really just keeps getting better and better. From a quick shot where a bullet narrowly misses Bond’s head as he hides behind a column, to the exploding pen, to the great chase/fight between Bond & Trevelyan…it just hits all the right notes for me.
I feel like this is a crazy long review, but I really could talk about this one forever. For me, this is the ultimate Bond movie. It’s got the great opening sequence, theme song, memorable villains, great set pieces, Bond girl, and even a scene of Bond playing baccarat. This was considered a semi-reboot of the franchise after the Dalton era and they brought in director Martin Campbell to jump-start the series. Campbell is a fantastic choice for reboots it seems, having done this for the Bond series twice (with GoldenEye and Casino Royale 11 years later) as well as The Mask of Zorro in 1998, a film which I stand by as a fantastic adventure flick. It’s just too bad Campbell couldn’t do this with the Green Lantern.
Some of you may ask, “why would anyone want to go re-watch and write about each of the 24 James Bond films?” And my answer is this…the Bond franchise is the reason I love movies as much as I do. For those of you who don’t know me, I LOVE movies. I was buddies with the manager at my grocery store who was in charge of the movie department so I got my movie posters for free once they took them down. I filled my entire bedroom with movie posters, not a square-inch of wall or ceiling to be seen. From Saving Private Ryan to Bullitt to Goldfinger to Batman Forever. I had a “scrapbook” where I kept all of my ticket stubs from each movie I’d seen. I would record dozens of movies on VHS and label them to watch later…my first movie collection. I can distinctly remember one labeled Gladiator/Se7en. Nowadays, being married and all (who woulda thought), I have had to tone down my visible love for movies quite a bit. Other than a couple of movie posters around our house, the only thing I’ve been able to compromise on with my wife is my DVD/Blu-ray collection. At well over 1,000 movies, I have agreed to keep my collection down to two large bookcases. They are not full yet, so we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I wanted to just give you a rundown on my childhood because oddly enough, the James Bond franchise is a big part of my life. I wasn’t too into sports, although I played them, and the James Bond films were really a big way for my dad and I to bond (no pun intended) when I was younger. I owe my love of film to this franchise alone.
So here is my final list of my top favorite Bond flicks. I hope you enjoyed this extended countdown that started back at the end of October. Let me know what you guys think! What is your favorite Bond movie?
Worst to Best so far:
24. Live & Let Die
23. The Man with the Golden Gun
22. A View to a Kill
21. Die Another Day
18. Diamonds are Forever
17. Quantum of Solace
16. Licence to Kill
15. The World is Not Enough
14. You Only Live Twice
13. For Your Eyes Only
12. The Living Daylights
10. Tomorrow Never Dies
8. The Spy Who Loved Me
7. Dr. No
6. From Russia with Love
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
4. Casino Royale