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Skyfail: The 5 Worst James Bond Films

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
November 7, 2012 3:05 PM
50 Comments
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Moonraker

The James Bond franchise is the longest-running continuous series in film history and, behind "Harry Potter," the second most successful franchise in cinema history (and by the time "Skyfall" finishes up, will likely take the crown back again). And one of the most impressive things about that achivement, and I say this is as a British writer raised on Bond movies on rainy Bank Holiday afternoons, is how many of the films are simply not very good.

There are scattered highlights, to be certain -- much of the Connery era, a few Roger Moores, a Brosnan, "Casino Royale." But for every genuinely classic entry, there are probably two mediocre (or worse) films. Some of them might have scattered things to enjoy in them, but there's a few that can't even claim that much. With the latest film, "Skyfall," hitting theaters this week (and proving to be one of the better films in the series), we're continuing Bond week (read our take on the franchise's best villains and action sequences) by picking out our five least favorite 007 adventures. Disagree? Defend your favorite, or attack another, in the comments section below.

Diamonds Are Forever
"Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)
Sean Connery stepped away from playing 007 after "You Only Live Twice" in 1967, with replacement George Lazenby stepping in for 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." But Lazenby, after clashing with producers, bailed on the franchise after only one entry, and while producers considered names as varied as Michael Gambon and Adam West, "Psycho" actor John Gavin won the role, only for United Artists to decide they wanted Connery to return, offering him a record salary and funding for two projects of his choice for the trouble. Even so, Connery may wish he hadn't bothered, because "Diamonds Are Forever" is easily the actor's worst of his six outings in Bond's tuxedo. Revolving around Blofeld (Charles Gray)'s scheme to use smuggled South African diamonds to power a laser satellite with which he can menace the globe, the film's choice of locations -- South Africa, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Baja California -- feel significantly less glamorous and sleazier then in your average entry, while Gray is easily the least effective of the Blofelds. Indeed, the cast in general, from Jill St. John's stilted love interest to Bruce Glover and Putter Smith as gay assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, are mostly flat. The plot is convoluted and sees the encroachment into silliness that the earlier Connery entries mostly did without, and the actor himself feels disinterested. Even director Guy Hamilton, whose "Goldfinger" was one of the peaks of Connery's five prior films, seems to be phoning it in, with a pretty uninspiring selection of setpieces. It's not the worst of these five films, but it's still a pretty dismal (official) finale for the seminal James Bond, who probably wishes he'd left it at five (Connery would return one more time for unofficial entry "Never Say Never Again," which is pretty mediocre, but just decent enough to stay off the bottom five).

Moonraker
"Moonraker" (1979)
Every generation in theory has a particular fondness for the Bond that they grew up with, so Roger Moore has his defenders out there, but as far as we're concerned, it would have been fairly easy to pick out five terrible Bond movies from his time in the role. Only "The Spy Who Loved Me" is anything like a success, while the other films have occasionally strong set pieces or other pleasures to be found, but mostly suffer from weak scripts, haphazard tone and an ever-aging Moore, who was close to 60 by the time he departed the role. But the very nadir has to be "Moonraker," an unconvincing attempt to cash in on the success of "Star Wars" two years previously. This time out, 007 is out to stop the most ludicrous plot in a series full of ludicrous plots: villain Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale)'s plan to destroy the earth, and then repopulate it with the perfect-looking inhabitants of his space station city. One certainly can't fault the film's ambition: it trots the globe from Africa and Venice to Rio and the aforementioned space station. But the result is something frantic and overstuffed, with wall-to-wall action but no sequences that really impress, bar perhaps the opening sky-diving stunt (which sets up the ridiculous tone by having returning fan-favorite henchman survive a plunge from 30,000 feet by landing in a circus tent). The sure touch that Lewis Gilbert ("Alfie") showed in "The Spy Who Loved Me" is nowhere to be found here, the tone feeling closer to parody than straightforward action-adventure, and by the time you reach the space station, you're no longer watching a Bond film, you're watching a poorly-conceived "Our Man Flint" sequel. Still, the space gamble worked out financially: the film took over $200 million worldwide, and it stood as the series' highest-grossing entry until "Goldeneye" sixteen years later.

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50 Comments

  • James | August 1, 2014 9:34 PMReply

    Die Another Day definitely deserves its spot on the list. Licence to Kill is a solid movie though

  • Felipe Aubert | July 28, 2014 1:48 AMReply

    The one that I defend completely is License To Kill because it was awesome and it is good at times to do independentista missions and this one is in my ranking for the colesterol movie of the series. Then I only defend half of Moonraker because I did like it until it gets to Drax's base and everybody goes to space. And for the other 3 I would definately attack in order:
    1: Quantum Of Solace
    2: Die Another Day
    3: Diamonds Are Forever

  • Student | April 21, 2014 8:56 PMReply

    No Octopussy? No A View to a Kill? The latter should get some sort of dry lauding for making Christopher Walken boring.

    Nothing with Dalton deserves to be on this list, especially with the prior two mentioned embarrassments.

  • Wrath of Colin | April 11, 2014 2:07 PMReply

    Licence To Kill? Wow, I always loved that movie for being less about megalomaniacs trying to blow up the world and more about Bond vs real world criminals

  • Harry | April 9, 2014 6:14 PMReply

    I agree with this list except for the fact that Moonraker is there. Moonraker is one of the best Bond films of all time. I grew up with it as a kid and still enjoy it to this day.

  • Jack Langston | April 9, 2014 6:11 PMReply

    This list is partially correct. I think that the top 5 worst James Bond films are:
    5. For Your Eyes Only
    4. Dr. No
    3. Quantum of Solace
    2. Casino Royale.
    And For the Grand Finale!!
    1. THUNDERBALL
    Thunderball is without a doubt, the worst James Bond Film ever made.

  • Dan | January 7, 2014 7:26 PMReply

    Some Bond movies are better than others, but they are all watchable, IMHO. "Skyfall" was just a great film, period.

  • Peter Franks | July 25, 2014 3:29 PM

    I agree 100%!!! Just cause say DAD might be at the bottom of someone's list doesn't mean it's unwatchable.

  • Drew M. | December 31, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    License to Kill and Quantum of Solace deserve to be nowhere near this list when there are stinkers like Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only, and especially the hilariously bad A View to a Kill out there.

  • Adrian | December 30, 2013 9:00 PMReply

    Couldn't agree more. Q of S and Licence to Kill are truly wretched films.

  • Vitor | April 11, 2013 8:30 PMReply

    Only "Day Another Day" deserves to entry in this shit list. The man who made this doesn't understand a few about Bond.

  • Danybe | April 2, 2013 5:10 PMReply

    This list is crazy. License to Kill and Quantum of Solace are fantastic!

  • raoul | January 26, 2013 5:58 AMReply

    licensed to kill is easily in the TOP 5! Dalton is the closest actor to play the character imagined by Flemming! Plus the vilain is outstanding! We have a deeper relatable Bond who wants to avenge Felix! Please....3 movies that make your list are Brosnan movies

  • chris | February 15, 2014 4:00 PM

    100% agree

  • Rune Naljoss | December 28, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    The two reasons Quantum of Solace isn't in fact the worst Bond, are "Die Another Day" and "A View to a Kill" (although I understand why "Moonraker" stands in for all that's problematic with Moore's Bond). Qos is a still-born victim of the writer's strike, edited like a video game for ADD sufferers, without any plot worth speaking of, fake tans, and gratuitous anti-iconic moments for Bond that are more heavy handed than the cliches they meant to supplant or poke fun at. The writer is spot on with "half-hearted ... dull entry that dissipated any goodwill from "Casino Royale.""

  • JMan | November 28, 2012 5:07 PMReply

    LICENCE TO KILL and QUANTUM OF SOLACE don't belong on a worst of the series list. The other three are fine picks. Others like A VIEW TO A KILL, MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, and OCTOPUSSY would've been more fitting than those aforementioned two.

  • Spy | November 12, 2012 11:44 PMReply

    View to a Kill is the worst.

  • nightgoat72 | November 12, 2012 12:46 AMReply

    I really enjoy Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker, but I can understand why people hate them. The other three, I cannot defend. They'd make my list as well. Though personally, I think Skyfall is a new low for the series. A total mess.

  • Lucy | November 11, 2012 7:21 PMReply

    I don't understand the hate on Quantum I liked it and I really loved Olga Kurylenko's character. Yes the plot isn't the best but it's definitely not one of the worst.

  • Chrisco | November 11, 2012 2:52 PMReply

    I agree only by half. Die Another Day and Moonraker were indeed bad. Even though Halle Berry was hot as hell there and Moonraker had a nice setting (space and everything), both premises were completely ridiculous. I don't think that QoS, DaF and LtK are bad. Especially License to Kill was nearly as awesome as Skyfall. I'm also kinda surprised Live and Let Die isn't on the list.

  • chris | November 11, 2012 1:21 AMReply

    SKYFALL IS A GARBAGE FILM WITH NO SOUL.
    WASTE OF MONEY IF CONSIDERED... 4/10

  • Chad | January 8, 2014 12:24 AM

    Couldn't agree more. Skyfall was ferociously bad. Heartless, inept, and a needless explanation of
    Bond. Made Craig look like a poor choice. Upside? Bardem ate everyone's lunch.

  • David | February 12, 2013 11:02 AM

    Amazingly bad!

  • Chrisco | November 11, 2012 2:47 PM

    you not liking is your problem and does not make it garbage
    Skyfall was amazing!

  • shark | November 9, 2012 12:07 AMReply

    This is a bad list. Quantum is bad, but not THAT bad, and Licence to Kill is one of my favorite Bond movies because it's so awesomely 80's. Also, Moonraker's a lousy pick for worst Moore Bond film when A View to a Kill and The Man With the Golden Gun exist.
    Worst:
    1. Die Another Day
    2. The Man With the Golden Gun
    3. A View to a Kill
    4. Diamonds Are Forever
    5. Octopussy

    just outside the list
    6. Quantum of Solace
    7. Moonraker
    8. The World is Not Enough
    9. Dr. No
    All of the others I really kind of love.

    Moore is interesting because I think he had three good ones (Live and Let Die, Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only), three bad ones, and one that I find endlessly entertaining but abysmal (Moonraker).

  • Christopher-J | November 8, 2012 7:42 PMReply

    I can see what people are saying about them picking the worse of each Bond, except poor, lonely Lazenby. (Definitely poor, since he could have made some good coin if he had stuck around for even one more film. But I think he made the right choice to bail considering.) That said, they couldn't have made this list if they had included a film from each Bond actor, because On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the best Bond films. Granted, it's a personal favorite of mine, but I'd say it should easily be any "Top 5" list. If only they had continued the series by continuing Bond's story from the end of that film. And with Lazenby. Could have had a few great entries before switching up. I also have to say that The Man With the Golden Gun is, IMHO, a terrible Bond film. The book wasn't that hot to begin with, but the film is simply painful for me to watch. Anyhoo...

  • poo poo | November 8, 2012 7:33 PMReply

    kaka

  • bb | November 8, 2012 12:58 PMReply

    Quantum is definitely deserving of more scorn. Total trash.

  • Rohan | November 8, 2012 5:21 AMReply

    I should point out that Diamonds Are Forever gets 31/2 stars in the Maltin guide ("great fun"). The worst thing for me was that the assassins didn't even make an effort to be plausibly gay, but were content to be archetypal "pansies". (One of the actors was a noted jazz bassist - he really should have known better.)

    I read somewhere that Pierce Brosnan put on so much weight during "Die Another Day" that the costume people started calling it "Diet Another Day".

  • nechoplex | November 7, 2012 9:53 PMReply

    You guys dropped the ball with naming Quantum of Solace one of the worst Bond films. Now that is ridiculous. It is certainly a weak entry, but no horrible. It is better than most action films and I always thought that Craig's performance in it was very interesting. He took Bond to a darker much colder path that I haven't seen in any other Bond rendition. I wished that had been explored a bit further, but those glimpses were still welcoming hints at something interesting.

  • Shayne | November 18, 2012 2:55 PM

    Quantom was one of the biggest snorfests I've ever seen. It was so bad I wanted to give up on the franchise.

  • Scott | November 7, 2012 11:26 PM

    I think they just picked the worst movie from each Bond (Except Lazenby because he only had one) because a real worst james bond list would be predominantly Roger Moore films.

  • Chris138 | November 7, 2012 9:38 PMReply

    Licence to Kill is where it's at. Easily one of the best Bond movies to date. I agree with the other choices though, especially Moonraker and Die Another Day.

  • Ugh | November 7, 2012 7:53 PMReply

    This isn't a Bottom 5 Worst Bond list. Be real. This is just cherry picking the Worst Bond film by every Actor who has played Bond (Lazenby aside). Be honest when you name a list. If you had called "Worst Film by Every Multiple Film Bond Actor" then you'd be right. 'Quantum of Solace' isn't great, nor is 'Diamonds Are Forever' but in a series that includes 'Octopussy' & 'The World is Not Enough' you can't call them among the five worst. Shame on you.

  • Felix jones | November 7, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    Quantum of solace isn't as bad as everyone claims. The action is decent and while the plot is poor, you could say the same for all bonds.

  • Alan | November 7, 2012 7:10 PM

    Thank you. I hate the idea of defending 'Quantum', but the suggestion that it is one of the worst five Bond films is ridiculous. For any that disagrees, rewatch 'Thunderball', a film taht is 60% underwater action sequences.

  • Caleb | November 7, 2012 3:31 PMReply

    Moonraker and Quantum are awesome Bonds. Moonraker might be outlandish, but it is jaw-droppingly absurd fun. The Quantum of Solace bashing needs to stop. It had some issues with editing and an unfinished script they were locked into, but lined up against the rest of the series it's easily one of the best.

  • Chad | January 8, 2014 12:27 AM

    Next to Goldfinger, Quantum of Solace is my favorite Bond film. Streamlined and savvy--the best fight scenes in any Bond, easily, and the most beautifully designed.

  • mpbstereo | November 7, 2012 9:09 PM

    I'm 100% on board with James' assessment... QoS gets undue grief.

  • James | November 7, 2012 4:27 PM

    No he's not out on an island. Everyone is falling onto the QOS-is-shit bandwagon without really thinking about the film. Yeah, the villain's scheme was a bit boring and the plot was a little convoluted, but the film is elegant. The action sequences are spectacular yet quick (none of these bloated set pieces that drag on), the titles for each location were artistically done, as were the opening credits (Skyfall's were dreadful -- looked like a cheap fun house) and let's not forget nuanced scenes like the opera sequence in Austria. Plus the globe-trotting was pure escapist fun, exactly what a Bond movie is supposed to be. I think fans of the series will come around on QOS like they did OHMSS.

  • KT | November 7, 2012 3:46 PM

    You're out on an island with that opinion.

  • Thom | November 7, 2012 3:21 PMReply

    And the backlash against Skyfall begins. Nicely written piece but there are some of us who wholeheartedly embrace Skyfall not only as the best Bond to date - but one helluvah great movie.

  • James | November 7, 2012 11:42 PM

    Oops, I was tired when I read your comment earlier and thought you were saying Quantum of Solace was the Best Bond film, lol. Disregard my other comment below, haha.

  • Christian | November 7, 2012 3:37 PM

    It's just pathetic. Every ambitious action tentpole somehow has to be ripped apart on the Internet. It' pathetic because it's a desperate reaction against what's mainstream and, dare I say it, common sense. Skyfall is not only the best Bond film ever made, it's also one of the best action films I've ever seen.

  • James | November 7, 2012 3:35 PM

    "Best Bond to date"? I think you'll find yourself with few people backing you up on that one. I didn't think it was as wretched as some people did - the locations were pretty and the photography nice, but it certainly was incoherent, having something do with water or oil or something and with a final scene ripped straight from The Bourne Supremacy, as if its Bourne debt weren't obvious enough in all the Dan Bradley directed action scenes.

  • Zatopek | November 7, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    License to Kill is better than Skyfall. While not a great film, it's still a better attempt at the dark brooding Bond that Daniel Craig is trying to do over two decades later. 007 in Skyfall was just psychotic.

  • Truecoat | November 9, 2012 10:38 AM

    I only remember License to Kill as one of the worst Bond movies. That was my initial opinion when I saw it in the theater. It just didn't seem like a Bond movie at the time but I need to rewatch it and see how I feel. On the other hand, I just rewatched Living Daylights and it did not age well. I thought I liked this movie but on this viewing it really falls flat. Interesting on the whole Soviet-Afghanistan plot, especially with the drug angle. Bond fighting along side the Talaban? Who knew? I guess Rambo did the same in Rambo 3.

    I still have a soft spot for Moonraker. I know the plot is outlandish but it is grand in design. It has the all the Bond trappings...great locales (France via California, Venice, Brazil, Amazon, and space), great stunts (the opening stunt wasn't equaled for many movies) and a murderous (x100) plot. I remember being impressed with the space shuttle effects at the time. I know, they aren't great in this day and age but the shuttle didn't actually fly for almost 2 years after the release of Moonraker. So, not too bad for the times considering no one had seen a shuttle take off before. For me, Moonraker was my favorite Moore Bond movie.

  • Fred | November 8, 2012 12:11 PM

    One more plug for Licence; might add that I personally feel that Die Another Day is the only irredeemably bad movie on this list.

  • Kyle | November 7, 2012 9:29 PM

    License to Kill is one of the best Bond films. I've never really understood how it can be criticized for making the Bond series darker and edgier when Casino Royale is praised for doing the exact same thing. If LtK feels like a generic late-80s revenge action flick then CR is just a generic mid-00s Bourne ripoff.

  • JD V | November 7, 2012 4:35 PM

    I'll second the praise for License To Kill, although I'm not gonna try to claim it as a great movie or anything. But it's far from one of the worst Bonds. Glad to see that even an article claiming it as such still admits how great the tanker chase is, though. That part rules. : )

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