Since his very first film mission in 1962, Britain’s suavest and most famous secret agent has officially brought the fast cars, the gadgets and the death-defying stunts to the big screen no less than 25 times.
James Bond is one of the highest-grossing and most popular media franchises of all time – so after several delays, caused by the pandemic as well as other issues, anticipation has reached fever-pitch for the spy’s latest outing, No Time To Die.
It started with the late, great Sean Connery, with George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all filling 007’s shoes before the incumbent Daniel Craig took over in 2006. (Of course there was David Niven’s Casino Royale spoof in 1967 and Connery’s Never Say Never Again in 1983, too, but as fans will tell you, they were not made by Bond producers Eon, so we’ll count them out).
After No Time To Die, Craig is set to bow out and pass the instructions for the perfect vodka martini over once again.
There has already been lots of speculation about who will play the next Bond – Idris Elba? Tom Hardy? Tom Hiddleston? A – gasp – woman? But that can wait. Here’s a look back at all the films, right from the beginning – the best place to start a James Bondathon. Because nobody does it better…
Dr No (1962)
Bond author Ian Fleming was initially resistant to the casting of Connery as the MI6 agent, describing him as an “overgrown stuntman” who was not refined enough for the role. However, he was later so impressed with his performance that he created a Scottish ancestry for the character in subsequent books. The first film sees Bond in Jamaica investigating the suspected murder of a fellow agent, famously encountering Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder emerging from the sea in a white bikini during his quest to track down the evil Dr No – who plans to sabotage the US space programme. Spoiler alert: Bond outwits his opponent and rescues the girl – a screen hero is born.
From Russia With Love (1963)
The one with the fight scene on the train. No, not that fight scene on the train, with Roger Moore’s Bond and Jaws, the other one. Connery’s train fight scene saw Bond grappling with Red Grant (played by Robert Shaw) and seemed darker and grittier than many of the films that followed. The baddies also included Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and her lethal knife shoe – spoofed in the Austin Powers films by the character of Frau Farbissina.
The gadget-filled Aston Martin DB5! Oddjob’s lethal bowler hat! Death by gold paint! Bond escaping castration by laser beam! Pussy Galore! Shirley Bassey starting the trend for killer theme songs! For these reasons and more, Goldfinger is widely considered to be up there among the best Bonds. “No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die,” is the famous line from Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) during that stressful laser-beam scene. Fortunately, 007 managed to find a way out of it.
Sorry Tom Jones, Bassey was always going to be a tough act to follow and your Thunderball just doesn’t compare with the woman with the Midas touch. Still, the film was decent. Bond fact: some 25% of Thunderball screen time takes place underwater, according to the official 007 website. It was billed as the “biggest Bond of all” and it’s certainly quite spectacular: there are spearguns and sharks and a jetpack, which is surely up there with Bond’s greatest ever gadgets? A deserved Oscar for special effect supervisor John Stears.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond is assassinated by Chinese agents in Hong Kong! Don’t worry, it’s all been faked so that 007 can travel incognito to investigate the hijacking of American and Russian spacecraft. Of course it has! In You Only Live Twice, we got to see the face of cat-stroking master villain Blofeld, the Spectre chief played by Donald Pleasence, for the first time, and it’s also the one with the piranhas and the volcanic lair. Bond notes: the screenplay for You Only Live Twice was adapted from the Ian Fleming novel, although disregarded most of the plot, by none other than Roald Dahl. Also, this one was back to form with the theme song, thanks to Nancy Sinatra and those opening strings (nicked by Robbie Williams for his 1998 chart-topping hit, Millenium).
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
After five films, Connery said he was feeling the pressure and Bond duties were taken over for one film only by the little known Australian actor George Lazenby. The film sees Bond hunting his old foe Blofeld, and is memorable for its ski chase scenes. Also starring the late Diana Rigg as Tracy (aka the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo) – the only woman ever to get ladies man Bond to the altar. Sadly, they didn’t get a happy ending. Lazenby was reportedly made to do a retake of the scene, without tears. Because James Bond doesn’t cry.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Connery was enticed back to the franchise, reportedly with a fee of £1.25 million (about £16-£18 million today, adjusting for inflation), and Bassey was back too for her second blistering theme song. This time, Bond impersonates a diamond smuggler in an investigation which leads him to Blofeld once again, in a film that was a little sillier than his previous outings. While the film was a commercial success, later reviews criticised its portrayal of gay assassins Wint and Kidd, and for not making more of the female characters.
Live And Let Die (1973)
One of the best 007 theme songs, thanks to Paul McCartney and Wings, ushered in the Roger Moore era – and the Bond eyebrow. Live And Let Die is the one with the crocodile stepping stones and Jane Seymour’s tarot reader Solitaire, plus Yaphet Kotto as baddie Dr Kananga and his alter-ego Mr Big, the franchise’s first black antagonist. It was a departure from powerful megalomaniac villains to drug-trafficking and voodoo, and while it had all the classic Bond elements of danger and seduction, watching through the lens of 2021 it’s hard to ignore the film’s derogatory clichés.
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
The MI6 agent is sent a gold bullet inscribed with 007, a warning that he has been targeted by professional assassin Scaramanga – the man with the golden gun and the third nipple, played by Christopher Lee (a step-cousin of Ian Fleming). Moore’s second outing as Bond sees him determined to track down the killer, travelling to a remote island by seaplane accompanied by assistant Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). There’s a battle to retrieve a solex agitator (us neither), some martial arts thrown in for good measure, and a corkscrew car jump from a rickety bridge that was apparently pulled off in one take. Hervé Villechaize is particularly memorable as henchman Nick Nack.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Another famous Bond train fight scene, this time with henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) and his famous metal teeth, plus more ski stunts involving a ski pole gun AND a Union Jack parachute. Oh, and there’s also the Lotus Esprit that transformed into a submarine, complete with underwater rockets. The Spy Who Loved Me also provided one of the better Bond theme songs, courtesy of Carly Simon and Nobody Does It Better. Once declared “the greatest film ever made” – not our words, the words of Alan Partridge – it’s a favourite of many Bond aficionados, especially fans of Moore.
Not a critics’ or fan favourite this one, with a plot involving a hijacked space shuttle and a quest that takes Bond from Venice to Brazil to destroy a highly toxic nerve gas. Bassey returned for the theme song once again but this one doesn’t live up to Goldfinger or Diamonds – sorry, Shirl. There was also a return for Jaws (guess who’s dropped in for a bite, teases the trailer) – and a tense fight scene on a cable car that looks like it could do with a health and safety check, set against the impressive backdrop of Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Back from space and a return to slightly more serious Bond, with Moore’s 007 sent to retrieve the Automatic Targeting Attack communicator (ATAC; see what they did there?) from a sunken spy ship. This mission leads him from Spain to Italy to Corfu, in a race against the Russians, with helicopter stunts and a brush with sharks thrown in the mix – all in a day’s work for Bond, who’s also wooing Chanel model Carole Bouquet’s Melina Havelock, the daughter of the murdered marine archaeologist whose killer he is trying to track down. Keep up.
Moore’s penultimate outing as 007 saw him disguised as a clown, a gorilla and a crocodile. Yes, a crocodile. Well, a submarine disguised as a crocodile. Octopussy has everything, boasts the trailer, as the Taj Mahal comes into view: “Elegant palaces and beautiful women.” Not sure the modern-day Bond would get away with that. Octopussy is the Bond with the faberge eggs, former tennis pro Vijay Armitraj, and Maud Adams – who first appeared in Man With The Golden Gun – returning to play the eponymous Octopussy. Plus, twin villains and a stunt involving a small plane flying through a hangar.
A View To A Kill (1985)
Grace Jones and Christopher Walken brought two brilliant villains to the screen, while Duran Duran brought the ’80s cheese to the soundtrack. Walken plays Max Zorin, the man who wants to destroy Silicon Valley, while Jones is bodyguard May Day. Moore’s last hurrah, A View To A Kill includes the killer fight scene on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, plus more skiing and snowboarding, too – apparently this was the sport’s debut appearance in a major feature film.
The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton stepped into the tux to usher in a more serious era for Bond, but perhaps Dalton took it a little too seriously. The Living Daylights had less silliness and far less womanising, but still some impressive action scenes – with a particularly impressive stunt on a cargo plane flying over a desert with a bomb on board, as well as an escape by cello case down a snowy mountainside.
Licence To Kill (1989)
Bond goes rogue, out for revenge and tracking down the drugs baron who fed his agent friend Felix Leiter to the sharks. This was the final Bond outing produced by Cubby Broccoli and also the fifth and final film directed by John Glen, and the first not to make use of an Ian Fleming story. Dalton took on many of the stunts himself – including running from an exploding tanker – but it wasn’t enough to keep his licence to kill.
After a six-year break, Bond was back! This time with Pierce Brosnan, a man who looks like he was born to be Bond. GoldenEye began the Brosnanaissance with a death-defying dam bungee jump, with stuntman Wayne Michaels later saying in an interview that there “was a trauma clinic ready and an emergency helicopter to rush me to hospital” in case things went wrong. Gulp. Judi Dench also entered the franchise as the first female M – calling out 007 out as a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” – and baddies came courtesy of Sean Bean and Famke Janssen. It was the first Bond to use CGI, moving the action firmly into the 1990s. And Tina Turner provided the pipes for for another memorable theme song.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
“Let the mayhem begin.” Jonathan Pryce is the fictional British media baron baddie Eliot Carver, Bond’s main nemesis in Tomorrow Never Dies. Carver wants to start a war between Britain and China, and Bond has 48 hours to sort it out. Michelle Yeoh plays a Bond ally, and performed most of her own stunts – making her more of an equal match than previous female characters – while Teri Hatcher appeared as Carver’s wife. Notable action scenes included an impressive helicopter-motorcycle chase.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
It opens with the longest pre-credit sequence in 007 history, lasting 14 minutes, with a scene including Bond in high-speed pursuit down the Thames – complete with a mid-air barrel roll, a hot air balloon and the yet to be opened Millennium Dome in the background. Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones didn’t make for the most critically acclaimed Bond girl performance, and many reviews felt The World Is Not Enough did not make enough of Robert Carlyle as terrorist Victor “Renard” Zokas. On the upside, alternative rock band Garbage (Stupid Girl, Only Happy When It Rains) were a curveball but great choice for the theme song.
Die Another Day (2002)
The invisibility cloak might have worked for Harry Potter, but the invisible car was perhaps a step too far for James Bond. Everyone likes a 007 gadget, of course, but it all started to feel like the film was relying far too heavily on the tech trickery. The plot involves Bond getting captured in North Korea by a colonel trading weapons for blood diamonds, who is later revealed to be operating as another baddie, having completely changed his appearance using gene therapy. Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike also star, while Madonna makes a much-panned cameo as a fencing instructor – obviously working some screen time into the contract when she got the gig to perform the theme song.
Casino Royale (2006)
Bond is blonde! Even this was a talking point at the time, imagine what will happen if they really do cast a woman as the next one! Needless to say, Craig proved any detractors wrong. In a comeback influenced by the Bourne series, the Layer Cake actor ushered in a much grittier era of Bond, while also getting to do his best Ursula Andress impression, emerging from the sea in his trunks. Craig was everything you want Bond to be – cool but bad-ass with a sense of irony – but also made the character feel more real. He even fell in love, with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. No spoilers on that one here. Sob.
Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Picking up just 10 minutes after the end of Casino Royale, Bond was in revenge mode as he quickly uncovered the sinister Quantum, an organisation with double agents in the UK and the US. Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalri and Gemma Arterton also starred, while Jack White and Alicia Keys joined forces for the Another Way To Die theme tune (they obviously decided that singing actual lyrics about Quantum Of Solace wouldn’t work, which was a good call). It’s fair to say this wasn’t as well received as Craig’s debut, but still cleaned up at the box office.
Even with adjustments for inflation, this one is the highest-grossing Bond of all time. For the first time in 007 history, Skyfall gave viewers something of the agent’s origin story and background on his relationship with Dench’s M. But when you get that emotion you know something’s going to end badly… Elsewhere, Javier Bardem’s Silva made for a memorable Bond villain, and the theme song? Well, when you get Adele on board you know you’re getting a stonker (and an Oscar-winner).
Spectre fact: it includes a Guinness World Record for the largest on screen explosion (of Blofeld’s lair), according to the official 007 site. But before that, it starts with a shoot-out in Mexico City, and an impressive pre-title sequence based around the country’s Day Of The Dead celebrations which culminates in a knuckle-biting helicopter fight scene. Also starring Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux, who returns as psychologist and love interest Madeleine Swann in No Time To Die. Have we finally entered the era of Monogamous Bond?
No Time To Die (2021)
Craig’s last outing coupled with all the delays means there is a lot of hype around this one. Will it live up to it? We know to expect changes, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought on board for scriptwriting to help modernise, well, the “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” image. And as Bond has left active service – he’s enjoying a more tranquil life in Jamaica, because even secret agents need a break – there’s a new 007 in town, which has generated more than a few headlines. You can’t replace Bond! With a woman! Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, took the title when Bond left MI6, which seems fair enough. But what does this mean for Bond? We’ll have to wait for answers to that one, but there is a mission, of course – he’s sent to rescue a kidnapped scientist, and has new villain Safin (played by Rami Malek) to contend with. At two hours and 43 minutes, it’s the longest Bond film ever, so expect maximum stunts – and maximum Daniel Craig. Hopefully he’ll be going out in style.
The premiere of No Time To Die will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on 28 September, with the general release two days later
Photo credits: Rex/ Shutterstock/ Moviestore/ Alamy/ Eon/ Nicola Dove