There are few characters in the history of cinema who are quite as iconic as British secret agent James Bond. To date over 20 official movies have been released that star the international man of mystery, with a total of seven different actors cast to play the titular role. With varying levels of success, both critically and financially, the James Bond movies have maintained a high level of popularity throughout their 50+ year history.
Sean Connery, the First Bond
The first man cast to play Agent 007 was Sean Connery, an actor who has since gone on to have a very successful career in movies. The highest rated James Bond movie of all time, with a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, also happens to be the first ever James Bond movie, Dr. No.
- Dr. No (1962): In his first silver screen outing, James Bond is tasked with investigating the circumstances of the death of John Strangways, a British Intelligence Station Chief. In searching in and around Jamaica Bond visits Crab Key Island, home to the evil Dr. No. With a budget of just $1 million, this first Bond movie was a roaring success, earning $59.5 million at the box office.
- From Russia with Love (1963): Building on the success of the first movie director Terrence Young returned for a second outing. The SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) storyline continues with a plot to steal a cryptographic device. The international agent continues with his global travels here visiting Turkey and Italy.
- Goldfinger (1964): Two of the most iconic villains in the history of the James Bond series are introduced in this movie: the titular Auric Goldfinger and his Korean servant Oddjob. The story takes Bond on a journey to investigate the gold smuggling by Goldfinger, following him to Switzerland. Bond girl Pussy Galore is also introduced in this film. Unlike the first two films, Goldfinger was directed by Guy Hamilton.
- Thunderball (1965): Terrence Young returned to the director's chair for the fourth Bond movie, continuing the upward trend of box office success. SPECTRE remains at the center of the story, this time involving the hijacking of two atomic bombs. The tropical locale of the Bahamas serves as the backdrop.
- You Only Live Twice (1967): While each of the first four movies progressively received larger budgets and earned more money at the box office, You Only Live Twice barely grossed over $110 million. This was still unquestionably successful, but the upward trend ended here. In keeping with the international nature of the previous stories, this film takes Agent 007 to Japan where he investigates the hijacking of an American spacecraft. Released at the height of the space race, the subject matter was particularly timely.
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971): After George Lazenby took on the role of James Bond for 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service to far more limited success, the studios returned to Sean Connery to play Agent 007 in Diamonds Are Forever. This film leads Bond to investigate a diamond smuggling ring in Africa, sending him to Holland, the United Kingdom and into the United States.
- Never Say Never Again (1983): One of only two James Bond movies not produced by Eon Productions, Never Say Never Again sees Sean Connery return to the role to investigate the hijacking of live nuclear warheads in two cruise missiles. This movie was directed by Irvin Kershner.
The Roger Moore Era
With a total of seven films, Roger Moore ties Sean Connery on the number of times he has played James Bond. The Roger Moore period in the history of Bond movies stretches over a 12 year period from 1973 to 1985. Roger Moore has the unfortunate distinction of not only having some of the lowest rated James Bond movies in the history of the franchise, but he is also the only one to have three movies with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of less than 50%.
- Live and Let Die (1973): The eighth Bond film released by Eon Productions, Live and Let Die introduced the world to a new James Bond played by Roger Moore. The producers had wanted Sean Connery to reprise his role, but the Scottish actor declined. The new Bond tackles Mr. Big, a drug lord from Harlem. The film was released during the blaxploitation era in American movies, utilizing many of the archetypes and cliches typical of the era.
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1974): Approaching the subject of solar power and sustainable energy, this film has James Bond tracking down the source of a golden bullet with "007" etched on it. He travels to Macau and Hong Kong for an Asian-themed spy adventure.
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Returning to Russian themes, this film goes as far away as Egypt and New York as Bond looks into the disappearance of military submarines belonging to both British and Soviet forces. With 78%, The Spy Who Loved Me is the highest rated of all the Roger Moore James Bond movies on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also nominated for several awards, including an Oscar for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, and a BAFTA Award for Best Production Design.
- Moonraker (1979): Involving fatal nerve gas, space shuttles, and secret space stations, Moonraker was one of the most ambitious films to date, far surpassing previous movie budgets to the tune of $34 million ($91.5 million in 2005 dollars). It was also the must lucrative of the films featuring Roger Moore with a box office take of $210 million.
- For Your Eyes Only (1981): The first of the five James Bond movies to be directed by John Glen, For Your Eyes Only provides a complex tale of international espionage involving Russians, a Cuban assassin, a Greek businessman, and an Italian lead, as well as the British secret agent.
- Octopussy (1983): After Agent 009 is murdered, James Bond investigates the circumstances of his death leading him to meet Octopussy, the wealthy leader of the Octopus cult. A greater international plot unravels with ties to Afghanistan, Russia, Germany and India.
- A View to a Kill (1985): The storyline in A View to a Kill follows a millionaire industrialist who is trying to dominate the global market for microchips. Bond discovers a connection to the Russian KGB and a plot to destroy Silicon Valley. The film's theme song by Duran Duran is the only Bond theme song to reach the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Timothy Dalton Takes Over
With the noted exception of George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton had the shortest run as James Bond in the canonical series produced by Eon Productions. The films were generally well received.
- The Living Daylights (1987): The last Bond movie to take its title directly from an Ian Fleming short story until 2006's Casino Royale, The Living Daylights depicts James Bond protecting Georgi Koskov, a Soviet defector who informs Bond of a KGB policy to kill British and American agents.
- Licence to Kill (1989): In this film, Bond goes outside the Secret Service to avenge an attack on his friend, Felix Leiter. The movie features a young Benico del Toro as one of the villains. The original title was actually Licence Revoked and this was the first Bond film not filmed in the UK due to budgetary concerns.
Agent 007 by Pierce Brosnan
With Bond movies being released every year or every other year up until this point, it seemed that Agent 007 may never again grace the silver screen. However, after a six year hiatus, Ian Fleming's iconic agent returned with the casting of Pierce Brosnan in the title role.
- GoldenEye (1995): While GoldenEye is absolutely a "James Bond movie," it is the first of the series that does not take any story elements directly from the original works by Ian Fleming. Instead, the story --- involving the GoldenEye satellite weapon by an evil arms syndicate -- was put together by Michael France and a team of writers. The series was decidedly modernized in this film.
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): With Roger Spottiswoode taking over as the seventh director of James Bond movies, Tomorrow Never Dies nearly doubled the $60 million budget of GoldenEye, but only brought in a comparable $339 million. The plot involves British warships and conflicts in China.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999): While this was the third Bond movie with Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007, the producers went with yet another director in Michael Apted. It returns to the classic Russian KGB plots of earlier Bond films with such characters as Davidov and Renard. The iconic "Bond girl" for this film was Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist played by Denise Richards.
- Die Another Day (2002): The fourth and final film with Pierce Brosnan as Bond also took on a fourth director in Lee Tamahori. The plot surrounds conflict diamonds from Africa being traded for the purposes of weapon production.
Daniel Craig Becomes Bond
Whereas each of the previous Bond movies simply built up on the stories already portrayed in previous outings, the casting of Daniel Craig in Casino Royale represented a reboot in the series, providing more back story into the origins and beginnings of MI6 Agent 007.
- Casino Royale (2006): James Bond has just received his license to kill in this movie that depicts the very beginning of the Agent 007 story. As such, the Daniel Craig version of Bond is more vulnerable and less experienced than previous Bonds. The iconic Miss Moneypenny is notably absent from the cast of characters. The reboot is a box office success, earning over $596 million, as well as a critical success with an 81 Metascore on Metacritic.com.
- Quantum of Solace (2008): The second outing by Daniel Craig was nowhere near as successful critically, but it brought in a comparable $591 million at the box office. A plot is unearthed in which the Quantum organization aims to control the water supply in Bolivia to raise prices.
- Skyfall (2012): With over one billion dollars earned at the box office, Skyfall is not only one of the most successful Bond movies in terms of dollars, but it is also one of the most critically acclaimed with several award nominations. It won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film. In this film, more of M's history with MI6 and the Secret Service is revealed, including a former agent turned rogue named Raoul Silva.
Other James Bond Films
Two other movies with James Bond were released that did not involve the major actors noted above.
- Casino Royale (1967): Not officially a James Bond movie and not produced by Eon Productions, the 1967 version of Casino Royale may be better categorized as a spoof or comedy than an actual serious spy movie. There were a total of six directors, including the uncredited Richard Talmadge. Notable actors in this version include Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles.
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969): The only Eon-produced Bond movie with George Lazenby as Agent 007, On Her Majesty's Secret Service only grossed $82 million at the box office, compared to the over $100 million that each of the Sean Connery films earned before and after this one.
The International Man of Mystery
The character of James Bond continues to intrigue audiences the world over, several decades after his initial introduction to cinema in Dr. No. Every fan has a favorite actor who has portrayed the dashing agent 007.