With Skyfall marking the 23rd official James Bond movie in the franchise, it's time to look back over the series, or more specifically the ten best 007 films to date. No other series has had such a rollercoaster in quality as the Bond films, but then no other series has made it to film number 23, either. Hopes and pressures are high for Skyfall, especially coming off the back of the generally unloved Quantum Of Solace, but with Academy-Award winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Jarhead) behind the camera, chances are good that we'll have a new top ten entry come October 26th.
10. The Living Daylights - 1987
These days Timothy Dalton is probably best known by young'uns as being the bad guy from Hot Fuzz, but he did have a brief stint as being the darkest, most ruthless Bond, following on from Roger Moore's quipping, almost comedic run. The Living Daylights had Dalton on all over the world to stop an arms dealer from starting World War Three, this movie features 007 being reunited with his beloved Aston Martin after so many movies and years without it, the beautiful Maryam d'Abo as Bond Girl Kara Milovy, that fist fight while hanging off the back of a plane, and the awesome theme-song by A-Ha.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me - 1977
Definitely one of the crazier bad guy schemes ever concocted -shipping magnate Karl Stromberg wants to use stolen nuclear missiles to destroy all life on the surface of Earth and create an underwater society - it's difficult to take The Spy Who Loved Me too seriously, but it's impossible not to enjoy entirely. His third time out as 007, Roger Moore was now all too comfortable bedding the insanely hot Agent XXX (Barbara Bach), and was as smooth at knocking out bad guys as he is knocking out the one-liners. That's not even taking into account the now legendary bad-guy Jaws, and the iconic ski-jump that ends with Bond using a Union Jack parachute; hugely entertaining.
8. On Her Majesty's Secret Service - 1969
Much maligned upon its release, which was most likely because audiences had grown to love Sean Connery in the role and didn't much care for this Australian model George Lazenby, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has since been reappraised and realised for what it truly is; a classic Bond movie. Hot on the trail of big bad guy Blofeld and his research into viruses, 007 also falls in love with a mob boss's daughter and the two eventually marry. One of the most emotionally fuelled Bond movies, when Louis Armstrong's "We Have All The Time In The World" is used to heart-breaking effect in the finale, it's place on this list will become all too clear.
7. Thunderball - 1965
With that fantastic theme song by Tom Jones, and Sean Connery now on his fourth outing as 007, this is the point when the Bond movies found their strut. While the plot isn't exactly original - a SPECTRE agent steals some nuclear warheads and holds the entire world hostage - there is an almost illegal amount of fun to be had here, with the pre-credits sequence finding Bond using a jet-pack, as well as the fantastic underwater battle that closes the movie, not to mention Claudine Auger's Bond Girl "Domino" doesn't look too shabby in a bikini.
6. GoldenEye - 1995
Six years after Licence To Kill, Pierce Brosnan would become 007 for the first time, and to a world that no longer thought it needed him. But following that incredible bungee jump opening, all nay-sayers quickly shut the hell up. GoldenEye also introduced us to the new "M", Dame Judi Dench, as well as a much needed dose of self-realisation (M: "I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you."), but also had fantastic action sequences, Famke Janssen's brilliant villain Xenix Onatopp and that epic theme song by Tina Turner, which - fun fact, Bond fans! - was actually written by Bono.
5. From Russia With Love - 1963
James Bond's second ever outing, From Russia With Love is the first movie to feature Desmond Llewellyn's "Q", a much-loved character who will finally be returning to the 007 movies in Skyfall. Both a precursor to all those 70's cold-war thrillers, as well as having a feel of a Hitchcockian spy movie - especially during the helicopter attack sequence - Bond also has to deal with the cat-stroking Blofeld, Robert Shaw's truly intimidating bad guy "Grant", and an assassin with a poisonous shoe!
4. Dr. No - 1962
This is where it all began; from Ursula Andress' "Honey Ryder" setting the benchmark for all Bond Girls, to the (now snigger-worthy) half-German, half-Japanese, steel handed Dr.No as the prototype for any super-villain to follow, to Connery himself as the suave, hedonistic secret agent who seems to have no problem telling people his real name. Featuring killer tarantulas, blind assassins, fire-breathing dragons (?!) and a plan to scupper the US Space program, Dr. No is a testament to how strongly the Bond franchise began, and how it's little wonder it has continued on for so long.
3. You Only Live Twice - 1967
Once again America and Russia are on the verge of World War Three, and it's up to Bond and the Japanese secret-service ninjas to save the day. Nancy Sinatra gets things off to a class start with her classic theme song, but from there things get epic in scope, style and substance; arch-nemesis Blofeld has his lair inside a volcano, action sequences involving giro-copters and giant magnets, and the whole thing concocted by kids author Roald Dahl! It may have been Connery's (short-lived) retirement from Bond, but if he was going out, he was going out with a bang.
2. Casino Royale - 2006
After the invisible cars and badly CGI'd tidal-wave surfing of Die Another Day, Bond needed a rethink, and it got a reboot. Out went Brosnan, in came Craig and a whole lot of Bourne-alike realism. From the outstanding opening black-and-white sequence, to the chase scene through a construction site, to a genuinely nail-baiting card game, Casino Royale laid on the tension thick. It also had Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, arguably the greatest Bond Girl of all time. In fact, the only thing it didn't have was a good theme song; that Chris Cornell mess "You Know My Name" was truly horrid.
1. Goldfinger - 1964
Sean Connery. Shirley Bassey's theme song. Auric Goldfinger's plan to irradiate Fort Knox. Honor Blackman's immensely sexy Pussy Galore. "The Flying Circus Crew." Oddjob and his razor-rimmed bowler hat. The immaculate tuxedo revealed from beneath a wet-suit. Shirley Eaton on the bed covered in gold paint. All of the Aston Martin's amazing gadgets. The nuclear bomb's countdown stopping at "007". "Do you expect me to talk?" - "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die." The laser heading for a never-better Connery's family jewels. What more do you want?
Sean Connery also happens to trump the rest when we asked you, our loyal readers of entertainment.ie, who's the sexiest 007 of all.