10 Essential James Bond Movies You Need to See to Understand 007

6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, Peter Hunt)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Newcomer George Lazenby begins his first and last outing as 007 with a meta-reference to Sean Connery’s James Bond, where, after saving a woman from drowning herself and being attacked by a group of thugs on a beach, he exclaims “This never happened to the other fellow.”

He encounters the woman later on in a casino, and stakes her when she loses and can’t pay up. Her name is Contessa Teresea “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg). She is the English daughter of Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), the head of a powerful European crime syndicate.

Bond romances Tracy in exchange for what information Draco knows pertaining to the whereabouts of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (this time played by Telly Savalas). Draco informs Bond of a lawyer to Blofeld named Sir Hilary Bray.

Bond assumes the identity of Sir Hilary and tracks Blofeld down to the Swiss Alps, where it is revealed that he has various women under mind control, which he dubs his “Angels of Death.” Blofeld’s plan is to release a virus which will sterilize all plant and animal life in Europe, unless he is granted amnesty for all his past crimes.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was an overlooked entry in the Bond series, which has gained greater respect and admiration from fans over time. Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) lists it as his favorite Bond film.

Just as Thunderball was known for its groundbreaking underwater sequences, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is best known for its skiing sequences. These scenes are undeniably the highlight of the film, and served as the inspiration for similar sequences in later Bond films, such as The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, and The World Is Not Enough.

The film is also a noteworthy installment because it is the first time Bond genuinely deals with the loss of someone he loves. This level of emotion would not be seen again in another Bond film until 2006’s Casino Royale. The skiing sequences and the heavy-handed layer of emotion are what make On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a must-watch.

George Lazenby is certainly not one of the better Bonds in the series, but he does give a solid performance. It is a shame that he never got a chance to prove himself by doing at least one more film. He even wore a beard to the film’s premiere, since he knew he would not be playing 007 again. This is a decision which he continues to regret to this day.


7. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, Lewis Gilbert)

The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore’s third (and arguably finest) outing as 007 sends Bond to Egypt, where he works with Soviet KGB agent Anya Armasova (Barbara Bach) to investigate the disappearance of both British and Soviet ballistic-missile submarines.

They are ordered to look for the plans for a submarine tracking system which are said to be on the market in Cairo. On their trail is the gargantuan assassin with metal teeth, Jaws (Richard Kiel), who is an employee of Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), a madman intent on provoking a nuclear war and establishing a new, ideal civilization in his underwater base called “Atlantis.”

The Spy Who Loved Me is an exceptional Bond film, and one of the more fun movies in the series. It has several memorable action scenes to boast about, such as a fight between Bond and Jaws in a train compartment, and a chase scene involving Bond’s Lotus Espirit S1, which transforms into a submarine when underwater. It is appropriately campy without becoming a parody of itself, as several of the later Roger Moore films did.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of The Spy Who Loved Me is the introduction of Jaws, who is undoubtedly the most memorable henchman since Oddjob.

Jaws would return in the less-than-stellar 1979 film Moonraker, but The Spy Who Loved Me is where he really shines. He’s so tough that he even kills an actual shark with his teeth near the end of the film. He is a clear example of a henchman who outshines the main villain, and is possibly the most memorable element of the entire film.


8. GoldenEye (1995, Martin Campbell)


Pierce Brosnan was in the running for James Bond years before he was actually cast. He was set to be the next Bond in 1987’s The Living Daylights, until TV’s Remington Steele was renewed and he was replaced by Timothy Dalton. After a six-year hiatus, the Bond franchise was reborn in 1995 with Brosnan in the lead.

The film opens up with 007 bungee-jumping into a Soviet chemical weapons facility to plant explosive charges. It is here where Bond encounters his partner, Alec Trevelyan (006), played by Sean Bean. Trevelyan is captured and seemingly killed by General Ourumov (Gottfried John).

Bond then blows up the facility and escapes. Nine years later, Bond is sent on a mission to investigate the disappearance of a prototype Tiger helicopter which can withstand an electromagnetic pulse.

The deadly Georgian assassin, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), steals the helicopter and flies it to Severnaya, Siberia, where she and Ourumov steal a satellite weapon device called “GoldenEye” before murdering the staff. They are working for a mysterious man named Janus, who Bond later discovers is a scarred and disfigured Alec Trevelyan.

GoldenEye is one of the best films in the series. It is inarguably Pierce Brosnan’s greatest outing as 007, and is an especially important installment because it introduces the new M., played by Dame Judi Dench, who would go on to portray Bond’s superior in six more films up until 2012’s Skyfall.

The collapse of the Soviet Union played a large role in the film’s narrative, as Trevelyan’s plan to send London back to the Stone Age by using GoldenEye is based around his anger and resentment towards the British government, which he blames for his parents’ death at the hands of Stalin’s execution squads.

GoldenEye is an extremely important chapter in the Bond saga because of how well it captures 1990s. The focus on computer technology in the film’s narrative, and the fact that M. was now a female, were signs that times were changing, and blockbuster franchises were changing with them.


9. Casino Royale (2006, Martin Campbell)


When it was announced on October 14th, 2005 (Roger Moore’s 78th birthday) that Daniel Craig would be taking over the role of 007 in the first official Eon Productions adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, the Internet went into an uproar. People complained about things as ridiculous as his height, his blonde hair, and the fact that he is more rugged looking than the traditional James Bond.

There were even protest sites where people voiced their outrage. Needless to say, all of these voices were silenced when the film was released in November 2006, and Craig became thought of by many to be the finest Bond since Connery.

James Bond’s first adventure in the rebooted series opens up with Bond receiving his 00 status and license to kill by MI6. He then tracks a bombmaker to Madagascar, who he kills, therefore upsetting M., who had ordered Bond to question him.

The man was working in cooperation with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), the scarred private banker to the world’s terrorists. Bond’s exploits take him to Montenegro, where he encounters the gorgeous Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a British Treasury Agent.

Bond’s goal is to bankrupt Le Chiffre in a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale. If Le Chiffre goes broke, he will have nowhere to run from the group of Ugandan rebels who he invested money from. MI6 plans to give him sanctuary in return for everything he knows about them.

Casino Royale is one of the highest-rated films in the series, and rightfully so. It is a perfect modern retelling of Fleming’s 1952 novel which introduced readers to the world of 007. The film is noted for its more realistic spin on James Bond. Bond uses no gadgets and relies entirely on his cunning, his intellect, his Walther PPK, and his Aston Martin (which results in one of the most impressive car crash sequences in cinematic history).

The realism also extends to the film’s plot and stays true to Fleming’s novel. Le Chiffre is not a traditional villain obsessed with world domination or provoking nuclear war. Instead, he is a man trying to survive his associates by any means necessary; a characteristic which results in the most uncomfortable scene in the entire franchise.

The film works on all levels, especially in how it depicts Bond as a man who can be hurt, as he is physically, as well as emotionally when he is betrayed by the woman he loves, who is then taken from him. Not only is Casino Royale a truly astonishing Bond film, but it is a great film in general. If one does not wish to watch the Bond films in chronological order, than Casino Royale would be a perfect one to start with.


10. Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes)


After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, the James Bond franchise was in dire need of another hit. Sam Mendes, the Academy-Award winning director of American Beauty, was hired to direct the 23rd installment of the series, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No.

Bond begins his first standalone adventure in the new series in Turkey, chasing down a man named Patrice (Ola Rapace), who has a list which contains the identities of every NATO agent placed undercover within terrorist organizations.

While fighting Patrice on top of a train, Bond is shot by his partner (Naomie Harris), and Patrice escapes. Bond survives, but uses the incident as an opportunity to play dead and start a new life full of alcohol and women.

When the MI6 headquarters in London is bombed by an unknown computer hacker, Bond is forced to return to action. His mission leads him into an encounter with the menacing ex-MI6 operative, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who is hell-bent on gaining revenge on M, who he believes betrayed him; something which led to months of excruciating torture.

Skyfall was the perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond. It has the grittiness and realism of Casino Royale, as well as numerous elements from classic Bond films. Q (Ben Whishaw) is introduced, who is ironically much younger than 007. One of the characters becomes the new M. at the end of the film, and another character is revealed to be Moneypenny.

There are numerous clever references to previous James Bond films. After meeting Bond for the first time, and providing him for his equipment to aid him in his mission, Q references one of the gadgets from GoldenEye when he asks “Were you expecting an exploding pen?”

These nods to prior Bond classics are part of what makes Skyfall such an ideal way to celebrate 50 years of cinema’s greatest superspy. James Bond even drives the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, complete with the machine gun turrets and the ejector seat. Whether you are a lifelong Bond fan, or a newcomer to the franchise, there is no reason not to smile and have a good time when watching Skyfall.

Daniel Craig has really come into his own as James Bond, and has masterfully reinvented the character for the 21st Century. He IS the 007 of Ian Fleming’s novels in a modern setting- cold-blooded and ruthless, yet charming and sophisticated. The real star of Skyfall is Javier Bardem. He plays a character that is easily one of the Best Bond villains ever.

Silva is sinister, merciless, sadistic terrorist mastermind who is the embodiment of evil. There isn’t an ounce of human decency in him. Bardem knows the character inside and out, and does a phenomenal job of bringing him to life. The rivalry between James Bond and Silva make Skyfall a 007 film for the ages.