For true Bond fans, the baseline is simple: All the movies are great. But some have earned their license to thrill with more charisma than others. With the release of No Time to Die, we wanted to look back at the Bond films that came before. Whether you’re a Connery or Moore fan, a Craig or Brosnan devotee, or you have a soft spot for Dalton and Lazenby, here’s our ranking of all 25 James Bond movies.
25. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
There are some traps even Bond can’t escape. In this case, the trap is a script torn between serious new 007 Timothy Dalton and the lingering, winking persona of Roger Moore. Timothy does his damnedest to be formidable, unraveling the threads of a Soviet general’s defection all the way to an American arms dealer trying to start WWIII, but between subpar puns he comes across like an earnest MI6 accountant rather than a suave agent with a license to kill. Better to focus on the action, which ranks among the franchise’s most convincing until Casino Royale.
For an opening scene, actors bearing resemblance to Roger Moore and George Lazenby were cast as fellow Double-0s as a clever way of introducing Timothy as the new 007.
Timothy had been considered for Bond as far back as the late ’60s. The opportunity arose again when Albert R. Broccoli declined to give Pierce Brosnan the role because he was still too closely tied to another suave, gun-wielding character: Remington Steele.
24. A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
Roger Moore’s final turn is a grand tour of man-made monuments, as 007 spars with a rogue industrialist, from the Eiffel Tower to the Transamerica Pyramid to the Golden Gate Bridge. But those locations beg for big stunts, and we worry for 57-year-old Roger as he gamely fights (and beds) crazy-eyed henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones) and dangles from a blimp. As played by Christopher Walken in full scenery-chewing mode, Max Zorin seems like a rational mass murderer, except for that whole plan to flood Silicon Valley. Maybe Bond could just reason with him over a pot of Earl Grey and then call in the Marines.
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To stage the stunt jump off the Eiffel Tower, a platform extension had to be constructed. It’s painted to blend in but can be easily spotted in the finished scene.
Christopher was the first actor to star in a Bond movie after winning an Academy Award (for The Deer Hunter). The next would be Halle Berry, who played a Bond Girl shortly after winning for Monster’s Ball.
23. QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
In the first movie of the series that can be considered a direct sequel, Bond continues to investigate the shadowy criminal organization known as Quantum as a means to avenge the death of his lover Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is still outstanding, and a scene where Bond eavesdrops on Quantum operatives at an outdoor opera production is nifty. But the overall impact is compromised by an over-reliance on Bourne-style fight scenes and a muddled climax in which it takes way too much effort for 007 to defeat a bantamweight villain. And hey, nobody wants the bad puns back, but it wouldn’t hurt for Bond to at least crack a smile every now and then. It’s a Bond movie, not Schindler’s List.
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The sight of Bond bedmate Strawberry Fields’ body covered head to toe in crude oil is a knowing homage to the infamous gilded corpse in Goldfinger.
Daniel said that Quantum was much more physically challenging than Casino Royale, requiring training in boxing, speedboating, and stunt driving.
22. NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983)
Settle down, purists! There’s definitely a case to be made that this Thunderball rehash doesn’t deserve to be ranked at all, that it’s outside the canon of official Bond movies, made possible only due to an old legal settlement that gave control of one story line to a Fleming collaborator. But hey, that is Sean Connery back in the tux after 12 years, still exuding 007 charm while lending a hint of world-weariness befitting a seasoned secret agent reactivated to rescue his country in time of need. Toss in fresh Bond Girl Kim Basinger (23 years younger than Sean) and an excellent update of SPECTRE lieutenant Largo, and you realize that maybe it’s not an international crisis for two Bonds to exist at once. Never again, though.
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“Good to see you, Mr. Bond. Things have been awfully dull ’round here. I hope we’re going to see some gratuitous sex and violence in this one.”
With Never and Octopussy released within months of each other, many speculated on which Bond would win at the box office. Both were hits, making nearly $200 million apiece.
21. OCTOPUSSY (1983)
What’s the most logical strategy for the Soviet Union to take over Western Europe? Obviously, a rogue general tricking the governments into disarming by exploding a nuke unwittingly smuggled onto a U.S. Air Force base by a beautiful cult leader’s traveling circus. In other words, forget the plot and focus on the pre-title sequence, in which Bond flies a plane through an airplane hangar; the exotic settings, shot on location in India; and some superior hand-to-hand combat. It’s fun if you don’t take any of it seriously. But let’s make this perfectly clear: James Bond, elite secret agent of the British Secret Service, should never, ever be seen dressed as a circus clown.
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“007? On an island populated exclusively by women? We won’t see him till dawn!”
With Roger Moore dithering over playing the role again, James Brolin was nearly hired as the new Bond. But when news broke of the Never Say Never Again project, the producers felt they needed an established Bond to go up against Sean Connery and convinced Roger to sign on.
20. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
The 1970s are a topsy-turvy time for Bond, what with two bikini-wearing bodyguards tossing him around like a rag doll and a couple of male hitmen hinting that they’re gay. Indeed, it might even come as a relief to see reliable old nemesis Blofeld again—though maybe not multiple Blofeld look-alikes who are part of a scheme to use smuggled diamonds to build a space laser that will upend the balance of international power and stuff. It’s an equally tumultuous period for Bond fans, who, after the aborted George Lazenby experiment, are grateful enough to see Sean Connery back in the role to overlook this entry’s campy, slipshod execution.
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For the moment in the car chase when Bond drives through a narrow alley on two wheels, the entrance was filmed at Universal Studios in L.A. and the exit filmed on Fremont Street in Las Vegas.
It took $1.25 million to sign Sean again, a then astronomical fee that affected the budget for action sequences and special effects.
19. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
If the world’s superpowers could keep a handle on their nuclear subs, Bond could get a comfy desk job. In this case, ex-KGB agent Renard plans to use one to destroy Istanbul and corner the world oil market. Complicating matters is the fact that Bond is assigned to protect an oil heiress who is secretly abetting the criminal. She also isn’t above using her feminine wiles to throw Bond off the scent. When 007 discovers the double-cross, he only briefly hesitates before shooting his lover to death so that he can pursue the sub. Unfortunately, action scenes such as a boat chase on the Thames don’t carry the same sense of surprise. And even the most ardent Bond Girl devotee can’t quite accept Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist.
Includes a scene in which Desmond Llewelyn (who played Q in 16 films) introduces his successor as MI6’s gadget guru, played by John Cleese. Desmond was killed in a car accident shortly after the film’s release.
The movie’s title is the motto from the Bond family coat of arms, first mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
18. SPECTRE (2015)
A posthumous message from M leads Daniel Craig’s Bond on the hunt for a mysterious organization. Along the way he matches up against the silent but deadly Mr. Hinx (played by Dave Bautista) who has only one line (“Shit.”) before Bond and some barrels tied to rope send him off a train to his presumed death. The film marks the return of the evil SPECTRE and its head, Ernst Blofeld, played with particular menace by Christoph Waltz. Blofeld who reveals a shared childhood with Bond and, the reason for his rage, that his father liked the future 007 better. The villain reveals that he is behind the deaths of M in Skyfall and Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd. In the end, SPECTRE’s plan to take over Nine Eyes, a global surveillance initiative, is thwarted by Bond.
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“It was all me, James. Its always been me. The author of all your pain.”
Bond was originally going to shoot Blofeld in the final scene, but producers decided to spare his life, thus making his possible return in sequels much easier.
17. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
Pierce Brosnan’s swan song starts promisingly, as 007 is captured in North Korea, tortured and imprisoned so long that he grows a hobo beard. Too bad the originality soon runs dry, with the filmmakers marking the franchise’s 40th anniversary with a kitchen-sink strategy. Just when audiences realize they want a grittier film, they get an invisible car, a Madonna cameo, a screwy plot involving gene-therapy makeovers and giant mirrors and a scene where Bond surfs a CGI tidal wave. It’s one thing to be as ridiculous as a Roger Moore–era movie; it’s another to do it unintentionally. Like Bond himself, however, men everywhere appreciate Halle Berry’s bikini homage to Dr. No.
A more explicit sex scene with Jinx was cut to keep the film in PG-13 territory.
Though product placement has long been a mainstay, Die Another Day incorporated 24 companies for a reported $70 million, earning it the nickname Buy Another Day. For Casino Royale, the placement number was reportedly dialed back to eight.
16. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
After the way-out-there Moonraker, Bond makes a welcome return to Earth, and so does his mission—a more straightforward setup that finds 007 joining forces with a revenge-seeking Greek woman to pursue a tycoon trying to sell a vital piece of British naval tech to the KGB. When Bond kicks a car containing a helpless henchman over a cliff, it’s a reminder that this man has a license to kill, after all. The only sour note is the discomfiting scene where our now visibly middle-aged hero has to rebuff the bedroom advances of a teenage snow bunny.
In the pre-credits sequence, Bond lays flowers at the grave of his murdered wife (see On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and then pilots a helicopter to drop a bald would-be assassin, wheelchair and all, down a smokestack. Though the baddie is never named, due to legal conflicts over control of the character, even casual fans realize it’s supposed to be Blofeld.
During filming, actress Cassandra Harris, who has a small role in the movie, introduced legendary Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli to her husband, Pierce Brosnan.
15. LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
Thank goodness for Bond marathons on television. That’s when fans usually rediscover this second Timothy Dalton effort and find themselves thinking, “What was all the fuss? This is pretty darn good.” Indeed, in a nice break from formula, Bond resigns from MI6 in order to exact personal revenge upon the drug lord who maimed recurrent CIA pal Felix Leiter. As an ex-operative who flies Bond to a banana republic, Carey Lowell gets a bit more to do than the average Bond Girl, and the violence is more graphic than in the cartoonish Roger Moore era—perhaps as a reaction to the Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks dominating the ’80s box office. Before we knew we wanted an angry, vengeful Bond, Timothy gave us one. We should have been more grateful.
Bond quits MI6 at Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. That’s why he says, “I guess this is a farewell to arms,” when M revokes his license to kill.
The character of Felix Leiter has appeared in 10 Bond movies, played by nine different actors.
13. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
The highlight of this second Pierce Brosnan effort is watching Bond spar with a beautiful Chinese operative (played by Asian star Michelle Yeoh) who is every bit his equal. The scene in which they’re handcuffed to each other on a motorcycle while being chased across Saigon by a helicopter is an especially inspired bit of choreographed chaos. The rest falls slightly shy of the lofty expectations set by GoldenEye. Basing the character of a megalomaniacal media baron on Rupert Murdoch is irresistible, but his dastardly scheme—to manufacture a war to, um, gain exclusive broadcast rights in China—comes off as half-baked, as does the overly opportune fact that his wife used to be hot and heavy with our hero.
Teri Hatcher says she took the role of Bond’s ex-paramour to fulfill her husband’s fantasy of being married to a Bond Girl. She later called her character “artificial.”
Tomorrow Never Dies didn’t achieve the box-office success of GoldenEye. Then again, it was released on the same day as a little movie called Titanic.
12. MOONRAKER (1979)
A decades-spanning movie franchise is like a living organism; it must adapt to its environment or die. And since sci-fi ruled Hollywood in the late ’70s, fans should consider themselves lucky that Bond doesn’t fight space-nut nemesis Hugo Drax with droids and a light saber. Moonraker is easily the most tongue-in-cheek of the series, but it’s also pure, escapist fun, from the return of metal-mouth henchman Jaws to the big budget spectacle of a zero-gravity laser battle high above Earth outside Drax’s space-station lair. Roger Moore certainly seems to be having a jolly good time, dispatching one-liners with the same relish as he does Drax’s master-race subordinates. Oh, and do 007 and astrobabe Holly Goodhead seize the genre’s opportunity for weightless sex? Of course.
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“Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.”
Since NASA wouldn’t launch an actual space shuttle until 1981, Bond effects guru Derek Meddings had to build miniatures and simulate a blastoff using bottle rockets and signal flares.
11. SKYFALL (2012)
What begins with the “death” of Bond eventually takes us all the way back to his childhood home. The loss of a hard drive leads to attack on MI6 itself leads to the resurrection of Bond. After meeting a new Q (played by Ben Whishaw), Daniel Craig tangles with Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva, a former agent who is set on getting his revenge against M, who he feels betrayed him. The film is bot a particularly notable one for Bond Girls as Berenice Marlohe’s Severine is dispatched by Silva early in the movie. To protect his boss, Bond takes M to his childhood lodge known as Skyfall, where they destroy the house and blow up a helicopter. Silva is finally vanquished, but Dame Judi Dench’s M also dies, ending her much acclaimed 17-year run in the role.
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“A gun and a radio. It’s not exactly Christmas, is it?”
Written and performed by Adele, the theme for Skyfall won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2013. It was the first Bond theme to take that honor.
10. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
The bad guy nearly steals the show in this one. Not only does Scaramanga make a hobby of dueling other international assassins in his psychedelic funhouse lair, but he spouts better dialogue and deploys the movie’s best gadget: a car that transforms into a plane. Dutifully taking the bait, Bond tracks Scaramanga’s mistresses and flunkies from Beirut to Bangkok, with a memorable pit stop at an MI6 outpost cleverly hidden in the partially submerged wreck of a British ship in Hong Kong harbor. Audiences were underwhelmed by this somewhat small-scale effort, however, where even the main henchman, played by Hervé Villechaize, is half size.
Ian Fleming had wanted his cousin, British actor Christopher Lee, to play Dr. No, 12 years before he took the role of Scaramanga.
Roger Moore reportedly didn’t care for scenes that demonstrated Bond’s darker side, such as when he shoves a beggar child into the water and threatens to break a woman’s arm if she doesn’t reveal information. He thought Bond would have just charmed it out of her.
10. DR. NO (1962)
Made 50 years ago on a wee budget, the debut James Bond film still holds up to the rest. Subsequent installments might exploit the franchise’s now familiar elements to greater effect, but to watch Dr. No is to witness the first time the celluloid 007 coolly mocks a megalomaniacal criminal, the first time he engages in innuendo-laced banter with Miss Moneypenny, the first time he offs a flunky with a Walther PPK, the first time he—feel the chills—introduces himself as “Bond. James Bond.” Toss in prototypically voluptuous Bond Girl Ursula Andress rising from the sea in a white bikini, and you’ve got movie magic that will continue to inspire for another 50 years.
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Bond pauses to study a painting in Dr. No’s lair. Viewers at the time might have recognized it as a Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington that had been famously stolen from London’s National Gallery the year before.
The producers cast Sean Connery because he was physically imposing but moved gracefully. Fleming reportedly considered him too “unrefined” to play the upper-crust Bond but was won over by his performance in Dr. No.
9. LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
To this day, when film buffs hear the words boat chase, they instantly flash to this movie. Even interjected with moments of hokey humor, the sight of high-powered speedboats roaring like mad through the real Louisiana bayou ranks among Bond’s top sequences, and it culminates in a world-record jump that has to be seen—repeatedly—to be believed. And to Roger Moore’s credit, it takes only about 10 minutes to get completely comfortable with him filling 007’s shoes. Unfortunately, the rest of his debut is about as silly as you’d expect a spy-Blaxploitation movie mashup to be, complete with pimpmobiles, voodoo rituals, and a heroin-pushing villain who gets blown up like a helium balloon.
To make a break from Sean Connery’s iconic portrayal of Bond, Roger’s 007 doesn’t wear a hat, smokes cigars instead of cigarettes and orders bourbon instead of a martini.
Apparently, Paul McCartney didn’t hold a grudge over 007’s earlier insult to the Beatles (see Goldfinger). His title song with Wings—a huge hit that reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts—was the first rock theme of the Bond franchise.
8. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
What’s a secret agent to do when a gorgeous Russian defector climbs naked into his bed? Well, yes, of course—then afterward, secure the decoder device she’s offering to the Brits while determining whether it’s all a double-cross by the Soviets or the puppet masters of SPECTRE. The gratuitous use of Gypsy girls and an explosive powerboat chase that wouldn’t be topped until Live and Let Die notwithstanding, this second Bond movie comes closest to the missions of real European spies in the thick of Cold War paranoia. As such, it’s not just an excellent 007 movie—it’s practically a piece of history.
Tatiana: “The mechanism is… Oh, James, James, will you make love to me all the time in England?” Bond: “Day and night. Go on about the mechanism.”
When JFK cited Fleming’s From Russia with Love as a favorite book, it was put in line as the next Bond adaptation. According to the book Death of a President, it was the final movie seen by Kennedy, in a private White House screening two days before he was assassinated.
7. GOLDENEYE (1995)
Whew, that was close. For a while there, it looked liked the whole franchise was falling apart, like an overly complex plan for world domination. So after two Timothy Dalton–led movies that failed to connect with fans or critics and a lengthy hiatus due to legal disputes, the producers doubled down with a bigger budget and longtime Bond-in-waiting Pierce Brosnan. He nails 007’s mix of narcissism and duty, and the jaw-dropping action scenes (who hasn’t wanted to drive a tank through city traffic?) actually serve the story line. GoldenEye also marks the first appearance of Dame Judi Dench as M, a portrayal so strong it lived into the Daniel Craig era.
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Alec Trevelyan: “I might as well ask you if all the vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed, or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.”
During a tense game of cat and mouse between Bond and traitorous former colleague 006 in a junkyard of Soviet-era statues, fans learn that both Double-0 agents are orphans.
6. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
You have to get over the shock over Sean Connery’s replacement, novice Aussie actor George Lazenby. And the paucity of gizmos. And the egregious ruffled shirts. Then you can see this underappreciated movie for what it is—the first attempt to reboot Bond, 37 years before Casino Royale, complete with more realistic sets and a welcome dose of human pathos. Even Blofeld, played here by Telly Savalas, is more relatable as he blackmails the world into forgiving his past transgressions. There is still ample spy-vs.-henchmen action, especially a bravura ski chase, and a United Nations of femme fatales. The filmmakers just push fans too far too fast: If this Bond didn’t—gasp!—get married, even the ruffles would be forgiven.
Majesty’s was the first 007 novel published by Ian Fleming after the movie adaptations started being filmed. It includes a sly reference to Bond’s Scottish heritage to explain Sean Connery’s accent.
Since Lazenby had already decided he wouldn’t play Bond again, the producers couldn’t persuade him not to attend the Majesty’s premiere with a hippie-ish beard and long hair.
5. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
The opening ski chase says it all about this movie, and for that matter, the entire Roger Moore oeuvre: It makes no sense that Bond has an oversize duffel bag strapped to his back while eluding enemy agents who can’t shoot straight, but when he free-falls off a cliff and cheats death by popping a Union Jack parachute, it all somehow makes sense. Afterward, Bond achieves détente (wink, wink) with a female Soviet agent and sneaks around the Egyptian pyramids to foil an evil mastermind trying to destroy the world and create a new undersea civilization. Barbara Bach ranks among the most alluring Bond Girls, and henchman Jaws, an unkillable behemoth with metal teeth, is so memorable he returns for Moonraker—after one-upping his blockbuster namesake by biting a shark.
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“Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.”
When editing the scene in which Bond walks across a desert, an assistant editor put in music from Lawrence of Arabia as a joke. His bosses were pleased—and it remained in the final cut.
4. GOLDFINGER (1964)
A standout just for contributing one of the most iconic images in cinema history—the gold-painted nude body of a slain beauty. But woven into 007’s mission to thwart a murderous tycoon from manipulating world economies, the third Bond movie also establishes elements that would become series trademarks, including Desmond Llewelyn’s portrayal of gadget-master Q, an elaborate pre-title sequence, and, with henchwoman Pussy Galore, suggestive Bond Girl names that continued with Holly Goodhead, Xenia Onatopp and Alotta Fagina. OK, you caught us—that last one is from Austin Powers.
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The scene in which Bond is nearly bisected by a laser marks the first movie appearance of that technology, developed four years earlier.
Though the Bond films nudged social mores, they weren’t exactly in tune with the rock ’n’ roll youth culture of the mid-sixties. Hence 007’s square proclamation, “There are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above a temperature of 38˚F. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.”
3. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
This near epic unfolds in Japan. The fusion of British style and Asian energy creates what may be the coolest of all Cold War–era Bond flicks. Sean Connery publicly declared that this film would be his last time in the role. Fittingly, he finally confronts SPECTRE mastermind Blofeld, who is capturing American and Soviet spacecraft to spark World War III. Before raiding a high-tech lair hidden under a volcano, 007 receives training from sexy female ninjas; pilots a heavily armed minicopter; fires a cigarette-propelled rocket; rides a secret subway around Tokyo; and otherwise cranks all Bondian tropes to 11. Tying it all together is the most stirring of composer John Barry’s sound tracks. The theme song sticks in the brain way after all the secondary characters and plot zigzags have gone fuzzy.
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During filming of the aerial combat scene, cameraman John Jordan’s foot was severed by a spinning helicopter blade.
This is the first time Bond fakes his own death at the beginning of the story, a device in use 45 years later for Skyfall.
2. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
The stakes are high when Bond enters a poker tournament to provoke a terrorist moneyman, and even higher for this knockout reboot. With the Bourne movies proving that audiences crave more realistic spy fare, franchise producers responded with a moody, action-packed Bond origin story that’s light on gadgets and girls—and replaced Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig, a Brit who exudes more steely menace than suave charm. The gamble pays off. The tone is set by the black-and-white intro, in which our hero coldly assassinates an MI6 traitor. By the time villain Le Chiffre vividly tortures a bound and naked Bond, you’re almost praying for a Roger Moore–era bon mot. Instead, you remain riveted. Not just a worthy Bond movie—a great movie, period.
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The sequence in which Bond pursues an acrobatic bombmaker through a Madagascar slum took six weeks to film.
Though Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, it was the last book title that lent its name to an official Bond movie—likely because it was previously used to title a 1967 Bond spoof starring David Niven and Woody Allen.
1. THUNDERBALL (1965)
By the release of this fourth Bond film, the series had exploded into a bona fide worldwide phenomenon. Sean Connery wore the 007 role like a bespoke tux. Or, in this case, a bespoke burnt orange wet suit, as Bond chases clues and a convenient bevy of dripping-wet, bikini-clad vixens, around the Bahamas to stop eye patch–sporting SPECTRE villain Emilio Largo from vaporizing Miami with hijacked NATO nukes. The scheme is convoluted, but not a penny of the budget (larger than the first three movies combined) goes to waste, from a then mind-bending jet-pack stunt to an intense underwater fight climax. Audiences were enthralled, making Thunderball the biggest Bond box-office hit (adjusted for inflation) to date.
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“My dear girl, don’t flatter yourself. What I did this evening was for king and country. You don’t think it gave me any pleasure, do you?”
The only movie in which all Double-0 agents are in one place. M summons them to a briefing about SPECTRE’s plot and Bond arrives stylishly late.
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