007. License to kill. The world's most famous spy. Walther PPK. Vodka martini shaken, not stirred. There's nothing quite like James Bond. 25 films and 60 years of history have made the character globally recognisable and a British icon. After all, nobody does it better.
With the announcement that the complete James Bond Collection – including No Time to Die – will be premiering on Amazon Prime Video on April 15th, what better time than now to look back at Daniel Craig's tenure in the role and decide once and for all which one is the best.
This ranking will cover all five Daniel Craig films as James Bond from 2005's Casino Royale to 2021's No Time to Die. Obviously, this is all down to opinion (mine, specifically), so there's the chance you might disagree. Regardless, I've tried to mix what films are my favourite combined with what films are genuinely good, taking into account the plot, performances and everything else you would expect in a review.
Overall, I don't think there's an outright terrible Bond film from Craig, especially when you compare his time to other Bonds – here’s our guide to the best Bond films by each of the six actors to have played 007, by the way. All of the five Craig films have redeeming qualities, it's just some are clearly far more rewatchable and have held up better than a bottle of Château Angélus.
Coming off the $1.1 billion success that Skyfall (more on that later) garnered, not to mention the overwhelmingly positive reception from a critic's and fan perspective, Spectre should have been a slam dunk. What I will say is that The Day of the Dead opening in Mexico City is magnificent, as the camera gracefully trails Bond through the city streets up to a hotel suite and then onto the ledge of the building as he prepares for an assassination. Brilliant.
It's once the dreary Sam Smith theme song, "Writing's on the Wall", creeps in that everything does downhill. An uninspiring car chase around Rome, a love interest that is absent of any sparks and a plot that feels as old as the franchise, leave a lot to be desired. With aggressively slow pacing, Spectre is by far the hardest one to sit down and watch. It's not a bad film, it's just not an interesting one.
4. No Time to Die
Daniel Craig's swansong had its fair share of ups and downs behind the scenes, not to mention a global pandemic to deal with, so it's amazing how well it turned out in retrospect. While clearly not as strong as the three other contenders on this list, No Time to Die brings about thrilling action, big blockbuster stunts, stunning vistas and a more than satisfying ending to Craig's era.
Ana De Armas as CIA agent Paloma is exceptional with the little screen time given, while Lashana Lynch makes for an interesting take on the "00" persona. What lets it down is the lack of chemistry between Bond and Madeline Swann (played by Léa Seydoux), the bland villain from Rami Malek, a nonsensical plot and a nearly three-hour runtime. Still, what a way to go out.
3. Quantum of Solace
A controversial pick, I know. There's part of me that would love to put Quantum of Solace higher but I'll resist. Again another Bond flick with troubles behind the scenes, most notably a writer's strike that saw Craig actually end up contributing to the script, QOS picks up moments after Casino Royale ended with a blistering car chase, not stopping until the credits roll.
At only 106 minutes, QOS is the shortest Bond movie to date and uses its time well, investing in a grief-struck 007 who is out for revenge. Olga Kurylenko's Camille plays off Craig's battle wounded spy wonderfully, leaving an emotional ending that I wish we saw more of in a later down the line. Jesper Christensen steals every scene he's in as the electrifyingly dark Mr. White, while Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) feels like a very real everyday baddie, working in the shadows to better the rich. Did QOS take too much inspiration from the Bourne franchise? Not for me!
If I ever recommend a James Bond film to anyone, Skyfall normally has the best chance of landing with them. Whether a new fan or veteran of the franchise, there's literally something for everyone. Sam Mendes blends both the gritty realism and more classic Bond elements together for an extremely pleasurable experience, one that sees Judie Dench and Javier Bardem push Bond to his limits in contrasting ways.
What I really appreciate about Skyfall is how it goes against the grain in terms of locations, spending a good chunk of time in Britain. And while Skyfall does jet set off to a number of picturesque locations – the camera work in Macau is sublime – it's the action on the London underground and the Scottish Highlands that truly makes this movie unique. That Adele theme is pretty unbeatable too.
1. Casino Royale
Every time I watch Casino Royale, I can't get over what a masterpiece it is. Forget that it's a James Bond film, this is the one that is an out and an out a great movie on its own. The Dark Knight of the James Bond universe if you would. After the dismal Die Another Day, James Bond was in a bad place. As a result, the producers decided to reboot and go right back to the first-ever Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale.
This film is everything. Modern, stylish, gritty, filled with astounding action, a plot and characters that you give a damn about as well as being the first movie where Bond feels truly human. With the British press infamously out to get Craig before the film even premiered, he knew he had a point to prove – and boy, does he deliver.
From the opening scene that merges into the iconic Bond gunbarrel shot, to the staggering parkour sequence and the tense Poker scene with Le Chiffre, to Vespa's demise in the heart of Venice, everything is on another level. That's why for me, Casino Royale is not only the best Daniel Craig Bond film but also the best James Bond film ever.
There we have it. The definitive ranking of Daniel Craig's time as James Bond. I can already hear my phone ringing with a congratulatory call from Barbara Broccoli. Remember: all 25 James Bond movies will be available on Amazon Prime Video later this week for a limited only. Perfect excuse for a rewatch.