By David Nield Last updated
Chances are you'll come across a Bond film or seven during your channel-hopping this Christmas holiday, and we're here to tell you whether you should settle down with the family for the duration or keep on channel surfing until you find something else.
Over 24 films the franchise has varied significantly in terms of quality, so we felt it was time to provide an overview of which ones are worth your time and which ones aren't - though we haven't included , which was produced independently after a row over filming rights, and isn't usually considered part of the canon.
And right at the start we should say ranking Bond films is a pretty impossible task - everyone has their own favourites and personal tastes. But it's still an interesting tour through the history of Bond, cinema and Britishness, so here's our verdict.
Image: Columbia Pictures/Eon Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists
24. Moonraker (1979)
Bond has always followed the movie trends of the day, from Die Hard to Jason Bourne, and there's nothing wrong with that - it's the only way the series could have lasted for 52 years (and counting). With Moonraker, though, the strategy failed pretty spectacularly.
Intended to cash in on the hype surrounding Star Wars (the first film came out in 1977), Moonraker sends Bond to space with a wafer-thin plot and bargain basement special effects to back him up. It's not terrible - it's still Bond - but it's far from being great.
Image: United Artists
23. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
We've never really been convinced about the idea of a media mogul as a Bond villain, although Jonathan Pryce does his best, and that hampered the movie's production mean this ends up being the weakest entry in the Brosnan quartet.
On the plus side there are some neat action sequences here, Brosnan continues to grow into the role and Michelle Yeoh makes an excellent Bond girl who's more than capable of holding her own against 007, almost balancing out the rather dour turn by Terri Hatcher.
22. Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Not a Bond film to remember, which is a shame after the excellent Casino Royale - everything here feels too uninspired and generic, from the rather bland and muddled plot to the humdrum central villain (Mathieu Amalric, given not an awful lot to work with).
There are some good points - the opera scene, Daniel Craig, the interplay between Bond and M - but by the end of the movie you'd be forgiven for losing interest, and there's nothing all that engaging or fresh to be found during the whole second half of the movie.
21. Thunderball (1965)
The problems with Thunderball have , but the main issue is so much of it is underwater - and that tends to dampen the action sequences. It also doesn't make much sense, and doesn't really succeed at trying to copy the formula of Goldfinger.
It's not all bad (there's a jetpack), and it's perfectly watchable - in fact, it's said to be Connery's favourite, and is the highest-grossing Bond film ever after inflation adjustments. Faced with 24 Bond DVDs though, this isn't one that we'd be rushing to put on all that quickly.
20. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The tenth film in the series and the first - at least in our eyes - to mostly fall flat. It retreads old ground (ski chases, shark tanks), has a villain and a villain's lair that don't really work, and shows some tell-tale signs of a franchise that doesn't really know where it's going.
That said, most critics love this one, so what do we know? It does have opening sequences ever to kick off a Bond movie, plus the introduction of one of the series' best villains with the metal-toothed Jaws. It's not bad, it's just not very special.
19. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Sean Connery gets paid a truckload of cash to come back as Bond and... well... the film is alright, we suppose. Despite a phoned-in lead performance, the movie at least entertains and is packed with spectacle, offering some of the series' most memorable scenes.
We're sticking our necks out to say we actually quite like Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd - two Bond villains you won't quickly forget - and with Charles Gray wonderfully sinister as Blofeld, the film has enough in the positives column to keep it from the bottom of the Bond league.
18. Die Another Day (2002)
Hmmm... often (and fairly) criticised for its invisible car, the laughable sea-boarding sequence and Halle Berry's rather stilted turn as Jinx, we still think Die Another Day gets enough right to earn it third spot in the four Brosnan-as-Bond movies in the series.
Sure, it's overblown, but it's also pretty fun - the opening sequence is great, the final shoot-out is a bit silly but still above-average for Bond in general, and there are some clever nods to Bond films of old. Brosnan still looks interested too, which always helps.
Image: United Artists
17. Spectre (2015)
Apparently director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig were aiming for a tribute to Bond movies of old with Spectre, forgetting that barmy plot turns and cardboard cut-out characters are best left in the 80s, and as a result it never hits the heights of Skyfall.
The opening sequence is amazingly good but it's all downhill from there, with Craig looking rather tired with it all, and Christoph Waltz mostly wasted in his turn as a rebooted Blofeld. Spectre still has its moments but it's two hits and two misses so far for Craig's 007.
Image: Columbia Pictures
16. Octopussy (1983)
Octopussy usually gets panned in Bond film rankings but we're going to buck the trend and say we actually like it, with a few reservations - one of those reservations being you can hear as Moore swings his way through the treetops.
That's awful, but the bomb-on-a-train and the jet-through-a-hanger sequences are brilliantly put together, and Q gets more involved than normal too. Not without its flaws - which are obvious whenever you watch it - but it doesn't deserve its poor reputation.
15. A View To A Kill (1985)
57-year-old Roger Moore puts in one last stand as 007 and he doesn't do too badly. Christopher Walken's villain is good value too, and the film's slow-burning build-up to a spectacular finale is one of the most well judged story arcs in the whole Bond series.
That said, it does feel dated, overdone and a little bit creaky in places, and A View To A Kill really marks the end of the road for 'classic' Connery-Lazenby-Moore Bond - cinema was moving on, and it was time to bring the iconic spy film franchise into the modern era.
14. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Something of a return to form for Bond after Moonraker, and its back-to-basics approach works rather well, even though Roger Moore's advancing years are starting to tell. There's more in the way of actual spy work here as well, which is something we always welcome.
A bunch of impressive locations, some tight action sequences, a feisty and motivated Bond girl played by Carole Bouquet, and an entertaining pre-credits sequence mean For Your Eyes Only earns a place somewhere between the ordinary and the amazing.
13. Dr. No (1962)
Dr. No usually gets a high rating from movie critics because it's the film that started everything off, but as well as all that's good about the movie - exotic locations, Sean Connery, classic one-liners - it's also awkwardly paced and just plain awkward at times.
To give the film its due there's no doubt it wowed moviegoers in 1962, but certain parts haven't stood the test of time all that well, and Dr. No himself is one of the less memorable Bond villains in the franchise. A solid start for Bond - but there was much better to come.
Image: Eon Productions
12. You Only Live Twice (1967)
There's good (secret volcano lair!) and bad (Sean Connery as a Chinaman!) in the Roald-Dahl-scripted You Only Live Twice, and that puts it somewhere in the middle of our overall list. Connery is obviously getting a little bored at this point too, which doesn't help.
All that said, the movie feels like a step up in terms of production values and ambition, and it features the best-ever Blofeld in the form of Donald Pleasence, some jaw-dropping set-piece scenes, and a story that's more thought-out and engaging than most Bond plots.
11. The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Okay, it has its weak points (Denise Richards, we're looking at you), but if you can forgive them this is a fine film and Brosnan's second-best effort after GoldenEye. Robbie Coltrane makes a welcome return, while Robert Carlyle stands out as the baddie of the piece.
The World Is Not Enough is normally relegated to the lower end of the table in most critics' picks of Bond films, but we think this has enough high points - the gadgets, the quips, the action set-pieces, Brosnan still on top form - to outweigh a few relatively minor problems.
10. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
In recent years On Her Majesty's Secret Service has enjoyed something of a renaissance with critics, and we're certainly big fans of the first non-Connery Bond - George Lazenby, panned for his efforts in 1969, actually does pretty well as a kind of Connery/Moore hybrid.
Okay the plot is absolutely nonsense, and where Thunderball has too much scuba-diving this has too much skiing, but it has echoes of the espionage-focused From Russia With Love, plus some dramatic scenery and strong turns from Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas.
9. Licence To Kill (1989)
We're putting the two Timothy Dalton films next to each other in our list, because they're very much a pair and are very similar in terms of overall tone and quality - although Dalton's second and final outing as the super-spy isn't quite as impressive as his debut.
We like the rogue-spy-on-a-mission idea and a young Benicio del Toro does a wonderful turn as a deranged henchman, and it's enjoyably gritty and spectacular in the way The Living Daylights is, but it maybe strays a little too far into generic action movie mode.
8. The Living Daylights (1987)
The Bourne films obviously influenced Daniel Craig's Bond but there's a case to be made that Timothy Dalton's 007 did the hard-nosed, unflinching spy routine first - this is a world away from the eyebrow-raising Roger Moore era, and it's still well worth a watch today.
Dalton does admirably in his first and penultimate turn as Bond, while from start to finish there are some excellently shot action sequences. The film does make a few mis-steps along the way, but it (and Dalton) deserve a lot of credit for moulding a more modern 007.
7. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Moore's second Bond flick almost hits the heights of his first: with an iconic villain, memorable henchman, perfect set-piece finale and the gold theme, this is very much Moore's Goldfinger, even if it's not quite as well put together as the 1964 entry.
The supporting cast (Christopher Lee aside) are relatively forgettable and we probably could've done without another appearance from Sheriff JW Pepper, but even so it's an iconic entry in the series and well worth putting on during your Christmas festivities.
6. From Russia With Love (1963)
The most Hitchcock-esque Bond of them all, From Russia With Love sees 007 doing some proper spying without all those huge action set-pieces and earth-shattering explosions he's associated with nowadays. It's also the first film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q.
A tense 115 minutes' worth of Bond action with a low-key, le Carré-style vibe that many Bond fans wish the series would go back to. It's the perfect antidote to the invisible cars and tongue-in-cheek humour that would pop up in Bond films in the following decades.
5. GoldenEye (1995)
Pierce Brosnan's later movies as 007 may lapse into self-parody but at the beginning he was very, very good - a mixture of the Connery suaveness, the Moore humour, and the Dalton cool. Once again a new Bond actor was able to inject new life into the series.
Sean Bean's villain-with-a-backstory is very watchable too, and when you add in some memorable supporting characters, a plot that's just the right Bondian balance of realistic and fantastical, and you've got one of the better entries in the franchise's long history.
4. Skyfall (2012)
One of two top-notch Craig-as-Bond flicks, featuring one of our favourite villains in Javier Bardem, and a series of great set-pieces - crashing Tube trains, intense car chases, fights on top of train carriages... there aren't many moments when you can catch your breath.
The last section is a bit too Home Alone for our liking, and a couple of scenes don't quite land right, but Skyfall is a film with hardly anything in its negatives column. Plus, Craig gives one of the most conflicted and genuine turns as Bond in the whole 24-film series.
Image: Eon Productions
3. Live And Let Die (1973)
A new Bond actor usually means a better film (see also Brosnan and Craig) - and Roger Moore never bettered this. Live And Let Die is spooky, thrilling and polished, and actually lets our hero look vulnerable - the crocodile scene is worth the price of admission alone.
It also manages to be quintessentially Bond without retreading the same old formula, something too many entries in the franchise have done. Most critics don't like it, but it works for us - and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and Spectre director) , so there.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
By 2006 Bond needed refreshing again for the 21st century, and Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and director Martin Campbell did an almost impossibly good job of it - 44 years on and 007 was once again setting the high watermark for other movies to follow.
The storyline has substance and real emotional depth (not always a guarantee in a Bond flick), the action sequences look better than ever, and Daniel Craig silenced all the doubters who questioned whether he had what it took to take on the iconic 007 role.
Image: United Artists
1. Goldfinger (1964)
As we said at the start, ranking Bond films isn't easy - it depends which actors you like, which era you grew up in, and how you like your action movies - but Goldfinger, the third film in the series, has to be near the top of any list trying to put the films in some kind of order.
The villain, his henchman, the finale, the theme tune, the love interest, the plot twists, the set-pieces, the cars... it's as near-perfect a Bond film as you're likely to get. Add to that Connery's best performance as 007, and it has to be our choice for the number one Bond.