The 7 Most Underrated Bond Films

Tonight I went to see the Spy Who Loved Me, not the 1977 film starring Sir Roger Moore, but an orchestral performance of Bond music and other various spy themes as performed by the Utah Symphony. There were several errors made by the conductor in sharing Bond trivia tonight, including the falsehood that Ian Fleming worked for MI6. Fleming never did work for MI6. He worked for Naval Intelligence, however, in WWII. Also, the conductor was under the belief that Fleming based Bond on one man when in reality Bond is an amalgamation of several people in Fleming's life, including himself. Perhaps one of the worst errors made by the conductor concerning the actual Bond films was his list of Bond actors. He named off the Bond actors: Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig, but he forgot to mention George Lazenby. This was especially saddening because I believe that Lazenby starred in one of the best Bond films ever made, which is On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Now the conductor's lack of Bond knowledge does not in any way reflect on his skills as a conductor. The music performed tonight was superb. However, tonight's errors in trivia got me thinking about how much of the Bond franchise is underappreciated, like our forgotten Bond George Lazenby. I want to create a list of movies that I feel aren't appreciated enough by the casual Bond fans. Of course many people are familiar with classics such as Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me, but I believe there is a lot more to this series than people give it credit for. It is a film franchise that has gone on for over 50 incredible years and has spanned 24 official installments. (And some unofficial installments as well.) That's what I love most about this franchise. There is so much material that it can be enjoyed again and again. For action movie fans it doesn't get much better than Bond.

7. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

I know that this is where Brosnan's Bond films started to get a little too fantastical, but it still is better than his last two films, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, and it has some great action sequences. I love the pre-title sequence for this film because it features Bond trying to prevent two nuclear warheads from going off by dispatching with several soldiers and flying the jet carrying those warheads out of the path of cruise missile. It's tense, it's fun, and it's typical Bond action.

I also like that throughout the whole film the setting is tense because Bond is trying to prevent war WWIII in just 48 hours. It is always fun to see Bond in race against time. The settings of the film are fantastic as well and especially unique with Bond heading off to Germany and Vietnam. The main Bond girl Wai Lin is more than match for Bond as she is an intelligent spy and she is highly skilled in martial arts. As a small touch I like how the filmmakers weren't afraid to have Bond change his primary firearm to the Walther P99. This is a much more appropriate firearm for Bond because of the much more powerful 9mm cartridge over the normal .32 acp Bond carries in his Walther PPK. The P99 also carries 15 rounds in the magazine, 8 more than the PPK. I liked the practicality of the switch and it is something that I have missed from the recent Craig Bond films. As can be seen from the poster above, the marketers for Tomorrow Never Dies thought it was a good choice to emphasize the switch in guns as well.

6. A View to a Kill (1985)

Many people discount this movie because Roger Moore was a bit old for the part, 58 at the time, but this is secretly one his better movies. His reliance on gadgets is significantly lessened over his previous entry Octopussy. Not counting the snowboarding sequence in the pre-titles, the film is also more serious than most Roger Moore entries and he performs admirably in his swan song Bond film.

Beyond that this Bond film has one of the best Bond songs of the series with Duran Duran's A View to a Kill. The villains are some the best of the series as well. Christopher Walken was made to play a Bond villain and Grace Jones makes for an interesting henchwoman.

5. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

This is another Roger Moore film that deserves more attention. The settings are great and exotic with Bond going to Beirut, Hong Kong, Macau, and Thailand. A lot of people dismiss the kung fu scenes in this film as a blatant attempt to cash in on the Bruce Lee craze, but actually like the idea of Bond's secret service techniques being matched up against kung fu masters.

Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga is one of my all time favorite Bond villains and he also happens to be one of my favorite actors. In fact the dynamic between Bond and Scaramanga is the best part about this movie. This is a villain who can match Bond physically and mentally. An assassin who has equal or better shooting skills than Bond. Ultimately, Bond has to rely on his ingenuity to defeat this villain and not his gadgets.

4. The Living Daylights (1987)

Timothy Dalton only made two films and I feel that sometimes people get the idea that it was because he wasn't a good Bond. That could not be further from the truth. Dalton did not get to do another Bond because of legal battles that took place over six years that hindered the production of another Bond film. Dalton was a great Bond. He did most of his own stunts. He read the Bond novels to get closer to the true nature of the Bond character created by Fleming. And finally he was a "serious" Bond almost 20 years before Craig. And he did it without losing any of Bond's class and refinement that are large parts of his character. Craig's Bond has been too often portrayed without those qualities. I know that Craig's Bond is supposed to be developing over time, but it has been 4 films already and I feel that Craig's Bond has not progressed enough.

Dalton's stunt work really shows off in his pre-title sequence, possibly the best in the entire series. He and other 00 agents take part in a training exercise that involves them parachuting out of a plane onto a mountain. However, an assassin kills one of the 00 agents. While in pursuit Dalton grabs onto the top of a moving truck while careening down the winding paths of a mountainside and ends up parachuting out of the truck before it explodes. Fortunately, he lands on a boat whose lovely owner invites him to share a drink.

3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

As I said before it is unfortunate that many people forget George Lazenby. Even though he only did one film, it is one of the best Bond films ever made. It is possibly my second favorite Bond film. When you are talking about 24 films that is a high ranking. George Lazenby is great at his fight scenes and he definitely looks the role. For this being his first time acting he does an incredible job. I am surprised he did so well.

Other great parts to this film are the score, the settings, the stunts, and most of all the tone of the film. This film is more serious that many of the sixties Bonds besides perhaps Dr. No and From Russia With Love. This serious stems from the fact that this film was deliberately made to be closer to the novel. It did not shy away from the tragic death of Bond's wife, who was played by Diana Rigg to perfection. Telly Savalas is also the most physically imposing Blofeld we have ever seen and that makes for the perfect villain for Bond. If you have never seen this Bond film you are missing out on one of Bond's best and certainly one of the best action films ever made. Seriously.

2. Never Say Never Again (1983)

This film is one of the most underrated Bond films not because it is one of the best, but because so few people have actually seen it in recent years. It is a good film, but it is underrated most likely because it is an unofficial Bond film. It is not part of the official Bond canon. It was the result of a legal loophole stemming from court battles surrounding the movie Thunderball. Kevin McClory won the film rights after a dispute about who wrote the story for Thunderball. He decided to join forces with the regular Bond producers when the official film Thunderball was made. However, he was prevented from making another film based on Thunderball for another decade. When that waiting period ended McClory decided to try to make the film. As production progressed and obstacles were overcome, McClory was able to sign none other than Sean Connery. Yes, Connery's last Bond movie was not Diamonds are Forever, but Never Say Never Again.

Because of copyright issues Never Say Never Again could only stick to story elements from the Thunderball novel. Any official Bond film franchise hallmarks such as the gunbarrel opening or the classic Bond theme song could not be used. However, Sean Connery is in his best performance as Bond since Goldfinger and that makes for great viewing. Connery seems quicker here than his appearance in Diamonds are Forever and he is convincing in his action sequences.

One of my favorite parts about this film is that it portrays an aging 007, something that is not really addressed in the official Bond series except for a few scenes in Skyfall. Connery plays a 00 agent who is reaching retirement in an agency that no longer values 00's. The MI6's budget is under constraint and Q branch can no longer supply Bond with an ample supply of gadgets. Most of all I love that this movie can be seen as some sort of alternate universe where the stories in the films after Goldfinger never happened and Bond stayed in a more realistic world.

1. License to Kill (1989)

Upon its release License to Kill went up against many summer blockbusters, including 1989's Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman. Because of that packed summer and its more violent content this Bond film did not perform as well as others did in the United States (though it did very well internationally). License to Kill features one of the best stories of all the Bond films. Basically, the whole film is a revenge story as Bond seeks to avenge the brutal torture and dismemberment of Felix Leiter and the death of Leiter's wife.

This is Dalton's best turn as Bond because he was allowed to really show how far he could take a "serious" Bond story. His portrayal of a haunted and determined Bond is new for the series, but actually it goes back to what made the Fleming novels so great. I love the ending scene with the chase involving the tankers and Bond's duel with the drug lord who harmed his friend. This is the movie that all Bond films should aspire to. It's serious, it has great Bond girls and villains, and most of all it has real emotion. It is a rare jewel in a franchise that is already so special.

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  1. Hands down, James bond is the original Most Interesting Man in the World. If there were any way I could....just...BE James Bond, I think my life would be on the green side of the fence, permanently.


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