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Rating 007's outings

November 17, 2002|Bill Desowitz

With the release of "Die Another Day" on Friday, James Bond steps into the 21st century. The stylized espionage series has been around so long that most moviegoers don't even remember a time before 007. Here's how the forerunners, excluding a pair produced outside the MGM/UA fold, stack up.

1. "From Russia With Love" (1963)

The best Bond? It's a tossup between this and "Goldfinger," with great intrigue and the best supporting cast (including Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendariz).

2. "Goldfinger" (1964)

The series peaked here with the heist at Ft. Knox, the gold-obsessed villain, henchman Oddjob, the Aston Martin, Pussy Galore and that sensuous Shirley Bassey title song.

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

No Connery, but it's got the best story, the best action, the best Bond girl (Diana Rigg), the best John Barry score and the most heart.

4. "Dr. No" (1962)

The first and most sadistic of the Bonds, with Connery getting his feet wet and slipping into a dry martini as 007.

5. "Thunderball" (1965)

The franchise starts to jump off the deep end with gadgetry and the plot is a bit ponderous, but the Oscar-winning underwater action was groundbreaking.

6. "You Only Live Twice" (1967)

Bond in Japan, face to face for the first time with his arch nemesis, Blofeld. You gotta love it, even if the formula starts to run dry.

7. "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971)

Connery's last appearance in the franchise, the first gay couple and the first over-the-top entry.

8. "The World Is Not Enough" (1999)

Brosnan comes into his own as 007, and director Michael Apted stresses more character and plot.

9. "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977)

Moore's best Bond, featuring fun and frolic in Egypt. And don't forget Jaws (Richard Kiel).

10."Licence to Kill" (1989)

Dalton doesn't much care for the dour tone, but the vengeance-is-mine theme has power and resonance.

11. "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997)

Brosnan and Michelle Yeoh get it on in exotic fashion.

12. "GoldenEye" (1995)

Brosnan's first Bond ain't "Goldfinger," but its wall-to-wall action shook up the franchise and infused box-office blood.

13. "The Living Daylights" (1987)

Dalton's first Bond displays a unique intensity as the franchise returns to its Fleming roots.

14. "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)

Moore's most serious Bond also has an effective revenge theme.

15. "Live and Let Die" (1973)

Goodbye Connery, hello Moore. A wild ride underscored by that Wings title song.

16. "Moonraker" (1979)

This has a cult following for its outer-space trappings, but it's only diverting. Can you say "Star Wars"?

17. "Octopussy" (1983)

Moore starts to run out of energy; the franchise recycles more than ever.

18. "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974)

Fleming's last novel disappoints as a film drained of all weight and emotional context, but Christopher Lee is elegant as the million-dollar bounty hunter.

19. "A View to a Kill" (1985)

Moore looks bored in his final Bond, but Christopher Walken shines with eccentric zeal as the super-villain.

-- Bill Desowitz

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