The Best James Bond Movies Ranked and Where to Stream Them

For over fifty years, the James Bond franchise has consistently delivered some of the most exciting movies ever released. From Sean Connery’s now-iconic debut appearance as the tuxedo-clad British super-spy in Dr. No to Daniel Craig’s upcoming No Time To Die, few action movies are as well-known as the James Bond films, with few as popular in the action genre as 007 himself.

From the fantastic soundtracks, kitschy villains, and indelible action, the Bond franchise has produced some of the most popular movies of all time, from 1963’s franchise classic Goldfinger to 2012’s critically praised Skyfall. From decade to decade, one Bond actor to the next, the series has become virtually synonymous with the spy genre, and with a filmography as impressive as some of the series’ most well-known movies, it’s easy to see why.

The Best James Bond Movies Ranked and Where to Stream Them

With No Time to Die set to release in October, after nearly two years of COVID-19 related delays, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the best movies in the Bond franchise, as well as where they’re currently streaming. In this list, instead of the usual worst to best approach, we ranked the Bond movies from very good to excellent, covering movies across multiple eras and including films from every Bond actor.

Best James Bond Movies

Dr. No

There's no denying that Dr. No is certainly an important movie. As the first Bond film ever put out by Eon, it's responsible for introducing Bond to audiences, as well displaying some of the earliest tropes that would become so heavily associated with the character — the uniquely-named love interest, the genius villain with a distinct appearance and evil plan, and a singular setting that a majority of the film takes place in (in this case, Jamaica and the Caribbean).

It's an impressive movie that has so many strong points, including Sean Connery's performance as Bond, setting the standard for what a Bond actor should look and act like. As good as it is, there are a few notable sour points that haven't aged terribly well. Notably, James Bond himself is a rather cold, unlikable hero in this film, not yet displaying the signature charm, playfulness, and lightheartedness that Connery would later give to the character in his later Bond films. Dr. No's Bond may be important and an entertaining enough movie, but it also showed that — like every movie franchise — the studio still had some kinks to work out in the following films.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

RELATED: The Absolute Best James Bond Villains of All Time

Best James Bond Movies

The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore's tenure as 007 was off to a bit of a rough patch initially, with audience reception mixed in regards to his first two outings as Bond in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, both of which were regarded as fairly cartoonish compared to the earlier cinematic adventures of the Sean Connery films. The Spy Who Loved Me, however, was a welcome return to form for the franchise, harking back to the tone found in the original Sean Connery movies that managed to balance action, espionage, and just enough comic-book-style wackiness without overdoing it.

The main villain may be a generic mad scientist type, but his henchman, the fan-favorite Jaws, manages to even it out well enough to provide constant entertainment. It's a fast-paced movie that moves along extremely well, culminating in an exciting final climax aboard the main villain's submarine.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

Thunderball

The fourth film in the Bond series, 1967's Thunderball was admittedly a bit weaker than its predecessors, although it certainly had a lot to live up to following Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and then Goldfinger right afterwards — that’s like trying to follow Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, and John Mulaney on an open-mic night. Still, Thunderball managed to deliver an entertaining, action-packed entry in the Bond series, complete with great action sequences, a memorable scene involving a shark-infested pool, and a now fairly popular Bond villain, the eye-patch clad Number Two of SPECTRE, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi).

Some critics complained that the film's climax, involving an underwater battle between scuba divers from SPECTRE and British MI6, ran a little on the long side, but it still made for a fantastic final showdown. Thunderball may not be as great as some of the other films in the Bond franchise, but it's still a great thrill-ride of a movie that refuses to slow down.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies
Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Live and Let Die

Sean Connery might've gotten out at just the right time in Bond's history. Perhaps noting the far sillier turn the character and films had taken in Diamonds Are Forever, Connery left the role for the second time, returning to the character later in the unaffiliated one-off, 1983's Never Say Never Again. In his place, Roger Moore stepped up to bat, playing Bond for the next 12 years over the course of seven movies. In Live and Let Die, Moore’s first run at the character, Bond takes on a heroin kingpin based out of the Southern US and the Caribbean.

Though aspects of the movie have admittedly aged poorly, it still remains a favorite of some notable filmmakers, including Edgar Wright, and served as a strong initial showing from Moore who might've been at his best in this film —not to mention the movie's theme song is still one of Paul and Linda McCartney's most popular songs to this day.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

For Your Eyes Only

After the sci-fi-heavy wackiness of Moonraker, the Bond producers attempted to return to the more grounded realism of the original Bond movies and Fleming novels that the franchise had been increasingly distancing itself from during the Roger Moore period. The result was For Your Eyes Only, a notably darker, more realistic take on the spy genre that involved Bond attempting to find a nuclear missile that mysteriously went missing in the Mediterranean.

Focusing on themes of revenge, and with a much more grounded plot and villain than the antagonists that Roger Moore’s Bond had previously faced, For Your Eyes Only was a dramatic precursor of sorts to the later films of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. The main problem with the darker approach, however, was that Moore frankly wasn't cut out for a more cynical interpretation of the character — he's just too likable, lighthearted, and charming a Bond to pull off a darker portrayal of the character. (It's like watching Chris Evans as Captain America trying to act mean.)

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton couldn't have asked for a better film than The Living Daylights to make his debut as James Bond. The first two acts of The Living Daylights are just fantastic. It's an unbelievably fresh spy thriller that set up the tone that the franchise would take moving forward (namely, a more realistic, less campy spy thriller), managing to revitalize the Bond character after the lukewarm reception of the last few Roger Moore films.

The Living Daylights balances the spy thriller with full-out action, featuring jaw-dropping action sequences set in the desert and involving stunts that have Bond and a henchman hanging out the back of a cargo plane. The only weak aspects of this film are the two villains, who are albeit more realistic than past Bond films, though they lack the charm and personality of the much more gimmicky franchise baddies like Goldfinger or Jaws.

Additionally, even though the initial three-quarters of the movie are incredibly fast-paced entertainment, the movie has a somewhat abrupt, disappointing ending, and the main villains get beat far too easily compared to earlier Bond adversaries.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

GoldenEye

GoldenEye was responsible for so much in Bond history. It helped reignite interest in Bond after the good but not financially successful Timothy Dalton era, reestablishing Bond as a more modern type of spy-hero than the slightly camp iterations of the character that audiences knew from the Connery and Moore years. Plus, it also served as the namesake for one killer video game, now viewed as one of the greatest games of all time.

In a lot of ways, what GoldenEye did for the spy genre is what Batman Begins did for superhero movies — delivering a fresh, up-to-date spy movie that still had plenty of nods to the spirit of the original Bond movies, but was also distinctly more current. It also allowed Brosnan to deliver a fantastic portrayal of the Bond character that managed to stay faithful to 007's original roots, while also showing the character can still be translated over to a modern audience.

Unfortunately, this would be the only good film to be released during Brosnan's time as Bond, with his three subsequent films never managing to measure up to the success of GoldenEye.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

Skyfall

If the 2006 Casino Royale with Daniel Craig was comparable to 1962's Dr. No by helping reestablish Bond and incite renewed fan interest in the British super spy, 2012's Skyfall can be seen as the modern-day equivalent of Goldfinger. The critically acclaimed film was hailed upon release for yet another dark, realistic take on the usually outlandish Bond franchise.

Featuring a one-off story of sorts unrelated to the return in SPECTRE that was hinted at in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and then fully revealed in Spectre, Skyfall focuses on Bond attempting to thwart former MI6 agent turned cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who is seeking revenge against M (Judi Dench). It's a simple setup that shows the Bond movies don't necessarily need to rely on a villain's hopes to destroy the world or plunge it into chaos — sometimes the simplest story is the best.

Bardem's Silva made for a wonderful modern-day villain that had drawn favorable comparisons to The Dark Knight‘s Joker and Star Trek‘s Khan, an evil version of Bond with an incredibly similar background whose motives are, frankly, justified — he was one of M's best agents, she left him for dead, and he's understandably pissed off. The movie also lends plenty of character development for Dench's M, by far the most nuanced and layered head of MI6 the franchise has ever seen, making you both hate her for her callousness, but also able to see her vulnerability and the more human side of her character.

Streaming on Hulu

Best James Bond Movies

License to Kill

By far probably the darkest James Bond movie ever released (Bond at one point kicks a defenseless man into a pool of sharks and in another scene, frames one of the villains, causing the main antagonist to brutally murder the man through the use of an air pressure cabin), License to Kill was a far cry from the earlier outlandish Bond movies that were made during the Roger Moore and Sean Connery years.

The main story of the film revolves around Bond seeking revenge for the brutal maiming of his best friend and his wife at the hands of a dangerous, psychopathic drug lord, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). There's no villainous plan to take over the world, no cartoonishly stylized villains.

It's a much more serious, violent film than the Bond franchise has ever put out, breaking the campy mold that people frequently associate with the Bond series, spelling out the more modern take on the movies of Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. For that reason alone, License to Kill earns a distinguished place as one of the best, most important Bond films there is.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

Casino Royale

Following Pierce Brosnan formally ending his run as 007 in the absolutely awful Die Another Day, the Bond franchise was left in limbo, with seemingly no one sure what should come next for the series. In 2006, four years after Die Another Day‘s release, the answer finally came in the form of Casino Royale.

Starring Daniel Craig in his first outing as Bond, the movie was a huge critical and commercial success, revamping the series and rebuilding fan interest in a full-on, action-packed thrill-ride after a string of Bond movies that made for some of the worst Bond films from the Roger Moore period look like masterpieces.

The filmmakers adapted the first written Ian Fleming Bond novel, Casino Royale, for the big screen in a much more faithful adaptation than the original 1967 Casino Royale, blending a more realistic take on the spy genre with just enough over-the-top action that audiences expected from the Bond franchise. The result was an overwhelming success, responsible for paving the way for a new, more modern era in Bond history.

Streaming on Netflix

Best James Bond Movies

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Sean Connery left a rather large tuxedo to fill when he left the franchise for the first time after You Only Live Twice. It can be fiercely debated whether or not George Lazenby, the young actor who stepped up to be the next James Bond, adequately replaced Connery or not, but there's no denying how enjoyable his debut was in the endlessly entertaining On Her Majesty's Secret Service. With a Blofeld brilliantly played by character actor Telly Savalas, the movie revolves around Bond attempting to stop the head of SPECTRE from releasing a virus transmitted from a group of women in his employ unless he is granted a pardon by the UN.

As ridiculous as that plot is, On Her Majesty's Secret Service never goes full-on camp, seemingly acknowledging the zanier aspects of traditional Bond movies without devolving into a spy parody or spoof. A favorite of quite a few filmmakers, including Christopher Nolan, who inserted the entire snow sequence in Inception as an homage to this film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is today often remembered for its tragic ending, featuring Bond's love interest, Tracy, whom he has just married, killed by Blofeld and his second-in-command, Irma Bunt.

Prior to Secret Service, audiences were used to seeing Bond triumph and get the girl — but this movie completely diverted expectations, delivering a more somber ending than any other Bond movie before or since.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

From Russia With Love

In quite a few ways, From Russia With Love was just as important a movie as Dr. No or even Goldfinger. Without the movie being able to follow up the success of Dr. No as well as it did, it's doubtful there would've been another James Bond at all, which of course means no James Bond franchise. However, From Russia With Love not only managed to adequately follow Dr. No, but the movie also surpassed the original Bond picture, being — along with Goldfinger — continuously ranked as one of the best Bond there is.

Following the events of Dr. No, the villainous secret organization, SPECTRE, sends two of their best field agents (Russian defector, Rosa Klebb [Lotte Lenya] and dangerous assassin, Red Grant [Robert Shaw]) to kill Bond to avenge the death of Dr. No. Whereas Dr. No helped establish the name James Bond and provided many of the principal archetypes found in subsequent James Bond movies, From Russia With Love expanded on those archetypes, delivering characters grounded a bit more, in reality, physically threatening, unstoppable henchman, and a script based more faithfully on Fleming's novels.

This movie, unlike its predecessor, also seemed to have more carefully shaped Bond's personality, or maybe tailored it more towards Connery's strengths, making him a far more likable, sharp-witted hero than he was in Dr. No.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Best James Bond Movies

Goldfinger

When we're talking about the best James Bond movies, of course, Goldfinger‘s going to be at the top of the list. It's probably a cliché at this point ranking Goldfinger at the top, but it’s cliché for a reason. This is the movie that famed Italian director Federico Fellini labeled “one of those films that make cinema carry on!”

If the two previous Bond films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, helped introduce Bond and establish some of the early tropes that audiences would come to expect of a Bond film, then Goldfinger cemented Bond as the new hero of an entire generation of moviegoers, establishing Sean Connery as the standard for 007 to this day. Virtually everything about this movie is iconic today — the performances, Bond's love interest, the villain, the henchman, the incredible theme song — everything.

The first Bond film to win an Oscar (Best Sound Editing), it's considered the best movie in the franchise, with so many Bond movies following trying to match its success, but always coming up short. It's absolutely flawless.

Not currently streaming, but can be rented online

Final Thoughts

Few names are as closely associated with the spy genre of action thrillers quite like James Bond. Whether it's been Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan (gasp for breath), or Daniel Craig playing him, the international superspy has been an icon of pop culture for nearly 60 years. The franchise has released a total of 26 movies — soon to be 27 — making it one of the longest-running series in cinema history, responsible for creating some of the most iconic movies, villains, and theme songs ever put to film.

It's hard to play favorites, but we feel this list best represents the must-watch films of the James Bond series thus far. Like everyone, we're excited to see where the franchise goes next, and what dastardly plot 007 will have to thwart in the future.

James Bond's next adventure, No Time to Die, will hit theaters on October 8, 2021.

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Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).