A longtime juggernaut of the film industry, the James Bond franchise continues to impart a strong influence on both modern entertainment and pop culture. Ever since the 1962 release of “Dr. No”, the films single handedly created the spy genre, spawned 24 official installments, and remains to be the third highest grossing movie series of all time.
Despite the explosive success of the movies overall, the history of Bond has been turbulent and fraught with setbacks and controversy. The origin of the franchise began in the 1950’s, when former British intelligence officer Ian Fleming began writing the novels from a vacation home he called “Goldeneye”. Selling over 100 million copies, the books were a commercial triumph. However, several of the installments were heavily panned by critics; one scathing review was titled “Sex, Snobbery, and Sadism,” a stigma the series was never able to escape from even after being transferred to the screen.
The movies followed shortly on the heels of the novels, enjoying profitable openings despite their relatively small budgets for the first showings. Based closely on the books preceding them, they initially starred breakout actor Sean Connery and were produced by the iconic Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and his descendants.
With new iterations released roughly biennially, the films had both tremendous debuts as well as flops. Much of the inconsistency has been placed on the Bond actors starring in the movies, such as Timothy Dalton, who many critics believed to be poorly casted.
But out of the two dozen films released, which can be classified as the “best” of the massive franchise? In terms of pure sales, the recent “Skyfall” (2012) tops the charts, with “Thunderball” (1965) and “Goldfinger” (1964) following close behind. However, the iconicity of these movies are not based on profit alone. For example, “Casino Royale” (2006) can be attributed with reinvigorating the series even with an unconventional star and a plot that breaks away from the formulaic tendency of its predecessors. The aforementioned “Thunderball,” also released at a critical low point of the series, achieved its success overshadowing a present legal dispute and huge budget.
Criteria for a great Bond film is subjective and changes from viewer to viewer. For some it might be determined by cast, others by the villain, or the girl, or the cars, all of these being famous hallmarks of the series. The plot and locale can range from the realistically grounded setting of the Daniel Craig installments to the incredibly outlandish outer space hijinks of “Moonraker” (1979). All in all, the series has gone the distance by being able to entertain and surprise its audience.
“The franchise has maintained its success by adjusting to changing social platforms and always choosing the appropriate actor for the time,” junior and resident Bond film buff Lars Halverson said.
While the past movies share a rich history, the future of Bond remains bright. The release of “Spectre” last month continues to top the box office, showing that the world is still eager for more installments. The best Bond film yet may still be just around the corner.