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James Bond movies: These are the ones to watch first

por Evelyne Mccurry (2020-09-25)


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Sean Connery in a relaxed moment on the set of Goldfinger, with the iconic 1964 Aston Martin DB5.
Bettmann via Getty Images
James Bond is deeply embedded in pop culture. Even if you've never seen a , you're likely to have something from the franchise stuck in your trivia brain. The image of a man in a tuxedo holding a pistol. Sean Connery's accent. Daniel Craig's abs. Adele's slinky Skyfall theme. And that catchphrase: shaken, not stirred.And you'd like some context. You're curious to finally watch one of the movies, or even binge a bunch. Welcome to your beginner's guide to Bond -- or if you're already a confirmed 007 fan, a chance to weigh in on Roger Moore's merits, Pierce Brosnan's best or the one-hit wonder that was George Lazenby.The big-screen Bond franchise certainly has staying power, and over the years six different actors have stepped into the role. It got going way back in 1962 with Dr. No, starring Connery, who's indelibly associated with the role. That's well before the (1977) and even the start of the ecosystem (1966). Now we're up to Bond 25 -- No Time to Die, which is . That'll be Craig's fifth appearance, and likely his last. Which means we're in for renewed debate about who should be the next James Bond. Idris Elba? A woman? If you watch even just a few of the Bond movies from the last six decades, you'll be in good shape to weigh in on that movie-making moment.So here are two places for you to get started with the iconic spy from MI6. Take your choice: the modern Bond, or the original.Start with: Casino RoyaleDaniel Craig's first outing as James Bond is a terrific spy/action movie, period. It's that heart-poundingly good. But Casino Royale (2006) also did what no previous Bond movie could do: It completely rebooted the franchise, blowing up a formula that many saw as played out, with far-fetched gimmicks and belabored puns, even as it remained a steady box office draw. It's based on Ian Fleming's very first Bond novel and gives us Bond very much as he was introduced to the world. It stays true to that original story in many essential ways (not a hallmark of Bond movies in general) while at the same time updating it for modern audiences.Craig himself delivers all the muscle and menace the character deserves, in keeping with Fleming's depictions and as measured against Connery, still the standard by which all other Bonds are invariably judged. There's nothing glib about this Bond, and if he does look good in a tuxedo, you always know there's a brute inside ready to battle the baddies. You learn right off the bat how he earned his double-0 (license to kill) rating, then it's off to a spectacular chase and gunfight. That's just in the first 18 minutes.Daniel Craig as James BondWhen Daniel Craig donned the dinner jacket, we got a James Bond reinvented for the 21st century.
Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images
High points, too, for a nasty villain in Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre, Judy Dench as Bond's no-nonsense boss M and Eva Green as Bond's female foil.Casino Royale also opens the door to the strong series of movies that follow -- Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), with No Time to Die waiting in the wings. There's more than just action here: There's an arc that leads us deeper into Bond's past and how it drives him in the here and now.Start with: From Russia with Love / GoldfingerThis whole franchise got going with Connery, so you can't go wrong starting there. But for now let's skip the very first movie, Dr. No. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but the two movies that followed are more definitive -- they're often the top two in lists of the best Bond movies. Pick either of these and you're getting absolutely top-shelf Connery, the man who defined Bond and who was the heart of the franchise when it exploded into a phenomenon.From Russia With Love (1963) gives you an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned spy story, with no tech wizardry to speak of and no evil plan to destroy the world. It's Bond on an intimate scale, a character-driven tale of our spy, the woman sent to seduce him and the assassin (a buff and square-jawed Robert Shaw) assigned to take him down. (It also gives us our first glimpse of Blofeld, ??????? the recurring uber-villain.) In the finest Bondian tradition of , this one cozies up to Istanbul and takes a memorable ride on the Orient Express. The fight scene in the train compartment is rightfully a classic.Then along came Goldfinger (1964), the third movie. This one ratcheted things up and pretty much set the splashy tone for all the movies up till Craig arrived -- the outlandish plot (set off a nuke to irradiate the gold at Fort Knox), the over-the-top villain and henchman, the Aston Martin DB-5 sports car tricked out with machine guns and ejector seat, the laser with which Goldfinger memorably threatens 007 ("No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die"). Plus: One of the greatest theme songs of the series.Connery is dashing, virile, devilish, supremely confident -- everything you'd expect from a modern action hero, in part because he was the template.Next steps
I'd recommend getting a handful of Craig and/or Connery movies under your belt before venturing out more widely. Best to watch the Craig installments in sequence, but the Connerys (like the Moores, Daltons and Brosnans) you can watch in any order. Stick with the five Connery films from the 1960s before looking toward his two comeback efforts. The early movies are very much of their time, of course, so while you might chuckle at the quaintness of the tech and the fashions and the cinematography, you may cringe a bit at some of the ethnic depictions and sexual mores.