A couple Saturdays ago, I was bored off my ass and not all that anxious to spend any time out in the 100-something-degree heat, so I stayed inside and threw in one of the DVDs I'd bought a few days prior -- "The Living Daylights," which came out in 1987 and was, if memory serves, the first James Bond movie I ever saw all the way through. And you know something? Even though it was 20 years old, it held up pretty well, both as a Bond film and as a movie period. The James Bond series is one I've been a big fan of ever since seeing "Daylights" way back then, and when I started thinking about which movies were my favorite, I eventually came up with these five:
5. "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)
"The Living Daylights" was the first Bond movie I saw all the way through, but this was the first one I have specific memories of watching -- from the back seat of my parents' Malibu station wagon at a late-night drive-in near Pulaski, Virginia, sometime during 1982 or '83. (I would've been four or five years old then, so my sister and I probably fell asleep long before it was over.) At any rate, this movie was kind of refreshingly normal after some of the more over-the-top Roger Moore outings such as "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker," which ended up on a fricking space station, for crying out loud. A minimal amount of special effects and not even all that many gadgets, now that I think about it; in the film's main chase scene, Bond's Lotus self-destructs before he can even saddle up, so instead he has to escape in a canary-yellow Citroën 2CV, of all things. Just taut action, beautiful scenery, and a fine-ass chick with a crossbow. Not to mention one of the greatest movie posters ever.
Fun fact: One of the women in this movie really was born a dude, though the actress in question, Caroline Cossey, wasn't a "Bond girl" per se; she was basically a featured extra in the scene at the Cuban assassin's Spanish villa where the assassin gets an arrow in the chest.
4. "Goldfinger" (1964)
Some people might consider it heresy to rate this one anything less than number one; maybe I've just seen it too many times. But this is still the movie credited with truly launching the Bond character into the cinematic big-time, and with good reason -- in the first 10 minutes there's a dead naked chick in Bond's hotel room painted gold. Not many other movies would've had the balls to pull something like that at the time, nor would they have had the balls to give their female leads a name like "Pussy Galore." The lasciviously named Bond Girl, the megalomaniacal supervillain, and the kick-ass (yet somewhat plausible) gadgetry justifiably set standards by which the rest of the series would be judged, and the scene in which Goldfinger threatens Bond's junk with a laser has become so ingrained in our popular culture that the dialogue from it ("No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!") got sampled in Moby's remake of the James Bond theme song in 1995. Also featured maybe the most underrated Bond girl ever, Tania Mallet, as Tilly Masterson, who seeks to make Goldfinger pay for the paint job he gave her sister.
Fun fact: An urban legend circulated that Shirley Eaton died from being painted gold for the movie, but she remains alive to this day. In 2003, "Mythbusters" debunked the myth that being completely covered in paint would kill you, although apparently it does make you feel pretty gross.
3. "Casino Royale" (2006)
I think it's safe to say that the last few Bond movies under Pierce Brosnan were pretty terrible -- probably as bad as any of Roger Moore's cheesiest outings -- so it was a huge relief to see the producers reboot the franchise, strip out much of the over-the-top gadgetry and sci-fi plotlines that had infested the series, and assembled what turned out to be a fairly faithful adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel that started everything. This one might actually be the deepest and best-written of the entire series; because we're basically seeing the making of Bond as a super-spy, we get to see how he became a double-0 in the first place, we get to see what he was like before his rough edges were smoothed over, and perhaps most importantly, we get a pretty big clue as to why he won't ever stick with the same girl for more than one movie. I wasn't crazy about the casting when they first announced it, but Eva Green turned out to be one of the best Bond girls ever, and Daniel Craig, despite being blond, might actually be the best Bond since Sean Connery. In the end, I think fans should be very optimistic about the direction in which the series is headed.
Fun fact: In the scene where Bond is chasing Le Chiffre and the henchmen who have kidnapped Vesper Lynd, stunt driver Adam Kirley set a new Guinness world record by rolling an Aston Martin DBS seven times.
2. "The Living Daylights" (1987)
Again, I probably have a soft spot for this one since it's the first Bond movie I saw when I was old enough to really appreciate what was going on, but even so, it's surprising just how good and refreshingly un-cheesy it seems despite its mid-'80s vintage. For one thing, it was nice to see the series return to a harder, more serious edge after years of Roger Moore intermittently playing for laughs; but even more than that, if you think about it, "Daylights" was actually sort of prescient in that the main villain was not the Soviet government but rather a shady arms dealer trying to play the Russians and the West against each other. The head of the KGB, played by John Rhys-Davies, is written as a fairly progressive and reasonable individual who turns out to be an ally rather than an adversary. This movie had some awesome chase/fight scenes, a ridiculously hot Bond girl (Maryam d'Abo, who recently wrote a book about it), and a plot complex enough that you had to have a brain to follow it. And I'm sorry, but I even like the theme song (by a-ha of "Take On Me" fame, however fleeting).
Fun fact: The Pet Shop Boys were originally asked to record the theme song, but backed out when they were informed they'd only be doing the one song and not the entire soundtrack.
1. "From Russia With Love" (1963)
Not just my favorite Bond movie but one of my favorite all-time movies period. Varied and exotic locales, gadgetry that's neither throwaway nor overbearing, a performance from Connery that's smoother than a Maker's-Mark-and-maple-syrup cocktail . . . and maybe the hottest Bond girl of all time, Russian foreign-service functionary Tatiana Romanova, played by 1960 Miss Universe runner-up Daniela Bianchi. Doesn't matter that Bianchi's English was so heavily accented that they had to overdub every last word of her dialogue; the scene of her first run-in with Bond -- where he enters his Istanbul hotel room to find her in his bed, apparently wearing nothing but a velvet choker -- is so hot that it has been used to screen-test numerous prospective Bonds and Bond girls over the years. One of those rare movies that does nearly everything right and that you don't want to end.
Fun fact: After completing "Dr. No," the film series' producers chose to make "From Russia With Love" the second Bond film partly because President John F. Kennedy had named it one of his favorite books in an 1961 article in Life magazine. It was the only work of fiction of the 10 books on Kennedy's list.
And now the Ten:
1. Chemical Brothers, "Marvo Ging"
2. New Order, "Blue Monday"
3. Underworld, "Push Upstairs" (Darren Price remix)
4. Alex Heffes, "Afro Disco Beat"
5. Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues"
6. The Corrs, "What Can I Do"
7. Gnarls Barkley, "Who Cares"
8. Ice Cube, "Wicked"
9. Fatboy Slim, "10th & Crenshaw"
10. Gorillaz, "Man Research (Clapper)"
Put your own Random Tens and/or favorite Bond movies (or favorite spy films in general) in the comments.