Spoilers follow for all five Daniel Craig Bond films.
After an 18-month wait, No Time to Die has finally arrived in theaters. The latest James Bond movie is something of a bittersweet moment, though, with Daniel Craig portraying the iconic spy for the final time.
As the curtain comes down on Craig’s 15-year run as 007, we think it’s the perfect time to revisit each of his Bond movies and rank them in order of how good they are. Some are better than others for numerous reasons and, while we expect that our ranking will create fierce debate among our readers, it’s all in the name of fun. So don’t get too upset if your favorite doesn’t take the top spot.
From Casino Royale to No Time to Die, here’s our definitive ranking of Daniel Craig’s five Bond films. Slight spoilers follow, so proceed at your own risk.
5. Quantum of Solace
An obvious choice for bottom spot, perhaps, and one that some may consider to be slightly unfair. Quantum of Solace’s development was hit hard by the 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, which led to some of the film’s major scenes being written and shot on the day that they were filmed.
Mitigating circumstances aside, however, Quantum of Solace isn’t a top tier Bond movie. It’s overstuffed with product placement, the film’s villain – Mathieu Amalric’s Dominic Greene – and musical title track are largely forgettable, and its plot is messy. The movie’s editing, too, hampers how its story plays out and makes for a disjointed entry that’s lacking in multiple areas.
There are some things to like about Quantum of Solace. Craig does a good job as an emotionally wounded, revenge-thirsty Bond. Judi Dench’s M delivers a gratifying performance, too, as the moral counterpoint to Craig’s 007. As the shortest Bond flick ever made, as a result of the writers’ strike, there’s also a distinct but welcome lack of filler material and elaborate exposition.
Quantum of Solace may have suffered from events outside of its control, as well as being the follow-up to the much lauded Casino Royale, but it loses sight of the series’ ‘license to thrill’ mantra. Bond movies are supposed to be enjoyable affairs and, ultimately, Quantum of Solace isn’t.
Much like Quantum, Specter similarly fails to live up the lofty heights that its predecessor in Skyfall set.
And that’s a shame. Specter opens with one of the grandest and most visually impressive sequences in the series, while its plot picks up some of the three previous movies’ loose threads and ties them together in fairly captivating fashion.
It’s frustrating, then, that Specter’s story sags at the crucial moment. One of the worst kept industry secrets prior to the film’s release, Blofeld’s reveal isn’t as impactful as it should’ve been. In fact, the entire Sahara-based sequence is somewhat lacking in the poignancy or psychological thriller stakes, even if its subsequent explosive set-piece is striking.
Specter’s ending makes for an intimately thrilling spectacle. Bond’s character development throughout the film, especially in its final few scenes, shows how much 007 has grown during the Craig era, too.
Director Sam Mendes’ second Bond movie has some stand-out moments, but there are simply better 007 flicks in Craig’s run. In that sense, it’s a mid-tier Bond film rather than an all-time great.
3. No Time to Die
Craig’s final outing as 007 is a fitting end to the actor’s time at the helm. It’s unexpectedly funnier than it ought to be, comes packaged with its fair share of stylish set-pieces and features numerous plot twists that keep you on your toes. There are even a couple of horror-esque, sinister moments in No Time to Die’s plot that add a semblance of originality to proceedings, too.
Gloriously fun though it is, No Time to Die isn’t without its niggles. It’s two and a half hour runtime is too long for a Bond movie that results in an imbalance to its plot’s pacing. Its villain – Lyutsifer Safin – isn’t as absorbing or malicious as previous Bond villains, despite Rami Malek doing his best with the material he’s given.
It doesn’t help that Safin becomes a sideshow to the film’s wider narrative either. No Time to Die is the culmination of this particular Bond tale, so there needs to be enough room for the titular character to get the send off he deserves. Even so, the best Bond movies have iconic villains that give as good as they get, and Safin doesn’t live up to expectations.
Still, No Time to Die gets more right than it gets wrong. It’s a pleasing Bond flick that wraps up many of the loose story threads from previous entries during the Craig era. And, with its poignant and heartbreaking ending, it delivers a suitable finale that’s sure to leave some fans feeling teary eyed as the credits roll.
2. Casino Royale
It’s strange to say it now, but fans and critics had low expectations for Casino Royale ahead of its November 2006 release. Given the backlash to Craig’s appointment as the next James Bond a year earlier, there was a major reason for that.
But Casino Royale surprised us all, delivering a gritty and more grounded reinvention of the legendary spy that audiences weren’t used to. Craig inhabited the role with a brooding intensity and impish charm that many hadn’t predicted, and portrayed Bond as a more flawed character than previous iterations. It laid the foundations for the introspective evolution of the character we’ve witnessed since, with Bond’s morality and true identity placed front and center.
Every Bond movie needs a strong supporting cast to help it succeed, and Casino Royale’s was one of the best in recent memory. Eva Green’s electric performance as femme fatale Vesper Lynd stole the show, while Mads Mikkelsen and Jeffrey Wright ably backed Craig and Green up as the villainous Le Chiffre and CIA agent Felix Leiter respectively.
Add in plenty of high-octane action sequences, unbearable suspense – who can forget that torture scene? – and an ill-fated love story that set up Craig’s entire arc as 007, and Casino Royale is deserving of its second place in our list. Sure, it borrowed plenty from the at-the-time successful Jason Bourne film series. But Casino Royale breathed new life into the Bond franchise when some had considered its best days were behind it.
Okay, most will have guessed that this would take first place. But it really is is the king of the Daniel Craig era.
There are many reasons why. For one, Bond is, for much of Skyfall’s runtime, out of his depth and out of practice as an MI6 agent. It’s riveting to see a Bond who isn’t at the peak of his powers, thanks to events that transpire in Skyfall’s opening sequence. We see him run physical, mental and psychological gauntlets as he struggles to stop Raoul Silva (played with enthralling menace by Javier Bardem) and his grand plan from coming to fruition.
That includes Bond’s failure to ultimately save Judi Dench’s M during Skyfall’s thrilling and climactic final 30 minutes. The final confrontation, set amid the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands at Bond’s childhood home, is picturesque and unbearably tense. And, like No Time to Die, it has horror trappings that creates extra suspense throughout.
Above all, however, Skyfall feels like it resonated most strongly with audiences because of its overarching family theme. We explore Bond’s past via his return to his former abode, his present with his substitute family at MI6, and his future without the mother-son style relationship that he loses when M dies. Skyfall provides Dench’s M with an apt send off, too, putting a well-earned cap on her character arc that stretches back to the Pierce Brosnan Bond era.
Like Casino Royale, Skyfall lifts stylistic and thematic elements from 2008’s The Dark Knight – director Sam Mendes has previously confirmed as much. But those, alongside Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography and the reintroduction of classic Bond gadgets and characters like Q, make Skyfall such a cinematic marvel.
It’s an espionage thriller that gets under your skin and takes you on a wild ride, so it’s unsurprising that it’s the highest-grossing Bond flick of all time. Few 007 movies can match it and, if Craig had bowed out of the role after Skyfall’s release (as originally intended), it would have been the perfect way to end his tenure.