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25 August 2020 10:45

Start with: Casino Royale Daniel Craig's first outing as James Bond is a terrific spy/action movie, period.

james bond

James Bond is a pop culture fixture, a big-screen presence who's long defined a certain type of style and swagger. You probably have something from the 007 franchise stuck in your trivia brain even if you haven't ever seen a Bond movie. Or if you're already a confirmed 007 fan, it's a chance to weigh in on Roger Moore's merits, Pierce Brosnan's best or the one-hit wonder that was George Lazenby. Movie fans have strong feelings about who played Bond best (and worst). The big-screen Bond franchise certainly has staying power, and over the years six different actors have stepped into the role.

james bond

The movie series got going way back in 1962 with Dr. No, starring Connery, who's indelibly associated with Bond. Now we're up to Bond 25--No Time to Die, which is due out in November. Which means we're in for renewed debate about who should be the next James Bond. 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. Start with: Casino Royale Daniel Craig's first outing as James Bond is a terrific spy/action movie, period.

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 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. Greg Williams/Eon Productions via Getty Images 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. Start with: From Russia with Love / Goldfinger This whole franchise got going with Connery, so you can't go wrong starting there. 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. 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. Connery is dashing, virile, devilish, supremely confident--everything you'd expect from a modern action hero, in part because he was the template. 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. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan are the two horses besides Connery and Craig. Moore brought a lighter touch to Bond over the course of seven films throughout the 1970s and halfway into the 1980s. A good Moore vehicle to start with is For Your Eyes Only (1981), which is one of the more grounded stories from his run. Brosnan picked up the baton in the mid-1990s and starred in four films. More muscular than the Moore movies, they continued the tradition of ultra-spectacular stunts and groaner puns. Dalton made two movies in the late 1980s, and it was a bit of a grim turn. For a more intriguing entry, try Lazenby's one go at it, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), the producers' first stab at casting a different actor as 007. Once you've seen a few Bonds, especially the ones from the Connery and Moore eras, you'll have a rich lode of references for the many, many Bond spoofs over the decades. How powerful a hold has Bond had on the Hollywood imagination? It brought Mike Myers to the peak of his fame with the Austin Powers movies, which got started in 1997 but drew heavily on the '60s and '70s Bonds. You'll find homages to Bond in everything from the Kingsman franchise to the Despicable Me movies (especially the first one) to 2019's Spies in Disguise, an animated comedy with Will Smith as a tuxedo-wearing, gadget-equipped secret agent (who gets turned into a pigeon). For a deeper album cut, look out for a pair of movies from the 1960s--Our Man Flint and In Like Flint--in which James Coburn gives a goofy-brilliant turn as a very Bond-like secret agent. That era brought a whole host of TV shows that very entertainingly mined the same soil--The Man From UNCLE, Get Smart, I Spy, The Wild Wild West--and then served as fodder for movie reboots in more recent years. James Bond got his start in a series of novels by Ian Fleming--12 of them, plus a smattering of short stories. The first novel, Casino Royale, came out in 1953, less than a decade after the end of World War II, during which Fleming gained first-hand knowledge of spies and spying. Try Casino Royale for sure, or maybe From Russia With Love (President Kennedy famously was a fan) or On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Note: The books are all a lot less flashy than the films, and they're of a very different era, the last ones having been written by about the time Goldfinger (movie No. 3) was hitting the screen. The Hulu original documentary Becoming Bond is a quirky and absolutely fascinating biopic about George Lazenby, who came out of nowhere to become the man who took over for Sean Connery. You get a good look at how On Her Majesty's Secret Service fits into the franchise, but more than that, a riveting picture of Lazenby himself--through sometimes truly moving reminiscences of a 70-something Lazenby and through re-enactments of his early years that have something of a Drunk History vibe. In the official Bond canon--the films made by Eon Productions, starting with Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, and continuing with others in the Broccoli clan--there are 25 films, including the upcoming No Time to Die. Because of licensing issues, there were two other, non-canonical movies, including (confusingly) one starring Connery, for a grand total of 27. Casino Royale (1967)--noncanonical (see below) The other Casino Royales There have been three versions of Casino Royale, all radically different. We've already gone over the Daniel Craig version, a strong contender for best and most definitive Bond movie ever. Don't confuse it with the 1967 version of Casino Royale that's both a spoof and a god-awful big-budget mess of a movie. It's an odd blend of Bondian motifs, old-time Hollywood stars and then-trendy psychedelia. The plot, such as it is, involves trying to fool the bad guys with a number of different people claiming to be James Bond, including David Niven (the real Bond), Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and former "Bond Girl" Ursula Andress. Then there's the true footnote, and totally not a Bond movie, the 1954 adaptation of Casino Royale for an American TV anthology series called Climax! It's a roughly 52-minute episode in which American actor Barry Nelson plays the hero as "Card Sense Jimmy Bond," an agent for the "Combined Intelligence Agency" whose delivery tends toward watered-down Sam Spade. As Sir Sean Connery turns 90-years-old today, fans have been celebrating the original James Bond star's birthday on social media. The 67-year-old took to Instagram where he shared a memory of watching 1964's Goldfinger as a child. Sean Connery 'I HATED that James Bond' Star became fed up with 007 Sharing a picturing of himself with Sir Sean at a drinks party, Brosnan wrote: "Happy 90th birthday Sir Sean Connery... "I was eleven years old in 1964, just off the plane from Ireland when I saw Goldfinger at the ABC cinema on Putney high street. Back in 2014, Brosnan said of how seeing Connery in Goldfinger helped movies take over his life "in such a glorious way". READ MORE: James Bond: Sean Connery's last time as 007 NOT Never Say Never Again