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 film is something of a bittersweet moment though, with Daniel Craig portraying the iconic spy for the last time.
As the curtain falls on Craig’s 15 years as 007, we think it’s a great time to revisit each of his Bond films and rank them in order of quality. Some are better than others for a number of reasons, and while we expect our ranking to spark heated debate among our readers, it’s all in the name of fun. So don’t get too angry if your favorite doesn’t take the top spot.
From Casino Royale to No Time to Die, here is our definitive ranking of Daniel Craig’s five Bond films. Slight spoilers follow, then proceed at your own risk.
5. Quantum of comfort
An obvious choice for last place, perhaps, and which some may consider slightly unfair. The development of Quantum of Solace was hit hard by the 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, which led to the writing and filming of some of the film’s major scenes on the day they were set.
Mitigating circumstances aside, Quantum of Solace is not a top-tier Bond film. It’s chock-full of product placements, the movie villain – Mathieu Amalric’s Dominic Greene – and the musical title song are largely forgettable, and its plot is messy. The film’s editing also hampers the unfolding of its story and creates a rambling entry that is lacking in several areas.
There are some things to love about Quantum of Solace. Craig does a good job as an emotionally hurt, revenge-hungry Bond. Judi Dench’s M also delivers a gratifying performance, as a moral counterpoint to Craig’s 007. As the shortest Bond film ever made, in the wake of the writers’ strike, there’s also a distinct but welcome lack of filler material and elaborate exposure.
Quantum of Solace may have suffered from events beyond its control, in addition to being the sequel to the much-loved Casino Royale, but it loses sight of the series’ “license to thrill” mantra. Bond movies are meant to be fun business and, at the end of the day, Quantum of Solace isn’t.
Much like Quantum, Specter also fails to achieve the lofty heights that its predecessor in Skyfall set.
And that’s a shame. Specter opens with one of the most awe-inspiring and visually impressive sequences in the series, as its plot takes some of the loose threads from the previous three films and connects them in quite a captivating way.
So it’s frustrating that Specter’s story crumbles at the crucial moment. One of the worst-kept secrets in the industry before the film’s release, Blofeld’s reveal isn’t as hard-hitting as it should have been. In fact, the entire Sahara-based sequence lacks a bit of poignant stakes or psychological thriller, though its ensuing explosive setting is gripping.
The end of Specter is an intimately fascinating spectacle. Bond’s character development throughout the film, especially in its later scenes, shows how much 007 grew during the Craig era as well.
Director Sam Mendes’ second Bond movie has some defining moments, but there are simply better 007 movies in Craig’s race. In that sense, it’s a mid-level Bond movie rather than an all-time greats.
3. No time to die
Craig’s latest outing as 007 is a fitting end to the actor’s time at the helm. It’s surprisingly funnier than it should be, comes with its fair share of stylish decors, and features plenty of twists that keep you on your toes. There are even a few horror and grim moments in the plot of No Time to Die that also add a semblance of originality to the proceedings.
As fun as it is, No Time to Die is not without its glitches. It’s two and a half hours too long for a Bond film that causes an imbalance in the pace of its plot. His villain – Lyutsifer Safin – isn’t as absorbing or malicious as previous Bond villains, although Rami Malek does his best with the material he donated.
It also doesn’t help that Safin becomes a prop to the film’s larger narrative. No Time to Die is the climax of this particular Bond story, so there has to be enough room for the titular character to get the send he deserves. Even so, the best Bond films have iconic villains who give as well as they get, and Safin falls short of expectations.
Yet No Time to Die is more right than wrong. It’s an enjoyable Bond movie that sums up many of the loose story threads from previous entries during the Craig era. And, with its poignant and heartbreaking ending, it delivers a fitting finale that is sure to leave some fans with tears in their eyes as the credits roll by.
2. Casino Royal
It’s odd to say it now, but fans and critics alike had little expectation of Casino Royale ahead of its November 2006 release. Given the backlash from Craig’s nomination as the next James Bond a year earlier, there was a major reason for this.
But Casino Royale surprised us all, delivering a gritty, more grounded reinvention of the legendary spy that audiences weren’t used to. Craig inhabited the role with a sullen intensity and playful charm that many had not predicted, and portrayed Bond as a more flawed character than previous iterations. This laid the groundwork for the introspective character development we’ve witnessed ever since, with Bond’s morality and true identity brought to the fore.
Every Bond movie needs a solid cast to help it succeed, and Casino Royale has been 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 skillfully supported Craig and Green as villainous Le Chiffre and CIA agent Felix Leiter respectively.
Add plenty of high octane action sequences, unbearable suspense – who can forget this torture scene? – and an unfortunate love story that placed Craig’s entire arc in 007, and Casino Royale deserves second place on our list. Of course, he borrowed a lot from the hit Jason Bourne movie series at the time. But Casino Royale breathed new life into the Bond franchise as some considered its best days to be behind it.
1. Fall from the sky
Okay, most will have guessed that this would take the top spot. But it really is is the king of the era Daniel Craig.
There are several reasons why. On the one hand, Bond is, for much of Skyfall’s runtime, out of his depth. and out of practice as an MI6 agent. It’s fascinating to see a Leap who is not at the peak of his powers, thanks to the events that take place in the opening sequence of Skyfall. We see him running physical, mental, and psychological gauntlets as he struggles to stop Raoul Silva (played with an exciting threat by Javier Bardem) and his grand plan from coming true.
This includes Bond’s failure to finally save Judi Dench’s M during Skyfall’s thrilling and climactic final 30 minutes. The final showdown, set against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands in Bond’s childhood home, is picturesque and unbearably tense. And, like No Time to Die, it has horror traps that create additional suspense throughout.
Above all, however, Skyfall feels like it resonated most strongly with audiences due to its overall family theme. We explore Bond’s past through his return to his old home, his present with his surrogate family at MI6, and his future without the mother-son-style relationship he loses with the death of Mr. Skyfall also provides Dench’s M a fitting sendoff, putting a well-deserved cap on his character arc that dates back to the Pierce Brosnan Bond era.
Like Casino Royale, Skyfall lifts stylistic and thematic elements of 2008’s The Dark Knight – director Sam Mendes has already confirmed this. But these, alongside the superb Roger Deakins cinematography and the reintroduction of classic Bond gadgets and characters like Q, make Skyfall such a cinematic marvel.
It’s a spy thriller that puts you under your skin and takes you on a wild ride, so it’s no surprise that this is the highest-grossing Bond movie of all time. Few 007 movies can match it, and if Craig had stepped down from the role after Skyfall was released (as originally planned), this would have been the perfect way to end his tenure.