Of course, with that many movies in the series, it might seem difficult to be conversant on a character like James Bond with only 8 hours to work with, but we've come up with a group of Bond movies that spans the character's 50 years of cinema and will help you talk like a Bond expert in no time. And for anybody looking to be conversant in Bond, you're in luck — all four of the Bond flicks on the list are airing this month on Reelz.
(1964, 110 minutes)
"I think you've made your point, Mr. Goldfinger. Thank you for the demonstration."
There are plenty of great Bond movies from the Sean Connery era, but arguably the best — or, at least, the most memorable — is Goldfinger. Only the third Bond movie ever made (following 1962's Dr. No and 1963's From Russia With Love), Goldfinger was the first to introduce gadgets, the Aston Martin DB5 and was the first bonafide box office blockbuster of the franchise. Not that a great deal of luck wasn't involved.
After From Russia With Love, it was Thunderball that was planned as the next Bond movie. Prior to even Dr. No, Fleming had originally conceived Thunderball as a screenplay with screenwriter Jack Whittingham and writer-director Kevin McClory. Fleming eventually turned the screenplay into a novel, at which point a legal battle ensued between Fleming, Whittingham and McClory, at which point a decision was made to go ahead with Goldfinger, Fleming's seventh Bond novel. Screenwriter Richard Maibaum, who wrote the previous two Bond movies (and many more Bond movies to come), wrote the initial screenplay, and Paul Dehn (Murder on the Orient Express) added rewrites, including the addition of opening with Bond on a separate mission, that would become the blueprint for future installments (and fodder for Bond parodies).
One of the most critically praised of all the Bond movies, Goldfinger also has two of the most memorable Bond villains in Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), whose obsession with gold extended to murdering someone with gold paint, and Oddjob (Harold Sakata), whose hat was a deadly weapon. Sakata, who was previously an Olympic silver medalist weightlifter, had no dialogue, while Fröbe spoke little English and ultimately had his voice was dubbed over by actor Michael Collins. Both would become a standard for villains that would be repeated in later Bond movies.
(1974, 125 minutes)
"He always uses a golden bullet."
Technically the second Bond movie for Roger Moore, The Man With the Golden Gun, based on Fleming's ninth novel in the James Bond series, was originally supposed to follow 1967's You Only Live Twice with Moore making his debut as Bond. However, the political instability caused by the Samlaut Uprising of 1967 made production in Cambodia a difficult proposition, so producers instead made On Her Majesty's Secret Service instead, casting George Lazenby in his sole outing as 007 once Moore signed up for another season of The Saint.
During the Roger Moore era, the Bond movies began to be influenced by the movie trends of the day, such as the "blaxpoitation" influence on 1973's Live and Let Die and the sci-fi influence on 1979's Moonraker. The Man With the Golden Gun attempted to capitalize on the surge of marital arts movies, sending Bond to Macau and Bangkok in pursuit of the assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), in a story that was also set against the backdrop the energy crisis of 1973.
Along the way, Bond shows off his fighting prowess in the dojo of Hai Fat (Richard Loo), meets up with Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James, reprising his role from Live and Let Die) and saves his assistant, Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), from Scaramanga's clutches in what could be called one of the more unusual Bond movies ever made if it weren't for Moonraker.
One of the highlights of The Man With the Golden Gun is Lee's portrayal of Sacramanga. "You have to convince the audience that what you're doing, what you're saying has an element of probability about it," said Lee of playing a Bond villain in 2009. A step-cousin to Fleming, Lee was also reportedly up for the role of Dr. No as well before landing the role of Sacramanga. Playing Lee's mistress was Maud Adams, who would again play a Bond girl in 1983's Octopussy.
(1989, 133 minutes)
"I'm more of a problem eliminator."
Timothy Dalton's time as Bond is often overlooked, perhaps due to its brevity, but his batting average was pretty decent. Sure, there was The Living Daylights, but Licence to Kill saw Bond on a quest for revenge that might seem commonplace today, but at the time was a gritty and dark change of pace for the franchise at the time. In fact, the Daniel Craig Bond movies are closer in spirit to the Dalton era than of the other actors to play the role. In fact, The Living Daylights was initially going to be a prequel, something that would only be realized once Craig was in the role.
The 16th movie in the franchise, Licence to Kill was the first not to use a title inspired by a Fleming story, though elements of the author's work were used in the movie, which sees Band out to avenge the death of his colleague, CIA-turned-DEA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison). The character of Leiter dates back to Dr. No and has been portrayed by a variety of actors, with Hedison being the only actor to play the role twice until Jeffrey Wright played Leiter in both 2006's Casino Royale and 2008's Quantum of Solace. Leiter's death-by-shark was actually taken from the novel of Live and Let Die, with Hedison playing the character for the first time in the movie adaptation.
After Licence to Kill, a battle over movie rights ensued that kept another Bond movie from entering production for six years, at which point Dalton was ready to move on. However, the end of the brief Dalton era would also offer the introduction of Academy Award winner Benicio del Toro (Traffic), who made only his second big screen appearance as Bond villain henchman Dario.
(1995, 130 minutes)
"We aim to please."
We're back to the gold theme with this '90s Bond classic. Had it not been for the Remington Steele TV show, Pierce Brosnan would have been Bond instead of Dalton. However, the Irish actor made his debut in GoldenEye, which ushered in a fourth era of Bond that was more in keeping with the earlier incarnations.
Named after Fleming's Jamaican estate, GoldenEye was easily the best of the Brosnan's Bond movies, which would become incrementally more ridiculous in scope with each passing installment. GoldenEye had Bond on the trail of a traitorous MI6 agent (Sean Bean) who wants control of the GoldenEye satellite so he can cause a global financial meltdown, a plot which seems almost pedestrian in light of what was to come in future Brosnan era Bond movies.
Besides Brosnan, GoldenEye was also the first Bond movie for Judi Dench, who took over as M, the head of MI6 — a run that finally came to an end in Skyfall — as well as Samantha Bond taking over the role of Miss Moneypenny for just the Brosnan era. Desmond Llewelyn was still in the role of Q, the only holdover from previous Bond movies.
GoldenEye also inspired a Nintendo 64 video game of the same name, which was was highly successful and was later considered one of the greatest video games of all time.
While the 8 hours is up, there is another movie that is key to being conversant on James Bond, particularly to understand where the character is now. If you can spare another two hours, there is another movie to complete the 50-year span of Bond.
(2006, 144 minutes)
"So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman."
It's impossible to be conversant in Bond and not talk about the latest era, which took the character of James Bond and rebuilt him into the suave and sophisticated secret agent he is would become. From its opening minutes, Casino Royale delivered a more raw version of 007, dressing actor Daniel Craig in a Hawaiian shirt and showing off some new parkour moves as he hunts down a target in Madagascar.
In a word, Casino Royale was a revelation, taking Bond to a time when he had no idea how to wear a tux or even how he liked his martinis. In large part this was because the franchise went back to Fleming's original novel, now that studio MGM had finally won back the movie rights to the book. However, the final decision to move forward with an adaptation of the book came down to Quentin Tarantino.
"The reason they did Casino Royale all comes down to me," Tarantino told the BBC in 2009. "I made it a point that I wanted to make Casino Royale. They [the studio] were already on record as saying that the movie was unfilmable. But after I said it and talked about it, then all the big thing on the Internets was that's what all the fans want to see. So that's when [the producers] said, 'Oh, maybe it's not so unfilmable now.'"
Indeed it wasn't. Casino Royale became the highest-grossing bond movie ever (until Skyfall, that is), and for those that think that Tarantino could have made it even better than director Martin Campbell, we should note that Tarantino wanted Brosnan as Bond and not Craig, which may or may not impact your opinion.
Images and clips courtesy MGM.