Bond. James Bond.
The debonair British MI6 agent has been a steady staple of film entertainment for the past 50 years. The series, which contains the 22 official Bond films in the Eon Productions canon, is the highest-grossing film series of all time after adjusting for inflation. The 23rd film, Skyfall, comes out Friday, Nov. 9, and judging from pre-release reception, it looks to be the latest successful comeback in a series that's been known for them -- and not just in the way Bond keeps managing to stay alive.
1962-1967: Dr. No -- You Only Live Twice
In 1961, Albert. R "Cubby" Broccoli, an American producer with middling filmmaking success, partnered with Canadian producer Harry Saltzman to create Eon Productions and adapt the James Bond novels, written by Ian Fleming. The first five, beginning with Dr. No, starred Scottish sneerer Sean Connery, who only got the part after Eon couldn't come to an agreement with actors like James Mason, Cary Grant and Rex Harrison. His reign as Bond included the timeless Goldfinger and the wildly lucrative Thunderball, which made more than $1 billion in 2012 dollars. Connery established all of Bond's trademark characteristics, such as his gadgetry, suave style and unrealistic seduction capabilities.
1969: The George Lazenby era
After Connery "retired" from the role, Broccoli settled on unknown model George Lazenby to replace him after seeing Lazenby in a Fry's Chocolate Cream commercial. Lazenby portrayed Bond in just one film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Contemporary critics and audiences were lukewarm to it, likely because Lazenby didn't talk, walk and breathe exactly like Connery had. But over time, the film's reputation has improved: Its standing on Rotten Tomatoes (82 percent "Fresh") is in the upper third of all the Bond films, and reflective reviews often laud Lazenby's tough performance and the film's bleak, tragic tone. To be fair, he really didn't need to wear a kilt, though.
1971-1985: Diamonds Are Forever -- A View To A Kill
Connery prostituted himself for the silly Diamonds Are Forever (though Adam West's potential casting remains one of film's great "What could have been?" scenarios). Roger Moore then took the reins for the next seven films. The highlights: Richard Kiel as ugly henchman Jaws, the "Live and Let Die" theme song, and the character of Francisco Scaramanga. The lowlights: Bond in space, the entirety of A View To A Kill, and the third nipple of Francisco Scaramanga.
1987-1989: The Living Daylights -- License to Kill : Who is Timothy Dalton, again?
Young whipper-snapper Timothy Dalton replaced the 57-year-old Moore for the next two films, which are memorable for being the least memorable Bond movies ever. They came out against stiff competition like Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the waning influence of the U.S.S.R. didn't aid to the creation of thrilling, relevant storylines, but the stone-faced Dalton couldn't save this mess.
1995-2002: The Goldeneye age
Thankfully, Pierce Brosnan could. The former star of Remington Steele delivered with Goldeneye, one of the most critically and commercially successful films in the series. Brosnan's Bond rejuvenated interest in the franchise, even though the subsequent three films didn't quite live up to Goldeneye. Does anything scream "implausibly silly" like The World Is Not Enough's inclusion of Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones?
2006-now: Casino Royale -- Skyfall
Oh no, Daniel Craig has blond hair, how will he ever be able to play James Bond? That irrational fanboy criticism was put to rest after Casino Royale, a gritty take on the Bond story that has led some people to name Craig the definitive Bond. The Writers' Strike-addled Quantum of Solace was forgettable, but Skyfall has the potential to be one of the classic 007 stories (Javier Bardem as a villain?!?). And even though history tells us that it won't, hopefully the series only goes up from here.
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Best Bond Spoofs:
- The Spoof: Mike Myers plays Austin Powers, a brilliant British superagent/unlikely sex symbol who constantly takes on his arch-nemesis, the Blofeld-like Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). The three-film series (with rumors of a fourth) tackled many Bond film conventions, such as the gadgets, the villain's plots of world domination, and how it's always just way too easy for the hero to escape.
- Best part: Austin's boss, Basil Exposition, hilariously toys with continuity in The Spy Who Shagged Me when Austin tells him that his love Vanessa, his ally from the first film, had somehow been a Fembot: "Yes, we... knew all along."
- The Spoof: On Sacha Baren Cohen's satire series Da Ali G Show, one of his characters, Ali G, makes a short film called Spyz to pitch to real-life television producers. Ali G plays a cockney-voiced James Bond who gets into random, low-budget gunfights along with more random and even lower-budgeted scenes of intimacy.
- Best part: Ali G delivering Bond's trademark line: "My name's James Bond. James......Bond."
The Simpsons: "You Only Move Twice"
- The Spoof: Homer gets a new job at Globex Corporation in Cypress Creek, a place which seems perfect: Beautiful house, bigger salary, and an enthusiastic boss named Hank Scorpio. What Homer blissfully doesn't realize is that the genial Scorpio is actually a world supervillain equipping a doomsday device to use with Homer's help.
- Best part: Homer standing by idly as Scorpio makes his demands to the world's leaders, then obliviously asking him for sugar, a handful of which Scorpio just pulls out of his pocket: "There you go! Sorry it's not in packages. Want some cream?"
Bond Girl Superlatives:
- Most Classic: Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder (Dr. No)
- Best Death: Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson (Goldfinger)
- Most Tragic: Diana Rigg as Teresa Di Vicenzo (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
- Best Name: Maud Adams as Octopussy (Octopussy)
- Best Bikini Look: Halle Berry as Jinx (Die Another Day)
- Most Aggressive: Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp (Goldeneye)
- Hottest: Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova aka Agent XXX (The Spy Who Loved Me)
- Runner-up: Jane Seymour as Solitaire (Live and Let Die)
- Directed by: Sam Mendes
- Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade
- Daniel Craig as James Bond
- Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
- Judi Dench as M
- Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
- Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny
- Berenice Marlohe as Severine
- Albert Finney as Kincade
- Ben Whishaw as Q
- 143 Minutes
- Release date: Nov. 9