Spoilers follow for all five Daniel Craig Bond films.
Daniel Craig made his mark on the James Bond franchise from the moment he earned his 00 stripes in Casino Royale’s monochrome prologue. Harder edged than Roger Moore’s yet more vulnerable than Sean Connery’s, Craig’s take on Ian Fleming's iconic secret agent instantly earned the right to be talked about in that eternal conversation: just who is the best James Bond?
As this list of Daniel Craig James Bond movies ranked proves, the actor has headlined some of the best movies in the 60-year-old franchise’s venerable history, including the record-breaking Skyfall and Craig’s emotional 007 swansong, No Time to Die. Unlike his five (official) predecessors in the role, however, Craig was granted a genuine story arc across his five movies, allowing his Bond to evolve from hot-headed MI6 rookie to a middle-aged spy who acknowledged the extra years on the clock – not that he ever ducked out of the spectacular action sequences that have long been a hallmark of the series.
Rights holders EON Productions currently have the unenviable task of finding the next 007. For now, however, we can look back at one of the most memorable tenures in 007 history as we rank Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies from worst to best.
Spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk.
5. Quantum of Solace
An obvious choice for bottom spot, perhaps, though some may consider it 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 they were filmed.
Even taking those mitigating circumstances into consideration, 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 theme song ("Another Way to Die by Jack White and Alicia Keys) 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 in the series.
There are some things to like about Quantum of Solace. Craig does a good job as an emotionally wounded Bond out for revenge after the events of Casino Royale. Judi Dench’s M delivers a memorable performance, too, as the moral counterpoint to Craig’s 007. And as the shortest Bond flick ever made, Quantum of Solace also boasts 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.
Returning director Sam Mendes’ second Bond flick has some stand-out moments, but there are simply better 007 flicks in Craig’s run. And much like Quantum of Solace, Spectre fails to live up the lofty heights set by its predecessor.
That’s a shame, because the follow-up to Skyfall opens with a memorably spectacular sequence set during Mexico City's Día de Muertos celebrations, before the plot plot picks up some of the three previous movies’ loose threads, and ties them together in fairly captivating fashion.
Unfortunately, Spectre’s story sags at the crucial moment. One of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood prior to the film’s release, the reveal of Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz) is nowhere near as impactful as it should have been. Also, the entire Sahara-based sequence is neither poignant nor thrilling enough – though the subsequent explosive set-piece is undeniably striking.
Spectre does finish strongly, however, thanks to the intimately thrilling spectacle of its London-based denouement. Bond’s character development throughout the film, especially in its final few scenes, shows how much 007 has grown during the Craig era, though this is 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 in the famous tuxedo, as we explain in our spoiler-free review of No Time to Die.
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 sinister, almost horror-esque moments in No Time to Die’s plot that add a semblance of originality to proceedings, too.
But, gloriously fun as it is, No Time to Die isn’t without its niggles. Its two-and-a-half hour runtime is too long for a Bond movie, while its villain – Lyutsifer Safin – isn’t as absorbing or malicious as previous Bond villains, despite Bohemian Rhapsody Oscar-winner Rami Malek doing his best with the material he’s given.
It doesn’t help that Safin becomes a sideshow next to the film’s wider narrative. Admittedly, No Time to Die is the culmination of a five-movie 007 arc, so there needs to be enough room for its hero 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 fails to deliver on that front.
That said, No Time to Die gets more right than it gets wrong. It’s a pleasing Bond flick that wraps up the Craig era in style. And, with its poignant and heartbreaking conclusion – hands up who saw that coming? – it delivers a bold finale that’s sure to leave many fans teary eyed as Louis Armstrong’s iconic "We Have All The Time In The World" plays out over the closing credits.
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 – particularly after the unfair backlash that had accompanied Daniel Craig's appointment as the new 007.
But Casino Royale surprised us all, cutting back on the traditional gags and gadgets to deliver a grittier, more grounded reinvention of the legendary spy. 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. The film also 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 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 runner-up 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 assumed its best days were behind it.
Okay, most will have guessed that this would take first place. But Skyfall really 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.
They include Bond’s failure to save Judi Dench’s M during Skyfall’s thrilling and climactic final 30 minutes. The final confrontation – set amid the backdrop of Bond’s eponymous childhood home in the Scottish Highlands – is simultaneously picturesque and unbearably tense. And, much like No Time to Die, it has horror trappings that create extra suspense throughout.
Above all, however, it feels like Skyfall resonated most strongly with audiences because of its overarching theme of family. Sam Mendes' film explores Bond’s past (via his return to his former abode), his present (through his surrogate family at MI6), and his future (as he contemplates life after the passing of his mother-figure, M). M's send-off is appropriately memorable, too, putting a well-earned cap on a character arc that stretches back to the Pierce Brosnan era.
Like Casino Royale, Skyfall lifts stylistic and thematic elements from 2008’s The Dark Knight – director Sam Mendes has confirmed as much. Alongside Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography and the reintroduction of classic Bond gadgets and characters like Q, these elements combined to make Skyfall 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.
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