10 James Bond Movies With The Best Plot

Generally, the plot is not the main selling point of the James Bond franchise. When audiences line up around the block to see a new Bond movie, they’re not necessarily excited about the twists and turns the spy storyline will take. They want to be transported around the world, from exotic location to exotic location, following an armed gentleman spy in and out of trouble.

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But the best Bond films go beyond that. Along with providing all the action and globetrotting spectacle fans crave, they weave a thread that audiences can truly embrace and emotionally connect to.


ten The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The penultimate James Bond by Pierce Brosnan, The world is not enough, is built around a middle twist reveal. It is initially set up as a nod to The bodyguard in which Bond is tasked with protecting an oil heiress when she is targeted by the world’s most notorious terrorist.

But the film takes a shocking turn when this heiress reveals that she is in cahoots with the terrorist and they are determined to destroy Istanbul. As always, Bond maintains an icy composure in the face of betrayal and uses his hurt feelings as fuel for revenge.

9 From Russia with Love (1963)

James Bond and Red Grant in From Russia with Love

The second Bond movie, From Russia with loveis both a standalone 007 adventure and a direct sequel to Dr. No. The script uses the Seinfeldian dovetail to pull together two gripping story arcs.

Bond is sent to assist in the defection of a Soviet consulate employee at the same time as SPECTER trains assassins to kill him in retaliation for the death of Dr. No. When 007 goes on a mission, he unwittingly wanders into the lion’s den to take on villains like Rosa Klebb and Red Grant.

8 The Living Daylights (1987)

Timothy Dalton as Bond in The Living Daylights

The first of two Bond films by Timothy Dalton, Living daylights, is a classic example of a story that begins by focusing on one thing and ends up being about something else. It begins with Bond being sent to investigate the KGB’s policy of killing all enemy spies.

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007’s connection to a cellist is only a small part of this story, but his love for her eventually wins out in the end. The heartwarming final scene sees Bond sneaking into a Vienna performance to hear him perform as the solo cellist.

7 Live and Let Die (1973)

James Bond enters Mr. Big's palace in San Monique

The debut of Roger Moore in 007, Live and Let Die, is a delightfully quirky homage to the blaxploitation films then prevalent. The overarching plot has some stretches in logic, like a Caribbean dictator leading a double life as a Harlem drug lord (and then blowing himself up like a balloon in the finale).

But overall, Live and Let Die is a prime example of meandering, action-driven, spectacle-driven spy storytelling. There’s always silly decor just around the corner, setting the wacky Moore-era tone perfectly.

6 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby as 007 saying this never happened to the other guy on Her Majesty's Secret Service

Widely considered the best Bond film from a critical and cinematic point of view, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service avoids the familiar formula. It’s far more emotionally involving than the average Bond movie.

George Lazenby’s one and only Bond outing is more about 007’s feelings than his spy operations. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service tells a real love story: Bond gets married, then his wife is killed in a drive-by shooting moments later. It’s closer to heartbreaking drama than a high-octane action thriller (although there’s plenty of the latter, too).

5 Golden Eye (1995)

Pierce Brosnan as Bond driving a tank in GoldenEye

In Brosnan’s first Bond film, golden eye, 007 has a tangible inner conflict alongside the outer conflict – and, what’s more, it ends up being tied to the main storyline. 007 spends the first half of the film mourning the untimely death of fellow MI6 agent 006, which seemingly takes place in the cold.

Bond blames himself for 006’s death. He is riddled with guilt. Afterwards, he’s devastated to learn that the agent he’s mourning is not only alive and well, but also the megalomaniac villain at the center of his latest mission.

4 Dr. No (1962)

James Bond lighting a cigarette in Dr. No

The very first Bond movie, Dr. No, is a classic spy caper that injected some much-needed fun back into the then obsolete thriller genre. The plot of Dr. No follows Bond further and further down the rabbit hole.

007 travels to Jamaica to investigate the murder of an MI6 station chief and ends up discovering a member of SPECTER with a flamethrower dragon tank and a secret lair filled with nefarious contraptions. The storyline is tightly structured. It set a high benchmark for every Bond storyline that followed.

3 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Roger Moore as James Bond and Richard Kiel as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me

Moore’s most critically acclaimed entry in the 007 canon, The Spy Who Loved Me, is one of the finest examples of the Bond formula at work. The scenario offers a succession of increasingly spectacular action sequences that advance the plot.

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There’s also a compelling emotional line as Bond’s latest romantic interest learns that he murdered the love of his life on a previous mission (a pretty big hurdle to overcome).

2 Casino Royale (2006)

James Bond looking down while holding a gun in Casino Royale.

Daniel Craig’s first Bond, Casino Royale, acted as a kind of origin story for the character. It doesn’t go back to his childhood, but it does explore the origins of his 00 status and his license to kill. On top of that, the script also digs deeper to explore how Bond got so cold.

The beauty of Casino Royale it’s more of a love story than an action thriller. 007 falls so madly in love with Vesper Lynd that he leaves MI6 to go on vacation with her.

1 Golden Finger (1964)

Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger

The golden finger is the perfect Bond movie. More than half a century later, it still has not been overcome. The film’s script is a quintessential take on the episodic formula, illustrating why it works so well.

Auric Goldfinger is a classic villain with a classic henchman, Oddjob, and it all culminates in a thrilling finale that rises above all the action that came before. There’s also a classic stinger after the climactic battle sequence at Fort Knox when Goldfinger takes on 007 on a jet. The golden finger laid out the plan for a Bond film and remains the plan’s greatest execution.

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