A new James Bond movie is always a big deal, but the upcoming release of No Time To Die feels especially momentous. It’s the 25th movie in the franchise, and it marks the final outing of the longest-tenured James Bond (in terms of years). To add to the anticipation, audiences were forced to wait for No Time To Die because of multiple delays. At first, production stalled due to the departure of Danny Boyle, who was initially poised to direct. Then, there was the pandemic of it all. But it looks like No Time To Die is going to be released on October 8 in the US, come hell or high water.
Suffice to say, No Time To Die is going to be this year’s must-watch movie. That’s obvious if you’re a die-hard Bond fan who can rattle off the names of every car, girl and villain, but not everyone who’s going to see No Time To Die is a walking Bond encyclopedia. If you’re a casual Bond fan (or you’ve never seen a single Bond movie before), you might be wondering if there are any movies you need to watch beforehand.
Because while there might be no time to die, there’s definitely no time to watch all of the preceding 24 movies before Daniel Craig’s final appearance. That’s why we’ve assembled this guide to the Bond movies to watch if you’re new to the franchise. This isn’t a list of the best Bond movies, though many of the films this list certainly are among the finest. Rather, these are the most essential movies to watch ahead of No Time To Die, both in terms of understanding Craig’s take on Bond and the franchise as a whole (light spoilers ahead).
This list leaves a lot of great stuff out, but you’d be set for No Time To Die with these six films. This list covers the first Bond movie, the most recent one, and a few of the best movies in between.
1. Dr. No (1962)
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga flatly denied that Rami Malek’s character in No Time To Die is Dr. No, but that hasn’t stopped the rumors from swirling. In either case, it’s not a bad idea to start at the beginning. Dr. No is the first Bond film, and by comparison of what would come, it practically feels like an indie movie. The sets feel smaller, and the action more stilted. That said, it introduced all of the key elements that fans would come to expect — the gun barrel sequence, the iconic theme, the love interest with a ridiculous name, the eccentric villain — it’s all there. Dr. No isn’t the best in the series, but it’s arguably the best place to start.
2. Goldfinger (1964)
If you only had time to watch one single Bond movie, it should be Goldfinger. Goldfinger is the third film in the franchise, and it marks the moment when the film series found its legs and settled on what it was going to be. Shirley Bassey’s theme is the standard by which all others are judged, and there’s no henchman in film history as memorable as Oddjob. The gadgets and cars come to be a bigger part of the series, too, with the introduction of a tricked-out Aston Martin DB5. Plus, it’s hard not to watch the vainglorious titular villain and not be reminded of a certain former American president.
3. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Of the duds in the James Bond franchise, an unfortunately high proportion belong to Roger Moore. But The Spy Who Loved Me is not only the best of his films, it’s one of the most entertaining in the franchise. In this film, Bond teams up with a Russian agent to stop a plan to destroy the human race and start over on an underwater base called Atlantis. It’s ridiculous stuff, but you can’t help but enjoy the ride. Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” is an all-time great, and the steel-toothed henchman Jaws is completely unforgettable.
The Spy Who Loved Me
4. GoldenEye (1995)
GoldenEye may have come out in 1995, but it feels like the first James Bond film of the modern era. For one thing, it’s the first film released after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The film openly acknowledges as much. When the new M (Judi Dench) first meets the new Bond (Pierce Brosnan), she calls him a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War.” Sean Bean’s appearance as a villainous double-agent sets the stage for the themes of betrayal and vengeance that undergird much of the Daniel Craig movies.
5. Casino Royale (2006)
There’s a strong case to be made from Casino Royale being the best film in the franchise, which is especially impressive considering how many risks the film takes. Goldeneye‘s Martin Campbell returns to the director’s chair, and he once again reboots the series for a new era. It’s the film that introduced Craig’s grittier take on Bond to the world. His is also a more vulnerable James Bond — one who’s actually capable of loving the women he romances.
6. Spectre (2015)
We don’t yet know what the story of No Time To Die will be, but the return of Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux implies that it will at least in some ways be a direct sequel to Spectre. Spectre is, unfortunately, a pretty disappointing entry in the franchise. But the opening action scene is excellent, and the film is worth watching for the relevance it might have to No Time To Die.
If You Want Extra Credit
If you want to feel some sense of completion without watching all 24 movies, add the following films to your watchlist. You’ll watch some of the best movies in the franchise, while also covering every actor to play Bond.
1. From Russia With Love (1963)
Another fan favorite, From Russia With Love is more focused on spies, espionage and mysterious organizations than it is on over-the-top villains with dubious world-conquering plots. More than any other James Bond film, From Russia With Love feels like a true spy thriller.
From Russia With Love
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a fan favorite because, like Casino Royale, it’s willing to break with convention. It’s George Lazenby’s first and only outing as James Bond. Lazenby had the unenviable task of being the first actor after Sean Connery to play Bond. Like Craig, Lazenby’s Bond is one who’s actually capable of falling in love (and even getting married). The villainous plot is as nonsensical as ever, but there’s a whole lot to love about this film.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
3. The Living Daylights (1987)
The Living Daylights is the first of Timothy Dalton’s two entries in the franchise, and it’s without a doubt the better of the two. There’s an amount of campiness here, the peak of which is James Bond evading capture by sledding on a cello case. But overall, it’s one of the grittiest takes on Bond, and it has elements of spycraft and espionage that keep it interesting.
The Living Daylights
4. Skyfall (2012)
After the convoluted plot of Quantum of Solace, James Bond was (yet again) in need of a reset. Sam Mendes brought his assured direction to Skyfall, a compelling, beautifully shot (and mercifully straightforward) film that features Javier Bardem in one of the all-time great villain roles. Skyfall can be thought of as the start of phase two of Craig’s Bond. Ben Whishaw’s Q, Ralph Fiennes’ M and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny all make their first appearances, all of whom are set to return in No Time To Die.