James Bond, and the movies in particular, are a lot of things to different people, depending on which version of Bond you prefer. Exciting action movies, thrilling spy adventures, fantasy sci-fi, gritty dark thrillers, even fun campy pseudo-comedies at times. It’s all of those things to me and that’s why I’ve always liked Bond. It represents so many things and has been made in so many styles, while always retaining a certain DNA throughout, of coolness, sophistication and action. It really is an institution here in the UK, and I assume also around the world. There are so many things that are iconic about the Bond movies; the cars, the intros, the theme song, the baddies.

The Bond movies have always been a part of my life ever since I was young and the Sean Connery films were often on in our house. Connery was my first Bond, so he has always been my favourite, even before I knew he was a fellow Scot. I’ve gone through phases of my life, particularly in my youth, where I have been a bit obsessed with Bond films. One phase where I would constantly listen to all the Bond theme songs. Another phase when I had all the Bond movie posters up on my wall. I still have a Bond movie poster book that I had when I was a kid. I’ve seen all the Connery to Dalton films many times. I probably have only seen the Brosnan ones about two or three times each though. That’s where I slightly dipped in my fandom. But I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Daniel Craig movies too. I don’t just consider Connery as Bond. I like them all. I like the variety and how the franchise stays alive. I like all the tropes and how the franchise isn’t afraid to have a laugh at its own expense. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love the music. It really is such a big part of it. A couple of years ago I took a good look at John Barry’s music as part of my #Johnuary blog challenge, where I wrote several blog posts here and here about his work, including my Top Ten John Barry James Bond Songs. But it’s not just the Barry music. Every new Bond theme song is like an event when it gets revealed. There is so much hype and excitement around everything to do with Bond. As I say, it really is an institution over here in the UK.

Recently I’ve been really getting back into Bond and wanting to rewatch the movies. Perhaps this has been heightened with Sir Sean Connery sadly passing away in 2020 and also No Time to Die scheduled to be released very soon. So to scratch this Bond itch that I have, I thought I’d go back and watch all the films again. And being the completist that I am I don’t do things by halves, so I’m going to include the non-EON production films such as Never Say Never Again, the David Niven version of Casino Royale and even the live TV Special of Casino Royale from 1954. And also, I’ve always been intrigued to read the original Ian Fleming novels, so I’m going to read all of them too. I recently got some very early editions of them off eBay pretty cheaply, so it would be rude not to read them.

On one side a lot of us want to be like Bond, cool, smart, good at everything, looks good in a tux. But also I think most of us recognise that Bond has a lot of flaws and interesting personality traits. He’s arrogant, insubordinate, hot-tempered and “a sexist misogynist dinosaur a relic from the Cold War”. I expect these last traits to be even more obvious, in these woke times, when I watch the early films and particularly when I read the Ian Fleming novels. They are products of their times so I won’t dwell too much on those aspects but I am interested to see how it feels watching them in today’s age. I wonder if, when watching the films in order, I’ll be able to see any sort of progression or maturity in the character from the filmmakers, as he enters the modern age.

I’ll be reading all the original novels alongside the films. In the case of films that are based on Fleming novels I will read the Fleming novel first and then watch the movie. And for later films that have a post-film novelisation I’ll read that book after watching the film.

I’m very aware that the films were made in a different order to how the books were published. I’ve chosen to have the films as my focus though, and so I’ll be watching the films in order and therefore reading the books out of order. But I don’t think it makes a massive difference as I think most of the books were just standalone adventures. And I feel it would be weird to watch the Bond movies out of order and mix up the Bond actors. I want to see how the movies progress as I watch them in quick(ish) succession. But I’ll be looking out for any landmark events in his life in the books while I’m reading them, to see if the order really does matter or not.

Here’s how I will be doing it. I’m obviously going to watch the movies and read the books, but I’m also going to be leaning on a great podcast I discovered last year called Smershpod. The host, John Rain, has gone through each movie twice now, I believe, chatting to guests about the chosen film. He has also produced a book too called Thunderbook, which I now own.

UPDATE: I have just discovered my friend Michael May’s amazing Bond project that he did a few years ago. I was thinking of creating a points system for various parts of each movie. Michael did that, so I probably will too. And he did rankings of most of the same categories that I had planned to do, which is very cool. I will definitely be reading that as well as part of my research.

So this will be the order of my digesting each film.

  • Read the Ian Fleming novel
  • Read the Thunderbook chapter about that film
  • Listen to the two Smershpod podcast episodes about that film
  • Check out Michael May’s project notes
  • Watch the film
  • Read the novelisation if there is one
  • Play the video game (in some instances)

Obviously I’ll be blogging all along the way. I’ll write a blog post for every book/movie combination. Don’t expect an incredibly in-depth review though. There are thousands of better reviews of Bond movies online. These will just be my thoughts and notes in bullet form from watching the films. And, obviously as it’s me, I will be compelled to rank everything. So I will rank the movies as I go, and then at the very end I will rank all the different categories such as the Bond actors, gadgets, villains, Bond girls, vehicles, theme songs, title sequences and the cold opens.

I’m not setting a time limit on this. It might be possible to do it all in one year in 2021 but it might be tight. It may well run into 2022. We’ll see how it goes. I’m very much looking forward to the process though.

One thing I’ve been very interested in during my prep for this challenge is the timeline of when all the movies and books were made. The TV special of Casino Royale was made just a year after the first book came out, and only two weeks after the second book was published. I hadn’t really realised how much overlap there was when Fleming was still writing the novels after the Connery films were being made. Fleming wrote four of the books after the Dr. No film was released. I’m not sure how many interviews there are with Ian Fleming but here is one good one I found. I’m sure after reading the novels I will want to learn more about Fleming and also the on-set production of the early movies.

Here is a rough timeline I put together that shows what year everything happened.

Year Movie / Book Bond actor
1953 Casino Royale book
1954 Live and Let Die book
1954 Casino Royale TV movie Barry Nelson
1955 Moonraker book
1956 Diamonds Are Forever book
1955-58 Moonraker radio drama Bob Holness
1957 From Russia, with Love book
1958 Dr. No book
1959 Goldfinger book
1959 Quantum of Solace short story
1959 From a View to a Kill short story
1960 For Your Eyes Only book
1961 Thunderball book
1962 The Spy Who Loved Me book
1962 Dr. No film Sean Connery
1963 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service book
1963 From Russia With Love film Sean Connery
1964 You Only Live Twice book
1964 Goldfinger film Sean Connery
1965 The Man With the Golden Gun book
1965 Thunderball film Sean Connery
1966 Octopussy and The Living Daylights book
1967 Casino Royale film David Niven
1967 You Only Live Twice film Sean Connery
1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service film George Lazenby
1971 Diamonds Are Forever film Sean Connery
1973 Live and Let Die film Roger Moore
1974 The Man with the Golden Gun film Roger Moore
1977 The Spy Who Loved Me film Roger Moore
1979 Moonraker film Roger Moore
1981 For Your Eyes Only film Roger Moore
1983 Octopussy film Roger Moore
1983 Never Say Never Again film Sean Connery
1985 A View to a Kill film Roger Moore
1987 The Living Daylights film Timothy Dalton
1989 Licence to Kill film Timothy Dalton
1995 Goldeneye film Pierce Brosnan
1997 Tomorrow Never Dies film Pierce Brosnan
1999 The World Is Not Enough film Pierce Brosnan
2002 Die Another Day film Pierce Brosnan
2006 Casino Royale film Daniel Craig
2008 Quantum of Solace film Daniel Craig
2012 Skyfall film Daniel Craig
2015 Spectre film Daniel Craig
2021 No Time to Die film Daniel Craig

See you very soon, with my post about the Casino Royale novel and the 1954 live TV movie starring Barry Nelson.