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Nov 12

The Best of Bond, from "Goldfinger" to "Casino Royale"

Daniel Craig made his debut as British secret agent James Bond in 2006's "Casino Royale."

With “Skyfall” out in theaters, it’s time to rank our top 10 Bond films

Here’s a quick pop quiz.

1. What does British secret agent James Bond drink?
2. What weapon does he prefer?
3. What is his favorite form of transportation?

If you answered the above questions correctly (the answers are at the bottom of the page), you’re likely among the legions of James Bond fans flocking to theaters to see “Skyfall.” The 23rd installment in the popular franchise, which opened Friday, finds Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) facing off against the sinister Silva (Javier Bardem), a man with a mysterious connection to M’s (Judi Dench) past.

Here are 10 of my favorite Bond films, organized chronologically.

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“From Russia With Love” (1963)

After years of thrilling readers on the printed page, James Bond made his big-screen debut in 1962′s “Dr. No.” In this well-crafted sequel, Sean Connery returns as Agent 007, a dashing, well-dressed British secret agent who’s equally at ease seducing a beautiful woman, matching wits with a dastardly villain or grappling with a seemingly endless succession of henchmen. “From Russia With Love,” which once gain finds Bond battling the international terrorist organization SPECTRE, features many of the elements that would become the hallmarks of the classic Bond canon: gorgeous girls, quirky bad guys, exotic locales and loads of cool gadgets.

“Goldfinger” (1964)

Shirley Bassey’s bold, brassy theme song sets the tone for this fabulously fun film, which pits Bond (Connery) against a German bullion dealer with a yen for gold. Auric Goldfinger is so obsessed with the precious metal that he has hat-throwing Korean manservant Oddjob (Harold Sakata) suffocate a girl using gold paint. Can our tuxedo-clad hero foil Goldfinger’s plot to turn Fort Knox into a radioactive slag-heap?

“Thunderball” (1965)

For impressive underwater antics, look no further than “Thunderball.” About a quarter of the film, set largely in the Bahamas, takes place below the surface. On a mission to find the two atomic bombs being held ransom by SPECTRE, Bond (Connery) meets shark enthusiast Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), SPECTRE’s card-playing, eye patch-sporting No. 2. Aided by CIA agent Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter) and Largo’s lovely mistress, Domino (Claudine Auger), the agent dives into his assignement — culminating in a massive scuba battle beneath Largo’s ship, the Disco Volante. (Connery would reprise his role in the 1983 remake, “Never Say Never Again,” but it pales in comparison to “Thunderball.”)

“You Only Live Twice” (1967)

Two words: volcano lair. That astonishing set piece, designed by “series regular Ken Adam” is one of the coolest things about this Far East thriller, which also features a theme song performed by Nancy Sinatra and a script penned by Roald Dahl. Bond’s adventures in Japan include marriage, murder and the first full appearance of SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasance). Sponge baths all around!

“Live and Let Die” (1973)

Blaxploitation, voodoo, alligators … Could Roger Moore’s first Bond movie be any more awesome? In this zany outing, which pits our plucky British agent against an international crime syndicate that includes a virginal tarot reader (Jane Seymour), a vicious voodoo priest (Geoffrey Holder) and a Caribbean dictator (Yaphet Kotto) who doubles as a Harlem drug lord, Moore quickly establishes himself as a fun, lighthearted alternative to Sean Connery’s smoldering spy. Still, it’s difficult not to wince whenever stereotypical Southern Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) lets loose with one of his oh-so-racist remarks.

“Moonraker” (1979)

Most of Moore’s Bond movies skew toward the silly side, but this space-crazed laugh riot might be his goofiest adventure of all. Bond’s search for a stolen space shuttle leads him from Los Angeles, where he meets industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) and scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), to Venice to Rio de Janeiro. Eventually he and Goodhead end up in outer space, where they team up with toothy henchman Jaws (fan favorite Richard Kiel) to foil a plot to repopulate the earth with a genetically perfect master race. Seriously. Sheer bonkers.

“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

Moore shows his steel in this Mediterranean adventure, his most serious outing as 007. (It’s still pretty silly.) Ordered to prevent a transmitter capable of commanding the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarine fleet from falling into the wrong hands, Bond teams up with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), the scuba-diving daughter of a murdered marine archaeologist. — only to find himself in the midst of a power struggle between Greek businessman Aristotle Kristatos (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” baddie Julian Glover) and genial smuggler Columbo (Chaim Topol of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame). Bond pushes physical boundaries as well; just watch him racing up a long flight of stone stairs to stop a speeding car.

“The Living Daylights” (1987)

Timothy Dalton only made two appearances as James Bond, but he definitely left his mark on the franchise. His version of the character — deadly serious, deeply earnest — stands out in stark contrast to Sean Connery’s swaggering machismo and Roger Moore’s comic charm. Here, he crosses paths with a sexy Soviet assassin (Maryam d’Abo) and an American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker) with a Napoleon complex in his Cold War quest to rescue Soviet defector General Koskov (Jeroen KrabbĂ©). Dig that the totally ’80s theme song by A-Ha!

“GoldenEye” (1995)

Pierce Brosnan makes his first, and arguably best, appearance as Agent 007 in the franchise’s first post-Cold War thriller. The Soviet Union’s legacy plays a big part in the plot, which revolves around the Janus crime syndicate’s attempts to control the GoldenEye satellite system. Together with a beautiful Russian programmer (Izabella Scorupco), Bond must battle Alex Trevelyan (Sean Bean), an ex-British agent turned terrorist, and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), a femme fatale who derives pleasure from causing pain. Engaging performances,impressive stunts and groundbreaking special effects make this a enjoyable jaunt.

“Casino Royale” (2006)

James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes back to basics in this reboot, which finds the spy at the beginning of his career. (Before the credits roll, we’ve watched him earn his 00 status in a brutal black-and-white fight scene.) From the parkour-inspired chase sequence through the streets and construction sites of Madagascar that seems to deny the laws of physics to the pivotal poker game in Montenegro, it’s a brilliant, convention-bucking ride. “Casino Royale” also boasts a great villain (Mads Mikkelsen) and one of the best Bond Girls in years, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a gorgeous government wonk who is as intellectual and polished as Bond is instinctual and raw.

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Answers:

1. In Bond’s own words: “Vodka martini, shaken not stirred.”
2. A Walther PPK handgun.
3. An Aston Martin car.

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“Casino Royale” image courtesy of MovieWeb.com.

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