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Shaken, not stirred: The best Bond directors of all time

What does it take to direct a Bond movie? Let’s take a look at eleven of Bond’s best directors, ranked from double-O-no’s to those with a license to thrill.

Shaken, not stirred: The best Bond directors of all time

According to Variety, Danny Boyle is high on MGM’s list to direct the next installment of the James Bond franchise, with sources claiming Yann Demange (White Boy Rick) has also been considered for the job. While fans usually take more interest in speculating on which actor will be next to play the British spy, it’s nice to see talk steering more towards the excitement of a potential new director.

Boyle could be terrific for the job and give the franchise a much needed fresh spin. But what does it take to direct a Bond movie? Let’s take a look at eleven of Bond’s best directors, ranked from the double-O-no’s to those with a license to thrill.

Why Lee Tamahori is one of the best Bond directors of all time

11. Lee Tamahori

Die Another Day

Though Tamahori’s eye for a tight-action sequence is well suited to the franchise, he failed to do much with what is arguably the worst Bond movie ever made. After all, this is the one where the most memorable scene is Halle Berry’s sexy throwback to Ursula Andress’s iconic bikini moment in Dr. No. At least Tamahori nailed that sequence though, hey? Good job.

Why Roger Spottiswoode is one of the best Bond directors of all time

10. Roger Spottiswoode

Tomorrow Never Dies

Die Another Day may be the worst Bond movie, but the Pierce Brosnan starring Tomorrow Never Dies is by far the messiest, completely lacking in any personality. There are some points where Spottiswoode’s direction feels taut and exciting, although sadly those moments are few and far between.

Why Michael Apted is one of the best Bond directors of all time

9. Michael Apted

The World is Not Enough

Coming off as a campy 90s spin on classic Bond – complete with a starring role for Denise Richards – Apted’s direction is full of fun and sharp moments of claustrophobic tension, used to great effect. And that boat chase down the River Thames? Completely underrated.

Why Peter R. Hunt is one of the best Bond directors of all time

8. Peter R. Hunt

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Though the movie gets a lot of grief for starring everyone’s least favorite Bond – George Lazenby – that has nothing to do with Hunt’s careful, stylish direction. Having served as an editor & second unit director on previous movies, he has an understanding of Bond tropes and necessities, and delivers them with pizazz.

Why Marc Forster is one of the best Bond directors of all time

7. Marc Forster

Quantum of Solace

It was always going to be difficult to follow-up on the astounding Casino Royale, and that fact was made all the more glaring by the movie’s production in the midst of the 2008 writers strike.

Despite the challenges, Forster’s direction is extremely commendable and full of distinctive visuals and set pieces that more than make up for its stilted script. He also has a wonderful grasp of how to frame his cast, which includes Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, and David Harbour, alongside an on-form as ever Daniel Craig.

Why Guy Hamilton is one of the best Bond directors of all time

6. Guy Hamilton

Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun

Hamilton arguably defined some of the visual sensibilities that have become an essential part of Bond’s cinematic lore. They’re cool and lavish, macho and slick, and though they can all get a little silly, they always boast some great action sequences.

Why Terence Young is one of the best Bond directors of all time

5. Terence Young

Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball

Hamilton may have defined the visuals of Bond, but Young defined the tone with movies full of spectacle, high-stakes danger, and an unmistakable British swagger.

Why Sam Mendes is one of the best Bond directors of all time

4. Sam Mendes

Skyfall & Spectre

Though these might not be everyone’s favorite Bond movies, Mendes at least tried to instil the franchise with some fresh ideas which are most evident in everything he does with Javier Bardem’s Skyfall villain. The direction has a lot of scope, with Mendes often utilizing enormous set pieces to perfectly frame Bond’s sense of importance.

Why Lewis Gilbert is one of the best Bond directors of all time

3. Lewis Gilbert

Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me, and You Only Live Twice

Gilbert managed to achieve the tricky balance of maintaining Bond’s classiness while boosting the character’s comedic side. Moonraker might not be one of the best Bond movies, but You Only Live Twice is by far the finest from Sean Connery’s era. Just make sure to skip through that horrifying “Asian” sequence.

Why John Glen is one of the best Bond directors of all time

2. John Glen

For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, and The Living Daylights

While his work with Roger Moore was okay, Glenn’s directorial sensibilities really came alive when Timothy Dalton stepped into the role for The Living Daylights. One of the best Bond films ever made and arguably the closest to Ian Fleming’s original vision for the character, Glenn frames Bond with the hard, frenetic edge he deserves.

Why Martin Campbell is one of the best Bond directors of all time

1. Martin Campbell

Goldeneye & Casino Royale

Goldeneye is by far the most fun Bond movie of the entire franchise – especially with a supporting cast including Sean Bean, Alan Cumming, and Famke Janssen. Campbell’s excitement at being a part of the movie is evident within every shot.

When Campbell returned to the franchise eleven years later for Casino Royale, he’d sharpened his vision to make the darkest, most satisfying Bond movie to date. Furibund action sequences pound through a frenzied pace while Mads Mikkelsen is given space to be his villainous best. This leads to the most heartbreaking finale of any Bond film involving a literally breathtaking performance from Eva Green.

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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer who occasionally moonlights as a hapless punk musician. She’s written about pop culture for websites like Bustle, i-D, and The Mary Sue, and is the co-creator of Clarissa Explains F*ck All. She likes watching horror movies with her cat and eating too much sugar.

amy@filmdaily.co

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