After the release No Time to Die, I decided to watch through the James Bond movies in reverse Bond actor order. I also decided to rank each actor’s Bond films, excluding Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby of course given that they made 2 movies max.
Pierce Brosnan was the James Bond actor right before Daniel Craig, and had a 4 movie run as Bond in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. In some ways, Brosnan’s run as James Bond is a little disappointing. He was a perfect fit for the role, he has the charisma and smoothness, he can deliver the one liners, he is believable in the action, and he is convincing as a cold blooded assassin. However, the movies were a little mixed and some of the movies underserved Bond and Brosnan’s performances. It certainly didn’t help that Brosnan’s run was at an unfortunate point where the Bond series needed to reinvent itself.
With that being said, I do find stuff to enjoy in all of them, and even though the non-GoldenEye films don’t have the best of reputations from most people, generally I enjoy them all.
4. Die Another Day
Unsurprisingly, Die Another Day makes it at the bottom of the list. It’s definitely known as one of the worst Bond movies, and for good reason. The plot is absurd and goes to new ridiculous heights, even by Bond standards. Essentially the premise of DAD is about Bond going up against Graves, who’s really a Korean colonel who changed himself into a white British billionaire, from using his diamond encrusted satellite which shoots out a solar laser beam. That sounds like it has a lot of potential to be cheesy fun from beginning to end. However the most disappointing part is how dull the movie feels on the whole. It does have some cheesy one liners and dumb moments like the previous films, but there’s something that’s so lazy and low effort in this. The acting is also mostly not the best, mostly ranging from disappointing (Halle Berry) to bad (Toby Stephens). Even Pierce Brosnan suffers from it, he does have his moments but he’s not got the best material to work with, especially when compared to the previous three movies. So much of the direction is poor, with 2000s editing with an overuse of slow-motion and bad CGI which haven’t aged well. Throughout the film is just full of bad decisions.
With that being said, I won’t lie and say I dislike the movie. As bad as Die Another Day is, there’s still some enjoyment to be had with it. The opening is good with a much darker tone and a good idea, even if the rest of the film doesn’t take advantage of it. Most of the acting isn’t that good but there’s a few performers that work, Judi Dench is once again great as M, John Cleese makes a decent Q in his 1-2 film appearances, and Rosamund Pike and Rick Yune made for decent supporting villains. As messily directed as many of the action sequences are, you can’t deny that they are memorable and entertaining in a way. The battle over ice with cars with weapons, the hand to hand fight dodging lasers spinning around, the sword fight at the duelling club, the action in the other worst Bond films aren’t this memorable. The silliness can be entertaining, even if it’s at the film’s expense. The poor decisions, the goofiness of the villain and plot can have some enjoyment in it. Again though, I get the issues. It is entertaining in parts but not on the whole. It is disappointing that this is essentially the film that stopped Brosnan from reaching his ideal Bond film.
3. The World is Not Enough
The World is Not Enough is definitely not the worst of the 4 Pierce Brosnan movies, but it is the most frustrating. It really had a lot of potential to be one of the best Bond films, let alone Brosnan’s best. Despite all that, by the end it just ends up being a formulaic action flick, with a MacGuffin in the form of a nuclear weapon. It’s also quite forgettable compared to the other movies, from the plot, to some of the characters, to the action. Despite its attempts at a darker story for this version of James Bond, the movie feels over the top and silly, and as a result it felt very tonally inconsistent. The particularly bad one liners, the aspect of the villain being strong and impervious to pain because of a bullet lodged into his brain, they all feel very out of place within the story. And yes, Denise Richards plays the least convincing nuclear physicist as Christmas Jones but she’s not the reason why the movie underwhelms.
With all that being said, I still think that The World is Not Enough is decent on the whole. Aside from some one-liners and bad attempts at humour (and yes, Christmas Jones), there aren’t many outright bad things about the film. The plot had me intrigued for at least the first half, I liked some of the ideas they had, and I was always entertained in some way. Sophia Macreau as Elektra King was also not only the most interesting character in this movie, but also one of the most interesting characters of the 4 Brosnan movies. While the movie doesn’t utilise the character the best, it’s a good performance and character which definitely elevated the film. While most of the action scenes aren’t as memorable compared to the other 3 movies, they are still generally well filmed and were entertaining. Also I think that this is probably Pierce Brosnan’s best performance as James Bond, if only because he’s given the most emotional material to work with here. I would not call The World is Not Enough one of the best Bond films by any means, but it’s not one of the worst either, there’s still some good stuff here.
The most controversial opinion in this list is that I don’t consider GoldenEye to be Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond film, nor do I consider it one of the all-time best Bond films. For a while I hadn’t been able to pinpoint why but I think I figured it out with my most recent viewing. The plot is simple enough, but I don’t find it to be that great or interesting really, which might be the biggest problem for me. Outside of the action scenes, I don’t find myself very invested with what’s happening with the story or characters. Even GoldenEye seems to suffer from tonal inconsistency, a problem that most of Brosnan’s movies seem to suffer from (more on that later). For context, it was in the awkward phase of moving Bond from the Cold War of the 80s into the 90s. The film tries to have some of the grittiness of the Timothy Dalton Bond films but isn’t grounded enough to do that, and it also tries to be on the more over the top silly side (leaning towards Roger Moore Bond) at points but is too serious to achieve that. Not that it isn’t possible to find a happy medium between the two, but the end result in this film feels a little messy.
With all that being said, I do understand a lot of the praise that GoldenEye receives. The biggest strength for me was the direction by Martin Campbell, specifically with the action. From the opening sequence in the 80s, the tank battle, to the third act climax, the action is filmed and put together really well. That’s something that GoldenEye has over the other Brosnan Bond films, all the action is great. The actors are also quite good in their parts, Sean Bean and Famke Janssen make for memorable villains, Judi Dench made her first appearance as M here, and although Pierce Brosnan would have better performances as James Bond, he is solid here. While I don’t consider GoldenEye to be amongst the best Bond films, it is good overall.
1. Tomorrow Never Dies
Tomorrow Never Dies is often regarded as the second best of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies, but it’s my favourite of his. I do understand the criticisms for sure. It is very goofy and over the top at times, and it does lose itself in its overblown climax. They also could’ve done much more with its unique central concept with the media, they don’t execute it in the best way. Parts of the direction do feel a little lacklustre, especially after Martin Campbell’s direction of GoldenEye.
With all that being said, I couldn’t help but thoroughly enjoy this movie from beginning to end, despite its faults. One of the biggest praises I have is the tone, rather how consistent it is. Instead of wavering between silly and gritty like GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies leans in with the 90s action cheese and makes for a thoroughly entertaining film. The aforementioned plot concept involving the media is also quite unique, and while the film doesn’t make use of this idea fully, it still makes for a memorable film. Pierce Brosnan had a better showing as Bond compared to GoldenEye, Michelle Yeoh was a scene stealer and overshadows Brosnan at points, and Jonathan Pryce is scene chewingly enjoyable as the villain. The action is overblown but thoroughly entertaining. While there are certainly better movies in the franchise, Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the most entertaining Bond movies for me.
What do you think of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond? What did you think of his movies?