James Bond as a character has long overshadowed his original book counterpart for the past six decades. In 2022, one year removed from the upcoming No Time to Die release, the James Bond movie franchise would have lasted 60 years, ranking it among the longest-running franchises in movie history.
The James Bond novel series, even post-Fleming, is still active, with the latest book—an untitled sequel to The Man With The Golden Gun—set for a May 2022 release date. The Bond book series remains one of the longest novelizations at almost 70 years. All things considered, the books are just as important as the movies and by the same sword, many of the original big-screen stories are just as good as the direct Bond adaptations.
10 Book: Dr. No Is An Impressive Onscreen Debut For Bond
James Bonds’ cinematic journey began with a 1962 adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel, Dr. No. While not the most accurate adaptation of a Bond novel since a good handful of liberties are taken with the source material, that didn’t stop audiences from gravitating towards the character on the big screen, justifying the making of several sequels and follow-ups.
Most of that is thanks to a devilishly charming performance from Sean Connery in his first of many outings.
9 Original: Licence to Kill Started A Trend
Fun Fact: before Licence to Kill, every James Bond movie either was adapted from a previously written James Bond novel or short story or at least shared a title with a previous James Bond story. This marks the first time that a James Bond movie offered a totally original title and story (although some parts of the story borrow elements from Live and Let Die, The Hildebrand Rarity, and strangely enough, Yojimbo).
It also marks just the second and final outing from Timothy Olyphant in the role, which is a shame because seeing how quickly he slips into the part really showcases what potential he had to carry the role for at least a few more movies.
8 Book: From Russia With Love Proved Bond Was Here To Stay
The success of Dr. No was expected, but nonetheless monumental considering the movie brought in nearly $60 million at the box office off of a $1.1 million budget. Even with that budget only increased to $2 million, From Russia with Love had high expectations that were exceeded after it made $79 million, guaranteeing that Bond was here to stay in cinemas for a very long time.
Like Dr. No, From Russia with Love tried its best to remain close to the book’s material, despite constant rewrites that deterred from the original material.
7 Original: Skyfall Celebrates 50 Years
Released in 2012, Skyfall marked both the 23rd film in the franchise and the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s inception. And it arrives in stunning fashion that stands tall against some of the best entries into the series, and that’s not just because Adele provided an Oscar-winning theme tune.
It’s because Skyfall takes cues from the previous two entries—Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace—in offering a more emotional, humane portrait of James Bond. Not to mention, a chilling performance by Javier Bardem that offers the perfect antithesis to Bond.
6 Book: Live & Let Die Kicks Off The Moore Era In Style
At the time of its release, Live and Let Die was one of the more surprisingly societally relevant movies to release in the franchise. The movie’s screenwriter, Tom Mankiewicz, was under the impression it would be a daring choice to adapt a novel with a Black villain since Blaxploitation movies were becoming popular at the time and social movements like the Black Panther Party were on the rise.
In addition to offering one of the more unique entries in the series, this is a landmark movie for introducing the world to Roger Moore as James Bond in his first outing.
5 Original: The Spy Who Loved Me Is An Original Story, But Not Title
This one has a complicated relationship to the books. Yes, the movie’s title is borrowed from Ian Fleming’s 1962 novel of the same name, but instead of being an adaptation of the book, the movie features absolutely no connection to or story elements from the book in favor of a totally original story.
While fans of the book surely had to have been disappointed, The Spy Who Loved Me certainly didn’t shortchange anyone in terms of quality content. Not when the villains are so ruthless, the Bond Girl is surprisingly well written as an equal to Bond, and when Moore is at his absolute best and perfect as everyone’s favorite spy.
4 Book: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Makes Bond Vulnerable
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sticks out of the franchise like a sore thumb since it serves as George Lazenby’s only outing as James Bond, but don’t let that overshadow the overall quality of the movie. This movie pre-dates 2006’s Casino Royale in reconstructing the usually cool, calm, and collected Bond as a more vulnerable human who was madly in love.
On top of that, the production team agreed to make the script as close as possible to the book of the same name, which is quite excellent in itself. Even if fans sour on Lazenby, they can’t deny the compelling source material remains intact.
3 Original: Tomorrow Never Dies Offers Bond His Best Girl
Pretty much all of Pierce Brosnan’s outings as James Bond are entirely original stories. Mostly because by the time that he came along, the franchise basically ran out of books to adapt that were written by Ian Fleming. As a result, Brosnan-led movies like Tomorrow Never Dies were born.
Even without Fleming’s influence, Brosnan carries the weight of the franchise on his shoulders with elegance and grace when supported by a script that still manages to be exciting. It also helps that he has the dynamic Michelle Yeoh pulling double duty as his sidekick and as a Bond Girl. Many praise her as one of the best Bond Girls ever.
2 Book: Casino Royale Starts The Craig Era, & Bond’s Journey
Although a Bond parody was released in 1967, the Ian Fleming novel of the same name was never truly, accurately adapted until 2006. This was Fleming’s first novel and with the onscreen tweaking for the story to mark Bond’s first major mission as 007, the pressure of expectations was on the heels of Daniel Craig, who upon his first outings received massive backlash for not looking the part.
Craig exceeded expectations by acting the part and offering what many have said to be among one of the very best Bond performances in the franchise. It’s why he’s remained in the role for the past 15 years.
1 Original: GoldenEye Might Be The Best Movie
GoldenEye shares the name not with an Ian Fleming story, but with the estate that Fleming owned in the ’40s on Oracabessa Bay in Jamaica. Not even the story resembles anything out of a Fleming Bond novel or post-Fleming novel. Instead, this is a point where the series was entirely rebooted, recasting Bond with Pierce Brosnan in his first outing and making Judi Dench the first woman to play James Bond’s boss, M.
The movie is often highlighted in cinema history among the best Bond movies, even going as far as to inspire a video game of the same name that endures its own high-profile legacy among the best games released on the Nintendo 64.
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Myck Maverick (245 Articles Published)
Myck Maverick is an English major who wants to steer is skill of writing to pontificate his knowledge and love for the comic book industry, as well as the movie industry. CBR overs the perfect medium to flex his writing muscles as an emerging young writer. Additionally, Myck Maverick’s work and expertise can be found by searching his name over at TheThings, a sister site of CBR under the Valnet umbrella.