Movie Editor's Blog

Movie Editor's Blog

The best and worst performing Bond films

There are few safer bets in Hollywood than a Bond film.

'Skyfall' raked in £37million during its first week in the UK alone — a new record. But will it be the most successful Bond ever?

[Related story: Skyfall - everything you need to know]
[Related story: Exclusive - Craig  said he cried at Adele tune]

It's got some tough competition out there, as 007 flicks have made well over £3 billion since 'Dr. No' was released in 1963.

But which Bond films, adjusting for inflation, have turned in the most blockbusting receipts? How about the less-than-stellar iterations? We dusted off our abacus and found out...

Top dog... 'Skyfall' is breaking box office records (Credit: Sony)

The Top Five best-grossing Bond films

5: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Worldwide gross:
£430 million
Budget: £44 million

For a certain generation, 'The Spy Who Loved Me' is a solid favourite - if not the favourite - of the series. Once more directed by Lewis Gilbert, it featured some notably iconic moments, including the Lotus Esprit converting into a submarine, and the first appearance from henchman par excellence Jaws, played by the seven-foot actor Richard Kiel. Many consider it to be Roger Moore's best turn as Bond. Among those who worked on the script were 'A Clockwork Orange' writer Anthony Burgess and 'American Werewolf In London' director John Landis, while Pinewood built a dedicated stage - the 007 Stage - for the production at a cost of $1.8 million.

4: You Only Live Twice (1967)
Worldwide gross:
£469 million
Budget: £87.8 million

Cat-stroking SPECTRE number one Ernst Stavro Blofeld knocks heads with Bond in 'You Only Live Twice', with a screenplay written by Roald Dahl. Donald Pleasance's turn as the genius supervillain was, of course, spoofed extensively later by Mike Myers and his scene-stealing Dr Evil in the Austin Powers films. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, it's noted for upping the scale of Bond to rather more epic proportions than in previous outings.

3: Live and Let Die (1973)
Worldwide gross:
£512 million
Budget: £42 million

Roger Moore's debut, a 'Blaxploitation' Bond that was very much of its time. Its racial overtones were indeed noted, but still it was reasonably well-received among critics, and obviously smashed it at the box office. The Paul McCartney theme tune is still a cracker.

2: Goldfinger (1964)
Worldwide gross:
£567.4 million
Budget: £31 million

'Goldfinger' recouped its budget in just two weeks, and was one of the first 007 flicks to fully exploit marketing tie-ins, selling a replica of the Aston Martin DB5 through Corgi Toys. It has gone down in history as the archetypal 'Bond' - a template for his future adventures - so it's only appropriate that it (almost) tops our list.

Unusual tastes... Connery smelling a foot (Credit: Rex)

The winner: Thunderball (1965)
Worldwide gross:
£631.3 million
Budget: £87 million

This is a surprising number one, but the figures speak for themselves. With Sean Connery at the helm, 'Thunderball' was a huge success; smashing the earnings of the previous three Bond films as the franchise began to hit its stride. If released today, it would be a billion dollar movie - rivalling current box office behemoths such as 'The Dark Knight Rises' or 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'.

And the worst-grossing Bond films?

5: Dr No (1962)
Worldwide gross:
£273 million
Budget: £10.8 million

The very first James Bond film had it all to do. It is now much praised, frequently making the Top 10 in 'Best Bond' film lists, and the public warmed to it immediately, despite mixed reviews. Time magazine called Sean Connery 'a great big hairy marshmallow' who 'almost always manages to seem slightly silly'. But it still managed to become the fifth biggest film of 1962, and features Ursula Andress's legendary entrance, emerging from the sea in white bikini. Very profitable, but still low on the Bond box office list.

4: Octopussy (1983)
Worldwide gross:
£264 million
Budget: £47 million

Surely no one's favourite Bond film, 'Octopussy' was released to a widespread shrug from critics, who deemed it overlong at 131 minutes and confusing. Moore was also reluctant to do the film, as he'd fulfilled his contractual obligations. James Brolin screen-tested for the role, as did Timothy Dalton, but when the rival 'Never Say Never Again', not produced by the Broccoli family's Eon Productions, emerged, Moore got on board. But the results were decidedly mediocre.

3: The Living Daylights (1987)
Worldwide gross:
£236 million
Budget: £57 million

Poor Timothy Dalton. He only made two Bond films, and both languish in the top (or bottom) five worst-grossing outings. Pierce Brosnan was actually supposed to have become Bond much sooner, but he was contracted to comedy detective drama 'Remington Steele'. So Dalton was brought in instead. This was his first outing, and it was critically applauded for its realism over the arch, quip-heavy incarnation of Bond that Moore had developed. It did reasonably well at the box office too, but sadly, not quite well enough by Bond standards.

2: A View To A Kill (1985)
Worldwide gross:
£199 million
Budget: £46 million

Duran Duran, Christopher Walken, Grace Jones and a very early role for Dolph Lundgren. How could it fail? Though Walken was praised for his role as psychopathic industrialist Max Zorin (the part was offered to David Bowie and Sting first), Roger Moore's swansong was hammered by the critics, many saying he was too old. The Washington Post said: "Moore isn't just long in the tooth — he's got tusks, and what looks like an eye job has given him the pie-eyed blankness of a zombie." Oof. But even a bad Bond film makes money, and this certainly did.

Poor man's Bond... Dalton efforts in our bottom five (Credit: Rex)

The loser: License To Kill (1989)
Worldwide gross:
£177 million
Budget: £40 million

Dalton's second Bond was a darker portrayal of the super spy, with more graphic violence, so much so that the BBFC cut 36 seconds out of the film. It was released among a glut of other hits too, including 'Back To The Future Part II', 'Lethal Weapon 2', 'Batman' and 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. Coupled with its 15 rating, which limited audience numbers, the odds were always stacked against it being a huge hit, despite reasonably decent reviews.

The lesson here: no matter how bad a Bond, it'll still make a skip full of cash.