“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”
Bond films have been around so long that it’s hard to remember how innovative they were in the 60s. Now, there’s a precise Bond formula, and everyone knows what to expect in a Bond film—so much so that when Die Another Day turned the formula on its head in 2002, audiences hated it. If you’ve seen a few Bond films, you know what I’m talking about: James Bond finishes up a job, then reports back to his agency, where Q introduces him to some new gadgets. Then he meets the villain and does some gambling and wins. Then he meets the villain’s attractive female henchman. There’s lots of great action and witty one-liners to keep things light. Bond is suave and sophisticated, but tough when he needs to be. Some laws of physics are broken, but Bond films aren’t meant to be serious.
Well, that formula hasn’t been baked into every Bond film since the start. 1964’s Goldfinger, directed by Guy Hamilton (who would go on to direct other Bond films) and starring Sean Connery (the only real James Bond), may not have been the first film to feature the titular spy hero, but it was undoubtedly the first real Bond film. Its two predecessors were much darker in tone and different in structure to what we know as Bond films today. Goldfinger was the first to introduce us to Q and Bond’s gadgets, and lay out the blueprint for almost every Bond film to follow. It’s also probably the best the sprawling series has to offer. If you’re a stranger to James Bond, this is a great place to start. (Also, disclaimer: this is actually the first Bond film I’ve seen, so sorry if I get some of the details wrong here!)