Of the three Bond films that make the list, one is 'classic' Bond, and the other two are the most recent Bond films (excluding Quantum of Solace). There is no argument from me that all three deserve a place in any list of greatest films, and it is easy to imagine why they appear in this one. As Empire magazine states, Goldfinger (1964) marks “a series high point.” It is the film that defines the series, bringing us the whole package – the gadgets, the car, the humour, the charming but mad villain, the henchman, the razor-sharp lines, and Bond at his most assured and sardonic. If Bond films are formulaic, then the formula they (and many other action/spy films) follow is that set by Goldfinger.
Casino Royale (2006) is highlighted by Empire as “Martin Campbell's radical reboot.” It put Bond back in the race after the series had lost ground to seemingly superior thrillers and actioners, among them the Mission: Impossible and Bourne films. And it gave us a Bond, played by Daniel Craig, that removed the spectre of Sean Connery's Bond that had loomed over all previous portrayals. Skyfall (2012) brought rare emotion and depth to the Bond series, while still retaining the action and other familiar elements of the Bond films. And it was a huge hit.
As worthy as these films are, though, is it fair to say that Casino Royale and Skyfall are better than, say, the best of Roger Moore's outings, or that Goldfinger is the best of Sean Connery's efforts? Is EON simply making better Bond films today than they were in the past? Looking at the distribution of release dates among the entire results, we might have predicted that two of the most recent Bond films would have been selected. The histogram below shows that the distribution is heavily skewed in favour of recent films. Some 35% of films in the list were made after 2000, and almost half were made within the past 20 years.
Should Casino Royale and Skyfall have been placed higher? Possibly, though not because of their age. The scattergram below, which plots year of release against poll position, shows no clear trend (for example, for more recent films to be generally higher placed than older films, although there is a hint of that in the chart, with the oldest films having a relatively low rank).
Nevertheless, I would have liked to have seen other Bond films in Empire's list – The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and GoldenEye, for instance. To me, three Bond films out of 23 seems a poor return for a series that has continued to entertain audiences, make huge profits, and had a significant impact on the cultural environment. I await Empire's next poll with much interest.