A love affair with the James Bond series is like a marriage; it's for life, and it's definitely a "richer or poorer, better or worse" proposition. Some days you get Casino Royale (2006) or Goldfinger (1964), where everything is bliss, but then other days you get Grace Jones or a cameo from Madonna or someone named "Christmas Jones." Some days are Connery and some are Lazenby. Some days your director is Guy Hamilton or Martin Campbell, and some days your director is John Glen or Marc Forster. But, like a diamond, the imperfections are what make it all worthwhile. From among the dregs, then, here are a few of my favorite things:
1. The entire supporting cast in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
I confess it's one of the weakest Roger Moore entries, but come on! Motherf---in' Christopher "Dracula/Dooku/Saruman" Lee is the bad guy! And Hervé Villechaize as his diminutive villainous sidekick! And sex-goddess Britt Ekland as the Bond girl! In a bikini! And Swedish model Maud Adams, who would return as "Octopussy"! And Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn! And Soon-Tek Oh as Lieutenant Hip. The only drawback is that the goldurn redneck sheriff returns (see #2)...
2. The Paul McCartney Theme Song in Live and Let Die (1973)
Some fans like this early Roger Moore entry, but Moore hadn't yet settled into the role yet, and I call it "the one with the redneck sheriff and the idiotic boat chase." But conversely, it has one of the best -- if not the best -- song of the series, with its slow build, peculiar tempo changes and odd lyrics ("in this ever changing world in which we live in.") This was McCartney at his crazy out-there best, and it brings much goodwill to the rest of the film.
3. Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
I genuinely like this movie, but Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB rankings indicate that it's one of the least regarded. In the post-Cold War/early-internet era, it was a clever idea to make the villain a media baron, and Teri Hatcher was a perfect Bond girl, having just come from playing Lois Lane on television. But the movie's best bet was Yeoh, a Hong Kong martial arts superstar trying to break into Hollywood at the time of the Chinese handover. Sure, director Roger Spottiswoode never really used her to great advantage, but she was arguably the toughest, fastest Bond girl to date. (She only needed to be rescued once or twice.)
4. Richard Kiel in Moonraker (1979)
This is my personal choice for the worst film of the entire series, but I still own it on DVD, and for one reason: Kiel. He debuted as the steel-toothed "Jaws" in the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which was actually one of the better films. But like a cheap Friday the 13th sequel, they brought him back for more rampaging and more cheesiness. Moore's befuddled look when faced with the dentally-enhanced bad guy is also quite priceless.
5. Maryam d'Abo and her cello case in The Living Daylights (1987)
Maryam d'Abo may have been one of the most wooden of all Bond girls, but she was very definitely the cutest. We get lots of tough, beautiful, or sexy Bond girls who look good in bikinis or leather, but rarely do the films feature one with a cute blonde bob and a cute little overbite. But besides that, d'Abo's character came complete with a handy cello case just in time for one of the most ludicrous and hilarious of all Bond chase scenes.
6. The opening teaser of Die Another Day (2002)
Everybody seems to hate this final Pierce Brosnan entry, but even detractors must admit that it shows a readiness to leave behind the goofy, campy entries of the 1980s and plunge Bond into new levels of darkness. For the first time, the teaser tied in directly with the rest of the story, and rather than doing something silly and heroic, it features Bond getting captured and tortured. Maybe the film was ahead of its time, or maybe audiences were upset that the later stuff, like the invisible car, didn't quite fit, but at least it was a good try.
7. The moon buggy in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Here I must quote Roger Ebert from his 1971 review: "Bond finds himself driving a moon buggy (antennae wildly revolving and robot arms flapping) while being chased across a desert -- never mind why. The buggy looks comical, but Connery does not; he is completely at home, as we know by now, with every form of transportation." That sums up why I like Diamonds Are Forever.