“Bond, James Bond.” One of the most memorable lines in cinematic history also ignited one of the most profitable movie franchises in filmdom. The 26 Bond films thus far released (a 27th, “No Time to Die,” will be released in early October) have amassed $7 billion in worldwide box office revenues, placing Bond number three among top-grossing movie franchises, behind the Marvel series and Star Wars. Several are among the biggest worldwide box office hits of the last 20 years.
The suave, world-weary Bond was the creation of author Ian Fleming, who himself was a British Naval Intelligence officer during World War II, so he knew spycraft. Moviegoers seemingly can’t get enough of the daring exploits of 007, even though the movies follow the same basic formula: A madman or malevolent organization bent on destroying the world or doing some other evil deed is eventually defeated by Bond as he chases the villain through exotic locales and romances beautiful women. Bond himself summed it up when he said in “Dr. No”: “World domination. The same old dream.”
As with any long-standing movie series — the first Bond film “Dr. No” will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year — there are some clunkers among the gems. The best evoke the tensions of the Cold War (“From Russia With Love” “The Living Daylights”), while others had plots that were just plain silly, like “Moonraker.” (Here is a list of every James Bond movie ranked worst to best.)
Yet that unevenness hasn’t stopped audiences from flocking to the theater whenever a Bond film premieres. Even poorly reviewed examples like “A View to a Kill” rang up cash registers at the theatre. Nor have audiences been turned off by the changing face of Bond. Seven actors have played Bond, led by the most popular, Sean Connery. And there will soon be an eighth: Daniel Craig has indicated he will bow out after “No Time To Die” debuts in the fall.
To determine the James Bond movies that did best at the box office, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on domestic box office for all 26, as of May 2021, from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Box office figures were adjusted for inflation using historical ticket prices from the National Association of Theatre Owners and the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ratings came from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon. Audience score is from Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. Information from both was gathered from April to May 2021.
The enduring appeal of 007 no doubt figured in Amazon’s recent decision to pay $8.45 billion for MGM — the studio that releases the Bond movies. The sheer size of the deal and Amazon’s bet on the profitability of the franchise ensures there will probably always be a next Bond, James Bond.