3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Previous ranking: 3
What we said last year: "Boy, has this one come a long way. For years it was widely accepted as the unmitigated disaster of the series: it's a goofy story about hypnotism, food allergies and biological warfare, featuring a subplot in which James Bond falls in love, gets married, and is widowed. At its center was a male model (George Lazenby) with the misfortune of being the first 'new Bond', taking the bullet for all new Bonds to follow. Today On Her Majesty's Secret Service is rightfully recognized as one of the best, most faithful adaptations of Fleming's bonkers source material (and the last one until 2006). It's got an incredible score from John Barry that stops just short of giving this new 007 his own theme. And editor Peter Hunt takes over directing duties, turning the film into a kaleidoscopic swan song for 007's first decade. It's also got, in Telly Savalas, the best incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. And Lazenby? He's really not so bad -- and try as you might, you can't successfully picture Connery in the role as it exists in this film."
What we think now: For four decades this was the only film in which Bond suffered a personal loss. Viewed as a failure, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has been the go-to blueprint for most of the 21s century: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall all had loved ones dying in Bond's arms. Spectre pit Bond vs. Blofeld for the first time in decades, and its script originally ended with Bond telling Madeline, "we have all the time in the world." When the franchise wants pathos, they seem to always go back to the palette of the one-time misfire. That counts for something.