There is no shortage of lists ranking the best James Bond movies. Ditto lists about the best or worst James Bond cars. I know, I’ve written some of them. As such, why not combine the two ideas into one new list that ranks all 24 official James Bond movies based exclusively on their cars, or more accurately their car content. I would then pull from my 25 years of James Bond nerddom plus the excellent “Bond Cars: The Definitive History” and our interview with long-time Bond special effects supervisor Chris Corbould to provide tidbits and factoids about the cars and their roles in the movies. And no, this does not include “No Time to Die,” although it adds plenty of car content to the series in its own right.
To determine the list, I considered the inherent coolness of the cars as well as their importance to Bond, film and car history. I considered their importance to the story as well as the quality/excitement of the chases and scenes they participated in. Finally, I tried my best to divorce the car content from my opinions about the movies in general. That my personal list of best James movies looks nothing like this shows I was at least partially successful.
There are virtually no cars in “Moonraker.” None. Oh, there’s a gondola on wheels that makes a pigeon do a double-take, but that’s not the same thing as a car. Neither is a golf cart. Or an ambulance. Or a space shuttle.
23. ‘From Russia With Love’
The literary James Bond mostly drove an ancient Bentley, and “From Russia with Love” is the only film in which it appears. It stays parked and the coolest thing that happens (by 1962 standards) is 007 answers its car phone. Thereafter, we get some old cars (even by 1962 standards) driving around Istanbul and a yellow truck. So yeah. Classic Bond film, a must-watch, just not for its car content.
22. ‘Dr. No’
History records that the first “Bond car” is the Sunbeam Alpine in “Dr. No.” The car itself was literally borrowed from a Miss Jennifer Jackson of 53 Lady Musgrave Road in Jamaica for 10 pounds per day for two days during filming. Also, the stunt where it drove under an excavator blocking the road was entirely conceived because the filmmakers showed up to the road they intended to film on and discovered an excavator blocking the thing. Sadly, those are really the only two things interesting about the Alpine, which is a pretty small and dainty thing by Bond car standards. It just doesn’t fit. There’s also some truly terrible old-timey sawing-at-the-wheel driving from Mr. Connery while a hilarious rear-projected film of the chase goes on behind him.
21. ‘Licence to Kill’
Our vehicle classification board has determined that a Kenworth big rig is not a car, and therefore, “Licence to Kill’s” truly impressive, climactic big-rig chase does not count toward its overall score. Too bad. As such, this film must rely on the Maserati Biturbo 425 driven by the bad guys (dude, drug dealers could afford something way better), a blue Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II driven by Q (I mean, it’s not a bad car) and the Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC driven by Bond in the Florida Keys. The latter was actually a pretty cool car for its day and packed the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8, but it just isn’t right for Bond. It was like he opted for something from the Hertz Premium collection.
20. ‘Live and Let Die’
Once again, those persnickety fellows have dictated that a boat is also not the same thing as a car, so no points for having the coolest boat chase of all time. Also no points for the double-decker bus chase. Now, some points do go to the collection of nifty Pimpmobiles on display early in the movie along with the entire Eastside Highway in New York exclusively and conspicuously populated by the same two or three General Motors models.
This would be the lowest-ranking movie featuring the Aston Martin DB5. Yes, it’s in the movie, yes it shows off a few gadgets like a water sprayer and pop-up bullet shield, but it does so while parked. Later, the Spectre bad guy tailing 007 is blown off the road by fellow Spectre baddy Fiona Volpe before 007 and the DB5 can do anything about it. So, not much action. The classic Aston wasn’t the only car in “Thunderball” that showed up after appearances in “Goldfinger”: so did the Lincoln Continental, Ford Thunderbird and Ford Mustang. Only the latter did something remotely interesting: Volpe scaring 007 by driving really fast. This always struck me as condescending to women (and a pretty bad-ass one at that), inflating a sense of peril that didn’t really exist, and some cheesy editing as the car’s speed was obviously increased in post. This movie is about things under water, not on the road.
18. ‘A View to a Kill’
The most noteworthy car in this movie is the 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II that was actually owned by Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. Yes, they actually used a different car when Grace Jones rolls it into a pond. There’s also a C4 Corvette driven by a Russian spy, a Jeep Cherokee driven by Tanya Roberts, and what is possibly the least James Bond car ever, a Ford LTD. Good grief. However, this movie is buoyed by the fun car chase through Paris where Bond makes off with a Renault 11 taxi to follow a parachutist along the Seine. The taxi flies down stairs, through the air and onto buses, before eventually getting chopped in half … when it just keeps going. So, who-cares cars, neat car chase.
17. ‘The World Is Not Enough’
Unlike the Z3 two films prior, the future-classic BMW Z8 actually shows off the toys Q (and R!) says it has, including little missiles that pop out from the car’s fender vents. We also see Bond drive it remotely using the key fob, albeit quite slowly on a pier, and quite briefly. It may have been 22 years ago, but I vividly remember the groan that washed through the theater when the Z8 meets those saw blades. Fun fact: BMW could only supply two early production prototypes to the film. The Bond production team had to build three more using BMW-supplied components, a Chevy V8, some Jaguar suspension bits and who knows what else lying around the shop. So all that groaning was for not. It was a fake.
16. ‘Quantum of Solace’
As the Aston Martin DBS was featured first in “Casino Royale,” much of its cool factor had already been used up by the time it shows up immediately in the “Quantum” pre-titles sequence. It then takes part in a pretty good car chase until you start to realize that Bond is struggling to outrun an Alfa Romeo 159, a car that looks cool but was rubbish to drive. It was no Giulia Quadrifoglio. This is certainly not the only automotive mismatch in Bond history, but it further stunts the DBS’ impact in this movie. Later, a Ford Ka and Ford Edge show up and are apparently powered by hydrogen? Because, reason?
15. ‘Diamonds are Forever’
In all honesty, I must admit that this is one of my two least favorite James Bond movies (you’ll find out the other later). Much of that has to do with how heartlessly it moves on from the emotional cliffhanger of the preceding “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” though I also find it too silly and a bit dull. Nevertheless, it has some pretty good car stuff in it. Director Guy Hamilton thought American cars were terrible, so he took great glee in going out of his way to make sure as many ponderous land yachts were destroyed as possible during the Vegas car chase scene. One American car that was definitely not terrible, though perhaps still a bit ponderous, was the Ford Mustang Mach 1 that’s indeed one of the most famous Bond cars. It’s also involved in one of the worst continuity errors of all time: It goes into an alley on its two right wheels and comes out on its left. That mistake was already the result of a reshoot, and Hamilton decided it wasn’t worth a third go. “Diamonds” is also famous for its Moon Buggy that 007 steals, its ridiculous arms flailing about as it careens across the desert outmaneuvering more hapless land yacht cop cars. It’s one of the reasons I think the movie’s too silly, but people seem to dig the thing: It sold at auction in 2019 for $512,000.
14. ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’
This movie has one of the greatest car-related stunts in film history and possibly THE greatest in Bond history. In short: Car approaches broken bridge, launches into the air over a river, does a full 360-degree rotation in midair, and lands on the other side of the broken bridge. Sensational. Unfortunately, someone had the bright idea to make it slow motion in the film, and most egregiously, played a slide whistle during the rotation. Unforgivable. Now, if you ever wondered why this stunt was performed with an AMC Hornet, the answer was it had to be. The stunt was originally developed using an AMC Javelin using nascent computer modeling. Remember, this was the early 1970s. Computer anything was space age. Perhaps because the Javelin was on its way out of the AMC lineup, the Hornet was used instead and a partnership with AMC was hatched to also include a hideous AMC Matador as baddy Francisco Scaramanga’s car. That would end up becoming a “flying car” – basically the wing, tail and engine are plopped on top of the roof. It, or rather an incredibly obvious model, then takes off. Apparently, some audience members thought the flying Matador was real and the Hornet river jump was faked. Can’t imagine the slide whistle helped.
13. ‘Casino Royale’
The cars in “Casino Royale” play a symbolic role in this origin story that shows Bond becoming Bond. In Britain, the term “Mondeo Man” was used to describe a regular, median-class guy, one who’d drive a regular, median-class car like a Ford Mondeo. It is therefore not just a bit of groan-worthy product placement that leads Daniel Craig to drive a Mondeo early on in “Casino Royale.” He’s still a regular old agent. But soon enough, he’s winning a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 at the poker table, explaining how a government employee could somehow afford a classic grand-touring sports car, as Pierce Brosnan’s Bond did (this origin would be totally thrown out the window, and the steering wheel moved back to the British side, in later movies, but no one really cares). Later, Bond says “I love you too, M” as he takes ownership of an Aston Martin DBS. This is his first true “Bond car” — he has arrived, at least vehicularly. Of course, the DBS sees some spectacular, if brief, action. As he swerves to avoid Vesper Lynd lying in the road, the DBS flips a world-record seven times. Behind the camera, that took some extra effort. As the DBS was not yet in production, the stunt team practiced the flip with a BMW 5 Series and an Aston Martin DB9. When the DBS showed up, however, there was so much downforce and stability that the upgraded DBS wouldn’t flip despite driving it over progressively larger ramps. Chris Corbould’s team had to come up with a novel solution: Install air cannon to fire down into the pavement. Mission accomplished and a world-record inadvertently achieved.
Xenia Onatopp may be an ace pilot, but she’s clearly a crap driver. How else to explain her inability to outrun a 30-year-old Aston Martin while driving a brand-spanking-new Ferrari F355? Nevertheless, both of those are exceptionally cool cars (the first appearance of the Brosnan DB5 and the first DB5 at all since “Thunderball”), and the post-titles car chase they feature in is a whole lot of fun. It’s also the best car chase featuring a DB5 in the series, and that counts for a lot. Of course, the Bond car from “GoldenEye” was the BMW Z3, which is something that’s rife with mixed emotions. Objectively, it’s barely in the movie, does none of the things Q says it can, and the car itself is a bit lame given its four-cylinder engine. On the other hand, I own one, specifically because it made such an indelible impression when I was 12 years old. I’m not the only one out there. This movie also has a wildly amusing car chase through St. Petersburg, but as Bond is piloting a tank, it loses half its available points.
11. ‘Die Another Day’
I hate this movie. I could spill 1,000 words extolling everything that’s terrible about it, but inevitably, the proof is the big ‘ol reset button the Bond producers pressed one film later with “Casino Royale.” They recognized they had gone too far, too outlandish, too cheesy, too CGI, too Madonna. They had jumped the shark, or in Bond parlance, “cloaked the Vanquish.” Q Branch is given a lot of leeway in terms of realism, but making a car disappear is way too far. Romulan technology has no business in a Bond car. All of that said, I recognize that the Aston Martin Vanquish is a cool car and that the ice battle with the weapons-filled Jaguar XKR was a monumental achievement by the special effects team. Then again, the chase bit in the ice castle belongs in Batman & Robin, but there I go again. There’s lots of car stuff in this movie. Let’s just leave it there.
There are actually parallels between the automotive action in “Spectre” and “Die Another Day”: Both feature Bond in a gadget-laden Aston Martin and bad guy in a Jaguar. However, things are more within the realm of established Bond-world-believability here, both in terms of the gadgets and the location: the streets and riverside of Rome rather than an ice castle. The chase also isn’t just throw-away action. Bond is on the phone with Moneypenny for much of it, which dispenses with some important plot exposition as well as being a clever juxtaposition of Bond fleeing for his life while Moneypenny enjoys a quiet evening at home with her boyfriend. All of that said, there’s nothing that was actually “real” about either of the cars: the Aston Martin DB10 was made specifically at the behest of director Sam Mendes after seeing a sketch of something like it at Aston HQ, while the Jaguar C-X75 was a one-time concept car whose initial production plans were cancelled two years before “Spectre’s” release. This would be its only moment glory. The Aston Martin DB5 also has a glorious moment in “Spectre,” but I won’t ruin that bit for you.
9. ‘You Only Live Twice’
The Toyota 2000GT is a true classic. That one of the most iconic Japanese cars ever appears in the only James Bond film to take place in Japan was pure serendipity. The 2000GT that appears in “You Only Live Twice” is also unique: It’s a roadster. At 6-foot-2, Sean Connery could not fit in the car without awkwardly folding his arms. They attempted to create a targa look, but then Connery’s head would pop up between the front and rear headers like a whack-a-mole. A roadster it would be then, though no attempt was actually made to put a convertible roof under the tonneau cover. Note that the 2000GT isn’t actually driven by 007: It’s Japanese agent Aki’s, making this technically the rare “Bond girl car.” There’s also lots of interesting period Japanese cars in this film, including the Toyota Crown that gets dropped into Tokyo Bay.
8. ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’
If we’re to be honest, it’s always strained believability that Q could actually stuff that many gadgets into sports cars. A full-size flagship luxury sedan, though? That not only seems plausible, but the art department really had a field day with the BMW 750iL featured here. This thing not only had 12 cylinders, but 12 rockets in the sunroof plus caltrops spikes that drop down from the bumper, tear gas, re-inflating tires, electrified door handles and a cable cutter under the BMW roundel that just-so-happens to be the exact height of a cable strung up by the bad guys to clothesline Bond. Great foresight, Q! It can also be remotely driven using Bond’s cellphone, resulting in some pretty cool shots of a seemingly driverless car (the real driver was actually in a special rig on the back seat floor). The Brosnan Bond DB5 makes its second appearance, but it’s fleeting. A third was left on the cutting room floor of “The World is Not Enough.”
More verdicts have just come down from the vehicle classification board: A tiny jet that emerges from a horse’s ass and a submarine that looks like an alligator are not cars. However, a three-wheeled Indian tuk-tuk taxi is. Barely, but they’re allowing it. It is featured in one of the more amusing and certainly unorthodox car(ish) chases in Bond history, shown above. The chase was filmed in Udaipur, India, where the crowd and traffic weren’t always aware that filming was taking place. The dude on the bicycle that rides in between the tuk-tuk and the baddie’s Jeep … not planned, just a dude riding to work. There is also lots of great stuff featuring vehicles that are definitely cars … even if Bond ends up driving the black Mercedes W123 on train tracks. The stolen Alfa Romeo GTV 6 that Bond uses while evading the BMW-driving polizei is definitely the coolest car in the film, and the rare instance of 007 driving something Italian. So although there is no iconic “Bond car” in “Octopussy,” the car-related action is among the series’ best. The more I agonized over this list, the higher it seemed to rise.
Within the continuity of the Daniel Craig Bond films, the Aston Martin DB5 is a mess. First he won a DB5 in “Casino Royale” – a “regular” one that was even left-hand-drive. Then, in “Skyfall,” he actually owns the gadget-laden car from the 1960s. This doesn’t really make sense, but do we care? We do not. The scenes involving this car are pure Bond perfection, sure to bring a nostalgia-flavored tear to any 007 fan’s eye. We’ll see what’s in store for this car in “No Time to Die,” but to date at least, this is the DB5’s second-greatest appearance. We also get some great action in the pre-titles sequence with a Land Rover Defender.
5. ‘For Your Eyes Only’
The auburn-colored Lotus Esprit Turbo in this movie, complete with gold wheels and Olin Mark VI skis mounted to the hatch, is a deeply desirable car. It’s beautiful and achingly cool. Sort of like Roger Moore, actually. It is one of two Esprits in “For Your Eyes Only,” the other being a white one that succumbs to its own anti-theft system. With it out of the picture, Bond must rely on Melina Havelock’s wheels: a canary yellow Citroen 2CV. This is obviously a terrible car, but that was exactly the point. After the absurdity of “Moonraker,” the Bond producers wanted to literally bring 007 back down to earth. What better way to do that than to strip him of his gadget-filled exotic sports car and deposit him into a woefully underpowered tin can. The ensuing car chase is truly one of the series’ best.
4. ‘The Living Daylights’
Aston Martin makes its return after 18 years away from the franchise (Roger Moore never drove one) with a V8 Vantage taking a starring role in one of the series’ best car sequences. The Vantage is featured throughout the film, in both convertible and coupe body styles (Q implies that it’s the same car, but let’s just forget he said that), ferrying Bond around England first and then Czechoslovakia where it sticks out like … an Aston Martin in Czechoslovakia. It is there where it flees hapless cops in Iron Curtain crap cans on various forms of icy surfaces. There are missiles, outrigger skis, lasers in the wheels, an after-burner rocket … basically, it’s a quintessential Bond car. There’s also some great pre-titles action featuring a Land Rover and the first instance of Bond driving German cars: an Audi 200 Quattro Turbo and a 200 Avant. This is an underappreciated Bond movie, though this is almost certainly the only list of Bond movies where it’ll end up No. 4.
3. ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’
This would be the last movie for Aston Martin before it disappeared for those 18 years and seven films (a token background glimpse notwithstanding). Somehow that seems fitting given that the green DBS is an indelible part of the film’s final moment, one of the most iconic in the entire series. It appears throughout the film, however, including in the pre-titles sequence where Bond drives it onto a beach in order to save Teresa di Vincenzo. But it is ultimately her car that’s the real automotive star of OHMSS: a red 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible with the 428 Cobra Jet engine. Damn Tracy, nice wheels. She puts on an epic driving display on icy Swiss roads with 6-foot-high snow banks before Bond urges her to lose the bad guys by driving into a stock car race on a frozen lake (Dianna Rigg actually did a fair bit of driving for the sequence). For his car, for her car, for the entire movie actually, this is one of the best.
2. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’
There is a strong argument to be made that a Lotus Esprit that drives into the sea and turns into a submarine is the coolest car that has ever appeared in a James Bond movie. The lengthy sequence, both on land and under water, is also some of the finest action in the series. So, let’s now dispense with the justifications for its lofty list placement and share some fun facts. White was chosen by director of photography Claude Renoir (grandson of the Renoir) because it would look best with the Sardinian background. There were two fully functioning Esprits, one of which was actually owned by Lotus Chairman Colin Chapman (it was the only other white one built at that point). One Esprit served as a camera car for the other since it was the only car on hand that could keep up with it. Seven Esprit body shells were used in the transformation sequence, including for the final submarine, whose conversion into a fully functioning watercraft cost $100,000 in 1977 money ($450,000 today). A diver in full scuba gear operated it, including all the gadgets used, and it wasn’t water tight. You know, I’ve just had a thought. Once it became a submarine, did the Esprit stop being a car? I’d better stop now before the vehicle classification board gets wind of this.
Was there any doubt? The Lotus Esprit submarine is arguably a cooler car. There are more thrilling and innovative car sequences in most of the above films, including in those where an actual Aston Martin DB5 appears. An argument could be made for going with another movie, but in the end, there’s nothing like the original. The DB5 played such an unforgettable role in “Goldfinger” it might as well have been listed between Sean Connery and Gert Frobe in the credits. It is what defines the idea of a Bond car: something exotic packed with gadgets. Importantly, it’s also featured throughout the film and gets to show off those gadgets. This movie also includes memorable supporting roles for the then-new Mustang, iconic 1963 Lincoln Continental, a Ford Ranchero and Goldfinger’s Rolls-Royce. Ultimately, though, you watch the third James Bond film for what is widely considered “the most famous car in the world.”
The End of All 24 James Bond movies ranked only by their cars
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