Was it all downhill after GoldenEye for the fifth 007?


How do Brosnan’s 007 movies shape up? (Image credit: MGM/United Artists)

Even before he signed up for the role that would define his career, it was destiny that Pierce Brosnan would one day play James Bond. Almost a decade earlier, long-term 007 rights holder Cubby Broccoli had identified the Irish actor as his first choice to replace Roger Moore, and it was only Brosnan’s prior commitments to US TV show Remington Steele that kept him out of the legendary spy’ tuxedo.

MI6 eventually got their man and the way he (initially, at least) captured a mix of Sean Connery’s edge and Roger Moore’s lightheartedness put him up there with the best James Bonds. As this list of the best Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies ranked suggests, however, the star’s tenure was something of a mixed bag.

Brosnan’s four-movie run was incredibly successful at the box office. However, after the excellent GoldenEye, his rein became a case of diminishing returns as he dragged 007 into the 21st century. The franchise wasn’t helped by the simultaneous rise of Mike Myers’ Austin Powers, who lampooned Bond’s excesses so successfully that Bond simply had to evolve – which he did when Daniel Craig took him back-to-basics in Casino Royale (while you’re here, read our Daniel Craig James Bond movies ranked piece).

If you have a hankering for a more fantastical era of invisible cars, our selection of the best Pierce Brosnan Bond movies will help you sort your Tomorrow Never Dies from your Die Another Days. So, what are you waiting for?

4. The World is Not Enough


The late Desmond Llewelyn made his last appearance as Q in The World is not Enough. (Image credit: MGM)

In hindsight, it wouldn’t be surprising if some observant fan spotted 007’s speedboat leaping over a shark in the movie’s opening chase on the River Thames as a fitting analogy for this film

The World is Not Enough is the movie where Brosnan’s tenure really started to lose its way. Every tired double entendre feels like it’s delivered with a massive wink; a film where even the character names (we’re looking at you, Doctor Christmas Jones) feel like set-ups for gags that’ll pay off later. In the year that Austin Powers went stratospheric with The Spy Who Shagged Me, Bond simply couldn’t get away with this stuff anymore.

Robert Carlyle is utterly wasted as Renard, a forgettable bad guy who feels no pain. While the reveal of the main villain is deftly handled, their evil scheme is nonsensical, even by Bond standards. But, worst of all, The World is Not Enough commits the worst possible sin for any Bond movie – it’s just dull.

3. Die Another Day


Die Another Day would be Pierce Brosnan’s final appearance as 007. (Image credit: MGM/20th Century Fox)

The film widely held up as a nadir in Bond’s long history isn’t actually as bad as all that. Yes, it’s silly, over-the-top, and makes very little sense, but it also tries to play around with the long-standing Bond formula. That the franchise went through a major reboot when Daniel Craig inherited the role owes as much to the success of Jason Bourne as any failure on the part of Die Another Day – don’t forget, this was the highest grossing Bond movie ever until Craig came along.

It starts out with some promise. 007 is captured in North Korea and tortured over the duration of Madonna’s divisive theme song. Once freed in a prisoner exchange, he’s accused of leaking government secrets, so goes rogue to work out who’s set him up.

Alas, from there the movie manages to stretch the limits of credibility way past breaking point, with face-changing technology, invisible cars, and even a giant space laser – clearly the writers still weren’t paying attention to Austin Powers’ exploits. 

Perhaps the movie’s biggest faux pas, though, is a CG paragliding sequence in which Bond looks like he’s jumped out of a second-rate videogame. This would’ve been passable during Sean Connery’s run (check out our Sean Connery James Bond movies ranked article while you’re here). For a movie set in 2002, however, if 007 stunts don’t look real, what’s the point?

2. Tomorrow Never Dies


Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin is the perfect foil for Brosnan’s 007. (Image credit: MGM)

There’s an almost satirical edge to Pierce Brosnan’s sophomore outing in the tuxedo, as 007 takes on a media mogul (Jonathan Pryce’s Elliot Carver) who’s trying to sell more newspapers (remember those?) by triggering a war with China. He may not be the most characteristic of Bond villains, but he’s one of the most plausible.

While the film’s not as accomplished as GoldenEye overall, Brosnan looks more comfortable in the role second-time out, and finds a nice blend between Roger Moore-style quips and Sean Connery’s harder edge. For all his leading man charm, though, Tomorrow Never Dies’ MVP is Michelle Yeoh as Chinese agent Wai Lin. It’s not the first time Bond has teamed up with a rival spy – the most notable example being Roger Moore outing The Spy Who Loved Me – but Yeoh’s long-established action credentials make Brosnan look second rate in comparison.

1. GoldenEye


Top trivia: Joe Don Baker (CIA agent Jack Wade) also played a villain in The Living Daylights. (Image credit: MGM/United Artists)

After the longest break in Bond history (it had been well over six years since Timothy Dalton bowed out in Licence to Kill), Pierce Brosnan belatedly got his hands on that famous Walther PPK. The pressure was on to prove that 007 remained relevant in the mid-’90s and luckily, GoldenEye (named after Ian Fleming’s Jamaican estate) turned out to be one of the series’ best movies.

The film wastes little time reminding audiences what they’d been missing, as Bond makes a spectacular statement of intent by leaping from a massive dam in Siberia. After that, the pace rarely lets up as Martin Campbell (who’d go on to helm Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale) expertly marshals a thrilling, globetrotting adventure. 007 displays his usual disdain for other people’s property, of course, whether he’s driving a tank through Red Square or testing out the explosive pen in his jacket pocket.

For Bond’s first mission in a post-Cold War world, the filmmakers pitted him against a shadowy reflection of himself, in the form of MI6 agent gone bad Alec Trevelyan (AKA 006, played by Sean Bean). Bond’s womanizing, high-risk lifestyle remains largely intact, but the movie does make a token attempt to move with the times with a new female M (Judi Dench) who has little time for Bond’s “sexist, misogynist, dinosaur” ways.

Despite being the undoubted highlight of the Brosnan era, GoldenEye is possibly best remembered for inspiring the classic Nintendo 64 game of the same name.

For more Bond-based content, find out how to watch the James Bond movies in order. Alternatively, read our definitive ranking of every Roger Moore James Bond movie or wrap your eyes around the best James Bond gadgets.

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Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard’s happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he’ll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard’s name was Winter.


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