What list of great films would be complete without a James Bond film? Ian Fleming’s James Bond is one of cinema’s iconic figures. When was the last time you heard of a character enduring on the big screen for fifty years with more films in the works? James Bond has proven to be a character bigger than the actors that have played him as the men who have brought the character to life have ranged from a young Sean Connery, to a much older Roger Moore, to the current brutally physical portrayal by Daniel Craig. In total six actors have played the part of James Bond with each bringing a different feel to the character. That said, I think it is fitting that “Goldfinger” (1964) was the film to make the list. It was the third bond film and Connery had grown into the part and made it his own. It was directed by Guy Hamilton who also went on to direct “Diamonds are Forever,” “Live and Let Die,” and “The Man with the Golden Gun.” It also has, arguably, the best introductory song of any film in the Bond canon. So does this film deserve to sit among the classics?
Should this film be considered a classic? Look, the fact of the matter is that a Bond film had to make the list. Sean Connery is, for most people, the iconic James Bond. He created the mold that all the other actors had to try emulate while at the same time make their own. That makes picking a Connery Bond movie a no-brainer. “Goldfinger” is one of the more memorable Bond films because the villain looks a bit different than other Bond villains. Goldfinger is largely incompetent. He is socially inept, he cheats at cards and golf, and he is driven not be a desire to take over the world but only to grow his own personal wealth by increasing the price of his gold. He is the exact opposite of Connery’s Bond and that makes watching the two of them on screen together such a treat. The plot and supporting cast are all classic Bond. There are gadgets, girls, and the easily recognized James Bond theme spread liberally throughout the film. While debate will undoubtedly rage about which Bond film should have been included on this list, I think that most people would have included “Goldfinger” on the short list.
Would I own this film? Yes, even though I can’t help but watch it and chuckle at many of the aspects of it that have been oft parodied. From the ridiculous names of the female characters to the insane gadgets, it’s sometimes hard to watch it without having scenes from Austin Powers flashing in my brain. “Goldfinger” is still an example of James Bond done right. It’s beautifully filmed with great set pieces and does a good job of balancing fun and seriousness (where the Daniel Craig Bond films are all seriousness and no fun). “Goldfinger” is Bond before he became an object of parody and even within the film some of the more inane lines (e.g. the names of female characters) are delivered with a wink and a nod from Connery. I think he knew what he was saying was ridiculous, but he did it in such a way it has been enduring and has had generations of men and boys at various times in their lives echoing some of his trademark lines. “Bond. James Bond.” Martini. Shaken not stirred.” When lines like that become ingrained in the culture’s vocabulary you know you have a classic on your hands.