If Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond had ended 10 years ago, in 2012, he’d be just as loved and respected for the role as he is today. While it’s true that Spectre (2015) and No Time To Die (2021) brought added pathos to the story of Craig’s 007, the truth is, this era of the long-running spy franchise never really topped one specific movie. If Casino Royale was the 1977 Star Wars of the Daniel Craig Bond era, then that means Skyfall his Empire Strikes Back.
Skyfall just hit Netflix on August 5, 2022, but it hit theaters on November 9, 2012, which was somehow, just shy of ten years ago. At the time, it had been six years since Craig’s first Bond, Casino Royale, and four years since the less-than-stellar follow-up, Quantum of Solace. So, back in 2012, it wasn’t exactly clear if Daniel Craig’s James Bond was going to go down in history as a great Bond, or simply, a good Bond, who was only in one good movie that everyone could agree they liked. Essentially, before Skyfall, Craig’s Bond tenure seemed more like Timothy Dalton’s; great actor, great in the role, but only Casino Royale was solid, and six years was a long time to wait for another good Daniel Craig James Bond movie.
But, Skyfall was worth the wait. Not only did it prove that Craig was perhaps the best Bond ever, but it also, nearly instantly, became the best Bond film of all time. And, Skyfall accomplished this, oddly, through one massive contradiction: the film is both a critique of all the James Bond films up to that point, but also a soft reboot that reintroduced several classic elements from the older films into the Craig era. Skyfall is funnier than Casino Royale, but also, manages to take the character of Bond seriously, without bumming everyone out. Arguably, all of the Craig-era films attempt this dichotomy, but none really pull off the balancing act like Skyfall.
Listing all the reasons why Skyfall is (probably) the best Bond movie ever would be a little tedious, but let’s try for a few and see what happens.
- Great song? Check. Adele’s “Skyfall” is perfect.
- Good chase scenes? Yes, the opening scene of Skyfall is one of the best in Bond history.
- Villian? WOW. Has there been a better Bond villain than Javier Bardem as Silva?
- Cool cars? Bond takes M (Judi Dench) on a beautiful road trip in his classic Aston Martin DB5. So yes.
- Storyline? The movie begins with Bond getting shot and losing and ends with him having to figure out how to move on after his surrogate mother is killed. COME ON.
Old school Bond purists are probably saying wait wait wait and but but but, and mentioning things like Goldfinger and how that Sean Connery film invented all the tropes or the fact that Dr. No is an unassailable classic. And to all of that, I say, yes. I like James Bond movies, too. But, if you’re talking to most people, and you want to show them one Bond movie that you can confidently say is the best Bond movie, you can say Skyfall and at least 99 percent of non-hardcore fans will agree with you.
Skyfall is like The Dark Knight of James Bond movies. It’s brilliantly directed (by Sam Mendes!) every single performance is perfect, it captures what makes the character so compelling, and it manages to do something new with very old tropes. Even the super-transgressive No Time To Die didn’t quite mix the cocktail the same way, or, when it did, some elements came off a bit too strong.
Bond claims to perform his martinis shaken instead of stirred. But, Skyfall feels like a cocktail that has been stirred, slowly and meticulously. A lot of other (wonderful!) Bond movies feel shaken in the way they’re crafted, paced, or edited. Skyfall is a great action movie, first and foremost, but it’s also just a really great movie, in any genre. In certain moments, you actually forget you’re watching a Bond movie, which means when that espionage universe sucks you back in, it feels twice as exciting.
Skyfall is the only Bond movie where James Bond returns to his childhood home, the “Rosebud,” of this Citizen Kane-ing of 007. At the time, this choice felt daringly grounded. And now, watching the movie a decade later, Skyfall feels like coming home, too.
Skyfall is streaming now on Netflix.