9. From Russia With Love (1963)

Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love 1963

Sequel to: Dr. No (1962)

As the James Bond franchise has grown, it has become known for its increasingly ridiculous action scenes, but once upon a time, its films were pure spy thrillers with action peppered in. In fact, the James Bond movies have helped shaped the modern action genre, and it’s impossible to understate their cultural significance, which is something that dates all the way back to the earliest Bond movies in the 1960s. The franchise began in 1962 with Dr. No, an adaptation of one of Ian Fleming’s novels, and it continued the following year with the sequel, From Russia With Love.

Where Dr. No is the source of countless action movie tropes (the endless monologuing of the villain and the use of contrived and inefficient methods to attempt to kill the hero), From Russia With Love bucked them. Instead of following Dr. No‘s formula, From Russia With Love told a very different story. It was far more politically charged, far more considered, and far cooler – in other words, it fleshed out the character of James Bond beyond what later came to be simple action movie stereotypes, and established him as a full-fledged cultural icon.

Yes, technically, Ian Fleming should get most of the credit for this one, as the movies were based on his books. Even so, From Russia With Love far surpasses the quality of Dr. No, owing to the fact that it didn’t simply rest on the character’s cinematic popularity. It challenged the idea of what Bond could be by taking a subtly different approach to Fleming’s source material, and it paid off in spades: From Russia With Love remains one of the best James Bond movies to date (even after a grand total of 25 movies).