The third of Daniel Craig’s five James Bond movies, Skyfall, is just a couple of months away from its 10th anniversary. A decade later, Skyfall is still the highest-grossing Bond movie and the only entry in the series to rake in more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Not every Bond film from the Craig era has stood the test of time. Quantum of Solace and Spectre rank among the weakest installments in the franchise. But Skyfall still holds up today as one of the most spectacular, fun-filled, action-packed 007 adventures ever to hit screens.
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10 The Mind-Blowing Cold Open
Almost every Bond movie opens with a thrilling pre-title set-piece, but Skyfall’s opening scene is particularly action-packed. Most 007 cold opens are one kind of action scene, but Skyfall’s is a few rolled into one. Bond chases a perp across the rooftops of Istanbul on a motorcycle, crashes through a crowded bazaar, rips open a railway carriage with a digger, and then engages in a brutal fight on top of the speeding train.
The whole sequence culminates in 007 being shot off the roof of the train and plunging into the river below. Not only is this one of the most exciting Bond movie openings; it’s one of the most subversive. Most of the franchise’s cold opens are a victory for Bond, but this one is a near-life-ending failure.
9 Daniel Craig’s Nuanced Turn As 007
Three movies into his tenure, Daniel Craig perfected his portrayal of Bond in Skyfall. The actor encapsulated the familiar gentleman spy as always. He’s effortlessly suave, ice-cool, and nails all the one-liners.
But this time around, he also made Bond more vulnerable. 007 spends Skyfall dealing with a lot of emotional distress, with PTSD stemming from his near-death experience in the opening sequence.
8 Sam Mendes’ Carefully Crafted Tone
Director Sam Mendes strikes the ideal tone for a modern big-budget Bond caper in Skyfall. The film’s tone is pitched midway between the gritty realism of Casino Royale and the far-fetched fun of Roger Moore’s classic 007 adventures.
Mendes’ first Bond movie maintains the visceral, game-changing style that Martin Campbell brought to the table, but also nostalgically harks back to the series’ sillier roots.
7 The Moral Ambiguity Of Judi Dench’s M
Throughout Skyfall, M reveals that she considers her agents to be expendable. This is established in the opening scene as she tells Bond to abandon a dying agent. When Moneypenny isn’t sure she can get a clear shot of the perp without hitting Bond, M orders her to “take the bloody shot.” The villain’s motivation is to exact revenge against M for hanging him out to dry in a similar situation.
Skyfall challenged the audience’s perception of M. M is usually a purely expository role, but Dench’s take on the character was given much more depth – and moral ambiguity – in her final appearance.
6 Adele’s Melancholic Title Theme
Adele’s “Skyfall” is one of the greatest Bond themes of all time. It was the franchise’s first title theme in over three decades to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song (after Sheena Easton’s 1981 nomination for “For Your Eyes Only”), and the first to actually win the award.
After the uncharacteristically rock-‘n’-roll-style themes of Craig’s first two Bond films, Adele’s Skyfall theme evoked the moody lyrics and melancholic melodies of the Shirley Bassey classics that defined the Bond theme traditions.
5 Javier Bardem’s Chilling Performance As Raoul Silva
Javier Bardem gives a truly chilling turn as Skyfall’s villain, Raoul Silva, formerly known as Tiago Rodriguez, an ex-MI6 agent-turned-cyberterrorist. Bardem was the first of a string of Oscar winners to play Bond villains.
There are a few holes in Silva’s needlessly complicated evil plan, but Bardem makes up for it with one of the most memorable Bond villain performances of all time. Silva is delightfully camp, but he turns totally unnerving at the drop of a dime. Bardem steals every scene he’s in and chews on every monologue.
4 Dench’s Maternal Dynamic With Craig
007 traditionally only hangs out with M in a professional capacity, but her relationship with Craig’s Bond was different. Dench’s M became a sort of maternal figure to Craig’s Bond, and that mother-son dynamic came to a head in Skyfall.
In the final act of Skyfall, Bond puts his life on the line to protect her, as any good surrogate son would. Tragically, he fails to save his office mom – but he does everything he can right up to the end.
3 The Return Of Q’s Goofy Gadgets
When Casino Royale rebooted the Bond franchise with a healthy dose of realism, many franchise traditions were thrown out the window, including the ludicrous gadgets supplied to 007 by the Q Branch. Mendes mercifully brought back Q and his goofy gadgets in Skyfall.
Ben Whishaw had a great new take on the character as a mild-mannered geek and Skyfall introduced an awesome new gizmo into Bond’s arsenal: a handgun that won’t fire unless Bond’s fingerprint is on the trigger.
2 Roger Deakins’ Striking Cinematography
Roger Deakins’ striking cinematography from Skyfall was nominated for an Academy Award, a rarity in the action genre. Deakins captured some of the most dazzling visuals in the whole franchise for Skyfall’s gorgeously shot action sequences.
A fight between Bond and a sniper is silhouetted against a giant neon-lit billboard. The whole final battle is set against the pitch-black of the night, illuminated by a blazing fire.
1 M’s Heartbreaking Death Scene
At the climax of Skyfall, M dies in Bond’s arms after he arrives seconds too late to save her. In the hands of a legendary talent like Dench, this is much more moving than the average action movie death scene.
On rewatches, the inevitable tragedy of M’s passing makes the explosive climactic set-piece feel bittersweet. Plus, on repeat viewings, Bond fans can spot the foreshadowing of M’s death in the opening credits when her silhouette is seen at a cemetery.
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About The Author
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Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, independent filmmaker, and Burt Reynolds enthusiast. He writes lists for Screen Rant and features and reviews for Game Rant. He’s currently in pre-production on his first feature (and has been for a while, because filmmaking is expensive). You can catch him performing standup at odd pubs around the UK that will give him stage time. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema, Comic Book Resources, and BabbleTop.
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