1973. Live and Let Die. I was seven years old. My folks gave me five bucks and let me go to the movies on my own, just me and my friend Matt. Afterward we rehashed and debated everything that was cool about the film: the speedboat jump, walking on crocodiles, and that amazing LED watch showing tiny red numerals when Bond pressed a button on its side. (Years later I would see the film again and be appalled at its racism. Everyone white is a good guy. Everyone black is a bad guy.)
1975. The Man With the Golden Gun. Matt saw it without me, and then described how the bad guy had this amazing gun that he assembled from innocent-looking items like a gold lighter and a gold fountain pen that he could take anywhere and no one would ever know! It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. Also: second Bond movie in a row with a bad guy’s name ending in -anga.
1977. The Spy Who Loved Me. I had forgotten about going to see Live and Let Die, and when my summer day camp organized an outing to see the film, I resisted, claiming haughtily that I only enjoyed the original and best Bond, Sean Connery. (In fact I’m not sure whether, at that point, I’d ever seen a Connery Bond film; but I’d heard this opinion expressed elsewhere and decided to adopt it.) But I tagged along, had a terrific time, and afterward readily admitted my error. Years later I would adopt a strong preference for Sean Connery, and a dislike for Roger Moore, for real.
1979. Moonraker. I easily spotted this as a pathetic Star Wars rip-off, and the Close Encounters joke it contained made me roll my eyes, but I still liked it well enough to go out and buy the novelization. Also the first time I can remember quoting a Bond film. (“I believe he’s attempting re-entry.” [Haw!])
1981. For Your Eyes Only. What the hell was that?
1983. Octopussy. You guys aren’t even trying anymore, are you?
1987. The Living Daylights. A welcome return to a Bond who’s dangerous and sexy, whose flirtations with an equally sexy Moneypenny don’t make me bury my face in my hands. But what’s this? The PC police have caught up with the Bond series and conspicuously scrubbed it of smoking and (as the AIDS epidemic builds up a head of steam) womanizing. Phooey! That’s not what I go to the movies for. Any time I want to see someone not womanize I can just watch myself.
1989. Licence to Kill. The promise of the previous film not fulfilled. Wayne Newton, seriously?
2002. I’d skipped all the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, but I tagged along with my co-workers to the premiere of Die Another Day. It was a revelation. Mental note: go back and watch his other movies.
2006. Casino Royale. The Bond I’d been waiting my whole life to see.
Update [14 Nov 2008]: Matt wrote to question my recall about Live and Let Die. I agree with him it’s unlikely we went alone to the movies at age seven, especially if it meant crossing Queens Blvd. Maybe we saw a re-release a couple of years later.