When, over 50 years after your movie is released, it remains the template and bar by which everything within the series is judged, it’s perhaps fair to call it a classic. Few films have earned that title more or seen the repercussions of its classic nature like Goldfinger.
Released back in 1964, Goldfinger instantly became one of the very first blockbuster movies, igniting a wave of spy-themed films, TV shows, and books in its wake. None of the competitors or imitators came close to matching what remains so special about this film though.
This was the moment in the Bond series when everything finally all came together. First, and most importantly, you’ve got Sean Connery at the height of his physical prowess and truly nailing the character of who his version of James Bond is. The iconic image and idea of who Connery’s Bond is can largely be traced back here.
It’s not just Connery with Bond though. For the first time the series has a truly stellar villain in Gert Fröbe’s Auric Goldfinger. Appearing throughout the movie and dominating proceedings virtually from the very beginning, Bond is given a great antagonist to go against for an entire film for the first time. Fröbe is brilliant as Goldfinger too: a man utterly insane, clever, and charming at various turns. He is complimented by the equally great Harold Sakata as the bane of countless Goldeneye 64 players, Oddjob.
The one-two punch of Goldfinger and Oddjob might still, 58 years later, remain the best combo of main villain and henchmen the series has ever hit. The larger-than-life and outlandish Goldfinger balanced wonderfully by the silent but menacing Oddjob. Brilliant all around.
Even here though, Goldfinger isn’t finished with easily the series’ first truly standout Bond girl in Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. From her opening moments on screen, Blackman sets out to demonstrate just how far removed Galore is from Tanya or Honey from the prior two Bond films. Strong and totally capable of giving it back to Bond or anyone else, she is governed by her own set of motivations that may not always align with either Goldfinger’s or Bond’s.
Galore’s character however is saddled with the one true misstep of Goldfinger, the dismissive nature with which it treats certain female characters. From Bond’s comments to Dink at the start of the movie, to the very obvious and blanat pun of Galore’s name, Goldfinger limits itself from an otherwise fantastic experience by the throw-away lines and comments that bring you back down to Earth every so often. The movie seems to have a dismissive approach to Galore which is disappointing in general and even more so because Blackman is doing so much to make her character standout and shine.
Everywhere else you look though the movie is a triumph. Shirley Bassey’s title theme is among the series’ most iconic standouts, seared into pop-culture. The pre-credits sequence is among my personal favorites and features my all-time favorite Bond look, with Connery in the white dinner jacket with the red carnation. The movie is the first that’s paced well throughout, features fantastic fights, a wonderful car – the series introduction to Aston Martins – and perhaps has the most famous of all of Bond’s gadgets with the ejector seat.
Goldfinger is, with possibly only one exception, the Bond film that has most imprinted itself on pop-culture and storytelling at large. From the music, to the gadgets, to the villain, to Bond himself, every few minutes a new iconic moment, line, or character pops up on screen. There is a reason this would become the template for the series to come and also a reason why over 50 years later it remains the most beloved and acclaimed of the classic Bond movies. Goldfinger is simply brilliant.
Best Moments –
There are so many different moments to pull from on this. Goldfinger is a Bond movie that is just constantly operating at such a great pace it can be hard to nail down a favorite moment. A few I want to highlight are the golf game between James and Goldfinger as such a fun exercise in showing who these two characters are, with Bond catching Goldfinger in the act of cheating again.
Another highlight is Goldfinger’s presentation to the varied mob bosses of the country. A borderline outlandish and absurdist scene that works perfectly. My favorites though, are Goldfinger’s iconic “I expect you to die” back and forth with Bond which is just a great scene between the two that reveals so much about both, and the final fight between Oddjob and James inside of Fort Knox. Great stuff. Oh and yet again I have to shout out the pre-credits sequence, it’s fantastic.
As I mentioned earlier, Auric Goldfinger and Oddjob might be the single best one-two punch in the whole run of the Bond series. Perfect foils and compliments to both each other and James Bond. They are among the series most famous and well ingrained in pop culture for a reason. Easily a 10/10 and among the contenders for best villains.
Felix Watch –
Cec Linders take on Felix is an older, more chummy version of the character and the relationship between him and Bond is thus shifted to a far more familial and easy-going dynamic than in Dr.No. I’m honestly not sure if it would work in many other Bond movies but it’s largely a success here, and while it’s not my favorite take on the character, it is probably the correct portrayal for this movie. 8/10
The first appearance of Q Lab in the series and the first real start of the Bond and Q dynamic we would come to expect from Desmond Llewlyn. Goldfinger is a bonanza of great gadgets and toys for Bond to play with. Clearly though, the crown jewel is the Aston Martin DB5 Bond drives in this movie. From the oil slick, to machine guns, to the tracking radar, to of course the ejector seat, that car for all intents and purposes invented the cinematic super car as we know it, forming a key part of the Bond mythology in the process. 10/10
The Music –
I mean come on. Shirley Bassey’s theme is among the most famous of Bond themes for a reason. It will, spoilers, just miss out on being my favorite but it is a standout either way and the first Bond theme to actually play over the opening credits. 10/10
Final Ranking –
Goldfinger is a classic. One in which nearly every single aspect of the film is firing on all cylinders. From among the series finest villains, to iconic music, lines, and gadgets, to the first even somewhat developed Bond girl, Goldfinger seemingly has it all. It features a contradictory mix of genuine spy moments and also larger than life almost cartoonish scenes that work perfectly in tandem together.
Finally, this is Sean Connery’s finest hour as James Bond. A man at utter ease with himself. And perhaps the last time he is truly invested and gives his all before burnout and fatigue begin to take a toll. At turns charming, brutal, clever, with one liners cooly coming out, and at the apex of his physical prime, Sean Connery is utterly brilliant here and truly nails Bond. Connery’s 007 also never looks better in terms of the varied suits and outfits than what he wears here. From my personal favorite white dinner suit jacket, to the golf course fit, to the classic black tux, he again and again reminds us both in style and substance why his 007 has endured for so long. When I and so many others say that Sean Connery IS James Bond we inevitably think about this movie. Possibly the finest Bond performance of the series.
Fun and fast-paced, Goldfinger just oozes cool; it also has almost all elements working perfectly together. Goldfinger remains both a classic and one of the most important movies ever made. I’m shocked it took this long for it to finally click all together for me but so happy it did. If not for its few moments of cringe with Dink and Galore that pop up every so often it would be a straight 10/10. As it is, I place Goldfinger at a 9.75/10 and call it a masterpiece and one of my favorite movies of all-time.