Three years have passed since Spectre hit theaters. A less-than-great follow-up to the magnificent Skyfall, it nearly drove Daniel Craig to quit James Bond. Now, a few months before production was set to begin; director Danny Boyle has stepped out of Bond 25. And the future of a 56-year-old franchise seems unknown. So it seems like a fine time to rank all the James Bond actors!
In over five decades, agent 007 has been played by six actors with wildly different styles. While the character has always retained its core, there’s something to say about each particular iteration. Here’s our ranking of James Bond actors, from worst to best!
6. George Lazenby
On Your Majesty’s Secret Service
The shortest-serving of James Bond actors, and with good reason. Taking over the impossible task of being the second 007, Lazenby did the best he could. Unfortunately, his best wasn’t great.
First off, he was wrong for the part: he’s Australian. Secondly, and a true offense, he wasn’t even an actor: he was a model. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, his sole outing as Bond, was his first acting job. It was a hot mess, and EON Films had to beg Sean Connery to return.
5. Timothy Dalton
From The Living Daylights to License to Kill
I think it’s fair to say that, after Lazenby, the competition gets tougher. You can like the rest of the James Bond actors more or less, but they all certainly made the character their own. Dalton’s problem? He took Bond too seriously. The franchise was dying of ridiculousness after the Moore years, unable to find balance. So Dalton needed to be serious as a contrast but took it too far. He took on the role in an almost Shakespearean manner. It was practically joyless. His Bond is ruthless, a killing machine lacking most of the 007 trademark charm. This is particularly true in The Living Daylights.
Mind you, I love Dalton’s Bond among most others. I think he’s the closest we’ve ever gotten to the character as Ian Fleming wrote it. Fleming created a tortured man reliving his past crimes at every moment. However, in the grand scheme of things, Dalton’s influence on the character is limited at best.
4. Roger Moore
From Live and Let Die to A View to a Kill
Moore, the most prolific of the bunch with seven movies across 12 years, was the Bond of a generation. It was a time of lighter stories, and Moore was particularly good at comedy. While appropriate for the decade that saw him as 007, many of Moore’s films haven’t aged well. The action is flimsy, the stories, ridiculous. Outings like Octopussy and Moonraker are easily among the worst in the entire franchise.
Still, Moore arguably nailed the suave look of Bond more than anyone else.
5. Pierce Brosnan
From GoldenEye to Die Another Day
Brosnan had a tough task: taking Bond to the post-Cold War era. And at that, he succeeded in GoldenEye, a fascinating step in the right direction. His other films are a little hit-and-miss, but then 90’s action films are a genre of their own.
Much like with Moore, late Brosnan films suffered from a certain lack of sense. Again, it was a sin of 90’s action films. Think of how Nicolas Cage and John Travolta switch faces in Face/Off. Similarly, Toby Stephens plays a Chinese guy who underwent face surgery in Die Another Day. And, of course, there’s the invisible car in that same film.
Brosnan was a breath of fresh air after Moore’s stale plots and Dalton’s seriousness. And he may be the most handsome of all James Bond actors.
2. Daniel Craig
From Casino Royale to Spectre (for now)
Craig brought Bond to the new millennium in a way Brosnan’s Die Another Day couldn’t dream of doing. His portrayal of 007 is gritty, dangerous, but not lacking in swagger. He’s a dinosaur of an age long gone, and there’s not a single character who won’t tell him.
Craig’s films have been hit-and-miss. Casino Royale and Skyfall are among the best films in the franchise, with lots of character development and great action. Quantum of Solace is downright forgettable, however, while Spectre didn’t live up to its throwback title. In each of them, though, Craig has worked towards a more profound character.
In an age of saturation of action content, Craig’s version of 007 still stands. Not only that, his Bond’s energized and bottled for a new generation. He drinks Heineken and faces cyber terrorism. Craig is the biggest thing to happen to Bond since our no. 1.
1. Sean Connery
From Dr. No to You Only Live Twice
(and later Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again)
There’s no real contest here. The first Bond, the best Bond, the one every other actor imitated. Connery took the character from Fleming’s pulp pages and made it his own. The suave, womanizing and deadly British superspy wouldn’t survive still if it weren’t for Edinburgh’s favorite child.
How can anyone compete with that first time Connery said “Bond, James Bond” in Dr. No? Or his look of shock when finding his lover covered in gold in Goldfinger?