The 007 Showdown: Who Is the Best Bond Ever?
Seven men wore the tuxedo, but only one is the true Bond. Here, we break down the best and worst of every 007.
Every generation gets the Bond it deserves – from Sean Connery’s smouldering secret agent during the sexual revolution of the 1960s through Roger Moore’s decidedly more camp 007 in the 1970s and early 80s, all the way to Daniel Craig’s current rebranding of Bond as the ultimate stylish and savvy 21st century spy.
But who comes out on top when comparing all of the Bonds side by side? It depends on what you value more in your Bond. For example, do you value an actor who looks more like Bond over an actor whose Bond films were of a higher calibre? Do you prefer a sexy, ladies man Bond or a darker, more brooding 007, which is more faithful to Sir Ian Fleming’s literary spy?
Films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971). And, for those who count it, Never Say Never Again (1983)
Bond Cred: He’s the first 007 and, to multitudes of fans, the quintessential 007. The role of Bond made Connery’s career while, in many ways, Connery made the role of Bond. The actor, as well his Bond flicks, laid the foundation for many trademark elements of the character and franchise going forward, from the style and structure of the films to Bond’s magnetic sex appeal. And, according to pop culture and media historian and author James Chapman, Connery, “should be credited with having established a new style of performance: a British screen hero in the manner of an American leading man.” He’s so good, producers made him a big money offer to return to the franchise in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever after his successor, George Lazenby, retired from the role after one film.
In addition, the Bond films in which Connery appears consistently rank at or near the top of most lists of the best films in the franchise. Rotten Tomatoes, a website that collects and compiles critical reviews of movies, ranks the Bond films in order of which received the most favourable assessments from film critics. Four of Connery’s films – Goldfinger, Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball – make up the top six – bested only by Daniel Craig’s Skyfall at number one and Casino Royale at number two.
Films: Casino Royale (1967)
Bond Cred: Though the film isn’t an “official” Bond movie, as it’s not an Eon Production, nor does it bear much resemblance to the book it’s based on, David Niven is notable for being the actor that 007 scribe Sir Ian Fleming wanted to play Bond in the original film, Dr. No. Though he eventually came to respect and enjoy Sean Connery as Bond, Niven was always closer to the archetype that Fleming imagined.
Shaken and Stirred: The film itself is a farce. More of a send-up of the Bond films than anything else, it features multiple actors and actresses portraying James Bond in an effort to confuse the bad guy, played by Woody Allen (yes, really), including Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress – who also portrayed the first Bond girl, Honey Ryder, in Dr. No.
Films: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Bond Cred: A model turned 007, Lazenby is either the most underrated Bond or the least effective Bond, depending on who you ask. The film itself has grown in popularity and esteem over time, as has Lazenby’s performance. But while some see reflections of Lazenby’s Bond in Daniel Craig’s portrayal, and he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of 007, overall he’s generally considered the least effective Bond.
Films: Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985)
Bond Cred: Roger Moore played Bond in more Eon films (i.e. “official” Bond films) than any other actor. His seven turns as 007 set the record, though he also has the distinction of being the oldest “official” Bond – 57-years-old in A View to a Kill. At the time this worked against him, though overall he’s generally remembered as the actor who gives Sean Connery the biggest run for his money as far as the “best Bond” title goes.
That’s mostly due to the fact that Moore was not only a very good-looking Bond, but his playboy demeanour, laid back elegance and sense of humour helped distinguish him from previous Bonds. For many, Moore serves as the face of the franchise.
Films: The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989)
Bond Cred: Like George Lazenby, Dalton had the unenviable task of filling the shoes of a long-running and beloved Bond. Unlike Lazenby, however, Dalton excelled in the role. Perhaps his greatest claim as Bond is that his version is generally considered the one that most closely resembles Sir Ian Fleming’s literary character. Dalton’s 007 proved less playboy and more cold-blooded assassin, a Bond on a mission.
Films: Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002)
Bond Cred: Dark, mysterious, handsome, quick-witted but serious about his mission, suave when needed but athletically able, Pierce Brosnan possessed perhaps the best combination of all previous Bonds up until that point in the franchise.
Aside from essentially looking exactly as one would imagine Bond to appear, and pulling off the role splendidly, Brosnan jolted life back into the Bond franchise. His fourth and final Bond instalment, Die Another Day, became the highest grossing Bond movie ever at the time. In addition, every one of his 007 flicks debuted atop the box office charts except for Tomorrow Never Dies, which had the misfortune of sharing an opening day with Titanic. Even Bond couldn’t survive that iceberg.
Films: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015)
Bond Cred: The irony of Craig’s tenure as Bond is that when he was announced as Pierce Brosnan’s successor, some media and fans (as well as yours truly) panned the choice of “James Blonde.” And now, four films, in filmmakers, critics and fans laud Craig as “once and for all claim[ing] the character as his own,” “the perfect 21st-century Bond” and “007 as conceived by Ian Fleming—a professional killing machine, a charming, cold-hearted patriot with a taste for luxury. Craig is the first actor to really nail 007’s defining characteristic: he’s an absolute swine.”
Not only does Craig come closer than any other actor to unseating Connery as the prototypical Bond but his films have proven huge critical and box office hits. Craig’s last Bond film, Skyfall, is the highest-grossing Bond film of all time and also nabbed a slew of awards, including two Oscars out of five nominations. One of the statuettes, of course, went to Adele for Best Original Song for her Bond theme “Skyfall.”