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?

In the following pages we break down the best and worst of every 007 so that you, the reader, can decide once and for all who truly is the best Bond by voting in our poll at the end of the slideshow.

Connery, Sean / als James BondSean Connery

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.

Shaken and Stirred: While even Connery’s less lauded 007 films are still appreciated by fans, Never Say Never Again is his one Bond blemish. The 1983 flick was based on material already partially used in Thunderball, in which Connery starred, and was not produced by traditional Bond production company Eon Productions. As a result, it’s not considered an entry into the true Bond lexicon and was essentially panned. As well, the film came out the same year as Roger Moore’s Octopussy, which handily beat it both at the box office and in the eyes of critics and fans. In this Bond versus Bond showdown, Connery’s Bond lost.

Trivia: The character of James Bond – and specifically the version played by Sean Connery – is listed as the third greatest screen hero in film history by the American Film Institute, behind only Atticus Finch and Indiana Jones.

David Niven with Ursula Andress in 1967's "Casino Royale."
David Niven with Ursula Andress in 1967’s “Casino Royale.”

David Niven

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.

The film went massively over budget and tanked critically, though it was one of the top 15 grossing films of the year.

Trivia: According to IMDB, as of 2012’s Skyfall, this version of Casino Royale is the only Bond film in which 007 dies.

George LazenbyGeorge Lazenby

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.

Shaken and Stirred: Lazenby had two strikes against him before he ever suited up as 007: he was a model who’d barely acted and he was following in the footsteps of Sean Connery, who was beloved in the role.

Trivia: Lazenby famously left the role due to bad advice from his manager, who believed that Bond was a fad that was on its way out. As a result he left the role before his own Bond film had even hit theatres.

Moore, Roger als BondRoger Moore

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.

Shaken and Stirred: Suffering from occasional campiness and excessively extravagant plot lines – Bond in space in Moonraker, anyone? – Moore’s Bond instalments aren’t considered among the best in the franchise’s history. For film quality, he’s generally overshadowed by many of Connery’s and Craig’s flicks.

Trivia: Think of all the phobias that James Bond could suffer from that would prove the most detrimental to his job. In real life Roger Moore reportedly suffers from hoplophobia, which is a fear of firearms. If only the bad guys knew that…

Timothy DaltonTimothy Dalton

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.

Shaken and Stirred: Dalton, though studious and a believer in referring back to the source material to construct a Bond more faithful to Fleming’s literary spy, didn’t see that dedication reflected in the films’ monetary returns. Though he’s respected for his portrayal he remains behind Connery, Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Craig in terms of most successful box office Bonds.

Trivia: When Dalton auditioned for the role of Bond, the decision came down to him and one other actor: Pierce Brosnan. However, Brosnan’s commitments with the television show Remington Steele meant that he couldn’t take on 007’s duties (well, as it turns out, at least not for another eight years). As a result, Dalton got the gig.

GoldenEyePierce Brosnan

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.

Shaken and Stirred: Though Brosnan makes a brilliant Bond, the critical reaction to his films was less so. His first film, Goldeneye, received critical praise but the three that followed walked the “thumbs in the middle” line, dividing critics and some fans.

Trivia: Brosnan isn’t the first person in his family to appear in a James Bond film. Brosnan’s wife, actress Cassandra Harris, played Countess Lisl von Schlaf in the Roger Moore Bond flick For Your Eyes Only.

Skyfall - Royal World Premiere - ArrivalsDaniel Craig

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.”

On the aforementioned Rotten Tomatoes listing of best-reviewed Bond films, Craig takes the two top spots with Skyfall in first place and Casino Royale right behind it.

Shaken and Stirred: Most Craig detractors point to the fact that he doesn’t fit the traditional image/archetype of 007 as their reason for not buying him as Bond. When it comes to his four Bond flicks, the major dent in his armour is that he essentially has a 50 per cent success rate. While Skyfall and Casino Royale are incredible, Quantum of Solace and Spectre are viewed as average fare. So when he’s on, he’s really on. But, unlike Connery, Craig’s presence isn’t quite enough to make up for a lackluster film.

Trivia: Craig is, to date, the only actor to play James Bond who is younger than the Bond film franchise. Craig was born in 1968; by that time, Sean Connery had already starred as 007 in five films.