EVERY JAMES BOND ACTOR RANKED And There Is at Least One You Have Never Heard Of
The most iconic secret agent in all of fiction (take your Jason Borne sh^t elsewhere), we come for the man and stay for the cars, the women, the henchmen, the travel, and the chases. Created by writer Ian Fleming in the early 50s, James Bond is an evergreen character we caught a man-crush on when our parents first showed the VHS of Dr. No. We followed the films through adulthood and today, there’s a never-ending debate on which Bond is the best.
It’s a dispute that will go on for as long as the movies remain in circulation but we’re ready to settle it here and now. So, here is every actor that played James Bond in a motion picture, rated best to worst.
The British actor was dubbed 007 after a nail-biting gap in time after Pierce Brosnan’s run. Fans and the public were skeptical that the first “blonde Bond” would live up to the suit and Walther PPK, but the recipe of choosing Casino Royal as the novel to adapt and Craig’s brash portrayal of a newly appointed double-O was a recipe for pure magic. He simply became James Bond from the opening chase scene up the construction crane. No other actor dared to play James Bond as he existed as a beginner agent, reckoning with the underlying anger and angst of being a child orphan and learning when to pull the trigger. It’s much easier playing the suave, calm, and always successful James Bond instead of the maturing man behind the suit. But even as Craig returned for Quantum of Solace and then Skyfall, he was able to achieve all spectrums of the character, freshman to senior. It’s a mix of Craig’s brute defiance with his sophistication that yields a Bond to hold the rest comparable to. Rumors say Craig will return for a final film, Bond 25.
Had Sir Connery called it quits when he first retired from the role of 007 after You Only Live Twice, he might have been first on the list. But the biggest problem with Connery’s Bond is that the role became lazy. Connery took a break while both George Lazenby and Roger Moore took shots at the portrayal, returning for Thunderball and Never Say Never Again—arguably the worst James Bond performance of the entire franchise. Was Dr. No amazing? Yes. Is it one of the greatest films? Yes. Connery will always be the first James Bond to fans, mastering the joie de vivre of being deadly, seductive, and smooth. He’s intricately woven into our perception of the character and did a phenomenal job of securing the franchise’s future. Perhaps the most quotable of Bonds as well, we love Connery, we really do, but he’s not the top dog.
Who!? Believe it or not, Bob Simmons was the first actor to ever portray Bond on the silver screen. You wouldn’t recognize him on the street, but you’d recognize his scene…probably just by listening to the score. In the first Bond film, Dr. No, Simmons walks in view of a henchman’s gin barrel and turns to shoot, turning the screen red and wobbling the sight. That scene was first done by Simmons, who played Sean Connery’s stunt double for the film. Eventually the iconic opener was reshot using Connery after the movies got rolling. This entry is a bit of a trick, since Simmons never had to muster the sex appeal and emotions and cool of James Bond doing ordinary things like walking up a flight of stairs. But he understood right off the bat the physicality of James Bond.
It was the 90s and Pierce Brosnan was the perfect fit to lead James Bond into the modern era. He starred in four movies: Goldeneye (the basis of the best Nintendo 64 game ever released), Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. A charming and witty Bond, Brosnan’s nature was to play the agent with a license to kill as a man with class…and a killer game with the ladies. Brosnan reigned over the sexiest era in Bond films and did so with taste. Toward the end of his run, however, the films got a bit farcical and didn’t seem to capture the true depth of the character…but that wasn’t Brosnan’s fault. He wasn’t in the room when writers decided Bond should surf a glacial tsunami because a sun laser melted an ice hotel. But in defense, James Bond should always maintain a hint of caricature.
I really wanted to put the Welsh stage actor Timothy Dalton higher on this list since he really did a great job of being emotionally deep as the character James Bond. He wore the holsters for two films following Roger Moore, including The Living Daylights and License to Kill. For many mega-fans, Dalton tops their list as the best 007 since he pushed to portray a Bond close to what Ian Fleming wrote in the books. I don’t have anything bad to say about Dalton’s Bond, but there was something missing. A swagger, a coolness, or maybe a brutality. In any light, if we had to pick a 007 to re-watch, his wouldn’t be the first (or second or third).
Much like Dalton, we have nothing against Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond, but it simply isn’t the best. Still, Moore’s 007 filmography is impressive, totaling seven films with Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill. Moore is the most foppish Bond, very gentlemanly and aristocratic, but there’s no grit to his acting. What stands out about Moore’s films is actually his peripheral characters, which included some of the best bond villains ever created (Christopher Walken as Max Zorin, Grace Jones as Amazonian bodyguard May Day, and Richard Kiel as Jaws). These films also featured the coolest tech from Q, amazing cross-continental (even intergalactic) locations, and meaty plots. All the makings for great James Bond movies, but the central character does not outshine the rest.
Australian car salesman turned international model got the gig to play James Bond by the most bizarre coincidence of events (explained in the wonderful Hulu documentary Becoming Bond). Although offered a multi-film contract before making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby turned down the offer upon advice of his agent and only signed for one. Wrong move, man. Lazenby made his one Bond but didn’t last. If you want to be 007, it has to be a long-term commitment of at least two films. And in the end, Lazenby wasn’t an actor, and Bond is a complex character who calls for someone hungry to dig into the meat of who James is.
Probably another name you don’t recognize. Google “Casino Royale 1967” and you’ll find the cringe-worthy spy comedy that was so bad it reclassified itself as a farce. We don’t even count Niven in the running, but it’s worth mentioning there is someone worse, much worse, at playing Bond than Lazenby…who really wasn’t terrible.