James Bond is the longest running film franchise we have, and while I would have loved to see an 80 year-old Sean Connery strutting his stuff in Skyfall and beyond, I think it only makes sense that the actors have to change as the franchise goes on.
Every single transition between actors and eras could have spelled disaster, so I think it’s a testament to the franchise and every actor to have undertaken the 007 moniker that James Bond is still as iconic today as it was in the 60’s. Each actor has brought their own unique spin on the part – but how would I rank them all?
You can check out some of my other related lists below, including my ranking of the Bond films:
I’ll also throw in a ranking of each actor’s Bond outings as well, ’cause why not?
6 – George Lazenby
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Welp, that was an easy ranking to do. OHMSS is actually quite a decent film, despite (not thanks to) Lazenby’s presence.
While all the Bond actors have been at least good in the role, George Lazenby was the “least good” if that makes sense. He certainly embodied the physicality that the role demanded, and he clearly has the charm and good looks that the character needs, but he isn’t a particularly good actor.
There are some scenes, like the death of his wife, where a subdued approach worked nicely, but other scenes needed some professional oomph that Lazenby was lacking.
5 – Roger Moore
- The Spy Who Loved Me
- For Your Eyes Only
- Live And Let Die
- The Man With The Golden Gun
- A View To A Kill
This will easily be my most controversial pick of the bunch, as Moore is up there with Connery and maybe Craig as one of the most iconic actors in the role, but I think Moore had a lot more problems in the role than people care to admit.
First of all, he was extremely jokey and camp. His era isn’t my favourite and I don’t think it aged very well, and part of that is Moore’s performance which lacks Bond’s killer edge and focuses more on the silly, seductive side of the spy.
There are also a few films in his run that sadly boasted some sub-par Bond performances in them – “The Man With The Golden Gun” felt like Moore was just cashing in a cheque, and “Octopussy” as well as “A View To a Kill” had a mid-fifties Moore galivanting around with women half his age, and the viewing experience becomes quite unnerving as a result.
Still, he is one of the greats to be associated with the role, and a fair bit of credit needs to go his way in ensuring the franchise’s survival after Connery dropped out.
4 – Timothy Dalton
- Licence To Kill
- The Living Daylights
It’s pretty well known nowadays that Dalton is the most underrated of the Bonds, and it’s a shame he only got two films – both were fun spy adventures, and I would have loved to see more of his unique take on the part.
I think the reason audiences didn’t warm to him at the time was his stern demeanour, which was a complete U-Turn from the antics of Moore’s era. This is a much more faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s flawed killer, and it would take another 20 years before audiences were ready for Craig’s serious take on the role.
That being said, I don’t think they got the mix quite right during Dalton’s tenure. He’s a very focussed and driven spy, but he never really seemed to have the empathy needed to make audiences connect with him more. As I said, Craig’s Bond was pretty much a better version of Dalton’s anyway.
3 – Pierce Brosnan
- Tomorrow Never Dies
- The World Is Not Enough
- Die Another Day
It was diminishing returns in Brosnan’s case, and I felt his films just got progressively worse over his run.
Even if his films were stinkers at times, Brosnan still absolutely killed it in the part. He had all of the best aspects of the previous Bonds: Connery’s charm, Moore’s wit, and Dalton’s seriousness; he was the perfect amalgamation of everything that made the franchise great up to that point, yet he still stands on his own two feet as one of the most unique Bonds we’ve had.
I think for the first time in the Bond franchise, you could sense a certain humanity in his eyes. You felt his anger, his pain, his sadness from betrayal, and all of that is down to Brosnan’s brilliant performance. If his films (other than GoldenEye) were better, he would have been remembered in the same league as Connery, without a doubt.
2 – Sean Connery
- You Only Live Twice
- From Russia With Love
- Diamonds Are Forever
- Dr. No
Argh, Connery only at the number 2 spot! This is blasphemy! How could I seriously consider the Godfather of the entire franchise to be anything other than top dog?
It goes without saying, but Connery is absolutely mesmeric in the role, and the franchise wouldn’t be half of what it is today without his unshakable charm and killer instinct.
The guy just exudes charm and class with every line of dialogue and suave, seductive action, and you can’t help but be entranced by his performance in every of his Bond outings. “Goldfinger” is widely considered one of, if not THE, greatest Bond flick ever, and that’s almost completely down to Connery’s masterful performance.
It’s a shame he wasn’t really into the role anymore by the end of his run – “You Only Live Twice” and “Diamonds Are Forever” felt like just another paycheck for him – but his films are still wholly enjoyable, even today.
1 – Daniel Craig
- Casino Royale
- No Time To Die
- Quantum Of Solace
Call it recency bias, but Craig has always been my favourite Bond. He carries all of his films, from the dizzying height of “Casino Royale” to the disappointing lows of “Quantum Of Solace”, to the point where all of his films are at least enjoyable due to his performance and commanding presence.
First of all, I think his films are the most consistent. While “Quantum Of Solace” and “Spectre” leave a lot to be desired, they’re still fun action romps that I had a good time with – but the other 3 films are experiences I’ll never forget (and “Casino Royale” is my favourite Bond film EVER as well).
The thing that sets Craig’s Bond apart from any other is his humanity – they made it very clear from the start that this would be a more vulnerable Bond, who gets shaken and stirred by the actions and fates of those around him, and watching Craig flex his masterful acting muscles was truly a sight to behold. He truly embodied the character straight from the get go, and whenever I think of 007 I’ll envision Daniel Craig in the role.
Aaaaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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