The James Bond fanbase are a loyal bunch, dedicated to the seductive cinematic world of Great Britain’s greatest and most erratic spy, with strict opinions as to who the best actors in the series are, and what films stand out as the very best.
With the tenure of Daniel Craig recently drawing to a close, the focus has shifted to the future of the series as it moves past its 50th anniversary and into the new uncharted territory.
Once Craig announced his departure from the franchise before the release of 2021s No Time to Die, the rumour mill as to his next replacement instantly started to churn, with many calling for a revolutionary take on the future of the series. Black male leads have been discussed, including the likes of Idris Elba and Daniel Kaluuya, whilst a female Bond has also been suggested, with Jodie Comer and Claire Foy being suggested for the role.
With many looking to the future, it’s also important to learn from the past, particularly as the James Bond character has long been criticised for his sexism and racism that was emblematic of a mid-20th century society.
Ranking each actor who has taken up the mantle in the canonical stories of Bond (sorry David Niven), take a look at our definitive list of the finest 007s, below.
Ranking every James Bond:
6. Roger Moore (1972 – 1985)
The classic British actor, Roger Moore, may have carried all of the typically ‘British’ traits to carry the character, with embarrassing good manners and a well-kept suited appearance, he was, by quite some way, the worst actor ever to take up the role of 007.
This isn’t helped by the fact that Moore is given a bad hand of Bond films to represent his tenure, with only Live and Let Die standing out in a bizarre list of films that included some of the worst additions to the series. Taking the character to space in Moonraker whilst travelling to new levels of camp with The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore is remembered as being the silliest Bond of all time, a fact which some may see as a positive thing.
5. Pierce Brosnan (1994 – 2004)
Carrying a strange, smarmy English charm, the performances of Pierce Brosnan in his four James Bond films is oddly alluring, despite showing off one of the most arrogant and misogynistic versions of the character we’ve ever seen.
Starting his time as the character in 1994 with the underappreciated Bond adventure Goldeneye, Brosnan’s tenure got steadily worse throughout his time in the role, passing through the average Tomorrow Never Dies and World is not Enough to reach the dismal Die Another Day. Still, behind his corny smile and punchable face, there is a strange charm to Brosnan, like an elderly uncle who still thinks he’s a ‘lady’s man’.
4. Timothy Dalton (1986 – 1994)
Making just two films in his short tenure as Great Britain’s greatest spy, Timothy Dalton still made a mark as the character, appearing in two of the most exciting and creatively vibrant films of the series.
Often forgotten in the fog of Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore that he was sandwiched between, Dalton’s take on the character was strong and smart, with a sprinkling of sleazy charm. Starring in the corny The Living Daylights followed by the surprisingly thrilling Licence to Kill, Dalton brought genuine class and style to a character that hadn’t been considered as such since the time of George Lazenby.
3. Sean Connery (1961 – 1971)
Drop the romance of nostalgia and lower those rose-tinted glasses and you may come to appreciate that Sean Connery was a great Bond with some of the best stories in the series, but he’s not the best.
Certainly, the most iconic actor to take on the role, appearing in the likes of franchise greats such as Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, Connery has long been the face of the series and for good reason as his ceaseless charm and swagger left an indelible mark. Though, he was also an impenetrable character, standing almost like an action figure of the franchise as he delivered stiff lines and charmed the ladies to fulfil a quota of awful dialogue.
Connery had the face and bravado for the role, but none of the personability.
2. George Lazenby (1968 – 1969)
George Lazenby’s remarkably short time as 007 proved many things to the James Bond series that they have long since ignored, the first being that the character needs some humanity to appear alluring, and secondly that the actor who plays Bond doesn’t need to be British at all.
The Australian actor provides one of the greatest performances as James Bond by shaving away his bravado and embracing the character behind the mask. Often fragile and vulnerable, Lazenby’s Bond seems far more human than most other 007’s in the franchise, giving the character a relatable edge that had never been seen before until the release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. The film is considered, as a result, to be one of Bond’s best.
1. Daniel Craig (2005 – 2021)
Ever since the days of Roger Moore, the James Bond franchise has long been in the need of reinvention, taking 21 years for the series to find new legs as Daniel Craig came onboard in Casino Royale in 2006.
Truly revolutionising the James Bond character, Daniel Craig and the modern 007 franchise has worked hard to inject some much-needed humanity into the character, with much of this occurring in the films Skyfall and No Time to Die. Though he has, no doubt, starred in some bad Bond outings, namely Spectre and Quantum of Solace, ever since Craig gave us a fallible action hero in the parkour chase scene at the start of Casino Royale, we knew we were in for something special.
Wherever the franchise head’s next, Daniel Craig has provided an excellent platform to build from.