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September 23 2008

Who Is The Best James Bond?

Ian Fleming, a former British Naval officer during World War II,created James Bond 007 in 1953.  After fourteen books about the British spy, Mr. Fleming passed away in 1964 of a heart attack.  Somehow his character endures over four decades after his death, and shows no signs of slowing down.

I bring all of this up because I finally watched Casino Royale, the 21st James Bond film, on Monday night.  I admit I took my time getting to this film because the past few movies had been less than classics to be sure.  With a reboot to the franchise (it was named for the first novel and had Bond just picking up the mantle of being a double-0), they seemed to have really retooled the whole thought process behind the films, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The early films had over-the-top villains bent on world domination, but I always enjoyed the aspect of the nefarious organization known as SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).  While no name was ever mentioned in Casino Royale, there were some hints to some evil organization running things in the background, and the commercials for Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film, certainly point to more information on this portion of the plot.  I mean, come on, Tomorrow Never Dies had a guy who wanted to start a war so he could sell more news.  That’s a villain?

So, why the picture of how Mr. Fleming envisiong the spy?  It is time to delve into one of the most hotly contested debates to face mankind of all time… which actor was the best James Bond?  (I avoid politics on this blog, but I’m willing to take on THIS taboo subject?!?  Am I insane?!?)

Sean Connery

The first man to portray James Bond, and the one most people point to at the true James Bond.  He played the role for six films (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever… I think everyone tries to forget Never Say Never Again), and is the first impression most people have of the character.

I would have to say I always enjoyed his wry delivery, and he certainly had the debonair aspect down, but he also knew how to become the deadly assassin when needed.

Easily the best up until a certain point… more on that later.

George Lazenby

Poor George Lazenby.  He is like the forgotten Bond as he only appeared in one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  He was originally supposed to appear in seven, but apparently his agent felt Bond wouldn’t last that long and convinced him to drop out after only one film, leading to Connery returning for one more go at the title role.

I’ve seen the movie once or twice, and he didn’t seem to really fit to me, though that may have partially been because his voice was dubbed over in some sections of the film, but who knows.  I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who says he is their favorite Bond.

Roger Moore

I remember as a kid thinking Moore was fantastic, and he never failed to make me laugh… in a James Bond film.  As I’ve gone back and looked at his seven apperances as the spy (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), I think he may have partially been a victim of the time period where he played the role.

The 1970’s had an odd sense of humor, focusing more on a slapstick style, and when they wanted to interject humor into the films, it always came off as ham fisted.  I think it also didn’t help he played the role into his 50s, and his age was showing towards the end.

He was passable, but I would say if I was forced to make a list of the actors in order, he would be in the bottom three for sure.

Timothy Dalton

Mr. Dalton only appeared in two films (The Living Daylights & Licence to Kill), and I had high hopes for him, but both films were pretty much disasters story wise.  He was more inline with what Bond should be like, but his comedic deliver was just abysmal, and the movies just seemed to drag on endlessly.

I’m not sure if it was his fault, or the scripts, but I also wonder if the fact Pierce Brosnan was perused heavily for the role, but couldn’t take it because NBC didn’t want to mess up Remington Steele, had anything to do with it.  There was a six year gap between his last film and the next one, so something went awry with the whole process.

Pierce Brosnan

I just about did backflips when he finally got named to the role of Bond, but he entered a horribly weak period for the villains.  Over his four films (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day) he was certainly passable as Bond, but with the lack of good villains, it just felt like an exercise in pointlessness.

His tenure in the role also suffered from more and more emphasis being put on product placement.  Everytime you turned around in these films, you were being shown some company logo on a gadget he was using.  While some is to be expected, the amount during these four verged on the absurd.    It also seemed that special effects got better, they were trying to see just how many they could cram into the film, leaving Bond as almost more of an instigator than the centerpiece of the films.

It was unfortunate because I thought Mr. Brosnan could have been the best Bond since Connery, but he suffered from a film series that had certainly lost its way.

Daniel Craig

The minute Daniel Craig was announced as Bond… I was horrified.  He was too rough looking, he wasn’t debonair… HE WAS BLONDE!  You can’t have a blonde guy being James Bond!  The horrors!  I will say now that I have seen a drawing of what Fleming always envisioned that he actually is the closest, and that surprises me.

Having finally seen Casino Royale, I have to say that Mr. Craig actually has a shot at being the best Bond since Connery, and (this part may get me killed) potentially surpassing him.

I know, I know, BLASPHEMY!  Hear me out, though.  He played this role in such a human way, an almost brutal and animalistic way.  This Bond is human, but just an amazing one.  The scene that sold me was the foot chase early on in the film.  Where the guy he was chasing was doing all these fancy acrobatics, Bond was running through dry wall like a bull.  He was more of a force of will than some super spy.  He still has his moments of brilliant cunning, but he is just a man at the end of the day.

Partially script, partially a fantastic performance by Craig, it has me more jazzed about the James Bond series than I have been in ages, and I actually want to see his second film, Quantum of Solace, in the theater, and that’s something I haven’t done since Licence to Kill.

And the winner is…

I think in the end it all boils down to personal tastes, but I will force myself to do something that will possibly get me hung in some parts of the world.

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Pierce Brosnan
  4. Timothy Dalton
  5. Roger Moore
  6. George Lazenby

It’s difficult to say because there were script problems for some, production problems for others, but you really just have to look at the actual performance to make the final judgment. Brosnan would have ranked higher for me if he had been given more to work with, but he is where he is on the list.  Moore would have beat Dalton if he hadn’t played the part for so long, and hadn’t had bad comedy all the time.  Lazenby gets last place for a whole slew of reasons, but I really don’t blame him as an actor.

Have at me, but that’s my list.  So, who is your favorite, and why?



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  • bondfan4

    i think pierce was the best bond. he stood for everything bond was and did an amazing job in the role. goldeneye was possibly the best bond movie ever right next to goldfinger and thunderball.. but the bond series fell apart after goldeneye. that's not pierce's fault though.. and he somewhat saved those otherwise horrible movies of the series. connery was great too though, and was in many more good quality bond movies than pierce was.. so i wouldn't argue over either choice. daniel craig seems like a robot to me. no personality or charm or swagger. more like the terminator than james bond.

  • Dan Olson

    Steve-

    I read through your article and as a huge Bond fan for many years, I have to say your analysis pretty much nailed it perfectly. That's hard for me to say because I absolutely relish good-natured debate. That being said, I am not quite ready to pass the baton from Connery to Craig…….yet. He needs to have a couple solid movies under his belt before I feel comfortable with that. After all, the best MOVIES of the franchise are undoubtedly from the Connery era. ("From Russia with Love" is my favorite).

    I do feel like, as you do, that Brosnan had a fighting chance to compete as the best Bond, but his movies were just downright horrible. Terrible villains, overdone CGI, poor dialog, etc. I always viewed Brosnan as a blend of Connery and Moore. Unfortunately, Brosnan seemed to inherit the tongue-in-cheek persona that we both seem to dislike in the Moore character. Also, PB just didn't seem tough enough. Which brings me to Craig…

    Craig not only comes across as a tough SOB, but a cold-hearted assassin. Moreover, he comes across as a SMART cold-hearted assassin. He seems to have to ability to turn on the charm when needed, without coming across as cheeky. I will put forth that if it came down to a hand-to-hand combat fight between the two Craig would easily win out. He has that "thug quality" not seen since the Fleming novels. One more thing I will say about Craig…he is the proud owner of the best one-liner in Bond franchise history:

    Vesper Lynd: Am I going to have a problem with you, Mr. Bond?
    James Bond: No, don't worry, you're not my type.
    Vesper Lynd: Smart?
    James Bond: Single.

    Given time and solid screenplays, I believe Craig has the tools to surpass Connery as the best Bond. Unfortunately….my gut tells me that the writers will somehow mess this franchise up and we'll be resigned to speculate….."what could have been."

    Dan
    Seattle

    PS Solution to avoiding above-mentioned script/movie issue: hire Christopher Nolan as director. When it comes to identifying with an original franchise "vision"….he seems to "get it."

    • Dan –

      I'll forgive the "Steve" :P

      You nailed my thoughts exactly. I think Craig has huge potential, and Casino Royale showed that, but Quantum of Solace made me a bit nervous as I felt the script wasn't as strong. I think where he just soars as is that cold, dead stare of his. This is a Bond that is dead inside. Vesper warmed him for a moment, and with her death he came back even colder and deader.

      Bronson … oh, poor Bronson. He wanted the series for so long, and once he finally gets it, it's a disaster.

      Lets just hope the next Bond is more CR than QoS, and we are on our way to a definite winner.

  • Dan Olson

    Sorry….that's Sean……not Steve. My apologies.

  • Norman Baxter

    Erm, being a spod…. Connery was by no means the first person to act as James Bond. The honor goes to Barry Nelson, although the character was called "Jimmy Bond". The first person to play the real James Bond was Bob Holness (who also played Saxs on Gerry Rafferty's song "Baker Street"), although I'd go with Connery as the most defining version.

  • Cat5Cane

    , GO GO GO BROSNAN … Ohhh Please!!!!!

    He's a wimp !… and in reality would be sucking fish heads off the back of Dr No's azz…. Saying,… Ohhh, Ohhh , let me go, I'll do anything!.

    WIMPS…

    • HowzitGAAN

      fuck up cunt.

  • vesey

    Sean Connery was James Bond the others played James Bond…………………

  • Bond Girl

    Sean Connery really can't be moved from the top of the list, he was the original and set the standard. He had just the right mix of comic suavity and action spy. After him, Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore come the closest. They both had script and plot setbacks so I don't think they were able to able to really capture the character as well but they came close in my opinion. Brosnan was a little more action, while Moore was more of the suave spy, but I agree he ran into problems with the sort of humor expected at the time. George Lazenby did a fair enough job, but maybe because he was only in one movie, maybe because I've seen that one less than the others, he just wasn't BOND enough to me. He was just a very flat character and there wasn't anything particularly remarkable about him. I can't explain it but that just how I feel. I actually liked Timothy Dalton, not so much as to say he was my favorite, but yeah he did decently. He was another victim of poor scripts so I never really think we got to see what he could do, but I do think he was able to catch some of that Bond essence. Now don't get me wrong, I love an action movie just as much as everyone else, or obviously I wouldn't be watching Bond movies, but with Daniel Craig, it was TOO much action. Bond was transformed into an american action hero type instead of the dry witty british secret agent. Did I love the film as an action movie? Oh yeah! Did I love Daniel Craig in this action movie? HELL YES. But again, he just wasn't BOND. So if I were to make a list of the best Bonds, regardless of how good the movies where it would probably be:
    1. Sean Connery
    2. Roger Moore
    3. Pierce Brosnan
    4. Timothy Dalton
    5. Daniel Craig
    6. George Lazenby

  • chandra kanth

    daniel craig suxxxxxxxxxxxxx ,
    the best ones are – Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan only

  • lenor24

    I totally agree with the top of your list – Sean Connery is definitely the best Bond, closely followed by Daniel Craig. However, I'm not a huge Pierce Brosnan fan – so Roger Moore might beat him in my list. :-)

  • Rich

    1. Sean Connery
    2. Daniel Craig
    3. Pierce Brosnan (joint 3rd with Moore)
    3. Roger Moore
    4. Timothy Dalton
    5. George Lazenby

    For me, Sean was is the definite winner, he really set the standard. He’s just great to watch and is probably the funniest (although he did probably have the best scripts) the way he delivered his one-liner jokes and of course ‘mish moneypenny’ is legendary. I think he was also convincing as a killer yet still had style and sophistication (which in my opinion is important). It’s Approaching 50 years on from the release of Dr. No and I still find his films the most to fun to watch and that’s mainly down to Connery. Casino Royale made me excited about James Bond films again. Daniel Craig played the role brilliantly. In my opinion he is offers a completely fresh outlook, but still relevant to Ian Flemming’s original Bond portrayal. Craig as Bond is cool, tough, courageous and most of all…real. Brosnan and Moore showed some good glimpes during their times but were let down by dull story lines and poor scripts. Still, growing up in the early 90’s, I always remember Goldeneye as being one of my favourite films, and still remains as one of my favourite bonds.

  • Tony

    Is everyone barking mad? You have all let this persons list sway your thinking. Roger Moore is Bond. The most bond films, the biggest titles, swave at its best.

    1. Roger Moore
    2. Daniel Craig
    3. Pierce Brosnan
    4. Sean Connery – He doesn't even believe in the united kingdom so how can he be bond.
    5. Timothy Dalton
    6. George Lazenby – Come on, one bond movie? shit one at that. he shouldn't really be on the list.

  • 1. Sean Connery. Leaps and bounds ahead of the rest, Sean Connery *is* James Bond.
    2. Pierce Brosnan. Maybe this is because I love Goldeneye so much, but Brosnan played the part of Bond exceptionally well. You’re spot on about him being hindered by product placement, poor scripts, and a complacency by the studios to merely coast by on franchise recognition.
    3. Daniel Craig. I don’t personally like him too much as Bond, but part of what we do at Entertainment Insight is to objectively gauge sentiment about actors and movies… and the audience has spoken. He’s a very “effective” Bond, even if I don’t personally care for his movies or his portrayal.
    4. Roger Moore. Like you said, Sean, he was very much a victim of the times. The Hefner-esque playboy phenomenon was the cultural zeitgeist, and Moore certainly lived up to it; however, it was very dated and very very hokey.
    5. Timothy Dalton. I’m sure that if License to Kill and The Living Daylights were better films, Dalton would have performed very well… but they weren’t, and he didn’t.
    6. George Lazenby. OHMSS was dreadful. Just thinking about it makes me depressed.

    Thanks for the read, if you guys want to chat about Bond or other movies (even if it’s just to say that the most recent one you saw sucked), my Twitter handle is @ent_insight.

    Cheers,
    Brian

  • Chris

    As for looks, judge for yourselves who was more Bond-like.
    Fleming said Bond looked like a young
    Hoagy Carmichael
    http://www.justsheetmusic.com/sheet-music/hoagy-c

    Since I grew up on Connery as Bond, he'll will always be No. 1 in all aspects for the most part.
    But each have their piece of Bond.
    Eg., Dalton's meaness when upset
    Lazenby's uniqueness and reaction to a difficult situation — his wife being murdered by Blofield
    Craig was helped by a marvelous script that kicked off Casino Royale, which was close to the novel
    Moore for being Bond-like debonair
    and Brosnan for, well, for being Brosnan.

  • vasu

    in my opinion pierce.the best bond ever and moore to worked supebly..

  • tttyyyuu

    you are crap

  • Gafai

    I think Brosnan Got it the best cause the way he acts is to die for

    1.Pierce Brosnan

    2.Sean Connery

    3.Roger Moore

    4.Timothy Dalton

    5. George Lazenby

    6.Daniel Craig

  • rere

    i think all the james bond played a decent role because come on,its not the easiest character to play!You have to be brave,manly,romantic,charming and serious at the same time.Im not a big fan of daniel craig though.I think hes too serious and hasnt got the charming good looks that boind should have.but he does play a good role in being a brave fighter.Pierce brosnan has to be one of my favourites!sean connery is the original bond and i think he did a very very good job at being bond.I liked rogers quirkiness,he had alot of swag to me.It might come to a shock youll but my favourite has to be timothy!i think hes hot and charming.he was serious but had humour and i loved watching license to kill[wich i watched more than once].i think he should have more credit and if he did work in more films i think his talent would have been shown better!well theres my opinions……

  • Marco

    pierce is the best and daniel craig dounen't even look like a james bond black hair not blonde and daniel is the worst pierce played in some of the most action movies and games out there. dughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

  • HowzitGAAN

    1. Brosnan
    2. Brosnan
    3. Brosnan
    4. Connery
    5. Moore

    Rest can kiss my ass goooooood-bye.

  • simon

    i am 22 and this is my analysis..in short… connery superb, moore excellent, brosnan excellent dalton wrong timing/ bad scripts, lazenby unlucky (despite being the closest thing to and having to follow sean connery. ) be prepared for daniel craig to overtake connery. connery is the best movie james bond but daniel craig is the real life james bond and for me (but not just yet) might make him the best.

  • Aaron

    1. Roger Moore. He was witty, sly, clever, and sometimes pretty sneaky. I can’t think of any another Bond who wore more disguises and fake mustaches than Roger Moore. Not to mention the impressive sleight of hand technique he used to steal a Fabergé Egg. He looked younger than his age, but was the oldest Bond when he started in Live and Let Die. If I could pick a word to describe Moore’s Bond, it would be seasoned.

    Some of the other Bonds were too young and gruff (Daniel Craig), or way too pretty and stuffy (Brosnan) to be believable as an international spy. Roger Moore, to me, had the right blend of maturity, wisdom, compassion, and the ability to blend into a crowd to be a spy. Plus he was downright funny. He wasn’t the prettiest, nor was he the most physically powerful, but he came across as intelligent, calm, collected, and compassionate. He wasn’t as ruthless as some of the other Bonds. Connery and Craig come to mind in that regard.

    2. Timothy Dalton
    Being younger than Roger Moore, I think Timothy Dalton captured well the sensitivity and seriousness of Bond. I enjoyed his acting, and he was lucky to get a good script with The Living Daylights (one of the best Bond movies). Him and Roger Moore are my favorites because, weird as it may seem, I thought they were the most believable spies.

    3. Sean Connery. Yes he was probably the best looking Bond, but for me his Bond movies just aren’t as exciting. Maybe it’s because I was born in 1982 and I don’t appreciate “slower” movies from way back then. I like Diamonds are Forever and You Only Live Twice, but those are the only two I can sit through without getting bored. Sorry.

    4. Pierce Brosnan. I think he’s a good actor, but not a good Bond. He’s too soft and likeable as a person to be a convincing licensed killer. I never bought Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. I prefer his roles in movies like Dante’s Peak, or Ms. DoubtFire. If there’s anyone who I think was terribly miscast as Bond it was him. But still he’s not the worst in my opinion.

    5. Daniel Craig. I watched Casino Royal and thought it was the worst Bond film ever. Way too serious, humorless, and filled with too many boring action scenes that went on forever. He looks more like a hit-man or a villian than a Bond.

    In conclusion, I think the James Bond movies from the seventies and eighties are the best. Sort of lost interest around the time Brosnan came around. And some of the movies before You Only Live Twice are too boring and old.

  • Aaron

    Forgot to mention… my top 5 Bond films…

    (1) The Spy Who Loved Me
    (2) Moonraker
    (3) Octopussy
    (4) The Living Daylights
    (5) Die Another Day

  • Teknosurus7

    I dont know how anyone would ever put George Lazenby anywhere higher than 5th, but I guess its all personal preference and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am 32 years old and there arent many people younger than me that have seen every Bond film, like I have. I wasnt alive during the Sean Connery era, but until Daniel Craig, he was the best. However, I don't feel it's fair to put Connery's films up against the special effects and 21st century gadgets that Craig gets to play with. Could you imagine Sean Connery with a smartphone? I have seen every Bond movie to date and I honestly believe that Daniel Craig saved the franchise. My lasting impression of Pierce Brosnan is him getting smacked in the head with a lime thrown by Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. Thats not very Bond-like. I love Daniel Craig as James Bond and when his run concludes, I feel he will be the one to whom all future Bonds are compared.

  • Teknosaurus7

    By the way, here is my list

    1. Daniel Craig

    2. Sean Connery

    3.Roger Moore

    4. Pierce Brosnan

    5. George Lazenby

    6. Timothy Dalton

    I did not like Dalton at all. Aside from the fact that I just did not like his movies, he nearly killed the series. Brosnan kept it on life support and it was resurrected by Craig .

  • Bear

    Timothy Dalton was underrated, suffered from the scripts and we'll never now if he could have been a top notch Bond with time. The only Bond who talked to the actors and not the camera.
    Lazenby was a little more like the character Fleming had in mind. OHMSS was a good film and his chemistry with Diana Rigg was very good (it wouldn't have worked with Connery). Some acting lessons would have helped as he didn't know how to project well, but he didn't hurt and might have improved.
    Moore was too clownish and Brosnan is not much of an actor. I like Craig a lot and he's given new life to a stale series.
    But there was no one like Connery.

  • delboy

    sean connery is bond if you dont rank him 1st ur on glue!!!

  • moonbeam1510

    Moore is my favorite because he always reminds me of my dad. So case closed :)

  • Sean Connery was and still is the best Bond of them all. Daniel Craig is close second. However if George Lazenby had more Bond movies to his name he might have finished higher than Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. But for me it will always be Sean Connery. Bond. James Bond.

  • Agree. Until Daniel Craig came along. I am and always will be a Sean Connery fan.
    Maybe because I grew up watching him play Bond in my younger days.

  • Murage wa Sheki, kianyaga

    1 brosnan 2. craig 3 connery 4….moore 5.dalton 6. george……. but again the villain in each movie defined the viewers reaction to the bond… a bad villain rates high and a female villain rates even higher

  • THISISTHETRUTH

    Roger Moore
    Sean Connery
    Pierce Brosnan
    Timothy Dalton
    Daniel Craig
    George Lazenby.

    James Bond is about the charm, and Roger Moore had lot of it!
    Daniel Craig had non

  • lokesh

    i do wonder why does directors pick old actors for bond roles. because when it seems like they were going good, certainly age catches them. even in pierce brosnan, he was made bond at his 40s. he looked so charm in golden eye. looked so young. but soon saw his aged face. for me… pierce brosnans the exact bond after connery. bonds have unique features. like gadgets, expensive cars. and they are the best seducers. i think he fits as bond

  • Allen Benge

    Sean Connery was not only the first Bond, but to some, he will always rule as the real deal. If you read Ian fleming’s books, Sean Connery’s Bond looks like Mr. Fleming was using Sean as the model for Bond. The physical description of James Bond fit Sean Connery better than O.J.’s glove, right down to the very faint Scottish burr. Connery had a fantastic cast, like Q, the gadget guru, Miss Moneypenny and M, his boss. The only fly ever in the ointment was that ridiculous bit of casting Rowan Atkinson as a spy, something they followed up on with Johnny English, fehh. This is the guy they got to replace Benny Hill? The title ‘Never Say Never Again ‘was a direct jab at Connery, as he had made the statement that he would never play Bond again. He despised the character, but he did it so very well.

  • Allen Benge

    @Aaron. Roger Moore as James Bond was not the result of Moore’s slyness or cleverness, or anything else. It is a testament to his acting, which is defined as mouthing the words of the screenwriter in a manner that seems to come from the actor playing the role. Ad libs do sometimes happen as happy accidents, such as “We need a bigger boat,” or, “Are you talking to me?” Usually, however, the actor is merely speaking someone else’s thoughts and ideas. S/FX , or Special Effects fills in for a lot of what actors really are not capable of doing. I like Roger Moore, but Connery is the only real Bond.

  • Allen Benge

    There was a spoof of the genre made which opened a definite possibility to explain all the actors who portrayed Bond. ‘Casino Royale,’ with David Niven was a hilarious romp, but it definitely would suggest that James Bond is not just one person, but an ongoing identity of the number one man in MI 6, who, when he retires or is killed, is replaced by another spy who dons the mantle of 007, James Bond, sort of like the Pope. The British sun will never set on Bond.

  • Beatles5

    My Top 6 James Bonds Are
    1. Roger Moore
    2. Daniel Craig
    3. George Lazenby
    4. Pierce Brosnan
    5. Timothy Dalton
    6. Sean Connery